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Sunday Night Live Sermons

SYDNEY TOWN PUBLIC FAREWELL: FINDING DIRECTIONS FOR A NEW ERA

Sydney Town Hall, 2pm

Luke 4:16-21
4th December 2005

This sermon, preached before 2500 in the Sydney Town Hall Public Farewell, was the same sermon preached by Dr Moyes in the Lyceum Theatre, after his being inducted as Superintendent of Wesley Mission 1st February 1979, twenty seven years ago.

You presence here does Beverley, our family and myself great honour. I want to thank our members, staff, choir, students, Dr David Johnson, the Officers, Graham Want, Sarah Spence, Daryl Brown, Blossom Vickers, my successor Rev Keith and Carol Garner and all who have contributed today to a magnificent service. Thank you. People know that Wesley Mission is entering a new era next year. Back in 1977 when I was appointed Superintendent, a number of changes took place. The Central Methodist Mission after nearly one hundred years of history changed its name to Wesley Central Mission, later Wesley Mission, changed the denomination from the Methodist Church of Australia, to the Uniting Church In Australia joining with two other denominations with totally different histories and ethos, and changed its Superintendent from a known and talented Methodist leader to a new leader with other skills from Victoria.

The circumstances surrounding all of these circumstances, I have outlined in my new book, Leaving a Legacy. Anyone reading this book will know much more than most people who make statements about these events. Early next year, Wesley Mission will enter another new era, this time with a new leader from the United Kingdom. At such a time as this we should check our directions! To do so, I will preach exactly the first sermon I preached as Superintendent of Wesley Mission twenty-seven years ago. I preached then as I did today on finding directions for a new era. I will retain contemporary references to that day.

A few weeks ago while preaching in a University Mission in at a Western Australian University I read a car bumper sticker: “Don’t follow me; I don’t know where I’m going!” New eras demand new directions! A great church must recall its heritage and plan its destiny. Heritage and destiny go together. I am convinced of validity of past directions. I will constantly call Wesley Mission back to its Wesleyan heritage. The principles of the Central Methodist Mission are still valid, and you have built one of the world’s most viable Christian City Churches.

I know there are those who will disparage the Methodist tradition and say that we now belong to a new denomination, and the best thing we can do with our heritage is to dump it. But I will promote our heritage and call you to follow it through with me into 21st Century. But to look into the future requires a reference point…a point of checking directions…a centre point! Sydney is building a new landmark, which I predict will become as familiar as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I have already been getting round Sydney without getting lost because no matter where I am, I look to Centre Point as my reference. Jesus Christ is the centre point of the church, towering over all, dominating everything we do. From Him we explore. Jesus Christ is the centre point for every new thrust. What directions does He give along which our ministry can expand? What lines of service does He present that will guide our future work? With Him in mind I have written a 500 page strategic plan to guide our development, but He is our centrepoint.

Jesus outlined scope of ministry at Nazareth. This worship service came after His baptism and temptations. It was in Galilee where there were 204 towns of 15,000+ people. It was in Nazareth His home town. It was in the large synagogue whose foundations still exist. Here Jesus was called “Rabbi”. Here He read Isaiah 61 quoted by Luke. When he finished reading He claimed the fulfilment of scripture in Himself and His ministry. For the rest of His life, He fulfilled those directions of ministry. They are also our directions for this new era. “He went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to heal the broken hearted, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus started by claiming “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” As we commence this new ministry we are conscious of power of Holy Spirit upon us. Ministry must be in power of Holy Spirit. “..and He has chosen me.” We are also conscious of God’s calling to serve in this ministry. We are conscious we are called:

1. TO PREACH GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR.

“to preach Good News.” That was his first concern. What Jesus made primary we dare not make secondary. Preaching of the Gospel is our first concern. Some want to play church with coffee shops, dialogue and discussion, chummy little pep talks on spirituality — but we preach the Gospel! As Paul said, “Woe to me if I preach not the Gospel!” I plan every week to preach an average nine times, in the Theatre, Wesley Chapel, in church, on radio and television, I will preach the Gospel. Jesus declares He would “preach the Good News to the poor”. “the poor” were His first concern. Jesus fed, healed, taught, protected, and loved the poor. That commitment to the poor of Sydney will be a mark of my ministry. The Central Methodist Mission started with “the poor”. We will lose direction unless we continue with the powerless, the homeless, the orphaned, the aged, the ill, the disturbed, the disabled.

Our direction will keep the poor of Sydney in sight. We will feed, heal, house, protect, teach, love. “to bring good news to the poor”. Jesus not only fed, taught, healed, loved but He brought them the Gospel. My first and I hope my last service will be with the homeless. We must also be concerned for the Good News. Soup — plus salvation! Never forget it. Soup on its own is never enough. The Early Church and C.M.M. grew because it “brought good news to the poor” That’s our direction. May my ministry be judged by my preaching the Good News and whether I was concerned for the poor.

2. TO PROCLAIM FREEDOM FOR THE PRISONERS,

Jesus continued “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” We are surrounded by prisoners. As probation and Parole Officer I have been going in and out of prisons for twenty years and I will do so here. But the prisoners I see most frequently walk our streets. People “bound by sin and nature’s night,” bound by fear, death, habits, anxiety, drugs, alcohol, poverty. To these we “proclaim freedom”. We need a new kind of liberation theology. The Church must proclaim freedom for prisoners over drugs, alcohol, addictive gambling, poker machines, smoking, pornography and anything else that imprisons the spirit of people. Wesley will liberate people!

3. THE RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND.

Jesus declared one direction of His ministry would be to aid “recovery of sight for the blind.” So many in every street are blinded by the media, television, pornography, permissiveness, greed, and exploitation. Ministry “recovers sight.” Ministry must be restorative. Jesus condemned the Pharisees who said they could see but were blind themselves. We have a responsibility to see clearly. Church must bring light, care, insight to life. One of our directions will be to help restore true sight, to enable people to say, “Once I was blind, but now I can see, the light of the world is Jesus.” That is our direction! We will bring light to wherever it is needed, into the offices of commerce, the halls of education, the theatres of the Universities, and into the chambers of the Parliaments. The blind need to see the Light of the world is Jesus!

4. TO HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED.

I never forget that in every gathering, there are some who are broken hearted. As Tennyson said, “Never morning wore to evening but some poor heart did break.” In every sermon I ensure a word of comfort. Part of my management style is to never get angry, never to shout no matter how other people have disappointed and been careless, for you can never see the broken-heart. I spent years tramping the streets of the slums, entering the homes of the poor to bring comfort. To rich and poor alike the comfort I offer is best found in the reading the scriptures, praying, and in sharing the bread and wine I bring with me. Pastors help heal the broken hearted. After I have gone, people will remember best the healing of the broken heart.

5. TO RELEASE THE OPPRESSED.

Jesus said His ministry would bring “release to the oppressed.” God is always a liberating God. He is on side with the oppressed. Jesus frees and liberates. He invited: “Come unto me all of you who labour and are heavy laden.” Many people are double burdened; they both labour and are heavy ladened. Our ministry must give counselling, guidance, support, friendship, encouragement, food, clothing, housing. We need a prophetic voice to crusade for release for the oppressed. That will be a direction of our ministry that will bring us into conflict with commercial operators, thoughtless politicians and religious bureaucrats. But we will not be silent, for we have a ministry direction to release the oppressed, and some who oppress most are those whose task it is to support and liberate.

6. TO PROCLAIM THE YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOUR.

“to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” This is the year of the Lord’s favour. In the past twelve months we have seen President Jimmy Carter warn Russia about its military build up, Cambodia under Pol Pot become the world’s greatest violator of human rights; militant Muslims fight the Shar of Iran; Mohammed Ali wins the World Boxing championship for the third time; the waterside workers closing all Australian ports; Pope John Paul 1 dies after only 24 days in office and Pope John Paul 11 has been elected; Mayor of Sydney Leo Port and singer Johnny O’Keefe both die. But this is still the year of the Lord’s favour!

We have to announce that! We don’t have to debate or argue it, but as heralds we announce the time! The early Methodist evangelists were called “The Now Men” because they announced “Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.”

Here is the charter for the Ministry of Wesley Mission. Jesus is centrepoint, from whom we get directions. A new era, but faithfulness still to the directions from Jesus Christ who is the Centre Point to Life. Have you brought Him into your life as Centre Point? Now I start my ministry, as I hope I shall finish it, following the directions of Jesus Christ, and calling upon people to make Jesus Christ the Centre-Point to their lives!

Rev. Dr. The Hon. Gordon Moyes A.C., M.L.C.

Wesley Mission, Sydney.