Sermon: Joy in the TaskPosted: February 21, 2021
Sermon preached at St Andrew’s Uniting Church, East Perth on 21 February 2021 on the occasion of the Induction of Rev Sione Lea’atoa as their Minister.
First let me say that it is a real privilege for me to bring this word to the congregation of St Andrew’s and your new minister Rev Sione Lea’atoa. By God’s grace all of our lives have become intertwined and perhaps it is the Lord’s providence that brings us all together again.
The Lord also has a sense of humour. The hymn books were handed out randomly at the door and it just so happened that in the one handed to me was this note – I had sent an email to Alan on the occasion of the first service in this new venue at Easter 2019 and in it was the note he had written down from that email. And here we are, gathered for the Induction of their new minister!
St Andrew’s was on a painful journey when I became the General Secretary of the Synod of Western Australia. You were hurting and you were angry. You had been moved out of your building on Pier St and were meeting in the East Perth Cemetery. I found three big leverarch files on my newly inherited bookshelf, several folders in my computer and stack of documents in the General Secretary’s confidential cabinet. I read only a small part and realised that this pain was not going to be resolved by reading history. So I called Alan McKenzie, the Chair of Council. Since then, we have together plotted out a future which saw this venue come into being and now the induction of your minister. Hallelujah! The past is gone and we have a new beginning!
Sione and Ana, we met, if you recall, when I was preaching at the Scarborough congregation. We had a long talk in the tearoom that day and several conversations over the years. Your journey has been long and not without struggle, and I am convinced that this calling to St Andrew’s is from God – I want to commend you, both congregation and minister to the task which lies before you.
When a congregation and their new minister come together, they face many challenges … new hopes, new dreams, a new call from God. Also a lot of uncertainty. There are two ways in which you can approach these challenges …
In the first instance you can be like Job who must have felt that he had the whole world on his shoulders –
Are the days of a man not like those of a hired man? Do I not only have months of futility and nights of misery assigned to me?
Or you can be like George Verwer …
I have twice attended conferences where he has spoken. He is the founder of Operation Mobilisation and Chairman of the AD 2000 Missions Mobilization Network. Each time it has been an inspiration to me. He comes on stage – he is a bit of a showman – with a huge plastic globe of the world on his shoulders and he challenges his audience to reach the world for Jesus.
George and Job are a study in contrasts. Both love God with a passion. Job, however had a focus on doing things right FOR God – make the sacrifice, be concerned that sin in his children’s hearts might bring about separation with God.
For him, God is at a distance – keep doing right things for Him and He will keep things right for you.
George Verwer, on the other hand, is about doing things right WITH God.
He understands that God has a passion for His creation and particularly for those made in His own image. His deepest desire is that we should be right with Him, restored in the relationship brought about by sin. For this reason He sent His Son … so that we would not perish. In Christ, God calls us to enter into the task with Him – to reach out to the world with the love of God and to call them into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
George Verwer goes to this task with joy. He overflows with enthusiasm in reaching people for Jesus.
I read somewhere that he is a passionate advocate of radical discipleship as the only legitimate option for people who believe in Jesus.
You too, congregation and minister, are called to take joy in the task that it set before you. The joy of sharing good news with people who don’t know Jesus. The joy of sharing hope with the multi-cultural community of East Perth. It is not a joy manufactured by the world – like perhaps a Street Party or the Mardi Gras, when once the debris is collected it is already forgotten. It is not a joy dependent on our willingness to participate.
It is a compelling joy that lifts our hearts when we set to the task.
And it is to this task that you are called – both congregation and minister.
This is your task Sione, but it is also your task, St Andrew’s.
Take to it with joy, share the Good News …
And, with Christ’s compulsion in your heart set to the task that lies ahead.
Paul tells the Corinthian church that he cannot boast about what he does because he is compelled to do it. If you’ve got to do it, its not something that you can brag about. Paul tells us that he must preach the gospel voluntarily, of his freewill because only then there is a reward for him. He cannot preach under someone else’s orders because then he would simply be discharging a duty. He preaches the gospel because he is compelled to do it. He has no choice and yet it is his choice.
Sione, listen to Paul’s understanding of his own call to preach the gospel.
He preaches the gospel because ….
(a) he is obligated to do it AND
(b) because he wants to do it.
He finds a joy in the task because it is for the Lord – he is called to serve the Lord and he wants to serve the Lord. And he understands the perfect tension of what that means:
Though I am free, I will be slave to the task …
Though I am Greek, to the Jew I will be a Jew…
Though I am a Jew, to the Greek I will be a Greek
Though I am not under the Law, yet to those under the Law, I will be as one under the Law
Though I am under the Law to those free from the Law, I will be as one free from the law
And to the weak I will be weak …
Because, he says, I will be all things to all people so as to save some and so share the joy of the gospel with them.
This is the task … this is the call that God placed upon Paul’s life and yours. This must be your compulsion.
When we look around the world, even the church sometimes – it is enough to throw up our hands on horror. It is enough to wallow in Job’s depression.
But when we do that our focus is in the wrong place.
We are looking in the wrong direction. We are looking at situation and circumstance. We are focussing on the problem.
At the end of Job’s struggles, God confronts him with some straight forward questions.
Were you there when I laid the earth’s foundations?
Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn where it is to begin?
Do you send the lightening bolts on their way?
Can you trust the wild ox to bring in your grain and gather it on your threshing floor?
Job’s response is simple and true …
“My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You …….. “
I had heard ….now I see !!!
You see, ultimately we must look to God. And as we look to Him, the task set before us becomes a joyful one. There is no greater task than to share good news – we don’t do it because we have to or because we benefit from it … but because there is joy in it.
Jesus declares in Mark 1:38 that he has come to preach – here, where everyone is looking for Him and also in the nearby villages. And He preaches not just by speaking but by declaring the Kingdom of God … by healing the sick and casting out demons. These are living proof that God’s Kingdom has come, that His reign has begun. He has power over illness, authority over the demons and He speaks as God in our midst.
And we can look to Jesus – His Kingdom has come.
We don’t have to point people to a church, or a minister, or a book … we must point people to Jesus. St Andrew’s, that is your task.
Day by day you will come across people struggling with life.
You don’t have to wait until Sunday to do something about it.
You don’t have to wait until your minister is around.
You are the Body of Christ, point people to Jesus.
Sione is your new minister, you have called him. The Presbytery has ordained him and today will induct him to this charge.
But the world does not now rest only on his shoulders, but on all your shoulders. Listen to him, he is wise beyond his years. He loves the Lord and he has the energy and desire to lead you, and the people of East Perth, into the same loving relationship with Jesus.
When our property team were clearing out the moveable items from the old St Andrews in Pier St, they found this wooden plaque. Alan has no memory of it being in the church, and it may well be from somewhere else but I thought it appropriate to give it to you at this service. It reads: “Sir, we would see Jesus”.
The words are from John 12, where a group of Greeks came to Philip and put that request to him. We could say that they represent the world.
In any event, Philip took them to ….
To Andrew and they together took them to Jesus.
Here is your joyful task … help people to meet Jesus!
May the Lord bless you as congregation, and as Manse family, as you serve Him with gladness and with joy overflowing in your heart!.