Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world's most famous graphic artists.
For Escher it was like he could see what was hidden in the spaces and imagine what feels like for us the impossible,  Isaiah has the same kind of imagination. He alerts us to the hidden and seemingly impossible things of God; just as we see in today’s Bible reading. It all feels like for God’s people they are slaves trapped in the reoccurring patterns of want and waste, sin and suffering, with no way out, and no light at the end of the tunnel. We are more situated people than what we realise. God we soon see has other ideas about that and in Isaiah we are introduced to a suffering servant who becomes saviour and lord of those he saves. It is like in Jesus we watch a fish become a bird. In the visceral language of Isaiahwith tired, aching, empty people of Godbeing met with the image of God coming down to us. At this intersection of Isaiah we see him reaching up with God reaches back and out to his people with longing and fillingas God doesn’t leave his people empty; He revives our souls. We meet the surprise of God, that he has been on the move towards us, and in the business of changing us even when we weren’t seeing it. In the highs and lows God has been there always for us through Jesus, seeking us out to know his love and see his joy as enough. The first thing Isaiah tells us is God’s coming is the longing of his soul, ashe wants to feel God’s presence, for God to intervene; that is God to shake up the world. This is not by seeing the enemies of God smashed and destroyed; it is instead a call to listen in a little closer to Isaiah’s prayer. As this prayer is one of the most radical prayer we will readas Isaiah prays for God to change his enemies into worshippers, this is uncomfortable graceas Isaiah teaches us to pray. The question is have you got an expansive view of God? Notice the movements of Isaiah in verses 1-3with what he prays for God to do.
Easter: Good Friday Service
What if love was greater than the darkest night? What if the reality that God’s love for us in Christ truly is far greater than any darkness, pain, or loss we might experience in this life. What might we need to do then? On that first Easter Jesus was showing us his love in a way that we had not encountered it before. This is where we get to stare God right in the face, seeing what God has done for each of us in love. On that first Good Friday Jesus is arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, betrayed by one of the disciples Judas with a kiss & for 30 pieces of silver, taken before the Sanhedrin, falsely accused & bound by oath to answer the question on everyone’s lips “Are you the son of God?”They knew the answer, so now get to put into place what they had schemed to do for so long. Jesus is abandoned by his disciples disowned by Peter, and finally brought before Pilate . As we read in Matthew 27:11-12
11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied.
In the 1820s, the weekly ration for a labourer was paid in kind…Weekly pay was often 4.5kg of meat, 4.5kg of flour, 1kg sugar and 100g of tea, so the repetitive campfire meal was damper, billy tea and a slab of meat. ''The last national nutrition survey was in 2012,'' ''Since then, we know that the Australian diet has undergone some significant changes.'' According senior nutritionist at Nutrition Australia, Aloysa Hourigan. She reports “We are eating less potatoes than in 2000 but it's still more than 60kg each a year, often as chips. We eat more cheese, fewer carrots, but more yoghurt. We drink double the number of coffees than in 2004 while continuing to binge on pies and hamburgers. Aussie teenagers ate more than 30 million hamburgers last year and 15.2 million doughnuts…what used to be regarded as ''party foods'' - lollies, chips, soft drinks - have somehow become ''everyday foods''… (apparently our) protein and carbohydrate intakes are up but it's not because we're eating more bread. ''It's the packaged snack-food bars that have become very popular and they contain starches and sugars,''. Likewise, we are getting more grains but not in a form we might recognise. ''Longer work hours means we are eating more processed foods and frozen meals where the meats, like chicken, are often buffed up with gluten, flour and other grains that you might not associate with the food on the plate.'' It is similar with packaged soups and bottled sauces. We need our daily bread, so we relate to the story Jesus gave the crowd, and telling them the parable we know as “The parable of the sower.” The question is what do we make of it? Jesus tells the story…
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred,sixty or thirty times what was sown.
8-11 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day. (Exodus 20:8-11 The Message). We’ve all read and heard the 10 Commandments before, and the 5th commandment about keeping the Sabbath. The question is how do you go at putting it into practice? Eric Liddell the famous Scot at the centre of the book and film Chariots of Fire. At the 1924 Paris Olympic Games refused to run in his race the 100m, because it was being run on a Sunday. Liddell instead he competed in the 400 metres held on a weekday, and won the gold medal. It is hard amidst the fast paced event filled days to capture the place of a scared time that isn’t consumed with something else we think we should be doing. Also like any kind of pendulum swing against what we might have seen as excessive in the past if you grew up in one of those families where on a Sunday apart from going to church morning and evening nothing else was allowed not even watching the TV or playing a game with your friends. Wherever we come to on this we come today seeing Jesus speak to us about rest, entering into his rest, where like the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 he will lead to a place of green pastures beside still waters. We are brought face to face with what discipleship in everyday life looks like. In the midst of the hustle of bustle of life as we read in Matthew 12:1-2
At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
We are pointed to what works in the Kingdom Jesus rules over the place where work and faith are lived out with all the tumult and grind of life being worked around. The question we are asked is how well do you find Jesus to be enough? Notice the reaction to Jesus by the Pharisees who seem to like controversy, and every time we meet them it is like they come across as the grumpy old men from the muppets, looking to pull the eyes teeth out of every situation. The kind of glass half empty religious leaders, who we also notice Jesus tackles head on with the upmost compassion. These are the religious leaders who were speaking to the crowds of God’s people week in and week out. Jesus wants them to get that the Kingdom of God isn’t about the rules. It is obedience that comes out having a heart for God’s mercy seen in being able to forgive and love and see other people’s needs above our own. The trouble was they seem to get what Jesus is about as upside down; just as what happen here in Matthew 12. It is the Saturday, the Sabbath, church day, where God’s people gathered at Synagogues or if you were lucky enough to live in Jerusalem gather at the temple itself. The Jews put limits on everything on the Sabbath, even so much so as to what you could and couldn’t do if you were faced with an emergency like your livestock gets itself caught up in a fence, or someone fall sick. They even forbid on the Sabbath reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal. It looks like the disciples were being charged for breaking all four; they had so many rules for what you could and couldn’t do. Just like this day Jesus and his disciples are in Capernaum, and they are walking through a field, and they’re hungry so they start picking, rubbing and then eating these heads of grain. The Pharisees weren’t complaining about Jesus they were complaining about his disciples (they were wanting him to bring them into line, as they were his disciples after all!). It is the strange irony isn’t that by seeking to protect God’s way of doing life the Pharisees were making all these rules that started to hamper faith. As Jesus bats it back to them. Verses 3-8 (The Message)
3-5 Jesus said, “Really? Didn’t you ever read what David and his companions did when they were hungry, how they entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat? And didn’t you ever read in God’s Law that priests carrying out their Temple duties break Sabbath rules all the time and it’s not held against them? 6-8 “There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant—‘I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual’—you wouldn’t be nitpicking like this. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he’s in charge.”
Being a disciple of Jesus is to be a life marked by personal discipline that is not ruled by spiritual meddling, hypocritical judging, legalistic ruling, unforgiving, or unloving. Jesus is more interested in restoring joy and forgiveness to the broken and to those who have been pursuing unholy pleasures. For Jesus what mattered most was what was the direction your soul was going in,
People who live with a lifestyle of tender repentance and an acceptance that life is to be lived with seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness to lead our lives forward. Jesus had to remind the Pharisees of some of the stories from their past. To get them understanding what Sabbath rest really was on about, like with King David, He’s sharp with them, ironic really like asking Shakespear if he’d read Macbeth. Jesus asks the Pharisees if they had ever read about King David. It is the day David is on the run from King Saul (1 Samuel 21) who is looking to tack him down and kill him. Ahimelech the priest gives David the sacred bread that was put out on the table of the tabernacle – 12 loaves placed there each Sabbath for the priests to eat during the day, only priests could eat this bread. Ahimelech recognises David’s place as God’s chosen king to replace Saul and gives him the bread that David then gives to his men to eat
Jesus asks these Pharisees “so what does scriptures say about David’s actions?” does it condemn them? So Jesus extends that out to what his disciples have done in that field when they also face hunger. Jesus takes these Pharisees further to task, taking up what the priest themselves do on the Sabbath to assist God’s people in worship. They have to work so that those coming for worship can rest and enjoy being present with God along with them
Jesus is opening up the lens on what it takes for ordinary faith to be lived out in those little moments of life, and which is why Jesus brings them to the crunch point taking them on another point. Have you also read this from the Bible Hosea 6:6
6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:6-8)
Love for people is love for God. Jesus was quoting Hosea 6:6 and to see where Jesus points us. The Pharisees in trying to please God put up a fence that puts rules before people’s real needs. In the attempt to do right they end with a deeper wrong. As worship for God without any sympathy or heart for other people is not in God’s character, it’s ungodly and un-Biblical as God desires mercy. The Sabbath is made for men and women as the place where we show each other mercy; and then like a lawyer before a judge and jury Jesus lands one final blow on the Pharisees hypocrisy telling them that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus puts plainly he is greater than King David, greater than the temple. He is the one to say what the Sabbath is about, so Sabbath rest is to be about Christ glorifying mercy shown to others. This is then when Jesus then goes on to show to a man with a shrivelled hand in the local synagogue. Vs9-10
9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
With a word Jesus changes the course of this man’s life. All Jesus has to say is stretch out your hand. The man is healed. As mercy had finally come to that synagogue. The lord of the Sabbath came bringing wholeness and healing. The rebuke of Jesus still ringing in the Pharisees ears
He replied, “Is there a person here who, finding one of your lambs fallen into a ravine, wouldn’t, even though it was a Sabbath, pull it out? Surely kindness to people is as legal as kindness to animals!” Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out and it was healed. Vs 11-13 (The Message)
What this man needed on his Sabbath was spiritual and physical health, and this is what Jesus gives him. That is where Jesus has been driving us to face up to all along, as self righteousness is not a fruit of the spirit, humility is which deepens us in hope. How we go at our relationships show up most sharply how we are doing in our walk with God. It is why Jesus got right at the heart of where we should act in compassion towards others. The Pharisees in seeing what Jesus does can only think of one way out of all this. As they now start to think of what way they might kill him.
Martin Luther put it this way for us seeking to be disciples of Jesus. “This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished but it is going on. This is not the end but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.” What we know is that when Jesus is exalted, his spirit is given to his people. 
David Hassan@ Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church 18/2/18
 Martin Luther, “Defense and Explanation of All the Articles,” Luther’s Works, Second Article, Vol. 32 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1958).
 CCEF Ed Welch “Counseling Problems & Proceedures Notebook” p.54-55
Sometimes when we you look at our lives, do you see Jesus moving in amazing ways? Jesus wants us to notice what He is doing instead of asking Him for the bigger and “better” blessings. We all have expectations Sometimes God brings us face to face with our own expectations and the ways in which we have stopped seeing what God has actually been doing in us. As we see today people were filled with expectations about who the long awaited for messiah would be. Some people were expecting a kind of Caesar who would rally a revolt, or throw off Roman rule and save God’s people; other’s expected a Messiah who would proclaim God’s judgment on every evil person like the Romans, Greeks, barbarians and all of the unrighteous Jews like Matthew the tax collector. Even John the Baptist was starting to have his doubts. As we read in Matthew 11:2-3 (The Message)
John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?”
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost but now am found
was blind but now I see.
We know John Newton wrote these words to this well known Hymn
Newton was once a slave-trading sea-captain until an epileptic seizure ended his career. In his will after his death Newton wrote:
I commit my soul to my gracious God and Savior, who mercifully spared and preserved me, when I was an apostate, a blasphemer, and an infidel, and delivered me from the state of misery on the coast of Africa into which has been pleased to admit me (though most unworthy) to preach his glorious gospel.
On a ship in the North Atlantic in 1748 a violent storm rose so much so he feared for his life. It was a time for him to reflect on who he was before God.
Newtown found in that storm he began to examine himself and think back over his spiritual condition. In that storm he grabbed a Bible and realised that he had begun to pray asking God for his mercy. The storm resided and he described what God did with him “I stood in need of an Almighty Savior; and such a one I found described in the New Testament.” Now knowing God’s love and forgiveness Newton set about living his life with habitual tenderness. He was known for his love for other people and tenderness no matter what they were experiencing or struggling with. He would take into his house to live with him and his wife people who were struggling with life and their own well being. As Newton understood suffering all too well, he found what kept him from being overwhelmed with anger and bitterness and resentment:
“…his faith upholds him under trials, by assuring him that every dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of his love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by Infinite Wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his day.” 
Ever wondered what happens in the lifetime of your families dinner table? Research from the United Kingdom has discovered that the average dinner table will witness over 2,400 family meals, 100 roast dinners, 10 Christmas lunches, 132 arguments and 93 ‘bombshell’ in its lifetime. The interesting stats were revealed in a study looking into the eating habits and routines of 2,000 people. The typical table will also endure a 1,995 drink spills, 1,160 food stains
play host to 594 homework sessions. The average UK adult will complete 1,890 hours of admin or work on their dining table over their lifetime – the equivalent of 236 eight-hour work shifts. When sitting down to their evening meal Brits cover five different topics of conversation with film and TV the most common topic followed by general gossip then politics. On average, Brits sit down to their dinner at 6.24pm and will take one hour four minutes preparing their food - but just 10 minutes to actually clear their plate. The average dinner table will also see 1,101 meals go unfinished, 259 tantrums and people falling asleep 312 times. Nearly a third of those studied said that they often avoid the dining room table because it’s covered in papers or reminds them of work. More than half of those polled said they enjoy more conversation and find out more about their loved ones and how their days were at the table together than at any other time. Maybe that’s why nearly a quarter of people say the dinner table is the heart of their home, according to results. As we read in Matthew 9:10-11
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Tamworth Community Presbyterian Church
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