More than a mountian

Who will save me?

James 5: 13-20

Life trusting God and accepting total forgiveness in His Son, our friend and Saviour Jesus, it is so freeing. To think and know that God the Father, a God of total love would give His Son to such cruelty, and for His Son Jesus to say yes-I am prepared to be tortured terribly that those that you love so much, that those that I love so much will be given life.

That truth that we know is so true for all our brothers and sisters in Christ. That truth that we know will see them on their last day standing before the loving Father. The Words of Jesus from the book of John: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”.

To know that truth brings freedom from anxiousness and worry in this life here. Problems, difficulties, loss and hurt that where once like mountains become small hills. The truth of our Lord and His love and the peace it brings, it needs to be shouted from the mountain tops that all may hear it.

A great evangelist, a true servant of God journeyed to tribes around the world to do just that. A perilous journey in a boat on rough seas to announce the Word of God not knowing if they would accept that Word or respond to it in anger. To present himself to them, not knowing if they would accept him, or respond to him in life threatening anger. Upon returning to his home country he was asked if he had any success to which he responded “Yes, many have been saved, but who will save me?”

Words from songwriter Marty Robbins and sung by Elvis Presley:

“You know Lord I’ve been in a prison for something that I never done. It’s been one hill after another and I’ve climbed them all one by one. But this time Lord you gave me a mountain. A mountain you know I may never climb. It isn’t just a hill any longer; you gave me a mountain this time”.

You cannot write those lyrics without having lived them. The self-doubt, the struggle and the hurt.

“Yes, many have been saved, but who will save me?”

I look at you here today, and know with absolute assuredness, that the Lord has kept his promise to you. Your place with him is sealed-you are free to follow your dreams, to live, to really live just as you are. You can succeed or fail it doesn’t matter. You can be yourself and if others think you’re different or judge you on what you do in your journey, it doesn’t matter-you are free.

You are saved-there is not one doubt that no matter what each of you are, knowing Jesus you are covered in his righteousness and saved. But who will save me? And there’s the problem. We see those around us, yes and if we think hard enough we could dig up some dirt, maybe a lot of dirt. But nevertheless we know that they are accepted by Jesus. But we see our own piles and piles of dirt, that each of us only truly know, and that God the Father truly knows and are led to wonder that if Christs saving Words can be true for such a person as me.

In my second week at the sem., after having essentially been a novice to my brother for the past three months I received a call from my Father before I hung up were “It’s over” and for the next three years I had nightmares where I had buried my brother in a shallow grave, and that his body may be found and bring me to justice. Confused of where I was and was I meant to be there, one night I went to bed and prayed all night until eventually falling asleep. Over and over, tell me Lord is this what I’m meant to be doing, please tell me Lord. When I woke up my thoughts were as clear as if I had literally heard it, an absolutely non-judgemental but “It didn’t have to end this way, know my word.”

This time I’ve been given a mountain that I may never climb, my mountain of sin. I still do things I wish I didn’t, I still want to do things that I know I shouldn’t, that I carry like a curse. In my younger years our group of friends used to stay with one of the blokes Aunty in North Adelaide on our trips to the city. His aunty that would you believe was married to a pastor. His aunty that I met again 20 years later at the introductory tour of the sem. for new Pastoral students who after being a little stunned said “you’ll make a good pastor because you know what sin is”.

Fair go, give me a break. I felt like saying “O.K. O.K. but can you keep it down a little”.

But she was right, not about the good pastor bit but about the sin part anyway and for the next three and a half years of my five years studies I asked myself and God did you really call me or did I call myself. Am I meant to be here, am I just kidding myself, and dare I say it I could see plenty there wondering the same thing, like you here may be.

I look back and given the judgement that I sometimes felt from others, but more so of myself it was a genuine miracle that I lasted those first three or so years.

Martin Luther once received a letter from one of his pastors weighed down by his own sin to which he basically answered “welcome to the real world”. And somewhere in those years I saw the real world. That sins, doubts, hurts and so forth weren’t just carried by me. Pastors, devoted Christians and children of God were in the same boat and somehow through this I came to see that I was not unique in my flaws, to know longer have to ask “but who will save me”. Somehow I came to truly know that it is true, even for a sinner like me and to cling to that truth.

When spiritually attacked, when reminded of our sin, failings, our crap, to cling not to our own judgements of ourselves, but to those of Christ.

At the end of apartheid in South Africa Nelson Mandela gave Archbishop Desmond Tutu the job of reconciling the country. Not to punish, but to reconcile. To bring out the sins of the past so that they can go forward.

On such man was on trial for locking up a father and his son with savage hungry dogs. He confessed and after this terrible act was brought into the open the judge asked a lady present what should the penalty be? And she responded “This man has taken from me my husband and my only child, I have no one left, so he will visit me once a week and I will care for him”.

From today’s reading in James:

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let them pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let them sing praise. Is anyone sick? Let them call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over them. If anyone among you wanders from the truth, bring them back.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we all hurt and we all laugh. We all know joy and pain and we have all fallen short. We are all in this together. We all have mountains to climb, and the biggest is not in Jesus accepting us, but in ourselves-because we know who we are, and so does God. Who we stand before with all our sins on display. And God looks to His Son Jesus who responds “they are my sheep, I know them-every little detail. And I have walked there path and know there pain and hardships. I know what they do and what they should do. I know their sorrows and their joys and felt their sin on the cross. But Father you sent me to save them and I have. I have fulfilled your divine plan-all their sins, no matter how big or small I have taken from your sight, I have covered them over. It is finished that no matter when they fall again I will be there, that no matter what they think of themselves-they will not be snatched from my hands.

Don’t listen to yourself, listen to Christ. In Christ alone, it is over-you are saved and you can choose to laugh or cry because you are free. Saved and free if Christ. May you climb your mountains. May you walk through the valley of the shadow of death but fear no evil, because our Lord of goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our lives, that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That we fear not ourselves but see Christ who gives us green pastures and still waters on our journey home.

We are free of ourselves and free to lie in those pastures and bask in those waters. Free to live. Praise be to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Never judge a book by its cover

Mark 9:30-37

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, but by its maker”

One Friday night my friend and I went to the hotel for a couple of drinks. While there, the TV was playing the football game and an elderly lady, noticing that we were watching it came over and started talking about the game. We talked about how well her side were playing and the players and so forth. We were very generous in our comments because they were actually playing very good football. After about twenty minutes she asked “why we didn’t go to the game?” After we replied that we barracked for other teams (one being the other local team which was basically the arch enemy), and although neither of these teams was playing that night against her team, without a word she got up and left.

We found it quite humorous that one minute we seemed like old friends and the next, well I’m not sure but we certainly weren’t worth associating with. While this was not hurtful, it did show how easily we can fall into the them and us attitude. Upper class and lower class, state against state such as NSW and say Victoria, school against school and so forth, we could go on forever. Most of these discussions are either friendly banter or loose talk and at most times not meant to physically or mentally to scar. But the thing is that making an assessment on people can become so part of our everyday living that we don’t even know we are doing it. If we saw a business person in a suit standing next to a scruffy type person, without speaking a word to either of them we would still probably make judgments regarding them without even realising it.+

Firstly, to judge a book by its cover can be very misleading. Two true stories. A very wealthy business man every two years updated his $200K sports car at the same car dealer. One year though, he went in to do so with his daggy cloths that he had been doing some painting in and just couldn’t get the salesperson to basically give him the time of day. In the end he gave up and sent them a letter explaining the situation and that from now on, his continued business will be supported elsewhere. A costly mistake for that dealership and probably more so, the salesperson.

Alternatively, a person I knew who would help out in a van giving food to the needy said quite often people in suits driving expensive cars stop to get food for their families dinner. Basically all show and just keeping up appearances because they feel they have to or because of pride.

But secondly and more importantly, even if the expected stereo type was true, should that dictate how we treat that person? Well, in one way I would say yes. If approached by someone down and out should we try and help them with food, clothing or money-absolutely. As a Christian or non-Christian that is the right thing to do and there are many, many wonderful people and organisations that do just that and we so should all of us when the situation arises. We know from Matthew 25 Jesus thoughts on charity and kindness:

‘’For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me.

These are the Christian things to do, and simply the right things to do.

In today’s Gospel the irony abounds as we hear that after Jesus has told the disciples of His forthcoming death and resurrection, they are arguing about who among them is the greatest. They have well and truly missed the point-so Jesus helps them understand by talking a child in His hands and saying “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me”.

To us today, that doesn’t seem so challenging-until we get the context.

In those times, unless a person was wealthy they had little chance of a life other than what they were born into. Even then, if they improved their economic status they still could not break into the elitist circle as a person’s standing or rank was governed by the person’s family tree or birth linage. Further, a child was considered especially powerless. We’ve heard the term seen and not heard, then it was more like not seen and not heard. Alternatively, the Rabbis were seen as like the heroes of the day, and while they did teach humility, they expected their followers to serve them.

Given this we see the situation as the disciples did. Being that with this class type society, for them the chosen ones of Christ to be arguing who is the greatest-or of their rank is normal. They were conditioned to think that way by society, like we are conditioned to make assessments of people by their dress, job or the like.

So when Jesus says “to be first you must be last and a servant of all he” it would have been basically like talking in a foreign language and then continuing with “whoever receives one such child (the bottom of the rung) in my name receives me” is stating that in receiving or accepting the lowly, they are in fact accepting him because the custom of the day was that a person’s agent accurately represented the one who sent him and was supported by the sender’s full authority.

Jesus is not just talking of good works of feeding the lowly; he is talking about total acceptance as you would of your own loved ones.

So what of us, let’s return to Mathew 25:

‘’For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Most of these are do-able under a tick sheet type of good works, but that one line “I was a stranger and you invited me in” takes it to a whole new level. “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me”.

Jesus it not just talking of tasks, he is talking about total acceptance-as if it were Jesus himself. Is this not somewhat challenging? Are we to go down the river at midnight and invite the homeless into our houses? Or to give up our jobs so we can systematically visit every person in hospital or prison so that we can stand before Jesus and say yes, when I saw you sick or in prison I came to you, that yes I fed you, clothed you and took you in. Indeed some people are given these gifts, but what do the people Jesus is talking of in Matthew say? not yes, but a quiz-ickle “did I”?

This is more like meeting Jesus on our last day moment and when he says “well done my good and trusted servant” you respond with “I was? as if to say that’s news to me, when?”

Let’s hear it from St. Paul near his end: “I have run the good race, I have kept the faith”. Through our lives, there are times where we have been or will hungry, outcasts, down trodden and judged, suffered pain, loss and hardship, yet in still remaining in faith-Jesus says welcome home my good and trusted servant. Oh and yes, I have some people here to meet you.

You look at these people and say sorry, but I cannot remember any of you. Then the first replies, I was sleeping on the grass one morning, and you said hello before I saw you enter church. Another says I was serving you in a shop and was having a terrible time, you seemed to see that I was upset and when you left you said God Bless You. And others told of small seemingly incidental moments that lead to other moments that eventually allowed them to see and accept Jesus.

How did we first come to faith, without even knowing it. How do we serve Jesus, yes there will be times where we will have to make a stand, have courage and put it all on the line, but often we serve him without even knowing it, by being a mother or father, an employee or employer and by trusting in our acceptance by God the Father because of our Saviour Jesus, by accepting in trust those he brings before us, by not judging them by their cover, their appearance, rank or lack of rank, but by their maker, our maker, God The Father. Amen.


Didn’t hurt much!

Living in the real world.

Mark 8: 27-38

On being asked how it went, the oldest man to swim the English Channel replied: “It only hurt once-from beginning to end”. Sounds like the irony of life because here we see a man that’s been given the gifts of swimming ability, stamina and a healthy pain threshold. Gifts that enabled him to purposely put himself through pain-which he could only do, because of his gifts.

Similar, Elvis Presley could never understand why he, a person such as himself was given by God the gift of his extraordinary voice. His gift that brought great admiration and riches, yet assured that he would never live a “normal life in the real world” so to speak.

Living in the real world. I have such admiration for Christians like your selves because living in the real world as a Christian takes a lot of courage. To try and witness to Christ by speaking of him causes much, much less stress if you say you’re a pastor instead of a bricklayer. As a Pastor, even if not accepted with open arms, people at least at some point know you’ll probably bring up the God topic sooner or later. But in the real world, in this day and age the rebuttal of mentioning your beliefs and faith as one in it as say a bricklayer, can bring a very sharp and cutting reply.

Some of you here today, like me may be way’d down by thoughts of not being adequate when measured against Jesus words in the Gospel today.

“You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man”

“Deny yourself, and take up your Cross and follow me”

And “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this world, of them will I be ashamed on the last day”.

Words from Jesus that come back to us after those moments when down at the pub, in the supermarket or club, we had a moment to openly declare our faith or to intervene when someone was sledging God, but let it go past, and know in our fear to stand up, we have fallen short. And guess whose the one to remind us, Satan is. An old man once said: “that devil he’s tricky, in this ear he tells me to steal that loaf of bread, and then after in this other ear he tells me how bad I am for stealing it”.

He is the tempter and accuser, and the manipulator of the truth and that’s why poor old Peter after trying to talk Jesus out of walking to His death gets it hard when told “get behind me Satan”. Would we not have said the same, we would have if we were there and if we loved Jesus. It’s not heard in this account of this interaction, but in the book of Matthew Jesus continued with: “You are a hindrance to me”, which from the Greek also means “stumbling block”.

Jesus is saying to Peter; stop it your thoughts of what we should do are a stumbling block. Almost like this is tough enough as it is. In Jesus “get behind me Satan” Jesus sees who the real foe is-Satan, and right here we see him in full attack on Jesus and the truth is what we have been living though our whole lives. He says to Peter, Stop Jesus, he doesn’t have to die, but then when Jesus did bring salvation for us by dying on the cross, he says “yes of course he died on the cross, that’s a historical fact, but it wasn’t really to bring you forgiveness”.

Jesus died on the cross that those in faith in Him alone, nothing to do with your efforts is the greatest truth in the world, and the greatest truths that the foes of Christ wish for us to not fully believe, but to believe that we must have at least some part to play in our salvation. Absolute lies.

A Pastor once gave me the simplest and easiest way to understand  living as a Christian. Some may think he said, that our lives are like the graph of the share market. It starts at one point, and the graph goes up and down, but if the shares are good, the line will be trending upwards. In our lives in regard to our worthiness, we start at this level, and likewise we have ups and downs, but at the end-the general line is flat, no better than we started. Our only hope is in Christ and Christ alone.

We again look at Jesus words today, his lesson. If we deny ourselves and “take up our cross and follow him” we will surely, like Jesus suffer and be scorned, and like Jesus will surely be raised on the last day.

Jesus had placed before him though many stumbling blocks, offered many alternate paths to lead him away from defeating death on the cross and bringing life and salvation. Likewise, placed before the world are many, many stumbling blocks designed to hide Christ, and to Christians, many stumbling blocks to attack Christs message of the forgiveness he has brought us.

Both of these statements Jesus said to Peter are said to us. And as Peter failed in both at times, so do we. But what has Jesus not said, he did NOT say because of this I will turn my back on you. These were not words of damning judgement but words knowing of how it is.

The damning words are the last, that if you are a shamed of me, so too will I be of you. Did Peter deny Christ, yes? Have we denied Christ at some point, in a pub or club with our silence? Most would say yes. Do we stumble like Peter, absolutely? Was Peter ashamed of Jesus, absolutely not, quite the opposite, he was ashamed of himself as to are we when we fall to our sinfulness in whatever form that is.

The enemies of the Truth would have us believe that Jesus turns his back on us. How did Jesus after His resurrection react on meeting Peter, the same as how he reacts to us: in love, forgiveness and acceptance.

The man that swam the English Channel and Elvis, did their gifts bring good things-of course. Did their gifts bring hardship-absolutely.

Those in Christ have been given a much greater gift. The swimmer asked when it hurt said: From start to finish”. In Christ, we have struggles and hurt, but he was the one who finished it for us. Even though it may hurt at the start and during, even though we continually fail from the start and during our lives-the finish is Christ, and that will not hurt for he will not turn his back on us.

Far from being ashamed: He knows the path we tread. He sees our weaknesses, He sees the impossibility of us not falling to sin, He sees us in fear of being ridiculed because of Him. He sees us fail again and again.

And he sees the lies placed before to lead us away from the truth.

But against all these odds and stumbling blocks we encounter: he sees and will meet on that last day those people who have clung to the truth, that I died for you-and will welcome you home. Amen.


Respect or Respected

Mark 7:24-37, James 9:1-10, 14-17

“God Only Live Forgiven”

As you would know, the show Big Brother is back on T.V. It can be an interesting show at times but it also reminds me of my golf ability and why I only play once or twice a year. Being that after 6 to 12 months I’ve actually started to forget just how bad a golfer I am, and so for the first 6 holes I’m full of enthusiasm, but from the 7th to the 12th I’ve realised just why I don’t play and during the remaining holes I just want it to end. For me, due to my inability to master it in any way, shape or form, golf truly is a good way to ruin a nice walk. By the way, I don’t know if it’s true but I was once told that the word GOLF was derived from Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.

Not that I get all my insights from Big Brother but I remember in the first series in 2001 one of the contestants stated that “people have to win my respect(before I respect them)” and then as now, I still don’t get that sentiment. Maybe it was just a loose comment but it just reeks of self-indulgence. To respect someone is in regards to your thoughts towards that persons sense of worth, and given that, and I’m not trying to be pious, but for me I cannot think of anyone I know that I don’t respect, but on the flip side I cannot think of why anyone would be concerned if I respected them or not. Why would they?

If somewhere has to earn our respect, that means they must respect us first, then and only then would we respect them in return. Thankfully in today’s Gospel we see that Jesus never fell into this one upmanship garbage. Last week we heard Jesus dismissing the manmade cleanliness laws of the day as a way of bringing holiness. But in today’s Gospel Mark shows us how Jesus didn’t just blur the lines between who are and who are not God’s people he smashed it too pieces.

First-century Jews referred to the pagans as dogs because of their failure to observe ritual purity laws and here, outside of Jewish territory-or put better, in enemy territory A Greek women, a pagan approaches Jesus to initiate the discussion, and this in itself was not the done thing because in those times it was considered improper for a woman to directly address a man, but none the less, Jesus healed her daughter as she requested.

In the second miracle we are not told whether the man was a gentile or a Jew-but with his condition he would have been considered unclean, so even if a Jew he would have been excluded from their society and worship.

In both these interactions and Jesus actions he has thrown the manmade exclusions of the day that he spoke of in Matthew 23:13 out the window: “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter go in”.

Because through His actions we see that Jesus’ outreach is not excluding but inclusive, and his presence is not condemning but transformative.

Author Anne Lamott once said: “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

To be taken from death to life, not through our actions, but in spite of our actions, how could we not be transformed? Lost but found, how could we possibly judge another person’s sense of worth, that they may possibly win our respect?

In ourselves, we see that God has shown no partiality but grants the same gift of salvation to all those in Christ. Lost but found, ripped from the curse of death and given life-how could we not serve and build up each other and all those that come before us, irrespective of appearance, wealth or status.

But then I think of my golf abilities, right now I know I’m hopeless because I only had a game a few weeks ago-no doubt in 6 to 12 months I’ll load up the buggy thinking I’m the next Greg Norman.

A good friend of mine told me that there are plenty of people believing in God on the battlefield, but not so many of them holding that belief later, when in the safety of peaceful times.

A golf pro told me that he must train at least four hours a day, even when he thinks his game is exactly how he wants it, but then added-because when I approach the ball, if I start second guessing myself or wondering if I can make the shot-it’s over. That’s why its practice, practice and more practice-to just know it-that I don’t even have to think about it, that I know I will make the shot-confidence.

Sport, generally, you get from the work you put in-as is life generally. It’s hard to buy the new Ferrari if a person doesn’t want to work. Yet, in Christ, we put in nothing but got everything.

It’s not only easy to forget that “There bar the grace of God we go”, but spiritually there we did go. Joining the ministry I could see myself as pastoring to the lost on the street-the outcasts, but over the five years I came to see that even those in Christ, the pain and self- doubt is often hidden under a very thin veneer. I came to see that like Jesus knew-We, I all need to be reminded his Words of comfort-His words that bring to us the confidence and trust in the truth. That underneath the bedraggled look of the person on the street, he see a little child that he wants to hold and love. That beneath the white gown of a pastor who knows all too well his shortcomings and sin, Jesus see a little boy that he wants to hold and love. That you here today, rich or poor in wealth or spirit. At the beginning of your lives or nearing the end, Jesus see’s little children and say’s let them come to me, because I love them and they are mine.

“As Copernicus, the great astronomer, was dying, a copy of his great book, The Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies, was placed in his hands. But it was not his brilliant work that was on his mind. Instead he directed that the following epitaph be placed on his grave: “O Lord, the faith thou didst give to St. Paul, I cannot ask; the mercy thou didst show to St. Peter, I dare not ask; but, Lord, the grace thou didst show unto the dying robber, that, Lord, show to me.”

Jesus shows no partiality. He did not come to exclude but to include. God Only Live Forgiven. Pray we never forget that for ourselves, or of any of those that he places before us. Amen.


The elephant in the room

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 &

James 1:17-27

“The elephant in the room”

If today is Father’s day, what does that say of the other 364 days of the year? Not that I’m complaining, one day is good considering I’m still trying to work out this “being a Father thing”. In this confusion I went to the good old dictionary. A father is, or can be amongst other things:

– a male parent

– a respectful term of address for an old man

– a male who originates something e.g. the father of modern psychology

– the head of an organized crime family

And my old favourite: the father of a specified kind e.g. the father of a whipping

If you fall into any of those categories it’s your day and as Steve Irwin said to his young girl when she asked him “if she could have ice-cream for breakfast”, “yer, why not, treat yourself”.

Another definition is “fathers of the church” and in today’s Gospel we see some of the equivalent in Jesus day asking him why his disciples were not following in their tradition of washing their hands before eating. To which in reply Jesus starts with “you hypocrites..

With this in mind, each morning this week I’ve been going down to the public toilets, stepping over the people sleeping there and lambasting all the hypocritical “hand washers”. I think I’ve stumbled onto something that can initiate our “church growth”-the church for all the unclean-literally.

Like the Pharisees and scribes in today’s Gospel, I think I’ve missed the point because in my teaching as Pastor Steve the Father of filth, I would become as one with those to who Jesus is talking too and calling hypocrites for teaching “the doctrines and commandments of men” because of all the myriad of laws given to the Jews, this was not one of them, these were human made conditions and rules that excluded rather than included.

The saying the elephant in the room: where everyone is discussing what the problem may be by talking of insignificant or minimal diversions, when the problem-the elephant in the room is right before their eyes but they either are not game, or it’s too big a problem to address.

So Jesus addresses the elephant in the room-the problem is not what enters from outside defiles, but rather what lurks inside. This is not what they wanted to hear but it is hard for us as humans to judge them considering their upbringing within the traditions of the day up and against Jesus’ radical teachings.

Jesus teachings that are just as radical in our world today. Love your neighbour-what the one who is so rude to me, or those at work who lie to win the deal or to get in good with the boss. Be humble-see how far that will get you in the job interview. Be servants to others and look for the good in them-to not play the blame game but have a cold hard look at yourself first-do I have too?

It’s a bit like going to a party-you think all the others are strange, and all the others think you are strange-you might just be the strange one.

A legendary Richmond footballer said it well when as walking off the field after a bad loss and hearing two young players blaming the coach said “the coach is not the problem, you’re the problem, so you do something about it”.

Jesus says forget about washing your hands, the elephant in the room, “the problem is you, us, you’re the problem-so I’ve done something about it”.
I’ve done the work for you, and because of that you are now free of the curse of constructing human ways of self-redemption. (and) by the way, it’s best if you wash your hands so that you don’t catch the flu that’s going around.

And that’s the deal, given that gift of life, Jesus gift of not needing to weigh up our ledger of good and bad things, of not having the pressure of having to do works and deeds, we are then free to go for it. Where it’s not like good works, because it’s not work so to speak-in the freedom of being forgiven as we are, those good “works” don’t seem like work but just an extension of ourselves.

In the epistle today James says we are to be doers of the Word and he is right, but if we read that on its own It’s a bit daunting, but read after the Gospel of John-where John just cuts to the core of the Gospel-justified in faith in Christ alone-James words of do this change from hearing it in the response “if I don’t do this I’m stuffed” to “oh yer, thanks for the reminder”.

I reminder that those in need are loved by God-and that we should go to them, but also a reminder of God’s love to us-and how he comes to us.

Father’s Day, like life can be a day of happiness or a day of sadness. When my dad died, a friend of mine framed the words from Archie Roach’s song “There is a garden”.

“When all the trees have gone, and all the rivers dry.

Don’t despair when all the flowers have died.

For I have heard that there’s a garden somewhere.

When you hear the children cry, when you see them die.

And mother can’t sing a lullaby.

When everything is gone, and when you’ve lost all hope.

And you have come to the end of your rope.

I believe that the flowers will bloom again.

We are young, and we are old.

But what we have can’t be bought or sold.

What we have is Jesus, and he cannot be bought by our good works, and nor will he be sold by our sin, and in that garden where the flowers bloom we will all one day unite.

God tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, and in Jesus, we have times to love and times to beloved, times to serve others and times to be served by others, because in Him, we are free to do so. Amen.