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Sunday Sermon 21st January

Not in God’s eyes



Call to worship

Hymn 340:  When Jesus saw the fishermen 


Time for all


Hymn 232(JP): Thank you, Lord, for this fine day


Reading:    Luke 6: 20-26 Margaret



Hymn 348: Praise the one



Prayer of Dedication


Hymn 352: O for a thousand tongues to sing




Welcome to our meditation for 21st January 2024.

Who is fortunate in the world; the rich, the powerful, the influential?

Maybe, but why is it important?

Well if we believe that is the life worth having, that will be the life we try to achieve, the life we chase after...and if those ideas are wrong, then we will spend our life chasing the wrong dream.

But we will think about that after our reading and prayer from Margaret.




There is a very famous old poster of a man at the top of a ladder that finishes halfway up a wall, and the man is staring at the wall and at a message on the wall which says, ‘I spent my life climbing the ladder of success, only to find at the top, that I was climbing the wrong ladder.’


This is today’s warning.

Jesus has chosen his twelve disciples; he is now explaining his philosophy and showing how it works in real life to those disciples.

 And it is a real change of direction to what they have expected.


Up to now the basic theological belief has been that there are those good enough, and those not good enough, in God’s eyes.

How can you tell the difference between them?

The truth is that you never can.

Two people could do the very same thing but for very different motives.

Someone may hand out a hundred pounds to a homeless guy on the street in the hope that he can find enjoy a decent meal and have a good room in a hotel to sleep on a cold winter’s night.

Another can give a homeless guy on the street a hundred pounds in the hope that he will move away from his shop front because he is affecting business.

It is the same act, but one is motivated by the situation the homeless guy is in, the other is motivated by his own self interest and he doesn’t care two hoots about the homeless guy.

Which of the men will God look favourably on?


We can’t tell from looks and actions what our motivations are.

Half the time we don’t even know what our own motivations are for what we do.

But that doesn’t stop us trying.


And a lot of the Bible is humans trying to work out...

what do we do to get on God’s good side?


how do we know we are on God’s good side?


And there was a tried and tested method...look at your life.

Are you blessed?

Because in families it works that way.

Children that are good are rewarded by their parents.

Children who are bad are punished by their parents.


We are taught from a very young age that good behaviour is rewarded, or at the very least not punished.

Bad behaviour from a very young age is punished.

I saw this last week as I was coming to church.

There was this five year old and for some reason she was trying to lift up her two year old sister and she didn’t have the upper body strength to do that and the two year old was dropped and started to cry...and dad went ballistic.

Mum was trying to calm them all down and say that the big sister didn’t mean to hurt her wee sister, but the dad was having none of it. ‘She does this all the time, and every time she drops her sister and one of these days it is going to be really serious. She has to learn that there are thugs she can and can’t do.’


I have no doubt that she would be punished in some way, even if it is just the withdrawal of the father for part of her life, the father would spend the near future looking after and caring for the wee sister, the older sister would be ignored and not part of his life until he had forgiven her...that was her punishment, because she has to learn to do the right thing.


It is very easy to see how that transfers into adult life.

So if there were signs of God’s withdrawal, then that was signs of God’s punishment.

Maybe a disease that is debilitating.

Maybe a marriage that breaks down.

Maybe a job that is lost.

Maybe financial difficulties.

Maybe a feelings of discontent.


And equally there were signs of God’s favour.

Good health, easy relationships, lots of wealth.

When I was in India the local minister used himself as an example...

‘Look at me, I am wealthy and have been given so much because I follow God and his path for me. If you follow God’s path for you then you too will find God’s blessings. Your families will be blessed, your business will flourish, your wealth will grow. Because God wants the best for his family, and you will be part of his family.’


He spoke these words as he used the money that people were giving towards his charity for orphans to buy the best of furniture for his own house.


We want easy answers.

And it is easy to believe that God punishes those who do bad, God blesses those who do good.

And so we can see those who do good and those who do bad by the blessings they are given.

And we decide what those blessings are; wealth, power, influence. an easy life, lots of holidays, an avoidance of responsibility.




In today’s passage we have the disciples just being chosen.

They are starting off from a point of view that they believe this garbage.

And often we believe this garbage too.

Every time, and I mean EVERY TIME, you hear someone say out loud, ‘I don’t know what I have done to deserve this.’

They are admitting that they believe that they are being punished for something by God.


Now they may be suffering the consequences of some bad decision making, but that is not the same thing.

If you were stupid enough to put all your money into BITCOINS and then lost it; then that isn’t punishment by God for doing something bad, that is basic cause and effect.


If you have a 10 year affair that your wife finds out about and because of that flings you out the house because she knows you’re a lying cheat; then that isn’t God punishing you, that’s basic cause and effect.


So here’s the problem.

The problem is that too often we are climbing a ladder up a wall thinking it will lead us to success, happiness, and the problem is it is that we climb to the top, then discover we are climbing the wrong ladder.


That is what Jesus is telling is disciples.

If you start off by trying to work out what success is; whether it is an easy life, whether it is a nice family, whether it is a great retirement, and then chase that...then you are climbing the wrong ladder...

or worse, think that that is what God sees as success and follow God with the idea that God will give you that as a reward...then you are climbing the wrong ladder.


That’s not the way God works.

Jesus was trying to show the disciples not only what the wrong ladder was, but what the right ladder was


I blame sloppy translations.

The use of the word HAPPY here is very poor.

Happy are you poor...

Happy are you who weep now...

Happy are you when people hate you, reject you and say that you are evil...


I don’t think so.

That is not the way we think of the word happy.





I can think of a group of people where they are surrounded by thousands of people who hate them, reject everything they say, truly believe they are evil and call them everything under the sun...they are called football referees.

When they give a decision against a team and half the crowd are screaming and shouting at them, I can’t imagine that that is one of the best moments in their lives.

When the leave the ground and their car is pelted with eggs, I can’t imagine that the word that comes to their mind is happy.

A few weeks ago in Turkey a club owner came up to the referee after the match and punched him in the face. At that moment I can’t imagine the referee was happy.


It is a poor translation.

Blessed is better, but even then you have to describe what it means.

Blessedness is that moment when you know God is watching over you with all his love.


If you bear with me I would suggest that an easier way to look at it would be to reflect on the negative instead.

They believed that wealth was a sign of blessings...not in God’s eyes.

They believed that poverty was a sign that they were abandoned...not in God’s eyes.

They believed that a fat, full stomach was a sign of blessing...not in God’s eyes.

They believed that hunger was a sign that they were abandoned...not in God’s eyes.


Those that were struggling, and we felt they must deserve it, that was not how God saw them, God saw them as deserving of mercy, of help.

Those that had messed up and we felt should be punished, that was not how God saw them, God saw them as deserving of forgiveness.

Those that cut themselves off from others because they saw themselves as better, or because they saw themselves as unworthy, those that felt isolated and alone and we felt were too needy and should be avoided, that was not how God saw them, God saw them as deserving to be loved.


In this first teaching to his disciples Jesus made it very clear.

The truth is that we are blessed when we see ourselves as God sees us; when we know that we are forgiven and loved.

Their response, our response, is to see others as God sees them; to help them see that they are forgiven and loved.


When we believe these truths, we will be blessed, we will bless others, who knows, we may even find happiness.






Let us pray

Heavenly Father

Forgive us for we subconsciously see our lives, as rewards and punishments for our behaviour.

We often want to be blessed, we look to be blessed,

we want to be rewarded for the good life we have lived, or think we have lived.

And we get angry when we think others are doing better than us, others that we think haven’t been as good as we have been.

More than that, we want to decide how we are blessed, we want our blessings to come in forms that we recognise and appreciate.

Moving to a better house would be nice, our investments giving us a decent reward would be nice,

avoiding a car accident or serious harm should be taken for granted, aren’t you meant to be watching over us?


We, too often see blessing as rewards we deserve,

Whereas you see blessings as signs of your love, undeserved but generously given.

We come to expect blessings and are angry when we don’t see them.

Whereas you expect our response to be a thankful heart, more open to be generous because we live in the middle of your generosity.


So help us to see the true blessings in our lives.


Help us to be thankful for our friendships and the support they give...

Help us to be thankful for those close to us that show us love through the decades...

Help us to be thankful for the opportunities to bring the hope of your kingdom to others in kind deeds...

Help us to be thankful for the witness of your Son, showing us that you see us as worthy of your love and care...

Help us to be thankful for all the signs of your greatness that are around us; the wonder of a frost encrusted spiders web, the flow of fresh clean water in our taps, the light from stars billions of miles away, the early growth of the first snow drops showing that spring is not too far away.


May all our actions flow from a thankful heart, a heart inspired by your Son, a heart that knows it is truly blessed.




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