Archive for April, 2012

“Show me the money”

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

: Psalm 23, John 10:11-18

“Show me the money”

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23, the best known and best loved of all the psalms. It gives us two graphic pictures of God’s intimate relationship with one of His people. The first the here and now: our shepherd Christ and his sheep. The second the host and his guest: when we will dwell in the fathers house with its many mansions of which Jesus spoke, where in John 14 He said He was going to prepare a place for His own.

Psalm 23, beautiful words of encouragement.

Martin Luther described it as “A psalm of thanks in which Christian hearts praise and thanks God for teaching them and keeping them on the right way, comforting and protecting them in every danger through His holy Word.”

And in our gospel we heard the words of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, who assures us that his sheep know his voice and follow him, and he leads them that they might have life, and have it abundantly.

When I was six years old we moved to a new town to live and I became good friends with my neighbour. We were the same age, in the same class at school and particularly in our teenage years we travelled together through many joys, heartaches and dangers. In my early twenties I was moved away in my job. Sometime after, a year maybe, I cannot remember any more my dad rang: “Steve, I’m very sorry but your best friend has taken his life”. My friend had driven his car into the garage, covered the inside with enough petrol that it blew down the side of the house.

His family. How they must still carry those scars with them, as we all carry scars of pain and hurt.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. There have been times when those words were a little foreign to me, in fact down right confusing.

All I wanted was to Caption the Australian Cricket team, Play football for Port Adelaide, drive a Lotus and live on the beachfront-seriously it that too much to ask. It seems it was.

Truth is I did not want those things (except for the Port Adelaide bit)-but you get my point. Being what do we really consider as goodness and mercy. Similar, it can be difficult for us to tell the voice of the true and good shepherd from the voice that comes to steal and destroy.

The thief that says the only version of abundant life is that it be living in worldly abundance.

Goodness and mercy, our shepherd: the problem isn’t that they are not there; it’s that sometimes we don’t see them-they may be hidden behind our expectations, even hidden in our painful experiences.

We think of the thief on the cross and are given much hope and peace when we hear that this man was saved at the last minute after leading what we assume was a pretty ungodly life. It’s a marvellous picture of Jesus love. But the truth is Jesus love and forgiveness was there all along. It would have been very difficult for the people of Israel not to have heard of Jesus and his message, including this thief. The miracle is not that that Jesus gave forgiveness to this thief; the miracle is that he came to see it, accept it.

My friend, he lived a very pained life, but in the months prior to his death-amongst all his troubles he came to see Jesus. I know this because he used to ring me, preach to me and encourage me to follow the Lord. Somehow in those last months, he saw clearly his saviour the Lord Jesus-A miracle.

Yes, Goodness and mercy, Jesus, followed him all the days of his life.

Last week we heard where Jesus carried the physical scars from his crucifixion before the disciples, to heal their scars of doubt-to bring them the truth of what he has done, to bring them hope in that though they will suffer persecution as he did, that though they will suffer the scars of life-they carry with them hope and the sureness that Jesus travels with them.

That Goodness and mercy travels with them.

That was a promise given to the disciples, and given to us. And given to Riley today in his baptism. What a wonderful comfort for Lloyd, Sonja and Riley. It is a promise that is liberating for we see looking back how through our lives our Lord was there, even in the times when it seemed otherwise. It is liberating because we go forward knowing it to be true-to live, to be alive, to see the beauty and gift of friends, loved ones, to be ourselves, to love others as they are-to really live come what may because we know

The Lord is our shepherd, we shall lack nothing. He makes us lie down in green pastures, he leads us beside quiet waters, and he restores our soul. He guides us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for you are with us; your rod and staff they comfort us. You prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies. You anoint our heads with oil; our cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Yes he does, and yes we will. Amen. 

Walking in the Fog?

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Luke 24: 36b-48

 

“The fog”

 

In 1991 the world held its breath. In response to the Iraqi war machine, led by Saddam Husain attacking their neighbor Kuwait, a flotilla of war ships of all the allied nations sailed towards the Middle East.

I remember walking down Rundle Mall, and on a giant TV screen was a countdown clock that showed that the allied forces would reach their destination in 23 hours and 49 minutes. A doomsday clock. This was the Cuban missile crisis of my time.

History shows that the allied forces led by General Norman Schwarzkopf were successful in repelling the Iraqi forces and restoring Kuwait’s sovereignty.

Returning to a hero’s welcome in his native homeland in the United States, the General was asked if there were times in the heat of the battle when he was unsure of what to do.

His answer was honest and forthright: “Yes, and in those instances I referred to article fourteen of the Pentagon leadership manual” and went on to explain one of those situations.

His declaration struck me, but the more I thought about the more it, the more it made sense as I remembered the term “The fog of War”.

A term that encaptures how in the ills of warfare things become confusing. Right from wrong, who’s doing what, indeed what the fight is about can become cloudy.

That he took this manual, this blue print with him into battle then made sense. It was a blue print that in his time of need, would give him clear vision, get him back to basics, and enable him to take that step back to re-access and check that he is still on the right path. A blue print put together from the knowledge of those that went before him, those involved in great victories at the cost of great sacrifice.

In our Gospel today, Jesus’ gives us our blueprint for life as a Christian.

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the unblemished lamb. The sinless one who gave himself so that we may have life. Our greatest victory, coming at the cost of his great sacrifice. The divine Son of God, yet born of flesh and blood. Who felt pain and hunger, was tempted, ridiculed and beaten.

Jesus knows the periless journey we are on, because he was walked it.

In our Gospel Jesus is talking to his disciples, not supermen but normal people. People that Jesus knew in their Christian walk would be subjected to all the perils of the world, its trappings and seductiveness, and he gives them, gives us our blueprint for living life as a Christian.

A blueprint that seems foolishness to those without faith, but to those with the gift of faith, know it to be true. It is both reassuring and logical, and indeed Jesus backs up his statements with logic. Jesus appears to the disciples who are wondering in “their fog” of confusion, fear and doubts to confirm his resurrection saying “Peace be with you”.

But they are startled and unsure. So what just Jesus do, he proves it’s him. “See my hands and feet, that it is myself. Touch me and see” and to offer final evidence for their benefit of his risen body, eats food.

Yes it’s him. (and) yet again, Jesus confirms what he has been saying from the start, that now they may fully understand. “These are the words that I spoke with you while I was with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead and that repentance and forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all nations. You are the witness of these things”

There’s our blueprint. Christ has come and he has brought forgiveness. He has brought forgiveness to you. Believe it, live in that Grace-Joyously as a witness to it. Jesus came to the disciples when they were in fear, confused, still wondering in the fog. Jesus came to us-still comes to us and lifts the fog so that we can see.

We only need rely on and trust in God alone, in faith we know this. This is a basic tenet of our faith and if I was explaining Christianity to one of my enquiring friends, this would be in the mix early in the discussion.

Through the eyes of faith this seems straightforward. So straightforward that we may even wonder why Jesus needs to remind us this. But Jesus clearly puts this in our Christian life blueprint because he knows the perils we face.

He gives us this truth and assurance so that we can return to it when things start to blur, when right from wrong and the direction of our lives start to get foggy. He gives us these truths in love for those times when we don’t heed his opening words “Peace be with you”.

Jesus knows the dangers we face, whether it be the anxiousness of the poor, or in the possessions of the rich: The dangers that are placed before us that we take our eye off Christ-in his peace.

The trappings of today’s world, are our apple in the Garden of Eden or our golden calf threatening to keep us from the promised land.

The devil tempts:

That looks nice, you deserve it, because you have worked so hard, it is your right to have these things, because you mastered your own destiny. It will bring you happiness. He tempts with the hope that these things will compete with God for our allegiance.

That they may become our God and destroy our relationship with the Father. It is a cunning trick. Every day we are constantly bombarded by the culture of our day and its advertisements to rely on ourselves.

The world seduces our eyes to goals that will advance our lives, we are taught incessantly to give ourselves to the pursuit of mammon. To the pursuit of success so that we can live our lives happily and free of anxiety.

But the more things we have, the more we want, and the more we fear their loss, We don’t find peace but anxiousness and worry. If we get caught up in this, it is like boarding a train that get’s faster and faster until it’s a runaway heading towards a cliff where the bridge is out.

It is a periless road to nowhere that can be hard to get off. Things start to blur, right from wrong, the direction and meaning life become foggy.

We need to ask ourselves, are we only serving God the Father, or we unwittingly sharing him with other things. Things that creep up to become idols and threaten to displace God altogether.

This is why Jesus has given us this blue print, so we can return to it when the fog of our world and its consumerism blur our Christian lives.

When worldly things becomes part of our core fabric, become part of us to the point where we can understand James Blunt when he sings “How I wish I could surrender my soul and shed these cloths that have become my skin”

Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also”

Where are our hearts, yours and mine? Are our priorities out of whack? Do we serve God alone, the only God that gives life, or share him idols, money, addictions and ego’s that promise much but threaten spiritual destruction?

Where are we at?

This same question could be asked of the church. We hear people arguing “The church is not relevant to today’s society, it must change”

Not relevant, have a look at our society-I cannot think of a time where the church could be more relevant because I cannot think of a time were Christ’s undiluted promises and teachings could be more required. The fog is descending. In our world the lines are getting blurred. What is right and wrong? Is it what God says or society says?

Yes, Jesus knew our path would be periless and so he gave us this blue print to refer to. A blue print that is like looking into a mirror that shows us if we’ve been seduced and tricked into serving things other than God.

When the port Adelaide football Club joined the AFL, I remember watching the footy show, and having looked at their team, a team that on paper did not impress Sam Newman to the point that he remarked

“I honestly don’t think they will win a game”.

But six weeks later, Essendon great Tim Watson wrote that I don’t care who you barrack for, you cannot but admire these players.

What they lack in, they make up for with passion, commitment and bravery. Yet the next year, comparatively was a shocker and I said to my friend, I reckon someone’s told them how good they are

and I think they believed it. Because, they seemed to have stopped doing what had actually been behind their success, their passion, commitment and bravery and started relying on their skills. They got ahead of themselves.

Like Christians can get ahead of themselves, and become more reliant on themselves, and less on God.

So how does one get off this train to nowhere?

On our own we cannot. Just as the Holy Spirit brought us the gift of faith to our hearts and minds, so too does the Holy Spirit bring us the desire to live as a child of God, to turn our hearts and minds towards our Father and to rely on His promises and of the salvation given to us in Jesus.

The Lord does not offer grace like a salesman who says take this offer now or miss out because I won’t be offering it again this price. The Lord offers grace upon grace. Like to the fearing disciples, he meets us where we are at and brings us his love and gifts when we need them most yet deserve them least.

He turns our heart, gives us faith to understand that God can, and will supply not just our spiritual needs, but also our physical needs. We need not worry of these things. Gives us faith that knows God does and will provide us with food, clothing, shelter and life. With peace.

The same faith that is nurtured and brought spiritual food from the body and blood of our Saviour in Holy Communion.

Faith that accepts to be clothed in Christ’s righteousness.

Faith that gives us shelter in the Word of God, in Jesus and his Church.

Faith that knows we are given life in Baptism.

Faith that’s believes and clings to Christ’s words in Romans: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one”.

Jesus has appeared to us carrying the visible marks of his crucifixion. Marks that show his victory of life over death that the wounds of our hearts might be healed.

That we will be his witness. Amen.

 

“Shades of grey”

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

John 20:19-31

“Shades of Grey”

The bible: the good news, the Word of God. The bestselling book of all time. Wikipedia estimates that somewhere between 2.5 billion to 6 billion copies have been sold and continuing to sell 25 million per year.

One book made up from a collection of 66 individual books that are studied and revered and are misinterpreted and despised. A book that is many things to many people.

A book of stories: My non-Christian friend, staying at a motel on a business trip some twenty five years ago. Remarked that being bored and with no company started reading the Gideon’s placed bible, and said “man that has got some good stories” Absolutely-each of them are potential Steven Spielberg blockbusters.

A book of History: Absolutely. The people, the times and places have been recorded and proven by archaeological and historical research.

A book of ethics: Even prominent, although balanced atheists will attest to the benefit of these teachings and instructions within society.

The book of a man named Jesus. An Adelaide radio identity remarked that while she does not have faith, she admires and respects Jesus, what he did and what he stood for. Stood up to the authorities, befriended the needy, led by example, was courageous-a good bloke that died because of his beliefs. Yep.

A book of power, that when manipulated or taken out of context has been be used as an excuse for ethics cleansing and countless atrocities.

A book of unity for those in Christ, yet a book that can see a group of theologians discuss a particular meaning for days, weeks, months or years. In which we can understand when we read the third to last paragraph in which we are told: Revelations 22, verse 18: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to things, God will add to them the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away their part from the Book of life, from the holy city, and from things which are written in this book”.

Yes, this can be a heavy book. Never mind that Jesus had this habit of talking in riddles-parables.

His words of unchanging truths, yet adapt to our changes in circumstances-trials, tribulations, joys and sorrows. Words that talk to us: Words that convict us, so that we can be set free.

Yes, this is a book to read, re-read and read some more.

Yet this is a book that talks of the beauty of having the faith of a child. Mark Chapter 10 verse 14 “Let the children come to me. Do not hinder them: for to such belongs the kingdom of faith”.

The bible, like life can be confusing. I shared the supervision of about 60 people with another person. One of us saw everything in black and white, and the other in various shades of grey. One was if they do that and they’re sacked, one was but why did they do it and plus, we all stuff up at times.

The word of the Lord, some may stand on a soap box and holler to the ridiculing passer byers that they are dead in sin-doomed. Another may stand up and give the impression that God so loves us that sin does not matter. Although if I had to, I would say the second statement: except that sin does matter-that is why Christ died-because sin does matter.

This book, the Word of God is a book of genius. It covers all bases; it strives in every way, wriggling through every nook and cranny of our hearts and minds to bring us the truth.

And that truth: I mentioned once before that Luther said if you only read one Gospel, read John. Why? Because the book of John brings our call to Christianity, the call and mission for the church and the gospel in the most explicit and understandable ways.

And he also said, that John is the sum of the bible, or like a miniature bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”.

Today’s Gospel scripture which most commentators write is the summary and conclusion of the book of John, which by extension is the summary of the whole bible, the whole Gospel message.

(and) what is that truth, the summary, conclusion or final Word. For a moment, hear and accept these words, the Words of God, said directly to each of you as individual’s: -verses 30 and 31: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are written in this book; but these are written that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name”.

That’s it: So I ask you: In reference to John 3:16 and John 20:31, do you believe that God gave us His Son to bring us forgiveness? and Do you believe that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God?

If yes, let me tell me you, no, actually let God tell you His reply “That believing, You have life in His Name”.

End of story-Amen.

 

The Aftershock

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

 Mark 16:1-8

 

One Friday, an innocent man, a Holy man, deserted by even his closet followers, nailed to a cross like a criminal, alone and on a lonely hill died that others may have life, and the earth shook.

Three days later, the earth shook again when this man was raised from the dead and brought life to the world, and the aftershocks of this good news has been felt ever since.

He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

Yes, and in our risen Lord we rejoice, for Christ’s victory over death, is our victory over death. On his way to the cross, Jesus brought earthly and eternal sight to a blind man.Raised Lazarus from the dead and gave him life and the promise of eternal life.

Now, we receive our Risen Lord, and receive life- today and eternally, AND REJOICE, and never again need to be afraid.

Today, storm clouds don’t threaten, they bring soothing shade.

Today, there are no tears of sadness, only of joy.

Today we don’t see the sun setting on our lives, but the rays of sunshine in the beautiful break of day, WE REJOICE that in our resurrected Lord, we live in the sure promise that will be fulfilled on our last day. That we too will be raised up, to meet our Lord and be welcomed home.

And meet those that have gone before us, and see their smiling face’s again.

We rejoice in the truth, that the Words of our Lord have been fulfilled, that in his death, we died to sin, and in his resurrection, so to will we be raised up.

Just as Jesus told his disciples the truth, that he would die and be raised again in three days, Jesus has told us the truth “believe in me and receive eternal life”. Yet there are those who conspire against this truth.

The genious of Bill Gates was to take a highly intellual process and make it simple and easy to understand and available to all. Yet, his vision of making computer technology accessable to the masses and not just the select few, caused many to conspire against him.

Jesus on a cross died for sinners, not for a chosen few, but for thieves, prostitutes, the poor and the rich, the lowly and the highly, and made forgiveness assessable too all. Was raised to life-and says here take it, says to us there’s no catches, believe in me-repent and follow me and receive forgiveness and life.

Forgiveness in Christ alone-it is that simple, and it is assessable to all.

Through no efforts of our own, Christ has won our battle over darkness and death- that is the Gospel.

The battle has been won and the biggest conspirator of all, the devil knows it-that he was defeated on the cross yet though he knows his days are numbered, he still works against the truth.

Beaten by Jesus on the cross, he now attacks the Word of God.

Sometimes blatantly, and sometimes to sutially attacks the Church and its people-to make them doubt the truth, to hide the truth behind lies.

Jesus, the truth is the centre of our lives, the truth that others conspire against.

Like Judas was bought off to hand over Jesus to those who wanted to kill of the truth, after the resurrection, the same people bought off the guards in order to hide the truth.

A blatant attempt to hide the truth-that we see clearly as a lie.

For we know: He has risen-he has risen indeed.

But the most deceitful lies are those that are partly based on truth.

We are constantly reminded that we are sinners, and we cannot argue that-because even the Word of God confirms that.

But the lie comes after. That in our sin, in our walking away from Jesus, in our weaknesses, and in constantly failing to live as we would wish, that we should doubt our forgiveness-that’s the lie.

Or, yes, Christ did die and was raised for sinners-but not sinners like you. You’re too far gone, beyond help or at the very least-you better get your act together and become that perfect person you have to be.

That’s the lie and the deception.

A deception that in the Gospel today we can clearly see for what it is an out and out lie.

A lie that if we only saw an empty tomb would leave us guessing, but in faith don’t see just an empty tomb but the living presence of Jesus.

The legendry American Gridiron coach Vince Lombardi once said that a players greatest moment, is not winning or losing, but when you are broken and busted and have nothing left to give, and you look across and you see your team mates-and they are the same.

In our lives, we still take the bumps and the bruises, and we take them with our families, friends and loved ones. But sometimes, we look across and they are no longer there, just emptiness, except for Jesus, and

as he lifts us up, we see he wears our bruises, and says I am with you, I have always been with you and will be to the end.

Fear not, my victory is yours.

In Jesus selfless act on the cross, and in his desire that we accept in him our victory over death, accept in him undeserved forgiveness-the lie is dispelled and we see the truth. We see the love of God, shown to us through His Son Jesus, given to us-to save us.

Jesus backs up his Words with actions.

Just as he said he would be raised, he was.

Just as he said he brings forgiveness, he has.

The words of the angel in today’s Gospel that were said then towards the disciples, are also said to us.

The angel in declaring to the Mary’s “He has risen just as he said. Go quickly and tell his disciples, that he has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee” shows what’s to come.

The women are to give this wonderful message to the fallible disciples who had fallen away. It’s not “tell them Jesus told you so, or boy are you going to get it”, but a message that says “you are still in his plans, he has not forgotten you -you still matter to him”.

In Matthew 28:9-10, the corresponding text to today’s Gospel we hear that on their way to Galilee, Jesus meets the women and greets them.

And what does he say? When we consider the Greek text, the closet common day word is Hi. Which in Australian speak would be G’Day.

Jesus has been raised from the dead, and in his first recorded conversation, there is no choir of angels, no sound of trumpets or visions of glory. No words of ridicule towards those that gave away to their fears while he suffered, but an earthly and friendly – G’Day.

That is brilliant. What a wonderful picture that gives us. Jesus reaching out his hands to us and warmly says Hi, G’day-great to see you.

In the garden, Jesus needed the disciples most, they slept. When Jesus was on trial, Peter denied him, and when he had risen as he said he would, they are no where to be seen.

Yet when Jesus meets the women on their way to the disciples, he confirms the angel’s message; except for one thing.

Jesus does not call them his disciples-he calls them his brothers.

In that one change, that one Word is crammed the whole New Testament Gospel of forgiveness. Jesus could have said many negative things of his disciples-and all would have been true.

But what IS Jesus response: he calls them his brothers:

welcomes them into his family.

Jesus says what he means and means what he says.

Jesus said he will be raised, and he was.

Jesus said he brings forgiveness, and he has.

Jesus says that in him, we are given eternally life-and we have been and we rejoice.

Amen.

 

“The book has been closed”

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

John 19:17-30

“The book has been closed”

In Japan there is a mountainous area that for centuries has been called something that translates into “The place where you leave your mother”. It was named so because of an ancient custom of taking the very old and feeble up to the top of a mountain and leaving them there. A thick forest grows far up these mountain sides, and had we been one day a few centuries ago, you would have seen a strong young man carrying an aged wisp of a woman on his back through the dense forest. As they moved upward, the young man noticed that his mother was reaching out and breaking small branches. “Why are you doing that mother?” he asked. She looked at him with eyes that were dimmed by everything except love, and said: “So you will not become lost on the way back, my son.”

Life and death, the two go hand in hand.

No doubt you would of or heard of a busy and stressed person who had a heart attack and survives. Is given a second chance and in that alters there lifestyle. To share more time with loved ones and enjoy more of the small things of life.

It has been shown that a person who has been advised by the doctor that they only have a certain amount of time to live, seem to receive heightened senses. The remarkable beauty and smell of a flower can seem wondrous.

The first time I faced death was when I was young and at my Grandfathers funeral. As is with funerals, half those attending were either not Christians or if they were, not regular worshippers. The minister opened with if Walter could talk to me today, he would say “They are here by default, so give it to them.”

Our tears subsided because we knew that’s exactly what Grandpa would have said. A voice from the grave that gave us peace, both in wit and in the sureness of where he knew he was going. Life and death, in Christ the two go hand in hand.

Today, standing at the foot of the cross-we see the horror of death, yet receive the joy of life.

But why did Jesus have to die?

In 1st Corinthians Chapter 15 Paul tells us “For as by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall be made alive.”

In the Garden of Eden, the human race fell to sin-and the consequence, death was brought into our world. (and) God’s response, looks like I’ll have to fix up this mess.

If it was me, I might have gone for the old “let’s try two out of three scenario”. But God doesn’t take sin lightly, and that can be a horrifying thought. Because my reckoning is this, if Adam and Eve sinned-the first two at the top of the family tree, who I would assume in my feeble human mind, would have been made with a lot less imperfections than me-what chance have I got.

(and) that’s the point, on our own-not a cracker. So God gives us an out, AGAIN.

I say again thinking of the great flood. The world was full of sin, so God acts and warns he will flood the earth. God does not take sin lightly. Now everyone at the time was welcome to come aboard the ark, but all declined except for Noah and his clan. Noah told the people, when building the Ark, essentially in the middle of nowhere and in a barren land of what would take place-imagine the ridicule he and his family would have received.

God promised all a way out-an ark to safety, but was repaid by unbelief and ridicule.

But sin remained, because humans sin.

2,000 years ago God sent another Ark to offer the human race life. Not of wood and nails, but of flesh and blood. (and) 2,000 years ago, as now-God is repaid by unbelief and ridicule.

Nothing has changed, because sin hasn’t changed. Society may guild the Lilly so to speak by changing the human side of things where we “now don’t tell a lie, “but instead, now “tell an untruth”. Seriously.

I’m starting to think the question is not why did Christ have to die, but why does God put up with our world’s rubbish.

Why, because our God is a God of life, not death.

He brought life to this world through His creation, and on Good Friday, our deserved punishment was put on Christ to bring us life.

When I was very young I remember one of my mum’s favourite songs had the chorus verse “Before you criticise and abuse, take a walk in my shoes”. Mum used to refer to this when people made judgment calls about others behaviour.

Howard Hughes, the man who was portrayed in the movie the aviator. Wealthy, the person that put in place plane travel and a successful movie director left his place of riches and honour and took on the life of a homeless wanderer. In this journey, in the back blocks, dirty hungry and with nothing seemingly to offer-a person stopped and gave him a lift. Upon Howard’s death, he left the man that picked him up a fortune. This man did not know it until that moment.

In Christ there are no surprises.

Our Lord and Saviour on the cross asked forgiveness for those persecuting him saying, “Forgive them Father they don’t know what they do”. Because he has walked in our shoes.

Our moment is now-you have received your inheritance-now.

Jesus suffered temptation, fear, hunger and felt physical pain just like me and you. (and) he felt the bite of death-for us. He winced at the piercing of the nails. He endured the taunting of the crowd and the unjust accusations. Jesus was not a spectator viewing our situation from a distance. He joined himself to us and absorbed the pain that should have been ours. In his death he carried our sorrows. He came to the scene of our guilt and stretched out his hands to receive our sin.

He looked death in the eye and left nothing undone. All was completed and the book was closed on our failure.

Good Friday, a harrowing day when we see the part we have played. But we have a God of love and life. A god that allows us to look towards Jesus resurrection, and rejoice that just as our sins died in Jesus, we are raised to life in Jesus.

Romans Chapter 8 “If God is for us, who can be against us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus our Lord”.

Why does God put up with us? why did Jesus have to die? Love.

Revelations chapter 7: “I looked, and behold a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out in a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the lamb. And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying, Amen. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever Amen. Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come? I said to him, Sir you know. And he said to me, these are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the lamb”.

Yes, today we see the death of the only one who did not deserve it, but today we see life.

Today we live in that promise and after our last day that promise is fulfilled.

Live today, every moment in the surety of that promise. Amen.

Remember that special meal?

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

 

 
On this night when Jesus gathered his disciples for this last meal before his suffering and crucifixion, he imparts the greatest gift for those he calls to follow him. He transforms this ancient meal of eating and drinking into the source of forgiveness, healing and life for the millions and millions of human beings he would call after his resurrection until his coming again.

There is nothing quite like sharing a meal with family or friends. It is just what seems to hold us together as families and as friends. What would life be like without shared meals- BBQ’s, dinner parties, picnics, restaurants? What would the day be like without dinner time and that opportunity to take a breath and maybe catch up with the day’s events – especially for those with children? Human life is lived around shared meals and the blessing they bring to everyday life.

We cannot thank the Lord enough for his special meal. What a thing to do for us! He knows us and he knows about shared meals. By setting up a special meal he did something that would always binds him and his people together.

For thousands of years since that great night of mighty deliverance from a life of oppression and death under the Pharaohs, God’s people shared this special Passover meal with his people. The Passover was the pinnacle of sharing a moment with God for Jewish people. As they shared this meal and retold the events of God’s saving work for them to their children and their grandchildren, God shared the meal with them and blessed them year by year and they remained connected to God and his blessing and care for them.

And then God’s Son, Jesus our Lord, made this old meal even greater and made it into something for his new people. He changed it. He kind of super-charged it! This meal had always been special but now it had super-charged elements. This was no longer a meal of a roasted sacrificial lamb and bread and wine, but a meal of THE sacrificial lamb – his own body and blood!

Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes way the sins of the world by his own slaughter, now shares his own holy body and blood in bread and wine with his people and they are made holy and acceptable to God through it and they are charged up to live out their new life in the world through this meal.

What a gift – a regular sharing in Jesus’ holiness and healing through the very human activity of eating and drinking.

What a mystery- the holy body and blood of the risen Jesus in the very everyday stuff of bread and wine.

We can struggle a bit with this meal because it is a mystery received by faith and we never really intellectually understand it. We like to rationalise everything and get to the bottom of it. “How is the bread the body of Christ and how is the wine the very blood of Christ?” we ask. “How can this meal give me forgiveness and healing and life here and now – it’s just a church ritual?” we might sometimes think.

This meal is a mystery and so it is only fully shared in faith. Faith in what God says about it. It is what God says about this meal that is the key thing. Not what we believe or do not believe, not what we want it to be or don’t want it to be.

What is this meal according to God? It is the body and blood of Jesus. That’s what Jesus says about the meal. “This is my body; this is my blood”. It is a meal. It is where human beings eat and drink with the Lord of the whole universe on a regular basis.

It is a meal set up by Jesus himself. He is the host of the Meal and the meal itself! Jesus is the meal. He is the beginning and end of this meal. It is all about him giving something to us. And what does he promise to give at his table to those who put their faith in his promises? He says “broken for you for the forgiveness of sins; shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”.

This meal is a meal of forgiveness. It is a meal of reconciliation between God and his people. It is a moment when God imparts his holiness and life by taking away our sin and giving us his new life to ingest into our very souls and carry with us. As Jesus gathered his often troubled disciples for this meal to encourage them and give them a gift for the rest of their life with him, so Jesus still gathers in his people and gives them the gift they most need to live this Christian life – forgiveness and peace with God.

But the meal can be mistreated. Judas was present at this meal and we know his actions before, during and after this meal. This is a meal of humbly receiving God’s promise of forgiveness of our sin and healing for our souls.

But even if a person comes to this meal with no faith in God’s promises, no humility, no recognition of sin in his or her life, does that mean that this special meal ceases to be God’s special meal? What if the minister presiding over the meal is unrepentant of his sin or less then humble concerning his life before God? Does Jesus pull up stumps and get out of there because there is a sinner at the table? No. Just like everything else in the Christian faith – like the Lord’s Prayer or Baptism or the Word of God, so this meal and what God makes it by his promise does not lose its value or power if we don’t believe it or participate in it with faith in God’s promises.

No, God says that in this meal he gives forgiveness, healing, freedom from sin and evil and life itself to those who come to it in simple faith to receive these things from him. A believing heart is all that is required.

But even those who come to the meal without faith receive something because this meal is still very much God’s meal. The unbelieving, unrepentant heart can only receive God’s judgement at this meal. That’s whySt Paultells us to be careful how Christians receive God’s meal. We examine our life, our hearts in line with God’s Word. We let God speak into our life and invite his Word to examine our hearts.

And how do we know we are ready or worthy to receive Jesus’ forgiveness in this great meal? A simple trust in those wonderful words “given for you” is enough. When God says this is all for you for your well-being and continuing life in him, then this meal is indeed for your well being and continuing life in him. If God says that by sharing in this meal you are blessed and restored, then you are blessed and restored as you eat and drink the meal.

As we go from here into the Easter season, let our prayer be the words of the final verse of hymn 285:

For thy consoling supper, Lord,

Be praised throughout all ages!

Preserve it, for with one accord

The world against it rages.

Grant that Thy body and Thy blood

May be my comfort and blest food

In my last moments. Amen.