Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Romans 6:16
Don’t you know that if you submit yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

            Slaves and obedience. Hard words for us today, but I ask is anyone truly free? Here the Spirit clearly tells us, no. Whoever, whatever, you obey you are a slave to. It’s simply a fact of life. A slave to your stomach, your bladder; a slave to your boss, your lecturer; a slave to money, to our changing culture, to this fallen world, a slave to sin. You can think of teacher’s pets as slaves to the teacher; of the hippies as slaves to that counter culture; of someone with diarrhea as a slave to the toilet. There are countless examples of these things we rely on, these things that tell us about 1 who we are and 2 what we do. And when you obey them, utterly accept what they say about you and this world, they are your god and you are their slave.

            Of course this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to your bladder, but rather I give these examples to show that slavery is not an institution as we might think, and freedom is not absolute. When you fully submit to something you find your identity and meaning there; you are free to live it out, but not free to reject it. Free to do and free from it’s opposite. An example: free to eat, but free from starvation. The same with sin, the slave to sin is free to sin but free from what is right. The slave to righteousness is free to live in holiness but free from sin. So what are you a slave to? Sin or God in Christ Jesus? If we remember from last week the first part of this chapter, in baptism you died to sin and rose to life everlasting in Christ; and obviously dead slaves don’t so to much.

            And this is what Paul is talking about, trying to get through to the Roman congregation, that we who have been united in Jesus by baptism don’t have to sin and can do what is right. You’re allowed to buy your wife flowers just out of love, you don’t have to always sit in front of the TV when you get home. You’re free to thank God even when you hear good news out in a crowd, you’re free from having to beat yourself up when you fail. We are free by the grace of God, to live His life of joy, peace and love that is ours with Jesus, and free from doing what we know to be wrong. Thank God for this gift of freedom, yes, for our slavery to Him. Remember you are free to remind each other and let others know of this wonderful grace as well!

            But when you do, I know that slavery is a hard word for us, and Paul recognises that too. However, he uses it to get across the truth of 1 who we are and 2 how we live. We can imagine sin as a person, that sin tells us who we are ‘a good enough person’ or even ‘someone more important than others’ and sin tells us how to live, ‘to do whatever you want so long as it does hurt anyone else, or at least anyone you care about’. And of course we hear many different things about who we are and how we should live, you know yourself what you hear and what you hold to.

But more than all these different voices is the voice of God who created all things, who is the source of life and existence. He has authority over all things and what He says goes. I mean, He said ‘let there be light’ and there was light, can’t get more true than that (Genesis 1:3). And when you were baptised into Christ, His death and resurrection, our Heavenly Father said, ‘you are my beloved child’ and so you are, and we are family in Jesus (Matthew 3:17). He said, I have taken away your sin, your guilt, your evil, you are righteous in Jesus (Psalm 103:12; 1 Corinthians 1:30). He tells you, ‘you are not of this world’, you are being made new and holy, perfect in Christ (John 17:16). This is the truth, do not reject it, this is who you are in Jesus by baptism together with all your new family the saints of all times and places. And if you want to know what it means to live this life, hear what the Spirit tells you in Matthew chapter 5 and following, go take some time away and read it even with another and listen to how God tells you to live. If you need some help, ask, ask another Christian a saint, ask the Holy Spirit.

Don’t forget who He says you are and don’t forget your family in Jesus, all the saints who have gone before. God has freely given you all these things, He didn’t have to let you know, He didn’t have to say what He said, He doesn’t have to give you life, yet this is what He does, what He has promised. The fruit of this life according to what God has said, is union and reconciliation with Him in love to life eternal, a free gift. This is the Gospel, In Jesus, by the Spirit, you have been set free from all sin and what it says of you, free to hear God Almighty who loves you, free to live according to His Word.

So remember your baptism, and as you live the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Joseph Graham.

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Romans 6:4
Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may go about in freshness of life.

            How does a Christian live in freshness of life? Now that Christ has ascended and the Spirit has been poured out, what does His church do? How do we live in this reality? When you go about your day, do you live in newness of life, fresh with God’s love? For those who remember a time when you were outside Christ’s church or even when you’ve ignored God, His Word and love, is your life different today? Or do you still live alongside your sin without any attempt to reject it?

            Paul had just written that God’s grace is far greater than all sin, that His grace covers your sins. Do that mean that to seek more grace we should sin more, that greater and greater grace will cover us? May it not be! God forbid! NO! At baptism your sin was washed away, even taken up by Jesus Christ to be killed, destroyed, on the cross. When the Holy Spirit baptised you, the Father adopting you into His family as an heir, a true child, when you were united into Christ together with all Christians in righteousness and holiness, we all were made anew, brought into new, full and fresh life with Jesus. Your old way of living was crucified with Jesus on that cross 2000yrs ago, dead and gone. Just like going from nappies to the toilet, you don’t live life the same. So you who sin living life just like anyone else outside of the Christ’s church, His body, why do you still poop in your pants?

            When you ignore God’s Word, His way of life, you say no to Jesus and yes to whatever else it maybe, the putrid ways of life. Yes to your own self, your pride, to pleasure in all it’s forms, to possessions, money, wealth, whatever; you say yes to being pulled away from Christ back to the old way of living, like a 20yr old going back to wearing nappies, why do you do this? Why do we do this? It’s ridiculous! Even though we have been baptised into Christ’s crucifixion, having the sure promise of God, you and I still worry how to care for ourselves by ourselves in this life; just as those without God’s promise do.

Remember Abraham and Sarah, this couple who trusted God with all their possessions and their very lives; giving up home and family to go where He sent them. God promised them a son, yet they worried how He could give one and so tried to fulfil the promise themselves. Thus Hagar and Ishmael caused trouble and were expelled, yet even though Ishmael was born by Abraham’s sin, God showed His great mercy and provided for them both. God dealt with their sin when He dealt with ours, on the cross, and so because His Word is true, God’s promise sure, Isaac was born, and the Israelites through him down to Jesus the fulfillment of all God’s promises. Abraham and Sarah did go their own way against God, yet God forgave them their sin and they returned to Him, receiving the grace God had promised, living the fresh life with God.

Abraham stopped worrying about the concerns of this world, he didn’t give an inheritance to Ishmael but rather dedicated what God had given to Isaac the child of the promise. Abraham changed the way He lived, He turned to God, repented, and trusted Him above all else. Just as Jesus said, don’t concern yourself with those that kill your body but can’t touch your soul; don’t be concerned with your starvation, weakness, your financial troubles, even people who might try to kill you. Rather, He says, be concerned with God Almighty who can destroy soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28). Why live according to the ways of this world? Why do you ignore God’s Word and seek after lazy pleasure, power or possessions? All these things come to nothing, and if you seek these, rejecting Jesus, He will reject you before the Father in Heaven. Sin is missing the mark, and when you seek to live according to sin you set yourself down a path to, not just nothingness, but missing life falling to putrid death, suffering and a weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28). Utterly alone and without love.

And yet you are not alone, and you are loved. It may not look like it, but we are gathered in a very real sense here through zoom; and more wonderful we are gathered together with all those united with the living God, in Jesus Christ. Baptism is a new life, more than water, but much more even than the washing away of sin. You are united together with all the saints in the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. Paul writes you are buried with Him through baptism into His death; together with Jesus we have grown together, and surely we will rise in His resurrection through the glory of God; our old self was crucified with Christ that our sin come to nothing and we free from it’s enslavement, it’s way of life. So if we died with Jesus, we trust we will also live with Him. This is God’s promise to you today, the Good News, that in baptism you have been joined with Jesus, your sins are dealt with, you are free from them, free to live in Jesus according to the promise. You don’t need to wait until Christ returns to live with Him, His way of life eternal freshness of life, for already in the mystery of baptism you have been united, we are united together with all the saints, with Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Your new life without sin has already begun, so strive to lead that holy life; the life of love for your spouse, children parents, friends, workers, fellow Christians, life of love for God Himself; even as Christ has already made you holy.

Your sins are forgiven, walk away from them and live free in Jesus. As Luther taught daily die to sin and rise with Christ, every morning return to your baptism, remember who you are in Jesus with the Holy Spirit beside you and all the saints, pray. You are not alone, you are loved by Father, Son and Spirit, by me, by this parish, Christ’s church and all the saints who have gone before. Remember who we are, and live the new, fresh life you have been given.

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

Joseph Graham.

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Text:  Matthew 9:35 – 10:8

Volunteers for Jesus


There are different organisations committed to encouraging the act of volunteering across the Australia and New Zealand. They encourage organizations which are involved in any sort of service to invite volunteers to come and join them. They encourage people to look for opportunities to volunteer.
During National Volunteers Week you might read stories about volunteers in your local newspapers. National Volunteers Week is also a reminder to show appreciation to the volunteers who are often taken for granted.

It is hard to volunteer. To volunteer means that you are giving your time, and making a considerable effort, and maybe it is going to cost you some money too, because volunteers are not always well supported.

  • Volunteering means letting go of your own commitments and giving something of yourself for the sake of others, or for the sake of some worthy cause.
  • Volunteering means doing. Your hands are busy. But it goes deeper, to your heart.
  • Volunteers are committed with a sense of love and care, and a willingness to commit yourself to others in some way because you see a need.

Volunteering can be a hard slog. But ‘National Volunteer Week’ tells us it can also be rewarding, with inner satisfaction and joy. Volunteering for something worthwhile can bring out the deeper satisfaction of life and can enrich you in relationship with others – others who work with you, or others you help and who laugh with you as you share together. Think of all the volunteers who touch your life. Think of how and where you volunteer.

One of the areas where many people volunteer is in our church life. Church volunteers are included among the volunteers in the community. In fact, figures show that church volunteers are more likely to volunteer in other organisations and causes as well.

So first of all, thank you. Thank you to all of you who give considerable time and effort in the life of your church and community. I know that doing some of the tasks which need to be done can be demanding and you can feel unrewarded. So, thank you on behalf of all who benefit. We do see, and we do appreciate. And I hope that through your voluntary work in your church and community you can live and enjoy life, and that you can laugh together and share together.

That all gives us a very good introduction to today’s Gospel text. Because Jesus is calling for volunteers, for willing workers to work for His Kingdom. And He is sending out volunteers into His communities.

Jesus went round visiting all the towns and villages. He taught in the synagogues, preached the Good News about the Kingdom, and healed people with every kind of disease and sickness.

The best way to enlist volunteers is by example. Never ask anyone else to do anything which you are not willing to do yourself. Jesus shows us how. Jesus was a ‘doer’. He was out there, out there moving from town to town and village to village. He was out there where the need was greatest. He spoke the Good News because He saw that the people were desperate and despondent. He saw the pain and suffering of the people, and He came with His healing power.

Jesus was on a mission. He came to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to the people of earth. That was not just a wonderful idea. It was bringing the grace of God into the real needs of people. He was out there, doing it. As He saw the crowds, His heart was filled with pity for them, because they were worried and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus was motivated by a deep compassion. He saw the needs on the outside. He saw broken bodies, and troubled life-styles. He saw the needs on the inside. He saw the addiction to sin, which is the deepest addiction of all. He felt the pain and anguish which it brought in the lives of all these people. He saw it in each person He met. He saw it multiplied in the crowds of people who came out into the streets hopefully when they heard He was coming. He could see that they were desperate, looking for something. They were like sheep wandering around, confused, defenceless, without a shepherd.

He was coming as the Shepherd. He was coming as the Good Shepherd, who had true care and compassion for each of His sheep, and for all of His sheep together, a true dedication to their protection and their welfare. He was coming with the mercy of God to lift the burden of sin and suffering and to bring these wandering sheep into the Kingdom of Heaven.

So He said to His disciples, “The harvest is large, but there are few workers to gather it in. Pray to the owner of the harvest that He will send out workers to gather in His harvest.”

Now Jesus looks even further. He knows that the deep human needs are experienced everywhere all over the world. He changes the metaphor from a shepherd to that of a farmer. Now He sees a paddock of wheat, a vast paddock stretching beyond sight. He knows that a crop of wheat has to be harvested at just the right time, when it is ripe and before it is spoiled. He knows now is the right time.

But in those days harvesting was by hand with a sickle. To harvest a paddock of wheat you needed a team. To harvest a paddock this size you needed an army of workers. We need workers, Jesus says. We have so few workers, we need many, many more.

This is not just our task. This is God’s task. This is God’s world. So, let’s pray to our heavenly Father, who is the Lord of the Harvest. Let’s pray for the workers, so that we can do this great work. Let’s get lots of people in, all involved in bringing in this great harvest.

Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness. When you pray for something, you also commit yourself to being an answer to prayer. Jesus called on His disciples to pray for workers in the harvest. The very next thing He does is call them to be workers.

Jesus calls on us to pray for workers in the harvest. I hope that we do pray that God will provide the workers He wants for His harvest, for His mission, all over the world. I hope that we pray for God’s workers in every situation of mission and ministry all over the world.

But when we pray for workers, we pray that God will use us as His workers however and wherever He chooses. Jesus calls His disciples to be His workers. Jesus calls us to be His workers in today’s world too.

One of the principles of good human resources management is that if you give someone a job to do, you have to give them the authority to do it. It is no good expecting them to do a job, but not letting them get on and do it, because they have to refer everything back to you.

Jesus gives His disciples, His workers, His harvesters, His own authority. Just as He had been going around with the authority of God to proclaim the message, and to back up the message with the actions that show God’s power over all evil, He sent His disciples out with that same authority. They were to go out in His name, to speak His Word and to do His deeds.

Matthew then gives us the names of these twelve disciples. We don’t have to go through those names now. But we are talking about real people, each with their own family history, own character and now their own mission. Jesus calls people like us to do His work too.

These twelve men were sent out by Jesus with the following instructions: “Do not go to any Gentile territory or any Samaritan towns. Instead, you are to go to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.”

There would come a time when Jesus would send His disciples far and wide. Before ascending to Heaven He told them: “…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. (Acts 1:8)  As we follow the story of the disciples, they started in Jerusalem and Judea and they travelled with the Gospel to many distant places. We can follow the story of those who followed, literally reaching to the most distant places of the world.

Initially Jesus was telling the disciples to work where they were. He was sending them back to their own people and then to the wider world. He was telling the disciples to look and see the needs right there, all around them. He had looked with compassion on the people wandering around aimlessly, like sheep without a shepherd. He was sending His disciples to more of these people in their own communities.

Today too, Jesus calls some people to go to distant places, to places and people who have not yet heard the Gospel. We support missionaries who are bringing the Gospel to people for the first time.

God is calling us to work for Him, to take His message and His love to the people in our own communities. That is where He has put us and that is where He sends us. Because there are needs right here, all around us, people in need, people wandering around aimless, hopeless and defenceless. There are people right where you are, who desperately need to hear the Gospel spoken into their lives. You are the best person to do that.

A volunteer is someone who acts voluntarily. That means you do something of your own free will. The word ‘volunteer’ means you are acting out of your free will or choice. A Christian volunteer is someone who is acting with a will that has been transformed by the Spirit of God.

If you ‘have to’ do it, you are not a volunteer. If you are ‘forced to’ do it, you are not a volunteer. If you do it because you are getting ‘paid to’ do it you are not a volunteer.

Jesus gives the very best reason to volunteer. You have received without payment, so give without payment. (Matthew 10:8b, ISV), or “Freely you have received. Freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b, NIV)

It is all about grace. God’s grace is the free gift of life with God, through the free gift of forgiveness and the free gift of God’s Spirit. Freely you have received. That is the very best reason for giving, for doing, for being willing to respond to call of Jesus, for volunteering in His service.

Jesus, with a wonderful free will, gave Himself for you, gave His life on a cross, out of compassion for you. He comes to you when you are wandering aimlessly and hopelessly and shepherds you into His Kingdom. This is the very best reason to give of yourself, freely and generously, to give your time and effort for His Kingdom.

We started by talking about all the different sorts of volunteering. People volunteer for many causes, and most are great examples of generous and willing service: serving people and serving the community in some worthwhile way. If you are involved in voluntary community service, I hope it brings you joy and fulfilment.

We talked about volunteering in your church life. We are here today sharing in this worship because many people have given of their time and effort. I hope and pray that as you serve in the life of the church that you find it fulfilling, and that you can rejoice because you share in this very special time with our God and each other.

Jesus calls you, like His first disciples, to give in a way that goes deeper. He calls on you to respond to the needs of the people around you with love and compassion, and to bring His love and the Gospel of His grace and care to people in every need.

Your volunteering may be in some sort of planned or organized way. It may simply be in your everyday life that no one organizes, where you act spontaneously.
Give freely, give voluntarily, give generously of yourself, of your time, with your efforts and dedication. Because God has given so freely and wonderfully to you.


Trinity Sunday

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

2 Corinthians 13:14
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.


            Time marches on and worry with it. Think back to the beginning of the church year. Drought and fire across our state and country, and now we’re trying to combat a viral pandemic. From the worries of organising a Carols night, fear of a bash at the BBQ, now to the worries of sanitation around our fellowship and Holy Communion. And yet today marks a shift in the year of the church, in the focus of what God tells us through His Word. We awaited Christ’s coming, Advent, celebrated the incarnation, Christmas, His baptism, His ministry, His preparation, Lent, and suffering, death and resurrection, Holy Week, and during the season of Easter His preparing the disciples to go out into the world. Then the Holy Spirit came in power and drove the Good News of Christ for the first time into that public square last Sunday at Pentecost. Now the time and worry has changed, now God’s church is at work.

            Just as we are getting ready to return to the church building, though in a limited capacity, you have been and are being prepared for your new life in Christ. And what is our new life? Paul writes after rebuking the Corinthians for their division and pride: finally brothers, rejoice, be completed, be encouraged and comforted, thinking the same, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. After teaching, rebuking and training (2 Timothy 3:16) he calls them back to what matters in Jesus, what our life is because of what God has done. You have been joined with Jesus in Baptism, by the Holy Spirit. The Father has made you a new creation, you are no longer trapped by the desires of this world, you are dead to them, now you live with the one true and Triune God by your side (Romans 6). The Holy Spirit comes alongside you, to encourage, to comfort, to bring you peace and guide us together with all saints in this New Life we have been given. And in a very real sense we don’t need to worry about the things of this world, as Jesus said, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all you need will be provided (Matthew 6:33).

The kingdom of the Triune God, life in and with the Trinity. I suppose if we seek that, it makes sense that we begin this time remembering this foundational doctrine of our faith; that there is one true God in three persons. But rather than trying to perceive the true internal nature of the one who created us, like a sandcastle trying to understand the kid who made it, I’m going to ask, how does the Triune God relate to us individually and together, as the three persons of Father, Son and Spirit. For this is the foundation of our faith, our relationship together with the one who created us, restores us and loves us.

Just for the moment, step out of the nitty-gritty, look not at the tree-bark in front of your face but the beautiful forest around us. Remember the church year, the creeds, recall what you have heard God say over the last 6 months, and over the last thousand, 2000, and more years. And remember what Paul tells us of life with God.  
The Lord’s grace, God’s love, the Spirit’s fellowship. The Trinity created all, the Father spoke the Word, who is Jesus, and breathed life by the Holy Spirit, breath and Spirit the same in the ancient languages; as it is written, in Him we live and move and have our being. This love of God our Father is shown in this relationship, He creates you and sustains you, provides you with all that you have, both other people you love and the things you have. He set up the world and, in His rest, sustains all things from the beginning until His new work of the new creation.
That New Creation began the day after His rest, Sunday after Saturday our ancient Sabbath, when Jesus the Son rose from the dead opening the way in Himself to eternal restored life. This free gift, this grace, He gives of Himself to you and me, all Christians, and freely offers to all, that in Him, united with His humanity, our humanity is victorious of sin, death and the devil, by His grace you are saved, renewed, made righteous and clean as He unites you to Himself in love. Yet He gave His last testament and ascended, how can we be united to Him now?
By the Holy Spirit of course, the breath of God, who Jesus gave to the disciples, who came on the disciples together at Pentecost, who baptised you according to the promise: Water united with God’s Word, by the breath, the Spirit; creation united with creator; you united, together with all Christians, you united with Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who draws us together to Jesus Christ, who unites us as a family, who walks alongside us through all our journeys, who shares life with us. This is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, my common union with you, your communion with all the saints, and our Holy Communion with Jesus, who by grace reconciles, repairs completely, our relationship with our Heavenly Father, that we all together might live in the love of God. Or put more simply, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

           Yes we need to recognise the truth of our sin, but in the end your sin has been taken away by the Triune God, so finally the only things left for us are what our merciful God gives, an everlasting life together with Him in peace, joy, and love overflowing.

            Now as you live with the God of love and peace, His peace and love which surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev Joseph Graham.