Archive for November, 2014

“No more or less about it”

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

“No more or less about it”

1st Corinthians 1:3-9

Mahammad Ali is well known as an American former professional boxer, generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the sport’s history and a noted activist for racial justice. He was also dyslexic and had trouble reading long words and in 1975 before 2,000 Harvard graduates gave a speech referencing the advantages they had been given in education up and against the same that he had not been given and urged them to use that knowledge to change the world for the better.

Seemingly polar opposites in upbringing and opportunity and at the end someone from the crowd yelled, “give us a poem” to which he replied and gestured: “Me, we.”

Sometimes more is less, and less is more and in my first reading of today scripture from 1st Corinthians 1:3-9, I was not overwhelmed as to any great theological insight from the Apostle Paul.

How wrong I was.

Roots: The Saga of an American Family is a novel written by Alex Haley and tells the story of an 18th-centuryAfrican, captured as an adolescent and sold into Slavery in the United States of America and follows his life and the hardships and injustices he and others like him suffered and to which this book went onto be considered one of the most important U.S. works of the twentieth century.

That author, Alex Haley went onto say:

Never read a Jonah Lehrer book, peeped a James Frey lie, or knowingly bookmarked a Jayson Blair article. While fraud soaks the roots of some great literature, the truth is always better, even if or when it shakes our realities.

1st Corinthians 1:3-9: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge. God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Those words from Paul are placed directly before he addresses some serious issues within the congregation of the Corinthians such as divisions in the church, members exerting their foolish human wisdom over others together with the occurrence of sexual immorality, idolatry, pride, abuse of the Lord’s Supper and even doubts as to authenticity of the bodily resurrection of those in Christ.

Big ticket items and Paul seems to address these issues in what we would call the sandwich effect with something less important said both before and after the meat of the message. Like on a talent show where the judge would start with “Your hair looks nice”, then ultimately the meat “that the problem is you can’t sing” and then concluding with something positive to take away with such as: “have you tried juggling?”

Paul is doing no such thing in his address to the Corinthians and in those opening seemingly fluffy opening statements he is offering the meat of the truth in which only then, can anything else ever be addressed.

Less is more:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Less is more:

Luke 23: 42-43: (Then the thief on the cross) said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (and) Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In the English language we have words like know and no that we can tell apart by how they are spelt and in their context: “I know what you mean” or “Cathy can I have some money, No to cannot.”

Less is more and so today, I am not intending to shake any realities but confirm them for you by simply letting Paul tell you of the truth that he was chosen by Christ to do. Verse by verse as it was given to him and in the unadulterated form, meaning and not subjective, but actual meaning with all its dots and dashes as written in the Greek language that would be translated no differently by an unbelieving scholar, to that of a believing one.

Verse 3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is concise, sweet Gospel that sets up this text to in which every verse does Paul make mention to Jesus with each repetition bringing out another nuance of the pairing of both grace and peace together as one. Being the source of our salvation is always and only in the grace of God in Christ which then and only then do we have the peace of God in Christ. Paul here to you makes an implicit reference to Christ’s divine nature in that the grace you have received, is from the unmerited kindness of God which caused him to elect you in eternity, call you by the Gospel, redeem you and preserve you in the faith.

Verse 4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.

Paul lists grace as the first and essential gift, to which many gifts have been added. Over your life, this grace has been preached to you and by that grace, you have believed the message. By grace you have been kept in the faith and equipped for the life of faith, and Paul here, is giving you his upmost confidence that God will preserve you and this congregation in spite of your weaknesses.

Verse 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge.

Enriched in every way. Not enriched by yourself nor in your own right, but enriched in Christ. Not enriched as others who speak eloquently but without knowledge and therefore blessing. Not being blessed with the knowledge, but do not speak either because are not able to or do not care. But enriched in Christ, you are equipped with both the knowledge of Him and the will to speak of in your testimony.

Verse 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.

Your testimony of which Christ is both object and author, and in this word play gives imagery of Christ as a strong root or a secure anchor to which your testimony concerning Christ has taken firm hold.

Verse 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

This statement and its contrast to charismatic teaching is striking and emphatically in the highest order, that no Christian congregation is lacking any spiritual gift, together with emphasizing, that one true mark of your Christian faith to you individually and our whole congregation collectively, is that of waiting expectantly and not dreading the Second coming and of been given the spiritual gift of equipping you for that wait.

Verse 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You here today, just as you have come to faith in Christ, so too He will root and anchor you securely to the end, and having been given the gift of perseverance, you will stand before God the Father not sinless in this world, but blameless and not liable to either charge or accusation because of the grace you have given through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ his Son for you.

Verse 9 God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

In the original Greek, faithful is the first word in the sentence, making it especially emphatic and giving unending assurance that God keeps his promises and is faithful to the end as seem in the bond between Jesus Christ and you. A bond from eternity, brought to pass in our time that will forever last in eternity.

There you have it and if you believe that the word of God, the bible is his true and inspired word. you can have no debate as to truth of Christ and the riches he has showered on you.

And if not, your debate is not with me, Paul or a Greek language translation expert but with God himself.

I know that was more like a bible study and a bit long winded, but bear in mind that these are the first two text books I received when studying to understand the word of God when training to be a pastor. 869 pages of biblical commentary on the words alone in the 50 chapters in the book of Genesis, and as much as I would like to get that started, I think we’ve all had enough for today because though there are those that seek to fraudulently soak the root of the Gospel with false or fanciful misinterpretations or outright lies, the truth is always better.  And that truth is Christ who stands unseen before you today when you come to the alter in Holy Communion. Unseen by you, but not by His Father and ours-God the Father.

God the Father who promised us a Saviour, and delivered. God the Father who has promised to all those that believe in His Son to have eternal life, and delivered. Delivered not tomorrow, but today, because his promise is to you from eternity, brought to pass in your time, too forever last in eternity.

Today, not I, but the Lord has spoken and pray that we all have ears to hear, minds to remember and hearts to be uplifted that when we see our sins before us and the rocky road ahead, we hear His sweet voice come to us and see our path cleared and our soul restored and know truly that in these days before, that He is with us. Just as in that day to come, when truly, we will be with Him in paradise.” Amen.

Photos don’t lie

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

“Photos don’t lie”

Matthew 25:31-46

A brief read of today’s Gospel text brings so many questions to me, and mostly in would questions about my outward actions and I don’t like it. Doing good works for salvation, fair dinkum most of the time I can hardly stand upright never mind be upright and tick all the boxes that this text seems to require.

Thinking of when I feed the hungry, welcome all strangers, give out cloths to those in need and  visit all the sick and those in jail gives me nightmares of judgement day like being on family feud and the three big crosses and the “eeeng” sound appearing between me and the judge. Sought of like we’ve surveyed one hundred people about your life and none of them gave you those answers.

So what to do? Well if I’m lost I might as well live for today and as I’m too old to change occupations again, I’m thinking I might brush up on my scripture so that I can use it to suit myself, somehow start a following where everyone sells all their assets and gives them toward the cause, being me. Buy a property in the hills and have 10 to 15 wives and live it up until our secret services decide enough is enough and storm the compound.

As inviting as that sounds, I still wouldn’t mind catching up with all you guys in eternity so I might take the alternate option and get myself a stainless steel diary, seek out at least one person per day in each of the categories, engrave each’s name in the book and so when raised on the last day, I grab my unperishable book of good works so that when I get to the front on the line at the pearly gates and when asked by St. Peter or whoever’s on that day of my worthiness we can have a conversation like this.

Next.

Name.

Steve Hibbard.

Well Mr. Hibbard to enter you must acquire one hundred points.

I thought so and so I have prepared this extensive catalogue of everything good I’ve ever done.

After a brief perusal, the gate keeper says very well-that gets you one point, what else do you have to offer.

Well, ur, uh-I was a Pastor of the Church.

Oh, O.K. then, you now have a tally of two points.

Things are not going well but then I notice one of the people I visited on the streets queue jumping and walking straight past me into the Holy City.

Hang on I say, I know that guy and he walked straight past and he didn’t even have his diary with him.

In which St. Peter replies Oh he doesn’t play your silly humanistic games.

Maybe I should build that harem in the woods. Or maybe I just should through myself at the feet of Christ and beg for His mercy and hear Jesus say, finally you get it.

As with much that the inspired Word of God teaches us, it’s about getting the horse back in front of cart.

To not say when I get my earthly possessions in order then I’ll serve the Lord, but to serve the Lord amongst our daily work now.

To not say, when I get my sin in order then I’ll be able to serve you, but to serve the Lord now amongst all our shortcomings and failures of being that great shining Christian on the hill.

And most importantly, to realise that our good works don’t even equate to being worth one ounce in the cargo of a convey of a thousand road trains towards our salvation, and see that the only possible way of salvation is not because of us and our deeds, but rather because of us and our limitations it is through the saving actions of Jesus Christ on the cross who still says today as he did to those he acquainted on the dusty roads in Israel-to the Jewish elite, to the prostitutes and to an unwashed career criminal on a cross next to him, that to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, To believe He came to this earth to take our sins on himself and to have faith in His promise that in all this, you are forgiven in Him and in Him alone-your sins are forgiven and you will most surely as you sit here today-will enter the heavenly city not sneaking in through the back door, but ushered in by Christ himself amongst the euphoria of endless multitudes of angels singing and praising your arrival through your saviour, Jesus.

And that picture, which has already been taken and developed by God himself in his office in eternity is the freedom that allows us now to if not develop it here on earth, but to add some colour to our neighbours pictures and bringing a little sunshine to those in their cells of loneliness, addiction and grief.

Free to do so. What a great thing. To not have to worry about how you’ll pay off your heavenly  mortgage because it’s been paid out already. To not worry about the path of destruction behind us because we see that in our rear view mirror that even in that somehow God has used it for others and indeed for us to be here today and know the truth of His unending grace.

So together we through ourselves at our Lord’s feet and receive grace, forgiveness and salvation-and in that absolute fact, how could we do anything than help each other, our friends we know and those we don’t-because we are free to do so-thanks be to God. Amen.

Hang in – no matter what

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30

I’m not sure what I was thinking, but when I was younger I use to love pre-season football training. Alongside your team mates, pounding the pavement in 40 degree heat. Everyone struggling together. Sometimes cursing the strain and other times either encouraging or being encouraged by those alongside you to go a little further. People throwing up to a mix of laughter, congratulatory words of breaking through the pain barrier or just the sound of heaving bodies with nothing left to give but the desire to remain standing.

A year or so ago, one of those running alongside me lost his teenage daughter in a car accident. Lost his wife in divorce, his father in death and months later he himself was diagnosed with cancer and upon meeting up with him amongst such a time he remarked that it’s like those times in footy that when the bar is raised, you don’t really have a choice because you either rise to the challenge, or you go under.

In 1915 American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon coined the phrase fight or flight to describe how we respond to perceived harmful events, attacks or a threat to survival. A situation felt by many during the Cold War between the Soviet Union and its allies and the United States and its allies. It was termed the Cold War because from the end of WWII until 1991 and though there were regional wars, the two superpowers never engaged directly in full-scale armed combat, they each did arm themselves heavily in preparation of a possible all-out nuclear world war. Each side had a nuclear deterrent that deterred an attack by the other side, on the basis that such an attack would lead to total destruction of the attacker: a doctrine of mutually assured destruction. And aside from the development of the two sides’ nuclear arsenals, and deployment of conventional military forces, the struggle for dominance was expressed via proxy wars around the globe, psychological warfare, propaganda and espionage, and technological competitions such as the Space Race.

They were troubling times where more than once, the inhabitants of this earth lived in the perception, and sometimes rightfully so, as in the Cuban missile crisis that at any moment life would cease as we know it. A time it would seem not unlike now where as I see on T.V. and read in the papers that once again people are building personal bomb shelters and preparing for the worst.  Or prepping as seems to be the phrase used these days.

Who knows maybe they might be right and as American singer Pat Boone said: “My guess is that there isn’t a thoughtful Christian alive who doesn’t believe we are living at the end of history. I don’t know how that makes you feel, but it gets me pretty excited. Just think about actually seeing, as the apostle Paul wrote it, the Lord Himself descending from heaven with a shout! Wow! And the signs that it’s about to happen are everywhere.”

Or there again they may be wrong because in Mark 14:32 we are told that “of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And this is more in keeping with Paul’s message to the Thessalonians in today’s epistle where he in realization that they are falling into calculating end dates and a little too focused  about the shadows approaching and the later Glory, rather than living hopefully in the day to day.

Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians and indeed to us encourages us to live hopefully now knowing that though the day we know not, we do know that with faith in Christ; we have been given the birthright of people of the light.

Fight or Flight. I remember making a representative cricket team and coming in at number five we had lost three wickets for only two runs. I soon found out why because never prior or never since have I faced such a fast bowler. A bowler mind you that later I found out later was a loud out of a minimum security prison on the weekends to play and I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time because I didn’t need to add any more distractions to the fact that I did not see at all the first ball he bowled to me and playing in the time between cricket helmets being available but not used because to do so would be considered soft, I was recessing thoughts of such bravado because it was clear in my mind that should this man bowl me a well-directed bouncer at my head-I was a dead man.

I was punching way above my weight level but somehow scratched out about twenty runs while both not wanting to get out while preferably not being killed in the process and in doing so, my view on protective batting helmets was forever changed.

Fight or flight moments can forever change our views on people and situations and in our time of Cold War like concerns, Paul gives us some good advice

“But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness ……………………you children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep but let us be awake and sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up….”

People of the light that St. Peter declares in 1 Peter 2:9 to “be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

Today’s Gospel talks of using our talents which each and every one of us have. To use them rather than to bury them away not to build our own kingdom, but to build his kingdom and help all and sundry along the way.

We saw that video clip of Elizabeth Boyle where at the end the judges are like where have you been and to which we find out later she had been performing, but only in her little village. She had not buried her talent but know it was put even more on show through her singing and particularly for me her first album which was basically full of hymns.  The voice of an angel that would ultimately see me driving my little black sports car with the roof off with her version of amazing grace blaring and Cathy making mention of the somewhat unusual combination the two together may seem to some.

We may not have the voice of an angel but we do have the voices of the angels and all the company of heaven who cheer us on in both times of doubt and worry and in times fulfilment and contentment that in putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet and secure in our Saviours arms we need not fight nor flee but be present in the lives and situations of those around that the Lord brings before us that let the fruits of your labours be in abundance and the fruit of the Spirit in you bring love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

Some people’s talent is put on show for all to see and in the rough and tumble game of AFL none is greater than Gary Ablett Junior.  Some here may suggest that compared to league and union it maybe not that rough and tough but be that the case or not, it still is a highly aggressive and fierce body contact sport. Gary’s football talent is undeniably great but in a sport where every little thing can be used against you by the opposition it is with great admiration that I read in the Women’s weekly where in an interview he remarked openly “that he is a Christian, that Jesus is the most important thing to him and before every game he prays to God in Christ’s name including that he will not be badly hurt of injured.”

Great footballer and great confession. But no greater than yours that you take with you into your world that through having been given unfathomable fame and skill or just the right words in a seemingly chance encounter, all are alike before our Lord and Savior who sees those toiling amongst both the thorns and the good soil and looks in anticipation to “welcome home His good and trusted servants.” Amen.

If we could turn back time

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

 

“If we could turn back time”

Matthew 25: 1-13

If I could turn back time I would find a way to take back those words that hurt you and you’d stay

Too strong to tell you I was sorry
Too proud to tell you I was wrong
I know that I was blind.”

Words from Musicians Cher’s late 80’s song if I could turn back time that go well with the saying “If I had my time again…” and I’m sure there are many things we wish we could change from the past. But would we really want to go back and not just change a particular incident if had to start everything again. Personally even if I wanted too I wouldn’t and I couldn’t  because in being forewarned of what lies ahead I honestly don’t know if I could make it through a second time.

But those words from Cher could also apply to the five virgins from today’s Gospel who unprepared for the lord’s return beg to enter His kingdom with “Lord, lord, open (the door) to us only to hear the most harrowing words of  “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you” finishing with a warning to all through history “Watch therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour.” It is a parable that can unsettle us like the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25:31 where “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. (and) before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth.”

The separation of the sheep and the goats, the good and the bad does not always sit comfortably with me as I imagine when my eulogy is read at my funeral the things I’ve done  through life may be a lot different to one’s that that stick in my mind. Ironically, during the sorting of the sheep and the goats, both groups are just surprised as the other of their fate with the unsaved asking when did we do wrong and with the saved asking when did we actually do anything good.

A man was on death row awaiting execution the very next day for the life he took at a convenience store when at 17 years old and under the grip of drugs and needing a fix in a bungled hold up shot and killed an innocent man remarked that though that person I was twenty years ago I don’t even know now, I know what I’ve done and I’m sorry for it and so tomorrow I will get what I deserve and I are not angry because locked behind these bars I’ve found what I don’t deserve and that is forgiveness in Jesus.

When I was sixteen my friend and I were waiting for the last bus out of the city at the end of Hindley Street,  which is Adelaide’s equivalent of King’s cross  when about 12 youths of the same age attacked us. Three were punching and kicking me in the face with the others bashing my friends head against a brick wall and too this day I do not know how I somehow  managed to wrestle from my attackers and rip my friend from their grasp and escape. He was badly beaten and not thinking soundly and upon getting home to the house in North Adelaide about two kilometers away he started his Toyota tray top and loaded his 303 rifle. I tried to calm him down but he was going with or without me and so with the view to talk him down there I am driving down Hindley Street with my friend and his loaded 303 on his lap. I drove to every spot I thought they would not me and it still scares me of how life would be so different if we had come across them. The earthly outcomes in our life can be split by a hair. The attendant at the convenience store who didn’t come that day to be killed  like his attacker never intentionally came to kill.

Two boys attacked and responding in ways they never thought possible by twelve others that once ate ice cream and watched cartoons before somehow being turned to rage on the world.

At the end of the book of Genesis, Joseph looked back on the sinful decisions his brothers made towards him out of jealously of firstly conspiring to kill him before rather receiving money by selling him to slave traders. The same Joseph that went onto to hold great power in Egypt and yet despite his many bad memories when given the opportunity to pay back to his brothers the same for same saw how God has been at work and responds to them with “You meant evil against me but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive.”

If we could go back in time and fall in error again, or remain here and see how a gracious God did not unleash his wrath on us, but send his Son to walk with us through those moments.

To go back in time to fix our wrongs and be a better person or remain here knowing of both the good and the bad that has brought us to throw ourselves at the mercy of Christ and know His forgiveness.

When my brother died alone on a lonely bush track I wished I could have done one of two things. Firstly to try and talk him out of it, and if I couldn’t, to be with him so he would not have been alone in such a time.

God doesn’t need to bring pain to our lives because as we did in the Garden of Eden so does the human race do a good enough job of it itself and yet though that be the case, He still makes the 5 virgins prepared that though we don’t know the day nor the time when we will meet Him in the flesh, in all ways he has met us now and like the sheep given eternal life and ask how can that be? We see it can only be through faith in Christ alone. Jesus Christ who did not discard us when we discarded Him. But the Jesus Christ who was with us at our worst but treated us as His best.

A Hymn writer in the 16th century penned these words:

“I know my faith is founded

On Jesus Christ, my God and Lord;

And this my faith confessing,

Unmoved I stand on His sure Word.

Our reason cannot fathom

The truth of God profound;

Who trusts in human wisdom?

Relies on shifting ground.

God’s Word is all-sufficient,

It makes divinely sure,

And trusting in its wisdom,

My faith shall rest secure.”

When my brother died I was in my first term at the sem. And confused I prayed all night and after eventually falling asleep I awoke with the clearest of thoughts. A sure but not accusing “It did not have to end this way” and then “know my Word.”

Though we travel by faith in times of shifting ground and hardships we still are led to ask why? Not a why of disbelief in our Lord and Savior but a question asked through faith in our Lord and Savior and though that question might linger in reason we cannot fathom, unmoved we stand on the only sure ground we have which is the sure and all-sufficient inspired Words of The Father, the Son and Holy Spirit who tell us:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us” so “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith” “whose Word does not return empty, but accomplishes what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.” To know “that the punishment that has brought us peace was upon Him, and by his wounds we are healed.” And your “Faith has come from hearing the message that is heard through the Word of Christ” and in His Word “Who shall separate you from the love of God. Shall trouble or hardship, or famine and weakness, or danger or sword. No in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” “For neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord.”

And to us as to the Roman jailor who in fear called to Paul and asked “what must I do to be saved” we hear his reply to both that man in the dungeons imprisoning innocent Christians and to us here in His Holy house: “To believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

All in faith and you here today:

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 His favor

And so in those gifts:

You have been given the right to be in peace and rejoice in all things knowing and never questioning that as you sit here today, in heaven together with the angels and the archangels, and all the company of heaven, there too you will stand. Praise be to Christ. Amen.

” Flat lining yet alive to live “

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

“Flat lining yet alive to live”

John 8:31-36

 

Mike Holmgren, who in 1997 led the American Grid Iron team the Green Bay Packers to four consecutive finals series play-offs and to their first Super Bowl victory in 30 years, grew up in a religious family in San Francisco.

He went to church every Sunday and at age 11 made a public confession of Jesus Christ as his Savior.But later, in pursuit of a football career in high school and college, he said, “I left God on my bedroom shelf, right next to my dust-covered Bible.” After playing for his college he was drafted to a professional team and then another but never made it.

In his pain of rejection, he went back to his bible and recommitted himself to the Lord and after marrying a committed Christian and coaching football in the high school and college grades he became coach of the Green Bay Packers and after realizing his victory in the Super Bowl he said that: “Win or lose, I now realize what really matters: It’s not winning the Super Bowl prize-it’s the crown of eternal life that Jesus Christ has won for us through His victory on the cross.”
A sentiment, a truth that displays the same knowledge that Martin Luther came to know when he said:

“A person may carry their money wrapped in paper, or they may transport them in an iron chest; yet the treasure is entirely the same. Though you or I have a stronger or weaker faith in Christ, Christ is, after all, the same, and we have everything in Him.”

Wikipedia describes Martin Luther as a “German friar and professor of theology who was a seminal figure of the 16th century movement in Christianity known later as the Protestant Reformation who strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be purchased with monetary values assigned to indulgences and taught that salvation and subsequently eternity in is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin.” Finishing with “Those who identify with these and all of Luther’s wider teachings are called Lutherans even though Luther insisted on Christian as the only acceptable name for individuals who professed Christ.

Punching in Reformation in the online dictionary gave me the meaning of “the act of reforming, and/or state of being reformed”. I like Luther because he well and truly knew that outside of Christ he was certainly no saint which begs the question of why was he given the job by God to reform the Church because as he said himself that “if it wasn’t me and I just sat back drinking Wittenberg beer, God would have still got the job done through someone else”.

So why Martin Luther? I’m sure he had many attributes like courage, heart for the poor and communications skills and so forth, but for me one of the greatest “tools” he had was his knowledge of himself and in that knowledge, his absolute need and necessity to find the Gospel for himself.

God over time has seemingly worked through for want of a better word some “interesting people” and situations, and just as Jesus seemed to gravitate to the poor and outcasts, as my Vicar Father said God seems to not pick from the top of the shelf and if that be the case, we Christians come with some baggage. Baggage that God deals with and prunes over time, but baggage that the dark side knows of and how I heard put so well one time, that for us in Christ, it’s like we are surrounded by a picket fence to keep us in the world but not of the world, but like a lion the powers of darkness prowl around the edge looking for one of the railings becoming weakened, and that is where the attack will take place. The take this thorn from my flesh railings like pride, love of money, jealousy, weakness of the flesh to fight an addictive nature and so forth. The things we know are always nagging at us, and the things that we fall for again and again.

The things that get in the way as we try and follow in the words of Hebrews 12:1 and “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The race that is marked out in Christ with the final destination of heaven as our eternal home and of life in Glory with Him.”

The problem is while we in Christ have already passed the finish line, in ourselves we find that we are still trying to get fit enough to make the journey and if you’re like me and unlike in the Melbourne Cup where they put the most weight on the strongest horse, it feels like the weights been put on the weakest, never mind coming from a bad barrier draw. Thankfully we’ve got the right Jockey whose knows his “horse”.

Hebrews 12:1 goes on, so “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”

If only we could because it seems that as soon as we nail back in place the loose picket, another one starts to weaken and so, we like in the Church in Luther’s day are in a constant form of reform. The reform he brought to himself and back to the church which was to re-find the Gospel in unadulterated clarity.

Our personal reformations of seeing things clearly. Of seeing that all have sinned and that being the case, our personal sins are not too great to be forgiven and that is the truth that has set us free.

 The truth as experienced by these people:

 One of the criminals (on the cross next to Jesus) who was hanging there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

And “When Jesus had entered Capernaum; a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralysed, suffering terribly. Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”  The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

And when she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”  “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

A thief, a leader of the opposition allied forces and a lady in a crowd who did nothing much more than acknowledge who Jesus was and what He could do: and Jesus replies: your faith has healed you, I have not found a person in all of Israel with such great faith today you will be with me in Paradise.

Does that not seem overly gracious, it is but we shouldn’t be surprised because John 1:12 tells us:

But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His name.

Martin Luther penned the famous quote of “sin boldly.” Not to tell us to purposely sin, but to say that when we do and the devil starts telling us of it, we know that he can never back up his allegations of being lost with the truth.

The truth that sets us free that is Christs never ending well of forgiveness.

Free as I once had so well said to me by a fellow student at the sem. who heard me singing and he said I should join the choir. He was probably tone deaf but that’s not the point. The point was I declined as I said I’m a bit shy about such things and he replied “what being saved in Christ not enough for you.”

He was right. Free in Christ why take myself so seriously and not put it out there. But also free in Christ to remain shy in such matters because all that matters to Christ is you.

The world judges us and we each other. Oh she is so successful and I’m only a grape picker.

A bank manager I knew quit his job to work on the production line at Holden’s in Elizabeth. I wonder what some people said behind his back not truly believing the truth of his statement when he said he had never been happier.

It wasn’t so long ago that to be in the Church was to try and look somewhat a devout sort of person and then sneaking into the bottle shop under the cover of darkness. Or of going to Church like butter wouldn’t melt in our mouth and then going home to be our selves again.

Colleagues and I were put through a leadership course where we were asked a series of question that would show the difference in our actions between work and private life. The gaps varied as they should. Except for one which flat lined. The instructor was somewhere between mystified and uncomplimentary and upon remarking that this shouldn’t be the case, I simply remarked-why?

Would I have manipulated my answers for a more pleasing result if I was going for the job instead of already having both the job and the runs on the board? Most probably.

Yet though flat lining, did I still try and be better at my job? Absolutely.

Do we as Christians try and live better lives turning from sin, helping others, being more welcoming and charitable? Absolutely, because we are free to do so because we already have the job and the runs on the board.

The Job Christ did for us on the cross and though you or I have a stronger or weaker faith in Christ, Christ is, after all, the same, and we have everything in Him.”

And should we carry around our faith in rags or a suit, as the CEO or the candle stick maker, believe boldly in who you are. And that is a child of God. A child of God so loved and special that he has given you to be alongside us and all the people he brings before you. So special that as he hung on the cross and was taunted to come down, he saw your face and felt your very being and remained steadfast in the Will of His Father knowing that “tomorrow”, He will greet you in paradise.

The surety of tomorrow that gives you the freedom to be the special person you are today-however that looks. Amen.