Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, issued a warning recently that climate change poses a huge risk to global stability. At a gathering of leading insurers at Lloyd’s of London, Mr Carney pointed out that the rapid increase in weather-related catastrophes was causing a spike in financial costs. But he also warned that the challenges currently posed by climate change “pale in significance compared with what might come”. He said our generation has little incentive to avert future problems. Ironically, insurers are among those with the biggest interest in climate change as the syndicates operating at Lloyd’s, the world’s oldest insurance market, are the most exposed to disasters such as hurricanes and floods. Mr Carney said the after-effects of such disasters were likely to grow worse: “The challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come. “The far-sighted amongst you are anticipating broader global impacts on property, migration and political stability, as well as food and water security.” Who is responsible? We can blame politicians for failing to act sooner. We can criticize multinational corporations for exacerbating climate change through the exploitation of oil, gas and other natural resources. Or we can acknowledge that the Christian Church, which is the largest religious movement in the world, has largely failed to fulfil its responsibility to care for creation. Church leaders have not, until relatively recently, acknowledged that creation care is integral to the gospel.
There are many different kinds of Church. You can be a member of an Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Charismatic, Coptic, Episcopal, Methodist, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Reformed, Roman Catholic or one of hundreds of other denominations including the Strict and Particular.
Some prefer a High Church, a Low Church, a Broad Church, Mega Church or a House Church. In remote places you may have to attend a Virtual Church. In some countries people belong to the Underground Church because they are a Persecuted Church. Many long to have a Junior Church, and aspire to be a Messy Church. But no one wants to belong to a Dead Church. We need to belong to a Bible Church, a Local Church, a Community Church, an International Church, a Gospel Church and a welcoming, friendly, caring, Christ–centred, Holy Spirit filled Church.
And some are realising that God also wants us to be an Eco Church as well. What is an Eco Church? An Eco Church demonstrates by their actions that they care for God’s earth. That is why on Harvest Sunday at Christ Church we are committing ourselves to become an Eco Church.
Increasing numbers of Christians are realising that caring for God’s creation is central to the Christian faith. We may have neglected creation care in the past but we are rediscovering that creation care is one of our God given responsibilities. A’Roche together with Tearfund and the Church of England are teaming up to help us become an Eco Church. This is a talk I gave at the September Family Service.
Water is pretty amazing stuff isn’t it? In its natural state we take it for granted. But when its cooled to 0 degrees centigrade it can bring an entire country to a stand still. When heated to boiling point water changes from a liquid to a gas. That is when water takes on a whole new dimension and becomes very, very powerful. Thomas Savery, the British military engineer, was the first to patent a steam engine in 1679. James Watt refined the engine and gave his name to the unit of power generated by the steam engine. A watt is apparently 1/746th of a horse power. For much of the 20th century, our entire rail transportation system was powered by steam. As a young boy I used to collect the names of the different steam trains that ran between Lowestoft and Liverpool Street, delivering fresh fish to Billingsgate Market and bringing Londoners to the sandy beaches of the Suffolk coast. Steam is still used to catapult jet aircraft from aircraft carriers. The steam catapult with pistons the length of a football pitch, can hurl a 45,000-pound plane from 0 to 165 miles per hour in two seconds.
Great power is realized when water is heated to high temperatures. But even greater power is released when Christians are on fire for Jesus. In our concluding study of the seven letters to the Churches of Revelation, the church in Laodicea has the unenviable distinction of being the only one about of which Jesus had nothing good to say. This is the sternest of the seven letters. Unlike the other churches, there is much censure and no praise.
‘This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,’ whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. ‘Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!’ Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror— indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy— but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.
Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows is one of my favourite children’s stories. Rat and Mole’s encounter with the Piper at the Gates of Dawn sums up what happens when we recognise the Almighty God as our Creator, as our Shepherd and Lord.
During the Summer we have been exploring Ecclesiastes together. Solomon has encouraged us to identify with those whose world view is secular, whether of an atheist or agnostic. Solomon describes their world view 27x as “under the sun.”
Hugh Grosvenor, aged 25, became the most eligible bachelor in the country this week. That is because, on the death of his father, the Duke of Westminster, Hugh inherited a fortune estimated by Forbes to be worth £9 billion. This makes the young Hugh, the third wealthiest landowner in Britain and the 68th wealthiest person in the world. His estate includes 190 acres in Belgravia and thousands of acres in Scotland and Spain. Contented? Wouldn’t you be? What price contentment? A fraction of £9 billion you might think.
Well think again. Although the word doesn’t actually appear in our passage this morning, the theme of Ecclesiastes 5 is contentment. In verses 5:8-17, the Lord looks at the world and observes how we buy into a number of myths about money. In verse 17, we are reminded of the consequences: “All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.” (Ecclesiastes 5:17).
What is your image of Jesus? Where does it come from? Is it the Jesus ‘meek and mild’ of childhood Sunday school? If you read Luke’s gospels from beginning to end in one go, it will take you less than an hour. But you will discover something very profound. Following Jesus in the First Century, any more than now, was not for the faint hearted. It was an uncomfortable, unsettling and hazardous experience. Mark Galli, in his book, Jesus Mean and Wild, observes,
“Nearly everywhere we turn, in the gospel of Mark … we find a Jesus who storms in and out of people’s lives, making implicit or explicit demands and, in general, making people feel mighty uncomfortable.” For example, Jesus “sternly charges” or “strictly orders” people he heals (Mark 1:43; 3:12; 5:43; 8:30); he looks upon religious leaders with “anger” and “grief” (Mark 3:5). He destroys a herd of swine while showing no regret, providing no compensation to the owner (Mark 5:1-20); He overturns the money tables in the Temple in a moment of rage (Mark 11:15-17); He rebukes Peter as demonic (Mark 8:33). He is “indignant” with the disciples (Mark 10:13-14). He says the Sadducees are biblically and spiritually ignorant (Mark 12:24), He describes his entire generation as “faithless” (Mark 9:19). Jesus makes it clear that following him will entail suffering and death (Mark 9:35-37, 43-50). On one occasion, his ‘gospel appeal’ to the crowds included this promise, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8: 34-35).”
When I’m ridin’ in my car
And that man comes on the radio
And he’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say
I can’t get no, I can’t get no
I can’t get no satisfaction
No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction.”
There are other lyrics but I thought I’d spare you. I think you get the point. “Can’t get no satisfaction” became a hit, way back in 1965, for the Rolling Stones. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it makes a perfect title for the Book of Ecclesiastes. Aged 72, Mick Jagger appeared in the news again this week, still it seems, seeking satisfaction. He is not alone. I am sure we’ve all had plenty of first hand experience that confirms that satisfaction is temporary.
I have a confession to make. I am a junky. I have a serious addiction problem. I have had it since childhood. I have not talked about it before. Today I am coming clean. It has nothing to do with chemical dependency or substance abuse.
But there are no “twelve-step” therapy groups or treatment centres to help me fight it. Many people are addicted and don’t even know they are. At least I do. And now you do too.
Do you feel any less of me? Because what you think matters to me. And that’s the problem. Do you know what it is called? “Approval addiction”. It is living in bondage to what other people think about you. When your identity is wrapped up in whether you are perceived to be successful, likable, or acceptable, you are predisposed to this addiction also. Then you too are an approval addict. John Ortberg says, “no matter how much of this drug you get, you can never have enough. Just like all other junkies, you need more and more.” Henri Nouwen put it like this, “Who am I? I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated or despised.” In other words, I am what other people think I am. If being busy is important , then I must be seen to be busy. If having money is a sign of success, then I will invest my life in making as much as I can and flaunting it.
One day, a rich dad took his son on a trip to a village. He wanted to show him how poor somebody could be. They spent the day on the farm of a poor family. At the end of the day, the dad asked, “Did you see how poor they are? What did you learn?” The son replied, “We have a dog, they have four. We have a swimming pool, they have a river. We have lanterns at night, they have stars. We buy our food, they grow theirs. We have mobile phones, they have friends. We have computers, they have the Bible. As they headed back, the son said, “Thanks, dad, for showing me how poor we actually are.” In our sermon series on serving our theme is generosity. From 2 Corinthians 8, we are going to see that:
Christian giving is an expression of the grace of God (2 Cor. 8:1-7)
Christian giving is inspired by the cross of Christ. (2 Cor. 8:8-9)
Christian giving reflects our unity in the Spirit (2 Cor. 8:10-15) Continue reading
This is the story of Shaun the sheep. Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. He lives with his friends and is a happy sheep. His master loves him and cares for him and provides everything he needs. But Shaun is always wandering off and get lost. His master calls him, searches for him and eventually finds him. He brings him home rejoicing.
Shaun loves to play in the garden on the swings and slide. He loves climbing trees. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.
Shaun loves to help out in the church. In the office and the kitchen. Making tea and coffee and washing up. He loves making music and playing with computers and distracting the staff.
But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.
Shaun’s favourite place is the Sunday Clubs. He loves playing in the crèche with the toys and reading Bible stories. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.
Shaun loves to be in the Church and help with the flowers and straighten the chairs. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. Then one day Shaun gets really lost and is put in the lost property box. Oh dear. His master calls him and searches for him but cannot find him. His master is very, very sad. So his master leaves his other 99 sheep and goes in search of Shaun. He searches very high and very low.
Eventually he finds Shaun, sitting in a charity shop window. He looks very sad and lonely. His master goes into the shop and gladly pays the price to buy Shaun back. His master is so happy to find Shaun. He brings him home rejoicing. And that’s the story of Shaun the sheep.
Shaun the short sighted sheep. He was lost and found. He was redeemed. His master paid to get him back. That is what ‘redeem’ means – to pay for something you really want back. The Bible says we are like Shaun the sheep. Sooner or later we all get lost and lose our way because we are short-sighted.
The Bible says, “we all like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). God says, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:2). We are all like lost sheep. Like King David, we need to admit, “I have strayed like a lost sheep” (Psalm 119:176). But we don’t have to stay lost for ever. The good news is Jesus came to rescue us.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
If we listen to Jesus voice and follow him, we will never be lost again. Instead we will be able to say like King David, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1)
Jesus speaks to us as we read the Bible and we respond to his leading in prayer. He wants us to stay close to him, so that we will never get lost again. Can you say “The Lord is my shepherd”?
To remind you of this story, I have a book mark to help you memorise these verses and make them your own so you can help others who may be lost find a place in Jesus flock.
Let’s say a prayer to thank Jesus for being our Good Shepherd.
Thank you Lord Jesus for loving us and being our Good Shepherd. Thank you for coming to find us and rescue us because we were lost. Thank you for giving your life to redeem us, and buy us back. Help us to stay close to you in your flock. Help us to listen to you as we read the Bible. Please make us eager to follow you and do what is good and right. In Jesus name.
View the photos of the story here