Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 11:4
Jesus said, this weakness is not to death, instead for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified through it.

            A wonderful encouragement and a great display of Christ’s power and love. To hear again this great comfort, this beautiful truth, especially at this time. Here, the last miracle before His passion, the Sunday before He enters Jerusalem, we see that Jesus truly is the Resurrection and the Life and those who trust in Him have life after death and everlasting life. And yet it doesn’t play out as we might expect. Jesus does not drop everything to rush and heal the sick man, as He does at other times. Instead He waits 2 days and only then comes to the grave of the one He loved. Martha and Mary’s speech shows their doubt in Christ’s power, if you had been here, if you ask God He will give. And of course, the Jews of Jerusalem seeing Jesus has power to raise from the dead decide they should try killing Him. And they succeed. How does this weakness and death glorify Jesus, the Son of God?

            And now sickness comes to Australia in this pandemic, weakness in our country’s economy and in manys financial security. How at this time is our Heavenly Father’s name hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s prayer, how can we glorify Christ Jesus? Do we ask Him to just whisk us away from all these troubles, to stop COVID19 and bring prosperity back to the world? If He doesn’t come should, we doubt or reject Him, because He doesn’t take away our suffering, our weakness? If He doesn’t heal us, does that mean He doesn’t love us? Surely just as if your spouse had the power to heal you of the cancer you might get, surely Jesus would heal us who He has promised He loves! But what did Christ do for the one whom He loved, and the brother of those He loved, what did Jesus do for Lazarus in his weakness? He let him die. And Jesus Himself as He pleaded with our Heavenly Father that He might not have to suffer, a very human cry, still chose to go according to the divine will to His own suffering and death. But He declares, Jesus is glorified in the death of Lazarus and in His own. Truly the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18).

            To our human ears it makes no sense that Jesus would wait when His friend was sick. It says that it was because He loved him, He let him die. If He loves, why wouldn’t He heal Lazarus straight away? He did it with the centurion’s servant. Why if He loves us has He promised suffering in this life, for us His siblings persecution because we trust in Him (John 15:20; 16:33; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12)? Why is this pandemic continuing, and the economy crumbling? Why does God allow evil? The book of Job teaches us this very question, we hear the preface and know why it’s all happening, yet Job never is told. He asks his wife, who had just told him to curse God and die, ‘shall we receive good from God, and shall we not also receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin, he spoke what is right (Job 2:10). Job and his family suffered immensely, and yes he complained (7:11), he demanded that God answer him (10:2), and yet through it all and in the end he glorified God (19:25; 42). Job is the one who declared, I know that my redeemer lives (19:25). Just the same Lazarus suffered and died, yet through it all his sisters kept the faith and Christ showed them and all the Jews what is to come, the glorious resurrection of the dead foretold by God through Ezekiel (37:1-14). Through this Christ was glorified 2000yrs ago, and by John’s inspiration all Christians might glorify God and praise His name as we hear and believe. In 2 weeks time is the greatest celebration in the church year, Pascha, Easter, the celebration of Christ’s suffering, death, burial, and resurrection. All of this is to God’s glory, Father, Son and Spirit, we can praise Him in suffering, death, burial, and resurrection. To God be the glory! It’s not just that Jesus suffered, but that God incarnate suffered for you and with you, we die His death to sin, we are buried in Him who is life, and so we wait together for the final resurrection, the revelation of His life over death in us.

            And as we are joined with His life, we too expect suffering and persecution. This pandemic and economic downturn need not surprise us. We have a sure foundation in Christ, set in Him by the Spirit in the waters of Baptism, we need not be shaken. Yet now as we live in this world of weakness and death, we ask how might this be to the glory of God? How is His name hallowed through this emergency? How can we, who are saved by Christ’s death, and joined to Him who is Resurrection and Life, you now free from death and eternal death, how can we bring glory to God as our country suffers and as we suffer while we wait for God’s timing to bring into reality the final resurrection and the new heavens and new earth?

Our complete union with Christ our life, the king crowned on the cross, and with Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and all those believing Jesus, the saints past and present. Until this time glorify God and receive His peace which passes all understanding guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Joseph Graham.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Ephesians 5:14
Awake, you sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.


            To walk in the light of Christ, that is what it is to live as a Christian. Not to do those unfruitful things of darkness, those things we keep secret because we are ashamed. Rather as we walk in the light we produce goodness, righteousness and truth. The Spirit through Paul brought this good and right, truth to the Ephesians, and now He brings it to you, to guide you, teach you, and remind you who you are in Christ and what He has done for you. Now I don’t think I need to prove that working in the dark can be fruitless, anyone who’s walked into a table or chair when the lights are out knows that it’s kind of pointless; and of course when we do something shameful we seek to keep it in the dark, everyone knows this, everyone does this. And this is why we need reminders to bring us back to the light, to walk in it.

            The Spirit tells us, once you were darkness, now you are light in Christ. And earlier in the letter, you were dead in your trespasses and sin; but because of His great love God made you alive in Christ, raised with Him onto the throne of heaven (Ephesians 2:1-10). From death and darkness into light and life. God promises you that you are now alive in Jesus, you have the life of Jesus; and as He is the Light of the World, He reveals what is real, the truth about you and the lies as well. So what is that truth?

            The corrupt world says, you are alive, fight to keep it that way; so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, do whatever just make sure to look out for yourself. We hear and see this everyday, and more so today as we live with a pandemic, like those 10 plagues God sent to reveal His power against Pharaoh, and to His people (Exodus, 7:1-5). And like that time we hear the news the fear of the death, we see how the devil plays his game, how people across the world are driven to panic and division. Now this is true, what our world reveals about humanity, but what does God reveal?

            What is the Spirit teaching us through the text today? What is the light of Christ revealing? Yes, perhaps that you waste the time God has given you on shameful things, on fruitless things, chasing idols of fame, fortune, pleasure or whatever, or just that you are lazy and sleep on your faith, forgetting prayer, God’s Word and His people. The Spirit calls out, reminding of your baptism, ‘Awake you sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you’! But what is He revealing to us now? This viral plague He has authority over, what is it revealing? A fear of death, of the unknown, worship of wealth and self; the truth of this sinful world, what is really valued, made visible by a virus.

            I asked before, what is true, now what is true about you? The world thinks you’re fighting to live, but the Holy Spirit has told you, you are as good as dead, dead to this world in which we live, but alive to Christ (Romans 6:11). Your life is Christ’s life, and in this season we look forward to His death, to our death. This is why Easter, the Christian Passover celebration, traditionally was a time for baptism. In baptism, you died to this corrupt world. So now, as all these people panic in their fear of death, remember you are in the light and life of Christ, you have already died so death has no power over you (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Our lives are joined to Christ’s, this is where the church seasons come from, to live again our temptations in the desert alongside Jesus and rejecting them with Him, to live again our trial, our death and our resurrection within Christ our head as we hear again His Passion. Through all this we remember what Christ has done, saving from sin, death, and the devil, giving us His holiness, life, and the Holy Spirit. And through these seasons we now seek, by His strength which He has given, to walk in the light. Christ has opened our eyes, Our Father brought us to new life in Jesus, The Holy Spirit has given us all we need, has given us faith (John 9:39; John 6:44; Romans 12:3, 9). And now you are alive to Christ, not this world; called to live in His light, promised that as we do goodness, righteousness and truth come.

            In the face of death of any sort, we need not fear for we have already died and been risen again in Christ the source of everlasting life. So now we are free to do good, to do what is right, and to confess what is true by the strength of the Spirit. To love each other and those in need, and to await the world of Light to come.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 17:7
And he called the place Massah and Meribah because of the rebellion of the Israelites and because they tested the Lord saying, is the Lord in our midst or not?

             We have just heard God’s Word, just spoken with Him, our Rock and our redeemer (psalm -) asking His blessing on this sermon; but that last question, is the Lord with us or not? Those Israelites had left a land of slavery but also watermelons (Numbers 11:5), and now faced a thirsty death alongside a rock. When you look around, on your life, the temptations and ridicule of the world, the empty seats, and at the end of this season of Lent the death of your saviour; you too are faced with that same reality, death might be all we can see. So we ask, Where is God? What is He doing? Does He even care about us, about me?

            That woman at the well also came from a hard life, she too asked where is God; here on the mountain or in Jerusalem (John 4:20)? And Jesus answered, we will worship Him, serve, praise, and bow before Him, in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23). In Spirit, by the power of the Holy Spirit given you in Baptism, and in truth, according to God’s Word, His promise. And He has promised to be here; where ever two or three are gathered in my name there I am with them; I am with you always, to the end of this world; you are in me and I am in you (Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20; John 14:20). This is the truth, and moreso for those Israelites in the desert; ten plagues on their enemies, opening a dry way through the sea, bread from heaven, a pillar of fire, if we had all that here I reckon this place would be packed, even if only out of fear. But then these Israelites face death again and what do they do? Threaten to kill their leader and go back to their old ways. When it gets tough for you trying to walk God’s way, what do you do? Let’s say you’ve decided to start reading the Bible every night this Lent, if you get to bed worn out but have forgotten to open it up what do you do? When I bring up something from God’s Word that challenges the way you live and act, what do you do? Hopefully you won’t threaten to kill me, but do you give up, say God doesn’t care and go about your own way? Or do you ask God for help?

            Those Israelites faced death, but so did Moses; all these people including him, had been called out by God, promised that God will always be with them and now were in danger of death. So what did Moses do? He cried out to God, and God answered. From that barren, dry rock, an image of their bones if God didn’t help, from that rock came their salvation. Water burst out of its side and the people were saved. The Lord is here, and He cares for you, He listens to you and sustains you through the sufferings of this life. Moses turned to God, the Israelites turned away, but Jesus the Rock of our salvation died for us even when you were still sinners. He died on that cross, a corpse like that dry rock in the desert, but out of His side flowed water and blood, the living water and the blood that cleanses us. In His death He reconciled us to the Father, even when you sin rejecting God’s way, even when you try but fail, you are reconciled with Him and all Christians who are also joined with Him by baptism and Holy Communion. Death is not the end, even though it might be all we can see, a dying church, family rejecting Christ’s love, a collapse of community, the struggles of your own life, but death is not the end. We will die, our baptism foretells this truth, yet we will rise and enter the promised land; just as the Israelites did, just as Christ did and just as God has promised. Now as we live this side of death, with our Triune God here with us, the Holy Spirit walking alongside us, sustaining us, caring for us and guiding us, hold on to the truth, His promises, His way, and cry out to Him whenever you need help; He will save you.

            And as you call out, the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Joseph Graham.

Second Sunday of Lent

The Text: John 3:1-17

God’s Family and Our Family


How often do you stop to think about what God is like? As far as eternity is concerned, what you believe about God is the most important thing about you. Knowledge of God is the most important knowledge you can possess. Knowledge of God is momentous knowledge because of its power to change lives in so many wonderful ways. The better you know God personally, the stronger will be your convictions on moral matters and the keener you will be to act on these convictions. The Bible says, “The people who know their God will stand firm and take action (Daniel 11:32).”

 A group of university students were asked for their definition of God. Some gave very complicated definitions; others gave very vague definitions. Finally a normally quiet, shy girl said with a big smile on her face: “God is the One without whom I cannot exist!” What we believe about God makes all the difference to how we live from week to week. God wants to be our refuge and strength amid the stresses and strains of daily life. Our Triune God isn’t remote or aloof from contemporary life, but is deeply involved in what’s happening in our lives now. Our God is behind all the things that go right in our lives each week.

 In His Son Jesus Christ, God has all the time in the world for individuals. In today’s Gospel about Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus, we have the first of many conversations Jesus has with individuals on a one to one basis. What’s more, many of the greatest truths Jesus ever told were shared with individual men and women. Perhaps this is Jesus’ way of saying that these priceless messages of good news are meant for each one of us personally.

 Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night-time, fascinated by the miracles Jesus performed. In those days, religious issues were often debated at night-time, even on a roof-top to take advantage of a refreshing evening breeze. Nicodemus has come to question Jesus. Instead, He ends up being questioned by Jesus. Nicodemus begins by paying Jesus a compliment, and is taken aback by Jesus’ unexpected reply. Jesus ignores the compliment and focuses instead on the new birth we all need in order to join God’s Kingdom. Jesus says, “No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.”

 Poor Nicodemus! He, almost humorously, takes Jesus’ words literally. He naively comments that no adult can enter their mother’s womb a second time. Jesus takes the focus from Himself and gives it to the Holy Spirit when He says, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” This is an example of the selfless way the three members of the Trinity operate. They honour each other by pointing to the work the other members of the Trinity do.

 God the Father points to the saving work of His Son Jesus and glorifies Him. Jesus takes the focus from Himself and glorifies His heavenly Father, while the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus and all that Jesus has done for us. God is no single person, but a social being, a Family of three persons. Just as it takes three persons to make a family, so the Trinity models family life for us. At the beginning of creation, God said, “It is not good that anyone should be alone (Genesis 2:18).” God never meant us to be alone, but rather to find our purpose and meaning in life and our fulfilment in relationships with one another.

 Our Father in heaven has given all authority, wisdom and love to our Saviour Jesus.  Jesus, in turn, is totally committed to doing His Father’s will. He says, “My food is to do the will of the Father who sent me (John 4:34).” The Holy Spirit reveals the Father and the Son to us and does all He can to bring them praise and glory. The chief characteristic of the Triune God is that of a community reaching out to include us in their love for each other. They want us to enjoy the fellowship they have with each other. You cannot have one member of the Trinity without also having the other two.

 None of us is self-made. We all began life in a triangular relationship with a mother and father. Most of us are involved in a threefold set of personal relationships. For example, I am a husband to my dear wife, a father to my children and a brother to my own siblings. Jesus says to each of you, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you (John 15:9).” When the Bible says “God is love”, it affirms God’ social and Trinitarian nature, for love needs both a giver and a receiver.

 True love is mutual. Yet it is also more than mutual. Its outgoing nature is eager to bless as many other persons as possible. Self-sacrificial love is love at its best. Out of love for the whole world, God the Father sacrificed His dearest possession, His only Son, for us. This was the most glorious act of love by the Father in heaven. The glory of John 3:16 is in the special relationship between the Father and His Son. Jesus is God’s greatest gift of love to us, given to us so that we won’t perish. To “not perish” means that our lives won’t be wasted, but will enjoy life forever with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 This hope that is ours through faith in Christ Jesus is a robust and resilient hope offered without limit. TV advertisements sometimes tell us “This offer is limited” or “Available only as long as supplies last”. Into our world of limited resources, limited time and limited opportunities Jesus tells us of God’s limitless love for the whole world. It would have been mind-blowing for Nicodemus to learn that God loves the whole world and that the very person he was listening to was proof of this love. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will not God with Him also give us everything else? (Romans 8:31-32)” When we believe this with our whole being, then our lives become radiant with an indestructible hope.

 Rachel, a secondary school student, is an example of this. Seventeen-year-old Rachel wrote to her cousin, “If you had to make a list of the top 5 things most important to you, what would you put? Here’s mine: (1) God, (2) Family, (3) Friends, (4) My future, (5) Myself.”

 For Rachel and many other believers, God is No. 1 and all else is secondary. Rachel grew in grace and love. Her remarkable journal and her letters show that she understood what it meant to put God first in everything. She exhibited a deep spiritual life and wrote about her faith, her awareness of the fragility of life and the strength of God.

 Soon after, Rachel became one of fifteen victims in a tragic massacre at Columbine High School in America. Her attacker asked, “Do you believe in God?”She responded, “You know I do”, whereupon he said, “Then go be with Him”, and shot her.

 Earlier, Rachel had faced difficulties because of her faith and wrote, “I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus, I am not going to justify my faith to them, and I am not going to hide the light that God has put into me. If I have to sacrifice everything … I will. I will take it. If my friends have to become my enemies for me to be with my best Friend Jesus, then that’s fine with me.”

 What a heroic faith in a teenage girl, and what an inspiration for Christians of all ages. As the Lord’s Prayer reminds us, our Father in heaven is at the centre of everyday life, there to bless it and fill it with meaning. The Triune God can be found in our hospitals, our welfare centres, and near to the sick and dying. Jesus is on the side of the poor and needy, and we will discover Him there when we minister to them.

 God has created us so that we thrive in the company of others and they in turn bring out the best in us. It’s in our relationships with each other and with those closest to us that we find our true identity. It’s been said that a happy home life is our greatest source of satisfaction here on earth. God has given us families to teach us something about His own threefold Family. Healthy family living is other-centred in nature, where we’re more concerned to show love than to receive it. As the Prayer of St. Francis says, “It is in giving that we receive”; we receive the joy of blessing others with our gifts of love.

 “We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).” God’s love for us, given to us in richest measure in His Son Jesus Christ, is the best foretaste of Eternity we will experience in this life. And we look forward to eternal life when we will be “lost in wonder, love and praise” of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 “O, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! … From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33, 36)