Archive for August, 2008

Wrong way about it

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

This section is used if there is no megaphone)

(I was given this funnel the other day, it wasn’t long before I found out that it doesn’t make a very good water filter. However, since then I have learnt what this funnel is really designed used for…to pour water or oil into a car engine. As Australians, being very industrious and inventive, we know there are always 101 more uses for things on top of what they were originally designed for. The saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, our necessity is that some people find it a little hard to hear, particularly when the speakers are not turned on. Well, this funnel makes an ideal tool to amplify sounds.)

(Use the funnel back to front)

There you go! Now you can hear me much more clearly…can’t you? Why not?

(if there is a megaphone, talk about how you know how people can’t always hear, so you have expertise in amplification and so brought along a megaphone)

(use it back to front)

There you go! Now you can hear me much more clearly…can’t you? Why not?

Now there’s a lesson for young players…just because you have been given all the right tools, doesn’t mean you are using them in the right way!

Peter, one of the disciples, was a young player in the ministry of Jesus and he had a lesson to learn. He thought he knew it all and was on a high after confessing who Jesus was ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’. Just because he knew who Jesus was, just because he had the information and could see the need for a messiah, didn’t mean he was able to correctly apply his knowledge. It didn’t mean he really knew what Jesus must do to be ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’.

Jesus did and he could no longer hold it to himself. It was time for the disciples to know the full extent of his mission; to know clearly what it means for them to be his disciples. Just when Peter and the others where on a high, thought they knew their direction, their vision and mission, thought it was all glory and power from here, Jesus pulls the rug from under them ‘explaining that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.’ The complete opposite to Peter’s vision.

If we could only get into the mind of Peter, to know how he would have felt at this very moment. We can’t, but we can imagine his devastation, his distress at this news. His vision of Jesus and how he is to be the messiah will be completely and utterly destroyed if he dies. So Peter took things into his own hands, obviously Jesus doesn’t understand. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” The mission of God can’t die with you. No, you must do it my way Jesus.’ Peter though he had the tools for God’s mission and knew exactly what to do, yet Jesus has some very harsh words to him ‘”Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Jesus is saying to Peter, yes you have the tools of a disciple, yes you know who I am, yes you know the need for mission, but you have got it all wrong. Peter had yet to realise the seriousness of our human condition, our total sinfulness and unbelief. He didn’t understand what it would take for Jesus to save people; save us from sin, death and the devil. He didn’t understand that Jesus would have to suffer and die for us…that’s what is needed, not some cover up; some sort of soft option, only the death of Jesus would suffice if we are to be saved from the devil’s grip.

Peter had the tools, he had heard the word, but he is intending to use them in the wrong way, like when I was using the megaphone the wrong way around, it was never going to achieve anything. As long as Peter though he knew best, though he knew how to control Jesus and his destiny, nothing could be achieved. Peter wanted God his way, wanted mission without suffering, glory without the pain. He wanted salvation without the cross. Jesus rebukes Peter for this, for only death will pay the price of sin; only his death on the cross, in our place, would bring about the true mission of God.

How often, as Jesus disciple’s, have we failed to comprehend what is going on? How often have we thought that we have everything in control, we have all the tools of mission, know everything about ourselves, about sin and grace, about Jesus, and about salvation? How often have we wanted to be followers of Jesus, but like Peter, only by our way, not by the way of the cross? Perhaps for many years now we have been holding the megaphone of God’s grace the wrong way around; trying to be disciples on our own terms, without any suffering, without the cross; without dying to self and living for Christ. Perhaps this is why our churches are emptying?

Perhaps Jesus is also rebuking us…‘”Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’ A cutting word from Jesus, but perhaps it’s a word that we need to hear and hear again and again as disciples of Jesus. We need to allow ourselves to be told that at times we are receiving and using God’s grace to us, the forgiveness of sins and mercy for the sake of Christ, the wrong way round. We are using it for our benefit, for our glory and for our purposes and not God’s. We want salvation, but at no cost to us, or to God.

At times, like Peter, we think we have it all together and have no need for Jesus; we know what is needed to save us. The megaphone of God’s grace, his mission to us, cannot achieve its purpose for us and for others, if we continue think we don’t need the cross, death of our sin and death to ourselves.

When using the megaphone backwards, nothing is heard. God’s mercy is not being received; not being heard when the cross is not proclaimed. And because of this, perhaps you and I and the world are not hearing that Jesus works salvation through suffering; he brings life out of the lashes and grace from the grave. Isaiah foresaw Jesus’ mission when he said ‘he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’

This is the good news we need to hear. This is the good news we need to apply to ourselves; the turning around of the megaphone of grace. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. As a disciple of Jesus, we trust and believe that are put to death before we are brought to life. That is, our sinful nature and everything that entails; our personal ambitions, our good works to get to heaven, our secret desires, our efforts to be god…yes everything, is put to death in our baptism and repentance, so that our new self, which rests in Jesus, is brought to life. We are a completely new person in Christ. St Paul had God’s megaphone of grace pointing the right direction when he said ‘we are buried with Jesus in baptism and raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised Jesus from the dead.’

This is what Jesus means when he says ‘For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’ We lose our life of selfish ambition in baptism, yet we also then gain true life in Christ when we trust in him; we are raised to find life in death. And by faith we know that Jesus frees us from trying to play god and to do it all and be it all. He frees us from sin and death, and he frees us from the demands of the law of this world which always accuse us to take control.

Let’s turn around the megaphone of God’s grace and once again clearly hear God’s word to us. This is Jesus clearly speaking to you ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’ Amen

Beware of the Virus

Thursday, August 21st, 2008
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

What happens if a foreign object or a dangerous virus or infection gets into our blood stream, what then? Yes, our body begins to attack the virus or foreign body; it goes into fighting and survival mode. There is an increase of blood flow, high temperatures and immune cells fight the deadly object to help the body cope with and destroy the foreign object.

What happens if the body is unable to defeat the foreign virus? We die! Something so small, so insignificant actually kills a living person millions of times larger than itself. Viruses are deadly because they find their life, and in fact, find their whole being, in sucking the life out of their host, and in doing so, ultimately kill themselves, by killing off the body who is keeping them alive.

The story of the exodus; of Israel breaking from their oppressors, is a true story about a life and death struggle of a body fighting a deadly virus. The body is us, the whole human race, who survives lives and finds its well being in God the creator of heaven and earth. From him we have been created and have life. The virus infecting the body is a deadly infection…a foreign god. A god, the Pharaoh of Egypt, who claims to give life and provide all things, but sadly this god is a virus, an infection that finds its life and being in the living body of the human race. If not treated and dealt with, will kill the body, the Israelites and him along with it.

The significance and utter importance of the exodus story must be understood and known by us who believe in God. Why? Because it is the battle for heaven played out on the battle stage on earth. Sounds dramatic? Sounds a little over stated? Not when we being to realise what is happening and what is at stake. If the battle had been lost and the Israelites remained in Egypt to be ethnically cleansed, killed off, where would we be as people, as Christians; as the redeemed people of God?

This sermon is a little different to what we have been used to, we are going to take a look at the story and discuss some key points to try and bring out the real spiritual meaning to what seems to be just an historical and factual event.

To set the scene for the exodus story, we need to wind back time. (power point slide)

Like all battles, this war began many years earlier when a foreign god, the serpent convinced Adam and Eve to trust in him rather than God the creator for our wellbeing. In doing so, in serving a foreign god, humanity became infected with a deadly virus, the devil, who, like a virus, draws all life out of us until we die. In the exodus story the devil isn’t in the serpent, its the Pharaoh of Egypt. (picture of Pharaoh) The Pharaohs, if you don’t know your ancient history, believed they were gods. They were not born on earth but came down from the gods of the sun. The role of the Pharaoh on earth was to have divine rule over all the people. Everyone was to serve him, and in turn, he would provide everything necessary for life.

Sounds familiar? (next slide) What was the devil trying to do in the garden? What was he trying to do with Jesus when he said ‘”All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” The devil is trying to be God, latch onto another life to kill it.

(next slide)

The story begins with ‘Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt’ What is meant by ‘did not know’?

To know means more than to just being acquainted. Knowing in the bible means ‘to have a personal, committed and in depth relationship with someone.’ For the Pharaoh to not know Jacob meant he had rejected any relationship with Jacob; he did not recognise what Jacob represented. That he is the one through whom God would create a new nation of people, holy and pleasing to him. As you are well aware, it is through this family line, the Israelites, that God would bring his Son into the world, to redeem the world. ‘Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.”

(next slide)

What do you think is important in this verse ‘Come, let us deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’?

The words ‘come let us’, were the words God used when he chose to create human life and bring Adam and Eve into the world. They are words of life. “Come let us make man in our image’. The Pharaoh uses these words to bring death, just like a virus. To act shrewdly was to stop life. We know from later in the story that he forced the Israelites to work extremely hard, and when this failed to kill them off, he murdered every male Israelite child by drowning them in the Nile. The Devil wants to kill off God’s chosen people

We as Christian are also God’s chosen people and the devil continues to try and destroy us. We can recognise his presence in our own lives. He doesn’t create but rather, he pulls down and destroys…or deals shrewdly with us. He kills us through fighting and disunity in our families and relationships. He kills us when hatred and anger affect our moods and controls us. He kills us when he gets us to trust in him and his ways to solve our problems. He kills us when we serve him.

(next slide)

There is a very important word, deliberately used by the writer, in the next verse, see if you can pick it. ‘So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.’ Any guesses? Probably not. The word ‘forced labour’ come from the word to serve or ‘worship’.

The Pharaoh is commanding that the people of Israel worship and serve him rather than their God. And he is going to force the issue. The Israelites have a choice to make, what is it? Yes, they have a choice of who they are going to worship, a false god, or the true God. Take the easy road, serve the Pharaoh, or worship their God and suffer the consequences.

Perhaps you have had to deal with this same decision. Perhaps you have had to choose the hard road and no longer serve a foreign god; no longer serve your sinful nature which has held you captive to an addiction or secret desire. And, like the people of Israel, who chose to continue their worship of God, and so suffered the consequences of hard work and even death. Perhaps you too have had to suffer losses or danger or difficult times because you choose to serve and worship the God of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.

Today’s text concludes with a ray of hope; with God breaking into the darkness and death of slavery and oppression under the power of the devil. A baby boy is born into a world of death. Moses is the man who will eventually lead God’s people out of Israel, but first he too must be saved from death.

(next slide)

‘When Moses’ mother could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him…placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him.’

What is ironic about this rescue?

The same water which killed so many other children is the water which saved Moses. It is through water that Moses is brought from death to life. God uses something that kills to bring life.

(next slide)

You and I have been brought from death to life through the waters, not of the Nile, but of baptism. It is through the water and promise of God that we have life and salvation; freedom from the bondage of sin; our exodus from slavery to a new life in Christ.

Can I encourage you to read the story of the exodus, the whole book, and start to see the spiritual connections between Israel’s exodus and reaching the Promised Land, and what God has done for us in Christ.

Amen

Coming clean.

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

( a demonstration using a water purifier) I have a bit of trouble on my hands. I keep getting dirty water out of my water purifier. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do, dirty water constantly comes out. I know! I’ll put cleaner water into it. Perhaps the water I am putting through the filter is dirty and needs to be cleaned first. Here, nice clean tap water is going in…oooh but look, the water coming out is still dirty. I know, perhaps if I polish the glass bowl then water will come out clean (clean it)….no, that doesn’t seem to work. Well, perhaps if I polish the whole outer casing and keep polishing it while the water goes through, then I might get clean water out of the filter…no. O boy, what now?

What would need to happen for clean, filtered water to come out? Yes, I need to address the problem occurring inside the purifier. (put in a new filter, turn on tap and watch the clean water come out). The reason why I was getting dirty water coming out of the purifier was because the inside the purifier was dirty, making the water come out dirty. Changing the water made no difference, because the water going in was not the problem. Cleaning the outside of the purifier makes no difference either. I could polish all I like, it could be the shiniest purifier you have ever seen, but if the inside is dirty, then the water will be dirty; its not what goes into a purifier that makes things dirty, its what’s inside that make the water come out dirty.

Jesus spoke very similar words to the Pharisees and his disciples, who were caught up in external religious traditions. “It’s not external cleaning and religious acts that make a person clean before God’, he argued. The Pharisees in particular, but the disciples were not exempt, were very devoted to polishing up their morals by religious works; cleaning all the ‘outside’ parts of the body in order to remain clean before God. Believe it or not, there were over 600 ‘little laws’ to ensure people remained clean before God; all very religious looking, all external ceremonial acts that presumed to give people clean hearts. Like me washing and polishing the purifier, it all looks good, yet had no effect on the water purity!

When they complained that Jesus’ disciples never ceremonially wash their hands before eating, Jesus said ‘”Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.'”

You can wash, polish, shine ceremonially and religiously clean all you like, but its what’s in your heart that makes you unclean. Like the purifier, the dirt inside causes the water to come out dirty; the heart of the purifier, the filter, needs to be clean. Jesus is pointing to the sinful heart of people; it’s the heart that makes you unclean. Its the heart that is sinful, or dirty by nature and out of the heart comes all the sinful acts, making us unclean before God; it is the heart that needs to be cleaned.

As part of the confirmation course, the confirmees have been looking at this exact issue; what it means to be a Christian. We discussed what faith is, why be a Christian? Is it about being religious? Is it just about morals and doing good things to be clean before God? On camp in Orange, we discussed what is right and wrong, and what causes us to sin? Is it external temptations? Temptations like the ease of illegally burning CD’s. Is it the ‘software manufactures’ fault we illegally copy CD’s or is it that we are sinful by nature and misuse legal equipment for illegal purposes. Are we being externally influenced or is it the sin already in us that cause us to do wrong things?

Think about these confirmation questions in light of Jesus’ words. ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’. Jesus clearly answers our question, its not external influences which cause us to sin, no, we sin from the inside out. Our hearts are like the dirty water filter, what comes out of our heart causes us to sin. So no matter how hard we try to live a ‘clean life’, we can never have a clean heart before God.

For this very reason, that we cannot clean our hearts, Jesus came into this world. It is precisely because external acts can’t clean, that Christ Jesus came to make us clean. St Paul knew this well and says, and I’ll paraphrase ‘Therefore no one will be declared clean in the sight of God by observing law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sinful heart. But now a cleanliness from God, apart from trying to clean ourselves, has been made known, to which the bible and the Prophets testify. This cleanliness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.’

This cleanliness from God has been given to us as a gift in our baptism. It is through the waters of baptism that our hearts have been washed clean; cleansed from sin and born again pure and clean before God; in a similar way to the new filter in the purifier. Though we cannot see the filter, we trust that a clean filter has been fitted and is working. In the same way, we cannot see our clean heart, we can’t comprehend how God can do this, but we trust that Jesus has cleansed us and made us clean before God through baptism.

Dilly, Joshua, Aaron, Ashley and William, this is the good news you have heard, and this is the good news that you will soon confess before us to say you believe. It is the good news that Jesus has come to cleans your heart. It’s the good news that your external good works cannot make you clean, but it is by faith in Jesus, and the power of baptism that makes you clean before God. It is the good news that is central to the faith of the Lutheran church; it is the Lutheran trilogy of the clean heart ‘ by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone’. This is the constant cry of the Lutheran church among believers and non-believers alike, and it is a call that you have heeded and the call you believe.

Our prayer for you today is not that, now you are confirmed, you fulfil all your external Christian duties by regularly attending church, going to bible studies and be a squeaky clean Christian, though all important. No, our prayer for you today is that you will not depend on being ‘externally clean’ for salvation, but that you depend on no other than Christ Jesus for your salvation and a clean heart, and that all good deeds flow out of this. Our pray for you today is that the Holy Spirit will strengthen your faith, fill your life with joy and assurance and give you the courage to live as a child of God, safe in the promise of your baptism.

Amen

Faithink – Walking on water

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

We have spoken a lot about faith this morning. About the faith five, and how we nurture faith by spending time together in the word of God in family huddles. The seminar me, Cathy, Karen, Ros and Neil went to at Warrambui was all about faith in God; how we can teach and nurture faith in our young people. We need to be realistic, and it’s a sad fact, if currant trends continue, 75% of the children in our churches now, will not be worshipping with us in their adulthood. Take a look at the children here today, (Gil..take a look around, how many of our children should be here, but they are not) which of these children do we want to let go of? Which ones are we willing to say ‘nice knowing you, now go on your own way, without Christ’?

Not one of us could say this. Yet, its so sad that it is happening. For too long the egg of faith has been laid by the power of the Holy Spirit in baptism, but we have failed to nurture it. We have not nurtured the young in faith, from embryo to adulthood, like the penguin parents do with their young, who shield their young from storms and bring them into the heat on sunny days; All so that they grow into strong penguins in their own right. Our children have not been nurtured to be Christians in their own right.

Faith Inkubators is a program that is all about nurturing the faith of our young people, and their motto is teaching the faith ‘every night in every home’, and as you saw from the children’s address, it involves every one of us. (talk about and show some of the material)

But hold on, before we go any further, before we start all this. Do we really know what faith is? Take a look at the next slide…what can you see (list findings)

The story of Peter walking on water is a story of faith, in fact its more than a story, its actual faith in action; faith visualised…faith as experienced by you and me. The scene of faith is set with the disciples of Jesus in a deadly situation. The winds are against them, the waves are pounding the boat and darkness surrounds them; the disciples are terrified; lost to the depths of the ocean; they have no life line to cling to. Then, out of the darkness, in the midst of the storm; in the darkness of death, Jesus speaks a word of promise ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’

The word of promise, Jesus’ words, speaks life into the disciple’s situation. Jesus’ words are not empty, they are words of action. When Jesus says ‘don’t be afraid’, his words actually change the situation of the disciples; they are actually out of danger. It is as if they were safe on dry land. Jesus demonstrates this change of situation when he calls Peter out onto the water. Peter can walk on water by the power of Jesus’ promise. When Jesus, the word of God in the flesh, says ‘don’t be afraid’, it is not just information, something to be heard and decided upon. No, Jesus’ words of promise are living active; they effect what they say. God’s word says what it does and does what it says!

Faith then, is simply taking God at his word! Faith is simply grabbing hold of the promise of Jesus and trusting our situation has changed, even before we see any results or experience God’s presence in our lives. Peter stepped out of the boat and onto the water, before he saw any change in his situation, before he experienced the close presence Jesus. The boat was still being buffeted, the waves were still crashing all around, and Jesus was still far off, yet because Jesus said ‘don’t be afraid’, Peter knew his situation had changed, he was safe, and in faith he walked onto the water…and he walked on the water! Even when he was sinking, Jesus’ promise still remained, only Jesus himself carried Peter on the water.

The promise of God changed the situation of Peter, and it changes ours. There is a promise for you and I; a word of God that changes our situation. Jesus says to us ‘whoever believes and is baptised will be saved’, and again ‘For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit… baptism now saves you also…It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.’ and again ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.’

Faith is simply taking hold of these promises of Jesus. Faith simply knows that the word of God actually changes our situation. We are dead in our sins, but for the sake of Jesus and his death and resurrection, God declares us to be in a new and good relationship with him. God says ‘our dept has been paid, you are forgiven, come all of you and be baptised for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.’

Right now, we are going to do just that! Take God at his word and baptise little Emelia. We do this in faith knowing that it is not our doing that changes Emelia’s situation, but God’s own promise. Because remember, God’s word says what it does, and does what it says.