“The days of the sun are coming, they are here”

Jeremiah 33:14
“Behold, the days are coming”, declares the Lord, “when I will raise the good word I have spoken to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.”

            One day it’ll happen, as they say, “Christmas is coming”, just you wait. And that is what this season of Advent is, awaiting the promised coming, in latin, the ‘advent’ of the Lord. Here in Australia, looking toward the heat again, the sun and fire of Summer, we remember again the promised purifying fire of the Day of the Lord. Now we do see the sun now and feel it’s heat, like a small fulfillment of a 40° Summer heat; but a time is coming when the sun full with all its glory will shine down on the earth. But Summer comes every year, Christmas too, what is it we are looking to? Are God’s promises fulfilled?

The days are coming, when God will fulfil the good promise He has made. When He will raise the good word He has spoken. And the word of the Lord will stand forever (1 Peter 1:25). In Scripture, God’s Word, often we see prophecy fulfilled multiple times, in greater and greater ways. Like the sun seen through Spring coming again hotter and hotter with the final promise of Summer. Take God’s promise to Abraham, ‘you will be the father of many nations’. Abraham received the son of this promise, Isaac meaning ‘he laughs’, yet also had other children who became nations in their own rites; the Midianites, Ishmaelites, Edomites, Amalekites, and of course the Israelites, down to the Jews, Palestinians and Arabs of today. Many nations. Yet Abraham is also the father of all who have faith in God Almighty (Galatians 3:7), as Christianity has spread this includes not just the Jews and Arabs, but all the Germanic nations, the Eastern Europeans, the Tigray and Amhara of Ethiopia, Koreans and many other nations. This promise, this Word of God stands forever, given all those years ago, it just keeps on giving!

And when we hear this prophecy from Jeremiah, the days are coming, know that it is the same. The days are coming says the Lord, Jeremiah writes this 15 times throughout his book, the days are coming. And the rest of the prophets promise those days and also the Day of the Lord; when He will come and save His people, when He will come and save the world (John 3:16). We hear God’s Word raised today, “I will fulfil the good promise I made”. Now this is translating the meaning of the Hebrew for us to understand. Yet the word for word translation is: “I will raise the good word”. Both translations mean the same thing, and yet ‘I will raise the good word’ hopefully reminds us of so much more. God’s good Word is raised every time we hear it read, raised into the air, our ears, our thinking. It was raised again after the exile in Jerusalem. After Greeks sacked the temple Judas Maccabees overthrew foreign rule and God’s good Word was raised again over and against idolatry, this is Hanukkah. Yet most specially God raised His good Word, raised Him up in Bethlehem, Egypt and Nazareth alongside the Virgin Mary and Joseph; the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us (John 1:14). After that first Christmas, is the prophecy of this promise now finished? Does God’s good Word now, lie down and rest? No! The Word of the Lord stands forever! Jesus, the Good Word, was raised up on the cross by His own choice and according to His own will, He is the one who lays down His life and He is the one who takes it up again (John 10:18). Raised on the third day, the Good Word speaks to His people. 40 days later, The Word made flesh is raised up with clouds to The Father Almighty, and He promised to reveal Himself in all His fiery glory on the Last Day.

This is the promise of God, His rising over all things in Glory and revealing Himself to all. And yes, the days are coming. And yet God’s Good Word is still not sleeping, He is still active today. Raised again in our speech, God’s Word proclaimed from the Scriptures; and our confession of what He has done, is doing and will do, in the Creed, we proclaim up into all creation. His Word raised in promise at Baptism, at the Absolution, and the Word Incarnate Himself raised in Holy Communion, with the bread and wine. Today we participate in those days, today we see this wonderful promise fulfilled again, today and now we are with Him in Paradise. And yet there is still more. When you die, the faithful go to be with Christ; yet still awaiting the Resurrection. And the whole of Creation awaits that time too. Perhaps there is a reprieve from war, or from disease, or famine, even a reprieve from corruption in the church from antichrists; yet the reprieve is nothing compared to the final fulfillment of God’s Promise. When the Word of God Stands forever in Glory. Yes, He is here with us now, according to His Promise, yet then we will see Him face to face, to reign with Him not hidden in humility as we do now, yet in Glory the Wonderful Glory that He Himself has promised us all.

So raise God’s Good Word, the Promise of the Gospel, today in your lives, in your homes. Hear and receive the blessings of His promise to you today as you await the final fulfilment. Encourage each other in meeting and prayer all the more as you see The Day approaching. And live where Christ has called you, with one foot in Paradise.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

“The Gardener King and you”

Revelation 1:5-6
From Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father – to Him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen!

            In our garden we have a few garden beds, made of metal, of plastic, of pallets. One of them has a gap in it’s side, so when we water the water flows straight out and takes some dirt with it. It’s a broken bed, yet a gardener can fix it and keep the treasured plants it holds. A good gardener tends to all things in His garden; every part, He takes care of all these things He has authority over. He loves his walled garden, his paradise. He lives for it, his little kingdom of life, of plants, bugs, birds, and all sorts of things. Like a little Christ, he cares for that part of Creation he has been given.

And Jesus is our gardener; Christ is King! Lord over all! Just as we have heard on this last Sunday at the end of this strange Church Year, there is a revelation as we remember the end of this world, and Paradise, that walled garden, that awaits. As The Holy Spirit foretold through Daniel, the Son of Man has ascended with clouds to the Ancient of Days and has been given authority over all things (7:13-14). He Himself tells us at the end of Matthew’s Gospel account, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (28:18-20). And just as we prayerfully proclaim in the doxology after the Lord’s Prayer, “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours; now and forever.” (Daniel 7:14). Jesus Christ is today; caring for His garden, Lord of heaven and earth; the faithful witness who has taught us this truth; the firstborn of the dead who brings us this victory; and the Ruler even now over all the kings of the earth. Jesus reigns! He who is beginning and end; who is, who was, and who is to come; the Lord God Almighty!

            And He has shown His love and care to all humans, even all of Creation, in giving up His life for those who hated Him; remember His words from the cross, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). And He has been revealed to you. You know Jesus Christ is God and man, though perhaps we don’t truly understand this wonderful truth. You know He has defeated sin, death and the devil; though we still struggle against their final desperations. You know God Almighty reigns today, though perhaps we wish He did things differently. You know He loves you, has freed you from a life of sin by His blood, and has made us to be a Holy Nation, and a Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). To reign with Him where He has placed you (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:6).

            To serve and care amongst your family, your friends, this parish, this town. To receive His treasures, Love, Joy and Peace, and to let Him grow and spread these gifts through you. To pray with Jesus as He prays for His Church, for the world and for all those in need. To speak as one speaking the very words of God, to serve as one serving in God’s strength (1 Peter 4:11). To let Him influence not just you and your life, yet also the part of His Creation that’s around you. For by God’s Promise you are a little Christ, a little gardener, as the Baptismal candle receives its flame from the Christ candle, you receive your Life, your Way from Christ’s Everlasting Way of Life (John 8:12; Matthew 5:14).

You have been called to reign with Jesus, to participate in His Everlasting Kingdom; to bring paradise into this world; to fight the Good Fight against, sin, death and the devil where He has placed you. To live for those around you, not yourself. To love even your enemies, not reject them. To serve Righteousness, not pride or greed or laziness or weeds. How is your corner of the garden growing? … Is there some things that need fixing, some places you need help? Thank God for our King! For Jesus Christ loves you, the Holy Spirit serves you, Our Heavenly Father provides strength, that we all might love, serve and provide for those He gives us. Our King has dealt with your sin, your failure, He gives you new life, even today He renews you that you need not fear, and has defeated your enemies. Freed from your sin by His blood, you are now members of His Kingdom, saved priests to serve in His garden bringing life to the world around you. You are forgiven, now rely on God Almigthy in this New Life. Speak to your King, ask Him for help, for mercy, thank Him for the Words and gifts He gives you, pray for those around you; and work with God Almighty as He serves His garden, bringing His victory and everlasting life to His Creation, through you.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Dodgy chairs & Jesus Christ

Mark 13:2
‘Do you see these great buildings? Replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’

            I wonder, have you ever had an experience of resting or sitting or leaning on something that looks good and sturdy, a chair, a fence, a rock; but then when you put your weight on it, it shifts. I’ve seen people sit on a plastic chair and it shatter beneath them. Or lean against a fence post only to have it fall. Or to rest on a rock while hiking then the rock wobble or even roll down the hillside. Sometimes it’s a scary lesson, and yet unfortunately it’s one we learn time and again, to be careful what you rely on.

            But then, look at what wonderful things we have in this world! The cars that fly over roads across the country. Those great ships that cart our food and clothes, and all the things we need for our lifestyles across the deep, wide oceans. The monument of Parliament house and the intricate bureaucracy that supports it. Even our democratic society, and of course the wonders and horrors of the internet. What massive works, what magnificent constructions! Surely these will last, surely we can rely on these! Yet can we always rely on them? Or are they sometimes like a deceptive stone? What do you rely on?

            The Jew’s, of course, relied on the temple. This temple of God, renovated by King Herod the Great around the time of Christ’s birth, it had been reconstructed by the Jews returning from Exile 500yrs prior, the first temple built by King Solomon by the wish of his father David, replacing the tabernacle God had commanded be constructed at Mount Sinai to be His footstool. And yet it was just a shadow of the Heavenly Tabernacle, the Temple of living stones, Moses had seen (Hebrews 8:5). This Temple was the centre of Jewish life, it was the place to encounter God Almighty; it was the place that all faithful Jews sought to gather around three times a year at the great feasts God had instituted. A majestic testament to God’s beauty, His strength, and His reliability, His lasting presence with His people. But Jesus replies, ‘do you see all these great buildings? Not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down.’ And this happened in 70AD. The centre of Ancient Jewish life was destroyed. Their world fell apart.

            Has this ever happened for you? Has your world fallen apart? Those things you relied on for safety, for strength, broken and thrown down. Revealed to be temporary and transient helps, like an old chair that shatters underneath you. The rhythms of your life shattered, perhaps by cute yet crying children, by sickness or financial loss, by a global pandemic or by civil war. In despair, wonder and confusion, what can you rely on, what will always be there, through thick and thin, sickness and health, for richer for poorer; what is the everlasting support? It is God, and His work through the Church, the bride of Christ. It is our Heavenly Father who created you; Jesus Christ who defeats death for you; the Holy Spirit who guides you with the Scriptures in His Church. Yes, Bibles may be burned, cathedrals and prayer tents alike destroyed, even pastors and priests defeated and converted by demonic lies; and yet still as nation rise against nation, as the earthquakes, famine, disease, these are the beginning of birth pains, just the beginning of the end.

            This is the consistent and reliable witness of Scripture, the Holy Spirit bringing these words to us from 4000, 3000, 2000yrs ago; and these everlasting words still true today. Christ’s Church has preserved and passed down these everlasting words for 2000yrs. This is not new, war famine and disease are as old as Cain and Abel; just as you in many ways have suffered many things since your birth. And yet the reality of sin, death and the devil, is not the only truth the Church has passed down. In Christ there is something that is ever new, always refreshing, a living way opened for us through the curtain of His flesh, the temple of His body. The everlasting High Priest, always reliable and true, never deceptive or failing like that old chair or the majestic things humans construct; Our Everlasting Priest Jesus takes away our guilt and washes away our sin (Hebrews 10:22). He grants us an everlasting hope, that in the end all God’s people, those written in His book, will be delivered, healed and free from sin death and the devil (Daniel 12:1). That even now, He makes known to you the path of life, a new way, the way of Jesus (Psalm 16:11).  So, rely on Him. Walk His way. Listen to His Word. Pray and serve together as Christ’s Church, for this world is falling away, yet Jesus is everlasting. Rely on Him in all things.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Death is broken’

Psalm 24:10
Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.

            Hallelujah! Just as we have sung, He is the King of Glory! Jesus Christ the Righteous! The Lord of the angelic hosts and the armies of all the saints. The one who has defeated death. And this wonderous, and strange Psalm, a song written by King David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and prayed by God’s people ever since. But what does it mean, and why has the Church decided that we pray it today as we commemorate all the saints?

            Well, this day, we celebrate and commemorate, because Jesus Christ is Lord of us all, not just you, this parish, not just our LCA, nor the Christians we know; but all Christians across this world, and also all the Christians, the saints, who have passed through death and await Christ’s return. All the saints in warfare; that’s us as we struggle against the enemies of humanity, against sin, death and the devil. And all the saints at rest; those who’ve gone before us in faith, by grace into the presence of God, to await the return of Christ, the New Creation, the Final Resurrection. This is a celebration of all God’s people. That we are one people. In Christ we are not even separated by death, for death is defeated.

            And this is what our Psalm today proclaims! This Psalm was used in the time of David every Saturday evening, for the Hebrews the beginning of the first day of the week, of what we call Sunday. Written for when they ascended with the ark of the Covenant mount Zion, the mountain Jerusalem was built on, the mount on which the Tabernacle then the Temple stood.
Singing, proclaiming, The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the whole world and those who dwell in! For it is He who founded it on the chaotic, dark, deep seas, on the shifting and flowing streams. These words echoing the Creation accounts in Genesis, in the beginning the deep waters, chaotic and empty, a picture of falling into the deep dark ocean in the midst of a storm. Yet God brings order to the chaos, He fills the earth with good things, He overcomes the sea with its chaos and darkness by setting down His kingdom and bringing light to the world. Now high above the sea, who could come to stand with Him?
For those ancient Israelites chanting this as they step toward the Temple, up atop mount Zion. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. Who will stand in God’s Holy Place? Jesus the clean and pure. Yet also us, as we confess our sins and Christ Himself washes us clean in the absolution, takes away our sin and guilt, defeating it on the Cross (Ephesians 5:25-27). As we approach God, His Word and service to us here today, we don’t lift up our souls, we don’t offer ourselves to what is false, nor lie, but with a true heart by God’s grace we have confessed our sins, and according to His Promise God has forgiven you, cleansed you, purified you. This is one reason we have Confession and Absolution before we hear God speak to us, and the reason why some have it before coming to receive Christ, His Most Holy and Precious Body and Blood. For now forgiven we receive blessing from God in His Divine service to us here, we receive righteousness from God our Salvation.
And now the Israelites are at the gates of Jerusalem, The King of Glory sees these doors and demands they rise up to the honour of having Him enter. But who is this King of Glory? When Jesus entered on that donkey, who is this King riding in? When the devil deceived Judas Iscariot, did he really understand who he was dealing with? The Lord, strong and mighty, mighty in battle, The Lord of Hosts; Jesus Christ the Victor, He is the King of Glory! And the doors, they open.

            Now that last part, with the doors and the King of Glory, I wonder, as a child did you ever hurt someone, or do something wrong, and run and hide behind a door? Like a little boy who took the car keys or something. The dad comes to the door and says, ‘open it up’. The boy asks, ‘who is it?’ not wanting to open the door. The dad replies, ‘it’s the man who owns this house.’ ‘Yeah, but who’s there?’ ‘It’s your father.’ ‘Who?’ and the dad breaks the doors open.

            Everything in all creation is God Almighty’s. And yet the devil by deception sought to claim some for his own. This is the serpent, Adam and Eve, the Fall and the beginning of death. From that time on many people have died, fallen into deaths arms, into the grave and covered over with the doors of death closed and locked to them. Even many of God’s own people, King David and those ancient singing Israelites, claimed by death. This is not the way it should be! This is not what God created us for! He made Adam and Eve for life everlasting with Him, just look at their names, Adam means humanity, Eve means life. And yet after the Fall it was no longer Adam and Eve, but Adam and death. Who could fix such a thing, such a horrific thing; Who could defeat death?

            Thanks be the God through Jesus Christ our saviour! The King of Glory, The Lord, strong and mighty, mighty in battle, The Lord God of Hosts! The King of Glory, crowned on the Cross. Jesus, God incarnate, ascended Mount Zion with clean hands, never having done evil or wrong, with a pure heart; He came to that which was His own and yet His own did not recognise Him, His people, His Creation, had been gripped by fear of death. We were owned by death in the power it held over us. So the King of Glory died on the Cross. But when He came to death, to those doors that are made to divide us from our lost loved ones, when He came to those gates of Hades they did not prevail (Matthew 16:18)! Like Samson before (Judges 16:3), Christ broke those ancient doors and threw them down, He tied up the devil, that strong man (Matthew 12:29) was no match for Jesus, and Christ took back what is rightfully His, all the saints who have gone before. Although we here might not remember it, the Church still commemorates this wonderful truth in her art and her liturgy. Just as those ancient Israelites sang this Psalm on Saturday evening, still many Christians in Eastern Europe sing this Psalm in the evening of Easter Saturday; remembering and reliving Christ’s destruction of the power of death just before He rises to proclaim this victory to Mary Magdalene and His disciples.

            This Psalm proclaims the truth, and points us, as all scripture does, to Jesus and His victory, this wonderful news for you and all people. He has defeated death, He is life everlasting, and according to God’s trustworthy Word we are joined with Him, just as all the saints are for that is what a saint is, one trusting Christ. When we commune with Him, The Lord of Hosts, it is not just Jesus we are united with, it is also the great hosts of all the saints, those across this world, those who have gone before; in God’s mercy those we have lost.

            In Christ we are not cut off from those who have died, because death cannot hold us. Christ has smashed down those doors. So we may be comforted by the Gospel, Christ’s Victory over death, and thank Him for those faithful who have gone before us, look to them for examples of a life trusting Christ, and pray for mercy and strength to persevere unto the end; knowing that The Lord of Glory will return in power to set things right, to destroy all evil and death, and to raise up all the saints in renewed, glorified bodies, and that we all will live with Him forever together.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.