‘Participation with the one who saves all Creation’?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Romans 8:17
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if perhaps we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

            To participate with the Trinity, to have a relationship with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; that is what it is to be a Christian. It’s similar to any other relationship, I’m a Woolies customer if I shop at Woolies, and I fail as a Woolies customer if I go to IGA. If I never take time to spend with my wife I hurt our relationship, if I neglect to teach my children I fail as a father, if I insult my father I sin. This is part of what Paul is getting at today, and Isaiah certainly felt his failure, ‘I am a man of unclean lips.’ So a question on this Trinity Sunday is, how is your relationship with our Triune God?

            Do you fail to care for our Father’s creation? To follow in His steps, to create beauty like the sunset and cultivate life in the world around you; to take charge of what God has put under your care, like the Garden to Adam? Do you look to the work of God’s hands to save you, your mind, wealth, government, medicine, all these good gifts. Do you look to them to save you instead of our Father who created them? Child of God, how is your relationship with God our Father?

            And with His Son? Jesus came down from heaven, conceived, born of Mary, escaped to Egypt, grew up in a poor, rough area, saw His adoptive father die, preached, healed, brought light to this dark world, yet rejected by His people, family and friends, flogged, crucified and died for you; then rose to glory and now rules for your salvation. Every breath He breaths for you, and how do you receive it? Do you thank Him for His love, praise His Almighty work of salvation every moment He lives for you? He freed you from slavery to sin, and the desires of your body; do you live in that freedom, or do you run back to the cage?

            My dad had a budgie before I was born, it lived in a cage. This budgie was so used to the cage, felt so safe there, even when dad took him out and put him on top, he’d fly straight back in. Good for a bird owner, good for a slave owner, but also too often a sad reflection of our relationship with Jesus who freed us.

            As Paul wrote, if you live according to the flesh, the old sinful ways, you die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the practises/habits of the body, you will live. And so how is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Do you breath together with Him, do you walk in step? Or do you walk your own way, following after some other goal, some other god? You know the gifts the Spirit brings, forgiveness/separation from your sin, your guilt and the peace that comes with, love not just of God, also from us, the truth of this broken world, the truth of you and of God’s work for you. How The Triune God relates to you, as we confess as one in the Creed, simplistically in creating, saving and transforming you. And that wonderful transformation from a slave to sin, to a child of God, it is not painless, like hard exercise, like puberty, like pregnancy, we suffer when we change.

            We suffer as we leave the way of life under sin, as we die daily to our flesh and rise to new Life to God in Christ. To kill those desires and thoughts that lead us astray, those habits, those hurtful reactions. Yes we suffer from others too, from those who don’t understand, those who hate Jesus, and those who have been hurt by the sins of the Church. And we also suffer in ourselves. It hurts to reject the desires of our bodies for the sake of others, and yet the Holy Spirit rewards us with peace and contentment, knowing we showed God’s love to another and walked in step with Jesus. It hurts to break old habits and form new ones, especially when we fail; yet we hear Jesus again declare, ‘I forgive you’ the Holy Spirit giving us strength to live our New Life and our Father smiling on us and sustaining us. It hurts to let God be God, in charge of my life, to give and take all things; to rely fully on the mercy of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit. And yet as we do, living in this wonderful relationship with our Triune God, we have life.

            That life created by the Father, won by the Son, and given by the Holy Spirit; so that I can say with Him, you are children of God, co-heirs with Jesus, and have received the Holy Spirit. Live with Him together, suffer with Him together in this broken world, so that we may all be glorified with Him together in the Revelation of the New Creation.

            The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto His glorious Coming. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Holy Breath?’

John 15:26
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

 

 

 

  Pentecost, what a wonderful day. The fiftieth day after Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil. Ten days after His ascension to rule over all. The day the Holy Spirit came and filled God’s Church in a building in ancient Israel. This day is the beginning of our church going out into this broken world, proclaiming Christ’s Victory and God’s healing and renewing of His groaning Creation. Sent from the Father by the Son, the Holy Spirit to guide and empower His Church. The Triune God revealing Himself to us by His Word.

            And how does He reveal Himself to us today? The Holy Spirit, breath of a mighty wind, to empower speech in God’s people for the benefit of all, to help us in our weakness, our brokenness, and to draw all of Creation to the fulfillment of our hope, life everlasting in Jesus. The Holy Spirit sent down to walk alongside us, but how is He with us? I can’t see Him or hold Him, but we do hear of people feeling the Spirit, and being moved by the Spirit. What’s going on there, Who is this Holy Spirit? Well if God is revealing Himself to us, condescending to our level to help us understand the truth, perhaps we start with His name, Holy Spirit.

            Language is a funny thing, we say spirit, breath, wind, but when I’m translating from Hebrew or Greek I only see one word. For our ancestors in the Faith, spirit, breath and wind are the same; He is Holy Spirit, Holy Breath, Holy Wind. This is why we say the Trinity is there clear as day in Genesis, though we might translate it differently, the Holy Spirit, Breath of God, Almighty Wind, hovered over the waters. And by breath we speak words. Let there be light! And there was. (Genesis 1). And later, the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1). Here we hear the relationships in God, the Father speaks, by the Holy Breath, the Spirit, His Word, the Son. God is Father, Son and Spirit; God is Speaker, Word, and Breath. Always working together, without a speaker there is no word, without breath there is no word and without speech what is a speaker? One example of this is Christmas, The Father begot Jesus conceived by the Holy Spirit, or the Speaker begot the Word by the Holy Breath. But why has He revealed Himself like this, how does this help us?

            Ok three things, power, unity and work. One thing it shows is that, especially today, the Holy Spirit empowers us to speak Holy things, to proclaim the Word of God as Peter and the Apostles did all those years ago. It’s not my breath that brings God’s forgiveness and healing, it’s not from my spirit rather it’s from the Holy Spirit. So if I rely on my breath, my work, my power, apart from the Holy Spirit, my words are not God’s. If I rely on myself, no matter the effort, I cannot bring Christ, the Incarnate Word, to others. If it’s by my breath it’s not of God, if I’m inspired by the Holy Spirit God is at work. Now you can work so hard so as to loose your breath, if it’s without the Holy Breath in the end it’s nothing. However, if by the Holy Spirit, He always draws us to Christ.
And this is the second thing. The Holy Spirit is the one who inspires and empowers Church, that’s why in the Creed the third part is I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian Church, forgiveness of sins, resurrection, and life everlasting. The Holy Spirit is the one beside us, at work in God’s Word and Sacraments, here today as we gather. The Holy Breath is the one who draws us into a warm relationship with God in His fullness, He is the presence of God. How can I say that, that the Holy Spirit is the presence of God? We’ll let’s just say I break COVID rules and come right up into your personal space, breathing down your neck, warming you; you’d know I’m close because of my breath. And it’s so much more if God’s Breath warms us, not down our necks but filling our lungs and we walk with Him actually breathing the self same air. All Christians, the whole Church, inspired by the same Holy Breath, we are united together by Him. And then we can speak as though God Himself is speaking, filled with His Spirit and bringing Jesus’ renewal to those around us.
And a third thing, the Holy Spirit isn’t a thing, He’s a person. He might not have a simple name like Father or Jesus, but He’s no less active, no less powerful, no less God. When the Father breathed on Adam, the Holy Spirit gave Adam life; all breath is from the Holy Spirit this is why we confess He is Lord the Giver of life. And He was at work throughout the Old Testament bringing life, resting on people giving them portions of God’s gifts, superhuman strength to Samson, great wisdom to Solomon, and the ability to speak God’s Word, to prophesy, to countless down to John the Baptist. He even took Elijah up into heaven on that fiery chariot. And today He guides us into all truth (John 15:13), those encouraging words He gave you, that drive to do good in that moment, and the ability to pray. To pray with the Breath of God, breathing in and out, God’s grace in and our failures out; even when our breath fails and we have no words, the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf in groans that words cannot express (Romans 8:26). We can just breath, in and out with the Holy Spirit, in the presence of God.

Those three things, He empowers us to speak Jesus, He unites us together in Jesus, He work in and through us for Life.

The Holy Spirit, He is truly a wonderful gift, even the Lord of Gift giving. And according to the promise of God’s Word uttered by the Holy Breath in His Church down the ages, you have received Him in the laying on of hands at Baptism. Of course He can move and work however He wants, and He does work outside of ordinary means; yet God promised that you receive His Spirit in Baptism so you can have assurance of His presence in your life. However, although we have received Him we may try to remove Him like getting ride of good clean air with smoking; clean air gives many benefits, but second-hand smoke tastes foul. How do we clear our lungs? We breath, in and out; breath in or receive well God, His Word, His Sacraments; breath out or remove sin and evil. Pray God’s Word, morning and night; gather with each other around God’s Word; come together to His altar. Walk in step with the Holy Spirit and breath together as one. This is the life of the Christian, what we confess every time in the Creed. So as we continue to sing together, breathing the same air in and out in time, as we join together in prayer. Know that we are only united by the Holy Spirit, be filled and changed by Him and breath Him as you go out to continue His work of Pentecost, to proclaim Christ’s Victory, to speak life and courage to those around you, and to spread the Holy Breath wherever you go.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now to when we will always breath as one. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Christ is King!

Ephesians 1:22
and [the Father of Glory] put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave Him headship over all the church.

            Christ is King! Hallelujah! King of kings, Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). All authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). So Jesus always has the final word and that wonderful word is, ‘peace’. For us who believe, baptised into His kingdom, who submit to His authority, this peace is rest, deep joy and fulfilment. For those who want the power for themselves, well, His peace is the end. Still Jesus is Lord. Forty days after His coronation with the crown of thorns He ascended to rule. Victorious over our enemies, sin, death and the devil; He stayed 40 more days teaching and preparing the Church for the sending out with power by the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus ascended to the highest position, above all things. Making all things new He is the head of all Creation. Christ is King! Hallelujah!

            But what does that mean? Christ is King? He’s not a king like a king of England or whatever, otherwise He would’ve stayed to conquer this earth. Yet our enemies are not flesh and blood, but the spiritual powers; we say ‘sin, death and the devil’ and we know there is no nation that has defeated them. Something different is going on here. As Jesus said to Pilate 40 days ago, His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). I mean just look at His coronation, no red carpet and fancy jewels there; something different is going on. And His people, 2000yrs ago a group lead by fishermen, dispersed from Jerusalem by persecution, jail and death; then spread from Spain to India within a generation but with no worldly power and at the mercy of local rulers. Even at the height of Christendom’s worldly power, those who submitted to Christ’s authority still suffered under those who sought power for themselves. And so too today.

Jesus is not a worldly king nor is His kingdom of this world, rather He is more, higher. Jesus is not just a king over people, raising taxes and fighting against other kings; Jesus is Lord over all Creation, from the very beginning, through time, all to the end; Lord over all things from those subatomic particles, to worms, to humans, to galaxies, to angels, spiritual beings, all things. Jesus rules over all.

            He rules over all, and we are with Him. Baptised into His body, the Church, we are not alone, and we are joined with Him in victory over sin, death and the devil. Jack today joins this congregation and all Christians, the whole of God’s family both here and those who’ve gone before; joins us with Christ submitting to His rule, His lead and His love. Jack, having received the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus, is now a willing part of God’s kingdom. When Jesus says that final Word, ‘peace’, Jack too will receive Christ’s full and eternal peace, joy and love in submission to the one who created him. And yet, I’m sure some of us have thought; ‘If Jesus is in charge of everything, why isn’t it different?’ ‘If I was boss, I’d make it so Jack never gets a cold, always has the best teachers, eats veges ‘cause I made them tasty now, and never suffers a broken heart.’ Why doesn’t Jesus keep us safe if we’re in His kingdom?

Well, one answer is, I don’t know, I can only know what Jesus has revealed, and that is that we are free from the powers of sin, death and the devil in Jesus, fully at the end and in part now. But another answer is this; Our King suffered torture, betrayal, and shame; He took on all your guilt, that’s what was on His mind on that cross; His body and spirit broken and this was at His coronation. If we are joined with His life, why should we expect any different. And yet, that was not the end. Just as there is an end to a cold, the working week, to pregnancy, there is an end to suffering; and what follows is the resurrection. From death to life, and not just this life again, but a life free from sin, death and the devil; that is the Life of Christ and this is promised to Jack and all who are baptised and trust The King.

And Jesus knew in this life we need help, this is why Jack is not just baptised into Jesus, into some ethereal body of Christ, but into this congregation. Why His parents and Godparents promised God and Jack to be with him and nurture him. That we like Paul might pray for Jack and each other, giving thanks for God’s wonderful gifts to them and thanks for God blessing us through their smiles and teaching us in their crying. Asking God the Father of the Glorious King Jesus Christ, to fill you with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation of His promises; that we all have our eyes opened to see God’s work in our lives and the world, to learn from the suffering and rejoice in the blessings, to see truth and know the hope we have been called to. God’s mighty power at work in us, healing us and defeating sin, death and the devil in our lives; making us whole, not broken and distracted like the rest of this world. Holding us together even as things fall apart as at the cross, the Holy Spirit with us through the valley of the shadow of death, as many things seek to distract us, to take us away from Christ’s side and to take power for ourselves. We need His help, the support of God’s angels, the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ, prayer, and Christ with us. Here He is, were we are gathered in His name, the Holy Spirit at work in everyone of us, using God’s Word heard today, through the words of each other, even in the cries of children. And here He has promised to sustain you, not just by Word and prayer, yet also by His Body and Blood as He comes to us here and to His Church across the world, coming down from on high and present for us all together. Through the suffering, and the joys, Christ is King now and forever.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Love is Law’

John 15:17
This is my command: love one another.

            Thank God for love, thank God for His Law. And of course, thank God for mothers without whom we would not be here, and neither would Jesus. Eve, the mother of all the living, broke the law of love and sinned; yet Mary the mother of the Resurrection and the Life, kept this law; more especially her Son through whom God’s infinite love is shown. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Law of love; for He lays down His life for you, who were His enemies, now by God’s loving grace His friends. And it’s not just that He died for you, yet also that He lives for you now and forever. His love is immense, wonderful, glorious and victorious!

            This is the Gospel, God’s love for you. That in Him we are victorious we have overcome sin, death and the devil. And now He calls you to love, He commands you. This is His Law. As He has loved us, we must love Him; Just like John wrote, ‘this is love for God: to keep His commands’ (1 John 5:3). Of course we remember today the 4th commandment, ‘honour you father and mother that it will go well for you in the land’ the only commandment with a promise. So, the child shows their love for God in this life by honouring their parents, by loving them. And the parents must show love to the child otherwise things fall apart; disintegrate, the family dies. This is what we mean when we say the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). If we fail to love God, if we fail to keep His commands, then things die; a broken arm, broken relationship, broken family, sometimes people become emotionally dead, and horrifically sometimes people die. This Law, this truth, is not abolished (Matthew 5:17); Yes Jesus fulfills it and united with Him we are separated from our sin, yet God’s Law, the Law of love still applies to you and me. It is the way of our New Life in Jesus, His way. We are commanded to love each other, to live our lives for each other, for our parents, our children, our bosses, our workers, our government, and our society. I’m grateful He’s narrowed 600 odd commands in the OT down to one, and this is that one command. You must love.

            Do you? Do you desire what is best for those around you? Do you want God and His love to be known by all people, that wonderful relationship of His joy and peace? Do you live for your family, for your brothers and sisters in Christ, for those who do not yet know Him? Do you love? Or do you fail and cause pain, do you need help?

            Last week we heard that Jesus is the True Vine, that apart from Him we can do nothing. And sometimes that’s obvious, so thank God we are not alone by ourselves and without help. We have each other, and more so we live with the Triune God. He has chosen you, adopted in Baptism and united with Him by the Holy Spirit. He has called you, not servants, but friends revealing the truth to you. And His Work changes you, united with the vine the saps changes you to a living branch. Listening and living with Jesus changes what you want and how you act; like an old faithful couple have worked through their difficulties and continue to grow closer, like the loving mother and child are changed and learn from each other. And He serves us here, as we listen to His Word about what love is, separation from sin, guilt and failure, reconciliation; He serves us rejuvenating our relationship with Him and each other, refreshing and sustaining us together, especially by His Body and Blood; sending us out with His promise of the Holy Spirit to walk with us, to change our desires and provide what we need.

            And we need this help He provides, to keep His command. Which is how John can write that His command is not a burden, to live in love toward all people is only hard when we are overwhelmed by our guilt/failure, pain or torment. And yet, He has declared that in Him you have overcome these things. Hear again His Words, ‘You are forgiven! I sent you free from sin, death and the devil, and free to love.’ I wanna make sure this is clear: Jesus does not want you to burden yourself with this command to love, listen to Him not the world, He does not want you to be burdened and enslaved to a command, rather as He sets you free and provides us all we need. His teaching in scripture, from our brothers and sisters in Christ, of course Bible reading; turn to the psalms when you are struggling, I pray the Holy Spirit open your ears to His prayers. And your prayers, especially the Lord’s Prayer, where the Holy Spirit works on our hearts to conform our desires to His; may He remind you to pray in your struggles, to look to Jesus and His victory. And His presence most especially in the sacrament and also in gathering with other Christians in encouragement, not complaint rather talking about how God is at work in our lives, what He is teaching us, and certainly praying together, casting our burdens on Him who cares for you.

            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.

Grafted into Jesus.

John 15:5
I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

 

            Grafted into Jesus. This is about a relationship. And we have seen it begin today. Matilda is baptised, joined to Christ. Now, according to the promise, the Holy Spirit brings the wonderful gifts of God to her and all the baptised to sustain us in the Christian life that we live for those around us to the glory of God. The Holy Spirit is that sap from the vine that provides the branches with the nutrients to produce good fruit.

            Baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity she is, according to His Word, a child of the Father, united to Jesus the vine, and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Now God has declared this, yet where do we see it? Where does God promise to sustain Matilda and all His baptised children? It is where His Word is spoken, where His Word is heard and received. In the gathering of Christians for mutual encouragement around His Word, our common confession summarised in the Creed. In the prayers of Christians, long and short, crystalised in Our Lord’s Prayer. In the living out of Christ’s victory, living in the freedom of the Ten Commandments and all their gifts. And of course, we can’t forget the wine of the vine, Holy Communion, Christ’s Most Holy Body and Blood. That’s the small Catechism, and that’s this Divine Service.

            It is here, that we remain with Him, make our home in Him and He in us; where we are refreshed together in our mutual relationship. It is here, where He has promised to cleanse us by His Word, ‘I forgive you’. It is here, where we are prepared for the Good Works God has prepared for us to walk in our lives ahead; the fruit of the vine. And as He says, ‘if you remain in me and my words remain in you ask whatever and it will be done’.

            Yet we so often forget Jesus’ words, sometimes ignore them, sometimes replace them, but so often His words do not remain in us. So a question we can ask anytime, what do you spend your time thinking about? Debts? Family issues? A TV series? Who do you listen to? Whose words remain in you and keeps coming back? To ask the same thing, in your thoughts, words and deeds, what and who do you worship? …

And how can we receive again Jesus’ words? Receive again His love? How can our relationship be restored? Like coming home to your family or friends, by returning and listening again, prayer, confession, and meditation on His Words, and sharing His Holy Meal.

            So pray that, not only the Holy Spirit grants what you need, but also that we abide in Him and He in us.

            And the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.