Last week I mentioned our Senior Pastor Simon Benham’s first book, ‘The Peach & The Coconut”. Today was the official release of the book – one I thoroughly recommend getting a copy of from Kerith Community Church for free (for the next three weeks only) or by downloading the Kindle version. In the mean time, I wanted to share my notes from Simon’s introductory message on the Peach & The Coconut as we begin a series at church based on the book itself. This isn’t something I’d usually like to make a habit of, but I think the content in here is particularly worth reading. Enjoy!
Simon Benham – The Peach & The Coconut (Sunday 9th September 2012)
The purpose behind the book is trying to describe the culture we want to build as a church.
Simon’s role as Senior Pastor is to try and create the culture that we have. So often we think that strategy is the most important thing a leader can create. But culture trumps strategy every time. We could have a strategy to be the most welcoming place around – welcomers on the door etc, but much more effective is a group culture where welcome is important. Where everyone is welcoming, not just the welcome team. Where new people feel welcomed by every other person in the church. This is something become
Everyone has a culture. Even down to where you eat your meals, how you do Christmas day and so on. It’s a culture thing. Sometimes it doesn’t matter very much, but sometimes it’s vital that we get it right. The book has been written to describe what Simon feels our culture should be like.
“Culture is difficult to define,
I think it’s even more difficult to mandate –
But for me the evidence of culture is how people behave when no-one is watching.”
– Bob Diamond (chief executive of Barclays bank – ironic because they recently had to pay a huge fine for fixing interest rates)
The whole idea of the peach is examining the words of Jesus. As his body on the earth today we want to live the culture that Jesus intended for us. At the heart of the picture of the peach and the coconut is the image of the contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the religious people who thought that they were the custodians of God’s message.
“Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”
Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50 NIV84)
When people come into our homes, you might not realise but there’s an etiquette. People knock on the door, you go and greet them, shake hands or kiss on the cheek, show them into the house, take their coat, find them a seat, offer them a drink, make sure they’re comfortable. At the time of this passage, there was also an etiquette. The servant (not the master) would wash your feet. They would then pour some oil on your head and then they would show you a place to sit. Jesus came into the home of this Pharisee and none of these things were done for him. He invited Jesus into his home but extended none of the formalities that would normally be shown to friends. That’s how Simon the pharisee has treated Jesus. He has in effect snubbed him.
The sinful woman has seen this, and decides she’s going to do something about it. Bravely, she walks into the home. She would NEVER have been welcome because she is a sinful woman. She takes such a risk! But she goes anyway and realises that she hasn’t got anything to wash Jesus’ feet with, so she uses her tears and her hair. She so wants Jesus to feel honoured that she’s willing to humiliate herself to honour him. In this incredible act of worship towards Jesus, she even kisses his feet (the pharisees wouldn’t even kiss his face).vshe then anoints him with her perfume. The amazing thing is not only how she does this but how Jesus reacts. She hasn’t repented and yet Jesus still allows her to let this happen.
A coconut is hard on the outside, difficult to get into and even when you do, has very little substance to it on inside. Like a coconut, the Pharisees were very hard to be a part of, but once you did, there was very little substance – they were judgemental and sinful themselves, but in very different ways. The pharisees had a behave-believe-belong philosophy – similar to the layers of a coconut.. This woman totally failed the behaviour test. Only if you behaved and believed could you belong. What we see in this passage is Jesus turning that on its head. The community of Jesus is more like a peach.
Peaches are soft on the outside and easy to get into. A peachy community is one that is easy to be a part of regardless of situation or sin.
In the new Testament, the most powerful teaching is reserved for the woman at the well. Yet, Jesus brings his most amazing teaching not for thousands, but for this broken woman at the well. He doesn’t tell her to leave her broken relationships and sinful situation. He was called ‘a friend of sinners’ – a name he wore like a badge of honour rather than a condemnation. At the end of the day, Jesus’ analysis of the woman is the same as that of the Pharisee. They are both sinners. Jesus is saying that every one of us is born and grows up with a debt that is unpayable. Every one of us has a debt that we can’t repay. The only way we can remove that debt is with Jesus who can forgive debt, cancel it and set you free. He died for our sin, our debt. This sinful woman comes to believe. She loves Jesus so much because she knows that she has been forgiven – the understands the depths of her sin. The Pharisee might judge e woman, but the only person who has the right to judge anyone is Jesus – he is the only one who has lived a sinless life.
So often we look and judge the external. But what God does is look at the internal. Jesus saw the brokenness inside of the woman at the well and wanted to address the life change that needs to happen. The internal issues that caused the external issues, issues that when fixed could transform her from the inside out.
Jesus made them feel like they belonged. Then they believed. Then they behaved. Simon is passionate that we build a community where people who are lost can find a safe place to hear about the gospel.
In the middle of a peach is a hard stone. Jesus was not only full of grace – he was also full of truth. Jesus managed to be a friend of sinners but he never once compromised on his beliefs. Jesus wasn’t vague about the fact that Jesus was living a sinful lifestyle. He was very clear about sin. But he was equally clear that Simon the Pharisee was a sinner too. None of us have the right to judge others, because we’ve all come from the same place. We’re all sinners in need of forgiveness. You might be able to see her sin externally and hide yours internally, but we’re all sinners.
The bible says that Jesus was full of grace AND truth. We mustn’t hide truth or be vague about it. We want to be a community where people come as they are, but they don’t stay that way. Why? Because God doesn’t want you to stay that way.
Peaches are also messy. There isn’t an easy way to eat a each without causing a mess. Building a peachy church is going to be messy. We’re going to be a church full of messy, broken people. People who are belonging before they believe of behave. We came to faith (justification), but we’re still trying to learn how to behave (sanctification). Sanctification is a process that will keep going on until we are in Heaven with Jesus, but until then we’ll always be messed up, broken people. We’ve all got pain and issues that are causing us heartache at the moment, but because we want to look like we are behaving we can sometimes pretend. The only place that is completely ordered is a graveyard! We want it to be messy but full of life, like a maternity ward. We need to be a community where it is safe to express our doubts. We need to be honest and open about our mess. It’s not all going to be nice and clean and together. God will be taking our hearts of stone and turning them into hearts of flesh. God is going to be moving in peoples lives. God is going to be at work amongst the broken lives and the Holy Spirit will be doing big things amongst us.
Even after three years with Jesus, the disciples are STILL misbehaving. One of them is even betraying Jesus after THREE YEARS with him! Jesus’ community was messy, and that’s what our church is going to be like.
We need to get out of this idea that we have to behave to belong. It’s going to be the most exciting journey. It’ll messy sometimes, but there will be life as well.