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ST FRANCIS CHAPEL
|Sermon drawn up and delivered
by Dr Heinrich Lottering sC
via the Divine Guidance of the
Blessed HOLY SPIRIT
Most of you would be familiar with the term 'ecclesiastical'. Used in terms like ecclesiastical office, ecclesiastical practise or ecclesiastical post. What does it mean and where does it originally come from. This term finds its origin in the New Testament Canon. The Koine Greek 'ekkalio' which exists of two words namely 'ek' and 'kaleo'. It simply means called out! This is the term the Scriptures uses for the Church... the called out ones!
Please take note that I am not referring to a Church group or denomination, I am referring to the worldwide Body of CHRIST, the believers in JESUS irrelevant of their denominational background. The ancient Christians called what they believed in the Pure Philosophy because the term theology was already used by the Greek pagan philosophers. I am talking about the followers of that divine Pure Philosophy!DEFINING THE WORDS KURIAKOS AND ECCLESIA
We are used to the word 'church' or 'kirk', the latter from Scotland. They inherited this word which was deducted from the Greek word 'kuriakos/ kuriakon' which means belonging to the LORD. Yet this word are only used twice in the New Testament Canon referring to the 'LORD's Supper' and the 'LORD's Day' in 1 Corinthians 11:20 & Revelations 1:10 respectively.
Yet 'Ecclesia' are used over two hundred times in the New Testament, referring to the group of people who follow JESUS. This Greek word was originally used for the ruling group of men in the city state of Athens. So know in the New testament Scriptures the writers use this term to refer to us, the new ruling class in GOD's Kingdom – called by GOD to rule and love in HIS authority!
We are proudly inter-denominational!!
Not because there is anything wrong with any denomination, or even that the fact that there are different denominations is a problem......but simply because here everyone is welcome!!
1 Corinthians 12:14-19: For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. If the foot were to say, "Because I am not a hand, I don't belong to the body," that would not keep it from being a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, "Because I am not an eye, I don't belong to the body," that would not keep it from being a part of the body. If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell? As it is, however, God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be. There would not be a body if it were all only one part."Our precious FATHER is a GOD of diversity! Look at the wonder of nature, therefore I am convinced that the diversity in the world wide Church HE loves! As long as another Christian says he or she loves JESUS I have no reason not to celebrate with them.
Now you might ask but why am I then proud of being inter-denominational... here is the reason. In our congregation you are welcome to serve GOD the way you want. If you want to lift your hands when worshiping – do so! If you want to bless yourself with the sign of the Cross – do so! Whether you want to sit, stand or kneel in prayer – follow your heart!!
Ephesians 4:4-6: You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
We might have different names, logos, ways of worship (organ music or rock bands). We call our shepherds by different names, some stand to pray while other kneels. Some use host for the Eucharist, others bread or cream crackers... but there was only one SAVIOUR Who died for us all!! Hence in this Church we celebrate our diversity in liturgy in JESUS, yet also our unity in the CHRIST!!WHO DID GOD CALL?
One of the sad aspects of the formal denominational Church or Churches, is that over the last two thousand years it has bombarded GOD's children with rules and regulations for acceptance into Church. Unwed mothers, illegitimate children, divorced people were often shunned. If you were not baptised or confirmed in a certain denomination you were denied certain privileges and rights like Holy Communion. So let us take a look at a few individuals our LORD reached out to and called in to set the true norm for whom is called to follow JESUS and be separated from the world - hence welcome in HIS Church.
Luke 5:1-11: “While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennes'aret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zeb'edee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.”
The scenario of a rabbi and disciples is not uncommon for the times of JESUS. A Jewish religious expert having followers whom he taught religion and spirituality. Usually a Jewish boy would be taught first at home from a young age of three or four and by six would at least know the Shema Yisrael (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) . Then at five or six start to attend a school where a local Levite or later scribe would teach the Torah, mathematics etc. The brightest boys attended tutoring until the age of fifteen. Then when he finished the highest level of school training, he would approach a rabbi and apply to be selected to follow this esteemed leader and be taught....almost on a post graduate level if compared to today. There was no assurance that a rabbi would choose an applicant or approve of him, only the elite students were granted permission to follow such an esteemed rabbi.
Now here were in this above mentioned Scripture we find a scenario completely different. Here the Rabbi, not any teacher, but the Heavenly Rabbi approaches the students and ask them to follow HIM. HE initiates the invitation, He is the ONE saying they are good enough for HIM.
These are uneducated fisherman-teenagers, Galileans and not pure-blood Judeans – for the most awesome internship and training ever given on earth – to become apostles of Eternal Life!!
School might have made you feel inadequate...
University might have denied your selection application...
The Church(es) you attended might not have chosen you as deacon or elder...
Your minister may have refused you Communion...
But JESUS calling you to be separated!!!!
Mark 2:14-15: “And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.”
During the time of JESUS, Palestein was under Roman Imperial rule. The Jews hated the foreign oppressors, and the Romans deemed the Jews as stubborn and treated them very harshly. Whenever Jewish individuals choose to be allies with the Romans, they were ostracized and excluded by the community. One such a example was tax collectors. They were extremely hated by the Jewish community as these individuals collected taxes for the Imperial enemy, often exploiting their own people. Many authors points out that in ancient Israel a local man would pay up to 60-70% of his meager income in tax (Temple tax, tithing & offerings, Roman tax, counsel tax etc.). Hence their fellow Jews who assisted the government in this exploitation where hated to the extreme. Tax collector were even more hated then gentiles.
To this ostracised hated man, this tax collector called Matthew Levi JESUS extended an invitation to follow HIM, HE even went and had dinner at his home with his colleagues and friends.
Society may frown down on who you are...
Your neighbours might treat you with contempt...
Your family might ostracise you as the black sheep...
You might feel isolated at work...
But JESUS is calling you to be separated!!!!
John 4:9-10: “The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."
John 4:27: Just then his disciples came. They marvelled that he was talking with a woman, but none said, "What do you wish?" or, "Why are you talking with her?"
John 4:39-40: Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.”
When the Assyrians captured the Kingdom of Samaria in 722 AD, many local Jews were exiled to Assyria and their placed filled by Assyrians who were relocated there. Hence by the time of JESUS the Samaritans were a group of 'impure' Jews descendant from mixture of gentiles and Jews who inter-married. So much where the Samaritans despised by the Judean Jews that they even refused to speak to them. Here we find our LORD not only speaking to a Samaritan, but a woman as well. Men and woman never socially interacted in public, especially with strangers. So here JESUS reaches out to a stranger, woman and Samaritan. No wonder the disciples were astounded, probably disgusted as well! To top everything off, she was also living an immoral live style which according to ancient tradition void her of any society rights.
How wonderful that our LORD reaches out to her, is kind to her, asks her assistance, reveals HIS Messiahship to her (take note it is the first time HE does so), treats her as an equal and sends her as HIS first apostle to her home town to spread the news of the Saviour to them. Here HE takes an 'used' woman, a Samaritan and changes her into the first apostle!
You might feel unworthy in GOD's presence...
You might have been called cheap, immoral, slut...
You might have been used by someone without scruples...
You might have been naughty...
You might not fit the bill for perfection...
But JESUS is calling you to be separated!!!!
Acts 7:54-60: “Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
In this narrative we find the first martyr of the New Testament, namely a deacon called Stephen. Saul stands aloft, observing how this God-fearing man is brutally and unfairly murdered. This same Saul goes on an evil rampage pursuing Christians, torturing them and jailing them. Yet on his way to Damascus (Acts 9) he encounters the JESUS and his life is turned upside down and ends up to most dedicated apostles of all!!
You might have done deeds you feel ashamed of...
Maybe you have hurt someone, be untrue to someone...
You might carry a burden of guilt and shame for your lifestyle...
There is something in your past you cannot even bare to think about...
But JESUS is calling you to be separated!!!!
Judges 11:1-2: “Now Jephthah, the Gileadite, was a mighty man of war. And he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead fathered Jephthah. And Gilead's wife bore him sons. And his wife's sons grew up, and they threw Jephthah out and said to him, You shall not inherit in our father's house. For you are the son of another woman.”
Here we read a beautiful example of GOD's incredible grace! Jephthah was an illegitimate child and a son of a prostitute. In ancient times this qualified him to be the rejected outright by any decent person where ever he would venture. Truly a cast-out by renown!! In Levitical Law illegitimate (Deuteronomy 23:2) an illegitimate child and his or her descendants were excluded from Temple worship for 10 generations. Nevertheless GOD choose him to rescue Israel and even were one of the few judges who received the HOLY SPIRIT.
You were not baptised and confirmed...
You do not meet the Church's standards...
You might be unworthy by every norm of society...
You feel ashamed of your family heritage...
Are you the most unlikely candidate for Divine calling...
Let me assure you... JESUS is still calling you to be separated!!!!
CALLED FOR WHAT? Whenever we start to ponder the reasons why we are called by the CREATOR, many people feel it is to serve GOD!! What does it mean to serve HIM... it sounds like effort....it sounds like certain standards must be met... it sound demanding and exhausting!! Serving people at best is difficult... to serve the Supreme and Holy GOD... wow!!??
One of my favourite Hebrew Names for GOD is ELOHIM SHADDAI, translated as Almighty but actually meaning the SELF-SUFFICIENT ONE. Job 35:7 states there is nothing GOD needs from us! Acts 17:25 Paul says we cannot supply HIS needs. HE did not call you to serve HIM, HE is completely content and Self-sufficient... HE endlessly loves and adores you and want to pamper you HIS child. Anyone listening to me who is a parent, tell me did you have children to serve you or to love and care for them?? The exact same is true for your Heavenly FATHER!!
GOD DOES NOT CALL YOU TO SERVE HIM... BUT TO SERVE YOU!!
Genesis 3:8a-4: “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day... But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"
Before the Fall of man we find our LORD did not desire any service from Adam and Eve... HE simply adored walking in the evening breeze with them!!
YOUR FATHER CALLS YOU SIMPLY TO HAVE LOVE COMMUNION WITH HIM!!
1 Peter 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
JESUS calls you as to fill your life with hope... hope for now and eternity!!
HOPE BRINGS MOTIVATION! HOPE MAKES YOU GET UP IN THE MORNING! HOPE CHARGES YOUR EFFORTS!!
1 Peter 1:4: “and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”
Our precious LORD called you to come and inherit from HIM!
COME RECEIVE FROM HIM RESTORATION....RECEIVE HEALTH...RECEIVE PEACE!!
2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”
HE CALLS YOU TO FREEDOM!! RELIGION SHOULD NEVER RESTRICT BUT GIVE YOUR WINGS!!
Isaiah 6:7: “He touched my lips with the burning coal and said, "This has touched your lips, and now your guilt is gone, and your sins are forgiven."
The most haunting and destructive human emotion in my opinion is guilt! It robs you of tranquillity and peace...it robs you of quality of life!
JESUS CALLS YOU TO RECEIVE FORGIVENESS AND PEACE!!
In life when we want to enrol to study when was go through a selection process, when it is post graduate it becomes even more strict. To join the gym or tennis club there may be no pre-requisites but definitely a compulsory fee. If you belong to professional body there is yearly continued professional development programmes you need to comply with. We all know the yearly tax returns and motor vehicle licences. Apply for a visa or attempt to secure employment in another country – endless red tape. But to belong to the most awesome Heavenly group...the Family of GOD...there are no requirements except to love HIM!! How incredible!!! wow!! To be called by GOD...is a call to love and be loved!!
GOD'S LANGUAGEGOD IS NOT A SEXIST... Genesis 5:1-2 states GOD made humans male and female in HIS image, 1 Peter 3:7 declares that a husband and wife stand as equal before HIS Throne!
GOD IS NOT A RACIST... 1 Samuel 16:7 GOD says people look at the outside appearance... I look only at the heart!!
GOD IS NOT AN AGE-IST... David and the disciples of JESUS were teenagers when called... Abraham was 75 years old when called into service!
GOD IS NOT A HOMOPHOBE... GOD calls you not because of whom you love, but because HE loves you!!
GOD IS NOT LOOKING FOR THE LILLY WHITE AND PURE... the first person to receive Eternal Life was a murderer crucified next to CHRIST in Luke 23:43... not the religious elite.
Whether you are a man or woman, young child or mature, white or black, gay or straight, perfectly pious or a bit wild... JESUS IS CALLING YOU TO LOVE YOU AND CARE FOR YOU....YOU ARE CALLED INTO THE ECCLESIA!!