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Sunday 18th February 2018 11:00
Sung Eucharist for the The First Sunday of Lent
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Sung Eucharist for the The Second Sunday of Lent
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Preacher: Licensed Reader Jack Noonan

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28th January 2018 – Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – Jack Noonan

Sermon 28.1.2018

Focus Scriptures: Deut. 18: 15-20; Rev.12: 1-5; Mark 1 :21-28

One of the first things that struck me in relation to today’s readings was the truly ancient nature of our texts.
Deuteronomy, the final Book of Moses was begun almost 3500 years ago.
Mark’s Gospel and John’s Revelation almost 2000 years ago.

It is important that we develop a familiarity with the books of the Old Testament for the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament are inextricably linked.
Prime Benjamin Disraeli, who, came from Judaism to Anglicanism saw this:

“In all church discussions we are apt to forget the second Testament is avowedly only a supplement. Jesus came to complete the ‘law and the prophets.’ Christianity is completed Judaism, or it is nothing. Christianity is incomprehensible without Judaism, as Judaism is incomplete without Christianity.”

The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament work together….. one story, one Divine history; bringing to fulfilment the ancient promise God made to Abraham, in Genesis, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12.3).

The Hebrew Bible foreshadows time and again the God’s plan of redemption for the cosmos and us….through the Work and Word of Jesus.
Imagine our 3 readings in terms of 3 photographs each progressively revealing more and more of the searchable mystery that is Jesus.

Photo 1 .
Deuteronomy wraps up the story of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. In it Moses calls the people together + lays out,sometimes prophetically, God’s expectations for them in the future. Then Moses prophetically speaks of the Messiah.
.The Lord says…  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable .
Some 1430+ years later the Apostle Peter, in Acts, will declare the prophesies fulfilment in Jesus.

Next to the Psalms and Isaiah; Deuteronomy, is one of the most quoted books in the New Testament. In the NT it is quoted or alluded to almost 100 times.

In the gospels Jesus quotes Deuteronomy on 10 occasions, and it’s the only OT book Jesus quotes when he battles the devil.
Jesus sums up the law and the prophets with a line from Deuteronomy: love God, and love your neighbour as yourself.
Jesus references both Ex +Deut. when he cites the commandments.
Jesus references Deuteronomy when he discusses divorce .
Jesus mentions Moses’ rule regarding witnesses when outlining church discipline procedures.
When Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus responds with passages from Deuteronomy.

Jesus, by His example, shows us that the Word of God, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, is our effective defence in all spiritual warfare with the enemy of our souls. The Word of God is our 2edged sword.

Photo 2.
The Revelation Reading. Is a prophetic vision: The Woman. The Dragon. The Male Child.
No book in the NT, with its fabulous imagery, visions has generated so much debate, discussion and disagreement. John is very much in the visionary tradition of Isaiah, Daniel and especially Ezekiel (also the extra-canonical Books of Enoch).
1.And a great sign appeared 1in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…
2.And another sign appeared 2 in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems…
 3.She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…
With the Apocalypse of John; questions are much easier to ask than to answer.; )
What are we being told? Who is the woman ? Who is the dragon? Who is the male child ? What might be the key?

The book of Revelation is composed of 3 distinct literary genre/types………..letters to the churches, apocalyptic writing and prophetic visions, culminating in the sudden and dramatic Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is the only book in the NT which carries both a blessing and a curse.
Ch 1. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
Ch22. I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city,which are described in this book.

But to return to The Woman and the Dragon. Let me suggest possible pointers to you. A key for our passage is held in the Hebrew word Mazzaroth(Job38)…astronomical constellation +this bears no relationship to ungodly/heathen astrology.
The setting of the encounter is twice mentioned as ‘in the heavens’.
Genesis 1.14. tells us what the purposes of the heavens are:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,(moedim…appointed days) and for days and years,and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.”
Think Bethlehem’s star. For the heavens are God’s notice board to the world.

( Pozor There are other videos on Rev. 12….that must be treated very circumspectly)
The Book of Revelation is crammed with the cosmic wonders of Jesus the Christ and could be a great focus of our Midweek Bible Study, or private reading, as we enter our Lenten Preparations for Resurrection Sunday.

Finally Photo 3. Mark’s Gospel
Here we dramatically encounter Jesus. He has just arrived in Capernaum,a proud city of unbelief. He is with his first disciples; Simon Peter, +Andrew his brother together with John and his brother James.
and when the Sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

It was the consistent practice of Jesus to attend both temple and synagogue.
In the 1st century synagogues were a relatively new development. They were places for civic meeting, study, worship…and in some cases lodgings.
Jesus spoke and taught….(I would have loved to have heard what he said and how he said it)…..+he was unlike any other teacher whom his audience had heard; Jesus neither quoted nor relied on any great rabbinic names as precedent for his teaching.
The result ? His hearers were amazed, not only at the content of his teaching, but also at His natural assumption of personal authority.

” then… a man with an unclean spirit,… cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
Jesus reacted…..rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
Notice….the immediate result of Jesus’ preaching was not harmony, but division and strife. This is made plain in the outcry of the demoniac who unwillingly witnesses to the person and work of Jesus. The unclean spirit in the man instinctively reacts to Jesus, realizing that in Jesus is a preacher with whom he had nothing in common. Evil recoils from Jesus.
It’s a strange commentary on the spiritual condition in that synagogue that a demoniac normally had no sense of spiritual discomfort, until encountering the presence+words of Jesus. Could the same happen in a church?
Darkness cannot abide light for light utterly destroys it.
The congregation…

”were all amazed, and … kept on asking one another, “What is this?A new teaching–with authority!
He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
At once his fame began to spread…”

I sense that in His teaching Jesus did not dispense sweet saccharine hopeful, feel-good thoughts. His sermons and teachings were expositions of power. They were informative, confrontational, and when he spoke, something happened….something shifted…..something was released
There is nothing wrong at all with words of encouragement. Hope is a fragile thing for some people, and the gospel is surely a message of hope. Yet sermons devoid of any call for change/growth in our walk with God fall short of the model of Jesus.
The kingdom of God is not a prop for the status quo; it is the power of God at work in history to bring shalom, wholeness and healing to people and the structures of power and culture in which they live and
we have a responsible part to play in growing into so great a salvation. Attendance here on Sunday is not enough.
Throughout the week we have a responsibility to seek, find and wrestle for blossomings in our relationship with God….so that as we are blessed of God we become a blessing to all those about us.
Amen