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PLEBS 4 BLESS
April 3, 2017
Bless! PLEBS (4) (SLIDE) David goes to his local Bondi Cafe looking for a peaceful breakfast. He has a book with him that he’s been trying to finish all week. But as he scans the cafe for a spare seat, there is only one place left to park himself: on a bench in the corner next to a backpacker. “Hey do you mind if I sit here?” David asks. “Not if you don't mind looking at my miserable face” the backpacker says as she shifts her belongings to the floor. She is young and tanned and reminds David of his eldest daughter. “Is everything all right?” David asks her. ”Not really, but it's a long story." A voice in David’s head says, ‘don’t get involved!’ but before he has chance to think it through, he hears himself say, "Would you like a coffee?" Page 1 of 18 "No, thanks.” she replies. "Are you sure?” The backpacker looks at David a few seconds and says "Actually, if you don't mind, I’d love one.” Her name, he learns, is Angela. She’s from Yorkshire. She’s been in Australia on a two-year working holiday. Her first job was as a fashion buyer for a department store. More recently she’s been working on farms in NSW. Right now, she’s out of work. “Where are you staying?" David asks her. "I was in North Bondi until three days ago but I had to get out." "Where did you move to?" "Well, that's part of the problem," she says. “Nowhere really. I've actually been hanging out at Westfield because of the free WiFi, trying to contact people in Sydney, hoping to find somewhere to stay." "Any luck?" “No." “So where have you been sleeping then?" There is a long pause. “I’ve been wandering the streets, going down to the beach." Page 2 of 18 "Do you have any money?" "No." "So you haven't slept for three nights? When was the last time you ate something?" "About three days ago." David takes a deep breath. He starts thinking, “What should I do? Should I give her some money? Would that be the most effective use of my money anyway? Perhaps the money would be better spent, giving to children in Aleppo of feeding the hungry in drought affected West Africa?” Perhaps it would, but right at this moment the person in front of him is Angela. So David asks her , "Would you like some breakfast?" "Are you sure that's all right?" she asked “Of course I'm sure." Page 3 of 18 Angela eats ravenously, and as she eats, she speaks about her sad, sad life. She hasn’t seen her father for 15 years, except when she tracked him down to his local pub and watched him, from the back of the bar, drink his way into oblivion. Her mother’s last words to her before she changed the locks on the front door were: "I love you, but I don't like you." As David listens to her sorry tale, he starts to consider his options. The first option is to pay for her breakfast, wish her good luck and say goodbye. The second is to drive her to the Salvation Army or the British consulate because, after all isn’t that what they are there for? The third option is to offer her a shower and a bed and then consider a whole new set of options. Page 4 of 18 (SLIDE) I wonder what you would do, faced with a backpacker like Angela. When faced with a situation like this, it is so easy to tell yourself, “don’t get involved.” We tell ourselves: “They could easily be taking me for a ride here.” “I have no way of knowing.” “I haven’t got the time for this.” “I’d prefer to spend my money on others things.” “It’s safer to just stay clear and not get involved.” It’s so easy for us to simply walk away. But you know every time we walk away from a potential mess, we also walk away from an opportunity to bless. A mess is almost always as opportunity to bless! And God calls us to be a people of blessing. Page 5 of 18 (SLIDE) You know God has blessed us in so many ways. The Apostle Paul writes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3) In Christ we have been: chosen, forgiven, redeemed, in dwelt by the Holy Spirit and adopted as sons and daughters. We have been given “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” And God has blessed us in such an abundant way, that we may be a blessing to others. God has blessed us to be a blessing. God has poured out his grace upon us, that we might live and breathe his grace upon others. Page 6 of 18 (SLIDE) We see this principle at work in the Old Testament. In Genesis 12, God promises to bless Abraham and through him to bless all the nations. The Lord says: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3) God chooses to work through Abraham, He promises to bless Abraham, with a view to blessing the whole world. (SLIDE) We see this principle of blessing again through Abraham’s descendants - the nation of Israel. In Psalm 67:1-2, 7 we read, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us - so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.” Do you see what the Psalmist is praying? He is calling upon God to bless his people so that they may be a blessing to others. Page 7 of 18 (SLIDE) We see this principle of blessing again in the New Testament. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Do you see how it works? God has comforted us, God has been compassionate towards us, so that in turn, we can offer comfort and compassion to others. God has blessed us so richly. He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. so that we might be a people of blessing. a people who encourage others with a kind word. a people who serve others with practical love. a people who generously give to those in need. God has blessed us to be a blessing. Page 8 of 18 (SLIDE) Now it’s one thing to bless people whom we know and like… It’s one thing to bless people who have shown us kindness in the past… But what are to do when we meet people who we hardly even know? What are we to do when we meet a backpacker like Angela? What are we to do when we meet someone who has wronged us in the past? What are we to do when we are faced with people we just plain don’t like? Do we still have to bless people, even if they we don’t like them? Page 9 of 18 Let’s turn to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:38-42. (SLIDE) Matthew 5:38-42 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Jesus’ teaching here is very hard for us to swallow. We read this passage and are tempted to ask “Seriously?” I mean it sounds so extreme! Does this passage mean we have to all be Christian doormats? Well the Apostles certainly didn’t take the view that we must never, ever stand up for our rights. They didn’t take it as some blanket statement, without any exceptions. At one point the Apostle Paul even appealed to be heard by Caesar. But still, this teaching is radical. I think the reason that this passage seems so extreme to us is because we live in a society where we care so deeply about our own rights. The worse thing you could possibly do in our society, is to infringe on somebody else’s rights! Page 10 of 18 In Matthew 5 Jesus offers us a new way of thinking about our rights. Instead of having to arguing for our rights, and defend our rights, at every turn, Jesus challenges us to be willing to give up our rights for the sake of others. (SLIDE) He starts by quoting a law from the Old Testament, from Exodus 21:24. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ “ Now if go back into the Old Testament law and look at it in context, we will find out 2 really important things. Firstly, this law was there to limit retribution. It was there to avoid escalation. If someone knocked out your tooth, you couldn’t just knock out all their entire top row in revenge. This law didn’t address the specific punishment for a crime. It was simply giving a maximum penalty. It was there to limit escalation. Secondly, this law was there to uphold community justice. It was the principle of justice to be used in the courts. The law wasn't addressing personal ethics. It wasn't there to tell individuals how to behave. It was the principle of justice for the courts. Page 11 of 18 So when Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person...” he is not disagreeing the the Old Testament. He is simply switching to talking about something different. He is now talking not about community justice, but about personal rights. He goes on to address 4 specific rights. And Each time he says the same thing, “don’t stand up for your rights, but instead, be a person of blessing.” (SLIDE) In verse 39 he looks at the issue of Personal Pride. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Slapping was a huge insult in those days. The contemporary example would be being yelled at in the Supermarket. Jesus is saying, “If someone wants to embarrass you in public, then let them assault your pride. let them go for it. You don’t need to defend yourself. Be a person of blessing.” Page 12 of 18 (SLIDE) In verse 40 he looks at the issue of Personal Justice. “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. “ In the Old Testament, no-one had the right to deprive you of a coat, as it could be your only protection against cold. Check out Exodus 22:26-27. But Jesus says, “If someone wants to rip you off, then let them. Don’t make a big deal about it. Be a person of blessing.” (SLIDE) In verse 41 he looks at the issue of Personal Time. “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” In Jesus’ day soldiers were allowed to make anyone carry the soldier’s luggage for up to a 1 mile. Jesus is saying: “If someone wants to you carry their stuff for 1 mile then take it 2 miles… If they want to waste your time, let them waste your time! Be a person of blessing.” Page 13 of 18 (SLIDE) And lastly in verse 42 Jesus looks at the issue of Personal Possessions “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Jesus is saying: “Don’t be tight. If someone ask to borrow something you own, lend it to them. Even if you’re not likely to see it again! Let people steal from you. Be a person of blessing.” (SLIDE) So here is the summary: Let them assault your pride! Let them rip you off! Let them waste your time! Let them steal from you! “Don’t stand up for your rights, but instead, be a person of blessing.” Page 14 of 18 And Jesus he goes on to give his reason in the verses that follow. See if you can see the reason that he gives… (SLIDE) Matthew 5:43-48 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’” (That’s nowhere to be found in the Bible by the way! 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus is saying to us here that God’s love is indiscriminate. “God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” God’s love for the world is overflowing to everybody. God blesses everyone. And he calls us to imitate him. We are to model ourselves on how he acts towards us. Page 15 of 18 Jesus says, "Everyone treats there friends ok!" "But I want you to bless everyone." "Not just your friends." "Not just nice people." "bless everyone, because that's what God does." God is a God of incredible blessing. and so he calls us to be a people of blessing. So How are we to respond to people who set themselves against us? who persecute us? who assault our pride? who rip us off? who waste our time? How are we to respond to such people? (SLIDE) Jesus says, “Love them and pray for them.” “Bless them.” We are not to be too precious about our rights. Jesus teaches us to demonstrate an open hand towards others. to be a people of blessing. And when we live like that amazing things happen. Page 16 of 18 ( SLIDE) Friends, who are you going to bless this week? whose meal could you make and drop around? whose lawn could you mow? whose coffee bill could you pay? who could you bless on the roads as you drive? Friends, who are you going to bless this week? Sometimes it’s a simple as a kind word. This week, one member of church family has blessed us so that we can bless others. He has made 300 cards with his own photos on the front, so that everyone here can write a note of encouragement to someone in your life that really needs it right now. It could be a family member. It could be someone from church. It could be someone who has hurt you and you need to forgive. As the cards come around, please take one, and write a short note to someone who needs a blessing. I’ll give you a couple of minutes now. Page 17 of 18 _______________ 3 minutes _______________ When David met Angela at the Bondi Cafe, every bone in his body said, “don’t get involved!” It all seemed too hard - like a tangled mess. But in the midst of the chaos, David took the opportunity to bless. When David told his friends what he’d done: that he’d helped her get back to London to repair bridges with her family they told him he was crazy. They told him he’d been taken for a ride. But then again, they didn’t sit opposite her in the cafe. and they didn’t receive the email from London, thanking him for all his help. Friends, who is God leading you to bless this week? Let’s pray.