A warm welcome to another edition of Brooklands Digital Church.
The message is given by our Pastor Karl Stanfield, and can be listened to as audio using the LISTEN button above. An audio MP3 is also available via the SAVE button.
The Bible readings are taken from Psalm 31:1-5, Psalm 31:15-16 and John 14:1-14.
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I have taken a verse from one of today’s lectionary readings. It’s from 1 Peter 2: 3 “now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2: 3) It’s a really easy reference to remember – it’s as easy as – 123! Peter is talking about ‘goodness’ that is holy. He says, ‘The Lord is Good’! Just to put that into perspective from a social point of view for a moment… Often when we buy something online or a product from a company – they usually ask us for a review.
They are asking us to endorse how ‘good’ their product it is. When I’m about to buy something and I want to be certain I’m not going to waste my money, I usually check out the ‘reviews’. I guess you may do the same thing.
We probably ignore both extremes in the reviews because you are always going to get those who exaggerate saying: ‘This is absolute rubbish!’ or ‘This is the best thing since sliced bread!’ But I feel it is the honest appraisals that we find most helpful. It is the well-balanced reviews that we truly appreciate. And this, I believe, is exactly what Peter is giving us here.
Peter is not telling us that everything was absolutely wonderful all the time! If you follow Peter’s life in the gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles, you will discover that Peter lived through many challenges, and offered his fair share of ill-judged opinions. He wants us to be mature in our thinking.
I feel Peter is writing from his personal experience. Like a child, he easily became over excited, was impetuous, and said silly things. But now from the perspective of hindsight (which is a wonderful thing!) he was finally able to pass balanced judgement – and he writes, ‘O taste and see that the Lord is Good!’ Here are a couple of ways of seeing the impact of ‘Goodness’.
1. Your Servant – Stephen!
I mentioned Stephen, and the testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ, last Sunday. Looking at what was going on in Acts chapters 6 & 7, the religious leaders were trying to say that Jesus was bad; bad for religion, bad for the people, bad, period! They also concluded that Jesus’ followers were also ‘bad’ for society.
Stephen though, as Luke writes, was ‘a man full of God’s grace and power’ (Acts 6: 8) Verse 10 says, ‘they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke…’ They secretly plotted against him and fabricated their lies to lynch him… One of his responsibilities was to make sure widows were not neglected in the daily distribution of food. Why would anyone want such a person killed?
As Stephen boldly answered his accusers, their rage boiled over, and finally they stoned him to death. I don’t know how many of you have enrolled in the new Church History Course offered by NTC, and taken by Rev Dr Joseph Wood. The session we watched this past week mentioned two Christian women from the third century, Felicity and Perpetua.
They were put to death (about AD 203) for standing up for their faith. All they had to do was make an offering to the Roman gods and they would be free (I suspect they would have to do it frequently). Each simply replied, ‘I am a Christian! I can’t serve other gods.’
The martyrs, Stephen, Felicity & Perpetua, by helping the needy were ‘good’ upstanding citizens of this world, and good Servants of the Lord. What happened to them was not ‘good’, but they were good! I just wanted to point out that they were the Lord’s servants – and they did what was ‘good’. Here’s another verse from today’s readings…
2. ‘Your hands’ – says the Psalmist
The Psalmist writes, ‘My times are in your hands’! The whole verse reads like this: “My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me.” (Psalm 31:15) This is a reminder that bad things can happen to good people. You have Stephen, Felicity & Perpetua as examples of this – and of course here is the Psalmist. I hasten to add that the Psalmist was indeed ‘delivered’ from his enemies because obviously he survived to write down his experience.
The Psalmist’s realization is well worth our attention. ‘My times are in your hands!’ What ‘times’ are these for you? Are they difficult times; times with dark clouds; probably no one is going to say – ‘these are great times!’ But I believe ‘these times are in His hands too’.
I just love the conclusion – this honest appraisal and balanced advice, this measured and wise judgement… “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24). What a timely exhortation for these days! One final reference from today’s assigned lectionary passages…
3. Your Hearts – Troubled?
Jesus understood that when people have troubles they turn them over and over in their hearts (and minds). Right now there are people, perhaps listening to these words, and their hearts are troubled with lots of things! It’s true, isn’t it?
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.’ (John 14:1) Indeed many people are troubled when, in spite of trusting God, bad days come along. Can I just say that the goodness of God is everlasting and all-knowing on how one or two days seem to pan out in our lives? God’s goodness to us is not governed by our circumstances right now. We should never be so immature in our thinking!
I wanted to tell you this morning that when you are His Servant, and you know you are in His Hands and if Your Heart ‘trusts in God and in His Son Jesus Christ’, then this assurance is yours – you will ‘taste and see that the Lord is Good’. Amen.
May the Lord of all ‘Goodness’ and grace be your ever present companion.