Archive for August, 2010

Learn from the master

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Hebrews 13:1-8_15-16 Learn from the master

Get the congregation to make a paper origami pencil.  Get the people to follow each step and fold as you do it, but don’t tell them what they are making.  Emphasis how they need to follow each step.

When we first attempt something new, and perhaps this was the first time you have made an origami pencil, what was one of the key things you needed to do?  Yes, you need to follow exactly each step the teacher is doing; you need to listen to the instructions, step by step, and then attempt to implement the steps, so that you will finish up with the same results as the teacher.  It doesn’t matter what we are doing for the first time, we can only learn by observing, copying and doing what we are taught and shown.  Children are great at learning this way. 

When we first start, consciously following the steps precisely in order, it takes all our effort and is the main aim of our learning.  Even when we work together in a group, we observe other people following the steps, and even correct each other, if the steps have not been followed exactly how the teacher taught.  When we become proficient however, at say origami, the steps and following them to the exact word and crease, are no longer our sole focus; the final goal, the end result, is what we now aspire to; the steps to get there are just that…steps.  We know the folds, we know what to expect and can even vary the steps as we find new and innovative ways of making new designs.  All this is achieved because the end result is our focus and not following the steps.

Hebrews 13, were the writer gives us instructions for Christian living, is exactly like me giving you instructions on making an origami pencil.  It is intended to give Christians a step by step instruction for living a life of discipleship in Jesus.  The exhortations at the beginning of chapter 13 are a step by step instructions for all Christians to follow, but they are set out plainly and simply so that even the beginner can follow and learn each fold from the teacher.  There are five folds to be made; five Christian virtues that are listed: brotherly love, hospitality, compassion, chastity, and contentment.  Set out plainly, with each fold making up the final Christian life.

Fold one: Keep on loving each other as brothers.

Fold two: Do not forget to entertain strangers,

Fold three: Remember those in prison and those who are mistreated.

Fold four: Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.

Fold five: Keep your lives free from the love of money

Each five folds of Christian virtue are of course modeled after Jesus’ life and are summed up in Jesus’ command in John 13: 34 ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  Jesus, being the true man, tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin’ being God in the flesh, was not only our saviour, but also our perfect teacher.  Jesus’ simple expression ‘love one another’, is expanded in Hebrews 13, simply to give us the detailed pattern, the steps we follow, as beginners in the new life of faith, to achieve the life of Christian love Jesus commanded. 

As with all people who begin learning a new skill or job, and as you experienced with the origami, we as Christians have a new beginning and so need to deliberately and consciously follow every step, and also help and show each other how to make the folds, the decisions, and the actions that lead to a godly life, as set out here in Hebrews 13.  Be warned however, the fivefold steps of virtue, and other exhortations found throughout scripture, are simply steps that reflect the teachings and life of our true teacher Jesus. 

Be warned, the steps and folds required of a believer, like those found in St Paul’s great list in Romans 12, where he begins ‘I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God,” are not what make us Christians; are not the focus or the purpose of Christianity; they are the virtues of a Christian; the things we do ‘as Christians’ that bring about a final goal of loving one another.  Like with origami, the folds we do, we do because we are origamists and the folds bring about a final result.

We are not Christians because we do the virtues, we are Christians because of Christ.  If, you and I remain focused on the steps, and think that this is what Christianity is all about, we will never reach the purpose and goal Jesus set out for us; we will never actually ‘love one another as he first loved us.’  If we just passionately concern ourselves with the fivefold virtues, we will destroy one another by constantly looking at each other’s life folds, spying on who is or who isn’t folding correctly; challenging each other to aspire to greater and more folds.  Even boasting we have reached the final outcome, listing off all five virtues.  

It is not to be like that.  To focus on the folds of our work and not on Christ, is a confusion of law and gospel; it makes the law more important than the gospel; it destroys rather than builds up.  St Paul, in Galatians 5:15, warns not to make this mistake saying ‘If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.’ Lutheran theologian, Scaer said ‘‘It is … the proper distinction between Law and Gospel that the gospel be recognised as the ‘higher Word’, which is to be God’s final Word for the terrified sinner.’ (David P. Scaer; 21)

Christianity is not about moral improvement or even achieving an honourable life.  Jesus never called for a new moral religion.  He called for repentance and faith in him.  He calls us to repent and to let go of our personal attempts at using passages like Hebrews 13 to fold and mould ourselves into better people. Instead, he announces that it is by faith in him alone; in his life, his death and his resurrection, as the only way, truth and life that will make us godly people pleasing to him. 

First and primarily, Christianity is about the Triune God.  It is not a religion of methods, of steps or of virtues.  It is a proclamation, an announcement that Jesus died in our place; that he rose again, that he ascended to the Father, that he now intercedes and lives for us, so that we can enter heaven together with him. Faith takes hold of and tells us that God, through our baptism is the one who folds us, moulds us and creates us into ‘Christ like’ people.  As St Paul says “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.”  The good news is that God does not seek out people that are pleasing and lovable to him, but that he makes us, who are unlovable, into people who are loved by him and pleasing to him. 

The fivefold Christian virtues are not rules simply to be observed, thus becoming the catalyst to destroying one another.  They teach us, as beginners, how we can fold our lives in ways that appropriately respond to our saviour and teacher Jesus, as St John writes “We love because he first loved us.”   As we grow in this, the folds we make, over and over again, become less and less significant; the five virtues in Hebrews 13 just become who we are.  Our focus changes from us to others; from our efforts to the results, from me and what I am doing, to you and how you are benefiting, thus fulfilling Jesus command “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Use it or lose it

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Luke 13_10-17 Use it or they lose it.

I have a certificate here which certifies that I am a qualified motor mechanic; its my ‘ticket’.  How did I come to be qualified?  I didn’t get this certificate out of a Wheat-Bix box.  My boss chose to spend his own money, his own time and effort training me.  He risked his reputation and quality of service by allowing me to learn my trade on his customer’s vehicles.  Of cause it wasn’t all worry and fear, he’d also have some fun at my expense; sending me to  other work shops to ask for a ‘long weight’, or a left handed screwdriver, or a box spare volts of the battery charger!  And even then, it was his way of teaching me and growing me into a professional motor vehicle technician.

How would he have felt, having signed my certificate, if I were to then display the certificate on the wall, but refuse to work on cars.  How would he feel if I only used my ‘qualifications’ to boast about how much I know about fixing cars, but never fixed any!  Say I saw people with cars that have broken down engines, flat tyres, headlights not working, brakes that fail, and say ‘you shouldn’t drive or own a car in that condition, its dangerous, you’ll kill yourself or someone else, you must fix it, I’ll tell you how.’  What point was it, my boss would think, in investing so much time and money, if I only use the training to gain advantage for myself and not for others?

In a very similar way, the Pharisees were as well trained and certified in the scriptures, as I was in motor cars.  God had entrusted his word to them, he taught them and inspired them to grow in knowledge and righteousness; to be servants of his grace, giving out justice to the poor, healing the spiritually blind and bringing hope to the captives of sin.  They knew every dot and iota of the Law.  They were passionate about keeping every religious command and were even more passionate about teaching others about God, the scriptures, and in particular the holiness laws.  St Paul, who was once a Pharisee, testifies to his qualifications that he once held in high regard ‘I was circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.’

Yet how do you think God felt when the Pharisees chose to simply use their qualifications to boast of their achievements.  Instead of using their religious training to help others, they hindered them?  How do you think God reacted when they stood in the market places, telling others how they should be living; commanding they keep the law, abstain from certain food, stop living this way or that, yet never comforted or helped , never used their qualifications to inspire people to achieve what they demanded?  Did he think it was a waste of time when he heard the Pharisee’s prayer ‘‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men– robbers, evildoers, adulterers– or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.

Yes he did. Did he get angry, yes!  Was he frustrated, yes!  Did God grieve that his grace and justice was bound up in human pride and tradition, yes!  The Prophet Ezekiel foretold ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?… You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally…’Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:… I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.

Like a Master Technician taking on the work of his employees, God’s love for us was so great, and his compassion to save all people so unrelenting, that he sent his own Son to demonstrate and directly give his grace and mercy.  Jesus’ read out in the synagogue, his mission and mercy statement from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

Then, after being rejected by those he taught, Jesus lived and acted outside the official religious traditions, outside the human traditions; where other religious people feared to tread.  Luke records one special event: “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”

The essence of God’s love is expressed in finding the sick, the lost, and the sinners, calling them to him and healing them.  The physical healing Jesus performed, even on the Sabbath, when religious tradition forbid any work, demonstrated that God’s mercy transcends every religious institution, law and expectation.  It is the people God wants to reach, not religious perfection, as Jesus said “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”   

The gate keepers of the human institutional religion complained “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”  But “the regular folks were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.”  Jesus’ ministry of mercy to the broken and regular folks is the very expression of God’s love incarnate; love which has no bounds; the same mercy we call on in worship when we say “Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.”   

Jesus came to get his hands dirty for us.  No he didn’t, he came to get his hands bloody to heal us.  No he didn’t, he came to have his hands pierced by nails to redeem us.  Mission and mercy are always on God’s heart.  Luther explains in his Small Catechism ‘At great cost he has saved and redeemed me, a lost and condemned person.’

We are the benefactors of Jesus’ hands on ministry.  We are the redeemed people of God; the very people Jesus came to call, to heal from sin, death and the devil to be his very own.  In our baptism God made us his child and heirs of his kingdom.  Paul writes in Titus 3 “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” 

God has qualified us as Christians for Christ’s sake through the water’s of our baptism and he continues to come to us and heal our lives of sin and bring us his Spirit through the absolution and the sacrament of Holy Communion.  God has invested more than his time and effort to make us qualified for heaven, he invested his own son on us and for his sake we are here joining the healed woman praising God and to be delighted with all the wonderful things he has done and is doing in our lives.

It is in this delight in Christ that we have the courage and qualification to boldly live the redeemed life of mission and mercy and not hide behind our religious traditions; knowing everything but helping no one.  Christ can build a future for us as a church, as long as we hold to his word and remain delighted and joyful about what he has done for us.  We can dare to believe that God will work wonders through us, as we move outside the traditional church in mission and mercy, like the school, like the shed happens.  As with Jesus’ mission, which often took him outside of the institutional religion of his day, our mission does not have to conform to or look like church.  Mercy is not about religious perfection, it about people.

God is pleased for us to use our qualifications as his child, to help and serve others, just as a master technician is pleased when he sees his now certified mechanic using his qualifications to help others.  God is glad to reward those who have courage to try anything that may reach the lost, even if we don’t do things exactly how he would want us.  Did you know that Jesus said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  And he also said, when the disciples were afraid, ‘take courage, it is I.” Be full of courage and joy.  Today, Jesus has heard your prayer ‘Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.’   You are healed, forgiven and touched by the hands that have been pierced for your redemption; he has qualified you for heaven, go in peace and serve the Lord.

On fire for Christ

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Luke 12:49-56 On fire for Christ or…

 

Fire is fascinating.  (talk about the bonfire last night) Have you ever lost yourself as you stare into a fire; losing all sense of time and worry as you gaze into the flickering coals of a camp fire?  What makes fire fascinating for you?

For me, its the way it seems to dance about above a burning log, suspended in midair, like a kite dances when held tight by its string in the wind.  Flames whip, flicker, rise and drop, they change colours from blue through to bright white.  And what about the warmth we get from fire, nothing is better!  There is a lot about fire that attracts us; it gives us life, light, heat and energy.  But we have to treat fire with caution and respect.  We have to understand fire, know its properties, anticipate its burn rate and heat.  You see, fire is two faced; it heats, but it also burns!  It shines light, but it also blinds.  It gives life, but also takes away. We know that fire gives warmth, but we also know that if we stand too close to fire and ignore the heat for the sake of comfort, we will burn and die.

Have you heard about the ‘boiling frog’?  The boiling frog story is a widespread tale describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The boiling frog story is generally told in a symbolic context, with the upshot being that people should make themselves aware of gradual change, lest they suffer eventual undesirable consequences. (Wikipedia)

The world is on fire…don’t worry Ros, it wasn’t because of your bonfire.  Jesus’ mission to the world has kindled the earth into a great big bonfire.  John the Baptist prepared his listeners for this declaring “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come,…and will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire…he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Jesus fulfils John’s prediction saying “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” 

There is indeed fire upon the earth, but at this point in Jesus ministry, he had yet to kindle it.  There had to be an ignition point, a flint strike from which his fire would ignite.  Jesus knew exactly when, how and where he would strike the fire saying “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!”  His death on the cross was to be Jesus’ ignition point; the event in which he would set the world ablaze.  In a way, Jesus is portraying himself as the match stick that had to strike a box ,and the striking point was the cross; his death as judgment for the world’s sin, as foretold in Isaiah 53 “he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Well, I hope you and I are not frogs in boiling water and about to be boiled alive, because I can’t feel any heat…what about you?  Yet perhaps we are, and if so we had better recognize, acknowledge and respond appropriately to the fire, or as the boiling frog story tells, we will suffer undesirable consequences!   St Paul reveals to us the fire of Jesus in 1 Corinthian 1:15 ‘the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The gospel message of the cross is the fire of Jesus that now rages around us.  We can not ignore its seduction and draw; the gospel flame burns with an intensity that calls us to either life or death; to burn for Christ or burn in hell; it is foolishness to those who don’t believe, but it is the power to salvation for those who place their hope in Christ.  We are either spiritually blind, ignorant of the cross’ saving power and so, like frogs in boiling water, are doomed to death, or we respond the cross in repentance and faith and so be saved by the power of God. 

If we were to translate directly from the Greek, Jesus described his death on the cross as ‘throwing fire upon the earth’.  The message of the cross is fire, because it is two faced like fire.  It does one of two things, it warms, but it burns; it empowers, but also destroys; it brings life, but it kills.  Some will hear, confess their sins thinking; if God’s own Son had to die for my sin, there must be no other way to heaven than repent, be baptised into Jesus death and believe.  Others will reject the cross as stupidity and a remnant of our primitive society.

Jesus foretold the effect of his cross’ fire saying “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.” Has this happened to you?  In your family? Among your friends?  Have you lost the urge to speak about your faith because people reject your testimony?  Have you stopped encouraging others to come to church because nothing happened?  Perhaps you may have put the cross further down the list of priorities in life because its fire is too confronting, unreasonable, getting in the way or even powerless to help in life?

If this is you; if you are experiencing division, rejection or feeling your faith being challenge by the world, then you are experiencing the fire of the cross; its power and heat are upon you and you need to interpret it as the power of salvation; that the gospel message of the cross is burning its way through your life and you can either remain ignorant and indifferent, like the frog, boiling to death in our Western culture’s indifference to Christ, or you can interpret your division, suffering and even failures as the marks of the cross for blessing and salvation.  Jesus said, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. How is it then! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. Yet you don’t know how to interpret this present time?”

Without spiritual understanding and faith in the cross, our present time, with many rejecting the gospel, turning away from regular church attendance; where sport, sex, wealth and good times are promoted as the first priority for our lives, we would be tempted to conclude that Jesus’ fire of the cross has been extinguished.  But don’t be fooled.  These very events and signs Jesus wants us to take note of and to interpret, that the message of the cross is taking effect; to respond with repentance and faith in the message of the cross and to not give in to today’s indifference as, well ‘sign of the times.’  It is the fire of the cross causing the division, with some repenting and believing, while others are rejecting and persecuting. 

St Paul always proclaimed Christ and him crucified and nothing else.  He passionately proclaimed that the only way to salvation is through the message of the cross, announcing “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”  He chose to preach and live the cross and so spread the fire of the gospel.  However, in doing so, he had to endure the marks of the cross; suffering as Christ did, enduring the scars and pain that the fire of the message inflicts.  Instead of giving in, he interpreted his suffering as signs from God that the fire of the cross was alight and spreading.  

In 2 Corinthians 6 St Paul gives us an account of what it means to be faithful in enduring the shame and fire of the cross  for the sake of spreading the gospel “as servants of God, he writes, “we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;  in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Fire gives light, heat and life, it burns, destroys and kills, it gives and it takes away.  So it is with the message of the cross; it gives and takes away…yet blessed be the name of the Lord!  We all have scares, burns and wounds, suffered for the sake of the cross, but we all hold steady to the cross of Christ, for through it Jesus has redeemed us, let us not forget or be indifferent, but rejoice in this present time, and hold firm in faith saying together the words of the hymn O the old rugged cross by George Bennard

“O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.”

 

Ever Ready.

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Luke 12_35-40 Ever-ready

 

(let the hymn finish and remain in my seat playing Nitendo.  Play the game until people start to get agitated and worried something is wrong.)

Oh no, I’m not ready!  Oops.  I forgot I had to have a sermon for this Sunday.  Perhaps someone could give a sermon for me?  Do you have one ready?  Do you?  Or do you?

Oh no, I’m just not ready, today came too fast, I wasn’t expecting to have to give a sermon so quick after last week!  I mean, I have been so busy with ministry.  I had to visit a number of people, I have taught at the women’s guild, went to Nyngan, taught at JAM and supported the ‘Shed Happens’ display at the vintage truck show.  I though I had plenty of time yet to prepare a sermon, but here we are!  Well what now, the time is here and I’m not ready.  And do you know what?  No one else can be ready for me; no one else can be me.  I am the one called to be ready for this time.

Jesus warns us as his disciples to be ‘ever-ready’ for his return “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him.”  As Christians and disciples of Jesus, we are to be like ‘Ever-Ready’ batteries, ready and powered up to welcome Jesus at a moment’s notice.  For Jesus has promised to return at an unknown hour, and when he returns, it will be the end of time and life as we know it; in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, St Paul says, Jesus will suddenly appear before us.

When this happens, the time will be at hand.  Like with my sermon, in which I was not ready, yet the time came, and no one but me was responsible for being ready, so it will be at Jesus’ return; as the saying goes ‘time waits for no one.’  Jesus will appear whether we are ready or not…are you ready?  Are you watching?  Are you prepared with a lamp lit, in the right clothing and ready to open the door for Jesus at a moment’s notice?  Are you an ‘every-ready’?  If Jesus had have returned yesterday, would have you been ready?  Or tomorrow, will you be ready? 

Many of us would say yes, but our yes is one that is tainted with doubt and uncertainty, fear and weariness about what being an ‘ever-ready’ servant really means and what not being ready actually is.  After all, aren’t we all ready?                                                                                                                  

Perhaps someone can comment on what it means to be ready or not?

Jesus warns us to be ‘dressed ready for service, with lamps burning.’  What does this image conjure up in your mind? 

Perhaps we should be wearing overalls and work boots, and all have a torch in our pockets?

Dressed and ready for service in Jesus day, meant men and women had to hitch up their long cloaks under their belts, so their long clothing would not hinder their run, or cause them to trip.  When God was about to kill the first born of every Egyptian in the last Plague, God wanted his people to be ready for this and to be dressed to run, once the Pharaoh let them go, as recorded in Exodus, “This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.”  However, Jesus is not asking his followers to be ready in this physical way, constantly dress in robes tucked under their belts. 

We are not to be ready by wearing joggers, tee-shirt and trackies.  Neither is he asking us to dress in some special ‘Christian clothing’, our Sunday bests’ to show others around us we are more ready than they.

If not, what is Jesus expecting of us?

He is challenging us to be spiritually ready for his return.  Urging us to be as ever-ready for him in faith, hope and love, as the Israelites were every-ready in girded clothing, lamps and oil; ready to take that journey to the Promised Land.  To be ever-ready for Christ, fully charged and challenged to move at an instant’s notice, is to be spiritually prepared for the journey that Jesus’ return inaugurates, our personal journey to the Promised Land of heaven, as Jesus promised in John 14, let’s read  “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

 Jesus also announces in today’s gospel the great reward we will receive for being ready to welcome him saying “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.”  Jesus will be serving us in heaven!!

To be ever-ready, ever-charged and challenged in faith, hope and love, is to be spiritually ‘packed light’ for Jesus coming.  Having nothing in our spiritual lives that may cause us to be sleepy and lose our sense of urgency; nothing keeping us from always having Christ on our mind, believing, hoping, doing and planning, serving and loving as if he were to come at the very next second. 

To be an ever-ready packed light Christian, is to cast off anything in our hearts that may cause us to trip or entangle us, slowing us down or stopping us from running to open the door when Jesus knocks, as he said “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”  As a long cloak in Jesus day stopped people from being ready to run, thus they had to hitch them up in readiness, our greatest burden and load stopping us from being ready is worry.

Our worries greatly load us down, paralyzing us, stopping us from being ready, blocking our ears to the knocking of Jesus. 

What are some of your worries?

Worry for you could be shame and guilt about your past, perhaps they are weighing you down so heavily that you struggle to have faith.  Perhaps it may be anger and bitterness that burden you to a point where we can’t even lift a finger in hope or even dare to love.  You may even worry about being ready!  Always loaded down trying to outdo yourself in good deeds, hoping this good may make you more ready than in the past. 

All of us have spiritual baggage that loads us down, stopping us from being every-ready.  An Ever-Ready battery will not be ready for use when the time comes, if it has been slowly drained or loaded with a power drawing device.  In the same way, worry drains our readiness, spiritually killing us by drawing out and draining all our faith in Christ, our hope of eternal life and our love for him. 

Interestingly, its not our suffering that causes us this burden of worry, but our lack of suffering, as Ravi Zacharias from “The real face of Atheism” wrote, “despair comes not from being weary of suffering, but from being weary of pleasure.”  No wonder Jesus warns against wealth, pleasure and worry in the verses previous to today’s gospel…have a read when you get home.

Does it mean then, to be spiritually light, we just don’t worry, as the song goes ‘don’t worry be happy’, or eat, drink and be merry, like the rich fool we heard about last week?  No!  Its how our worries are dealt with.

On whom can we ‘unload’?

Jesus himself takes our worry.  He says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  The good news about being ever-ready is that Jesus himself makes us ready, by taking all that burdens us and inhibits our faith and places it upon himself.  Jesus offers himself as a person to dump upon, unloading our worries so that we are every-ready to enter his kingdom and feast with him. 

He takes our burdens, not like a psychiatrist or therapist, who can do little more than listen and prescribe new ways of living, but as a healer.  Jesus actually heals us and restores our life again, keeps us charged in faith, hope and love.  This is why we are encouraged to do this in James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Soon we will confess our sins and then partake in the heavenly feast with Jesus.  Use this opportunity to really unload your heart of worry, so that you may be healed and ever-ready.   If this is not enough, come to me privately during the week, as Jesus’ very ears, and unburden and then hear Jesus comforting words of forgiveness and healing.  Now is the time to be every-ready, now is the time to encourage others in our community to be ready.  For this very hour Jesus may come and say ‘“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” 

 

 Amen