Archive for August, 2012

Guilty your Honour!

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

John 6:56-69

“I fought the law and the law won”

A policeman I know and his partner, by chance ran into a gang of particularly ruthless criminals they had been investigating. They knew who the criminals were and the criminals knew who they were. Surrounded and outnumbered in a suburban car park their fate seemed sealed. This was not a good situation to be in and in an act spontaneity one of the officers asked to speak to the leader of the gang in private. He said, “We have already called for backup, but they will not be here before you do to us what you’re going to do. You will win the fight against us two, but more will come,

and in need more. You may win a few battles, but they will keep coming, the law will eventually win-it has too.”

That song “I fought the law and the law won” in society, if you are guilty will generally be the case-it has too. So too when we fight spiritually against the law of God. It has too because judged against His law we are all guilty. Should we line up before the father without Christ, with our good vs.bad deeds, the scales of justice will ring soundly-guilty on all charges.

We see this in the Pharisees. Make no mistake these guys were committed to keeping the law. In general, the Pharisees strived to uphold the law and should be recognized for this.They taught the law but did not practice the most important parts of the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

They obeyed the intricacies of the law such as tithing but not the real meat of the law. They exhibited themselves as righteous on account of being scrupulous keepers of the law, but were in fact not righteous: their mask of righteousness hid a secret inner world of ungodly thoughts and feelings. Jesus gave these guys a hard time, yet met with the most open and obvious sinners and didn’t condemn them. In fact he didn’t even lecture them, he seemed to just acknowledge and bring out into the open what they already knew, that they had sinned.

Like the Pharisees knew, the law is good. It keeps the world in order in striving to keep chaos from the door and promotes a healthy manner in which way to live. But they missed the essence of the law, to bring salvation.

To see the truth of their own guilt and sinfulness, and then to see God’s mercy in Christ.

These two types of people, Christ approached with the truth about themselves and about himself with Salvation open to both,but only one accepted it-the ones knowing they were sinners and who came to know who Jesus was. Likewise in today’s Gospel we see two sinners take to the stage, Judas and Peter. Judas, who in today’s Gospel is still one the twelve but would later betray Jesus for a bribe of thirty pieces of silver by identifying him to the arresting soldiers of the High Priest, who then turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate’s soldiers.

And Peter, who in today’s Gospel after being asked along with the other disciples would they like to leave him answers (but) “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life”, yet who would later deny Jesus three times prior to his death on the cross. Two sinners, whom I might add that the bible tells us were both repentant sinners.

From Matthew 27 verses 3 to 4: “When Judas, the traitor, learnt that Jesus had been condemned, he repented and took back the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders and said I have sinned by betraying an innocent man to death”.

And Peter, from Matthew 26:75 after his third denial, “Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly”.

Two regretful and remorseful repentant sinners, yet one-Judas would destroy himself in shame while the other, Peter, also in shame but would go onto to be one of Jesus greatest servants, how can this be? The Pharisees against open and obvious law breakers: sinners.

Two thieves on the cross, both sinners yet one is given the gift of eternal life and one is not, and here Judas and Peter.

This is the third week in a row that the Gospel has been that “Jesus is the bread of life, that those who believe have eternal life”. The Gospel that the Pharisees, one of the criminals on the cross and Judas did not get.

Most certainly Judas was repentant but like the Pharisees and one of the criminals, their responses were only in self-absorbed human ways. In the original Greek language the repentance of Judas is used as a change of mind such to produce regret and even remorse of sin, but not a change of heart. Peter too had such repentance. Peter too was conscious of his guilt and of his helplessness but he came to know the Gospel-Christ’s mercy. That although guilty, helpless and polluted and well aware of his sin, in that knowledge he came to know Christ and what he stood for-mercy, and most importantly-He accepted it.

Just like these groups of two’s I’ve mentioned, we also are tempted and coaxed by ungodly powers to take a side. The tactic of making us believe in our own holiness, of how we can become part of our salvation through our own goodness. Or Vice versa, the tactic of showing us our sin clearly and then the suggestion that we are beyond salvation, even in Christ. These thoughts are not from Christ-when they come dispel them-for they are lies. Lies designed to separate us from the truth-from the truth of our saviour.

So-Let us hear the saving truth of our lord and Saviour:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:9-10)

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

“I am the living bread. Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry. And anyone who believes in me will never need anything important. Everyone that the Father gives to me will come to me. If anyone does come to me, I will never send that person away. I have not come from the sky to please myself. I have come to obey the one who sent me. He does not want to lose even one of the people that he has given to me. He wants me to raise them up on the last day. My Father has decided that anyone who listens to the Son and believes in him will have eternal life. And I will raise them up on the last day.” (John 6:35-40)

“I am speaking the truth. Anyone may hear my word and believe in the one who sent me. If they do believe, they have the real life that goes on for ever. I will not judge them for the wrong things that they have done. They have moved from death into life.”

Like Peter, we too most certainly know that there is no other that we can turn to, because we know that Jesus is the Holy One who has come from God, the one who has the Word’s of eternal life.

His Words of truth, that he simply ask we accept and receive eternal salvation. Amen.

 

I’m not worried, Are you?

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

John 6:51-58

“Wisdom in the Kingdom”

Trust, belief and wisdom.

The highlight of the Olympic Games for me was the conversation Usain Bolt had with a reporter after he had won the 100 metres. The reporter noted that prior to the games he seemed out of form, and indeed Usain himself had agreed that he was not at his best and with concern on his mind; he went and asked his coach if he too was worried. To which his coach responded “not at all”. He then explained to the reporter that “I trust my coach, so if he wasn’t worried, then nor was I so I just went out and ran”.

Trust and belief. But also the wisdom to act on that trust. The wisdom to override his own inner doubts and thoughts, because of his trust of another-from a trusted voice not from within himself, but a trusted voice from another.

(and) That’s the impact good coaches have on their players, they bring trust and belief and then wisdom. The wisdom that when at three quarter time, beaten and lagging-that when the coach says we’re in this, we can win it, we will win it, they truly do believe it.

Fos Williams, raised in a small country town over the hills from Port Augusta as a young man went to Adelaide in his job and to play football. Not long after he ended up as the playing coach of the Port Adelaide Magpies-the club of which has now born Port Power in the AFL. When he arrived they were a going nowhere. Magarey medallist Peter Woite gave the following insight to what then took place. He said “Fos would start an hour and a half before the game. Telling them that they were invincible. That they will win over and over again. Eventually the players came to believe it and went from accepting defeat to not accepting anything other than winning. They came to believe him, when they went out they believed they were invincible and that they would win. Belief that became so strong that when they were defeated, they were inconsolable. From outside of themselves, Fos had changed the way they played and their beliefs-and it became part of them, part of their substance and being.

Trust, belief and wisdom. Jesus says we are to have childlike faith, and I know where he’s coming from. When we were children, Jesus was so uncomplicated. He said I love you, bring you forgiveness and you’ll go to heaven. Jesus said it, so it was so; it was just in there inside us and onto doing kid’s stuff we would go.

Then for want of a better word we grow up. Learn to think logically and question things, question perceived truths. Get beaten around the head with life’s responsibilities, struggles and hardships. Given the gift of greater intelligence, to be able to think deeply of how things work, or how they should work and yet with all this knowledge, power and experiences-Jesus says we are to have child-like faith.

When young, if told that’s a chair, well it’s a chair-now I might first consider that it actually may be a stool.

Two weeks ago we heard the Jews ask Jesus: What is it that we must do, to do the work of God? And Jesus replies to believe in the one He has sent. Is that it, or did he mean something else-maybe it’s now a bean bag.

And in today’s Gospel Jesus tells us “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, they will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world”.

You can see where this is heading. No wonder the Jews had trouble understanding and believing what Jesus said. The stuff Jesus said, the gospel is foreign to how we are cast. Logically, these statements of Jesus are illogical. A pastor/lecturer at the sem. told us, when in your Parish; don’t get down on yourself with all the empty seats-because it’s a miracle that any one believes at all.

And through logic, or how we think it should work, he’s right, and right there we see that what Jesus said has to be case, everyone that does believe, has childlike faith, because otherwise you could not believe.

Trust, belief and wisdom. To trust and believe in what Jesus says, and the wisdom to do so, even though from within us it would seem the opposite. When as a child, Jesus says-so no questions needed. As an adult-Jesus says-and we question how that possibly could be-but believe anyway. That’s childlike faith-to override what we would think with what we are told by Jesus.

When Mother Teresa died, some of the press gleefully reported that during her last years she once said that after all the time working in the slums and in the hardships-she could not see God there. And as you could imagine, her quote gave many the ammunition to say see, there you go even the great Mother Teresa didn’t believe. But they missed the point; she did not say that-what she said was, that what was before her eyes gave no logic of God being present. Is that a heresy? Absolutely not, in fact quite the opposite because even though it may have seemed so, she knew it was not the case.

I was baptised as an adult-did I feel any different afterwards-I don’t think so. Baptising our infants, do we literally see a hallo form-I haven’t yet. Studying at the sem. and being ordained, do I feel like some kind of saint-not likely-I think I did more so before I went in. And that is the Gospel.

It would be nice to self-reference our spirituality, of what’s going on in our hearts-of feeling our growth within ourselves. Indeed it would be very nice, but not so comforting the next day when we see our heart just as black again as the day before. And that is the Gospel. It is not how we feel-it’s what Christ promises and what he does.

In Holy Communion-Jesus says I give you my body and blood-for eternal life, yes, but also to work inside you-We believe that, even though in our inner selves we find it hard to see much progress, if any.

That is the Gospel. It is not from us, it’s from outside. The Word of God, Baptism and Holy Communion-Our Lord and Saviour brings them to us, just like God sent His Son to us. He didn’t just flick a magic switch to fix up our mess-he sent His Son down to us-to grow in us from outside in-transforming us.

In Christ, we are transformed into the holy and righteous. Do you feel very holy and righteous? Maybe not, and if not, welcome to being normal. But in faith, though our hearts and minds may be at times like black coal-that when all the logic and facts of our sinful selves are stacked against, when we know that we are beyond help within ourselves, that in ourselves we are lost-yet cling to Christ, not just as our only hope of acceptance by the Father, but take it as a fact that we are accepted by the Father-that’s faith, faith in the truth. Thank God for the trust and belief he has worked in us, and the wisdom he has brought to us of childlike saving faith. Amen.

 

Like a bolt of lightning

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

John 6:35, 41-51

“Whether in the sprint or the marathon-it’s still a walk to the podium.”

I’ve mentioned before of the time I worked in a one roomed building with 2,000 people. That’s a lot of people and it was like its own community where people’s worth and standing was essentially understood and judged by what went on in that building. Which was interesting because from my previous experiences I knew people working there who had been business leaders, but now were considered well down the ladder, and to see the lack of respect for their abilities by others not knowing of their past was for want of another word “interesting”. (and) in all truth, due to the constant deadlines, looking below the surface of the person in front of you was somewhat a “luxury” and the same can so easily sneak into our daily lives from being too busy or just falling into the same old same old.

In my team within that organisation were too middle age ladies working on the base salary and answering to colleagues with much less life experience. But they never seemed for a moment indifferent to where they found themselves. They were always just there doing their work quietly, friendly and efficiently. Eventually, I got to talk with them. One I found was a qualified doctor in her home country, but being in Australia had to, and was undergoing further study to be recognised in that field-I wonder if her colleagues would have treated her differently if they had known just who they were working with.

The other lady, who upon receiving her resignation I came to find out was leaving because she had successfully completed her studies to become a psychiatrist. Surprised and a little embarrassed I mentioned that if I knew that, I would have led and acted a “little” more conventionally. To which she “graciously” thanked me for our time together as I had given her a great deal of material for her thesis.

Author’s say, based on our own life experiences everyone has one book in them and some of the most enlightening books I read are autobiography’s where quite often by the end I am stunned, saddened and inspired why what has taken place in that person’s life.

My father once can to know a younger man who was a loner, indifferent, always scruffy and without work. A person on the outer fringes of society with seemingly not a lot to offer. The type that can be seen lying on park benches and passed by without giving much consideration. The type of man that society judges harshly. This man, judged daily on all bar one. The day he walks with his fellow Vietnam veterans on Anzac day.

What we see is not always what we get but being misunderstood by others is only all too well known by God the Father and our Saviour Jesus. In today’s Gospel, the Saviour, Jesus reveals himself as the long awaited messiah, only to be disregarded because of their preconceived understandings:

“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say I have come down from heaven?”

The Jews reject Jesus because they can only see him; judge him through human values and standards. Their reaction in the face of Jesus claim was to produce the fact that He was a carpenter’s son and they had seen him grow up in Nazareth. They were unable to understand he could possibly be a messenger from God and rejected Him by human assessments and by social values and worldly standards. Jesus came to bring them what they yearned for-a saviour-yet they rejected both him and his offer of God’s grace because he did not fit the “box” of what they had expected.

That Vietnam Vet who was prepared to die for the people of his country, but now discarded by society and sleeping on a park bench-what must he think? Disillusioned maybe an understatement.

Jesus, who did die for his people-but discarded by large parts of our society as of no use anymore-how in his love he must grieve the rejection of the peace he offers. Somewhere along the line society seems more interested with spirituality that is seen as more exciting and tangible. Where everything must be felt and if that “wow” factor is not there something must be wrong.

The Church too is not immune against falling into this mindset. Where worship has to be “awesome” all the time. Where our worship has to feel like a Usain Bolt moment in the Olympic 100 metres final with all the razzmatazz. Don’t get me wrong, any worship of our Lord is good worship and we should always look for ways to bring his message to his people and if you have a bolt of lightning moment here or during the week cherish it and thank the Lord. But we don’t always have to feel like we are flying in the clouds to know we have been lifted up on high. Often, and on most occasions we receive the Lord in more normal, seemingly unspectacular moments here and in life in general. Far from a Hussein Bolt moment but more like that an Ethiopian Gold medallist mentioned many years ago when talking their national tri-outs. Where he said often the most brilliant of your opponents are the ones that just turn up from out in the lands in their bare feet-they don’t look anything special, but then run like gazelles.

Our lives with Christ, whether we run in the sprint or the marathon-we all only walk to the podium.

The same can be in worship. Sometimes we miss the point of it all, when maybe disillusioned or still feeling a little empty because we feel like all we did was just turn up and leave.

Yes it is most certainly only fitting and right and is truly good, and proper in worship and our lives to give thanks to our loving Father, who through Jesus Christ our Lord, who laid down His life for us. But in our lives and in our worship today-the primary reason the Lord has drawn us here is to give to us. To hear His Word-His Word that works in us regardless of if we feel it working or not. To confess our sins and know in faith that we are forgiven-because he says they are. To place our prayers at our fathers’ feet and know that he hears them and will act on them in a manner that is beneficial to us and others-even if it does not seem so. And to receive the Body and Blood of our Saviour and be strengthened in faith and life.

These amazing things are taking place here in our quiet little church-today. Today, whether you may be having a “Hussein Bolt” moment or not-the heavenlies are. Saints past and present are joined with the angels in glorious song and praise of our Father for what is happening here today. Praising our Lord and saviour because they can see what we cannot.

To see what we know in faith. Our Lord standing before us-glowing in radiance and love and giving everything of himself too us, that we may live in him. In the strength of the bread of life during our trek through this worldly wilderness until we reach our eternal home. When we will stand before our loving God and our Saviour as they welcome us home in the realisation of the promise and gifts that they give to us here today. What a great day that will be, and what a great day is this. Praise be to Christ. Amen.

 

Why the long face?

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Sermon John 6:24-35

“Why the long face”

In this month’s Lutheran magazine there’s an article about a group that visited Martin Luther’s old stomping ground in Germany, Wittenberg and one of them noticed a quote supposedly from Luther: “He who drinks much beer sleeps well. And he who sleeps does not sin. And he who does not sin goes to heaven”.

What’s that got to do with this sermon? Not a lot, I just like the quote, and why isn’t Cathy here to hear it. But today our topic is the bread of life, and both bread and beer can be made with either barley or wheat. And beer, like bread-and here meaning food in general is had in times of celebration and joy, but also as a source to try and fill the void. When that hole in our stomach, in our being is not through physical hunger or thirst, but through a spiritual void, a spiritual hunger.

Like retail therapy, excessive materialism and so forth. They are short term stop gap solutions to a greater problem. Rene Rivkin, now deceased but a once very wealthy man when asked does wealth bring happiness replied “No, but it does bring a better class of misery”.

Is having a few drinks with friends over a lovely meal wrong, is working hard to afford such luxuries wrong-absolutely not. In fact hospitality is something we should both provide and receive with joy.

Where the line is crossed is when things encroach on the first commandment: “You shall have no other Gods”. That word commandment brings up connotations of law, as it should. But the law is good, just like getting a speeding ticket is-well that may be stretching things a little, but the commandments do keep society on a leash-without them, imagine the anarchy that would exist.

The first commandment, how do we know if we’re stepping over the line? The answer straight from the confirmation class work book (so all the participants will know this off by heart).

A God, your God is whatever a person looks to for all the good things, and runs to comfort and help in times of trouble”. And in that explanation, of the law we see the Gospel. The Gospel we have heard today from Jesus when he says: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty”.

Law and Gospel. The law: don’t have other Gods. The Gospel, because they don’t work. In fact these other Gods in all probability will bring a worse outcome than what you went to them for in the first place. God and Jesus are not party poopers, quite the opposite, they want joy and life for us here and joy and life with us when we meet them on that glorious day in paradise.

In Jesus saying “I am the bread of life” he is putting the horse back in front of the Kart, getting things back in order. What he is not saying is that we won’t face the same trials and tribulations. They will happen to Christian and non-Christian alike. He asks that we hand them over to him. Just like he took our condemning sin on himself, he wants to take our worries on himself-to bring us some peace amongst our storms.

(and) what does he ask in return? Verses 28 and 29: “Then they asked him, what must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered; the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

If only I had known this earlier.

When leaving my previous job, as you could imagine some of my colleagues responses ranged from intrigue to openly suggesting my limited mental capacities had finally been extinguished. One such colleague who was a good friend, which in itself often had people shaking their heads because he was very driven to succeed in both promotion and prestige. In fact he would often joke about it-but we got on well because what each other saw was what they got. He did not have a hidden agenda-he was open and honest about his agenda.

(And) he asked me, why am I doing this. So I tried to explain the “call”, of God’s love to me, how I’ve come to see life through Christ and so on. I realised I wasn’t going so well when at the end he said “so what’s in it for you?” So, running out of solutions and knowing of his mindset I responded “I get to study for five years essentially without pay, and then work for half the money I’m on now”.

After that he said “Well good for you” and we went back to talking about the football”.

Now please don’t think I’m saying this for any other reason than for what I said it to him-just as a funny antidote. But ironically as Christians this does encompass us all.

Verses 28 and 29: “What must we do? The work of God is this, to believe in the one he has sent”.

Here we hear Jesus putting the horse clearly back in front of the kart. What is the purpose of life, of this world? That we believe that Jesus, the Son of God is the Messiah. The one who brings forgiveness and life.

So what of the other tangible works, of us individually and collectively? The works of the Church. Shall we befriend those against us, feed the poor, and give our time to helping in society. Absolutely, just like Jesus did when healing lepers and giving time to prostitutes and Pharisees alike. When someone’s down we don’t push them down further, we lift them up. Jesus did that and so should we.

Will it bring them to faith, maybe, maybe not-but it is to be done anyway-Because of what we know of Christ and his love for us, and for them-even if they won’t acknowledge him.

These works are good and they can bring comfort to those hurting, are these true works of a Christian Church-absolutely- but these acts in themselves are not the cure.

These acts are good, but they are the Kart that follows behind the one pulling it.

What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered; the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

What is the work of the Church? Ephesians 4 “He gave some to be prophets, evangelists and so on. So that God’s people will give works of service: so that the body of Christ may be built up”

So the body of Christ be built up, why? Because Jesus loves those lost and he knows that only in him is there the bread of life, that cures the emptiness of life without him.

Each of us here has been given gifts that we can use and do use to build the kingdom. Is our salvation reliant on it? Again, what works does God require? Jesus answered; the work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

And knowing that, that freedom-that there is not one ounce of pressure-knowing that Jesus actually does love us enough to not ask anything more, work in the field becomes a joy. A joy because even if we mess up or say the wrong thing, why worry because if it’s done for the right reasons-being of what Christ has already done for us, we know he’ll sought it out, just like he has for us.

What a joy that with all our imperfections-we can just be ourselves, have a laugh at our stuff ups and not take everything so seriously. That to serve God and his people we don’t have to be anything other than what we are, but just have a go and be yourself-and try and have some fun-even its at our own expense.

Maybe Luther’s comment at the start of this sermon was right. Not so much the beer-I think I’ve got that covered. But the essence of his words. Luther, the great Theologian. Did he take the Word of God, the Gospel seriously? Absolutely. So seriously he risked his life for it. Did he feel and weep for the hurting-absolutely. Was he himself, a larrikin and not take himself too seriously and could enjoy doing God’s work as himself-absolutely.

What a joy to serve such a loving and accepting God and Saviour-The only true bread of life. Amen.