Holy rhythm of our life in Christ.


Psalm 31:9
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress

            There is a rhythm to life, every life. At it’s most basic we sleep, we wake, we sleep; and each of your own lives have rhythm even if you don’t always see it, even if you try to get rid of it. Every morning I get up, I go to the toilet, drink some water, pray, then when Nathaniel is up; eat, work, lunch, work, kids, eat, kids to bed then us shortly after. Sleep and do it all again. The rhythm of the day.

            Then there’s the rhythm of the week, then there’s the rhythm of the month, then there’s the rhythm of the year, and then beyond us the rhythms of lives, birth, kids, death; the rise and fall of nations; the dance of the tectonic plates, of the stars, the galaxies, the rhythms of the universe; then the edge of what we can grasp, there is the beginning, down through time to us, then over to the end of this creation. And today we stand as on a new beginning, first day of the week, as on the top of a hill looking over this Holy Week ahead. We see with Jesus what is to come, and so we pray with Him; Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress.

            Our Psalmic prayer today begins with a plea for mercy, down into our distress; ‘my strength fails because of what afflicts me, my enemies break me and seek to take my life’; yet up again in calling to God; ‘But I trust in you Lord, my times are in your hands, deliver me, your servant. Let your face shine on me, save me in your unfailing love’. (Psalm 31:9-16). From God to suffering to God again, and His shining face, His unfailing love. This is the rhythm of our life in Christ. Crying out to God, truly suffering, yet crying out and knowing that He will deliver us, He will destroy our enemies. And this is the rhythm of this Holy Week.

            Today we began with the proclamation, Jesus is King of kings! Hosanna, save us God on High! Just as we cry before He comes to us in the bread and wine. He came into Jerusalem, glorified by the people. And yet we hear again the rhythm of our lives; from these heights, He goes down. Throwing out the moneychangers, cleaning and putting right God’s house of prayer. Now the Jewish leaders’ hatred is brought to a head, as we prayed, ‘they plot to take His life’. On Wednesday Judas one of the twelve takes the money from the Pharisees, just as the Psalmist prays, ‘because of all my enemies I am dreadful to my closest friends’. Praying alone in the garden, abandoned by His sleeping disciples; Jesus was betrayed by Judas and the rest, they scatter; ‘dreadful to my closest friends, those who see me flee’. False accusations, lies, taunts, insults, shame and spit, all this thrown at Him; ‘terror on every side’. Stripped, rejected, flogged, shamed; Jesus the Christ crucified, and as we prayed, ‘I am forgotten as though I were dead, I have become like broken pottery’. Yet we continue to pray, “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, You are my God. My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies. Let your face shine on your servant, save me in your love never failing.’ The rhythm of our life, a reflection of the life of our Lord that we live out time and again. Yes, times change, times look different, at times worse, and yet all our times are in His hands. Those healing hands pierced on that cross.

            Live Christ’s life, every week, from the heights of God’s serving you forgiveness and life on Sunday, through the troubles, stress and work to the end of Friday, the rest of Saturday, to the Resurrection, New Life, again early Sunday morn. And especially this week, take time, time from the hand of God Almighty, to hear and meditate on the accounts of Christ’s Passion. Know that your suffering is now a reflection of His, that as you speak with those around you, as you eat, sleep, pray, serve, work, and suffer; we, in this baptismal life, are joined with Christ’s last week. As we are hurt and broken, as we break ourselves by our own sins and failures, die to this world at the Glorious cross, and come to Our Lord for merciful healing; to be delivered from all enemies, life over death, to have God Almighty look on you His child and save you in His unfailing love.

            You know the truth, that Christ is victorious over sin, death and the devil; that this is for you, given you by His Word and Sacrament. So walk in rhythm with Him as we live again the suffering and our salvation.

            The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and through the suffering. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

“Christ is Victor! Yesterday, today and into eternity!”

John 12:31-32
Now is the judgement of this world, now the ruler of this world will be thrown out. And if I am lifted up from the earth, all will be drawn towards me.

            As we come towards the end of this Lenten season, we hear from Jesus towards the end of His ministry. He’s been going from place to place speaking to people, just as we have; going from reading to reading hearing His Word. As His earthly ministry to the Jews comes to a close the Greeks are beginning to seek Him; to seek the Gospel. And yet we had to wait, to wait for it to make sense. For Gospel, Evangelion in Greek, is a proclamation of victory! And it is not yet Easter, Jesus was not yet lifted up victorious that all, these Greeks included, would be drawn to Him.  The goal of His mission, the goal of Lent; the Easter Victory over and against this fallen world of sin and death, and the power of the devil. Jesus today is prophesying His crucifixion and what it means. He is proclaiming, Christ is Victor!

            When we turn on the news we hear what is happening across this world, abuse, corruption, lies, slaughter, destruction and death. The pain this virus has brought, the frustration of the restrictions; corruption in foreign countries, the murder of countless in Ethiopia and Myanmar; the lies and mistruths spouted by politicians and even those near us; destruction by bomb, flood and mouse, and death from cancer. Yes, we know that there is good and beauty in this world, for truly God made it (Genesis 1-2); and yet this world in which we live is sick, we are broken, creation is hurting. And God’s creation has been hurting for a long time (Romans 8:22), this is why those Greeks were seeking Jesus, for in His earthly ministry God has begun to answer, He has begun healing, raising the dead, and proclaiming His immanent Victory, the Gospel (Luke 7:22). God sent His Son to save the world (John 3:16); this world afflicted by sin, by death, and by demons. Yes, it sometimes seems the devil rules over this sinful world, in our anxieties, our depression, despair, even our pride. But Jesus declared, all those years ago, ‘Now is the judgement of this world’ and on that cross He proclaimed the Good News, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

            Today’s reading is just days before His crucifixion, and on His cross this prophecy is fulfilled. This broken world is judged, the devil is thrown out and Christ is crowned King of kings (Hebrews 2:9; Psalm 136:3; Revelation 17:14). The glory of God hidden in that crown of thorns (1 Corinthians 1:23). Now is the judgement of this world, now it’s ruler is thrown out. In fulfillment of His Word, ‘if I am lifted up from the earth’, Jesus was lifted up on that cross, He was raised from the grave, and He ascended into the heavens. Now by His Holy, Powerful, Enduring Word carried by His apostles with the Holy Spirit, by all Christians down the ages, and today now by you; all people are drawn to Him. He brings us into His healing, into His great victory, into His New Creation. It isn’t a once long ago thing, God Almighty brings His victory here to us.

            Here today we have seen it, and we will see it. This Lenten time of preparation is a focussed living out Christ’s victory, given us in baptism; a time of focus on our baptismal life. Elsewhere we are promised that baptism is a union with Christ’s death and raising from the dead (Romans 6). And this too is what Jesus is speaking of. This is what God has promised each of us in baptism. This is what Cooper has just received! According to the ways of this broken world, Cooper is afflicted by sin; His parents won’t need to teach him to do what is wrong; just like I didn’t teach Nathaniel tantrums, that’s all him. But at Cooper’s baptism, his union to Christ’s crucifixion according to the promise, what Christ promised today has been done. His sin afflicted self, Cooper of this fallen world, has been judged, that old sinful man drowned in the waters of baptism (Ephesians 4:22). The ruler of that corruption, the devil, has been thrown out, denounced and rejected by Cooper and his parents and godparents. What is true of Christ’s crucifixion is now also true of Cooper in his baptism. Now is the sinful world judged, now the devil thrown out, here today for Cooper. His enemies are now defeated; Sin drowned in Christ, the devil and his demons thrown out. But what of our final enemy, death? Know that Jesus did not just up and leave after defeating our enemies; He rose from the dead, destroying the power of death for Cooper and for all us who are baptised. He remained and taught the first disciples, living with them. Then He sent them out to make disciples of all nations, baptising and teaching; and truly He is with us always to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

            He is with us as we gather in His name, just as He promised (Matthew 18:20). He is with us as we pray with Him His prayer (Matthew 6:5-15). He is with us as we hear His Word. As we serve those in need (Matthew 25:40). As we receive again His absolution (John 20:22-23). As we taste again His Body and Blood (Mark 14:22). As we, with Cooper, participate in His lifting up, on the cross, from the grave, and to His throne on High, in our baptismal life (Romans 6; 2 Timothy 2:12). Now is the judgement of Sin, Death, and the devil; here is their defeat; again He is exalted and today we are again drawn to Christ, we hear the Good News, we taste everlasting life, and we see again Christ’s victory over Sin, Death and the devil. Christ is Victor. And we live in His everlasting life, drawn into His victory so that others maybe drawn as well.

            And so the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Is Jesus a snake?

John 3:14-15
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.

            I love this text, John 3:16 is rightfully well remembered, yet so often we forget these wonderful texts surrounding it. The hiding of sin in the darkness and that fear of the light, that when we come into the light in Christ, confessing the truth of who we are, the darkness is taken away and all that is left is of God. That wonderful encouragement to have your conscience healed before God in Confession and Absolution. And then also this little verse, ‘just as the snake in the desert’.

            When I say snake in the desert, you might think of when you found a brown snake, the fear and threat you felt; or you might think of Jesus tempted in the desert; even the serpent tempting Eve in the Garden (Mark 2:13; Genesis 3). And yet we heard today, this bronze snake lifted by Moses for the salvation of the Israelites (Numbers 21:4-9). The reason I love this text is that it helps open our eyes as Christians. It demonstrates that the Old Testament is always pointing to Christ Jesus. It is His story; it is our story. The Father Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, but God provided; the Father so loved the world He provided His only begotten Son (Genesis 22:2, 14). King David dancing almost naked down the street as the Ark of the Covenant entered the city; Christ humiliated on His way to the cross of God’s glorious victory (2 Samuel 6:14, 21-22). The snake on a stick (Numbers 21:4-9), the serpent on a tree (Genesis 3), Jesus lifted up on wood (Deuteronomy 21:23). Jesus is the fulfillment, the revelation of God’s ancient Word. And for all time that ancient history of God’s people, the Old Testament points to Him. Give thanks to God for He is good; His love endures forever (Psalm 107:1).

            Our God, God Almighty, is not a changing God (Malachi 3:6). He has been with His people all through the ages, He is with us now. It’s just as we prayed earlier, ‘the redeemed of the Lord tell their story, those He redeemed from the hands of the enemy. They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He sent out His word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave!’ (Psalm 107; Ephesians 2:1-10). This is the way He has always worked! He speaks and according to His Word things happen. And He shows His love to you in that He spoke generations ago and had His word written and preserved that you too might hear from Him and pass it on. That He might reveal Himself to you and through you. That we might be able to look back on our history, on the life of God’s people; as they too lived through pandemic, exile, war, and persecution.

Not just that we are united in greater and lesser suffering, not just that we serve the same God, that we share in His name on us all, but also that God works in the same way He always has. That we might hear how He strengthened His people in patience, in trust, in love, to do those works He had prepared for them to do (Ephesians 2:10). To know that the goal is Christ, yet He may give us a foretaste of what is to come, according to the word of His promise. That, just as we prayed, He sends out His word to heal us. That according to His promise, His sure and certain Word, we might be healed. But where is that word?

In the desert, trudging and suffering the Israelites grumbled and rejected God’s promise. So, God sent venomous snakes to attack; then the people in need turned to Moses for help from the Lord. They cried out just as we prayed. And the Lord told Moses to make a bronze snake raised on a stick, that the people might look at it to be save from the snakes. There are reasons and connections as to why it’s a bronze snake on a pole, like how the snake on a stick is a symbol of medicine; yet just to know that God tied His word of promise to this real image to save His people. But also, another thing, they look up to a snake to be saved from snakes.

And just the same, the Son of Man must be lifted up. Yes, so much more happens at His crucifixion yet this remains true. Those who look up to Jesus on the cross are saved, according to the Word. If the Israelites were saved from snakes by looking up to a snake, what are we saved from by looking to Jesus? We are saved from death, the wages of our sins; those failures we fight against in the New Life of Christ (Romans 6:23). We are saved from our fallen humanity, our inclination to sin, to serve ourselves, to rely only on created things, to envy what is not ours (Hebrews 2:14). When, trusting in God’s Word, we look to the crucifix, Jesus on that cross, we may have eternal life. He was lifted up for your salvation. The Word of God came to heal you. And in His mercy, He shows you this again today.

Have you ever wondered why there is a cross marked on the bread for Holy Communion? Why the pastor lifts the bread for the Words of Institution? It is the snake in the desert; it is Jesus lifted for your healing to everlasting life. Our Heavenly Father has tied His Word of promise, the promise of renewal, taking away of sin and guilt, everlasting life, and full common union with Christ Jesus, God and Man reconciled, He has tied His Word of promise to the bread and wine of Holy Communion. It is a mystery that today we have only scratched the surface of the connections God is making, the depth of the reasons He has revealed; and yet He sends His Word that the Spirit may open our eyes, to see Christ’s everlasting life for us from the cross in this Holy Meal. To see with Simeon as we sing with Him, ‘my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people, a light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.’ (Luke 2:30-32).

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the final revelation. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘The temple of fools’

John 2:19
Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’

            Foolish to the nations, that’s what Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). And isn’t it so true. How many think that faithful Christians are fools? Does our society think that Jesus is important, that His church is a vital part of our lives; Or maybe something to be kept hidden in private, like the proverbial crazy uncle. My best friend from school still thinks I’m a fool, for giving up a career in chemistry to become a minister of the Means of Grace. And I’m sure there are people in your lives, that think you too are a fool for the Faith.

            I mean look at our Lord, by Himself He starts tossing tables and driving out animals from the most important centre in the Jewish nation and society. Sure, the temple is supposed to be a house of prayer, not a house of commerce (Mark 11:17); yet one person to overturn the way society is going. What kind of a fool would do that?

            And Jesus tells the people, destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days. A temple that took 46 years for a nation to build, and this fool will raise it in three days? What kind of a fool would follow this madman who died 2000 years ago?

            As Paul said, foolishness to the gentiles; yet to those being saved it is the power of God. The power of the Uncreated Creator, who spoke the Word and it was done, He saw and it was good (Genesis 1). The power of the God of Israel defeating all the gods of Egypt and promising His presence in the tabernacle, that copy of the Heavenly Temple (Exodus 40:34-38). Who promised to come Himself and save not just the Israelites, but all the world (Isaiah 56:4-8, Ezekiel 34:11-23). Who came as a human, in a tabernacle of flesh (John 1:14). Yes, they do not understand that the God whose temple they are in, had told them Jesus is the new Temple. They did not understand until His Word is fulfilled. Because they did destroy the Temple, the promised place of God’s presence, when He was crucified; and He did raise the Temple three days later, at the Resurrection Sunday morning.

            And now you are baptised, joined into His Body, the Church, you are part of this Resurrected Temple (1 Peter 2:4-5). Jesus may look a fool to the world, yet He holds the truth of this world (John 14:6). As He threw those tables into the air, the money to the dirt, He was not just preaching to the Jews, against their focus on money and wealth, against their pride and selfish power, against this abuse of God’s Holy Place. He is also teaching us as temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Those cleansing waters of Baptism is Jesus coming into us and throwing out our sin and failures. The cleansing of the temple is the healing of our hearts and minds, Absolution, Baptism, Holy Communion. The question is not, are you letting Christ drive out the sin in your life; He’s already done that according to His promise (John 20:23). Rather the question is; are you picking back up the money and bringing back the animals into the temple? After Christ has forgiven you are you turning from His life of prayer back to focus on wealth and our animalistic/physical desires, back to the way of life our society thinks is wise, self-sufficiency and pleasure?

            Just as Christ cleansed the temple at the beginning of His ministry and in the days before His death, He cleanses us more than once. In this Lenten time of preparation come and hear Christ’s cleansing Words, Forgiveness and Life (Matthew 26:28; John 6:68). Think about what He tells you, meditate on His Word, pray for the wisdom of God and the strength you need, and serve as He did, in love and with concern for all those around Him.

            And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto eternity. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.