Archive for May, 2018

The Spirit himself testifies.

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Trinity Sunday

Romans 8:12-17

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Family is a very important thing for us. We want to belong, indeed we need to; and if we don’t have anyone we hurt. Many of us have moved away from family to be here, or family has moved away from us, but we still have those connections, they’re not gone and they are still very important. These family connections are very important, but there are still people who are cutt off from their families, even from birth. They become lost until a time when they are accepted into a different family, until they are adopted. But even then their ties to there first family are strong and later in life many try to find the people who gave birth to them, and some even reject that family that adopted them, chose them and nurtured them when their biological parents couldn’t. Many children are taken away from their first family because it is dangerous for them, maybe there is physical violence, drug abuse, a lack of care for the child, or maybe even the parents just don’t have the ability or resources to support the child. Many children then are adopted into a family that is safer for them, where they do not need to grow up in fear and instead they grow up well supported and accept their new family and live good, healthy lives. But for others it doesn’t work that way.

Now, why have I spoken about these complicated situations? Because you and I are adopted. We have been adopted by God, who is now our heavenly Father, through the Holy Spirit and now we are family, brothers and sisters with Jesus Christ. Now I think there are differences between Christian adoption and what I was talking about before, but there are enough similarities for some helpful analogies. We have been born into a sinful and suffering world, a sinful family if you will (Psalm 51:5; John 1:10-12; Romans 3:10-18) and we have been adopted into a new family and our sin has been taken away and replaced with the things of God. But still we are tempted to go back to our previous lives, to again become slaves to sin and fear. The similarities break down here because no family here on earth, no family of this world, is perfectly good and caring; and also God can do good through even the worst parents, even if it is just the gift of life which by itself is worth of honour and respect.

However, for us our first family is of this world, is sinful and corrupt, sick and turned in on itself. That is how the world teaches us to live, but that life leads only to death. Unlike our biological parents, whom we are in debt to and God Himself tells us to respect, unlike them we are not in debt to this world, we do not need to live to make amends, we do not need to live according to this sick world, if you do God tells us through Paul, you are about to die (verse 13). Those who try to live according to this world, to climb the corporate ladder, to become a respected individual, to have fun at any expense, to get rich, to follow their own sinful desires, those who live like this are about to die. Our first family cannot give us life as The Triune God can, it cannot give us lasting peace, joy or life. The promises of this world we are born in turn out to be lies.

But brothers and sisters, whose promises do you believe? Are you trying to find that first family again? To be enslaved to the world and your desires in fear? Or have you heard that promise of God, ‘You are my child’, ‘you have received the spirit of adoption and call God Almighty dad’, ‘you are inheritors with Jesus’?

You have been joined to Jesus Christ in baptism and so in Him you are all sons, or children and heirs, of God (Galatians 3:26-27). Because you are children of God, He sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts and now we call Him Father (Galatians 4:4-7). You are part of a new family, you have been adopted. In Christ you call The Almighty God, Creator of all, Father by the power and gift of the Holy Spirit. We pray with Jesus, ‘Our Father in Heaven’ (Matthew 6:9).

So you are a member together with all of us, of a new family, a holy and just family, a family different from the family of this world. That family lies saying, ‘it’s all good/fine, it’s just the way things are, you need to do good and then good will happen for you’, leading you into sin, ‘if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, you deserve it or they deserve it, you’re just gonna screw up anyway’, and can only promise you suffering and turmoil underneath that veil of happiness and peace, one just needs to go to a non-Christian funeral. And that is where that family takes you, to death. So why would you reject your new family in Jesus and go back to your sinful ways? Why do you return to that slavery under fear, like a dog to vomit? Why turn away from the peace and love of God and His Spirit and live again in disobedience, darkness and death?

We struggle here in our lives, because sin still lives in this body and just like Paul tells us earlier, it feels like we are at war with ourselves (Romans 7:15-25). We try to change ourselves, to be holy as our heavenly Father is, to truly act as part of His family. We try to put to death our sinful self, the old Adam. And we suffer because of this war within us. Sometimes our old self gets the upper hand, and sometimes we truly do rely on the Holy Spirit, but we surely need help. Paul in the next paragraph writes that we are groaning with all creation in pain like childbirth, waiting eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22-23). We are God’s children, He has promised us this and He keeps His promises, but we are also waiting for the time when it is obvious, waiting for our hope to be fulfilled. When Christ comes again in glory, we will share in that glory; but today we are sharing in His earthly suffering.

You are a child of God, taken from this world of death, slavery and fear. We have God’s promises and even heavenly blessings in this life, peace and joy, certainly the great love of God. You know where you are headed, to be with Jesus and your Father and the Spirit and all the saints throughout all time. But now, here you suffer, The Holy Spirit beside you, Jesus who has gone before you and your Heavenly Father who loves and cares for you, sustaining you through all things.

The peace of God which passes all our understanding guard your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, and our Father in Heaven, The Triune God now and forever. Amen.

  • Joseph Grahm

The Holy Spirit of God

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

John 15:26, 27; 16:7, 8; 13

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

The words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your eyes, O Lord, our rock and redeemer. Amen.

This Sunday we will be celebrating the Pentecost, the fiftieth day after our Lord’s resurrection, and the traditional birthday of the church. The day when all those years ago, this promise our Lord Jesus spoke was fulfilled. The morning where the Holy Spirit of God came down as flames on the disciples, gave Peter the words to speak to the crowd and baptised around three thousand (Acts 2:1-41).

These people were convicted of their sin, their rejection of Jesus Christ as God’s Son and their rejection of His Words. They were shown the truth of their lives and actions, that they had sinned and were sinning. They also heard the truth of Jesus’ forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Spirit received through baptism. This is the Spirit of truth guiding the disciples into all truth and convicting the world.

Jesus has promised us that the Holy Spirit will guide us too, I pray not only for them, but for those who will come after (John 17:20 ). But how do we know that we are listening to This Spirit, how do we know we are living in truth? Last week we heard from John 17, just a little later in John’s Gospel, Jesus praying to the Father, ‘sanctify us in the truth, your word is truth’ (John 17:17). The Word of God is true and is where we find truth, and not just in the written Bible, but also the word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14). Jesus is the Word of God fully, but graciously God has also provided us with His Word written down by His people over 2000yrs.

It is through the Bible that we learn the truth, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But how do we know if we are guided by a spirit of God and not a different spirit? We are to test the spirits against the truth (1 John 4:1), John tells us that we know the Spirit of God because He confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2). Also earlier in the letter He writes that, ‘if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8).

The people who deceive themselves and believe the lies of this world or society also condemn themselves to death, because they reject the truth. Those who reject the conviction of the Holy Spirit also reject the salvation of Jesus. But Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us with truth and to truth. The Holy Spirit is our advocate, our helper, our comforter and our guide.

The grace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and always. Amen.

7th Sunday after Easter

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

John 17:14-18

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

The words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your eyes, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

            Who are you; an Australian; a cooker of good food; a child of your mother; mother to your children; a migrant; a man; a woman? Where do you find your identity? In your politics, ‘I’m a Liberals voter’; your work, ‘I’m a truckie’; your family, ‘I’m a mother/father’; your friends, ‘I’m the funny one’? Or do you primarily find your identity, who you are and what you are, in Jesus Christ, God’s Word?

            This reading is an excerpt from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He meets Judas and is arrested to be tried and crucified. The church tradition knows it as the High priestly prayer, in which Jesus, our High Priest, intercedes/speaks on our behalf to God our Father praising Him and asking for a number of things. Two things He asks for that we read are protection for His disciples and that they are made holy by and kept in the Word of God. Now Jesus is God, and He’s praying to God the Father, I think it’s safe to believe that what He prays for comes to reality; we have this assurance from Jesus that God always speaks truth (verse 17), and also we know this word held true for the disciples when they were rejected the world but ultimately protected from its lies. Jesus’ prayer is sure. God declares you saved and righteous in Jesus and He does strive to keep you from the devil.

            Also true is that you are not of this world. You are of Jesus and the Father (verse 9, 10). Christ Jesus is where we find our identity, where we learn who and what we are; sinners who have been saved. We no longer find our identity from this world, from our political or national affiliations, from our community ideals, from this world’s worldview, but from God. There is now no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ; heirs of the promise (Galatians 3:28, 29b).  Heirs of the promise of eternal life in Christ, not heirs of the promise of Shorten or Turnbull, or the promise of ethnic nationalism, or multiculturalism, or capitalism, socialism, or any other promise of any other group of this world.

There is only one who has the power to save you from sin, death and the devil, to bring you ultimate love, peace and joy. That one is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the only one who loves you and all people, and loves you completely (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:9-10). He sent Jesus, His precious, only Son to die in your place so that you receive eternal life and freedom from evil. That is the promise, “whoever believes in Him will live forever” (John 3:16).

            What might this truth of God’s Word change in our lives? Who would we be if in everything we who claim Christ Jesus as Lord thought, spoke and acted with His words in mind, rather than the chattering of the voices in the world? How does God’s Word change you? “No one is righteous, no not even one”, “I forgive you all your sins”, “This is my body”, “This is my blood”, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners”, “Do not fear”, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Psalm 14:3; Jeremiah 31:34; Mark 14:22-23; 1 Timothy 1:15; Deuteronomy 31:8; Matthew 5:10). Throughout your Christian life you have heard God’s Word, you have heard the truth, and you have learnt what God likes. You love God and so you try to do what pleases Him, He told us ‘Be holy for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). This is our life that is not of the world.

            Unfortunately, sometimes, many times, we forget the Bible, God’s Word, we lose sight of our identity in Christ and we find again an identity in this world. We are still in the world, for Jesus has sent us just like He was sent. He has sent us with God’s Word to proclaim God’s Good News to all who do not know or understand it. And because we are still in the world we still struggle against it, we still struggle with temptation and sin. You dismiss who Christ tells you you are, and focus again to what the world tells you: it’s us against them and they’re evil (men/women; locals/foreigners; Labour/Liberal; black/white; or any other group and those outside); you are basically a god who can achieve anything, or even you deserve everything and everyone should love you because of who you are; or you belong nowhere, you deserve nothing and are worthless. Your gender defines you, or your sexuality, your political leanings, your skin, your family, your friends, your pay check. In this world I have heard all these things and more, many promise peace, wealth, joy, power, safety because of who you are. But look around, we don’t receive these; maybe some people for a little while but ultimately this world cannot ensure that we receive salvation from suffering. Only God can. But the world can ensure that we suffer because of who we are and sometimes that’s what it promises.

            And we are still in the world. We do still experience suffering because of who we are in the world. It is true that according to this world we live in I am a young man of European descent, good pay and scattered family and friends. These identities I have do influence how I live here, but Christ tells me and you that these are not our true identities, not the identity that He has given us. We find our identity In God’s Word. You are part of Christ’s body, you are in the Church His bride, you are adopted as His sons, you are one in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:23, 25; Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 3:28). You are not of the world, now you’re made of different stuff through Christ and are keep protected and safe by God’s true Word.

That is who you are, a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, God’s people. The life of the Christian is different to the life of the world. We are sent, just as Jesus, to minister to the world and to bring the Word of God, the Good News to all people. This is not a completely safe task, because the sinful world hates this Word and us because we belong to Jesus. However, God the Father will protect us and the Holy Spirit guides us. Thanks be to God!

The peace of God which passes all our human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and always. Amen.

Final Instructions.

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

TEXT:  Mark 16:19, 20

  ‘After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.  Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.’

                                               

As the evangelists record, on the day of his ascension Jesus was with his disciples in Jerusalem.  He gave them some final instructions during a meal, then when they’d finished the meal, he led them out to Bethany.  He continued his instructions on the way and repeated his promise to send them the Holy Spirit.  They should go to Jerusalem, he said, to wait for the Spirit to come.  Then he raised his hands in a final act of blessing, and as they watched, he was taken up from them until a cloud hid him from their sight.

Jesus’ ascension is the final act in God’s great drama of salvation.  God the Father received his divine Son back to the glory of his right hand, and in doing this, he gave his stamp of approval to everything Jesus had accomplished here on earth.

In his letter to the Ephesians, St Paul points out that the Jesus who ascended that day is the same person ‘who descended to the … earthly regions’.  The Son of God descended from the glory of heaven to the lowliness of earth as the infant of a young woman.  He descended into the sin, sorrow and suffering of this world, for us.

God had seen us in our need.  He’d seen us trapped in the tragedy of our sin.  He’d seen that, try hard as we would, we could never bridge the gap that we’d created between us and himself by our sin.  The only way we could be spared the punishment that sin brings was for someone to take our place – to keep God’s law perfectly on our behalf, and yet to suffer its punishment in full.

That’s why the eternal Son of God came from heaven to earth, from glory to humility.  That’s why he gave up his life on Calvary.  And God accepted this sacrifice of his Son, and raised him to life again on the third day.

To convince people that the sin of all humanity’s been paid for, Jesus showed himself alive on a number of occasions during the 40 days after his resurrection.  In effect, he was saying to his disciples, and us: ‘I’m alive!  I’ve taken all your guilt on myself … all your weaknesses.  I’ve suffered all your temptations for you.  I’ve been punished most cruelly for you.  But I’m no longer dead!  I’ve conquered death and Satan.  I’ve cancelled out all your sin.  Just believe this and you’ll have life with me and my Father in heaven.’

Jesus’ resurrection proves to us that our sin has been paid for.  But to make us even more sure, our Lord ‘was taken up into heaven’.  Because he was completely satisfied with what Jesus had done, God the Father received him back to his right hand side … restored him to the full exercise of his divine authority and power.

As St Paul says, ‘He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe’.

That’s why Ascension is a festival of joy.  It shows us that God’s saving work for us is complete.  There’s nothing more to be done.  Our sin’s been paid for – all of it!  You are forgiven!  Christ’s work is perfect.  No matter how many times we may still fall into temptation – even though we try hard to fight against it – God’s taken all this into consideration.  Jesus’ death has covered it all.

By faith you can be at peace with God – in spite of your many weaknesses and failings.  By faith you have God’s own assurance of a place in heaven, where your risen Lord’s now gone on ahead of you,  You don’t have to work for it; and you don’t have to have any anxieties about whether or not you’re worthy of it.  In yourself you’re not worthy, and you never can be.  But Christ has removed all your unworthiness so you can now have the certainty of faith to say with St Paul:  ‘I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

Our text tells us that ‘after the Lord had spoken to [the disciples], he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God’.  What this means has been well described by St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.  ‘[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and domin-ion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body.’

The fact that the ascended Christ is now at God’s right hand doesn’t mean he’s confined somewhere ‘up there’ beyond the stars!  The picture we often have of God the Father sitting on a shining white throne above the clouds is poetic imgagery.  Jesus himself described what’s meant by his sitting ‘at the right hand of God’ when he said: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’.  As ascended Lord, the God-Man Jesus Christ now fully shares in the rule of earth and heaven.

In a sense, his ascension was like a coronation, by which he was unmistakably declared almighty ruler over heaven and earth.  Within the eternal trinity of the Godhead, the ascended Christ now controls all things throughout Creation, according to his unlimited wisdom and grace.

Now … what does all this mean for you and me?

Think back for a moment to what St Paul wrote in Ephesians!  ‘[God] seated [Christ] at his right hand in the heavenly realms … and … placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church …’

Jesus Christ, the exalted ‘King of Creation’, who is both ‘Son of God and Mary’s Son’, as we sing in one of our hymns, now rules over all things in this universe.  He controls all the forces in this universe, and directs everything that happens in the interests of his church – and that includes you and me.

The ascended Christ is vitally concerned about his church here on earth, and about you and me who’re members of it.  He’s vitally concerned about his church because God the Father’s given him to the church as its Head.

There’ a wonderful reassurance in this thought for all of us who’re members of Christ’s church through faith.  We can have this very real assurance that our ascended Lord is directing everything that happens – on a global and national level, and in our community and our own personal life – he’s directing it all in our best interests.  We can confidently say with St Paul: ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him’.

In spite of continuing unrest in various parts of the world, in spite of shootings, in spite of increasing drug use, in spite of road deaths, in spite of AIDS, the ascended Christ is still ruling at the right hand of his Father – channelling our lives in our best interests.

So … if you’re sick or have some disability, don’t despair!  Christ is still in control;  God is working for your good!

If you have financial problems, or you’re out of work, or your income’s taken a dive, don’t lose courage!  God knows!

If your children let you down, or your marriage has broken up or is under stress, don’t throw in the towel!  Christ is on your side, and he’s still in control.

So often when trouble comes we give in to despair.  ‘What’s the use?’ we ask.  ‘Where’s God?  Why doesn’t he help?’

Your heavenly Father is always there, and Christ is at his right hand.  He’s in charge, and he rules everything in this universe in the best interests of those who’re his.  He only has your good in mind in the way he deals with you.  You mightn’t always see it at the time, but you will … with the wisdom of hindsight!

And beyond this life he’s prepared a place for you in the never-ending glory of his Father’s presence.

So …you can face each day confidently, trusting in the almighty rule of your ascended Lord and King.

However, Jesus’ ascension to God’s right hand doesn’t mean he’s left his disciples – ancient or modern – to our own devices, to flounder around by ourselves in a world that by and large is antagonistic to all he stands for.  Shortly before he parted from his disciples he assured them: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’.

True, he did withdraw his visible presence from them, but as the ever-present God he continued to be with them, and he continues to be with his disciples of all ages.

As those early disciples went out to preach his gospel in all the world they realised more and more how close the ascended Christ was.  Mark tells us:  ‘The disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by signs that accompanied it.

Those men were very much aware of the presence of their Lord, and of his Spirit, in their lives.  On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to them, as Jesus promised.  They went out to preach and teach with new boldness … to witness and baptise. And as they did this, the ascended Lord himself worked through them.  He confirmed and strenthened their spoken word with signs – a lame man healed, Saul the persecutor converted to Paul the Apostle, lives changed, faith strengthened, deeds of love and service.  The mass conversion on Pentecost, and the spectacular growth of Christianity in spite of strong opposition – even persecution – all this testifies to the fact that the ascended Christ works mightily in and through his followers.

The same Lord is still close to each one of us today.  He’s put us into this world for a special purpose – just as the apostles had a special purpose.  His purpose for you is not that you should selfishly live just for yourself.  You’ve been called to live under Christ and serve him and witness to his love.  And he wants to work through you as he worked through his chosen 12.

There’s a story that tells of Jesus’ return to heaven.  The angels Michael and Gabriel were there to welcome him.  They congratulated him on his victory over Satan, and for having drawn so many disciples to follow him.  ‘But’, they asked, ‘what’ll happen now that you’ve withdrawn from the world?’

‘I’ve provided for that’. Jesus told them.  ‘I have Peter and John and the other Apostles to go out and preach in my name.’

‘But how will people of later ages come to know what you’ve done for them?’ Gabriel asked.

‘I’ve arranged for that, too.’ Jesus said. ‘ I’ve charged my people throughout history to be my witnesses and tell people about my love for them.’

 ‘But what if they let you down?’ Gabriel asked in awed tones.

‘I have no other way’, Jesus replied.

It’s just a story, but it makes a challenging point.  To each of us the Lord says, ‘Go into all the world, starting with your own home and community.  Go and preach and live my gospel, and witness to my grace.  And don’t be concerned about your weaknesses and inadequacies, because “I am with you …”

As you respond to this call as a member of Christ’s body and of this St Peter’s congregation, you too will see the signs of your Lord’s mighty presence, and of his power at work in and through you and your fellow members: children and adults drawn into the body of Christ through baptism; some friend or relative who comes to new life in Christ; growth in your own faith and in the love that expresses that faith; prayers answered; lives changed.  These are the kind of signs that show the ascended Lord is still mightily active in his church, and in you today.

Rejoice that your salvation has been completed, and that you are a forgiven child of God, with an eternal destiny in heaven!  Rejoice that the ascended Christ rules over all in his powerful, loving way.  Rejoice that he continues to work in and through his church on earth to draw people to himself!  And rejoice that he works also in and through you, in spite of your all-too-human frailties!

Rejoice, the Lord is King!

 Your Lord and King adore!

Jesus, the Savjour reigns,

  The God of truth and love;

His kingdom cannot fail,

  He rules o’er earth and heaven.

He sits at God’s right hand …

  Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!

Rejoice, again I say, Rejoice!

Amen.

Rev Robert J Wiebusch

Chosen to bear fruit

Saturday, May 5th, 2018
Text: John 15:16
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit”.

Harry Lipsig, a New York lawyer, took on cases that others lawyers refused to touch. 

A woman was suing a drunken police officer who had struck and killed her 71-year-old husband with his patrol car. She argued that the city had deprived her of her husband’s future earnings potential as a psychiatrist. The lawyers for the police officer believed they had a water tight case against such a claim and argued that at the age of 71, the man had little earnings potential.

They thought they had a clever defence until they realized that this woman’s argument about her husband’s future earning power was being championed by a vigorous 87-year-old Harry Lipsig. His case rested on the argument that he was 87 and still practicing law and suggested that the psychiatrist, too, could have looked forward to many more years in the work force. Mr Lipsig’s client was awarded $1.25 million.

Facing some of the brightest minds in the legal profession, the 87 year old could have said but didn’t, “I can’t take on a case like this. I’m too old”. However, I’m sure all of us at some time have said, “I can’t do that.  What can I do?  I wouldn’t know what to do.”

For example, we learn that a close friend or relative has met with tragedy. Our immediate reaction to the news we have just heard is a desire to do something. We want to say something, do something, anything that will help.

But as we contemplate all this we start to ask ourselves, “What can I do?
I wouldn’t know what to say.
What if I say the wrong thing?
I might offend the person if I offer to help around the house.
I don’t know how to deal with overwhelming with grief.
I am only a housewife, a labourer, an accountant.
I am only a teenager, a farmer, a retiree.”

“I am only ….” are only 3 small words but have the power to stifle anything we consider too challenging or too demanding.

We hear those words spoken numerous times through the Scriptures and even if they aren’t spoken out loud we can assume that they were in the minds of those who questioned God’s command or even rejected it. When God told Jonah to call the people of Nineveh to repentance, I can well imagine Jonah saying as he boarded a ship to get away from God, “I can’t do this. It’s crazy. I am only …”

There are others who initially said, ‘I am only’ but then responded with obedience.

Take Jeremiah. No sooner had Jeremiah been told that he was chosen for a special job by God than the prophet-to-be blurts out, “I can’t. I don’t have the training. I am only a teenager.”
When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, Moses tried to wriggle out of undertaking such a risky task and excuse himself from going to the Egyptian king by saying he wasn’t very good at making speeches, saying, “I am only a shepherd. I’m a nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:11). 
Gideon was a farmer and God told him to lead an army to rid the land of an enemy. We can imagine him using those 3 words “I am only …” as he complained, “How can I save Israel? … I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15).
When the angel spoke to Mary and told her she was about to bear a child, the Son of the Most High God, she too said, “How can I? I am only a young girl not even married yet.”

When God called Amos, an orchardist,
Andrew Peter, James and John, all fishermen,
Matthew, a tax collector,
Saul, a persecutor of the Christians,
one and all could have quite legitimately said, “I can’t do this! I am only a … farmer, a fisherman, a tax collector, an ordinary sort of person”.

When God chooses people for certain tasks and calls them to do what is seemingly dangerous and downright crazy, he knows what he’s doing. Even if the individual can only respond with ‘how can I do this’ and proposes all kinds of objections, God can see past our weaknesses and insecurities and see the real potential that exists within each of us.

When God came to young Jeremiah and said, ‘I am appointing you as a prophet to the nations’ we can understand why Jeremiah starts to object. Here is a teenager who is told to speak God’s Word of warning and judgement and repentance to people who would not take too kindly to this kind of message, especially from the mouth of a lad. But before Jeremiah and those like him can say anything else, God assures him that he will always be there to assist, rescue, support and strengthen his messengers, even in the worst of situations.
He says to Jeremiah, 
“Do not be afraid, for I will be with you to protect you. …. Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak”.

To Moses God said, “I will be with you”.
As Joshua takes over from Moses as leader of the Israelites, God says, “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you”
As Jesus commands his disciples to preach and baptise people of all nations he says, 
“I will be with you always”

The words God uses here indicate his deep commitment to those he chooses in much the same way as the Bible describes the commitment between a husband and wife or the way God speaks of his commitment to the people of Israel.

Just as God came in his grace to Jeremiah, and called him to be his prophet, he has come to us. Through Jesus and his death and resurrection he has given us
a new identity as his chosen people and given us a new life.
Just as Jeremiah was given a new responsibility that day so also we have been given new responsibilities as his chosen people.
To be God’s voice to speak his Word of comfort and grace;
to be God’s ears to hear the cries of those who are hurting;
to be God’s hands to demonstrate God’s love through our care and love;
to be God’s feet to go and be his disciples in the every day matters of living in this world,
to be a witness to God’s love for all people in our neighbourhood, our community, in fact, the whole world.

It all sounds very nice to talk about Jeremiah and all the others and their call to be God’s messengers and seeing a parallel with God’s call to us to be his chosen people through holy Baptism. But when it comes down to it our response ends up no different to the biblical characters, “How can I do this. I am only …” and like Jeremiah, Moses and the others feel totally inadequate to carry out what God is asking us to do.

The words “I am only..” are words that deny the gifts God has given us to develop and use. “I am only …” is offered as a reason why we can’t do something. I don’t have what is needed to be on a congregational committee, or visit the sick, or talk to a neighbour about Jesus and the Church, or help in the worship service. I am only a farmer, a house wife, a retiree, a council worker.
Our fear of failure is nothing unusual. Our feeling of inadequacy is normal as we wonder how we will cope and what we will do. We would prefer that God leave us alone and ask someone else.

Like I said, it’s normal to feel afraid and inadequate and it’s just when we feel like this that we need to be reminded of God’s commitment to us.
It is God who chooses us to be his children and to actively be his disciple.
It is God who has promised those whom he has chosen that he will never leave them and will always be beside them to give guidance and help.
His commitment to us whom he has chosen as his people and given the task of using our gifts and skills to bless others is no different to the one he gave young Jeremiah, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you”.

If God can overrule the objections of Jeremiah, and Gideon, and Moses and Peter, he can do that for us as well. God chooses us and appoints us to bear much fruit, to use Jesus’ words (John 15:16). We can be sure he won’t challenge us with anything for which he hasn’t equipped us. And we can be sure that he will help us in our times of hesitancy and lack of confidence. He will provide us with those who will help us be what he has chosen us to be.

I know that you and I will all too willingly shy away from challenges that are presented to us. It is part of our human nature to want to take an easier path and not to step out of where we feel comfortable. Be assured that our God who knows what we are capable of better than we know ourselves is the one challenging us to extend ourselves beyond what is comfortable and easy. And as we are reminded of this, let’s also remember Jesus own words, “You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit”.

Those are reassuring words – we have been chosen by our Lord and Saviour to carry on his work and as his chosen people he is not only ready to forgive us when we fail but also gives us the means of carrying out his work. No matter how inadequate we may feel, God has a marvellous way of using what we say and do to bring blessings to others.

When you hesitate and wonder what you could possibly say and do, remember you are God’s chosen people, made clean by the blood of Jesus and given a new life through his resurrection. He has chosen you, appointed you, will support you and provide you with the means and opportunities to bear much fruit.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy