Archive for April, 2015

We will remember them

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Psalm 23, John 10:11-18

StMarksIn World War 1, boys as young as 16 years old having lied about their age to serve, lye dying on the battle fields of Gallipoli and
France asking for their mother.

So to in Vietnam but with the age lifted to 18.

Yesterday a soldier who had been awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan and after being asked if he was fearful in battle replied, yes. But predominately the fear of letting down his mates when under fire.

A statement that was on the lips of those who survived the horrors of Anzac Cove who when retreating did so with a heavy and remorseful heart knowing of the mates they were leaving behind buried in the mud.

A statement of the lips of the soldiers of the South in Gettysburg during the American Civil war. Groups of soldiers, farmers, shop clerks and all parts of society led by a leader they loved and would prefer to die for than give up.  Their leader Robert E Lee who did not lead on the basis of slavery or politics, but purely on the basis that he was from the South.

The same man who when in church and noticing a southern slave resume his seat when he realised that the whites were about to take communion, went to him, put out his hand and responded that before God we are all equal.

Gallipoli, a tragedy and a lost battle that helped shape a nation of whose citizens are the only ones of any country in the world that flock in such numbers to a losing battlefield half way around the other side of the world.

I wonder what the Anzacs that lay in those fields would say to those of today who go to pay homage, and I wonder what those who go today would say to those of 1915 in the trenches waiting for the thrill of a whistle that would see them charge into no man’s land and fall next to the fallen.

Yesterday at Anzac Cove Australians, New Zealanders, British and the French remembered those who had fallen in that attack on a foreign land as one, together with those who came to remember those of their own country who saw 80,000 of their own Turkish Brothers fall protecting their homeland.

If we could turn back time what would those of past say of such an outcome and what would those still fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Kenya and the troubled and bloodshed countries of today say if we said the same to them of what may await.

If we could turn back time and visit our parents and tell them it will be O.K. as they see their child in fear and hurt, and would they listen. And if we could turn back time and visit that child and say to yourself it will be O.K., could it have changed anything.  And what if it could?

Old foes of the past, now united in death. New foes still apart and those of us saved despite our past and those still walking through the blood and guts of their personal battlefield.

Scattered and lost, United yet alone.

War, trouble and pain cause divisions of those for and against. Fighting for our freedom against the oppressors and the oppressors against those looking to return oppression.

In the book 1984 written by George Orwell in 1949 he saw a future in our time where governments would change from being allies with one country to that of enemies with the stroke of a pen. One minute fighting for a friend then fighting against them and if we look to what’s going on now in the world he’s not far from the truth.

Political bias. Deception, lies, misinformation, greed, individual ties of the past and self- preservation dictating who to die for and who to kill.

A confused world and people not unlike those who cheered Jesus arrival into Jerusalem just as they cheered as he made his way beaten and scourged to the cross. Confusion we suffer not unlike the twelve that followed Jesus only to turn their back and to deny Him.

Jesus who on the cross did not see allies coming to save, but only enemies intent to exclude.

The stone that the builders rejected, who become the cornerstone that those that rejected he, not continue to tear down His house, but be built in it.

The Good Shepherd who before we were formed in the womb, knew us.  The Good Shepherd on His cross who when we knew Him not, asks His father to forgive us for we Knew not what we did. And the Good Shepherd that knocks on our door and enters our lives that we may enter into His righteousness and see and know those words of Psalm 23 for ourselves.

See that though we strive for self, in Him we need not want.

See that though we strive in the anguish of worldly goods, fame and happiness, in Him only do we find green pastures and still waters.

See that though we heed to the darkness and strive for perfection and a life without remorse or guilt, find that such a peace of heart can only be of His righteousness freely given.

To see that though our enemies surround us in contempt and rant, in hatred and threatening noise, we hear His whisper comforting our troubled hearts as our cup overflows through His gifts of Baptism and Holy Communion.

And yes, rather that though it seemed a shadow of the valley of death, it was but a road paved in mercy, girded from the wood of a cross and its light not of this world, but that of the light of Christ and see that though we may wonder, our shepherd walks with us that we not need wander of His love for us, but see that the grace that others saw on the cross we too see in ours and know that in Him, that for however it may seem, the Shepherd has guided the lost home, and no matter what may become, because of the love that He maintain, in His house there shall we remain. Amen.

What’s the chances

Saturday, April 18th, 2015

“What’s the chances”

 

Luke 24:25-35StMarks

 

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne, and his wife, Sophie, were shot dead in Sarajevo by a group of six assassins with the political objective to break off Austria-Hungary’s provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. The assassins’ motives were consistent with the movement that later became known as Young Bosnia. The assassination led directly to the First World War when Austria-Hungary subsequently issued an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, which was partially rejected. Austria-Hungary then declared war. Franz Ferdinand’s car in which he was assassinated had a license plate that read “A III118″. World War 1 ended with an Armistice, a peace agreement on 11-11-18, and during the second world war, when Soviet archaeologists opened the tomb of Tamerlane, a Mongol descendant of Genghis Khan, they found an inscription that read, “Whoever opens my tomb will unleash an invader more terrible than I”. It was June 20 1941. Germany invaded the Soviet Union two days later on June 22.

Two amazing co-incidences that some may label mysteries.

 

Next Saturday is Anzac day, a day that we pay tribute to those who have served us in and with their lives, that we live our lives in a free country.

But today we look to our Lord, to revere, praise, worship and thank our Lord for the life He has given to us in both our lives now, and when the times arrives, in our death.

 

And today, through our Lord we look at three mysteries from our Gospel text.

  1. There is Jesus who walks with his two disciples and talks with them, and they don’t recognise him.
  2. Jesus explains the Scriptures to the two disciples who don’t recognise him, and it is like a fire burning inside them.
  3. There is the mystery of the breaking of the bread, the moment when the two disciples recognise Jesus, and he disappears.
  1. The first mystery

Jesus comes to his disciples as a stranger. It happens on the beach, early one morning after the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. The Scripture says,

 

“but all that night they did not catch a thing. As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water’s edge, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”

 

It happens again in the locked room, when his disciples think they are seeing a ghost. They are scared out of their wits, but Jesus keeps assuring them “Don’t be afraid! Peace be with you!” Jesus shows them his hands and his side and asks them to touch him to be assured it is he, and not some scary phantom from Hades or wherever ghosts come from.

And it is important to note that Jesus comes to people whether they recognise him, or not. He comes whether they are ready for him or not. Jesus comes when he is ready. When he comes, he shows himself to be fully and completely alive. It is really him. Ask Thomas! But his risen body has also been made new in a way that goes beyond the laws of nature and physics that rule us and our bodies. Jesus is able to enter and leave the disciples presence in an instant – even when they are in a locked room. This is a mystery of the risen Lord. We have difficulty grasping the miracles we see in nature. A flower, opening into a beautiful bloom or a tiny bird hatching out of an egg. Our world is full of delightful miracles. How much more are we in awe of the mystery of Jesus alive again, gloriously raised from the tomb?

It hard to fathom, the Creator of all miracles walking around as a human being, obeying the laws he put into nature. It is even more fascinating when he is greater than the laws of nature and physics. He who works miracles in nature, turning water into wine, walking on water, appears back from the dead after three days. Jesus is God at work. We can’t explain his work in mere scientific terms. We leave the mystery at that.

When Jesus appears to us he might still come as a stranger, and we might not recognise him. In Matthew 25 we read how Jesus might come and visit us dressed down as a beggar in dire need of help, desperately needing a glass of water, or a bite of food to eat, or needing some of our clothes to wear. He might even come to our home as a stranger who needs a place to rest.

Jesus is thankful for our care for him when he comes to us as a stranger. Jesus says,

“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me”.

And that may be a little scary! And so He still comes to us with the words of truth that wqe need to hear “Don’t be afraid. Peace be with you. Your sins are forgiven”. Go in peace.”

 

  1. The second mystery

Jesus comes and explains the Scriptures to the two disciples.

If there was ever a conversation that we would love to overhear, it would have to be when Jesus opened up the Scriptures to his two disciples as they walked along together. Of course the Scriptures he used are what we now call the Old Testament. We might think of it as a book. In those days it was a collection of scrolls, all written in Hebrew. How does one fathom the meaning and main purpose of the Scriptures? Again, the Word comes to us in human form and words. This in itself can be a mystery to us. We might prefer that God would sit in heaven, write it all down, and hand it down to us. But it comes to us in human form! What do we make of it?

Some people treat the Bible as a magic book, with secret numbers and hidden messages about the future of people on our earth. Some people like to kiss it, and bow down to the Scriptures. Are we meant to worship it, or do Christians only worship the living God who comes to us in the Scriptures?

Is there a secret to the Scriptures? Yes. There is a secret key to understanding the Scriptures. In verse 27 of our text we read, “And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the book of Moses and the writings of all the prophets.”

Right from the beginning, and right through to the end, these Scriptures are all pointing to Jesus. The key to understanding the Scriptures is Jesus. If we are to understand the Scriptures, then we need to look for Jesus in the words and paragraphs. Jesus is the key who opens up the mysteries of the Scriptures.

It would great to know which passages Jesus took from the Old Testament and said, “This refers to me,” but we aren’t told. Maybe it was Isaiah 53? There is a hint in Jesus’ words when he says, “Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things …”? Did Jesus tell them about the Passover Lamb, and how the lamb was taken in its prime, and sacrificed, and the flesh eaten with the unleavened bread? It’s probable the Passover Lamb was included, but again we are not told. It remains a mystery which passages of Scripture Jesus said pointed to him.

If we want to know which passages of Scripture are more important than others, then we know to look for Jesus there. He is the key for us to understand the Scriptures. There is much we don’t fully grasp about the Scriptures, and we don’t need to. What we know is that Jesus is the key to God’s central message of Scripture – the same one who suffered the worst on the cross for us.

It is interesting that the two disciples still didn’t recognise it was Jesus himself who was explaining the Scriptures to them. It is significant that their hearts burned within them – a pointer to the Holy Spirit and the fires that would burn at Pentecost.

  1. The third mystery is the breaking of the bread.

We cannot explain in scientific terms how this happened. When Christians try and explain what happens in Holy Communion they can easily empty it of its real blessings.

There is ordinary bread and wine. Jesus takes the bread, as God’s people had been doing for several thousand years. Jesus then breaks the bread, and gives it to them, saying, “Take and eat, this is my body, given for you.” And then he took the cup – we know the words!

Saint Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11,

“Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

 

The two disciples at Emmaus immediately recognise the risen Jesus in the breaking of the bread. There is a deep mystery here that we can’t explain in scientific terms. The two disciples are so excited and overcome with emotion and joy,

“They got up at once and went back to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples gathered together. The two then explained to them what had happened on the road, and how they had recognised the Lord when he broke the bread.”

 

Holy Communion is our celebration of Easter, when the risen Lord Jesus comes to us, bringing victory and forgiveness in the bread and the wine. The risen Jesus who suffered and died for us comes to visit us in the bread and wine every time we join in the Lord’s Supper. He comes as the Lamb of God who was offered up in sacrifice for us. He comes bringing forgiveness, with the message, “Don’t be afraid. Peace be with you. Your sins are forgiven.”

 

The risen Jesus comes to us again and again as we travel through this life. We never travel alone. He walks with us. He talks with us.

The risen Jesus, the same one who was sacrificed for us on the cross, visits each one of us personally today in the breaking of the bread. A profound and wonderful mystery. But a mystery behind a truth that you never need doubt, that yes, Your sins are forgiven. Thanks be to God!

Amen.

To Church or not to Church

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

John 20: 19-31

StMarksLiving in our times of self, it seems that via the media, many people say we do not need traditional churches, and in a sense
O.K. it is true that going to church is not a requirement of salvation. But the one’s I hear on talk back radio saying to “get rid of the church because it’s not relevant” are mainly non-Christians.

Non-Christians who see no need for organised church and yet I would imagine still see the need for the Christian schools and the Christian hospitals because make no mistake if they were closed, whatever our current billion or so deficit is now, without these church run facilities, that deficit would look like chicken feed.

I think that’s something the church knockers miss. Never mind that it’s the churches that run many op shops for the short of cash. The churches that many people knock on the door for a hand for money to buy food and petrol.  And the churches that run many hostels that provide food and shelter to the homeless and needy.

I would hope that even the harshest critic could see some benefit of the churches still being in our society.

Real benefits, but real benefits that are the offshoot of a greater reality of which John emphases in his Gospel writings, and today’s closing Gospel verses Verses of 30 & 31 for all intensive purposes could be titled “The purpose of this book.”

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name”.

People commonly and mistakenly think that biblical books were written mainly to provide rules for godly living.

But here John, the author of this Gospel, clearly states its purpose and summarises its central message, and God Speaking through John, announces that the core message is the Good News that Jesus is His Son and that by His name; we have life and salvation, and we can imagine John writing the Gospel with the words on his lips and the desire in his mind and the prayer in his heart that he  “Gladly share this Good News, O God, that others may believe and live.”

And if we look at those closing verses of 30 & 31, in being the conclusion of the previous paragraphs, we see that John, and all followers of Jesus are sent out upon their task in the power of the Holy Spirit, and equipped with their own story in relation to being saved in Christ as a confession of their faith, says all that need to be said.

Jesus is our life, and in Jesus Christians although different in many or all ways, we stand united around Jesus in His church and when we think of all these different buildings this morning housing Christians of other denominations, we see not bricks and mortar, but see and receive in the mission of Jesus himself, which through the Spirit, is perpetuated in the mission of the church; and then the amazing reality that the church by its faith is related to Christ as Christ is to God.

And if that’s not amazing enough, another reality is that In when Jesus when he walked this earth-those people were not confronted by just a Jewish rabbi, but by God himself, and so then following, like to the apostles, the commission, the gift of the spirit and the authority are given to the apostolic church.

The Christian churches, our church that then follow in the apostolic mission of the church, where the world is not confronted merely by a human institution, but by Jesus the Son of God, and when we think of that, we see why it is so important to follow God’s scripture and not that of our own  making because as Jesus in his ministry was entirely dependent upon and obedient to God the Father, who sealed and sanctified him, so are the churches the apostolic church by virtue of being commissioned by Christ, and sanctified because  Jesus breathed the Spirit into it.

Now I would think that if I rang up a radio station and said all this on behalf of our gathering I would reckon the rest of the show would be taken up with all soughts of accusations with the old favourite sure to be there of “what a bunch of hypocrites. “

And that would be true if we thought we were the church and not Christ’s.

And it would be true if we thought we were perfect and like not that of Christ.

Hypocrites-no. Sinners- yes. Forgiven in Christ alone and from no part of our own-absolutely.

Yes the Church is still a big deal, because Christ is the deal and though we as individuals may not glow like the risen Christ before the apostles, we glow in the fact that those physical scars that his risen body still carried from His time of the cross were established for us. The scars He endured in death and still carried after His resurrection that we with our own scare tissue can in our work places and homes not be judgmental and intolerant, but rather like Jesus who when confronted by doubting Thomas, did not tell him of or ridicule him, but remained with him, taught and nurtured him and in doing so, talked of you: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”

That’s some high praise of you “guys”. It may not seem like when God said that King David was a man after his own heart, but it’s up there.

Blessed are you because you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for your sins that you are forgiven and have eternal life.

And forgiven you are, forgiven so that you need not dwell on past sins. Forgiven so you not doubt the word of God, but forgiven that you here, no matter the scars you carry or the burdens you bear, blessed are you for you now have seen the Lord. Seen the Lord come to you when at your worst. Seen the Lord carry you when you could not carry yourself, and seen the holy and powerful Lord reduce Himself to be treated like a criminal and hung from the cross that sinners like you and me, that forgiven sinners like you and me not dwell in our own mortality, but dwell in the Lord’s immortality, raise our heads and cry “He is risen”, Yes he has risen indeed as too will you and those who put their faith in Him.

Not the words of insincere hypocrites, but the genuine and sincere witness of the church, of you and of me that we are blessed to take to the world. Amen.

True cheers of Joy

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

True cheers of Joy

John 20:1-18

 

StMarksGood Friday I watched a documentary about two of America’s most infamous African-American gangs, the Crips and the bloods. South Central LA, a strip between Rodeo Drive and Hollywood that in the 50’s was separated by highways that were not to be crossed by those marginalised inside or those of racial anger or fear encircling this suburb of internment.

A suburb that has grown from young men forming their own clubs in the fifties because of not being able to join the boy scouts because of the colour of their skin, to now open warfare between the gangs where most families are broken. Young men who grew up without role models to a future where a quarter of them will be either in prison or dead.

A future where many, many of them have never been outside their turf never mind feeling the breeze at a beach and all must not be caught “slipping.” Which is not to be caught unfocussed at all times because to do so at the edges of the gang territories, be it at the petrol station or the deli caught well get you killed by those wearing other colours. Blue for the crips, red for the bloods.

In the Middle East, Arab against Arab except for the universal hatred of Israel. South Central L.A. Afro American against Afro-American except for the universal hatred of the Authorities of Law that they see as wardens.

A climate of anger, un yet fear not to be showed, and hopelessness that saw one young 19 year old voice that “he did not choose that destiny, it chose him, a life that he knows God did not want in society, yet trapped, his only way out is if someone will come down into the pit with him and show a way out.”

In the beginning God created the earth, the heavens above and all within and saw that it was good, only for us to fall to sin.

Sin that has seen nation rise against nation and those within, brother against brother and sister against sister and in the church, Christian against Christian and maybe the most fierce of all, the inner fight of self against self.

Mary Magdalene standing at the Tomb in the presence of Jesus was asked “Woman, why are you crying”

Her tears that could not be quelled for she saw not the risen Christ, but a tomb of lost hope.

On Jesus Cross, Pontius Pilate wrote an inscription “Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews” and when those present sought for that truth to be distorted, Pilate answered “What I have written, I have written.”

I read this and for you, and for those still fighting the emptiness as I bring it before you as it was to me.

Woman, why are you crying?  I’m crying because the one who gave me hope, the one who accepted me not for what I do but for me as a person, my friend, Jesus, is dead!  I’m crying for all those who pinned their hope on him; for all those who saw God like they’d never seen him before; for those who felt unburdened by chains which bound them, chains of oppression, chains of hopelessness, chains of feeling you have to do the right thing but never being able to do it well enough, chains which said you weren’t allowed here, you couldn’t go there, you weren’t the right race, didn’t have the right background, weren’t rich enough, religious enough, healthy enough, weren’t the right gender to be a part of God’s plan for his people.

I’m crying for all those people who felt a sense of liberation in the message of Jesus who are now shattered because he is dead.  I’m crying for all those through the ages who have lost a loved one, for those who have experienced what it is to be separated from someone they thought they would have for ever, for all those who know the pain of sickness and disease and tragedy and have sat by the bedside of a loved one as they slowly let go of the breath of life, or have been stunned, shocked, numbed by news of an inexplicable tragedy, those who in the death of Jesus see nothing more than that he went the same way we all go.

I’m crying for all those with emptiness inside, all those who search for meaning, and all those who are confused and lonely and wanting to give up.  And I’m crying for a world which is without direction, spinning hopelessly out of control, a world marked by millions without a home, without enough food, without the security of knowing how safe they will be tomorrow, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, for all the displaced people, all the orphaned, for the unborn who are terminated before they see the light of day and the elderly and frail who wonder when it will be their time to be extinguished– I cry for all those who could have found hope in this Jesus who have now been left hopeless as Jesus lies cold, dead in the tomb!

And I’m crying for me and for those like me, for those who lived before me and believed that God would one day set things right, and all those who come after me. And I’m crying because a man like this, a man we thought was God’s man, the holy one, should be treated this way.

But then like a voice from the dead, Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? “Mary, Mary it is I who you seek.”

Un yet still she cries.

Woman, why are you crying?  Lord my tears now are for this moment where my joy no one can take away from me.  My hope was dashed but now it has been restored.  I wept for others, but now I know that they, too, can have the experiences I’ve had of Jesus and everything he brings.  I cried because my Jesus, the Rescuer, the Saviour was dead, but now I smile because I know that my Redeemer lives!

Yes our redeemer lives. Jesus having been into death itself, came out of it as Victor; having trumped Satan’s last trump.  Having verified, underlined, confirmed everything he did, everything he said as real, genuine, believable, trustworthy, life-changing.  Not a loser but a winner.  Not defeated but victorious.  Not just one with us in our pain and our dying. Not just one with us, but one who is in front of us, who has gone ahead of us, offering us healing and help and hope, wanting to dry our tears and lift our heads and tell us that this isn’t all there is.

So today we celebrate and far from hopelessness, should we weep our tears cry of thanks and hope. The sure hope in Christ that:

Because he lives, we can face tomorrow

                (that) Because he lives, all fear is gone

                (that) Because we know he holds the future

                That future is worth  living,  because we know that as He lives, so do we!

Amen.