Archive for July, 2010

The fullness of Christ

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Col 2_6-15  The fullness of Christ

Dubbo (Gilgandra) really is quite a nice place to live.  Why do you live here? (some examples).  Yes, its special to belong in a place that is safe from war, has good services, and where we actually want to live.  However, to live here comes at a cost!  Did you receive your rates bill from the council this week?  (show my bill) Yes, to be part of our community; a place were we want to be, actually costs us and demands payment from us.  We all have a letter telling us to pay up or we will lose our right to be citizens of this town; pay our dept or be forced to leave.  This seems totally unfair and expensive.  Would it help to complain?  Would it help if we just ignore the charges against us by throwing the bill into the bin?  Would it suffice if we just try our best and pay half or perhaps 2/3rds of the bill we owe?

No!  The charge to us remains standing.  If we want to remain citizens of Dubbo (Gilgandra) we must pay our dept in full!

There is also another city we a citizens of, the heavenly city of Jerusalem.  When we were baptised, by the power of God’s word and promise to us, we became members of God’s family who also live in heaven, as St Paul declares in Philippians 3 “our citizenship is in heaven.” St John also describes our heavenly citizenship in his vision recorded in Revelation  “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.”  Do you want to be a citizen of heaven?  Why? Yes, St John describes heaven in this way “God himself will be [our] God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Who wouldn’t want to be living in heaven, as the Psalmist declares in Psalm 84 “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD.”  Well I have something for you.  (hand out envelopes with windows and get people to open them and read the bill.  On the account is the list of the Ten Commandments).  For us to be a citizen of heaven it costs.  Here is an account from God, straight from his word.  A list of his demands, the dept we own him to live and be citizens of heaven.  And worse, I am going to stamp the bill (an overdue stamp).

It doesn’t seem fair that God would demand a dept from us, especially since we want to live in a place with him; that he would command we be perfect when there is no possibility of us paying this sort of bill!  And worse, we must pay for it before we die!  What if I were to die in the next hour?  How would all this account be paid for?  Would it help to complain?  Would it help if we just ignore the charges against us by throwing the bill into the bin?  Would it be suffice if we were to simply try our best and keep half or perhaps 2/3rds of God’s commandments? 

No, just as we need to pay in full our dept to the Dubbo City Council, (Gil shire) we certainly also need to pay in full our dept to God for our failure to keep even one of the commandments.  St Paul tells us in Romans ‘There is no one righteous, not even one…Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

 We own God a dept to live in heaven, that’s the bottom line.  And if we don’t pay we are excluded from citizenship, no matter how good we may feel or act, or how unfair we may think it is.

How thrilled you would be, and how grateful would you be, if some stranger paid your council rates for the rest of your life!  How exciting would it be, if you opened the windowed envelope every year, and instead of reading what we owe, we read ‘DEPT CANCELLED PAID IN FULL.  Well this undeserved payment of our debts has happened.  Not for our citizenship in Dubbo (Gilgandra), but Jesus has paid the dept we owe to live in heaven, and he paid it in full.  Not with silver or gold, but with his Holy and precious blood. 

St Paul declares this very good news, the gospel, that Jesus gave his life for us to be citizens in heaven with him, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” 

Hold out the dept written on the paper before you.  Every command has been fulfilled by Jesus, every transgression against the commandments of God have been paid in full by Jesus’ atoning death on the cross.  They no longer have power over us or demand anything from us, they are finished.  The message of Jesus is an announcement of good news, a stamping of ‘PAID’ on our dept and a declaration that we are citizens in heaven free of charge because of what Christ has done for us.  Here is a stamp that says ‘paid’, (go around to each account and stamp ‘paid and also stamp with an impression of the cross). 

Luther teaches us to understand what this means for us, writing in his commentary on John’s gospel ‘It is extremely important that we know where our sins have been disposed of.  The Law deposits them on our conscience and shoves them into our bosom.  But God takes them from us and places them on the shoulders of the Lamb of God…there are two abodes for sin: it either resides with you, weighing you down; or it lies on Christ, the Lamb of God.  If it is loaded on your back, you are lost; but if it rests on Christ, you are free and saved.’ (pg 170 vol 22)

In baptism Jesus stamped our bill with ‘paid in full.’  The guilt of sin no longer rests on us, we are free to live in heaven.  Faith takes hold of this, trusting in God’s true word, so that we are citizens of heaven, as Paul writes “in him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”  The circumcision done by Christ is the cutting off of our debt, the paying in full. 

Jesus death on the cross crushed the serpents head, as promised in Genesis 3:15.  The devil can no longer exclude us from heaven, he has no power, his head is crushed.  However his body remains and it is thrashing and raging against our new spirit as it dies.  While still citizens here in Dubbo (Gilgandra), we still sin and so we must make use of our baptism.  It remains necessary, because of sinful nature, for us to constantly repent and fight against our sinful desires.  It remains important that we constantly remember the commands of Gos so that we can confess our sins against it to God and each other and receive the forgiveness Jesus so freely gives. 

You are a baptised child of God, a citizen of heaven, having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, you are now empowered to live under the forgiveness of sins and strive for the holy life that St Paul calls for. Therefore, a citizen of Dubbo (gilgandra), who also lives freely in heaven because of Christ, acts differently than someone who is only a citizen of this world, still under the dept for sin.  We want to gladly hear this gospel message again and again, eat the heavenly meal of Holy Communion, be willing to learn and are excited to love and share the news of free citizenship with others 

Paid in Full! You couldn’t get greater news.  Let us rejoice and be glad.  For this is God’s doing, so that no one may boast except in the cross of Christ.  Amen

25 July 2010 

Citizen of the

NEW JERUSALM

HEAVEN

Dear child of God

The debt you owe

Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words:

 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; 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,

 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

 13 “You shall not murder.

 14 “You shall not commit adultery.

 15 “You shall not steal.

 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Godly Tension.

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Galatians 6_7-16 Godly tension

I have a rubber band here.  They are purpose made.  When not stretched, they are of little value, in fact of no use at all.  But when stretched, they become useful.  The tension of the rubber is used to hold things together.  The rubber stretches and flexes around any shape to hold and bundle things together.  The rubber band’s tension allows it to become the shape of a square when stretched around a box, rectangular when stretched over envelopes, or round when slipped over a roll of papers.  The rubber band, in and of itself is useless, but when stretched, the tension it develops has 1,000’s of good uses. 

(stretching out the rubber band).  However, we can also use the rubber band’s tension for bad.  We can stretch it beyond its capabilities and what?  Yes!  It snaps.  We can also use the rubber band to inflict pain and injury, when we stretch it on our finger and flick it:  who hasn’t done that!  Worse, we can make a sling shot and really cause damage.  Tension is good, but when we use it in the wrong way, or stretch it too far, we turn good into bad.

Our lives are very similar to the rubber band.  God created us with tension; to be useful; to be good and do good things toward others.  To be of service to God through serving each other, to love and cherish each other and to nurture and care for creation, as written in Genesis ‘God blessed Adam and Eve and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’  We live with this good tension every day, and we even express how our day is going in terms of tension: ‘I’m a bit stretched at the moment, I feel tense, I’ll spring back!’ 

Depending on what is happening to us, what decisions we’ve made, who we are around and what we are currently doing, our tension changes.  Like the rubber band that changes shape and intensity of tension, depending on what it’s stretched around, our tension changes depending on our situation, our thoughts and our actions, this is good godly tension. 

(DEMONSTRATE) Like I said earlier, we were created to do good works, as St Paul emphasizes, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, (that is, let’s not lose our tension) for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people.’  Doing good for others, living the command ‘Love God first, love your neighbour as yourself,’ or living by the Spirit, keeps you at the right healthy tension and within your created stretch.  The encouragement and promise is there “the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Sin, however, is to use our tension, our lives, for bad, like when we overstretch or fling a rubber band; to either over stretch ourselves or use our tension to inflict suffering upon another person.  We overstretch ourselves when we over step the mark, go beyond God’s commands; when we transgress our conscience, or go against what the Holy Spirit prompts us to do or, as the scriptures say ‘smother the spirit.’  We become over stretched slowly over time.  It is not an instant thing.  The thoughts and desires of our sinful nature lead us to words, which lead us to deed, the snapping point, where there is no turning back; once we have put our sinful thoughts into action, we have gone beyond our created tension, thus causing a breakage, where there is no tension to recoil us back to the way we were before.  Sin breaks our relationship with God and with others.

We can also use our over tension to inflict pain upon others.  Rather than snapping, we stretch ourselves to the point where we ‘go off’, fly off the handle, hitting out at someone, especially someone close to us; we become a slingshot.  Built up bitterness, rage and frustration stretch and stretch our lives, until finally we load our tension with a plan to withhold our love or even fire words and actions of hate.  The impact of such a quick release of our tension is just as devastating for our relationship with God and others, as overstretching ourselves until we snap.  St Paul warns “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.”

So, if I were to stretch this rubber band, at what point would you say the tension is at in your life: (STRETCHING RUBBER BAND) here, here, here?  (RELEASE) Are you the one, as St Paul says “ who sows to please the Spirit, reaping eternal life?” living within a good tension, or are you overstretched…are you about to snap…or go off, “reaping destruction?”  For most of us, our life will constantly cycle of good and bad tension; from tense to intense to snapping, only to start again over and over.

It doesn’t matter where on this scale you may currently find yourself; It doesn’t matter that you may be about to snap or you are over stretched, how long you have been cycling between good and bad, there is a pressure release for you.  There is one man, one redeemer, one name above all names, who has already deliberately and permanently took upon himself our over stretched lives; our sinful nature, our judgment and death and conquered it, putting an end to our destruction .  Jesus, on the cross, with each nail and blow, each wound and thorn, defused the power of sin over our lives.  There on the cross, the full power of evil tension was unleashed upon Jesus in our place. 

(DEMONSTRATE) Slowly, over the six hours Jesus endured the agony of the cross, the power of sin, that over stretched our lives, was released; the tension went into Jesus body, and there it remained until his death and there it was buried with him forever.  Then Jesus was raised by the Father to give us new life, without controlling evil.

Jesus’ death brings us back into a normal, God purposed life.  A life that is no longer over stretched, but now has flexibility, elasticity and able to recoil God’s love for us into serving and loving our neighbour. We are able to be flexed and stretched in godly ways by the Spirit, given to us in our baptism, to serve and mission to those around us, as St Paul encourages us to do ‘the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’  The cross Jesus endured, and the victory he won over sin and death, and the ongoing power of the Spirit, gives us a new way of seeing and experiencing our life.  The cycle of overstretching and snapping is replaced with a cycle of confession and forgiveness, love and service.  That is why Paul rejoices saying “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Today, we rejoice as seven girls, Rahel, Rachael, Anna, Georgina, Ellie, Miriam, and Tabitha, will publically boast in the cross of their Lord Jesus Christ.  Today girls, you are confessing that Jesus is the only name through whom you find release and freedom from the destruction that comes through sin.  We want to join with you in sharing in Christ’s victory over sin, by hearing your confession of your faith in the Triune God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.  We want to encourage you to continually trust in the cross of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, to release you when you are hit by the inevitable stretching times in your life.  We pray that, having faith, your life can and does have purpose and meaning, because of what Jesus has done for you; That you continue to be flexed and stretched by the Spirit in a godly way, through the word and sacraments, so that you boast only in the cross of Christ and recoil his love for you, by loving your neighbour.

Amen