Archive for June, 2010

Holy Ghosting

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Galatians 5_13-25 Holy Ghosting

 

How here has had a go at the growing sport of ghosting?  Who even knows what it is?  Well let me give a demonstration!  (get someone from the congregation to walk around in the church.  I follow as close as possible, moving in the exact way as they do, following each step)  The idea of this ‘sport’ is to keep instep with someone else; to walk as they do and become and to act exactly in the way they do.  So much so, that they do not even know you are behind them!  In other words, there are two people, but due to the ‘ghosting’ there is only one action.  You could say you are walking in another person’s shoes.

Surprisingly, this ‘sport’ is not new.  It has been around for centuries.  Well, may be not in the same form, but the idea of walking in the way of, or keeping in step with someone, has been used by St Paul in his letter to the people of Galatia.  Rather than ‘ghosting’, Paul calls our new life of freedom in Christ or of discipleship ‘Holy Ghosting’.  Three times in just a few sentences he calls for believes to enter into the sport of ‘Holy Ghosting’, saying ‘, live by the Spirit…and again ‘you are led by the Spirit,’ and finally ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’  Keeping instep with the Spirit is to be ‘Holy Ghosting’. 

Why would he ask us to do such a thing?  Did you even know that there is more to your faith than faith; that God, through the exhortations of St Paul, actually asks something of us?  Paul, who is THE teacher on the sufficiency of being saved by grace alone, penning such memorable texts like, ‘For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last’ and ‘it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–, so that no one can boast,’ also penned strict training rules regarding our life of Holy Ghosting, commanding us to stay clear of things like ‘hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy and drunkenness, warning that ‘those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.’

Perhaps Paul accidentally contradicted himself, beginning this passage with ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’  Then, in a seniors moment, put us under the yoke of slavery ending with ‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’ 

As much as we would like to think so and even hope so, after all, who hasn’t been jealous, hatred or caused dissension, Paul has not contradicted himself; he did not have a seniors moment.  Freedom is not a license.  Christ did not suffer and die to free us to be the people we want to be.  He died to redeem us from ourselves; to save us from our body of death, which walks in sin, and is out of step with God and in step with the devil; he died so that we are free to enter heaven. 

While it is true, that we are indeed free, saved by grace alone, sadly, we often take this freedom to mean license.  Paul calls us to be in step with the Spirit because we often fail to understand grace, that by faith alone we are saved and that the law has no control over us.  When we hear this good news our natural response is to use this freedom from the law as a license to live as we please.  We take it to mean that no one, not even the pastor, not parents, not society, not even God’s word, can have jurisdiction or authority over us. 

We are told and tell ourselves that we are capable of making right choices; that the individual can achieve anything, be anything, partake and enjoy anything and everything.  The evidence is everywhere.  We are in an individual world; an iworld, where i am the only one that matters.  Perhaps the next big thing will be ichurch, available on our ipods, where you chose from a list of ireligions, then scroll down to chose isermons, isongs, and ibible verses, and if we don’t like what we hear, we simply cut and paste in what we do like!

When we learnt to drive, we had a competent instructor, guiding and advising us on how best to drive safely and according to the rules.  We followed every step of the instructor; we ghosted him, learning to follow, act and drive exactly like him.  When we passed our final driving test, we were then free to drive on our own.  We are free to drive however we like and wherever we like, but are we really free?   

No, we continue to ghost the instructor, mimicking and mirroring what he taught us, driving in step with him, as if he were still there.  We know that with freedom comes responsibility, with freedom there are boundaries.  We know that to step out of line, to be out of step with the instructors commands and cut and paste in our own ideas would mean we lose our license or worse, we may even be killed or kill some else.    

The same scenario applies to our salvation.  We have freedom in Christ, but this freedom came at a great cost and with this freedom comes a responsibility.  On the cross Jesus said ‘it is finished’, meaning, by his blood he put an end of the law’s demand.  The law has been fulfilled in Jesus’ death, so has no jurisdiction over us…we are free, as St Paul says “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

This is the good news announcement, that Jesus has set us free from any obligation to keep the law.  We trust this to be so, or by faith alone we take hold of this freedom.  The role of the church is to announce the gospel and to administer or freely give out this gift of eternal life.  Just as our freedom to drive comes with responsibility, our freedom in Christ also comes with responsibility.  The Spirit enlightens us to this responsibility through God’s word and then empowers us to live it. 

Keeping in step with the Spirit, ‘Holy Ghosting’, means we practice, train and teach ourselves in the art of ‘Holy Ghosting’, growing in the actions of the Spirit, mimicking and mirroring the Spirit as we grow in the knowledge of our freedom through word and sacrament, rather than following in the steps of sin, which will once again lead to hell. 

And to be ‘Holy Ghosting’ is to be following in the very steps and actions of the Spirit.  St Paul means for us to live in conformity, in sequence, in step with, or walking in the shoes of the Holy Spirit, as if we were one person and not two; ‘Holy Ghosting’, being in step with the Spirit, is our duty, our way of discipleship and its is our Christian discipline; a sport that requires our conscious effort, regular training and continual practice.  As ST Paul writes “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.  The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Luther comments ‘Therefore the godly should remember that for the sake of Christ they are free in their conscience before God from the curse of the Law, from sin, and from death, but that according to the body they are bound; here each must serve the other through love, in accordance with this commandment of Paul.  Therefore let everyone strive to do this duty in his calling and to help his neighbour in whatever way he can.  This is what Paul requires of us with the words “through love be servants of one another,” which do not permit the saints to run free according the flesh but subject them to an obligation.’

With Christian freedom comes ‘Holy Ghosting’, the art and sport of being in step with the Spirit; walking in the shoes of the Spirit.  Let’s enjoy our freedom from the law and be excited about the challenge and the privilege of training ourselves in Holy Ghosting.  What other sport can we participate in where the benefit s are given to the observer rather than the competitor!  After all, isn’t that what Christ did for us.

Looking next door.

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Luke 8:26-39

Looking next door

(Using a pair of binoculars, open the church door or window ajar and peer through:  Say things like “wonder what they are doing ‘over there”; look at that…o dear…no hope…just despicable and so on.  Even get some members to come and take a look.)

We just love to look across the street and watch what other, less desirable people, are up to.  We all have ‘someone’ across the street, who doesn’t quite fit in, who is a little different to us; to comment on and develop wonderful theories about.  We surmise why they might do the things they do.  Why they act in such peculiar ways, and we invest many hours trying to develop stories about them, to justify and excuse our spying on them through binoculars or the venetian blinds.

The street, the bitumen road or the dirt track that runs between us and them, acts as a barrier, a safety zone to separate us from actually meeting.  Experience tells us, the street may as well be as wide as the sea, because there would be no way we would dare cross, to actually meet with this person; we’ve convinced ourselves that they’re a lost cause; who’d want to get caught up in their problems…after all, it was their bad choices and their silly behaviours that have brought their troubles.

Barriers separating us from others come in many forms; they don’t have to be physical.  We can have psychological barriers, race barriers, and ethical barriers, religious and denominational barriers.  All of which create misunderstanding, fear and suspicion and we use these fears to widen and strengthen our barriers, convincing ourselves that there is little we can do to help these people.  Barriers can even be our excuses, enabling us to have some safe ground between them and us; Its too hard, I’ve tried once before, their no hoper’s; their someone else’s problem, some other churches problem.  Sometimes the barriers we put up are so big we are convinced that God could not even cross.  Binoculars that give us opportune to stand at a distance, are much safer and less challenging for our faith, than trusting that God can and does cross our barriers and use us to bring people into his kingdom.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus did not let any physical, social or religious barrier stop him from bringing the good news of the kingdom of God to people separated by barriers.  Jesus was known as a rebel, who had no regard for barriers.  He allowed sinful women to pour oil over his feet and kiss them.  He ate with sinners and tax collectors.  He spoke against the important religious leaders, he healed and ate on the Sabbath, a holy day, and he loved his enemies and touched dead bodies, bringing them to life; all barriers that should never be crossed.

Yet he deliberately and continually crossed these barriers, not to cause offence, but to show and tell how God’s salvation plan is for everyone, as Isaiah foretold “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.”

Luke records how Jesus crossed one such barrier, the Sea of Galilee, the great expanse of water that separated the Jews from the gentiles.  The lake formed a natural barrier that provided safe ground between the Jewish cities of Galilee and the Greek cities of the Decapolis.  For the Jews it was religiously forbidden to enter that land.  The people there were believed to be dysfunctional anti-religious and not part of God’s plan of salvation.  The lake provided a safe no go zone, an ideal excuse to not visit such a place, or to have any contact with such people.

After all, what did they have in common?  The Greeks had their own gods and their moral and religious traditions were full of evil, completely opposite to what they believed.  Perhaps that’s why Luke in the Greek emphasises that Jesus sailed down to the country ‘opposite’ Galilee?

When Jesus arrived, there, on the other side of the barrier, opposite the religious city of Jerusalem, Jesus, ‘the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’, met the very man opposite to him.  He was full of evil, as Luke writes ‘Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.’  This great evil however, was no barrier, no safe zone, or excuse for Jesus to hide behind.

Unlike the many religious, who used the lake as a barrier to protect themselves from having to help, Jesus was no onlooker; he crossed the lake to confront evil face to face.  The demons knew their time had come and screamed “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!

The demons knew that their evil was no barrier for God, and that Jesus came to destroy their reign, and begged for mercy.  Commanded by Jesus, the demons entered into some pigs, and were destroyed by the very barrier that had once protected them.  The water drowned and put an end to the power of evil, bringing freedom and a new life to the man whom everyone thought could not be controlled or helped; who was kept at a safe distance.  Jesus crossed the barrier of water and used the water to bring the good news of the kingdom to those living opposite lives to God.

Jesus crossed the waters of the heavens, which were once the barrier, separating all of us from God.  He crossed the expanse of the universe to enter our world; a world opposite to heaven, full of sin and evil, and he came to us, as he did to the demon possessed man, to bring us the good news of the kingdom of God.  He crossed every human, physical and spiritual barrier, to redeem us from the power of sin, death and the devil, as the words of the song, ‘Lord I life your name on high’ list: ‘You came from heaven to earth- to show us the way,- from the earth to the cross- my dept to pay;- from the cross to the grave- from the grave- to the sky.’

And now the very waters of the sky, that separated us from God, are now used to bring us to him.  In baptism, Jesus uses water and the power of his word, just as he did to the demons in the pigs, to destroy the evil that ruled in our life.  He drowned our old sinful person and gave us what was his…the opposite to what we were.  He gave us his righteousness, his holiness and his status as children of God, while on the cross he took upon himself, our sin, our evil and all our barriers that separated us from the love of God.

St Paul, in Ephesians 2 reminds us of this pure grace and gift of new life saying ‘remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace… and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations…He came and preached peace to you who were far away…’  

And Luther, in his Small Catechism explains what this means practically for us, now that we are made new and are disciples and followers of Jesus: ‘All this he has done that I may be his own, live under him in His kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness just as He is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally.’   We now live lives that are the opposite of the world around us and opposite to our sinful human desires.  We have the Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to live holy lives, worthy of the gospel.  Yet we dare not use our God given innocence and blessedness as a barrier to separate us from those opposite us; we dare not use our gift as an excuse or a safety zone, separating us from the community around us; excusing us from crossing barriers to reach those without God and without hope.

Jesus sends us, as he did the once demon possessed man, to ‘tell others how much God has done for us’.  Yet be comforted and assured that it is not by our power or words that we go.  It is by Jesus authority we go.  And it is by the power of the gospel that we speak and it is the foolishness of the cross that we proclaim.  Be assured, that when you put down your binoculars, and cross the barriers that once separated ‘us’ from ‘them’, Jesus’ promise is for you “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Amen

From sin to Grace

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

2 Samuel 12 From sin to Grace

I have a balloon here. I just love balloons; they remind me of parties, of celebrations and of good times. I have been told not to touch this balloon as it is to be used for a special birthday, for someone special, but I love balloons. It’s here just asking to be blown up! Surely I should be able to blow it up. I enjoy balloons more than the person this is meant for anyway. No one will know or care if I were to bend the rules and blow it up for the birthday party. (start blowing it up, then as it gets bigger, walk among the people continuing to blow it up. The people will cringe and worry that it will burst. Finally, pop the balloon). Ask what they felt as I walked among them blowing up the balloon? Was it ‘my private fun, or did my actions have an affect upon them?

What I just did demonstrated the infancy, progression and final result of sin; it also demonstrated that there is no such thing as a private sin! The balloon represented the progression of David’s sin, from lust, to adultery with Bethsheba, to finally murder. Originally, this was a private affair, a secret and mutually consenting sexual fling, totally natural, rationally explainable; an act satisfying the needs of two lonely people; gratifying their felt need, harming no one.

David’s natural desire for a woman and Bethsheba’s willingness, bought out perhaps by desperate loneliness, excused, in their mind, God’s command to not do such a thing. Their felt needs became the catalyst to reinterpret the 6th commandment, ‘not to commit adultery’, in a way that excluded them.

As we witnessed with the balloon, which got bigger and bigger, affecting everyone, and then finally bursting, David’s sinful affair got bigger and bigger, until finally affecting a whole community. Bethsheba became pregnant, and David, wanting to ‘look good’ before God and others, tried to hide the affair by having her husband ‘accidently’ killed in battle. David’s affair had an effect the whole community.

Like an expanding balloon, the adulterous affair expanded its reach. First the commanders of Israel’s army were affected by being forced to put Uriah in the front line of the army. Secondly, Uriah was killed. Thirdly, Israel’s army were put in danger because their best fighting man was lost. The widening affects continued, with family and friends left to mourn Uriah’s death.

Sin, our re-orientating of God’s word to suit our felt needs, does not remain stagnate. Like ripples radiating out from a stone dropped into a pond, wave after wave of ramifications swamp innocent people, destroying lives, families, relationship and even churches, long after the act done; long after all appears to be normal. We all have something that tickles our fancy, floats our boat, and attracts our attention.

Something we know in our heart is wrong, know from the Ten Commandments is wrong, yet because it feels right, because it fits comfortably with our wishes, suits our inner hopes and desires, we use them as a catalyst and excuse to re-interpret God’s commands against such things, in a way that suits our needs.

We are not just talking about the so called ‘big sins’, like adulatory, or murder, and let’s face it, you and I know that we are not likely to go and suddenly kill someone. However, the same destructive forces that ripple through whole communities and separate us from God, when there is a murder or adultery, are at play even in our smallest desires. Envy, jealousy and lust, or bitterness and anger, are only inner feelings, but we use them as a catalyst to re-interpret God’s word to suit our needs and then act on them, destroying our relationship with God and others around us; just as Adam and Eve did, believing that “Surely God did not say?”

We excuse ourselves of sin by saying “If God created our feelings and they form our natural behaviour, then we must be the ultimate guide to what is right and wrong.” Sadly, even our smallest feelings and desires are tainted with sin and do not give a true indication of God’s will for us. Acting on feelings and desires contrary to what we read and know of God’s will, is sin, and as with David, sin has an ever increasing affect on our relationship with God and with others.

The rippling affects on the community continue because behind our re-interpretation of God’s law stands an angry God, who condemns sin and commands that his law, which protects relationships, be kept, and who clearly warns ‘for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.’ David experienced firsthand the result of an angry God, as Nathan announces “You are the man!… the son born to you will die.” God, in righteous anger, put a stop to the ripples of sin by calling David and Bethsheba to account; he popped their balloon! The word of God pricked David’s conscience, deflating his ego by pointing out that his feelings and felt needs are not the measure for interpreting God’s word, or the guide to building good relationships. It was his sinful nature that had led him astray, and what he had done had broken the relationship between him and God.

The Lord did not bring an end to David’s sin out of spite or revenge, but revealed his sin in order to restore David back into a proper relationship with him and the Israelite community through the cleansing of repentance and forgiveness. When his sin was publically found out, announced through the prophet Nathan, David soon realized that first of all his sin offended God and had broken his relationship with him; David confesses “I have sinned against the LORD.” Only once this vertical relationship was restored, between David and God, could the horizontal relationships between David and the community begin to be restored. Only through the vertical and horizontal plains of the ‘cross’ can true healing begin.

He also calls us also to account, not out of malice or nastiness, but as a servant king, offering to firstly restore the vertical relationship between him and us, then to rebuild the horizontal relationships with each other; cleanse our lives through Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. It is only through the way of the ‘cross’ that true relationships are forged. God first pops our balloon, sometimes by allowing our actions to become public, so that we can acknowledge that God is king and that our feelings are not. Only then, like with David, can confess that Jesus is Lord and saviour who washes us clean, and only then, by the grace given to us, can we do the same, restoring the horizontal relationships through confessing our sin and mutual forgiveness. God, the servant king begins with us through the cross, washing us clean, as Isaiah foretold ‘by his wounds we are healed’. Then he calls us to do the same ‘washing’ with each other.

Jesus demonstrated the washing and restoration he gives and calls for, achieved by him through the cross, when he washed the disciple’s feet. There, he humbled himself, as he would soon do on the cross, and washed the dirty feet of the disciples; people who had no idea they needed washing. They were embarrassed to have their ‘dirtiness’ revealed to all, and they were ashamed that Jesus, their master, needed to wash them. Some even protested saying “you shall never wash my feet.”

Determined to clean; determined to demonstrate how his blood, soon to be poured out on the cross, will wash us of sin, determined bring restoration on the vertical plain, Jesus said “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Only once the vertical relationship between us and God is restored through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, can we have a true heart to confess our sins, and bring restoration to the community; it is only through the relationship restoring cross do the ripples of sin change into ripples of love, joy, peace and forgiveness.

The relief and comfort that comes thorough Jesus’ washing is expressed by David in Psalm 32 “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long…Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The same relief is expressed to Jesus by the sinful woman when she poured out her appreciation for the grace she received with tears and expensive oil. Jesus washed her clean, saying ‘your sins are forgiven’, their relationship was restored; she then began to ‘love much’. Restoration of relationships begins at the cross of Christ, from there, with ever increasing ripples of grace, we too love much. Amen

Jesus raises a widow’s son.

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Luke 7:11-17 Jesus raises a widow’s son from death

Wouldn’t it be good if we could have a second chance at life?  If we could just have another go, how we would do things differently!  What would you do, or what would you change, or who would you be if you could have a second chance in life?  (question) Would it mean that you would be a different person than you are today? Would it mean that you would have done things differently or not have done them at all?  While we are mostly happy with our lives, there are the times which we wish never happened, and we want to have a second chance at life, or at least turn back time so things would be different. 

Cher if you are old enough to remember, had a famous song called ‘If I could turn back time’.  And not too embarrassed to admit it, you might remember the lyric’s going like this, and no, I’m not going to sing. ‘If I could turn back time
If I could find a way I’d take back those words that hurt you and you’d stay

Then she goes on to sing…
I didn’t really mean to hurt you I didn’t wanna see you go I know I made you cry, but

If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that hurt you…
If I could turn back time

This song really reflex’s all the instances in our lives in which we messed up, in which, if we had a second chance, we would change the things we said or done.  But what about the things that happen to us that are out of our control?  The things that can never change, no matter how many chances we have at life?

What about death?  Either our death or the death of loved ones?  Dying is something no one can avoid.  And when we hear of tragic deaths, we are saddened and even angry.  A ship carrying relief supplies and medical equipment is raided by army commandos; there is death and injury.   

The two processions of people.  Both heading in different directions; one procession trying to get into Gaza, the other trying to keep them out.  Both on a journey, both however, with different intentions, and unfortunately, both collide, with catastrophic consequences.  8 people are killed and we pray to God that he would bring his comfort to those in mourning.  Yes, our hearts go out to them. 

And sure, if both sides could turn back time, if we all had a second chance, perhaps something could have been done, but ultimately though, there is one thing that we can never change; dying.  Whether of old age or suddenly in an act of aggression, the wages of sin is death, and there is nothing we can do about it.

Jesus, in today’s gospel, is in a procession.  A group of people on a journey with Jesus, and they also have a destination, a little town called Nain; a little more than a day’s walking journey apart. You see, Jesus had just the other day, in Capernaum, healed a centurion’s son; a great miracle of life.  And now he, his disciples, and a huge crowd who witnessed the healing, were journeying in a joyful procession to another town; the town of Nain which means ‘a pleasant place’.

However, Nain is not the pleasant place its name suggests!  No, definitely not.  There is another procession of people in progress.  A group of people on a journey to the grave yard.  And this procession of people, are deeply grieved.  They are face to face with the reality of death.  They are carrying the dead body of a boy, the only son of a widowed mother.  And I suspect no one would be grieving more than his mother.  Not only has she lost her only son, but also her status and well being in the community.  A widow in Jesus time had no way of supporting herself.  The death of her son was the end for her as well.

Yes, this was a sad procession of people with one goal; to reach the grave yard.  So here we have it, Jesus procession going into Nain, and the widow’s procession going out of Nain.  Two processions of people, both heading in different directions, both having different destinations….Both collide at the gate of Nain.  One group of people going out to bury the dead, the other group going in to celebrate a life.  Life and death collide at the gate of Nain. 

However, unlike the collision between the activists and the commandos, which ended up in death and suffering.  The collision between Jesus, the resurrection and life, and death, the wages of sin – the death of a young man, has completely the opposite result.

Jesus, seeing the distraught widowed mother, feeling the anguish of her heart, had compassion on her, and the two processions stop in their tracks.  They stop while Jesus goes; goes and reaches out to the woman and reaches out to the dead son in compassion.  Jesus knows he has the power over death and he just can’t stand by and allow death to have its way; not yet. 

The compassion Jesus has, according to the Greek, is a deep out pouring of emotion; a spilling out of his insides.  The sort of compassion a Father has when he sees his prodigal son return and he runs out to greet him; the sort of compassion which urges Jesus to feed 5000.  Yes, this is exactly the compassion of God our Father, the pouring out of his heart which caused him to send his Son Jesus into the world to rescue the world; rescue you and I, from the power of death, as Jesus said ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’

Yes, the compassion of Jesus collided with death that day and it resulted in new life; a second chance, both for the mother and the son.  Jesus reaches out, touches the coffin, reaches out touches the heart of the grieving mother, and says ‘do not cry mum’, son, I say to you get up’.  In an instant, with a mighty Spirit filled word, Jesus turns back time, he gives a second chance to those who are without hope.  The young man is raised from the dead.  And what is most touching is Jesus next action ‘he brought the young man back to the mother’.

Today, it seems as if we are two processions, both going in different directions.  One procession, Lutheran have had to make the break from regular worship here in Nyngan, the other procession, Uniting, remain and have had to accept this sad reality.  Two groups of people, both with different intentions, both going in different directions, meet together today in God’s house.  We too meet at a gate.  Not the gate of Nain, but with Jesus who said ‘I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

We meet today in the presence of Jesus, just as the widow did, and we come as one procession mourning the loss, or ‘death’ if you want to call it, of our joint Uniting/Lutheran services and fellowship.  It is not ‘accident’ that we meet today, we come deliberately to The gate, for through Jesus we are all saved and given a second chance.  Yes, today is our opportunity to give thanks to God for the past 30 years of Lutherans worshipping here, and we meet to praise God for the past 10 years of joint worship together and for the blessings this has brought.

Most importantly we come today as one procession, gathered by Jesus to meet him.  For we know and believe Jesus is ‘the resurrection and the life’ and he is present to give us a second chance.  His word and sacraments give us new life in him, resurrecting us from sin and death and bringing us to eternal life.  This is our common faith and what unites us.  Even though we are going in different directions, our second chance at life in Christ is what still unites us as one.

So, how might people who have a second chance at life, have a new life in Christ, live?  How might you here in Nyngan, who now have your own minister to serve you and bring God’s grace, see this as a second chance in ministry?  Perhaps, this second chance may mean you can be as Christ to one another and like him have compassion for those in need around us.  While other stop, caught in mourning and death, we go, go like Jesus and reach out and touch other people’s lives. 

Let our new life collide with others so that they to may experience the goodness and compassion of God, rather that the cold hand of injustice and rejection.  We may not change the world, but we may, by the power of God, change a life.

And in doing this, in bringing others to Christ for healing and new life, those who have been touched and those who have witnessed the new life will praise God and say ‘God has come to help his people’.  Amen