Archive for May, 2014

JUST DO IT!!

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

“Speaking words of wisdom, let it be”

Acts 1:6-14, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11, John 17:1-11

A rather shy man with hidden insecurities and self- loathing was talking to a lady that had become a friend through day to day encounters and though he can’t quite remember what they were talking about that night, he remembers to this day ten words from that conversation that he had never heard before or even contemplated, “You can be anything in your life that you want.”

Ten words he had never heard that had impact, but more so was the impact that she seemed to mean it.

Cathy, my wife of 21 years said that remark to me when we first started getting to know each other 24 years ago and though I didn’t hang onto those words as if they were the “gospel of Cathy”, and though it didn’t change my life and what or how I was doing things, and even though I don’t think I actually believed her it didn’t matter, it was more so the shock and astonishment that anyone could believe that of me.

The book of Kings tells us that “God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore”  we hear of that wisdom as he states in Proverbs 12:18 that “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

King Solomon’s wisdom was shown through his ruling of Israel and through his words round about 950 years before Christ and now some near on 3,000 years later those who study such things have come to the following assessments:

“Negative words can have long-lasting results that spread far beyond the person to whom they were hurled. Those kind of painful hurts replay themselves for decades to come.”

Children, who are brought up in an atmosphere where harsh criticism, taunts, and mocking are their daily fare, can and will easily internalize the sentiments behind the words. They learn that they aren’t worth very much, and that if those around them think that of them, who are they to refuse the judgment?

Then when they see how their friends do not act like they feel it just emphasizes all the more that there must be something wrong with them and cements it in their mind that the things his parents or other adults say to him must be true. In his childish heart, he firmly believes the message these authority figures have said: that they are worthless and if that’s all a child knows, it is long lasting and far reaching as then, often they will do to others as they’ve had done to them, and that can have devastating effects on people who never knew the victim as a child, but who may meet him in a dark alley as an adult!”

Who knows how we have become to what we are? Some say it’s through those experiences learnt, some say simply through our born in genes and some a mixture of both. In reality we are what we are and at opposite ends of the spectrum some have grown that now as adults not even the harshest criticism seems to faze them just as for some, not even the kindest compliment uplift them.

Worldly words from outside can shape our inside to where we like Pontius Pilate may ask of ourselves like he asked of Christ, of “what is truth?”

King Solomon’s remark that “A word spoken in due season, how good it is” could be directed to any of us here today who still carry chains from the past, be from a sharp tongue or through the willy ways of the devil in his desire that we abandon the truth of Christ amongst the haze of our sin, the climate of hurt and the teachings of not the Gospel, but of the law through salvation by goodness and works.

“A word spoken in due season, how good it is”, has been heard by us today in the Words we have heard from Jesus himself and no matter what you think of yourself, these are no throw away words and unlike some that may or may not, His Words today are as life changing as they are hard to comprehend.

Pilate asked Jesus ”what is truth?” and though Jesus did not reply, in that in him then going out to the Jews again and telling them, “I don’t find this man guilty of anything”, we can see in him a vague coming to understand of who Jesus was.

If Pilate asked the same of us, we could with authority answer, that Jesus is The Son of Son who on the cross has taken our Sins on himself, that we are given forgiveness and eternal life not of our own going, but of a free gift from God.

Not vague words, but Words we can stake our lives on. Yet though we know them so clearly: from within ourselves, our sins, our hurts and the tricks of he who looks to deceive, like the disciples hearing today’s words from the Gospel just prior to Jesus arrest, we too can miss the full ramification of them on our lives.

So for a moment, let’s cast aside all pre-understandings from where ever we have got them and simply hear and understand God’s Word for ourselves given to us from Christ himself in today’s Gospel and the inspired Word of God in the Old and New Testament readings.

That as we did not attach ourselves to Jesus of our own will because we liked Him or of our virtues or lack thereof, but because of His love for us, Jesus about to be glorified on the cross now shifts His emphasis to the Father about the welfare of those that are His and prays to the Father that we may not feel abandoned, but know that God protects us by the power of his name. That the Holy Spirit counsels us as to the truth of Christ and how we can interact with God’s kind of love toward people around us.

That we cast our anxieties on Christ and though weak, in Him we are strong, firm and steadfast. Authorised to live with confidence and empowered by God to live differently.

All these words are truth and I hope they are uplifting to many. Unfortunately if I stopped there for me I would still be like that child seeing all his friends happy, but not knowing it for himself may see some of this as further proof and confirmation of just self-loathing and being on the outer.

That is until for me and maybe even for you, we are given the game changer which is this:

The gift God gives, by his grace is eternal life and while eternal life continues in heaven, we do not have to die before receiving it, because for those who trust and believe in Christ it is a present reality here today, and here today exactly as we are.

Solomon, given great wisdom from God said “A word spoken in due season, how good it is”.

Christ here today asks that we hear and trust not in our earthly wisdom of what’s seen and felt. But trust in His wisdom that tells us that no matter what the past or what to come, that be our lives be cloaked in the cold of winter or the sunshine of summer, that we not wait for in hesitation or anxiousness of heart, but accept His gift of eternal life today and live now as we know we will in the new heaven and earth and see the Glory of Christ with and before us in all situations and know that in Him we have received the fullness of a life freed from what we once were, to a life of freedom to let us be, what He wills us to be.  Amen.

Where is your mind?

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

An ambulance officer was talking about his most unusual emergency experience. He chose to tell about a call received from an usher at a Lutheran church. The usher said, “A man has slumped over in the pew during the sermon, and we think he’s dead.” He relates, “When we got to the church, the pastor was still preaching so we carried the man out as quietly as we could.” “What’s so unusual about that?” he was asked. He replied, “Because we had carried out four men before we found the one that was dead.”

Sometimes “doing” church, like life may seem a little tedious from doing the same old same old. Same bloke up the front, same old hymns etc. Etc. Then off to work to do the same thing as last week and the same we’ll do next week.

I once read a book the challenged the readers that if they thought outside the box and brought a part of themselves and life that they enjoyed into the work place they could do the same duties and enjoy them no matter how tedious the job was.  Food for thought.

Similar John Newton, the “Amazing Grace” guy said that church can be done however we like as long as it stays true to God’s Word and teachings.  I agree because the guts of worship is receiving God’s gifts in confession and absolution, in prayer and knowing God hears it, in Holy Communion and God’s promise of forgiveness and faith and amongst sing a few hymns and songs not about what we’ll do for God, but about what He has done and is doing for us.

Oops. I think I just described a traditional Lutheran worship. Except I forgot to say that amongst all this is Christ with us, the angels singing in song with us and when we hear the Word of God the Holy Spirit goes to work.

I’m not so worried as people falling asleep during my sermon as maybe even when the angels take a break, but in the rest of what goes on hear it’s hard to believe. Hard to believe but true.

As I said, this can be done under a tree, with a guitar, keyboard or banging some tins together if we want.

The problem comes when we fall into the trap like those standing at the base of Jesus cross who jeered Him and tempted him with “if you come down we will believe you are the messiah, the Son of God.”

There’s good reason he didn’t because of course He had to die as the sacrificial lamb and take our sins on himself.

And though that’s the reason He didn’t, He also knew that the gratuitous displaying of miracles was no any sure fire way of bringing people to faith anyway.

Look at the facts. The apostles seen it all and were still confused until the resurrection and some of those cured in Jesus travels never came back to thank Him never mind worship Him. (As far as we’re told anyway.)

Jesus did do miracles on His travels and for many it pointed to His power but not as in His destinies purpose without first dying on the cross that in Him we may find forgiveness in faith.

I’m sure miracles still happen to this day, but the real miracle is faith.

Where am I heading with this?

It is not directed to anyone or anything here because I’d hope by now you know that I’m not particularly taken aback by carpet colour, service times or any of that stuff and I’m open for any suggestions as long as they fit the John Newton model.

Where I’m heading is toward two points in today’s readings. Jesus saying He will give us another helper in the Holy Spirit and Peter telling us we may suffer even though we are off the faith.

I was once asked by a Christian if I can speak in tongues and after I said “no”, the asker was all but dumbfounded.

I wonder if those standing at the base of Jesus cross who jeered Him and tempted him with “if you come down we will believe you are the messiah, the Son of God” and those expecting the messiah to be a warrior king and destroy the Romans are that far removed from that response to my answer.

Do not get me wrong, I will never limit any of the trinity for what they can do. Because they can do anything they please whenever they want and I have no problem with people talking in tongues even though I don’t understand it-theologically or literally.

The same with churches that practice healings and so forth. Good on them.

The slippery slope comes as to when the healing is due to any part of ours such as if not healed or suffering, the problem is from our lack of faith or our poor relationship with Christ.

I’m sorry but when it gets to that point it starting to sound like the Pharisees mark II.

Miracles happen. I heard of them straight from the horse’s mouth but terms such as faith healers is very, very dangerous because by association , not healed means not good enough faith, which by association leads to doubts of salvation never mind the crap of a class system within the church.

Jesus promised a helper, the Holy Spirit and he’s good to His Word. Because here today without seen fanfare the Holy Spirit is amongst doing what Jesus promised to always be the case, and that is that through the remembrance of our baptisms, through Holy Communion and through the Word of God you are being brought to faith, or being kept and strengthened in faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah who died on the cross that if you trust in Him for salvation and eternal life, than salvation and eternal life are yours. Believe and trust in Jesus and your home.

You can wake up NOW. Amen.

“Livin’ in the hood”

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

“Livin’ in the hood”

Acts 7: 55-60, 1st Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14

1st Peter, chapter 2, verse 9: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

“A chosen race and a royal priesthood”-Goodness me, this reminds me of the parents who after hearing of much positive feedback during their parent teacher interview asked “are you sure we’re talking about the same child.”

I wonder what the responses to me would be after a night at the pub and walking down the street in my dirty gardening cloths carrying my fully imported light sabre and “evangelising” with the words of look at me “the chosen one” might be.

I think the outcome may be similar to that as noted by a friend when after the Adelaide Crows had badly beaten Port Power and seeing a crows fan shoving it into the powers fans faces remarked “he won’t make it to the end of the street.” And he didn’t.

The thing is though, as Christians we are of those as described in that verse from 1st Peter. Martin Luther puts it like this: “Each and all are…equally spiritual priests before God…(because)…Faith alone is the true priestly office…Therefore all Christian men are priests, all women are priestesses, be they young or old, master or servant, mistress or maid, learned or unlearned.”

Haven’t Luther and I said the same thing? Well sought of.

Ten or so years ago, after an Essendon player had been labelled by the media as selfish, doesn’t do the hard things and worst of all, soft. His legendary coach Kevin Sheedy answered that if he continued how he was going, he just might send him to South Australia to play for the Port Adelaide magpies to learn what real football is about (in the real world).

In team sport while the difference between the words “I” or “we” seems subtle, the outcome is enormous. So too does the difference sound subtle, but is enormous in outcome between Luther’s and my expression of existing in the royal priesthood by way of my introduction of “look at me” verses his “Faith alone is”. There’s no I in team, but most surely there is Christ in Christian.

As a playing coach of an adult football team my mantra was “one for all and all for one” and by extension, in-order to support your team mate against the opposition and indeed against their own frailties, no one was to show weakness of mind in dropping the head or figure pointing, like nor should anyone be so self-indulgent as to display to either opposition or team mate any physical weakness or hurt.

In one game after seeing of one our players stay down after a hit, foaming at the mouth I approached to let him know in the most clear terms to get up or get off. Fortunately for me the trainers arrived and had put him and his broken leg on the stretcher before I had arrived.

Imagine his any others feedback to my insensitivity: never mind the hurt and irreparable outcomes to the team and that player had I so foolishly carried through with my callous and unthinking judgements of the person and situation.  The same hurt and anger, and I would say appropriate hurt and anger that may result if I walked down Macquarie Street pronouncing myself to be “the chosen one” and of the royal priesthood. Appropriate because those titles that Peter gives to Christians of being “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” are not designed as a right to proudly lord it over others in power and tyranny-but quite the opposite: because for one, being in that group of people had nothing to do with us anyway. More so, we were the broken one lying on the field and instead of Him coming to us to say get our act together, He came to help us. To lift us up while we were still broken and as unable to walk ourselves, He carried us with Him and then, and only then did we truly see the answer to the question that Christ placed before His disciples in Matthew 16:15: of “But who do you say I am” and say like Peter “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

It is not I or we, it’s He and should it have been any other way we would still be standing in the crowd cheering Jesus to the cross instead of kneeling at its base in repentance and forgiveness.

It’s He and should it have not been so, we would not have been like the martyred Stephen seeing and trusting in Christ while under persecution, but be the one’s either throwing the rocks or standing by like that of Saul authorising such actions.

To be a Christian is too know who we are, and that is saved in Christ alone. But it’s also to know what we were and where we came from, and in that we then see through the same eyes as Paul who after being rescued by Christ and speaking of his own ministry states in 2nd Corinthians 10:17 that “He who boasts, is to boast in the Lord. For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.

There’s a worldwide group of people that communicate and meet that are united in that they have all been sole survivors of tragedies such as plane crashes where hundreds have died. The members of this group don’t meet to buy lottery tickets because of their luck; they meet because of their struggle to understand why them? Why they survived and why others didn’t and try and make sense of it.

We of the royal priesthood of believers don’t use our ticket of faith for tyranny and lording ourselves over others because we had no more control over coming to faith than that of a sole survivor of a plane crash to that of the corpse next to him.

We are saved in faith in Christ alone, not from good works or being better or less sinful than the next person, but only in faith in Christ alone. Faith that before having coming to know we did not want nor desire.

To be of the royal priesthood and saved in Christ is of as much humbling as it is as of joy and the only thing that makes any sense is that it shows the unjudging and unparalleled love of God the Father, the obedience and love of our Saviour Jesus Christ and the love and tireless efforts of the Holy Spirit towards all who walk this earth no matter how great or small.

The unjudging and unparalleled love and works of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit that we are more to get out the way of, rather than develop for ourselves and others.

To get out of the way for ourselves and hear the message of Jesus without second guessing it. To just believe it and know it to be true for ourselves and though through our human logic and tarnished souls we are tempted to be led and think otherwise, to be led only by Him and simply accept and place our lives upon His Words and the inspired Word of God.

“That I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (and) no one comes to the Father except through me.” For “There is no one who is righteous, for all have turned away from God, all have gone wrong.”  Yet “in belief and baptism we are saved because Christ suffered, died and rose from death for us, and in belief and trust in Him alone through faith, God has forgiven our sins and declared us not guilty and has accepted us into his eternal heavenly kingdom.”

Scripture repeats these Words and themes over and over again and far from questioning them of ourselves, we need just get out of the way and trust and believe in them for ourselves and for others.  While we are still a work in progress, the contract is not-the ink has dried and it is written with Christ’s blood and the deal is done.

So what of the commandments and good works when we are told that the “law has been fulfilled in Christ”, as too that of “our Salvation is in Christ and not of good works.” And what of “the Law kills but the Gospel saves” up against yet Jesus still telling us “that  the law is good.” Are these not Words to both get us out of the way of our own salvation in Christ as they are of getting us out the way of His salvation for others?

To have no other Gods and trust in God above all things. To not use the Lord’s name in vain but call upon Him, pray to Him, praise Him and give thanks. To keep the Sabbath Holy and gladly hear and learn His Word. To honour our father and mother and honour, obey, love and esteem them. To not kill but help and befriend. To not commit adultery but love and honour one’s partner. To not steal but help, improve and protect others income and property. To not bear false witness against our neighbour but apologise for them, speak well of them and interpret charitably all they do.

Do not these Words of God lead us to get out the way of His love and desire for others to know His love and salvation for themselves?

Words not of judgement and death for those in Christ, but Words of life that would see us get our judgements, ridicules and human made rules out the way and let God be God and shower His love upon to those that  we may find hard to love and understand.

“A few years ago a Baptist minister was in Haiti checking on missionary work he supports. He went to the little Holiday Inn where he always stays the day before he boards the plane to come home. As he stepped out of the taxi to head for the entrance of the Holiday Inn, he was intercepted by three girls with the oldest being no older than 15. The first said ‘Mister, for $10 I’ll do anything you want me to do all night long.’ He then turned to the next girl and said, ‘What about you, could I have you for $10?’ She said yes as did the third girl and though her smile did not hide her contempt for him she had no option given her desperation and hunger. He said, ‘I’m in room 210, be up there in 10 minutes. I have $30 and I’m going to pay for all three of you to be with me all night long.’

He rushed up to the room, called down to the front desk and said he wanted every Walt Disney video that they had. He called the restaurant and said, ‘Do you have banana splits?’ ‘I want banana splits with extra ice cream, extra everything. I want huge ones, and I want four of them!’

The little girls came and the ice cream and videos came and they sat up watching the videos and laughing until about one in the morning when the last girl fell asleep. As he looked at the three young girls stretched out asleep, he thought to himself, nothing has really changed. Tomorrow they will be back on the streets selling themselves to dirty, filthy men destroying their lives.

Though he wished he could, he was pained because he did not know enough of their language to tell them about Christ, and while so God’s Spirit came and said to him: ‘For one night, for this night, let them be little girls again.’”

John Lennon once said that “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.”

So too did we come to faith and Salvation in Christ when we were busy making other plans. So too can the love of God be shown to others when we meet not the lifeless and ungodly, but meet the injured and afflicted and see that we are they, and they are we and bow before them that they too may stand with us before the Father.

Through the grace of God there we once went, that now we know of what we had not, and there but through the grace of God we would have remained had He not come to us and taken us with Him.

We do not lead the lifeless and ungodly to Christ, He leads injured and afflicted to us that we may be to them and He is to us, that He himself may heed His own Words that “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

And so we ask: God, our Father in heaven, in the name of your Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ that though “we do not what we want, but do what we want not” we beg your forgiveness and ask that our Words and actions be not ours but yours, that many will join us in our worship and in your kingdom, that not we be glorified, but your name be exalted and your love, peace and salvation be lifted up on high for all to see and know that their earthly walk need not be lonely and adrift, but see you near,  your favour with them, and accept your peace. Amen.

“Chillaxing in the Word of God”

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

1st Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

“Chillaxing in the Word of God”

Several years ago and working in a business where every second seemed to be a knife edge moment with every one running around as though if we didn’t meet that deadline, the deadline after the one before and the one before the one to come after, then the walls would fall down.

It was often a “pressure cooker” environment and a volatile work place that would see good friends end in harsh verbal combat, see strong men and women broken and in tears in full public view and trusted work colleagues knifing each other in the blame game and/or for  promotional gain.

It was not an enjoyable way to spend eight to twelve or more hours a day and the only thing I enjoyed about it was standing shoulder to shoulder with my team of thirty amongst the sea of 2,000 in that building.

One Monday morning, my trusted colleague and good friend Kevin after telling me that a forty year old man from his team had died suddenly from a heart attack while at the pub went on to say, “at least he died doing something he liked and not in this place” and then finished with “life is serious, but nothings this serious”.

His point was well made and like in that building when taking a step back and viewing from afar we often see that life is serious, but nothing as serious as what we make it to be.

His words have always stuck with me until Wednesday this week when looking through my office window and seeing a young boy walking to school on his own looking lonely, dejected and nervous, in even a sinner like me I felt a desire to run to him with the only real comfort that can be offered in an uncomfortable world and that is the hope in Jesus Christ. I didn’t run to him, I didn’t have enough courage, but I prayed for him-because that’s all I had.

And again amid a heavy heart, I had that overwhelming sense that if a person like me can feel even a little compassion, what must be the endless compassion of God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son, and the workings of the Holy towards that boy, towards atheists, boat people, criminals, the beggars on the street, the power driven CEO, the corrupt politician, the mother, the husband, their children, and to me, and to you.

A heavy heart that brought clear the seriousness of their and our eternal lives and of the seriousness of their pain felt and their hope needed, and a heavy heart, that brought meaning to the words of John 9, verse 4; That “we must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.”

Words of urgency and of truth born of our Lord and Saviour in His quest that they that know him not and have their eyes opened to the blessed hope that is he.

Yet words of them, that for myself saw me convicted in my inability, powerlessness and failure towards God and His people.

In the reading from 1St Peter and in much of scripture we are told clearly that just as Christ suffered, so too are those that follow Him not immune to suffering and just as Jesus, our sinless Saviour, faced unjust suffering and death, so may we be called to take up our cross to follow Him.

We all here have crosses to bear born of hurt, of innocence lost from our and others sin and of that daily fight within us against what we do that we wish we not. They are heavy crosses that we bear as best we can. But none so heavy that comes from knowing the underserved grace of Christ for ourselves while seeing the hurt and suffering and the aimless and unfulfilled quest for hope of those that know Him not, and the unjudging words of Heath Ledgers friend after hearing of his death from a drug overdose come to mind when he remarked “that this world was too much for Heath to live in while carrying a soul tortured from seeing the hurt and suffering of others.

Walt Whitman, a volunteer nurse during the American Civil War and poet wrote this:

“I sit and look out.

I sit and look out upon the sorrow of the world, and upon all oppression and shame,

I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done,

I see in low life the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt and desperate,

I see the wife misused by her husband; I see the treacherous seducer of young women,

I mark the rankling’s of jealousy and unrequited love attempted to be hid, I see theses sights on the earth,

I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny. I see martyrs and prisoners,

I observe a famine at sea, I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be killed to preserve the lives of the rest,

I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor and upon slaves, and the like;

All these-all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,

See, hear, and am silent.”

There’s a saying that bad things happen when good people do nothing and as Christians we may feel that the lost feel no hope when we in hope remain still.

John 9, verse 4; “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.”

A piece of scripture known well by evangelist Billy Graham who most certainly did not remain still. A tireless worker of the Lord given the ability to travel the globe standing before thousands pronouncing the Word of God, a man consulted by Presidents of America and the rich and the powerful. Yet a man that wrote this of himself:

“I will hear him call my name not because I have preached for more than seventy years. Not because I have done anything good…The Lord Jesus has heard my confession of sin, my acknowledgement of need, and he reached down and saved me. He purchased my soul with his blood….I know he is coming back soon. This is my hope. And yours.”

“Carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work.” Like Billy Graham I am certain there are people here or reading this that will do great things for the Lord.

Great things like you did yesterday in your work place or walking down the street. How you fixed someone’s car so that they could continue to work and feed their family. The smile you gave to the intimidating stranger or the prayers you made for the person that passed you by that you had not the courage to talk to.

There’s a time to live and a time to die. A time to work and a time to play. Calm times and chaotic times. Yet whether we be of modern speak and in chillax ,or of times past and just telling it how it is and chilling and relaxing,  Jesus Christ walks with us with the promise that He will give us the strength to bear the crosses we bear in following Him.

Shakespeare said “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” and interestingly as I went to get a coffee a moment ago  I heard a song that I thought started with the words “My life is useless”, but on replay the musician actually started with “My life is brilliant” followed with “My love is pure. (And on the subway) I saw an angel of that I’m sure. So to can be the confusing in our own abilities or short comings because just like people might like the width of the tyres on my wanting to be restored 1999 MR2, yet not so much the extra width of the owner, so too do we sometimes have to “fly blind” and just have wing it as we are.

Jesus said that “the sheep hear his voice; he calls them out, and when he has brought them out, he goes ahead and the sheep follow.”

Jesus is real and so are you, and as He is in you as you are, so too can you be Him to others as they are, that as we have heard His voice, so may they.

Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen wrote: “I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.”

Christ made Himself vulnerable that we hear His voice of truth and having been redeemed and called, our lives are to be redemptive: that all the sheep may be turned toward the shepherd and Guardian of their souls: that all the world, through us may hear his voice, see His great love, and be found in Him.

So too let us be vulnerable in the truth that we have nothing if not in Christ, and that we be of flesh and blood, of ability and inability, and capable of both strength and weakness here His Words from 2nd Corinthians 12:9, that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”,

In His grace we walk this earth where we are and as we are and need not despair of our failures, but revel in the truth that not we, but He, beats our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.

Our sin and His goodness and our Christian lives don’t adhere to a work/life balance format. They are all mixed together and we need only carry the tools in the vessel that He has provided.

You are that vessel and as you carry His forgiveness, Hope and Salvation with you, so too He will carry people before you, that in you as you are, they may see Him in them as they are-and know His  peace. Amen.

Escaping from the shadows

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Acts 2: 36-47, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35

“Escaping from the shadows”

 
In our reading this morning from the book of Acts our reading climaxes with (and) “So those who received his word were baptised, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

Today we celebrate with Heath and his family and friends his baptism and like for those 3,000, today Heath receives the words from the book of Romans for himself: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism in to death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Newness of life in salvation and heavenly life eternal, and newness of life in this world.

Knowing’s it Heath Birthday today and pondering of what a great gift to receive on his birthday I continued to read the continuation of the turn of events for those 3,000.

Verse 43 onwards: “And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

“Selling possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to others and spending our days going from house to house and eating together.” I’m not sure Heath, never mind Laurie and Sharna saw that one coming.

That picture of those early Christians and their sense of community is marvellous if not humbling. Thing is that if I tried to imitate those 3,000 people back then, I think I might be getting a visit from one of my superiors seeing if I needed a change of scenery or some time off because really, it is a very impractical thing to do.

Still it is important we remember those early days in the Church like it is important to remember our birthdays and anniversaries. To have those days were we look back at ourselves in baby photos and see that innocence and untarnished naiveté, or look at our wedding pictures and remember the joy of the day. Snapshots of history of a by-gone time to remind us who we are and where we are from. Moments and memories to reflect on to bring joy to our hearts. Yet moments that as we look in the mirror can convict as we wonder just what happened to that innocence and wonder of life to that person in the photo, who now seems like a stranger.

In the movie “The legend of Bagger Vance” Actor Matt Damon plays the character of Junuh, who as a teenager was a golfing prodigy. But after his World War I tour of duty, returns to his home town psychologically marred and broken and lives as a recluse with the only moments that can quell the sounds of warfare within him being when at a gambling table and through the bottom of a glass.

Ironically there is a charity golf tournament coming up in his home town involving golfing legends of the time, and that the town needs a local to participate they track down Junuh  and after the arrival of the strange yet wise golfing mentor Bagger Vance, the character played by Will Smith who later we find out is an angel, Junuh eventually gives into their requests.

Throughout the movie while Junuh is seeking to find purpose and some sense in his life, he is fearful of just what they might be. To cut a long story short he is going very well in the tournament until on the second to last hole where he slices his tee shot deep in the woods. As he enters the dark forest to find his ball, panic overtakes him and the steam from the ground triggers memories of smoking battlefields, his hands tremble and he resigns to depart and seek solitude again in his self-medicating ways.

As he turns to leave, his golfing mentor Bagger Vance tells Junuh that the problem is not with his golfing grip, but with the grip the past holds on him and that “Their aint a soul on this entire earth who aint got a burden to carry he can’t understand. You aint alone in that. But you’ve been carrying this one long enough. It’s time to lay it down.”

Junuh replies, I know, but I can’t.

To which Bagger answers “Yes you can, you’re not alone. I’m right here with you. I’ve been with you all along. Now play the game. Your game. The only one you were meant to play. The one that was given to you when you came into this world. Now is the time”

A movie about a mythical game in the past. Our past and our experiences are real and can have enormous impact on where we are at now. Ending up with earthly success or hiding in the shadows through the bottom of a glass can be determined from very finite times and situations. Ironically, neither are guaranteed to give more or less happiness than the other should we be carrying a burden that we can’t understand or shake.

Sometimes knowing that our past has a hold on us we yearn for and know that it’s time to lay it down, and for just a moment we see a glimpse of light, only to realise in the next moment that the shadows still beckon and though we know there is a better way, we know the way that has been our “safe harbour” so far, and there we return. .

Jesus Christ gave His life to bring us forgiveness and eternal life because we could not bring it for ourselves.

Likewise, in this life when we cannot escape the shadows, He asks that we “Come to Him, all you who are weary and burdened, and He will give us rest.” (Matt. 11.28).

Though often we see Him not, Jesus walks with us and though He sees our stumbles mistakes and errors of our ways, he doesn’t walk with us to judge, but to guide and to offer us His peace as we travel our short journey on this earth. Our journey in which 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 one part of it is true. 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, 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 boy so that should he doubt his goodness or his place before God, that he 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 that He walks with us, guiding us and upholding us in love, and nor need we should we share the inner doubts of our worthiness with our salvation, for our salvation is from the worthiness and surety of our Lord and Saviour. Jesus Christ.  Amen.