Archive for April, 2013

Why me Lord?

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

“Lead us Lord. Lead us”

Based on Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6 and John 13:31-35

refugeeJesus said “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.

Last week, a presenter from the Australian Lutheran World Service talked of their work in those parts of our earthly home in great need. Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and all manner of tragedies including the recent East African drought crisis.

Affecting 13 million people across the Horn of Africa, the drought forced quarter a million people to seek food and other assistance in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

At the camp in Ethiopia, a tent city of 155,000 people to which each day another 1500 would be added to after having travelled weeks and months. At the entrance to this camp, in a country that has felt the suffering and stench of death from its own famines in the past, a country that could “legitimately” turn away those in need for fear of exhausting its own resources there is a sign that greats the daily flood of refugees:

“You are in a different country. We welcome you. Here you have peace and security. This is your home.”

The camp in Kenya is the largest refugee camp in the world housing 470,000 people and “in charge” and while living in a tent like the rest is an local elderly women who deals the United nations, the organisations like Lutheran World Service and the government in managing the resources to try and meet the needs of those before her. The displaced, those who have seen family beaten, tortured and killed before their eyes, those who have seen their villages decimated by warlords and famine. Those who have nothing and when she was asked how she can daily wake to a tragedy that seems to have no answer she said everyday she starts with the same prayer:

“Lead us on Lord. Lead us where we dare not go. Lead us Lord. Lead us each new day”.

Elvis Presley, aware of his own shortfalls was often led by a heavy conscious to ask the Lord, “Why me Lord, why did you give me the gift of this my voice, why me” and daily we ask ourselves or at least remind ourselves the same. Why us Lord. Why have we been given the gift of a free and plentiful country? Yes we have suffered and walked the wrong way, but why is it true that the words “there but the grace of God I go” are so true for us? And why have sinners such as us come to know and accept your forgiveness and grace, and yet others not?

Before his wedding, Bill Gates mother gave his wife to be a word of advice “We have always given to the needy, that’s who we are as people” and when asked what’s the greatest challenge of being rich, Bill answered “the responsibility it brings” and at the end of 2012, Bill, his family and his wife Melinda’s foundation had totalled 36 billion dollars of monies for charity.

Our gracious Lord, both in his earthly providences and his spiritual gifts when we knew him not took us in. When broken by hurt, fear and the pain brought from others and ourselves, the Lord lifted us up and as others walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he brings them to us that they too will see his love and fear no evil as they see his goodness and mercy, and see that he is with them.

We all have been on and are on a journey. We have all felt hurt and felt lost. Felt vulnerable. Felt that no one understands nor knows our pain. Maybe you lived on the street. It’s cold and you’re hungry. You are scared, but you are angry. As people pass you by, you can see disgust in their eyes, their fear of you, there pity. But you are alone. You think how did it come to this? You cannot even clearly remember how, it seems so long ago and yet like only yesterday, when you knew hope. But you still have a little hope and think, tomorrow, tomorrow it will be different. But it isn’t, maybe they are right, maybe I am worthless. If only someone understood.

You are sitting in a cell in the detention centre. You see your children-and you know you are responsible, but you had no choice. You only wanted to give them safety; you had to do it for they would have surely died where you came from.

They are playing soccer in the courtyard surrounded by razor wire and you know, at least for now they are safe. But you see the fear and confusion in their eyes. You just want to hug them and say, it will be O.K., but you can’t. If only someone understood.

Yesterday, the day before, or in the days to come-you have heard the back stabbing and the rumours. You have felt others judgement and betrayal just as you have felt your own self-condemning judgement and despair. You have wronged others and been wronged. You just want to start again and know hope in your life that one more time.

But then a person, a group of people or a nation say to you: “We have seen your misery; we have heard you cry out in your suffering. So come to our land, a land that abounds with nature’s gifts. Because “The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”.

We will not judge you, for we “Do not judge, or we too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of dust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” but we will watch over you like “The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow”, you have been oppressed but now you are safe and we will never turn our back on you again. We give you a shelter from the storm and shade from the heat for “The lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble”. For we too were in need, so now we accept you as our own and give you food, clothing and love “for the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who knows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens.”

No longer will you be oppressed, no longer do you need to fear of persecution for you are now free to live as you choose because we have been told that “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him”

No longer will you live in fear because we do not fear you, but we will love you because we have felt the compassionate hand of love, so “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete”.

So do not be afraid. No longer have any concern for your life or your body and what you will eat or drink or what you will wear. But come and reside in us and you will receive these things as you hear the words we have heard as “Jesus said to his disciples: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more important than food, and the body more than cloths”, “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well”

Should you fall in despair, affliction, are beaten and wronged, we will no longer pass you by, but will tend to your wounds and take care of you like the “man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his cloths, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to the inn and took care of him”.

Remember your misery no more. For when you need defending we will defend you and when you cannot speak we will speak for you that “you forget your poverty and remember your misery no more. (For the Lord has told us to) speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; and defend the rights of the poor and needy”.

No longer will you need to sleep on a park bench or the riverbank because our doors are open to you, because as the Lord to us, so we to you, that“ no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveller”, whether you are poor, crippled, lame or blind in body or spirit we invite you to our banquet, because like his banquet to us, he has told us “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous”. For we have been blessed with many riches which we now share with you as the Lord’s “desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality”

For no longer are you foreigners or aliens, but fellow citizens. We are all one people and members of the one household of our Lord “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called uncircumcised by those who call themselves the circumcision. Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ”. “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household”

Today we celebrate and rejoice, because like us, you too were dead and like us we you too were lost, and like the words that were said to those that took offence when we were welcomed home as the prodigal sons and daughters, we now hear said to us upon your coming home “My son, the father said, you are always with me, and everything thing I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found”

In the verse that follows todays Gospel passage, before his death Jesus told Peter “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward”

Christ loved you so much that he gave his life for you, that you too, with the apostles and all those in Christ that have gone before, our loved ones, our husbands, wives, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters will sit at his feet without tear, death, crying, pain or mourning.

“Love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”.

“Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come; Tis grace that has brought us safe thus far, and grace that we lead us home. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. We once were lost, but now are found; Was blind but now we see.”

Lead us on Lord. Lead us where we dare not go. Lead us Lord. Lead us each new day.

 

The Voice

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

 The Voice

John 10:22-30

 

the good shepherdOver the last few weeks the earth has been rocked by several earthquakes, including one at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and one in China, we’ve  had the volcano doing its best to ground all international flights. As you would expect there have been several claims by people that the end of the world is nigh. There was even a claim by someone that the earthquakes were being caused by the revealing clothes that western women are wearing! One commentator on the internet coined a new term that I quite liked, he called these people ‘Psycho-Ceramics’ in other words, they are crackpots.

These people seem to use selected parts of Mark 13;

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines.

When you think about it that way they are right, there are wars and rumors of wars, there are earthquakes happening in various places, there are famines and floods and all sorts of things happening. But whose voice are they listening to? They are taking selected parts of the reading without looking at whole thing.

Here is the actual reading: “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. They are missing some very important statements in Jesus’ words to them, do not be alarmed, the end is still to come, this is just the beginning. These things have been going on for centuries haven’t they and Jesus says that there is no need for alarm.

Jesus also said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.”

Whose voice do you listen to, do you hear the noises that false prophets make, or do you listen for the voice of God through scripture and test it with scripture?

It’s pretty easy to get led astray these days isn’t it? We have talk back radio, more radio stations than ever before broadcasting there own propaganda. We have public affairs TV shows that seem to run with their own agendas. Newspapers bombard us with opinion and report on the stories that they think will sell their papers in a society that now relies far more heavily on the internet for its information. Then there is the internet, where you can search instantly for the answer to any question you may have and usually find answers that support you own theory if you look hard enough.

Whose voice do you listen to? The voice of reason, your own voice, the voice of a stranger? Or do you listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd, the one who was willing to lay down his life for his sheep? He won’t let anyone snatch you out of his hand. I read a good analogy of this during the week. Imagine a yo-yo, a toy that has had many rises and falls in popularity over the years. To use one you attach the string to your finger, you can then fling it up or down, in or out and if you have just a little bit of skill you can usually make it return to the palm of your hand. That’s what it is like with Jesus. He lets us have a little space to go and do our own thing, to spin freely at the end of the string, but then he gives a gentle tug and we return to the palm of his hand. Protected and safe from the evil one.

What the Father has given him is far greater than all else. He has given him the power to make us his children, members of his flock, he has given us eternal life through him and he will not let anything or anyone snatch us from his hand.

Yes the time will eventually come when we are called to leave this earthly life, but as we heard in our reading from Revelation this morning, “The one who is seated on the throne will shelter them, they will hunger no more, and thirst no more, the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd and will guide them to springs of the water of life and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Even though our current life might be difficult and there might be many things we are dealing with, we live in the knowledge and the assurance of eternal life. The Good Shepherd guides us through this life and protects us as we wait for the coming of our eternal life with him, as we walk through the valley he guides us in all that we do and prepares a place for us to be with him at the end of time as we know it.

I think it is appropriate as Australia and New Zealand today commemorate ANZAC day that we hear these readings. War is a terrible thing brought about largely by human greed and a lust for power. Millions of innocent people around the world have lost their lives in war. Today the people of Australia and New Zealand pause to remember those who have given their lives in battle. We thank their families for their service and for the price that they paid. During dawn services around the two countries and at other events as well the following words are spoken:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

I’ve been hearing those words since I was about eight years old, many of you have heard them for a lot longer. They too remind me of our Revelation reading, they will hunger no more, and thirst no more.

Not one of us knows the day nor the hour when we will leave this earth, we don’t know how it will take place. It could even be as a result of an earthquake or war, what we do know is that the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life, for us his sheep has called your name; he wants you to follow him, so that you will dwell with him and he can protect you in the palm of his hand. Listen for his voice, testing the call of false prophets against his word, so that you may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Amen

Pr Tim Stringer

Dave’s not home

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

John 21:1-19 & Acts 9:1-20

“Dave’s not home”

doctorsThose of my era may remember the comedians Cheech and Chong. In one skit they are two doctors and while looking over the waiting room they have a bet on whether one of the seriously ill people waiting will actually make it to his appointment. While they are talking, in the background you can hear the man heaving and stumbling as he gets his place in the queue at number 78 as over the loud speaker you hear them calling number 3.

It’s a satire but I have great respect for doctors, nurses, ambulance and emergency officers, the police and all the others that have to continually, with professionalism and empathy front up to the constant onslaught of circumstances that for the people involved, are “once only” and very emotional and fearful situations.

Once in Adelaide for the country cricket carnival and on our way to an infamous party street we stopped and talked to some ambulance officers having their dinner out the front of the main train station. They were very nice and as we departed one said, and in hindsight knowingly, “we’ll see you later tonight”. And they did as all bar three of us got a free ride to the hospital and I’ll always remember there was no I told you so or irate words of us bringing them into danger-they just did their job and I’ve heard the same about the salvation army people along those streets as they care for the same people night after night.

Often in society and in the Church we like to see, or even expect some positive changes in people when we extend our hand in help.

Well who said so? And for that matter what is positive change. Maybe the change needs to come in us. To have that perseverance and staying power when to us it seems a futile and lost cause. To just do our “job” as Christians and persevere and stay, knowing that God is somehow in that person’s life doing His job.

The same perseverance we suffer under in our own “stuff”. To persevere in our own hardships and disappointments knowing that God’s amongst it. To persevere in the knowledge of our sin, the stuff we detest of ourselves yet continually fall for, but stay clinging to what Christ has told us-that he is amongst it with us-seeing it and knowing it-yet staying firm in his commitment to bring us his grace.

And in these times of enlightenment and self-help, when we have to rely completely on someone else when we have no answer to the situation it can be the gaining of wisdom outside of “self”.

A man was a successful Wall Street analyst until drink drove him into deep depression which led to his mental disintegration. Following an accident which resulted from him being drunk, he decided to deliver himself from the depths into which he had sunk and became a member of an organisation called the “Moral Re-Armament”-an organisation that stresses do-it-yourself redemption. But instead of gaining his freedom through self-help, he sank deeper and deeper into the depths and after a three day drinking binge he ended up in a Manhattan hospital completely shattered. In his moment of complete and utter helplessness he prayed to God for help and said “suddenly, the room lit up in light and he was caught up into a feeling that words cannot describe”. This changed his life and what had been impossible for him to achieve was achieved in him through the power of God. From the depths of his defeat, degradation and despair he was “resurrected” from a living death and made alive. A “resurrection” that would be felt in the lives of millions, as this man Bill Wilson was to go on and be the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

A gift, a miracle-an encounter with God that saved him and countless others.

A gift, a miracle and encounter with God that changed the apostle’s Peter and Pauls lives and the lives of the countless millions others who saw and heard the truth of Christ in the lives of these two men who accepted his offer to leave behind their mistakes and live instead under His grace.

Peter who denied Christ three times and went missing in his time of need and Paul, a leader of those inflicting death and punishment on Christians who when they met the raised Christ came not to just know what he stood for, but what he came for-to set them free of themselves, of their failures, character flaws, and most importantly-of the things that they could not undo themselves-their sin.

These direct encounters, miracles if you like may seem reserved for the few but all who encounter Christ are offered his same life changing power.

A team mate of Shane Warne’s once remarked that no matter how much turbulence and media attention he was getting because of his personal life, when he walked onto the oval he left all his troubles on the ovals picket fence and was free to be the champion he was.

In our lives Christ is the picket fence that surrounds us. In our lives Christ brings the truth that sets us free:

“For I am the Lord, I change not. If you come to me, I will not cast you out. Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heaven burdens and I will give you rest”.

We may not seem to have that moment like the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Peter or Paul, but those same gifts and miracles are hidden in every aspect of our lives. In our joyous moments Christ is there just as he is there guiding us as we walk through the chaos and confusion.

Like Paul, we may have a thorn in our side that we wish wasn’t there, but like Paul we have God’s grace and that is enough because living in that grace, we have the sureness of the resurrection on our last day and the sureness, that now-today we can serve God the Father by leaving our mistakes, burdens and sins from the past with our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

The knowledge of our inability and failure to live as we should is the start of wisdom. The knowledge of Christ’s power and love is the emergence of that wisdom. To live in Christ’s forgiveness and his total acceptance of you in every facet of your life is to understand that wisdom.

To give Christ our past and present burdens is to answer his call and whether we answer that call and lay them off to him or not, in his name we are still forgiven and free in this world-that will not change. But his desire is that we join with a man that God said “was after his own heart”, yet a man that fell to adultery and murder.

A man called King David who in his sin truly came to know restoration in the grace of God. That restoration is what Christ craves we know and join with King David in testifying, and giving evidence of in our lives: From Psalm 55: verses16 to 18:

“As for Me, I will call upon God; and the Lord will save me…He shall hear my voice. He has delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me” (Ps. 55:16-18).

The Lord has blessed you and kept you. The Lord has made His face shine on you and been gracious to you. The Lord has looked upon you with favour and the Lord gives you his peace.

 

More than a game

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

“When it’s more than a game”

John 20:19-31

hidingOn several occasions I’ve heard some of the greatest sporting coaches put things back into perspective and mention “that when all is said and done, it’s only a game”. I agree, except on one occasion.

I was fifteen years old visiting my school friends house on a farm and we were playing backyard cricket with his three older brothers when there was a disputed decision. Somehow negotiations degenerated to the point that we found ourselves hiding in the nearby corrugated chicken shed while they were shooting at us with a .22 calibre rifle. Maybe seeing my apprehension of the situation at hand he comforted me by commenting “don’t worry about it, they know where we are and are just shooting around us to scare us. But when they run out of bullets I am going “*&$%”, (well, words to the effect of severely retaliating). Eventually the shooting stopped and instead of further aggression we just somehow resumed playing. I made a point of never disputing another decision.

My friend, and his brothers for that matter did not display a lot, if any fear in life and when his schooling finished he left to do a bit of travelling overseas and didn’t return. For twenty years he worked for six months and backpacked for the other and in the end in having run out of places to visit, with his friends threw a dart at a world map to see where to go. It came up next to a small village in Ethiopia which just happened to be in the middle of a severe famine. So they hired a chopper, got dropped off and said pick us up in two weeks and as money was no good because there was nothing to buy, they spent those two weeks fishing the nearby river with some homemade fishing lines to survive while in the process loosing half their body weight.

Walking to work at 8.00 in the morning in Coober Pedy back in 1992 I noticed this familiar face amongst some locals drinking beer on the side of the road. It was him and after introductions he mentioned that Australia was the only place he hadn’t really journeyed through-and so here he was. It was great to see him again but I did mention that he “was getting an early start to the day (drinking)” to which he responded “always good to meet the locals and get to know the lay of the land early in the piece”.

That night having tea together he mentioned that having visited his home town they asked him if he wanted to play in the local football teams practice match-to which he declined and said to me “have you seen those country guys, I could have got seriously hurt”. To say I was surprised by his rationale was an understatement and I couldn’t help thinking “what has happened to you over those twenty years”.

The world constantly changes, and so do we. Most often things change without us really paying much attention but sometimes, like when the Berlin wall fell you know right there and then, that things will never be the same again. Defining moments that change the way the world looks and acts and defining moments that change our outlook on life.

You cannot get much more a defining “moment” than those of the apostles we have heard off this morning where the risen Lord presents himself before them while they are in hiding. The same disciples who had deserted him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter who had denied that he ever knew Jesus three times and others who has said they were prepared to give their own life for Jesus-yet fell away in fear. Here before the Lord stand his followers and allies. But his followers and allies who in fear failed to stand up when the time came to stand up. I imagine the saying “you could hear a pin drop” would have been appropriate for such a situation until Jesus “breaks the ice” and says “Peace be with you”. No reprimands, no criticism and no grudge to bear-only his words of reconciliation. His words of peace that heal their guilt heal their mistakes and heal their very being. “Peace be with you”, four words that he did not just say to bring a superficial peace, but words that brought his empowered peace. Christ’s peace that re-built them and changed their lives. The peace they came to finally and truly know that would see them dedicate their lives towards bringing the truth of Christ to the world. The truth of Christ that would cause eight of them to be killed as martyrs, but the truth of Christ that would be heard through the ages. The truth of Christ that we still hear today when in our sin and failings, in our fear and in those moments where we “fail to stand up”- comes to us and we hear the same lifesaving and life changing words of “Peace be with you”.

When Josh was only three or four years old we were having a kick of football and he hurt his hand to the point that he thought it might be broken. After looking at it and announcing that my diagnosis was that it was “only a sprain”, with a little indifference and annoyance he remarked “how would you know?”. After I’d mentioned those I knew of: Collarbone, nose twice, ribs, hands and so forth up to about twelve “Josh replied “O.K. it’s only a sprain.

When Jesus was talking to Thomas he showed him his scars from his crucifixion so that he would believe and know the peace he offered. When we are in despair of life and its hardships. When in despair of ourselves, our failures, the wrongs we do and the guilt they bring, Jesus doesn’t callously say “get over it because it’s only a sprain and I’ve had worse”. Rather it burns to his very core of existence as he sees the love of his life alone, scared and angry. The love of his life that he just wants to accept his outstretched hand and know the peace he wants to give freely.

On the Cross as Jesus was dying for those that despised him, ridiculed him and fell away from him he asked his Father to “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. On the cross Jesus died for the love of his life. You are that love and he pleads that you know it. Jesus Christ died to bring forgiveness and eternal life for those that accept him, the prostitutes, the drunks, the criminal, the rich and the poor. He died for the mighty and the weak.

Jesus died for those he loved that they may know and live under his most assured grace and know his peace amongst the storms of their lives and sins.

Jesus Christ died for the greatest love of his life.

Jesus Christ died for you. Peace be with you.

 

Something’s broken!!

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Good Friday

 

Something terribly shocking happened in the Garden of Eden. The third chapter of Genesis records how the close connection between God and the people is broken. They had been as close as any family could ever be. But then they became divided as only the closest flesh and blood families can become separated. The brokenness continued for years. Hundreds of years. Thousands of years.

To begin to understand the depth and seriousness of what happened with the tree in the Garden of Eden, we need to look at Jesus on the cross. There is Jesus, on the cross suffering and dying and taking the punishment for the broken relationship.

He is taking the blame for people’s sin and on the cross Jesus calls out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” It is the cry of people down through the ages who have felt the suffering that people go through because of their broken connection with God. Jesus closed that gap and he still reaches out, with his arms stretched out to all the people who are on the other side.

This includes people who want nothing to do with God. It includes people who are as evil, and it includes you and me, and even enemies.

When we look at Jesus on the cross we begin to grasp the depth of sin. Our guilt becomes clearer to us. Our sin is destructive and it hurts God.

Looking at Jesus on the cross, we begin to see how deep and costly is the love of God for people.

The depth of God’s love reaches out to enfold his enemies. The love of God goes deeper than our sin. It reaches out wide enough to include all people on this earth. The love of God that overwhelmed the thief on the cross next to Jesus,

and it reaches as far as you and me. The love of God is a healing love. It connects us up with God again like a new family.

Yet we humans are still weak. It is a one-sided relationship. God is the strong one. But it is a new beginning and it gets better as the Holy Spirit reaches out to us in the Scriptures to strengthen us. The Spirit that brings Jesus to us in Baptism, and again and again in the Lord’s Supper. The Holy Spirit that brings us to trust in the truth. Jesus: the one who died on the cross in our place.

At school we might have collected footy cards. Actually I never did but I have in the past several years been the financier of such a practice were cards are bought, then swapped and traded with other such parties. On the cross Jesus swaps places with us and traded not the discards for something better, but traded himself for the discards so that he could call them, call us his own.

Today is called Good Friday because we can focus on Jesus on the cross, and know that he is there for each one of us.

We know that, no matter what comes, we are loved with a love that is deeper and stronger than any of our enemies. The love of God that reaches down deeper than death. It reaches out to rescue us from the worst evil powers that might attack us. It reaches deeper than any sin that has been a part of our lives. God doesn’t say to us, “If you show a bit of good heart to me for a change, I will make it up with you.” He doesn’t even say, “If you’ve got some good intentions about spiritual things I’ll accept you back again.” No. He reconnects us to himself even when we humans are killing his son. In Romans 5, verse 10, the Spirit of God assures us, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.” God accepts you and me despite the mess we might have made with our lives. God does not accept you and me because we have lived a respectable life, but only because of Jesus.

The good news on Good Friday runs against the grain of our human nature so much that we need to hear the news again and again. The Christian faith is not about looking inside ourselves all the time. Saving faith is to look at God’s love and faith focuses on what Jesus does for us, especially what he did for us on the cross.

We conclude with the words of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:38 and the following verses about God’s love.

“And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.

Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

Failing to have a go

Friday, April 5th, 2013

“The only failure is failing to have a go”

Maundy Thursday.

 

Depending how you look at it, precedents can be a good thing or a not so good thing. We’ve all read or seen the situation in a court of law where the judge passes down judgement taking into the account of a precedent set from an earlier case,and giving consideration to the precedent set in Cyprus this week where in-order to re-structure two of the large struggling banks,deposit holders with over 100,000 euros (123 AUD) will be “taxed” at 30% of the balance I would say many in Europe, if not further afield may be a little nervous as they look at the current financial deficit and financial woes on their own shores.

I am certainly not an expert on this, the Cyrus situation nor the term “run on the banks”, but it does ring in my ears as should something cause a run on the banks, being something that gets customers acting in fear and withdrawing funds in plagues proportions there is no bank that would survive if they were the target of such a run, and one financial commentator even remarked that “what has taken place in Cyprus is like the EU holding up a sign almost pre-empting it”. Mind you with the seemingly daily occurrence of massive sink holes opening up around the world it is not just money that’s going down the drain, but houses, cars, people and yesterday in Tasmanian-even a horse.

Tonight’s readings explain to us in today’s world of a precedent we live under today in and through Christ. In the Old Testament reading we heard of the Exodus, the freeing and saving of the Israelite people from bondage under the Pharaoh of Egypt.As you know God having heard the cries of His people enlists Moses, a man who had previously fled for his life from Egypt is asked to return on God’s behalf and ask for them to be set free. Moses having made enemies in Egypt in all the wrong places combined with his own lack of self-belief thought that maybe another maybe more suitable, but as we know, God knew what he was doing and “sorry brother but you’re the man for the job”.

After nine plaques had been bought on Egypt without result, God brings the last, the Passover, where each family outside of God would lose it’s first born to death. The Passover that was to become an annual festival for Jewish families to observe to remember the deliverance God brought about for his people enslaved in Egypt. Where the blood of a lamb or goat sprinkled on the door frame saved the readied and believing people from the death which was visited upon every Egyptian family. The Passover-of the angel of death, who ‘passed over’ those homes who had marked themselves as God’s people. The punishment of God upon the Egyptians enabled the Israelites at last to leave. The strict observance of detail in preparation and partaking signified God’s complete commitment and the people’s reception of life and liberty solely from his hands in sincere repentance and the Passover continues annually to remind Jewish families of their need for deliverance from sin through the substitutionary blood of the lamb.

The night before Jesus death our Lord desired to partake of the Passover with his disciples, and after they had completed the customary Passover celebration, he gave them bread and wine saying that they should take, eat and drink, for this was HIS body and blood, given and shed for them for the forgiveness of sins and when we join in Holy Communion, like the disciples we have the same promise from the Lord as we eat the bread and drink the wine and we receive that same body and blood together with the same blessings he won through the cross.

In tonight’s Gospel John does not deal with the Lord’s Supper, concentrating rather on the farewell teaching of the Lord in the upper room. It could be said that the radical action of the Master doing menial service in washing his followers’ feet expressed symbolically what was coming in his death the next day. He had taught that he came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. The lesson, however, is pointed. They are to serve each other in like spirit.

The love shown in his act and his death calls for the active love enjoined in ‘the new commandment’ to love each other as I have loved you, and that’s quite a precedent for us to live up to. When people find out I am a pastor sometimes the most interesting subjects come up and often those subjects regard understanding the world we live and in one such discussion with a medical Doctor I mentioned that a person I knew and believing of impending danger had chosen to fall by his “own sword”.

This Doctor had a heavy overseas accent that was at times hard to understand but I did understand his thoughts on this when he said “that is never the answer. Some of Western countries are soft, where I come from you are always in danger and if they have gun, I have two guns, if they going to shoot me, I shoot them first”.I’m not even sure why I went to see him but when I left his logic made me smile, not really because of what he said (although his take on one’s own pre-emptive death is most certainly right), but it made me smile because of who is was said by-a doctor of medicine and that being the case, no wonder the apostles were confused when Jesus came to save God’s people not as a warrior as they expected, but as the sacrificial lamb.

Jesus on Maundy Thursday was preparing his apostles for what was to come by conducting both foot washing and the Last supper. Two acts that stood for what he was all about, serving both His Fathers will to save humankind and his own will that in his name we serve others. God and Jesus often seem to come from “back to front land”, where they do things opposite to what we would and Jesus dying of the cross opposed to the “If they going to shoot me, I shoot them first” is certainly one.

On that Maundy Thursday, Jesus washed his apostle’s feet and said “to love each other as I have loved you” and the next day gave his life. That night the apostles did not fully understand. Three days later upon the resurrection of Christ they did. Before we knew what Christ did for us we did not know what those words truly meant, we do now. We know that an innocent man, the Son of God no less, willingly died a horrific death that should we trust in him, we are saved. Forgiving others who have hurt us, standing up for those persecuted, helping the afflicted, not placing judgement of those different from us and trying to let a little of the light of Christ shine through us to “love each other as he loved us”.

God, how could we not at least try?