Author: Pastor Matt Bishop

August 26, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

In Matthew 16:24’s Jesus pointed out that “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (NRSV). Luther thought that picking up one’s cross was not so much about suffering, for everyone suffers regardless of their faith. He pointed out that instead its about bearing shame, scorn and persecution for the sake of our faith in Jesus through the difference it makes in our lives. With impeccable follow up to Jesus in Matthew 16:24, the Holy Spirit inspired in St Paul a perfect list in Romans 12:9-21 of occasions when you will indeed be able to carry your cross. Cross-shaped or ‘cruciform’ living results. Hard to really do without being motivated by the love of Christ. This week’s sermon will consider a few examples in relation to this text remembering that all of this is a response, as imperfect as it is, to the cruciform living perfected by Jesus. The find-a-word in this bulletin which is based on Romans 12:9-21 will prove a worthy devotional aid if for each word you open your Bible, locate the verse from Romans 12:9-21 from which that word comes, and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you might address that verse in your life in the season you are.

August 20, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

Jesus asks his disciples this question in today’s Gospel from Matthew 16:13-20. The author and academic C S Lewis once contended that the answer most people gives falls into three categories: Lord, lunatic or liar. Peter said Jesus was “… the Christ (Messiah, anointed one), the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter clearly put Jesusin the Lord category! Jesus commended Peter highly for this. Not because Peter had passed a test, but because it showed faith given to him by God at work in his life. It’s the same faith upon which Christ has built his church of which we are a part. He continues to have his church do his work of loosing people from sin and its eternal separation from him. It’s still urgent work as it’s unlikely that more people have never known who Jesus really is…

August 14, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

It seems there was quite a scene that day when Jesus withdrew out of Galilee into the northern non-Jewish (gentile) realm of Tyre and Sidon. Confronted by a desperate mum seeking her child’s deliverance from a demon there is plenty of awkward to and fro. Pretty much everyone these days rightly feels uncomfortable about the apparent harshness of Jesus (notwithstanding that comes from what I suspect is a cursory rather than a close reading of the text). All of us feel for the Canaanite woman begging on her knees. May the Spirit keep growing faith in us as she had, and may we be encouraged by our assured place at God’s table. May we also be led by the Spirit to confidently ask and serve out of that faith.

The earlier troubles of Tyre… As part of preparing the sermon this week I got distracted (nothing unusual there!) by the history of Tyre. What a story! It was a key centre in the pagan worship of the Baals which meant it was always problematic for Israel and Judah as they oscillated in their faithfulness to the one true God. But beyond Tyre’s southern neighbours, well before the time of Christ, the presence of a key temple on island of Tyre indirectly started the conflict with Alexander ‘the Great’. This conflict led to Alexander’s impressive engineering to build a causeway out to the fortified island, and his subsequent total conquest. It’s in the region of the flattened remains of this area that today’s account of Jesus and the Canaanite woman took place. If you are inclined, I found this to be a well paced and entertaining read of Tyre’s history:

August 7, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

I’m hoping that today’s sermon on Matthew 14:22-33 is one that encourages you in faith. That Jesus walks on water and what he says as he does so shows in several ways that he is God, given the way it connects to key parts of the Old Testament. That Peter both believes and is moved to action yet doubts and sinks certainly feels realistic and adds to its authenticity. Has this ever happened to you… quite possibly in the past week now you think about it? The general environment of the choppy seas and the winds that threaten is another realistic aspect. When is life ever really all that calm? Yet when we do as our Lord commands and ‘Come’, that is, act in faith at his command, we know also that he stands ready to immediately reach out his hand and catch us (verse 31). There is a strong realism about both God and us in this amazing account of Jesus walking on water. In that way it encourages me for its honesty and insight. Yet most encouraging is the saving grace it shows for all who act in faith. May it encourage you!

July 31, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

We continue following the Gospel of Matthew consistent with the international lectionary of the worldwide Christian church. Today we are on the shores of the lake with a very large crowd – at least 10,000 it would seem as the writer only notes ‘five thousand men, besides women and children’ (Matthew 14:21). There is much we can take from this account. A few things include: Jesus fulfilling the desert feedings in the wilderness of the children of Israel (e.g. Exodus 16) and Elisha’s feeding in 2 Kings 4:42-44; the way that Jesus breaks the bread foreshadowing the Lord’s Supper and it’s never ending provision for our journey to eternity; the significance of this miracle as demonstrating another aspect of God’s kingdom whereby the hungry don’t stay unsatisfied; and related to that, the associated importance to Jesus of ensuring the hungry in today’s world are fed. However, today I’m going to focus mainly on what it says about our willingness to do as the Lord asks us even when it looks like there won’t be enough to go around. These are important issues in life and church. Indeed, in all the places he has put us. I hear many people wondering how they’ll cope. Or how they’ll continue. Saying they are empty. Telling me there is not enough. I also hear lots of great ideas, but even more reasons why those ideas would not be viable. It seems that all too often we cut Jesus vision off ‘at the knees’. He clearly thinks we are capable of much more than we do – witness him telling the disciples to give the crowd something to eat and their protest “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish” (Matthew 14:15-17). We forget he is the extra ingredient, or piece, that makes it possible… in family, work, church and society. Therefore, factor Jesus in as the extra ingredient in all he asks us to do!

July 13, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23. Today we hear of the Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13. It tells us about the various ways the world receives the word and why sometimes it sticks and often it seems not to stick. It is meant as encouragement both individually for what God’s word can yield in our own lives and also in the world for what it yields in the kingdom. Regardless of the yield, God encourages us not to give up because the yield will be there. But do think about this: is the seed even being sown into your own day to day life and through your words and deeds in the world?

July 3, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 to come to him all who are weary and heavy burdened because they will receive his rest is a well used verse of scriptures. Christians love it for the promise it offers both them and those to whom they bring God’s mission. It’s the sort of thing we see on coffee cups, bumper stickers and even well, this pastor’s ‘business’ card. Peace, quiet, no hassles? Is that what Jesus is promising to deliver here? Today we look into what the rest that Jesus offers really is.

June 18, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

For the next fortnight the epistle reading covers Romans 6 in two parts. Romans 6 tells us about the ongoing role of our baptisms. Baptism is no less than union with the death and resurrection of Christ. This matters, because our sins are left behind in the grave. But what comes after is a new life where sharing his resurrected life we live like that actually matters. So we look to live in God’s way. And we come back in contrition and repentance when we don’t, thereby returning to our baptism. It’s therefore a continual life of grace that we live in, not law, even though the law shows us our need for Christ and directs us in God’s way. “Lord, thank you for giving us the mystery of life in Christ through our baptisms. Through your Spirit lead us to live our lives in committed service to you – true slaves to your righteousness. Amen.”

June 12, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

It strikes me that some common phrases in Christianity can lose their impact over time.  Romans 5:3-5 is one.  As you look at your own life, does suffering really produce endurance which produces character which produces hope?  Only in a kind of more hoped for than realised way? Is the hope that comes from times of trial something that just makes you hope for a better day?  Or is it hope that encourages you that your future is sound?  Be honest!  The alternate Psalm for today, Psalm 100, speaks of the joy of entering the house of God to praise and worship.  Why does this matter to where we locate our hope?  So today we’ll take a look at the wider context of the Romans text and examine how it is that its claim really can be true for us in Christ.  ‘In Christ’ is the key.  ‘For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues though out the generations’ (Psalm 100:5).  How do we know? ‘For while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).

June 4, 2020 Pastor Matt Bishop

In Matthew’s Gospel doubt was the disciple’s reaction that accompanied worshipping the risen Lord. It’s very honest. It captures that we are not linear binary creatures as, clearly, the worship of God can be accompanied by doubts. It happened for Jesus’ disciples – why wouldn’t it be different for us who are remote from him in time, culture and, in all honesty, holiness? Moreover, for many people the Covid-19 separation from church has not been accompanied with a closer more intimate and regular feeding from God and his word (even though it has for some). In today’s sermon we will narrow in on one of the ways the disciples likely felt doubt… their future service to their Lord and how we can often feel so barren in our equipping for this task. We’ll look at how Jesus addresses this (Matthew 28:18-20), and also take a look at the relationship to community aspects of the epistle text for today 2 Corinthians 13:14. Keep in mind as we do that today is Trinity Sunday – hence the two texts we look at all reference the three persons of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today however will not be the day to delve into the theology (as much as I love that sort of thing!) We’ll keep it focussed on how the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – serves each of us individually through his community of the church for a response in love of service to God and our wider community.