There is a garden

Acts 2:14a:22-32, 1 Peter 1:39, John 20:19-31

“There is a garden”

“Gallipoli has become a symbol of Australia’s national identity, achievement and existence,” according to Australian War Memorial principal historian Dr Peter Stanley.
He goes on to say “”In the event, the landing was a military disaster – it failed to meet its objectives. But merely hanging on in the face of determined Turkish attacks was triumph enough. Charles Bean, the Australian official correspondent, declared that with the landing on Gallipoli a sense of Australian nationhood was born. The idea took root.
Bean’s The Anzac Book defined what came to be called the Anzac legend. It encompassed bravery, ingenuity, endurance and the comradeship that Australians call mateship.
The Anzac legend has become elastic enough to span very different emotions. Fervent nationalists can exult; pilgrims can mourn. All can ponder what made that group of Australians able to endure one of the greatest tests their nation has ever faced.”
At the Anzac march on Friday, a speaker from the air force described Gallipoli for our country as a “Baptism of fire” and that though the fight was lost; it shaped and gave Australians an identity. Interestingly when writing this message my (15 year old.) son entered my office and read what I had before me on the P.C., which was only the whole nine first words I’ve already written, being “Gallipoli has become a symbol of Australia’s national identity”
and without discussion left the room singing in his finest ABBA voice one of their songs lyrics “Waterloo, sometimes I feel like I win when I lose.”
Gallipoli, a countries baptism of fire and that though the battle was lost at the time, has become a foundation that sporting teams and others called to our forces since have drawn on, and a presentation of our culture of “she’ll be right, mateship at any cost and the front bar wisdom of seeing what’s real and important from what’s not.
Our culture is not something that can be bought or sold-the freshness and fair go attitude of our country is a birthright born through those sent to a penal colony from the other side of the world, those who chose by free will to immigrate here, settlers in a harsh land of droughts and floods and those called back to the other side of the world to ensure our freedom remains.
It is not something we become, but somehow just are and something that we should hold dear to our hearts and inner being like Simon Peter writes and urges to his audience of converted listeners that now in faith, to not only remain steadfast in that faith,  but to increase through all kinds of suffering and good works.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
“Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
Life can be a baptism of fire, but baptised into Christ, though darkness may surround, we live in the sure hope of what awaits us and these lyrics penned and sang by Archie Roach and given to me by a friend brought the light of Christ amongst the darkness:
“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 a mother can’t sing a lullaby. (Yet) I can still smell the blessed warm spring rain.
When everything is gone, and you’ve lost all hope and you have come to the end of your rope, well I believe that the flowers will bloom again. We are young, we are old (and what we have) can’t be bought or sold. And we are paying for our crimes, but every day in every way, we get better all the time.”
Using Aussie vernacular, an Australian soldier once said to me that “when the bullets start firing and you’re stuck in a trench, you’re not thinking of mother England, you’re fighting for the bloke next to you on your left, and the bloke next to you on the right”.
The author of the book of Acts Luke gives us that same awareness telling us “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.
At the close of the Anzac day services three words are always said. Lest We Forget – three words renown across most countries to show our remembrance of those who have fought, and those who have died fighting for freedom.
Anzac day is a day of recognition, those three words Lest We Forget speak what this day is truly meant to symbolize, and that is that we will never forget our history.
Let us never forget our inheritance that we have been brought through Jesus Christ. Our inheritance bought at the cost of His life and though now we still live live temporary lives enduring many things. We do so knowing that in the battles, be we on our knees in fear or standing firm in faith, that He is on our left and our right travelling with us and carrying us in need that as He has gone before us and now sits at the right hand of God, for as He had paid for our crimes, so too will He take us home that we too will stand before Him with those who have gone before us: in a place where the flowers have bloomed again, all the rivers flow and again a mother can be heard singing a lullaby and see that in every way and on everyday that we will be with Him, as He is for us today. Amen.

Easter Urgency

Text: John 20:1-9

We have, unwittingly, set a tempo with our current Easter celebrations that is quite contrary to the nature of the event.  We have the longest of long weekends…  A break…  People go away…  Switch off…  Shift our focus from the everyday and escape into wall-to-wall footy, or family get-togethers, or a lounge-chair, chocolates and a book…

Our weekend, even if it is ‘busy’, usually lacks the sense of urgency that drives the story in the Gospels: secret plotting, finding the right moment to make the capture, money taken and then almost immediately returned, the repeated plea to “keep watch!”, a rushed trial full of movement between three courts a hastily considered trade-off for another criminal, and even a hurried crucifixion constrained by the Passover regulations and timetables, a nearby tomb procured quickly, and incomplete burial rites. It is an urgent business and no less urgent on the Sunday morning, as today’s Gospel makes clear.

At the first light, they run!  The waiting during the Sabbath and the darkness has been an agitated waiting. They are not resting.  They are disturbed.  They are uncertain.  They are distressed.  They have been dragged—urgently—through the trauma of the previous days and they are unsettled about the “what next?”.  And…as you will know from hearing the Easter story over the years…when they are confronted by the fact and by the message—“He is risen!”—they do not calm down, or become less agitated.  The urgency continues.

The implications of Jesus’ resurrection necessitate urgency. This was not the first miracle.  This was not even the first healing in which someone who had died was made alive again. But this was an event in which the worst of human injustice, oppression, hatred, and cruelty had been offered by religious and secular authorities alike, as a public statement, as an assertion of power and authority.  And over and against this powerful, public statement Jesus had said, “Father, your will be done”; “Father, forgive them”; “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.  And the one who openly identified with the weak, the ill, the poor, the displaced, the outcast, the hated, the oppressed, the suffering, and the dying—the powerless—the one who openly identified himself with those who suffered the worst of sin and evil in the world—the one who didn’t assert power and authority, but offered himself over to the will of the Creator. And to that, God answered with the resurrection. And to that answer, they ran…with urgency. To that answer.  To that declaration.  To that new creation.

Likewise the urgency this Easter brings us to urgency. What are we going to do tomorrow?  How are we going to live tomorrow?  We, who have followed the one who serves, who keeps forgiving, who releases from guilt for sins past and into new opportunity, who is generous in time and spirit and gives all he has to those in need, who distinguishes not on the basis of ‘who belongs?’ or ‘who deserves?’ but on the basis of ‘to whom can I show love?’ & ‘to whom can I be neighbour?’—we who have learned the day to day reality of grace from God walking with us…how are we going to live tomorrow?  As they ran to the tomb they wondered!  Is it over?  Is it gone?  Or is he alive, like he said?  Is he still loving, and giving, and forgiving?  How are we going to live this next day?  This is the immediacy and the urgency of Easter!

Those same followers of Jesus would, in the coming days and years, focus their Easter urgency into proclaiming a message of “hope”.The New Testament term “hope” has a very definite meaning:  We know that God, in Christ, has forgiven us, and given to us eternal life. This is made certain in the resurrection of Jesus—his life for us. There are no ‘ifs’ or ‘maybes’. This is certain. Hope is the certainty of the fulfilment of God’s promises. Easter is the Christian foundation for hope. Easter is the moment in which the Christian says  “I know that my Redeemer lives”— and because he lives, I have life, his life, my life, all bundled into the one. I am God’s new creation.  Hope is the certainty that looks forward in life because God has demonstrated his absolute power and authority and victory over sin and death.

Maybe Easter should be our ‘moveable feast’. Easter should be the Christian celebration we have the day our family welcomes a new baby—a day filled with a sense of urgency over the fact of this new life, this new life created by God. Easter should be celebrated on the day a new marriage begins.  Or the day we begin a new job, or a new course of study. Easter should be our celebration at the moment we buy a new home, or build one for someone else! Easter is the celebration that marks our living in the presence of the God who has declared absolute grace, declared eternal love, declared that he is with us and for us in every circumstance and every stage of life—one with us from birth through all the realities of living, through death and the grave. And we, like Mary and Peter and John—we can declare “Christ is risen!” with the joy of recognising that our neighbours, like us, have lives to live—and they can live them in the knowledge of God’s loving presence, today! Urgency comes about at the point of intersection between a question or uncertainty, and an answer.

In our world, in our society, and in our very local communities and families (and selves!) there is often much agitation and anxiety: Can we save the world from ecological disaster?  Can we save the world from economic disaster? Can we survive on-going hostility and war? Can we survive on-going injustice? Can we survive our own individual weaknesses and the hurt they cause? Can we live past the next generation? Or even the next day?

Today God proclaims again, and reminds us again, that he has heard our prayers, our cries, our dying breath, and has made his statement: I am the resurrection and the life. Believe and me, live, trust, hope, be certain that I am for you.  And trusting in me you will always live. Urgency comes at the point of intersection between a question and an answer.  And we are surrounded by a world still with only questions. You know the love of God and the life of God for the world. So celebrate and live in it, continually daily reminding yourself of it, and pray that those still asking questions, they too will find the answer – that is Christ. Amen.

A lasting Gift

Baptism message

Up until last Tuesday my darling wife Cathy was in South Australia visiting family, and while she was away, I decided to re-arrange our lounge room. Sounds easy. Problem was that I had so much stuff to re-locate it became quite a job. Stuff that some might call junk, but stuff that I collect that I find different and interesting. Currently that stuff is still placed in no order what so ever over the garage floor, study floor, study shelves and study desk.

Funnily enough one off those things lying by my desk was this chocolate given to me by a friend of a friend who was a member of the an elite club. Remembering that at the time (some seven years ago) that he said believe me, you won’t not only ever get one of these again and it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see one again. Surely this must be the Grange Hermitage of chocolates.

So last week sitting at my computer, for some reason I thought-let’s check out this club. I didn’t get very far as on Wikipedia, basically the only information available was that “The Club is an exclusive gentlemen’s club. So I looked on their own web site sight and in the “Facts and questions” page I noticed that:

Q. 16. Is there a Dress Code?

Gentlemen: Jacket and tie in all public areas
Visiting Ladies: Equivalent standard
Casual dress is permissible on the First Floor Balcony at breakfast and when entering or exiting the Club

Q. 17. Are there restrictions for ladies?
Yes, Members and Male Guests only in the:

Main Dining Room before 5.30 pm
Large Smoking Room weekdays 10.00 am – 4.00 pm
Small Smoking Room Friday 10.00 am – 4.00 pm

Interesting enough on their web page there is no details of how to become a member-

so I assume that’s it’s an if you have to ask, you most surely are not up to standard required type of situation.

I collect things and some of you might remember that several years ago Vegemite look to change its name to isnack2.0. I assume they were trying to get in on the I-phone, I-pad train, and so why not i-snack 2.0. It lasted on the shelves for only a few days after the vegemite eaters of Australia revolted and demanded it rebrand it’s rebranding. As I said I collect things and after hitting most supermarkets in the Adelaide CBD area I am now the proud owner of 23 of these isnack 2.0’s and as I see the best before date is 2010, 1st of April, maybe more me the fool.

I phones, I pads, Isnack 2.0 or ever the ever allusive I’m a member an elite club. The problem when it’s all, I, I, I or me, me, me, like an ageing boxer, it’s only a matter of time before a bigger I comes along and I love the story of Kerry Packer who when playing at a table in Las Vegas and noticing  a very confident and loud person loving the attention he was getting, turned to him and said “my why are you such a popular and powerful person”, and after the person replied “because I’m worth one hundred million dollars”, Kerry simply drew a coin from his pocket and after having put down the challenge that “I’ll toss you for it-double or nothing”, a rather quieter person departed sheepishly from his company.

Living in the land of I can be fun, tantalising and enjoyable. But only for a time because either a new or stronger version will replace it, or the reality of the “I can’t take it with me” strikes as we realise that the roof racks on a hearse are not for luggage. In our short time on this earth, from beginning to end, from cradle to hearse there are so many variables that we can be left wondering where we are in scheme of things. The what if’s of life? The what ifs, that lead to the why’s and sooner or later, fear of what lies ahead-even if that be only the fear of the unknown felt on our last day.

Our God, God the Father of Jesus Christ is not a God of fear, but a God of love. His love so great that He gave us His Son Jesus Christ, who in turn gave His life that anyone who believes that He is the messiah, the Saviour sent to the world and that in trust in Him and in Him alone their sins are forgiven, they like Christ are given the promise that they too will be raised in the second life to reside forever with those who have gone before and who will go after in that same belief. That is the summary of Christian faith. No actually that’s the entirety of Christian faith.

A simple truth. Yet a truth so simple and unworldly that it is an easy target for the powers of darkness to attack and place before us the logical thoughts of our need to work our way to heaven, or alternatively tell us the truth of our sins to lead us to doubt that we could be saved. It’s a good trick because ultimately there’s some truth to it. We are sinners and if we look into the inner core of our soul where we hide the things we choose not to remember or at least would rather not, we see that yes, in our land of I,I,I we have fallen short many, many times over our journey. But like our God, God the Father is not a God of fear, but of love, so is our Saviour Jesus Christ and in His love that we need not live our lives wondering and in despair of where we stand in regards to our heavenly status He gave us the gift of Baptism. The gift of baptism that closes the door on the wolf at the door as he tries to upset with human logic the sure truth of forgiveness and salvation in trust, and in faith in Christ alone.

Our Lord and Saviour walked this earth and knows the difficulties we face and the doubts that come to us and so He gave us Baptism. The gift of Baptism He will give today to this young girl so that should she doubt her goodness or her place before God, that she not listen to those human thoughts from inside, but listen to His Words from outside. His Words, His promise, that if you are baptised and believe that I am your Saviour-then nothing in all creation can ever break or take away from you your gift of eternal life.

Baptism is a gift of the sureness of what awaits, and a gift that allows us to live in the  here and now and though in our lives we will still share happiness with sadness and comfort with hardship, we never need share the doubt of ourselves with the surety of the love and salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Broken but mended

           Good Friday




It seems that every time we hear or listen to the news that a tragedy has occurred. Tragedies that will affect family members and communities for years and maybe even for the rest of their lives. Terrible times and hurts that can never be downplayed because for those involved and close to them something is lost and things may never be the same again.

Yet the greatest tragedy of all 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 wonderful family could ever be. But then they became divided as only the closest flesh and blood families can become separated. The brokenness continued from years to hundreds of years to thousands of years.

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 God, on his tree, his cross suffering and dying and taking the punishment for the broken relationship. He is taking the blame for people’s sin. On the cross Jesus calls out the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” A cry of people down through the ages who have felt the suffering that people go through because of their broken connection with God.

Now Jesus closes the gap. Only God can bridge the gap that separates people from him. Jesus 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 broken as the thief on the cross next to him. It includes you and me, and even our enemies.

When we look at Jesus on the cross we begin to grasp the depth of sin. Our guilt becomes clearer to us. Sin is destructive and sin separates and as we look 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 overwhelms the thief on the cross next to Jesus, and it reaches as far as you and me.

The love of God is healing love. It connects us up with God again like a new family in a relationship and that it is a one-sided relationship in that we are still weak and God the strength, that does not threaten to again fracture the relationship, but rather strengthen and maintain it as it was meant to be in the first place. In total trust and reliance on our Lord we are given a new beginning 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. Jesus: the one who died on the cross in our place.

At school, like they do now we might have collected swap cards, maybe of sporting heroes, or music idols. We traded our cards looking for the best ones and the one’s we didn’t have. On the cross Jesus swaps places with us. He sees us as the best card, the card He doesn’t have and so traded everything He had for us so that he could call us his own. He traded himself.

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 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. A healthy faith focuses on what Jesus does for us, especially on the cross.

Jesus our Saviour who saved us as described in this poem:

Through His sorrows, we discover the depth of Jesus’ meekness and surrender to His Father’s will. This surrender is revealed in what He did not do…

He didn’t defend Himself;
He didn’t revile others when He was reviled;
He didn’t turn away from those who beat Him;
He didn’t slander others when He was falsely accused;
He didn’t hide His face from those who spat upon Him;
He didn’t come down from the cross when He was mocked, and ridiculed.
Meekness is not weakness. He who is Almighty could have called an army of angels to rescue Him from His sorrows, but instead, He chose to go to the cross and freely gave His life so you could find your life in Him.

The author of that poem is unknown but the subject matter most definitely not as we see Jesus with untold power at His fingertips refuse any inclination or temptation to do so, so that rather than His power be used to save himself, He directs it all to save us.

His saving power given to and for us that we hear these words in Romans 8:38, see our God’s love, see our Saviour on the cross and know most assuredly them to be true for each of us:

“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.”

We were tired, but He was tried

Matthew 26:36-46


“We were tired, but He was Tried”


The reading for today’s meditation is written in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 26, starting at verse 36.


Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray”.

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them,

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will”.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.

“Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”

He asked Peter.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak”.

He went away for a second time and prayed,

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done”.

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them,

Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer”.

While the disciples slept, Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will”. Jesus, shown at the transfiguration to be the divine Son of God, is shown here in his humanity battling with the enormity of what has been placed before him.  This is not Jesus involved in some theological window dressing, this is real and harrowing.

The Gospel of Luke highlights the situation even more where he tells us, “Jesus being in anguish prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”.

Sweating blood, modern medicine tells us this is a symptom that can result from when a person is under intolerable stress. The suffering of Jesus here in the garden is intimately related to Calvary. Gethsemane is to Calvary what anticipation is to fulfillment, and Jesus in his humanity, in prayer asks his Father “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”.

Jesus’ is faced with more than physical pain. Jesus the sinless one, who abhors sin, is faced with taking our sin on himself and to suffer the wrath of His Father. And asks his Father, is there another way. Nowhere else in the scriptures do we hear Jesus utter a prayer in anyway comparable to this. Yet, in the face of this, Jesus voluntary abides by the Fathers Will. “Not as I will, but as you will”.

In Gethsemane and Calvary, if taken as a crucially linked event, we can see the history of the world reaching its highest moment, the cultimation of the ages and the apex of the destiny of the world. The greatest thing ever done or could be done. That God would give himself, his Son as a sacrifice to reconcile the world to himself. Yet the disciples slept.

Peter, James and John, the inner core, who saw the Glory of Jesus on the mountain at the transfiguration, and Peter who had said “even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you”. Are asked by Jesus, stay awake and pray. Yet they sleep. Jesus, faced with what was to come prays to his Father. “Not mine, but Your will be done”, and receives strength. Strength gained from prayer   in knowing that it is His Fathers Will. But Peter, who desired to serve Jesus until even death, could not overcome his humanity to even stay awake and pray.

It is a stark picture. The Jews are seething for Jesus’ blood, the Romans are unconcerned, and even the people of God are sleeping. Our lord cuts a lonely figure as single handedly; He gives himself to The Father’s Will in this great transaction of redemption. Amos 8:11 tells us “The days are coming, declared the sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine through the land, not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the Words of the Lord”. Like Peter slept, we too sleep and become complacent as our society teases and seduces us with its attractions, its offers of money, possessions and fame. Things that threaten with us the spiritual famine that Amos described. We come complacent before Christ,          and like Peter, we do not have the power in ourselves to follow our Lord.

2, 000 years ago, while those in the world went about their normal business, Jesus came to them to bring salvation. At the cultimation of Jesus’ prayers in the garden, he finds Peter still sleeping, yet reaches in and brings him out of his complacency, and takes him with him saying “Rise, let us go”. In our complacency Jesus comes to us. In our shortfalls, weaknesses and sin, he comes to us. The Gospel story we have heard it not just about Jesus, Peter            and the world all those years ago. It’s also about us now. As Jesus reaches into us, to give himself.

Like Peter came to know himself in the garden and, and later before the cross, before Christ we too see ourselves as we are. We may have the best intentions, Yet, while “The spirit is willing, the body is weak”. And like Peter, we fall short. In this season of lent we see and reflect on our failures before God, but louder we hear the Good news:

While you slept:

I have come to you,

Your sin, your guilt and your punishment I have taken on myself.

We here from St. John “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”

We hear from St. Paul “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” And we hear it from Jesus himself “Take heart…your sins are forgiven”. God has dealt with our sin, so that in Christ he can deal mercifully with us.

Let that good news beat upon our hearts and mind’s, because it wakes us up. It moves us to pray for now we can with confidence draw near the throne of grace. The Gospel wakes us up to confession, to repentance and to be daily in His Word and prayer, and to say with the psalmist: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’”. Amen.

Can’t see the wood for the trees

Sermon John 11:1-45


In the Gospel we see Jesus in a way that covers all bases. Jesus against the advice of his disciples has his eyes toward Jerusalem, and walks to the cross in the Will of his Father. We see his compassion and love, his humanness in going to Lazarus and weeping with those mourning. We see his wisdom; the miracle he would perform, the last miracle of his public ministry in raising Lazarus would Glorify God and bring many who witnessed it, to faith.

But the high point in the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. Here, before his own resurrection we can clearly see Jesus as the Messiah as he raises a body that is already decomposing-the Messiah who brings life-to Lazarus that day, and life eternal to those who witnessed it. Just as he has brought us life eternal in his own death and resurrection.
That’s the big picture, we can see that and we know that in faith. We can see it clearly, and even though in the human mind, without faith it seems foolishness but we do not doubt it, and nor should we because it’s the truth. We know that one day; we will pass from earth to heaven, because Jesus has told us this. It’s an unshakable truth-to be given forgiveness, to have faith that when the saints go marching in, that we will be in that number is nothing short of a miracle.

Eternal life, we can see it, feel it. It is clearly evident and we know Jesus won’t let us down. Yet on our way there, sometimes it can get hard to see the trees from the forest. We can still see that picture, that miracle in the distance, but in the here and now, the events our daily lives sometimes blur our vision. Not of our last day, but of what’s going on now. The day to day picture, the daily miracles, the beauty of life, the love of God sometimes can become a bit hazy, or at the very least-take a bit for granted.
Coming from a financially humble background, when I was young I used to think how blessed some of my friends were. Although they were in the workforce and undertaking occupations like me they were from wealthy families who owned businesses. I used to think, how freeing that would be that they could do their job with that safety net that if things turned out badly they could just return to the family business. But I came to see, I was actually free myself-I didn’t have that financial safety net, but having come to faith, knowing the big picture-eternal life, it brought freedom here on earth. With that truth of the future, in the light of Christ daily struggles look different.
Like Martha knew and gave testimony to at the death of Lazarus, we can say of ourselves “I know that we will rise again in the resurrection on the last day”. As Christians we know this to be true and rejoice in it and give thanks to the Lord. We hear the Words of God from 1st Thessalonians “Rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances.” The thought of being re-united with those that have gone before, talking with and worshiping Jesus: Yes, at the thought, how could we not rejoice?

Yet there was a time when I considered those Words and thought that if you are rejoicing and giving thanks amid suffering and hurt, well then you can’t be suffering and hurting enough. A friend of mine once urged to me to go see a movie, he didn’t tell me anything about it-just its title. So I went along to see it. I got there a little late and missed the opening credits, but I could still work out what was going on. So I was watching this movie, and the longer it went the worse it seemed to get-but I persevered, and at the end I thought what was my friend thinking, that was garbage. Anyway, when I walked out I saw that the movie he had recommended to me had actually been showing on the screen in the next room. I had walked into the wrong movie.

Sometimes our lives can seem like that-where we start to wonder what is actually going on, where the script of our lives is different to how we imagined it. Where the “rejoicing always” doesn’t seem to fit the situation, Until we take a step back,   and sometimes the ability to take that step back can only come with the healing of time. Now I can look back at those times when I found it hard to rejoice and give thanks, and it’s like reflecting on a Wilbur Smith novel where this lead to this and eventually you see how things have fallen into place. And it can be funny how things can turn out.

Test Cricketers have remarked, that at the height of his powers that when Shane Warne released the cricket ball, it would spin so furiously that they could hear it zinging past them. When Shane was asked of his freakish ability he remarked that he believed it was due to an accident he had as a child were he broke his hand, and having not gone to the doctor-the bone’s set incorrectly, that later seemed to give him an un natural ability to spin the ball. But our lives are not a game of cricket or from a fictional book or movie script with only our fleeting emotional attachment. Our lives are real as are the things that come our way. Things that come our way, where like Martha and Mary we too say “Lord, if only you were here”. My dear Christian friend who lost his teenage son to illness would go out into the paddock,Look to the heavens and shout “Why Lord, why my boy? I cannot imagine the pain of my friend-I could not even try.

We could look piously at people in these situations and say “Trust in the Lord”, or give some, “get some faith type of comment like Job’s mates gave him, until it’s us. Until our moment brings us to our knees-where the hurt is so absorbing we cannot rejoice. And only ask why? But far from being a faith issue, that question is a faith statement. Just like Marta and Mary saying to Jesus “If only you were here” is a statement of faith, in my friend asking “why”, he is saying “I know you have the power to do anything”-It’s a statement of faith, but a statement of faith while suffering what this world has to offer.

Lazarus, my friend’s son and in our own hurts. God did not send down the grim reaper upon these people to prove a point. Just as natural disasters are not God getting a little payback. Death was not brought into the world by God. Sin brought it into the world. God does not bring the death he brings the life. Even when Adam and Eve fell to sin, God responded by clothing them. Jesus met those mourning at the death of Lazarus to only be greeted with essentially “why weren’t you here” But he doesn’t lecture them, he weeps with them. Just as Jesus wept for those who persecuted him. On his way to the cross Jesus came to a man who had died a sinner. Lazarus, a good man but a sinner, and Jesus came to him and raised him up. And in this, the Gospel tells us many came to believe.

When Jesus hangs on a cross dying, a black cloud lay over a hill in Jerusalem, but above it shone the love of God. An innocent man’s death, that many more may come to believe. Like Lazarus will be raised on the last day, so too will we. Like Lazarus died in sin and was raised in Christ, so too are we. Daily we sin, daily we doubt and daily we follow our own way and not that of the Lord. Yet in our failure to walk with Christ, he walks with us.

He does not meet us in scorn, but meets us in love, and reveals himself to us. At the fall in the Garden, God clothed two sinners for their protection and warmth on their earthly journey. On the cross, God gave sinners his Son, gave us His son for our protection and warmth on our earthly journey, and clothed us with the righteousness of His Son for salvation.

Like Paul, who described himself as the chief of sinners we too can say “For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me. Then he revealed his Son to me, and now I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me”.  Daily Jesus meets us, washes us clean with his blood, and daily we die too our sins-to be restored us and strengthened in Christ.  To be given life and we rejoice and give thanks and go forward, knowing Christ is with us-come what may.Amen