Sixth Sunday of Easter

Text: John 14:27(Jesus said,)“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I donot give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

‘Peace I leave with you’
Apparently there is an element of truth in this story. A plane landed after a long flight.The flight attendant explained that there was enough time for everyone to get off the aircraft and then reboard in 50 minutes.


 Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman. The pilot had noticed him as hewalked by. He could tell that the man was blind because his guide dog lay quietlyunderneath the seat next to him. “Sir”, the pilot said to the blind man, “we will behere for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?”The blind man replied, “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.”Picture this: All the people in the gate area came to a complete stand still when theylooked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog! The pilot was even

wearing sunglasses. Fear took control. People scattered and queued at the airline desk trying to change planes!Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life perhaps moreso in some people than others but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time.There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts.The latest wave of flu strains makes us worry for our health.The fear of terrorist attacks permeates public events.The nuclear build up in North Korea has caused nations to fear the possibility of theuse of nuclear weapons.Mothers, fathers and children in Israel and Palestine live in constant fear of another bomb blast or being caught in crossfire.Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news ofpeople who would want to harm them.We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night.We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations.And where there is fear, there is no peace. Fear brings with it anxiety, worry,apprehension, dread, restlessness, panic and tension none of which lead us to feelcalm, peaceful, relaxed and stress free.One of the best newspaper cartoons is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin comesmarching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in herfavourite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a largespace helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.“What’s up today?” asks his mum.“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.“So far?” she questions.“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvinmarches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”Calvin’s mum looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suite like that!”That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimesthis world seems too violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats. A suitlike that would help, so we can say along with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way,I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you this morning, but I do have someimportant words from Jesus this morning to enable us to say, “Whatever may come

my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”It is the night of the Last Supper. Jesus has just spoken of his impending death. Hetells the disciples that one of them will betray him and urges Judas to go and doquickly what he has planned to do.Peter boldly claims that he would rather die than deny his Lord, but Jesus knows that before the rooster crows he will say three times that he does not know the man they are talking about.
Jesus talks about going where they cannot follow and they are confused about this.Haven’t they followed Jesus for the past 3 years? They have watched him heal thesick, they have seen him bring comfort to the afflicted and laughter to the faces ofchildren. Not a day has past where Jesus has not been with them. Their sole thoughtand attention has been him since the day they were called. And now they are facedwith the thought of life without him. Where is he going that they can’t continue tofollow him in the future?Jesus knows that what will happen his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, histrial and tortuous death the next day will upset them.Like a child lost in a department store, these disciples are afraid, uncertain, confused and nervous. And so he continues saying,“Do not be worried and upset. Believe in God and believe also in me….Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid”(John 14:1, 27).In the New Testament, the peace Jesus gives is an unconditional, eternal gift to hisfollowers in every time and place. That’s why he does not give peace to us as the
world doesfor the world, peace is often very conditional, fragile, temporary, and, isfrequently reduced to mean only the absence of war and strife.Worldly peace always has some kind of strings attached, some kind of conditions,and worldly peace lasts only as long as the conditions are kept. Two feuding neighbours can’t agree over the type of fence to be constructed between their properties. They come to an agreement about the cost, type of fence, what kind of materials are to be used and how high it should be but immediately one reneges on what was agreed, the feud starts again. However, with Christ’s peace there are no strings attached; there is the wonderful promise that it will last forever. Peace, in the New Testament sense means: salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and humanity. The sin that stands between God and us has been done away by the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection. We no longer fear God’s anger because of our rebelliousness. Jesus reconciles us with Godhe restores the friendship between God and us.Peace is also the Holy Spirit in our lives as friend, comforter, counsellor, teacher and healer.Peace is knowing that no matter what troubles may come our way, God, ourheavenly Father, has promised to never forget us and to always be our helper andstrength. He sent his Son to go all the way and die for us in order to reclaim us as his own. He won’t give up on us now. We are his special and most loved children.Peace is the flow on of God’s peace into the rest of our lives as we live and work with the people in our day to day relationships and activities.This peace has a positive effect on our health and well being. It is well documentedthat stress, tension, and fear have negative effects on our body.What can we do when fear grips our hearts?Firstly, get to know what kind of God we have. He is gracious, loving and faithful. We don’t deserve it but he loves us and will always stand by us. We see just howpowerful his love for us is when we look at the cross and see what Jesus has donefor us.Get to know God as the king and ruler of the universe. There is nothing so great ortoo difficult for him to handle. Parting the sea to save the Israelites, saving Danielfrom the lions or Jonah from the belly of the big fish, springing Peter from jail, orsaving Paul from a shipwreck were all a piece of cake for him. Helping us when weare afraid is just as easy.Secondly, get to know God’s promisesand trust that he will stick by what he says.Memorise and trust words like theseThe Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me fromall danger; I will never be afraid. (Psalm 27:1,2).God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we willnot be afraid… (Psalm 45:1,2).Or Jesus words of authority and power,“Don’t be afraid! I am the first and the last. I am the living one! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead.” (Revelation 1:17).Be assured that God keeps his promises; that he is with us, even in the worstpossible situation imaginable on this earth.Thirdly, realise that there are too many times whenour human attempts to be boldare not sufficient. There will be times when even the texts of promise that we havelearnt off by heart will do little to ease our anxiety. We may even feel that God has deserted us. It’s then we need the Holy Spirit to help us to forgive us for our weakness of faith, to enable us to trust that God has not forsaken us, to spport us while we tremble in fear and to help us get through. He even takes our cries of fear to God and pleads to him on our behalf (Rom 8:26 27).Our strength, our mind, our skills are of no particular use. We just have to relax and wait patiently, trusting in the God who knows all of our needs and is willing to use his power to help us. The Holy Spirit reminds us when fear is near, God is even nearer.Fourthly,pray.Ask God to intervene in our troubles and the fear they bring. Pray forfaith, for boldness and courage when we are afraid. Pray that we are able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit who points us to the love and compassion of God, and pray that in the end God would take us from the troubles of this world into the eternal world where there will be no more fear.When fears and worries create tension and upset your life, Jesus promises,“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”Amen

Fifth Sunday of Easter

John 13:34
A new commandment I give to you, so that you should love one another as I have loved you so that you love one another.

            What defines you? Who are we? What should we do? You might be asking these questions as you look back at what this congregation once was and look forward with the knowledge that things are changing, even faster. Looking to the past we’ll also remember Resurrection Sunday that great celebration of the church year, and forward to Pentecost the birth of the church; 50 days between the two. I wonder, 2000years ago, what was going through the heads of those eleven disciples, we’ve heard their meetings with Jesus the two weeks after His resurrection, but now they’re waiting for something to happen, the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. Who are these eleven bludgers, what were they doing while they waited back in Jerusalem?

            I don’t know but I’d guess that they were probably thinking a lot about what had happened those last three years with Jesus, and on that Holy Week, the resurrection, the death, and that last meal with His disciples, what He had said and what He had commanded, our text for today. He said many things that last night according to John, they cover from the end of chapter 12 through to His prayer in chapter 17 and arrest in chapter 18. That’s 4 chapters of conversation and teaching in one sitting, I don’t know many people who’ve done that. Through those words Jesus is preparing the disciples for what will follow, His glorification, the fulfilment of God’s great promises, forgiveness, reconciliation, renewal, and life everlasting. The glory of God in the crucifixion and the glory of Jesus in the resurrection! To God be the glory! And thank God! Jesus gave His entire life for you and me, for the disciples and all people; for our forgiveness and salvation. Better to save you than go on living, that was how Jesus loved you. And since His resurrection and ascension continues to love you, to live for your benefit.

            And so, as He said on that last night, I’ll send a helper the Holy Spirit to be with you. And also He said, I live in you and you in me, together with the Father; the whole trinity in you and you in God. Together. But also, when Judas left to gather the mob, Jesus knew His death was soon and told the disciples what He had told others, where I am going you cannot come, yet. And where was He going? Peter found Him in the temple courts, John at the cross, Nicodemus in the grave site, but no one came with Him into new resurrected life, that death has no power over; at least not yet. He was glorified when He took on all our sin and it’s consequences, forgiving us and cleansing us by His blood; the Father was glorified in the fulfilment of His promises; And the Father glorified the Son, raising Him from the dead to new everlasting life. The disciples didn’t realise what Jesus was saying at the time, that last supper, I’m sure a painfully confusing time, ‘that’s wine Jesus, not blood, you don’t look like a vine.’ Confusing before His resurrection, but after and in light of it, Jesus helped them understand all He had said, that He is God and man, and He can remove all your sin, giving you peace, joy and life everlasting. This is true, but still the disciples after this explanation were told to sit and wait before they could tell anyone. So what were they defined by? Their confusion? Their waiting? Is that what defines Christians? Or as Jesus said, bringing something new, so that they are know by their love for each other. Love that finds it’s origin in Christ Jesus.

            No other order or task could they do at this time, but Jesus’ glorification, His death and resurrection, forgiveness and life giving, meant that the disciples could do the same for each other, as Jesus first loved so that you love. Jesus in His death and resurrection has reconciled you to the one you have betrayed and ignored many times in your life, God Almighty, your creator. How often we forget Him, what He has done for us, giving us life, food, friends, family and all the rest; ignoring that and going our own way, at times not even loving and caring for ourself. This is our sin, our betrayal; but He doesn’t return the favour, He so loved all the world, even those traitorous humans, even you; so loved that He gave His only Son to reconcile us to Himself, to make things good again, to forgive and bring life and peace. And because you and I have that peace with God Almighty, we can have that peace and love for each other. God has forgiven you, He has given His whole life to forgive you; That is love; and He has done the same for every Christian so why would you hold anything against them? This is the one thing that the disciples could do while they waited, all the other commands to go into the world, teach, baptise, spread this wonderful news, they had to wait, but not this one. Love one another as I have loved you so that you love one another. This is what defined the disciples, they were reconciled to God and to each other, they thought of each other as more important than themselves, cared and forgave, in this new life they had in Jesus. And you too have this new life, one of peace, of joy, of love, to God and each other. So live!

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

            Have you been paying attention this morning? Have you been listening for God’s Word to you today? Parts of the Scriptures have been read, songs based on these sung, prayers prayed and confessions made; but has any of this really sunk in, have you been listening to Jesus?

            The same could be said for you and your mother. How many times was it that you were so absorbed in something, a book, driving, another discussion, that mum told you to do something, but you didn’t listen? Or for mums, how often did you have to tell your kids to clean up before they did it? Mum told you those things because she loved you and because she thought they were good for you. Even if what you are doing right now seems important, it’s still important to listen to your mum.

            Now the Pharisees were like kids who thought they were good and better at being good than all the rest. They knew the Old Testament, God’s Word to His people of Israel, far better than you or I do; even in the original languages and the same land. They knew what God had commanded and what He had promised, and they cared about it! They followed God’s command and had parts of Scripture attached to their doorframes and foreheads, they had memorised sections and everyday they sought to obey the teachings given by Moses all those years before. But they were not listening, hearing what God was telling them. When you come to God’s service on Sunday, say amen and thanks be to God, are you listening to what He says to you? When you come home from a hard day at work, take off your shoes, have a shower and sit down to watch the TV; do you listen to the promises Jesus gave you? Or in all your effort in this life do you forget His gifts, zone out of what He is telling you, ignore the Words of the Almighty God of all?

            I know for myself, driving to Gilgandra for a visit and a Bible study, both good things, thinking, ‘should I go through the roadworks, or the Mogriguy road; Mogriguy; Ah, there’s a caravan, when can I overtake this? Oh, it’s turning off now, good; here’s another slow car, where’s a good place, I’ll use my car gadgets; here’s one, ok let’s go; past that car, ok what’s the time; good still making good time, … oh yeah, I’m driving up here to bring Jesus Christ’s peace, love and encouragement which I’m only able to give by the strength the Holy Spirit provides, with this body, car, fuel and time that our Heavenly Father has freely given. Why is it so easy to loose sight, or be selectively deaf to Jesus’ voice even when that’s why I’m here!

Jesus still speaks all through our lives, like how we hear mum’s words even when she’s not around. He speaks maybe reminding us of passages of scripture, perhaps through the Christian music we play, by our reading and by others’ advice, through mums, or even those few miraculous times one might here clearly His words to oneself. And He had spoken to those Pharisees, Told them that He is the gate, it is through Jesus that we come to salvation, there is no other way; He told them that He is the good shepherd, the kind, wise ruler of God’s people, who will die for His sheep and rise again by His own authority for you and me. He had shown through the many mighty miracles and fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies that He is the Messiah, the one to come; but still the Pharisees refused to listen, refused to believe.

And to you He continues to speak, and in His word is your life and freedom. Tabitha heard God’s Word from Peter and received life back in this world (Acts 9:40). And Revelation shows us an image of this eternal life Jesus gives, free from suffering and sin, with Him and all the children of our Heavenly Father (Revelation 7). And to you, God spoke at your baptism, ‘your sins are forgiven’, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’, ‘you are my beloved Son’ daughter, ‘death has no power over you’ (Luke 7:48; John 20:22; Luke 3:22; John 11:25-26). Don’t forget that, you are Jesus’ sheep, you hear His words, believe Him, trust Him and He has saved you giving you eternal life. Those Pharisees refused to listen to what Jesus plainly said to them, refused to believe its truth; they were caught up in trying to do God’s Word, they ignored what He was saying even to their face. Sometimes you and I do the same, caught up in this world, caught up in action, ignoring the words of the one who loves you, who has laid down their life for you. Jesus, your Good Shepherd, has given His entire life for you, for your family, friends, everyone in this wide world. He devotes that life for your life, and from His birth, His death, His resurrection and ascension, now and all the way to the end, He is speaking to you, you are forgiven, you have life eternal with Jesus and go in peace. Amen.

And that peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus now and forever. Amen. 

Pastor Joseph Graham

Third Sundayafter Easter

John 21:17
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

            Peter said, “Lord you know all things” and that is true, the Lord Jesus knows all things. Ananias said, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem” and this was true, Paul had killed followers of Jesus (Acts 22:4). Jesus knew who Paul was and what He had done. Jesus knew that Peter also had rejected and denied Him three times. And Jesus knows how you and I have done the same.

            Today we hear about Paul the persecutor and Peter the denier, and through these accounts you and me as well. Paul had rejected the teachings of Jesus and the prophecies of old; Peter too had rejected even knowing Jesus, breaking His promise of following Him even to death (Luke 22:54-62; Mark 14:29-31). Both were together in their rejection of God, both had denied the truth of Jesus and both in danger of the wages of their sins, danger of death. But, Jesus comes to them both, the Risen Lord, power over death, forgiver of sins, and true judge of all.

            Jesus confronts both these sinners with the truth of their failures. Paul with his persecuting and Peter with his doubtful love and denial. This is not an easy confrontation for either Paul or Peter. For Paul he sees and understands that his faith and devotion were not toward the true God of his people, but rather to the destruction of God’s followers. He thought he was doing good, even God’s will, when he watched the first martyrs’ death with approval (Acts 7:58), but he was not. On top of this he was struck blind and did not eat or drink. He suffered in the revelation of truth. And Peter, though perhaps lesser, suffered too. To be asked once if you love a friend, that’s nothing, to be asked again straight away might be strange, but to be asked again after that … And Peter knows his betrayal, he knows why Jesus is asking this of him, and in exasperation he confesses the truth of Christ’s power that He knows all things. And Jesus, who had been betrayed, who had been persecuted, instead of punishment, He renews and restores, even giving great responsibility to both these men, the apostle to the Gentiles and the shepherd of His flock; not Paul the persecutor or Peter the denier, now Saint Paul and Saint Peter the apostles, the ones sent out by the Risen Lord.

            We see here the forgiveness and restoration that the Risen Lord freely gives, both to those outside Christianity and those within. When you reject His way and go your own, still receive again in His Words the truth of your failure and the restoration in Him. His Words weekly by my mouth, or from the mouth of another Christian (James 5:16). It is a painful thing, to bring into the light your wickedness and failures, to make them known, but still greater are the blessings that come with Christ’s forgiveness, renewal, peace, joy, freedom from sin and death, restoration to the family of God and the love of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham