14th Sunday after Pentecost 26th August

John 6:60, 67-69

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

            Hard teachings, we have a few of those in the church don’t we? The Bible is true, and it says God told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites, there’s Sodom and Gomorrah, the laws and culture God gave the Israelites regarding deviant sexual behaviour, diet and shelter, many of which are seen as abhorrent and evil by today’s culture.  The hard teaching that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation and every other religion is wrong; that there is life after this one and there is eternal salvation, life and eternal death and separation from God’s grace; that there is an all good, all powerful and all-knowing God but there is still evil and horrors in this world He created. There’s the man Jesus being born with a virgin for a mother, the almighty creator of the universe becoming a man, then we also teach that despite His power God died. Now just take a step back, God died, what kind of a person would go around saying God made the universe, no one is greater or stronger, He knows everything and is in control of everything, then He died. That’s one of our teachings and to many these teachings are ridiculous.

            There are also hard teachings for us Christians. We think of the Divine trinity, three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, but only one God. Also back to Jesus, He was fully human and fully God; He died and rose again to life by His own power. He came down from heaven and ascended back there to God’s right hand. He is the bread from heaven and we are called to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Even, no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. These are hard teachings, this world teaches us that we get what we earn, either reward or punishment, but God freely gives His grace in salvation from sin and death unconditionally; we do not work to earn salvation. We love because He first loved us. We were dead in our sin, but God made us alive together in Christ, by grace you have been saved. That is the teaching we as Christians struggle with the most.

            These are hard teachings, but they are the words of God the one who loves us and all people so very much. He’s gone out of His way to give us His word in a way we can receive it, written down in the Bible. That’s a fantastic teaching as well, that God cares so much that He’s stooped to our level to help us understand the things we’re able to. So that, like a parent to a young child, we know what we did wrong, and why it was wrong, and also how it has been fixed in Jesus. So that we understand what is true about us and this world God has created. Truly a wonderful thing, thank God for His love through His Word.

            So God loves us, He stoops to our level, but why doesn’t He make those hard teachings easier for us to understand. If only Jesus had said things differently, maybe those disciples wouldn’t have left. These people came after being fed and wanted to know more of Jesus, but He tells them to believe Him, then says that He is the bread of life, eat Him and live. They reply not understanding, thinking ‘Is this man telling us to canabalise him? That’s against God’s Law!’ So Jesus tells them, ‘Unless you chew and swallow my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you.’ They say, ‘that’s a hard teaching, who will accept it?’ He says, ‘this offends you? Wait until you see me rise to heaven where I’ve come from. My words are true and life. I knew you didn’t believe.’  And those many disciples left Him never to come back.

            Wow! Dial it back a bit Jesus, not so harsh, you gotta butter them up first, if you speak like that no one will come to listen to you. We as enlightened, Post Modern people know that if you want people to come to faith you need to start on the small and easy things, nice songs, prayer for health, God loves you, He wants the best for you; we know we should leave those difficult questions about hell, damnation and God killing, for later, or the pastor. You don’t start with cannibalism, like why didn’t you say you’ll just be eating bread and wine, not your actual flesh and blood, people would’ve been on board with that, well more than the other teaching.

            And then Jesus turns to His twelve dedicated disciples. ‘You gonna leave to?’ But Peter replies, “Lord, to whom would we go? For you have the words of eternal life and we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus doesn’t even try to repackage hard teaching for His disciples, but they know that He speaks the truth, not only that but it is Jesus, The Word of God, who gives us eternal life. The truth is sometimes hard, difficult and painful; but it is always true. Like confessing failure, the pain must be dealt with but the forgiveness and healing is sweet. As we eat and drink Jesus in Holy Communion He is with us in a most intimate way, bringing life and forgiveness. We are brought in and with Him into the loving relationship of Father, Son and Spirit; being joined with the triune God. God died on the cross, for you on the cross. And it is God who has saved you, forgiven you and loves you, not because of what you have done, but because of what He has done for you. We can’t make Him love us any less or any more. Jesus loves you, has promised you that you have eternal life with Him, the gracious gift of God. We know and we believe that He is The Way the Truth and the Life. And despite the offence He is our Lord, the one whose words give life eternal.

And the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts in Christ Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham

13th Sunday after Pentecost 19th August

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

What a wonderful time today, when we can celebrate and share Godly joy with Duncan’s baptism this morning. Thanks be to God for bringing salvation and assurance to Duncan through this washing and through His Word. This is a great day.

            Duncan is now together with us a child of God, a brother of Jesus and a member of God’s people here on Earth. But, the happiness of today will pass and things will be tough again, because although we are now of Jesus this world rejects us (John 17:14-16). Listening to the News and living with people who reject Jesus, the saviour and life-giver, we hear many things that may make us afraid of being with Christ, being a son of God with Duncan. This is a dangerous world for us, and not just socially and financially, but also spiritually.

It’s not just a vague thing of the world against us as Christians, but we are tempted all around. Tempted by the government, perhaps into hoping that they will come to save you, or anger when they don’t; tempted by the T. V., into thinking that you just need that new thing and you’ll be happy, or into wasting your life away watching it for too long; tempted by friends or maybe even family, into focussing on work, gossip or life in this world and forgetting our life in Jesus Christ; And of course we are tempted in ourselves by our own selfish desires, indulgence, pride and putting ourself in the place of God. The danger of sin is coming from all around, and Peter tells us this in his first letter ‘your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

This is the life we live as Christians, the life into which Duncan has been brought into. It’s not all rain and roses for us as Christians. Temptation is always there, so Paul tells us to be careful in our lives, in what we do and how we do it, to be wise. He writes to make the most of every opportunity, because time is short; to not be lazy in our work, in our life, our love and our faith. If we don’t we’d be like a farmer in a drought who thinks, ‘I’ll feed the stock next week, it’ll be fine until then.’ We might find that we develop habits that take us away from Christ, away from the Bible and away from prayer. This is not good.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand the Lord’s will. What is the Lord’s will? What does He want to happen? What does He want us to do? 1 Timothy tells us God our saviour desires all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4). And from Ezekiel we learn that the Lord God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in that the wicked turn from their way and live (Ezekiel 33:11). And of course Jesus tells us all in John 3:16 the God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have life everlasting. We know that God loves us, He loves you, and wants all to be saved from death and evil, and receive eternal life. He tells us that us and all who believe, who have the faith of a child (Luke 18:15-17), receive eternal life and ultimate salvation from our sin and the evil of this world (John 3:16; 1 John 1:9). He wants all people to hear and learn of this salvation He’s given all of us. That is why Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). And Jesus also tells us that the work of God is this, to believe in the one He has sent (John 6:29). So what does God want to happen? All people to hear His Word and be saved. And what does He want us to do? To believe in Jesus, what He said and what He has done for us; saving us from sin, death and the devil.

Thinking on this we can join with Paul from Romans 7 (:25), who can save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! We thank God for all He has done for us, joyfully receiving His good gifts; life, family, food, shelter, our siblings in Christ, the Bible God’s Word, our faith and our salvation and eternal life over death in Jesus Christ. We know what God has done for us, but He doesn’t leave us to suffer in this life alone. The Father, Son and Spirit sustain us in this life, comforting us and supporting us so that we may live wisely and make the best use of this time He has given us; to encourage and bring joy to each other and He even helps us give thanks to Him for all of this. So truly, Thanks be to God for all He has given you.

And may He now give you His peace which passes all our understanding and guard your hearts in Christ Jesus now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham

12th Sunday after Pentecost 12th August 2018

Ephesians 4:25, 27 5:1-2

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body,and do not give the devil a foothold.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

            I remember when I first became aware of politics and politicians, didn’t really pay much attention when I was young. It was in 2007 when the two big names were John Howard and Kevin Rudd. For the first time after seeing a few of their on screen appearances, I wondered, ‘why are they mostly just saying that the other person/team is bad?’ As I paid more attention over the last ten or so years it seems this slandering of others has grown. Basically to the point that I don’t really know what politicians actually promise except that it’s the opposite of whatever the other politician wants. I even made the mistake of watching question time.

            That’s just one example of slander, and insults. Throughout my life I’ve seen, experience and probably joined in on this practise in our society; beginning at home, school, sports, and work. Slander, false accusation, is part and parcel of this sinful world, and that makes sense. That word in verse 27 translated ‘devil’ is diabolos, or slanderer. In Hebrew the word translated satan is accuser or adversary, and that is what satan, the devil is. He tempts us into sin and when we fall he condemns us to death because of our sin, the devious part is that he lies saying that God could never forgive us and that we couldn’t be saved by Jesus. Accusing us and slandering the cross and Christ’s words of truth for you; ‘my blood for the forgiveness of your sin.’ Slander is fundamental to this world under the power of sin. What does this mean when we falsely accuse someone else?

            When we speak false and malicious words about each other, or anyone else for that matter, we are walking in the way of the devil. But you have been baptised! You have been cleansed of your sin and have put off that old sinful self, died with Christ to sin and now are alive in Him. You are, together with all Christians, one with Christ, holy and saved and walking in His way. Why would you give this up and return to the way of the world, the life that leads to death? Actually, why would we leave a life of peace, love, forgiveness and kindness for a life of anger, bitterness and malice?

            But that’s what each and every one of us does, what every follower of Christ here on earth has done and will do. That is our struggle with sin, our weakness. Elsewhere Paul writes of the thorn in his flesh, the weakness of his through which Christ’s strength is displayed; and also of the Christians earthly struggle with our corrupt and sick nature (2 Corinthians 12:6-8; Romans 7). And here in his letter to the Ephesians, what does Paul tell us? We are to stop speaking falsely and are to speak the truth to those around us, to not sin in our anger, to not give any ground to the devil, the slanderer, to build up and speak grace to those hearing and not grieve the Holy Spirit of God; to let all anger, bitterness, and malice be removed from you and be imitators of Christ, walking in love. To let malice be removed? Huh, I wonder who removes it if we don’t? The Holy Spirit, who we grieve when we reject Him; and Christ in whom we are forgiven and into whom we are baptised and renewed. It is God who takes away our sin, who forgives us and loves us. And it is He who we grieve and make ourselves the enemy of when we slander His Son, when we sin.

            God has saved you through the blood of Christ from death and has forgiven your sin. Paul tells us to be like God, who is kind, merciful, forgiving and loves you His child. We are to imitate Christ, walking in love and giving Himself up for you. We can’t imitate Jesus if He hadn’t done it first, and we can’t be like God if He hadn’t revealed Himself to us. God acts first, then we respond. He has saved you and taken away your sin, you are holy in His eyes. Now, because of Him, we imitate Christ, we walk in the way of God acting like Him who saved us. Not like the slanderer, the accuser, the father of lies, who lead us before in malice and to death in our sin. Christ has saved you, don’t forget the truth.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham

11th Sunday after Pentecost 5th August


People have been known to make outlandish-bizarre claims. When I was studying Psychology at Adelaide University we made a visit to Parkside mental home. I remember meeting a man who claimed to be Napoleon. pastorh2And there was woman cradling a doll in her arms. She said she was the Virgin Mary and the doll was the baby Jesus. Because of their mental illness, these people were obviously deluded.
 Jesus also made some rather striking-unusual claims. On one occasion he said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE”. And he wasn’t the baker at the local mental hospital.  This statement is in fact the first of the 7 great “I am” statements of Jesus recorded in John’s gospel. I am: “The Light of the world” – ”The Door” – “The Good Shepherd” – “the Vine” – “The Resurrection and the Life” – “The Way, Truth and the Life”.
Now these are tremendous claims. They are saying that Jesus I not a mere mortal man. They are in fact claims to be divine. It is Jesus’ way of saying that he was the Son of God-that he was One with God.
This morning we focus on the first of these claims-“I am the Bread of Life”. Note that Jesus didn’t say, “I am the medicine of Life”. That would have implied that he was only for emergencies-sickness-particular needs.  Unfortunately that is how many people treat Jesus. They only turn to him when they are in trouble-desperate. Jesus didn’t say, “I am the desert of life”. That would have implied that Jesus was an extra, but not really necessary. He didn’t say, “I am the tea-coffee of life”. He says, “I am the Bread of life”.
 Throughout history, bread has been the staple –basic source of nourishment.. It was called the “staff of life”. It was nutritious-healthy. For the people of the Middle East food meant bread. So it was culturally appropriate for Jesus to say, “I am the Bread of Life”.

Cultural versions:
Italy: The pizza of life.
America: The MacDonald’s of life.
Asia: The Rice of life:
Germany: The Schnitzel of Life.  Sound better than the sauerkraut of life:
Ireland: The Potato of life.
Hungary: The goulash of life.
Australia: The BBQ-meat pie.

In Israel at the time of Jesus it was appropriate to say, “I am the Bread of life” because bread was the basic-essential food of those times.
The day before Jesus made this remarkable claim was the time when he fed the crowd of 5,000 with the 5 small loaves and two fish. And as a result of that miracle the crowd wanted to make Jesus their King. But it wasn’t for the right reason –it wasn’t because of their commitment to him-it wasn’t because they wanted to be his loyal subjects. They simply saw Jesus as providing an easy life for them. They wanted Jesus to be their King who would provide for all their needs. They then could have an easy-care free life. It is in this context that Jesus makes this striking statement. “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE; HE WHO COMES TO ME WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY AND WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER THIRST”.
It is quite clear that Jesus was not talking about ordinary bread.  You can eat bread (any food) and that will satisfy you hunger for a little while-stop you stomach from rumbling.  But after you have eaten and your stomach has digested the food you begin to feel hungry again. That is the pattern with ordinary food. But Jesus says quite emphatically, “HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NEVER HUNGER”.
 What Jesus means is that he can meet all our needs. Not just the physical needs the people were focussing on but in particular our spiritual needs. Jesus can satisfy all our hungers-thirsts.  He said, “Blessed are those that hunger-thirst for righteousness”. Those who want to know God-to have a relationship with God.
  It is interesting to note that that many people who seem to have “made it” in the world-people who have acquired fame-wealth-status-power-influence, often don’t seem to be very happy-satisfied. Many of these “high flyers” have made psychiatrists very wealthy. To be having “therapy” was the “in thing-trendy-fashionable thing for many of the Hollywood set. Pop stars commit suicide in large numbers-Janis Joplin-Jimmy Hendrix-brain Hutchence-the comedian Tony Hancock. The list is endless. Fame-wealth-success is no guarantee of happiness-satisfaction. Take Howard Hughes-Paul Getty for example. Success with material things does not-cannot- bring true satisfaction-happiness. Jesus said it many years ago, “  A MAN’S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS”.
Perhaps you have experienced that for yourself. There was something you really wanted –a large screen TV-DVD player-new car-new furniture-new hobby etc. But once you have got it-once you have reached your goal, it soon looses its appeal.  It doesn’t seem as important as it once did. The reason why we don’t often find satisfaction is that we are looking for satisfaction from things that ultimately are unable to satisfy.  When Jesus says, “HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NOT HUNGER-HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NOT THIRST”, he is claiming that he can satisfy All our needs-spiritual-emotional.
 But for this to happen we need to come to him- accept his invitation-believe-trust in him. His promise is that he will meet our unsatisfied longings.
The spiritual hunger that we have, can only-will only be met when we really come to know Jesus personally. That is when we experience his love-concern for us. Then and only then, will the restless soul find rest-the hungry heart be satisfied.
You know it is a strange thing. Our generation is probably the best off as far as material possessions-comforts are concerned. And yet so many people don’t seem to be happy-satisfied- despite all the things they have. That is why some people flock in droves to the various New Age alternatives-astrology-Buddhism-Eastern religions-even witchcraft-Between 1996-2001 there was a 140% in people turning to witchcraft in Australia. The reason is quite simple. More and more people are discovering that material possessions-outward success don’t and can’t ultimately satisfy the human spirit.
St Augustine knew the reason for that. He said, “OUR HEARTS ARE NOT AT REST UNTIL THEY REST IN GOD”. And the only way our hearts can rest in God is when we come to know Jesus who is the Bread of life.   

There is a song by Andy Park-“Only You”.

No one but you Lord can satisfy the longing in my heart.

Nothing I do Lord can take the place of drawing near to you.

Only you can fill my deepest longing

Only you can breathe in me new life.

Only you can fill my heart with laughter.

 Only you can answer my heart’s cry”.

Pastor Haydn Blaess