Pohutukawa Coast Presbyterian Church
Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

A People and a place of Grace

July 4, 2021
Mark Chapman


Eph 1:3-14  Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! For in our union with Christ he has blessed us by giving us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly world.  (4)  Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his through our union with Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him. Because of his love (5)  God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his children—this was his pleasure and purpose.  (6)  Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son! (7)  For by the blood of Christ we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven. How great is the grace of God,  (8)  which he gave to us in such large measure! In all his wisdom and insight  (9)  God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.  (10)  This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.  (11)  All things are done according to God's plan and decision; and God chose us to be his own people in union with Christ because of his own purpose, based on what he had decided from the very beginning.  (12)  Let us, then, who were the first to hope in Christ, praise God's glory!  (13)  And you also became God's people when you heard the true message, the Good News that brought you salvation. You believed in Christ, and God put his stamp of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit he had promised.  (14)  The Spirit is the guarantee that we shall receive what God has promised his people, and this assures us that God will give complete freedom to those who are his. Let us praise his glory!

A People and a place of Grace.

July 4 2021


May the Words of my mouth and thoughts of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight,

O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen


Here’s the good news. The greatest church hasn’t yet come into existence.. yet.

And you have the possibility to be the greatest church


So a church is a gathering of people who have found in Jesus

a new way to do life

and who believe that in Him is found life.


The apostle Paul who wrote today’s reading

tells us that before the cosmos came into existence you and I had  already been

chosen to be the part of the church.


Others as well of course

but let’s stay focused on you and me for today.

What Paul is saying is that behind your life and mine there is a divine purpose. We talk

about the need to have a purpose in life

whatever that means

Paul is saying – you and I have a divine purpose

and that God calls us to that purpose.

As scary as it seems you are not here or at any church, by accident.

For Paul, God is behind, your and my being here!


This is what I find, people coming to

say a church like this, or any group of Christians

and they don’t know why

or how they got there.

I’ve known people who have driven past a church for a few weeks

intent on coming in

but afraid to till finally they feel they must.


And if say to them, so how did it happen

why did you feel you wanted to come,

there is not any great complicated explanation

but rather I think in every case

the response is – I just had to.

I knew I had to come.


And that really blows me away

and often reduces me to tears

as I sense the hand of God on a person’s life

and I have the sense

that this is a wow thing.

In a major way.

A major occurrence in a person’s life.

Involving for some a change of life and attitude

and direction

for others

a new sense of something special about them.

So major, and yet extremely

gentle and loving.


And so when this happens to someone

for me it’s never a case of, Hallelujah praise the Lord

as some of my colleagues might respond,

but rather I’m left flabbergasted.

And in awe, and a deep sense of humility

and wonder at how God works mysteriously in a person’s life.

And I realize that I am on holy ground.

You can see I have a hard job even explaining it.


But it happens.


I’ve seen it happen with children

I have seen it happen with teens

when they walk away from the crowd

almost, as someone has written,

because they hear the sound of a different drum.


There comes a realization that life is

as Jesus put it, more than food and drink.

And you walk away from the crowd

and the feeding frenzy of popular culture.


It happens when we have grown up in the church

and when we have had nothing to do with a church.

It happens to church members

and atheists.

Heather and I have a friend who was kept out of Bible in School

by parents who were declared atheists

and kept well away from churches.


And some how she started coming to the church

I say somehow!! The Divine smiles!

We were running a course on grief

and the last part was the faith aspect.

At the end she asked,

what is this faith thing!

What is this God thing?


So to cut a long and humbling journey short

she now ministers in a church community

in Queensland!

The other irony is that her parents named her after a Hindu God, Krishna, which

incidentally means spiritual pleasure as the highest experience of life!

So there you go!

Again, God chuckles.


The apostle Paul sensed this,

that because all things emanate from God

we have within a God dna.

An early Christian writer put it this way:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”


That means there is a longing in the heart of every person

for God.


And then there seems to come a time when we can no longer put it off.

We may fight it

afraid to surrender.

But it happens.

One day we all surrender.

And come, often with our threadbare

and wretched lives in hand

and pray, God help me.


Or as I prayed as a lost 24 or so year old,

“God if you’re real make yourself real to me before

I ruin my life!”


And God did.

I wasn’t expecting God would set me on 5 years of study for ministry

but I guess that’s what happens sometimes when you are serious enough to

surrender to the Divine!


And this sort of thing I guess was happening at Ephesus.

The message of God’s love in Jesus

was being heard by the people and they had a sense in what was said

about Jesus, that it wasn’t

Artemis that was Lord of all things

and it wasn’t the Caesar at the time, Domitian

who was Lord and God

and who enforced worship through fear

and a blown up ego

it was in fact

Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenters son, who lived and poured out God’s love on all


And with it a message of equality of gender

and age

and the preciousness of children

and equality of races

and the breaking down of the walls of discrimination.

It was so attractive.

This was a new way of doing life.


And they formed these groups called churches,

like we are here today,

meaning a gathering of free people.

That’s how we got here.

What now?


And this is where the rubber meets the road!


If we are this gathering of free people

then when people get a sense of God’s call on their lives

and come to join us what should they find?

How about, welcome, humility, peace, joy

care, interest.

No sense of arrogance,

no sense of, us thinking we are better than others.

More a sense of we are in this journey to God together.


I guess in some ways

a church beginning again after a time of struggle so

the questions I struggle with is:

Can we be a great church?

And would you rather be part of a great church or a mediocre church?

and, then, what is a great church?


Let me say greatness has nothing to do with numbers.

I spoke of watching a programme – the Pizza Show

I think it was called.

They have competitions to find the best pizza makers

in places like New York and Chicago.

And they all seem to be

small pizzas places that customers line up for blocks sometimes to get a pizza from a

particular parlour.

A winner was giving an acceptance speech

and he said: We’re not in competition

with the big Pizza chains.

They do what they do for the mass market.

What we do is deliver a product

that has our passion and love and history

built into it – we don’t just create pizzas, we create places where

the individual matters to

the guy making the pizzas.

Places of warmth and attention and welcome.


I guess more than anything else, it spoke to me

of the importance of the local Church.

Remember the sit com “Cheers?”


They had a theme song:


Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.

And if you remember the series

there is this crazy group of odd characters

who find welcome

and acceptance in each other.


So what’s a great church?


Last week we sang the Hymn Amazing Grace.


The author, John Newton began his adult career as a slave ship captain

where he lived what he came to see as a despicable, rotten life.

He became a Christian,

left the trade and eventually trained to be a minister the Church.

He was haunted the rest of his life

by the pain and in humanity, he had shown to slaves.

He experienced this amazing

unmerited grace of God

and from that place wrote: “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost but now I’m found

was blind but now I see.”


And as I thought of that

I imagined that his congregation

his church would have been a safe place to belong to.

It would have been

a place of compassion

and understanding

and welcome

and an unmistakable sense of the presence of God

and above all –pervasive Grace

all born out of John Newton’s humility.

His experience of God’s reaching down into his life

that he described as wretched,

and making him anew creature.


So when I think of a great church it’s not what we sing

or whether they are old hymns or new songs

it’s not the things we get hung up on

rather a maybe a great church is a group of people who have experienced the Grace of God;

who know that despite where they have been or what they have done

they are loved

and have been shown unearned grace and compassion.

Hopefully with ministers who

live out of grace

not their own self-righteousness.


Why would that a great church?

Because only such a people who have received unearned

unmerited grace

who know they were lost

and Jesus found them

can be a safe place for wounded people to come and be part of.

And not be judged

or condemned, or shunned, or ignored.

But rather be embraced as if by the arms of Jesus

and be healed.

For me, if I come to you wounded, that would be a great church.


May we be such a place to the glory of God and the help of those who hurt.


Now unto God the Father, God the Son and God, the holy Spirit, be all the honour and

glory, world without end. Amen

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