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amen great stuff uh so welcome everyone again for the second time for me third time from everyone my name’s alex I’m one of the pastors here if you’re visiting we’re delighted that you are we’re gonna start by reading a passage from haggai but let me first just say if you tried in obedience to dan’s command to try and register for a christmas eve service today you probably found that they’re all full so we are working on that we’ll have some solutions to that whether it’s more services or finding more space but we just know there’s attention there so um but thank you for trying to register and we’ll figure it out uh this week I’m gonna start with haggai chapter one you may never have read haggai it’s an old testament book it’s about two pages long you could go home and read it in about four and a half minutes this afternoon if you

wanted to and the start of it says this in the second year of king darius on the first day of the sixth month the word of the lord through the prophet haggai to zerubbabel son of seattle governor of judea a lot of names there you’re tracking so far hopefully and to joshua son of jose the high priest and then this is the message this is what the lord almighty says these people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the lord’s house then the word of the lord came through the prophet haggai is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses while this house of the lord remains a ruin now this is what the lord almighty says give careful thought to your ways you have planted much but harvested little you have you eat but never have enough you drink but never have your fill you put on clothes but are not warm you earn wages only to

put them in a purse with holes in it so we’re gonna leave haggai for a second let’s pray and we’re gonna talk about some stuff and get back to haggai Jesus thank you that you’re present here with us thank you for this book that you breathed in and made it live and we pray as a group of people listening you would breathe into us and make us alive in new ways God would you uh take the comfortable amongst us and afflict us would you take the afflicted amongst us and bring us comfort would you do what you do regularly which is to turn up and change lives may we be transformed people ah man so we’ll get back to haggai we’re in a series called advent conspiracy it’s a series that churches all over the country take part in um and it’s based on these four tenets worship fully spend less give more and love all and we are weak to spend

less which is easily the most boring of the three so stick with me I thought about paying you to stay awake but that would have gone against the principle of spend less so I decided it wasn’t the best option for us and we’re just going to trust you to stay awake but we’re going to start in for a second not talking about haggai but by talking about the graffiti art scene in england in bristol in the 1980s uh bizarrely and you may know nothing about graffiti in this one season a bunch of incredible graffiti artists turned up in one spot at the same time now when I say graffiti there’s a chance a chance that you hear this so this is a fence way as you drive down the m40 highway in england uh while you’re sat in traffic that’s about three or four hours long you know just these huge traffic jams trying to get into the city someone has painted why do I still

do this every day on a side under the fence and of course you get to sit and contemplate now this isn’t the graffiti we’re talking about although it might be that this is actually a little more poignant than we might think to start with we’re talking about graffiti like this so this is the work of a guy called banksy and a lot of his art has this consumerist question it talks about consumerism and asks questions about why we participate in the system that we do so here we’ve got a group of people worshiping at a sale ends today sign the next one we’ve got someone jumping off a building to catch a falling shopping cart because they’re so desperate for the goods in it uh how about a third one where someone’s actually trapped inside a shopping cart hopefully not the same one that fell from the top of the building and then um the

fourth one here someone has run like a it’s a shopping bag of a shopping store in england and they’re doing a pledge of allegiance to say that they will participate in the ways of consumerism with all of their hearts even at the young age that they are and then this one this is a little girl who’s lost this blue and it suddenly disappeared from her grasp she had it for a moment and then it’s gone and this piece of work was one of the last known banksy works that was available to purchase and went on a sale at christie’s or sotheby’s sometime a couple of years ago and I just want you to watch what happens as it goes on sale so I love what’s going on here you have on one hand the deliciousness of a piece of work that’s talking about the problem of consumerism going on sale for over a million dollars and then what had happened is the artist

when he put it in the frame had built a shredder into the frame so the moment that it’s purchased he hits the button and the picture shreds theoretically destroying all of its value but then another delicious twist this same picture the same piece of artwork sold later for more money than it sold the first time because its fame had increased because it was the shredded picture isn’t there something fascinating going on with our understanding of consumerism there and what value is and then check out go let’s go back to haggai and think about what haggai says give careful thought to your ways you have planted much but harvested little you eat but never have enough you drink but never have your fill you put on clothes but are not warm you earn wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it it’s this sort of message about

the system now when you hear haggai and I say he’s a prophet if you’re unfamiliar with this whole church thing you may hear something like this this is zoltar uh and this is laura getting her sort of fortune telling from zoltar at some place we were by the ocean and zoltar is a guy that will theoretically tell your fortune for five dollars or something like that and it probably works I’m sure spend your money it’s fine uh maybe it works who knows I’m no cynic but this is not what the bible understands by the idea of profit we think profit we think prediction about the future but this isn’t really where the bible would land when the bible talks about prophets it’s talking far much far more like banksy it’s talking activist so think about these four people you’ve got bono who’s done work with um with poverty all over the world you’ve got malala

who’s done work with kids education in place especially for women in places like india pakistan where young women aren’t entitled to education you’ve got greta thumbberg and the bottom left talking about climate change you’ve got martin luther king talking about race relation now you may hate any of those people and that’s actually good for the illustration because a prophet got under your skin an old testament prophet while they may have heard a message from garden that’s accurate that message wasn’t so much on this day this will happen on the next day this will happen that message was society is broken keep acting this way and judgment will inevitably follow if you keep operating a society on these lines you will end up with a problem really really fast that was the idea of profit doesn’t take away the fact that God spoke

to them but their message was not about on dot dot day this will happen it was stop living this way that’s what you see with haggai you can’t live this way this is broken you can’t keep doing this to yourselves so that’s what we hear when we hear profit far more zach delarocka from rage against the machine check check out these lyrics and see how they tie in with what we just read in haggai play it again jack and then rewind the tape and then play it again and again and again until your mind is locked in believing all the lies that they’re telling you buying all the products that they’re selling you they say jump and you say how high that’s the consumerist message right that’s what we buy into and that’s what haggai saw haggai came back from captivity his whole nation had been taken into captivity and then through miraculous

circumstances they ended up back in their home country they’d been led by two incredible leaders one guy who’d helped them rebuild the wars and one guy who’d helped them rebuild the temple but when haggai returned instead of a focus on this what he found was a group of people that were far more interested in trade agreements far more interested in what they could get out of society far more interested in making an extra buck than people that were interested in building the temple or building the wars he saw a society that was broken that were chasing the consumerist dream and so when we read haggai when we look into these things this is what we’re talking about I would suggest that we know this to be true we need to experience tension when it comes to how we spend our money and if you’re uncertain about

that fact Jesus talked about money more than any other subject over half of his parables contain the subject of of money and how you handle your wealth it’s all over his thinking and so it’s something that I would love us to wrestle with and so I’d love to do that through a series of questions first question is this what would you do if you could buy whatever you wanted if you could just go out and just splash cash at whatever you wanted now the first thing that you might do is that you might say that well I’d have a short sharp conversation with my boss because work would definitely not be on the agenda to start with that was the answer that most of the church staff when I gave them the question well I would done with you in this place I didn’t say that that wouldn’t be right they’re here forever don’t worry um what would you do

if you could buy whatever you wanted one guy got an answer to that question this is luke brett moore he tried to transfer 5 000 from a bank account that had no money in it and the transfer went through moved it to another account and then moved 50 000 and it went through again so he just kept moving more and more money and each transfer went through until he eventually spent around two million dollars just by transferring money that he didn’t have but what was fascinating is this the first thing he did was buy a car and then he bought another car because that car was no longer good enough and then when that car was no longer good enough he bought another car so he went from a honda civic fairly basic requirement to a hyundai velostar and then finally to a maserati and with every step he found actually buying

whatever he wanted just wasn’t enough somewhere there was this still this sense of dissatisfaction still this sense of ah I need something more the answer to the question what would you do if you could buy whatever you wanted it’s not as simple as it sounds it’s not as simple as the christmas wish list that uh an eight-year-old would make it sound if I could only get more stuff I’d be happy it’s treadmill it’s the hedonistic treadmill it’s this thing that we get on and we have to keep moving to stay where we are we can’t just stop we have to keep going that’s what luke brett moore found and I would suggest that’s what the the bible would suggest as well this is from a book called ecclesiastes chapter 1 the word of the teacher son of david king in jerusalem of jerusalem meaningless meaningless says the teacher utterly meaningless

everything is meaningless when he looked at what was available in life he was like it’s it’s just nothing it’s it’s just empty the book is centered around these two fascinating terms on one hand there’s this character this quoaleth this teacher or preacher this thinker and he’s constantly got this theme that he keeps talking about this this hebrew word habel habel is fascinating because it it has this sense of meaningless and nothing but an actual better definition would be something like smoke so this is eugene peterson’s message version these are the words of the questa david’s son and king in jerusalem smoke nothing but smoke that’s what the questor says there’s nothing to anything it’s all smoke it’s that picture have you ever maybe walked around a lakeside or or seen what it is to see vapor appearing over the fields

early in the morning you see this thing and it’s beautiful it just sits over the landscape and then as the sun gets brighter as the sun like its beams hit it just it’s gone it’s there in a moment and then it’s gone this is what this word vapour sort of connects with it’s this thing that you can’t ever really grasp you think you’ve got it and you open your hand and it’s gone this is herbelle I think there’s lots of different translations that we could land on but I would say that one as well as smoke and well as vapour it’s treadmill it’s the thing that you can never sort of stop moving to keep going you can only turn the treadmill off if you leave it on you have to keep going and keep going just to stay where you are and I think you and I know that I think we know that spending more stuff ultimately doesn’t make us happier we can think that we want something

but it never lasts we snap back to zero so to neutral so quickly and so if that’s true if all of these people have spotted this if these secular what you might call prophets like zach de la rucker have said if if people within the bible have said it if Jesus has said it and I think our hearts say it as well I have this sort of question second question why do we do it if spending more doesn’t satisfy why do we keep doing it why do we keep going back to accumulating more and more stuff because we do every year the whole world combined spends about a trillion dollars on christmas american credit card debt is now at about a trillion dollars just in this nation and we do that while we know that one billion people don’t have enough food to eat 700 million people don’t have access to clean water these are necessities these are things that we know

and still we treadmill treadmill treadmill and we buy more and we acquire more and we keep going and we know it doesn’t work and I’m not telling you anything that you don’t know and my question is then why why do we keep doing it and I have some answers that may be helpful maybe one answer is comparison we love to see where we stand compared to other people and we have this sort of standard that we feel like we have to keep up with a few years ago laura and I were in la we used to go to a conference every year and because I rented cars so much for work they would always give me great upgrades I would always have loads of points to spend and and so I would go and they would usually give me something nice and I remember one year I was there and they gave me this beautiful bmw 4 series convertible and I was like a

little kid in school I was so excited about this car until something happened I pulled it out of the airport and we headed to the place that we were staying and we pulled up at a stoplight next to a country club and while we were there this kid pulled up in a bright red ferrari if he was 16 he looked like a year older than younger than he was I mean he looked like 15 16 years old and he’s driving around in this stunning car pulling into his country club and in a moment all of my joy smoke vapor gone treadmill it was this moment of like I want a ferrari to drive around in as well why don’t I get a ferrari could they not have upgraded me to a ferrari that upgrade does not exist by the way that’s not like just the sales clerk being mean to you there is no upgrade that gets you a ferrari I’ve been told it’s comparison and it’s based around this idea that we

have to keep moving the treadmill goes from one to two to three and there’s a better car that you need it’s built on this lie but well it will make me feel better than others it allows me to feel for a second superior I’m further ahead in the journey I’m winning I’m keeping up with the joneses and maybe even overtaking them as well it’s comparison but maybe it’s also it’s cover-up as well a couple of years ago I was flying back to england and I was taking the kids back for christmas and we were set in the first row of coach class and we got chatting as I tend to do with the guy in front of us he was the last row of first class and he gave us his free drinks coping coupons and stuff he was an absolute delight lovely guy and he started showing me pictures of his christmas at home and christmas on his like their christmas day there were presents on

every step coming down in this sweeping staircase that made its way down to the living room and all over the living room over every couch there was presents presents presents presents presents more than you could count like the stars in the sky and he showed me some videos of his kids running down and beginning to open the presents and there seemed to be like joy there and everything and then we got talking more and he began to tell me what christmas would look like for him this year and he said well I’ll get home on the 24th and I’ll be home till the 26th and then I have to travel again and then I’ll be back on new year’s eve and we’ll do a celebration but then I have to leave on the second and I’ll be gone again to and he turns out he travels about 250 260 days a year he’s head of sales for some big organization and he makes a

ton of money doing it but there was this moment this like revelation where I’m like ah this is a cover-up right you’re buying these presents because you think it covers for the fact that you’re never you’re never there and if that’s your life that’s not a criticism I’m sure you experience that tension as well sometimes it’s easier to buy an expensive presence or just tons of them to cover up for the fact it didn’t actually take you time or energy I actually can go and buy laura a great present really easily without really thinking about it I just go and buy something with diamonds in and when it turns up she’s delighted she’s excited but it’s really not that difficult I’m covering up for the fact that I didn’t spend time thinking it through that I didn’t really plan it that there was no real energy that went into it it’s a cover-up for this guy on the plane it was it was a

cover-up it’s based on this lie that it makes me feel better about my problems everything isn’t as I’d like it to be so I spend to make up for that fact maybe it’s cravings they say that spending is as addictive as cocaine as an endorphin that’s released that in the moment that you do it you’re like I feel so good about myself bizarrely as well the same with emails that ding that you get when an email comes in has an addictive quality to it it releases an endorphin somebody wants you somebody values you spending does this thing where it’s like for a second we’re like ah I feel great but the problem is we have this huge capacity to snap back to neutral so after doing it we’re like nope didn’t work I need to do it again and the treadmill jumps from three to four to four to five and we have to keep moving to keep going it makes me feel better for a

while is the lie and then finally another one and this maybe is the most the most dangerous of them all it’s caring I remember once as I was graduate about to graduate high school my friends and I we had to wear uniforms it was an english high school and so the last year instead of buying the traditional cheap uniform we we went uh out shopping and I said to my mum I need like a wall suit like something nice because everyone’s doing it and so we went out together and bought a suit and she spent more than she could really afford I think and then I went to school the first day in this new suit and and my friend said oh that’s not real it’s fake it’s not that good it’s terrible and my joy dissipates dissipated vapor smoke so I went home and told my mom well yeah they all said it wasn’t that good so I need to get something better and her joy

dissipated smoke we were both buying into the lie that that well actually this will make someone else happy it makes somebody else feel good and it’s treadmill it’s this thing that we have to keep going just to stay still I think the truth with all of those things that we need to remind ourselves of is this felt needs are not always real needs we think we’re tapping into something real and there’s just a possibility that we may not be now that’s just like the surface level that’s just like you know okay that’s that’s not that bad a scenario the the potential worst case scenario is this that there’s something sort of insidious going on under the surface that we may not even be aware of this is what Jesus said no one can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other you

cannot serve God and money Jesus was very comfortable in his demand on your soul he was like I want it all now if you’re in the room and you’re not following Jesus right now if you’re watching online you’re not following Jesus right now the great thing for you I guess is that you get to you get to opt out on this one like you can spend your money however you like now I would suggest all of the other things are still true you might find that it doesn’t bring you the satisfaction you think but but Jesus actually doesn’t have the same demand on you that he has on the rest of us that are choosing to follow him he demands that he gets to say in how we spend that money we can’t separate that thing that that finance thing from everything else and say that’s mine that the word money in greek is this word mamma and it was actually a a

demonic God from history it was this thing that that was worshipped in different ways and Jesus is saying no you can’t you can’t choose me and that you can’t choose me and the money system he wants all of us every single part he wants to have a say in and that’s maybe what’s going on under the surface when we have this addiction to spending there’s maybe something that’s pulling us away something that’s getting us to believe a different narrative is true I love this passage it carries on from what we read in luke chapter one last year last last year last week we were talking about mary’s song that she sings as she celebrates that Jesus is coming and it starts to hint that something is changing about the way that society functions same as the the prophet’s language something is about to change he has performed mighty deeds with

his arm he has scattered those who are proud in their innermost thoughts he has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble he has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty there’s this idea that society was based around you could tell very easily who was blessed and who wasn’t the rich were blessed the poor were not and this Jesus entry into the world is going to bring that whole thing into question and as he begins to teach he says the same thing blessed are the poor he starts to make these outlandish statements and he’s constantly interested in the disbursement of wealth and and he doesn’t mind you having it but he does want you to think and embrace the tension of how you use it the advent conspiracy is based on this idea we’re choosing to engage with the real christmas

story in opposition to the modern christmas story we choose moments in which we can spend less in order to do something more significant we talk about this tension with spending stuff so we can think about well what might we do with our money what might the thing God is calling us to do be and when I say is there a better way is question three I hope by now the point is well there’s got to be one because it’s not this one like I hope there’s that that sort of idea lurking in the background and I think there is in that same book ecclesiastes just a couple of chapters later in chapter four it says this fools fold their hands and ruin themselves better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind this writer this quoaleth wrestles with the idea of contentment it creates this picture of what it is to hold

something just one handful just enough with a hand open versus trying to grasp because as we looked at vapor you cannot grasp simply about what you can hold paul in the new testament will start to say some of the same thing he’ll start to talk about this idea of contentment I am not saying this because I am in need for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances I know what it is to be a need and I know what it is to have plenty I have learnt the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well-fed or hungry whether living in plenty or in want I can do all things all this through him who gives me strength this is philippians chapter four I have learned to be content I have learned it wasn’t something that came natural he made a decision to learn it and then look at that line at the bottom I can do

this through him who gives me strength this isn’t something he’s done as in and of himself his relationship with Jesus has taught him to be content you and I were invited into that whether you’re following Jesus or not right now you’re invited into that you get to practice this contentment a person who lacks contentment in their life will often engage in when and then thinking when I get dot dot dot dot then I’ll be happy that moment will be the moment to celebrate that will be the moment where I’m like ah finally I can stop running but you never can because the treadmill moves from seven to eight from eight to nine it just keeps going the the invitation of Jesus is this you can step off the treadmill you don’t have to keep running you can step off so how can we spend less this advent and this lands us a little bit in that tension

because in all that I’ve said there is this still tension lurking we all live in an economy that is based on what is spent and productivity you have jobs you have careers that rely on people spending money that’s a real thing the subject isn’t spend nothing to a certain degree I’m not saying we should just blow the whole thing up I’m saying that you should think and I should think seriously about the what and the how much we spend how can we do this how can we enter into this this advent and I have a few ideas for you spend less money give more time choose to find ways to be with people that you love now difficult again in a pandemic but there are people in your life that you can actually choose now I’m going to choose the gift of time over the gift of money how about this one buy less stuff give more experiences one of the

things I figured out with my kids is they remember for a long time the things that we did together even after they’ve forgotten the gifts that I bought them we did this little challenge the other day she asked my daughter elena asked me what did what did you get for christmas when you were a kid and I was able to pick out a few things but she asked me what I got last year I was like no clue and she didn’t either in actual fact but she remembers everything that as a family we enter into together give to needs and not to there’s that tendency that temptation to just say ah whatever you want I’m gonna give it because it will make you happy and yet there’s something about needs that actually the memory is more lasting I think we get to choose to think about what people need with my kids again we we buy them one present that

they want but the rest is based around what do you need and then something to read as well because you always need a book uh and then this one I love in 2020 in this weird year we’ve lived in choose david and not goliath we’ve embraced a 2020 where a shutdown or lockdown of pandemic has made the rich richer organizations like amazon and like target and like walmart have thrived and their wealth has gone up and up and it generally gravitates towards one person this year in your spending you could make a huge difference in the life of a local realtor really a local um retailer you could actually make a difference there now bizarrely you may have to spend more per gift to do that you may have to buy less gifts but spend more for each individual gift but isn’t that worth it when you think that we just rely so much on convenience

you might have to accept that the shipping there will take four or five days instead of amazon’s instant provision but we have people in our community we have people in the area around us that they need that local business that’s what marketplace was all about it was about providing little retailers this option or ability to sell their products maybe this year the challenge is when you think about spending go and choose david and not goliath go to the small real retailer and make a difference there these are the passages for this week if you want to go back and look at them at home I’m going to flick them up flick them up later but we’re going to move towards communion and that brings us back to what paul said I can do all this through him who gives me strength the idea everything we’re talking about is based on the fact that we’re tapping into

our Jesus relationship in order to do this for me that’s where it begins you can try and do all of these things by yourself but in actual fact it’s following Jesus that empowers us or empowered paul to live this life of contentment and as we come to this communion thing if you’re at home you can grab your communion elements if you are here hopefully you’ve got them and we’re going to take it together in a second we’d like to land on this statement of Jesus I am the bread of life whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty the idea of Jesus death was that it provided a feast that we were all invited to he said I am enough one of the things I’m always staggered at when I read the the gospels the Jesus narratives I’m always staggered at how little difference his earliest followers believe Jesus made

at key moments you see him with a crowd of five thousand in front of him and there’s this moment where all they can think about is well where do we go for food how much will that cost what happens if you split five loaves and two fishes five thousand ways how much does everybody get and Jesus is stood right there with them and they don’t believe he makes a difference and yet in every story he does make a difference he changes everything that’s what this passage invites us into as we approach this advent season we’re invited into realizing that Jesus makes a difference if you’re not following him you can make that decision for yourself before we take communion together it’s a simple process of saying Jesus I actually have been running life my own way and that’s got me into a mess just like you predicted it would and I

would like to turn that life over to you and it’s recognizing that his death and resurrection they were for you and me that was for you and me that is a game changer and if you want to talk more about it you can come grab me after the service you can drop us an email here at south fellowship but we want to take this moment to celebrate that we’re partaking in a feast together and it was provided by Jesus so think about some of the words that aaron and the team are going to lead us through as we sing we’re going to think about that idea together for a few moments

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