Wayne Smith, TV preachers & weakness giving God some room(excerpts from a sermon based on 2 Cor 12:9)

Wayne Smith makes it into one of my sermons for the first time

For me, one of the real quality rugby identities in New Zealand is Wayne Smith – the former player turned coach who has been a leading coach in Canterbury and with the All Blacks.  I listened to him sharing some thoughts last year with young Christian leaders and his whole demeanour was humble and modest, yet also very passionate.  He believed in what he was doing and what could be achieved – he was resolute in what his goals were and how to achieve them, but his style of leadership was low-key humility. Do you remember how it got him into trouble some years back?  He had been head coach of the All Blacks for two years and his term was up for renewal.  His achievements with the team had been mixed.  When it came to his term being renewed he submitted his name into the ring in a way that was heavily criticised.  In the eyes of many he seemed half-hearted about whether he wanted the job anymore.  In the wings was another person, a person with a completely different style – a more ‘in your face’ approach with lots of talk but much less experience.  The merits or otherwise of the decision to not renew Smith’s position and instead appoint the other guy was not all that clear to everyone at the time, but it became so after another two years and a less than satisfactory world cup result. I was a Wayne Smith fan back then as I am now – I am biased in my viewpoint – but I like it that with the World Cup win last weekend he will finally be recognised for his unique qualities as a leader of people and that he has got there by maintaining his modest and humble demeanour.  What was once denounced as a weakness has proved to be a strength. The players describe Wayne Smith as the most approachable of the coaches – a person able to get alongside them – a man without ego, the wise ‘professor.’  That he is also a Presbyterian and a member of a church here in Christchurch gives some hint of what might have informed his style of leadership.

Beware of TV preachers
In the same passage of time that Wayne Smith has been involved with the All Blacks, New Zealand has produced a crop of Auckland-based television preachers.  I don’t know if you get to watch any of them, (and I don’t want to encourage you in any way whatsoever!) but every now and then Anne or I might be flicking through the TV channels and we might find one of them doing their stuff.  Their style and much of what they have to say is not our cup of tea at all.  They seem to be playing for the audience with a whole lot of hype and palaver that usually leads us to groan and flick on to something more entertaining – infomercials and the like.  Every now and again I have tried to stay with it and attempted to see what they have to say beyond the stuff, but invariably I end up angered and nauseated.  These celebrity preachers remind me of something Jesus said:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat,” says Jesus, “but… they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others… they do all their deeds to be seen by others… they love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi… [But] the greatest among you will be your servant.” [Matthew 23:1-12]

What God does with a bit of room
Maybe our weaknesses are not the last word in  the story of God at work; that the greatest among us must be the servant; that  God’s grace is given in enough supply to us that we do not need to have  everything in perfect order; that God can do what God needs to achieve without us  running the show; that our brokenness is of more use to God than our perfection; that our humility is a better vehicle for God’s ministry of love to the world than our egos; that when we are able to face our incapacity to do  everything there is much more room for God’s capacity; and that our less means  God’s more.  “My grace is enough,” God said,  “my power works best through your weakness.”

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Custard, Navman & Commandments

Custard, Navman & Commandments
(some excerpts from a sermon on Matthew 22:34-46)

How many of you love being told what to do?

There are some who do you know.  Some people are attracted to authority figures – they like decisions being made for them.  They like the simplicity of it.  It brings order into their lives.  No people like that have ever lived in my house or attended churches where I have ministered!

It has been one of the hardest things for me to convince people that many of the things that they think are rules are really just suggestions.

Many people who are cooking think that the recipe has to be adhered to.  I remember my first forays into cooking and reading the instructions on the custard packet.  I followed the instructions to the letter and custard was an insipid runny mess.  From that day on I have totally ignored the instructions and have tipped the custard powder into the milk according to what feels right and I have reaped the rewards; people have always passed positive comments on my custard. (Not that I have eaten it in months or even years!)

People think that the instructions that come with new televisions or computers have papal authority. People buy machines that they put in their cars that tell them where to turn and how to get to where they want to go, and then they do what the machines say!  These machines are manufactured in Asia!  Have you seen the way people drive in Asia?!  What do they know about the nuances of driving in our country?

My nephew bought one of these for himself as a Christmas present.  He installed it in his car and puts it on when he heads out anywhere.  The young man lives in Timaru – no one gets
lost in Timaru!  He has lived all his life in Timaru and he probably knows the names of 85% of the streets.  Why does he need a machine to instruct him?

Some day soon they will invent a machine that tells people what clothes to wear and how to put them on!

New Zealanders basically hate being told what to do.  The opportunity to step away from authority figures and make a go of things on their own terms was part of what brought our ancestors to this land.

One of the things that people identify as a reason that they have walked away from the church is that they feel judged and that there are too many rules.  Thus it intrigues me how willingly people give authority to television reporters, clairvoyants, and gossip columnists but dismiss the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus wasn’t in the habit of making commandments.  In today’s reading he was only
stating commandments because of the question being put to him.  The other commandments he makes are kind of wacky – if someone hits you on your cheek, turn the other way and let that person hit you on the other side as well. If someone sues you for your coat, give that person your shirt as well.  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off!  Pray for your enemy.  Rejoice and be glad when someone persecutes you.

Jesus wasn’t in the habit of making commandments – really, for him everything comes down to love – love as God loves, love as you have been loved.  But when he does command we dismiss these commandments as options.  Don’t judge others, he says, but we do.  Take the log out of your own eye before you criticise someone else, but we don’t.  Do to others as you would have them do to you, but we think and say quite malicious things behind people’s backs and don’t think that it is a problem.

Love God with everything of who you are – was that a suggestion?
Love your neighbour as yourself – is that an option?

Gore Bay

Anne and I were gifted two nights at a B&B at Gore Bay, 8kms from Cheviot in Gore Bay.  Cathedral Cliffs home and garden is quite something and a marvellous place to stay and stop!  There are two rooms with queen size beds and onsuites and in our room there were also good modest cooking facilities for other meals.  A sun deck with chairs and table also adds to it, making it a great excursion and time out for two couples!!! Check it out at http://www.cheviotbbaccommodation.co.nz/

The attached photos are ones I took… the sky and ocean views are astounding.  Of course you had to be up and out at dawn to get the image quality!

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