Weekly Church Service – 13 January, 2019: baptism of our Lord – includes sermon audio

 Includes Sermon Audio

Sentence:

The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “you are my son, the beloved, with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22


Collect of the day

Almighty God, by whose grace alone we are accepted and called to your service, strengthen us by your Holy Spirit and make us worthy of our calling, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Today’s readings

Isaiah 43:1 – 7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14 – 17
Luke 3:15 – 22

Next week:
Isaiah 62:1 – 5
Psalm 36:5 – 10
1 Corinthians 12:1 – 11
John 2: 1 – 11


A thought to ponder upon

Baptism of our Lord – Luke 3:15 – 22

Today’s gospel is the final event of the epiphany. Jesus’s baptism at the Jordan River by John. The Christmas season “officially” (liturgically) comes to an end today at the banks of the Jordan. Jesus is no longer the child in Bethlehem manger but the adult Redeemer making his way to Jerusalem. The good news spoken by the angels continues to unfold, the most wondrous part of the Christ stories yet be revealed.

Today, the same spirit that “anoints” the Messiah for his mission is to be about the work of Christmas in the new year, to seek out and find the lost, to heal the hurting, to feed the hungry, to free the in prison, to rebuild nations, to bring peace to all peoples everywhere.

Luke presents Jesus as the last person to be baptised by John, bringing John’s ministry to completion. Luke describes the scene with many images from the 1st testament.

  • The sky opens (“oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” – Isaiah 63:19)
  • the spirit “descended upon him like a dove” (many rabbis likened the wind above the water at the dawn of Genesis to a dove hovering above its newborn. In employing this image Luke suggests that, in this Jesus, a new Genesis is about to take place)
  • the “voice from heaven” identifies and confirms Jesus (“ Here is my servant… My chosen one with whom I am well pleased” – Isaiah 42:1, today’s first reading, “the Lord said to me, “you are my son, this day I have begotten you” – Psalm 2:7)

Jesus’s baptism at the Jordan comes the moment of God’s “anointing” of his Messiah (the word Messiah means “anointed”) for the work he is about to do.

Baptism is more than just our “naming” ceremony but an ongoing process of becoming the people of faith that God calls us to be. New life in baptism, we claim the name of “Christian” and embrace all that holy name means, to live for others rather than for ourselves, in imitation of Christ.

Our baptism is made each one of us the “servant” of today’s readings, to bring forth in our world for justice, reconciliation and enlightenment of Christ, the “beloved son” and “favour” of God.

In baptism, the same spirit of compassion justice and peace that “descends” upon Jesus that at his baptism by John descends and rests upon us, compelling us to take the work of the gospel.

© Communications/MediaWorks


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service – 6 January, Epiphany 2019

 Includes Sermon Audio

Epiphany – 6th January 2019


Sentence:

They saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and worshipped him. Matthew 2: 11


Today’s readings

Isaiah 60:1 – 6
Psalm 72:1 – 7, 10 – 14
Ephesians 3:1 – 12
Matthew 2:1 – 12

next week
Isaiah 43:1 – 7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14 – 17
Luke 3:15 – 22


Collect of the day

Eternal God, who by a star led the Magi to the worship of your son, guide the nations of the earth by your light, that the whole world may see your glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


A thought to ponder upon

Epiphany – Matthew 2: 1 – 12

The story of the astrologers in the Star of Bethlehem is unique to Matthew’s Gospel. Note that Matthew does not call them kings nor does he give them their names nor reports where they came from – in fact, Matthew never even specifies the number of Magi (because 3 gifts are present to the child it has been a tradition since the 5th century to picture “3 wise men”). In stripping away the romantic layers that have been added to the story, Matthew’s point can be better appreciated.

A great many first testament ideas and images are presented in this story. The star, for example is reminiscent of Balaam’s prophecy that “a star shall advance from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17) many of the details in Matthew’s story about the child Jesus parallel the story of the child Moses and the Exodus.

Matthew’s story also provides a preview of what is to come. First, the reactions of the various parties to the birth of Jesus parallel the effects Jesus teaching will have on those who hear. Herod reacts with anger and hostility to the Jesus of the poor who comes to overturn the powerful and rich. The chief priests and scribes greet the news with a haughty indifference towards the Jesus who comes to give new life and meaning to the rituals and laws of the scribes. But the Magi – non-believers in the eyes of Israel – possessed the humility and openness of mind and heart essential to the faith that leads them to seek and welcome the Jesus who will institute the second covenant between God and the new Israel.

Secondly, the gifts of the astrologers indicate the principal dimensions of Jesus’s mission

Gold is a gift fitting for a king, a ruler, one with power and authority

Frankincense is a gift fitting for a priest, one who offers sacrifice (frankincense was an a aromatic perfume sprinkled on the animals sacrificed in the Temple)

Myrrh is a fitting “gift” for someone who is about to die (Myrrh was used in ancient times for embalming the bodies of the dead before burial)

Epiphany calls us to a new vision of the world that sees beyond the walls and supporters that we have created and to walk by the light which is dawn for all of humankind, a light would buy which we are able to recognise all men and women as our brothers and sisters under the loving providence of God, the Father of all

The Magi’s following of the star is a journey of faith, a constant search for meaning, for purpose, for the things of God that each one of us experiences in the courses of our own lives.

What we read and watch and listen to in search of wealth fame and power are the “stars” we follow. The journey of the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel puts our own “stargazing” into perspective, calling us to fix and search on the “star” of God’s justice, peace and compassion © Connections/Media Works


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service; Christmas 1, December 30th 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

 Includes Sermon Audio

Christmas 1, December 30th 2018


Sentence:

I bring to you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day in the city of David a saviour, Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10 – 11


Collect of the day

Gracious God, Creator and mother of the universe, be born in us again, as you were born long ago. Be born in us as you continue to be born again and again in the words and deeds of faithful people. Be born in us, as is light, as in Joy, as in Peace, as in Justice. Be born in us so that we may be the body of Christ in this time and this place. Amen.


Today’s readings

Isaiah 62:6 – 12
Psalm 97
Titus 3:4 – 6 a
Luke 2:1 – 20


A thought to ponder upon

Top Christmas traditions and their origins

by Jeremy Dixon and Stacey Conradt

The Christmas tree

Before Christianity was even conceived of, people in Europe used evergreen boughs to decorate their homes during the winter. The greenery reminded them that plants would return in abundance soon. As Christianity became more popular in Europe, and Germany in particular, the tradition was absorbed into it.

Advent calendars

Technically, Advent, a religious event that has been celebrated since the 4th century, the four-week period that starts on the Sunday closest to the November 30 feast day of St Andrew the apostle. Traditionally, it marked the period to prepare for Christmas as well as His 2nd coming. These days, it is mostly used as a countdown to Christmas for the religious and the nonreligious of life.

Mince pies

Early mince pies were made of meat, fruit and spice and inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine brought back by the Crusaders. They commonly had 13 ingredients representing Christ and the apostles and reform into a large oval shaped to represent the manger. Meat disappeared from the recipe by Victorian times.

Stockings

Leaving stockings at Christmas goes back to the legend of St Nicholas. Known as the gift giver, there were is an old tradition of leaving out cheese with hay inside them on December 5, the eve of St Nicholas’s feast day. Lucky children would discover that the hay they left had been replaced with treats or coins when they woke up the next morning. The Dutch later referred to St Nicholas as Sinterklaas and eventually, by English speakers as Santa Claus.

Christmas crackers

London sweet maker Tom Smith invented Christmas crackers the late 1840s. Inspired by traditional, paper wrapped French bonbons. Even though he included mottos or riddles inside each, it was not until he found a way to make them “crack” when pulled apart they took off. His sons Tom, Walter and Henry later added hats and novelty gifts.

Christmas pudding

Also known as plum or figgy pudding, this Christmas staple possibly has its roots as far back as the Middle Ages in which base portage known as frumently. By the mid-17th century, it was thicker and had developed into a desert with the addition of eggs, dried fruit and alcohol. In Victorian times plum pudding was a Christmas favourite. It is traditionally made a week before Advent on what is known as “mixup Sunday”.

Mistletoe

Hanging mistletoe in the homes is an ancient pagan practice adopted by early Christians. The word itself is Anglo-Saxon and the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe originated in England. Each kiss required a berry to be plucked until none remained.

Christmas carols

Carols were songs and dances of grace and joy. In time the practice of Carol singing carried over into the Christian era. Carols have been written through the centuries but the most familiar date from Victorian times. Today popular songs such as Bing Crosby’s white Christmas and Mariah Carey’s all the want for Christmas just as much part of Christmas as carols.

Christmas cards

Having helped set up the public records office in London (now the post office) Sir Henry Cole and artist John Horsley created the first Christmas cards in 1843 as a way of encouraging people to use its services. The cardboard greeting showed a happy group of people participating in a toast, along with the printed sentiment, “a Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you.” A thousand of them were printed that first year, and because it cost just a penny to mail a holiday hello to friends and family (the card itself was a shilling, or 12 times as much), the cards sold like hot cakes and a new custom was born.


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service; Advent four – 23 December 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

 Includes Sermon Audio

Advent four – 23 December 2018


Sentence:

Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.
Luke 1: 45


Collect of the day

Gracious God, you have visited your people and redeemed us in your son: as we prepare to celebrate his birth, make our hearts leap for joy at the sound of your work, and move us by your spirit to bless your wonderful works. We ask this through him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near, your son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Amen.


Today’s readings

Micah 5: 2 – 5 a
Song of Mary
Hebrews 10:5 – 10
Luke 1:39 – 45


A thought to ponder upon

Some thoughts on Luke 1:39 – 45
The readings for the 4th Sunday in Advent each year shift the focus from Advent’s call to preparation for the Messiah to setting the stage for the Christmas event in today’s gospel, Elizabeth proclaims had joy filled faith in God’s promise of salvation that will be accomplished through Mary’s child and praises her young cousin “yes” to God’s plan.

In Mary and Elizabeth’s meeting and in our own similar “visitations” the spirit of God is present in the healing, comfort and support we can extend to one another in such moments. In the light and hope of this holy season, may we “make haste” to bring such a reconciling piece and healing justice in our own “visitations” to others, in our own in characters in which the grace of God enables us to see one another in God’s eyes.

God’s spirit, who inspired the prophets to preach, who enabled the nation of Israel to enter into the cold with Yahweh stop at work in the world in new and creative ways. Jesus Christ is the ultimate and perfect fulfilment of that covenant.

The “mystery” of the Incarnation is not that God would become one of us – the inexplicable part is how God could give his love away so freely to his people without expectation or condition. As Saint Ireneaus Preached: “because of his great love for us, Jesus, the word of God, became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.”

© Connections/Media Works


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service; Advent three – 16 December 2018 – Includes sermon audio

 Includes Sermon Audio

Epiphany – 6th January 2019


Sentence:

Do not fear, the Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory, he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love. Zephaniah 3:16 – 17


Today’s readings

Zephaniah 3: 14 – 20
Song of Isaiah
Philippians 4: 4 – 7
Luke 3: 7 – 18


Collect of the day

Almighty God, you sent your son into the world where the wheat must be winnowed from chaff and evil clings even to what is good, let the fire of your spirit purge us of all corruption, so that, purified, we may wait eagerly for him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near, your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen


A thought to ponder upon

Some thoughts on Luke 3:7 – 18

Today’s gospel is unique to Luke’s Gospel: a summary of the themes of John’s preaching.

The baptiser is approached by 2 groups whose professions were scorned by the Pharisees: tax collectors, who usually made handsome profits by gouging their fellow Jews, and Jewish soldiers who belong to the Roman peacekeeping force. John requires of them not a change of professions but a change of heart and attitude, that they perform their duties with honesty and integrity. John calls for selfless concern for one’s disadvantaged brothers and sisters.

John assures his Jewish listeners that he is not the Messiah; in fact, John considers himself lower than the lowest slave (only a non-Jewish slave could be required to loosen his Masters sandal strap and John does not presume to do even that).

In proclaiming the Messiah a “baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire,” John employs the image of “a winnowing – fan.” a winnowing fan was a flat, wooden, shovel like tool, used to toss grain into the air. The heavier grain fell to the ground and the chaff will blow away. In the same way, John says that, the Messiah will come to gather the “remnant” of Israel and destroyed the godless.

Like John’s proclamation at the river Jordan, we are called to be witnesses of God’s love by the love we extend to others; precursors of his justice by our unfailing commitment to what is right and good, lamps reflecting the light of Christ in our forgiveness, mercy and compassion, harvesters of souls through our humble and dedicated servant-hood.

Every act of compassion, justice and reconciliation is a sign of the “expectation” that “fills” every human heart for the coming of God’s kingdom in our time as well is in the time to come.© Connections/Media Works


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service; Advent two – 9 December 2018 – Includes sermon audio

 Includes Sermon Audio

Advent two – 9 December 2018


Sentence:

By the tender mercy of our God, the Dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78 – 79


Collect of the day

God of our salvation, you straighten the winding ways of our hearts and smooth the path made rough by sinning, keep our hearts watchful in holiness, and bring to perfection the good you have begun in us. We ask this through him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near, your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Today’s readings

Malachi 3:1 – 14
Luke 1:68 – 79
Philippians 1:1 – 11
Luke 3:1 – 6


Some thoughts on Luke 3:1 – 6

So important is the emergence of John the baptiser in human history that Luke dates his appearance in six different ways. In his gospel Luke introduces John as prophets were introduced in the first testament (“the word of God was spoken to John son of Zechariah in the desert”). As does Matthew and Mark, Luke cites the famous passage from Isaiah regarding “a Herald’s voice in the desert” to describe the baptiser’s mission – but Luke quotes more of the Isaiah prophecy then his synoptic counterparts, including the promise of universal salvation that is so central to Luke’s Gospel.

Forms of “baptism” were common in the Judaism of gospel times, in some Jewish communities, it was through baptism rather than circumcision that a Gentile became a Jew. But John’s baptism was distinctive. His baptism at the Jordan was a rite of repentance and “metanoia” – a conversion of the heart and spirit. The baptiser’s ministry fulfilled the promise of the Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:25 – 26) that at the dawn of the new age, the God of Israel would purify his people from their sins with the clean water and instil in them a new heart and spirit.

In his book Sacred Fire: a vision for a deeper human and Christian community, theologian Ronald Rolheiser writes about the two baptisms that John speaks of in today’s gospel: “John’s baptism is only a preparation for Jesus’s baptism. What’s John’s baptism? It is a baptism of repentance, a realisation of what we are doing wrong and a clear resolution to correct our bad behaviour.

What is Jesus’s baptism? It is an entry into grace and community in such a way that empowers us to internally to do what is impossible for us to do by our willpower alone.” ©Connections/MediaWorks


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service; Advent one – 2 December 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

 Includes Sermon Audio

Epiphany – 6th January 2019


Sentence:

Stand up and raise your hands, your redemption is drawing near. Luke 21:28


Today’s readings


Daniel 7: 9 – 10, 13 – 14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1: 4b–8


Collect of the day

Eternal God, you have taught us that the night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Keep us awake and alert, watching for your kingdom, and make us strong in faith, so that when Christ comes in glory to judge the earth, we may go out joyfully to greet him, and with yours saints, may worship you forever: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, now and forever. Amen.


A thought to ponder upon

Bethlehem and Bedlam: Weren’t they intimately related at the first Christmas when Jesus was born? Sometimes we forget that. Remember that Bedlam in Bethlehem that night? Just think of it – a crowded inn, a stable, a census, political intrigue, soldiers marching in the street, a busy city, people pushing and shoving, people scrambling for shelter. In that Bedlam in Bethlehem so many centuries ago, Christmas happened. Christmas broke through in that busy hectic uproar, it happened here and those with the eyes, ears, and hearts of faith saw it, heard it, and felt it.

This is the good news of Christmas; God meets us where we are. God breaks into our uproar, our busyness, our hectic pace, our darkness, and our confusion through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem – Jesus, who we know as the King of Kings, the light of the world, and the gracious, forgiving one who understands.

In Jesus, God gives us a new understanding of what God is like, a new experience of God’s compassion and tenderness, a new relationship with God, not built on fear but built on love. Every now and then, in the mists of Bedlam, we find Bethlehem. We are reminded that God loves us, and that’s the thing that keeps us going. James W Moore


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service Christ the King – 25 November 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

Includes Sermon Audio

Christ the King 25 November 2018


Sentence:

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing.              Revelation 5:12


Today’s readings

Daniel 7: 9 – 10, 13 – 14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1: 4b–8


Collect of the day

Everlasting God, whose will is to restore all things in your well beloved son, our Lord and King; Grant that the people of earth, now divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his gentle and loving rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


A thought to ponder upon – John 18:33 – 37

We celebrate the kingship of Jesus with John’s Gospel account of what is perhaps Jesus’s most humiliating moment: his appearance before Pilate. It is a strange exchange: Pilate had been blackmailed by the Jewish establishment into executing Jesus for their ends: it is the accused who dominates the meeting and takes on the role of the inquisitor: Pilate has no idea what Jesus is talking about what he speaks about “the truth.”

Pilate, a man of no great talent or exceptional competence, was under a great deal of political pressure. He had needlessly alienated the Jews of Palestine by his cruelty, his insensitivity to their religious customs and his clumsy appropriation of funds from the temple treasury for public projects. Reports of his undistinguished performance had reached his superiors in Rome. Jesus proclaimed himself the ruler of the kingdom built on passion, humility, our love and truth – power that Pilate cannot comprehend in his small, narrow view of the world.

The kingdom of Jesus is not found in the world’s centres of power but within human hearts; it is built not by the deals among the power elites but by compassionate hands: Christ reigns neither by influence the wealth but by selfless charity and justice.

Are we a people who radiate thankfulness and appreciation?


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

Weekly Church Service 18th November 2018 – Includes Sermon Audio

Includes Sermon Audio

26th Sunday after Pentecost


Sentence:

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth, he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed. 1 Sam 2:10


Today’s readings

Ruth 3:1 – 5, 4:13 – 17

Song of Hannah
Hebrews 9: 23 – 28
Mark 13: 01 – 13


Collect of the day

O God, welcoming refuge for the outcast, and upholder of justice for the oppressed, maintain the hope of the poor, so that the time may soon come when no one need want for food and shelter, and all will learn to share freely following the example of your son, who gave his very self, who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


A thought to ponder upon – Mark 13: 1 – 13

Most probably still on the second full day of the Passion Week, as Jesus was leaving the Temple, the disciples drew Jesus’s attention to the massive stones of the temple. Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, confirms that they had reason to be impressed. Herod Antipas was still finishing the Temple his father, Herod the great, had begun. It was famous as one of the architectural wonders of the Roman world. Even today visitors to the Temple Mount can see the remains of some of these massive stones. But Jesus was not impressed. He predicted that the stones would be thrown down in judgement. The scene now moves to the Mount of Olives, from which there is a good view of the city and the Temple. The two pairs of brothers – Peter and Andrew, James and John – came to Jesus privately and asked him to elaborate on his comment. They were interested in when the destruction would take place and what signs they should be looking out for. Responding to their questions, Jesus launched into a great discourse about events that would happen, both the near and distant future. He starts by describing the beginning signs,. Which fall into three categories: imposters or deceivers purporting to represent Jesus, calamities of human origin such as wars and rumours of wars, and natural calamities such as earthquakes… and famines. Jesus told the disciples not to be alarmed by these events, for they are just the beginning of birth pains. Although these signs began in the first century, those living in the 21st century are no strangers to any of them. Imposters claiming to represent Christ are everywhere, deceiving the gullible. Alarming as these catastrophes are, children of the kingdom are enjoined “not to be alarmed” because these events do not signal the end of the age.


Sermon Audio

The Reverend Josie Steytler preaches from the text after the gospel reading.

Direct MP3 Download ⇓

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