Bible Sunday: Growing & Staying Close

Bible Sunday – 28/10/18. We celebrated Bible Sunday this morning by spending time in the service going through the Biblical references in the Order of Service. I had heard a few comments about the repetative nature of our services and thought this was a good way to remind people of what we are doing and saying on Sunday mornings.

Isaiah 55:1-11
Psalm 19:7-14
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
John 5:36b-47

I have asked you to bring your own Bibles to church this morning for a few reasons. Sorry to those of you that didn’t get that message. Those of you who heard the message and forgot – have a word with me after!

I want to think about the Bible in your hands for a moment – (or one that is at home!):
• Where did you get it?
• Who gave it to you?
• How much of it have you read?
• If all the Bibles disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow – how much of it do you know?

I would be so brave as to say that what you have in your hands right now is the most valuable thing you own! At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953, she was presented a Bible from the Archbishop of Canterbury with these words:

Our gracious Queen:
to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.

‘This book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.’
I believe this is true – I hope you do as well. I believe this to be true even though I don’t understand all of it, I have neglected it, I’ve avoided it; I get frustrated by it. Yet I believe it because I deeply love it, want to know and understand more of it. If you are in anyway daunted by the Bible here is a secret: don’t worry about what you don’t know – worry about what you do know and understand.

Am I living to the standards that are set out in here?

Am I becoming more Christ-like?

Is there any actual evidence of what I know about this book to my family, my friends, to the wider world?

Today as we celebrate Bible Sunday, each reading has something to teach us about how we can take the Bible more seriously for ourselves in three ways.

Firstly: The Bible is God’s means of our development and growth as Christians (3.16)
To be honest, many of us struggle to see the usefulness of much of the Bible. We get comfortable with what we know or what we think we know. That is just fine! Thank you very much! We might try to make excuses – the Bible is too hard, I don’t understand, I don’t need to understand, it’s outdated, old, irrelevant to the world now, it’s too violent, etc.

I love shopping at IKEA. When I go there I always come out with more stuff than I need! But what often amazes me – is how I always seem to find a gadget or utensil that I am not sure how I have lived without until now. A garlic press, mini chopping boards, multi-sided cheese graters, spatulas of different sizes. It never occurred to me that I needed these things – but now that I have found them – I can’t live or cook without them! Perhaps it is because I have a perfectly good grater or knife that has done the job well enough for long enough. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t new ways of doing old things!

In the 2 Timothy reading, Paul tells us that ‘all Scripture is useful’ (v 16). Now we may have gotten by perfectly well without really understanding the story of Esther, the Old Testament food laws or the book of Jude for our spiritual development.

But I would encourage you that, unlike whoever decided what would go into the IKEA kitchen section, the God who collected and breathed his Spirit into scripture – understands us better than we know ourselves, loves us enough that Jesus would die for us and so when he tells us that ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’, he can be trusted. He knows what we need!

God wants to grow and develop us as Christians – of course he does. I don’t want this to come across the wrong way – but there is more to be a Christian than coming to church on a Sunday morning. This isn’t the whole story.

But this is (use Bible). Growing and developing in our faith is a whole of life activity so when we leave this building – we need this book to help us get on with it. How can we possibly become more Christ-like (this is not the same thing as being a good person!) if we have not uncovered who Jesus is in the pages of the Bible?

We have been called to abundant life, life in the fullest sense. This doesn’t just happen! We need to grow and develop which takes time – takes a lifetime! We need the teaching, the reproof, correctio and training that the Bible offers us.

Secondly, Scripture brings us intimacy with God (Isaiah 55)
Now as a mainly English congregation, experience has taught me that intimacy is not a comfortable word for many people! And intimacy with God can really be a stretch for some! However, God has already searched you and knows you; He is intimately acquainted with all your ways! (Psalm 139).

Isaiah 55 offers us an invitation to draw close to God: verse 1: everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. Thirst is a life-threatening need and here we have an invitation to an abundant supply! ‘You that have no money; come, buy and eat.’ None of us can buy what God is offering to us – we are unable and helpless to. Come buy wine and milk without money and without price. Logically you can’t buy anything without money. Someone has already paid the price. The water was free. Wine and milk are meant to symbolise luxury. The freely given luxury of God’s love and provision.

This loving God has a question for us: ‘why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?’ Why do we waste our time on things that don’t matter?! This is a question for me too! We needlessly worry, get anxious, freaked out, spin our wheels over all sorts of things! It is so exhausting to live this way!

People go searching for answers or explanations in all sorts of places – but so often we go last to the place where we should go first – God!

‘Listen so you may live!’ says God. Seek the Lord while he may be found! It is the Bible that reveals his thoughts and ways, sets his targets, voices his promises and is powerful to achieve what it says. It is hard work though! It is really frustrating that ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.’ There is a plan and purpose for each of us (v 10-11); a good work for us to do. If we want to know what that is then we need to get close to God. We need to get intimately acquainted with His word.

Loving God is the first and greatest commandment and the Bible is an irreplaceable part of loving God, because the more we know God, the more we will love him. Without regularly listening to God through his word, we will not grow in our love and intimacy with him.

Thirdly: The Bible keeps us on God’s path (4.3-4)
Have you ever had a driving experience in thick fog? Those fogs that descend so quickly that all you can do is crawl along the motorway with the fog lights on and make slow progress. It can feel claustrophobic, like you are lost, and you can’t just stop and wait it out. You have to keep going. The lines demarking the lanes suddenly became a lifeline. They showed you each metre of the road one at a time, helping to navigate the bends, avoid collisions, and – eventually – to get to your destination.

Many people unfortunately believe the Bible to be a rather long and boring set of rules to take the fun out of life. Again – untrue! We need rules, guidelines to keep life between the lines – like the markings on a motorway.

Imagine trying to watch a footie match that had no rules, or bake a cake without a recipe, drive a car without road markings! It would all end in disaster as we would each individually have to make up the way do these things! Now we might be tempted to think that we know best! But likely the person next to us thinks that way too!

This is what Paul is talking about in verse 3: ‘the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine (teaching or belief), but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.’ Paul is spending so much energy commending the importance of scripture to Timothy because he realises that a time is coming for the church when it will be very difficult for the church to stay faithful to God’s path.

He predicts a time when instead of seeking the truth, Christians will let their own desires be the filter for what they hear, distracted by false teaching. Things like ‘just be a good person’; ‘it’s all the same God we believe in anyway’; ‘we all basically get there in the end’; ‘The Bible, church, Christianity, etc is fine for you but not for me.’
Those are not God’s word! Not biblical! Watch out for itchy ears!

Even in his own earthly ministry Jesus was constantly referring to the Old Testament scriptures, quoting them, explaining them, showing how his life, death and resurrection were fulfilling all that the Scriptures foretold (for example: Matthew 5.1 and Luke 24.27).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is taking on some Jewish people who have itchy ears – they know their scriptures and they are trying to find eternal life in them. Jesus is saying ‘no, no, no – I am the way to eternal life.’ The Jews are missing this because they don’t believe that God has sent Jesus. They won’t go to him to have life. It’s all there in the Jewish scriptures – right back to Moses and yet they refused to believe it. Itchy ears can make you deaf!

Yet in the fog of information overload that many people, especially younger people, experience on a daily basis, scripture functions like the lines on the motorway, it keeps us on the path of following God.

What do we need to do to grow & develop as Christians, have a deeper intimacy with God and stay on his path:

First thing – pray! Pray to want to grow and develop in your faith. Pray for a closer relationship with God. Pray for purpose and guidance. No one is going to force you. Not even God. Maybe you have to pray to want to want to grow & develop, deepen your relationship and stay on the path.

Secondly, don’t take it for granted. Today access to the Bible is only a click away on a smart phone. I suspect many of our homes have multiple copies of the Bible and in multiple translations. In the western world we have easy-to-read, easy-to-access versions of the Bible at our fingertips. But because it is so easily available, it is possible that we undervalue it. Perhaps Timothy was in danger of taking the Bible for granted. Since his childhood, Scripture had always been part of his life.

Paul reminds Timothy of his rich and privileged heritage, because he wants to leave a legacy in the life of Timothy and the life of the church that will carry on into the future. Don’t take it for granted! Really what if all the Bibles disappeared overnight? How much would we still know?

Thirdly, Do it! Does the Bible feel like a dry and dusty book to you or does it captivate you like a long-awaited love letter? To rekindle a heart habit of reading and relishing the Bible, maybe you can take some time this week to revisit parts that in the past have been especially meaningful to you.
For many people there are Psalms that have a special significance, or perhaps the gospel accounts of Jesus. If regular Bible reading has become difficult, why not revisit these parts of the Bible and as you read them, pray that God would give you a fresh passion for his word?

Read it! You have to start somewhere! Start with what you understand and then work from there.

In this book we have the most valuable thing that this world affords! It is God’s way of communicating to the world that he created and so loves. We as his followers need to know what is in her so we can share that message with the people that so badly need it.

We need to grow and develop as Christians, deepen in our intimacy, our relationships with God and stay on his path, stay close to him. We do this through prayer, by not taking this book for granted and by doing it!

Trinity 21: Questions and More Questions!

Here is tomorrow’s offering – still feeling pleased with myself! I find that the questions in the lectionary this week are stirring and made me reflect on the way I ask questions of God and the people around me. 

Trinity 21
Job 38:1-7, 34-41
Psalm 104:1-9,25,37b
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

Questions, Questions and more Questions!

I am going to start this sermon with a question!

Are you the kind of person who asks a lot of questions? There are little questions, big questions, easy, hard, dumb, unanswerable, unaskable, rhetorical, revealing, innocent and embarrassing questions that we all carry around in us and have asked of us.

We all ask questions for different reasons: some people are naturally curious, sometimes we need better or clearer information, instruction or directions, some of us might be a busy-body, a nosy Parker. Questions though form the basis of most conversations and communication.

If you spend any time with children, you can be asked a multitude of questions on any number of subjects in a very short amount of time! I am sure that many of us have had the experience of being asked a question that we didn’t have answer for! That awful feeling when the teacher asks you and you have no earthly idea what the answer is.

In the story of Job, Job asks and has been asked many difficult questions all the way through his ordeal. Questions about the nature of suffering, how God works (or doesn’t), what did Job do to cause his current suffering – surely it is his fault according to the logic of his friends.

Job struggles to give them an answer that satisfies because he knows there is nothing that he has done to end up on the ash heap. Job has been lamenting his current condition and trying to make sense of it. Finally, after 37 chapters of lament, complaint and moaning, Job hears from God for the first time.

In last week’s reading Job was demanding to see God. ‘Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling!’ Literally banging on the door of God’s house to have a word. Feels like a reasonable request to make as Job is on the literal and figurative ash heap. I think that I, too would want a word with the person – God or not – who put me there.

You get the feeling that God has almost had enough of Job’s questions so starts with a few of his own. 11 questions in 15 verses. God starts easy – ‘who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’ This one is easy to answer – it is Job.

Job now has to ‘gird up his loins like a man!’ I love that! God telling him off in such common language.
God’s next questions are much harder:
• Where you there when I laid the foundations of the earth?
• Can you make it rain?
• Who gave you wisdom or understanding to the mind?
• Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?
• Can you feed the lions, satisfy the young ones?
• Can you feed the baby ravens when they are crying and there is no food to found?

If you read the last few chapters of Job, you see God fire a barrage of questions at Job – most of which he cannot answer! Job has not, in fact, been in the storehouses of the snow or hail, or sent forth lightening, nor was he present at the birth of the mountain goat and he is unfamiliar with the ordinances of heaven. As we are too.

In the last chapter of Job, after all the conversation and questioning, Job’s first remark is ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’

Do you know this truth about God? Whatever we throw at him – whatever questions we have about anything, wherever we find ourselves, whatever the situation we are in – no purpose of his can be thwarted!

Now fast-forward a few centuries and we see Jesus and his disciples on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus is trying to tell them about what awaits him – being handed over to the chief priests and scribes, condemned to death, handed over again, mocked, spat on, flogged and killed; and after three days rise again.

These may be familiar words to us who live on the other side of the resurrection – but to the disciples they would have been shocking, incomprehensible. But – remember Job – no purpose of God’s can be thwarted!

In the midst of this daunting teaching, James and John put forward their request (that is actually a demand) to Jesus. It is often dismissed as a foolish or arrogant question ‘oh those silly Sons of Thunder!’ and there is some truth to that, but James and John have done a couple of things right.

They preface the request with: ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you’. They say this before they actually tell Jesus what it is that they want him to do. I think there are very few people whose request I would grant before I knew what the request was!

Jesus does not rebuff or get angry with them as the disciples did. No – Jesus welcomes the question, invites them to ask it, but has some questions of his own for James and John. Questions that are not easy to answer!

‘What is it that you want me to do for you?’ asks Jesus. The first thing James and John did right was that they have come to Jesus – generally a very good starting point. They have their faith in the right person! James and John clearly trust Jesus, despite what he has just told them about his torture and death. James and John believe that he will come through in the end even though they skipped over that tricky middle bit!

How is our trust this morning? Do we live like we believe that Jesus will come through in the end? Jesus should be, wants to be, our starting place – the safe place where we can take our questions.

Jesus invites them to ask and what do they want? The reply: ‘Sit at the right and left hand in your glory.’ James and John are not criticized for this request, not at least by Jesus. James and John believe that Jesus will win; Jesus will be in glory and they want to be right there with him. They are ambitious for God! They expect Jesus to be glorified. Jesus redirects these ambitions, wants to reset their priorities and motives.

How ambitious are we for God? The real danger we face as a congregation, as a parish and the church more widely is: apathy, cynicism and complacency. These are the roadblocks to abundant living and transformation! Jesus wants us to want more, seek more, hope more and need more of him. This, I think, is why he didn’t get annoyed with James and John as they were doing the right thing: going to him and asking but they needed some redirection.

Now the confident and bold request of James and John is rather tacky, somewhat ignorant and immature, the motives were more selfish than not. But they ask! They engage in real relationship with Jesus. They want to stay close to him by being with him in his glory! Save us seats Jesus! We want to be with you!

This reminds me of the all the times that I don’t ask, don’t engage and don’t lean into what Jesus might be trying to say to me. I might throw my own questions his way – but how often do I stay around for an answer? Am I willing to wait even if it takes a long time?

The answer to the request of James and John does get answered – Jesus tells them that it is not his request to grant – but it is for those whom it has been prepared. Sounds a little cryptic – but Jesus is completely deferring to God. This is not Jesus’ decision to make. The purpose of God will not be thwarted! But neither can they be fully understood beforehand.

It is prepared for those who want to serve. This is what James and John fail to recognize and probably the other upset disciples too. Jesus calls them together for a lesson of ‘supreme importance’ as one commentary put it. Jesus is not going to operate like the world does, ruling with tyranny and a heavy hand.

Jesus came to serve and not be served. You want to sit on my left and on my right? Then you must be the servant. Want to be first, then be last! Give up your entitlement, move downwards. This isn’t about rules but a way of life.

The real questions we need to ask is ‘What can I do for you?’. This is a question to ask of God but also to each other. Be prepared for more questions and more answers – not always what you want to hear – but always loving and always true.

Like Job – we may find ourselves in difficult situations and circumstances where we ask hard questions, demand answers – lament and call out to God. Be prepared for questions but also for answers. His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted! He knows the questions before you ask them!

Like James and John, we might want God to do something for us. Ask away! Go to the Father in faith, in confidence – he will take your questions, your ambitions and desires – he may re-route them to line up with his will.

Don’t be embarrassed, Job certainly wasn’t, and neither were James and John. Their questions were heard. The answers may have been unexpected, even unwanted but they came away changed from these conversations, hopefully understanding more of how God operates for Job and what Jesus came to do for James and John. He came to serve and we should be willing to do the same.

You won’t ever get anything if you don’t ask!

So friends – ask the questions, expect to be heard and be ready for an answer!


Trinity 20: Seeking Change: Job & The Rich Young Man

What is better than a Sunday morning sermon on a Monday morning?! Still getting my autumn act together. I am very fortunate that I have been able to set aside almost every Monday from now until Christmas Eve as Study Days. I am entitled to – it has just taken me 2 years into my Curacy to actually do it. It is a time of change and this sermon reflects some of what I said in my Harvest sermon last week. Some credit to Debie Thomas’ wise words from the ‘Journey with Jesus’ lectionary essay.

Trinity 20

Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

We have some big readings this morning! So much going on in each of them and so little time to really dig in!

Autumn has always been my favourite season of the year – I love the smells, the colours, the change of light and mood. I also love the change that autumn brings to life more widely as activities and programs start again, kids back at school.

Our bible readings in church bring stories to challenge us and stories of celebration. The people in the readings today want a change of circumstance. Maybe some of us do too.

How many of you are good with change? Some of you might embrace it with enthusiasm while others might be slower (ahem) to embrace. I am good with change – you know that I was a nurse before I was a Priest. As a nurse you learn early that sometimes things change quickly, and you need to response to change really fast.

Not all change is bad or negative either. Sometimes change is actually a very good thing – we may not see it at the time though. I also find that those things I want changed – never seem to change. And the things that I don’t want to change – always do!

In our readings this morning we see two people – Job and the rich young man seeking change in their lives. Both are calling on God – a very good thing to do. But neither of them gets the answers that they want!

Starting with Job – he is in some real trouble! He has lost everything – children, money, land, possessions, status and reputation. Job is described as a blameless and upright man in chapter 1 – just living life. Then one day some heavenly beings presented themselves to God and they brought Satan with them. They had been wandering around the earth and decided to test God. A conversation ensues and before we know it – Satan could do whatever he wanted to Job (except kill him) to see if Job will curse God.

It all goes badly wrong for Job and he is left with his 3 close friends and his wife for comfort. The friends start well – come and sit with him in silence for 7 days and 7 nights. Then they start to talk. The rest of the book of Job is the back and forth conversations between Job and his friends. This morning we find Job at a really low point – ‘today my complaint is bitter’ he starts off.

Job has this battle going on inside of him. He is asking big questions like ‘Who is God?’ ‘Where is God?’ What can human beings reasonably expect from a life of faith?

For Job, God is nowhere: “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him.” And yet God is everywhere: “His hand is heavy despite my groaning… I am terrified at his presence.” Job also wants nothing more than to confront God face to face: “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his dwelling!” Job wants to literally bang on the door of God’s house! Yet he’s desperate to leave God’s sight: “If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face!”

As this inner battle rages on, Job maintains that he has followed God’s rules: “I have not departed from the commandment of his lips.” I did all the right stuff – Job is saying. And yet he finds (to his bewilderment) that this goodness, following the rules, will not protect him. The formula Job had organized his life around (If I do A, God will do B) has failed. Either he must step into change or lose his faith altogether.

Job wants God to change his situation – but that is going to require a big change for Job and how he views life and God. His friends are trying to help – but the wisdom they offer is stale and old as they still believe that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. To suffer mean to experience God’s displeasure. This doesn’t hold up!

Eventually God shows up to meet with Job and the end of the book they have a conversation and Job begins to be restored – both in his relationship to God as he sees life and God differently. He is also given back some of the things that he lost.

Let’s fast-forward a few centuries as we see the rich young man kneeling at Jesus’ feet. This young man is looking for a change too. Like Job, he has all the material goods and does all the right stuff but unlike Job he still has it all. I think that having the stuff and doing the right stuff has made life boring for this young man. He wants more of something – so he goes to Jesus!

Jesus looks at him and loved him. I love these little verses that get tucked in – we almost always overlook them. Jesus loved him. He loves you.
Now Jesus could have gone a few ways with this young man’s question of how to have eternal life. It would have been easy for Jesus to secure a new convert. ‘Great!’ Jesus could have said ‘come on! You already follow the commandments, you’re already calling me ‘good’ so you must know who I am because only God is good. You’re in!’

Jesus could have also worked him in more slowly – easing the young man into the values of God’s kingdom. ‘How about you write a small cheque to charity this year? Nothing scary – just a token?’

But Jesus is not interested in convenience or comfort. That is what I (maybe we) are concerned about. Remember that Jesus loved him – because he loved him and said the truthful thing, the hard and unwanted thing he knew would cause the young man’s excitement to disappear on the spot. “Sell what you own, give to the poor and follow me.’

This was not what the young man wanted to hear and so he goes away shocked and grieving. This was not the change he was looking for! He was probably shocked because he considered his wealth an entitlement – a symbol of worldly accomplishment and of God’s favour.

The young man had not found true happiness despite the trappings of life. He seems to be after life in its fullness as we all are. Maybe he thought that he could buy his way to eternal life by observing a special commandment.
Jesus welcomes his desire but also knows his weakness – his attachment to possessions and this is probably why he invites him to give it all to the poor – so that his treasure and his heart – will be in heaven and not on earth. But the young man decides (as far as we know) to hang on to his wealth which will never give him happiness and eternal life.

In this season of change – God is offering us change. Following Jesus will challenge us to lifetimes of change where we are invited to encounter God in new ways apart from tradition, memory and resting on history.

Like Job we might be tested by a change is our circumstances beyond our control. When this happens, do we shake our fist and walk away – like people seem to do when they realise their idea of God is not that of a fairy godmother just waiting to grant whims and wishes? Or do we stand firm and seek out what God might be trying to stay.

Like the rich young man, we might want more from God but may not want to give up what God wants us to. We might choose to hang on to the familiar – even if it doesn’t bring us happiness or eternal life because it is comfortable.

Are we willing to risk being disappointed with the answer God gives – but choose his way regardless?

With this season of change – are we ready for the changes that God may have for us or are we wanting to make some changes ourselves? Like Job and the young man, we need to go to God.


Harvest: Be Thankful for the Change that Harvest Brings

I have been negligent once again in posting sermons. Will blame a busy summer season and September. I have decided to re-start my autumn now at the beginning of October so will try to do better! So much so that this is tomorrow’s sermon for St Anne’s Dropmore & St Nicolas Taplow. I haven’t been there before – will see if they invite me back!

Galatians 5:22-26 & Luke 5:1-11

I grew up just outside of Calgary, Canada between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Canadian prairies to the east. I can picture in my mind the combines and harvesters in the fields cutting and collecting the wheat and oats in the fields around my town.

Autumn has always been my favourite season of the year – I love the smells, the colours, the change of light and mood. This weekend is also Canadian Thanksgiving, sort of like Harvest but with full-on family gatherings with turkey dinner and pumpkin pie.

I also love the change that autumn brings to life more widely as activities and programs start again, kids back at school. I think that autumn brings more change than even January does. Daylight starts to shorten so the mood changes. Our bible readings in church bring stories to challenge us and stories of celebration. At Harvest, we have opportunity to give thanks in this season of change.

Harvest is a time of change as well as a time of giving thanks. These are the 2 things I want to talk about this morning. Change and thanks. Both the readings that I chose this morning have the harvest theme of change and thanks in them.


How many of you are good with change? Some of you might embrace and others might be slower to embrace. I am good with change – I was a nurse before I was a Priest and as a nurse you learn quickly that sometimes things change quickly, and you need to response to change really fast.

Not all change is bad either or negative. Sometimes change is actually a very good thing – we may not see it at the time though. I also find that those things I want changed – never seem to change. And the things that I don’t want to change – always do!

In the Gospel story this morning we see Jesus beside a lake with a crowd of people pressing in to hear what he was saying. So much so that Jesus had to get into a boat, so he could see them all! Jesus’ teaching was gaining popularity and attention. Jesus was in the business of changing people’s lives. That is what he came to do. On this day, Jesus is going to really change the lives of his first disciples Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus invites these four ordinary fishermen to a specially favoured place beside him.
They are not going to be fishermen anymore but ‘fishers of men.’ Or people – just to be gender neutral!

Jesus wants them to stop their fishing for fish and instead go with him to tell people about God’s kingdom. This is a huge life changing event for Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. They left everything and followed Jesus. So much to gain but so much to lose! These four were business partners along with James and John’s father Zebedee. Think of old Zebedee for a moment! He was probably banking, like most Jewish father’s did, that his boys would take over the fishing business when he was done working. Even better there were 4 young, strong men to take over – his retirement is sewn up!

But then one day this Jesus comes and stands beside the lake and everything gets thrown up in the air! Retirement plans up in smoke, his sons and business partners have turned in their oars, left everything to follow this guy! I don’t know how you do when change comes likes this! I would struggle with this.

The question that gets me though: is what was so attractive about Jesus that made these four, ordinary fishermen leave their nets and boats to follow him?
Give up fishing – a lucrative family business, where you always have something to eat and not to mention the shame they would have brought on their family by leaving Zebedee literally holding the net. Was Zebedee thankful for this change? How did he adjust?

We see Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John change and grow in the Gospel stories as they follow Jesus, but we never hear about what happened to old Zebedee! Trust he was taken care of.

Anyway, being a Christian is about being changed. We are to be more like Jesus and for many of us we have things in our personalities and characters that need to change to do that. Sometimes these changes happen more slowly – over the course of many years or decades. This is the slow work of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.

What is the fruit of the Spirit? Two answers to this: the supernatural outcome of being filled with the Spirit. The second is that the fruit of the Spirit is the living proof that the Spirit of God dwells in us. It is one fruit – not fruits – with nine different qualities.

Think of three or four of your favourite kinds of fruit.

Now imagine one, incredibly perfect fruit that combines that best characteristics of your favourite kinds of fruit. Maybe a seedless fruit like a banana, nice and crisp like an apple, bursting with the flavours of strawberry or raspberry or nectarine – you get the idea. God is developing a fruit is His children, in us. This is what he plans to harvest! The fruit has the characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness/generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This is the fruit that needs to be harvested in this world of ours!


In this Harvest season of change we also need to remember to be thankful. We are to be thankful for all the God has provided for us. We need to look beyond ourselves to the world around us: for the food that is grown, the fish that are fished, the beds that we sleep in, the clothes that we wear, the schools we go to, the jobs we have, the time and money we have to spend on ourselves and others.

We also need to remember to give thanks for the people that prepare our food for us. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t grown or milled any grain, picked an apple, plucked a chicken or milked a cow or an almond recently! Let’s be thankful for the Harvest and all that it involves.

If the seasons didn’t change we wouldn’t have enough to eat. If Jesus hadn’t come to save us, to live in us, to change us – we wouldn’t be the people we are meant to be.

This is other Harvest we need to give thanks for – that is the Harvest that God is producing in our lives with the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit that is made up of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness/generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

We might not be able to harvest food, but we can harvest the fruit of the Spirit! How do we harvest this fruit? By following Jesus. The disciples dropped everything to follow him – are we willing to do the same?

Are we harvesting what we should in our lives? Or do we need some changes in the field?

In this Harvest season, let’s be reminded once again of the change the comes with the changing of a season and the good things that change brings. The physical harvest of the trees and fields makes way for new crops next season.

So it is with us – as God changes us, we produce new and better fruit in our Spirit. The fruit that is needed in our families, communities, church and world.

Change can come really quickly – like for those first disciples who gave up everything to follow Jesus. Are we ready for change like that? Change also comes more slowly in the way that fruit grows.

Be thankful for the changes that comes with a new season and for the Harvest that is gathered. It is not our doing but God’s. Being thankful for the seemingly small things make us thankful for the bigger things. Be thankful for the love of God – the love that transforms and changes us for the better as his perfect fruit grows in each of us.