“Breathe in the Holy Spirit, deep in your lungs”

John 20:21-23
Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’

            Christ is Risen! Hallelujah! By His death He has defeated death for us all, by His breath He brings life everlasting! Hallelujah! Before He ascends to reign on High, He condescends to the disciples and breaths into them His Holy Spirit, to blow them out across the world so that all may breath the sweet clean air of His victory. Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!

            Yet we here today in Australia suffer from bad air. Of course, you have those living in the cities with the stench of exhaust fumes, we can remember the smoke from Black Summer, and also the viruses causing sickness in our lungs. And 500 years ago in another pandemic, the Black Death, they too tried to stop the bad air, for the disease seemed to spread on the wind. We would say there was an air of death about, like an extra weight that couldn’t be seen or held yet was still there. Almost like an oppressive spirit. Not unlike that air of death across Egypt at the time of the first Passover, when a spirit, the destroyer sent by God, killed all the firstborn of Egypt so that the firstborn of their gods, Pharoah, would let God’s people go. Now this might feel like grasping at thin air, for we today think of wind, breath and spirit as three very different things, but for God’s ancient people, both Jew and Greek, wind, breath and spirit are more than related they are the same.

Spirit is an invisible untouchable living thing, if we have no spirit we have no breath and so make no wind out in the world. Spirit, breath and wind are about life, but now what sort of a life do you live? The life of Christ or of this broken world? Whose air do you breathe, who are you so close to that their breath is yours? What spirits animate you; the spirit of this age, the Holy Spirit? And what kind of wind do you make, what kind of influence are you on the world around you?

            Some good questions to ask each other after the service, to care for each other’s souls. Yet for now, I’ll point us back to Jesus. At His baptism the Holy Spirit drove Him out into the wilderness, and like a wind, drove Him all the way to the Cross. And today He breathes into His disciples. There it is again, Spirit, wind, breath. He breathes into His disciples and says, receive the Holy Spirit, and then they are driven to the four winds, Peter west, Thomas east, Mark our congregation’s namesake south to Egypt, and St Andrew north to Gallipoli. And there it is again, breath, spirit, wind.

The Holy Spirit, breathed by Jesus, billows out across the world, in His Church. Just as we confess in the Creed along with all those whom the Holy Spirit unites in one breath, the third article of the Creed is the article of both the Spirit and the Church for the Church is definitionally where the Holy Spirit is at work. As He goes into the world from Christ, from Pentecost, from today, He blows away other spirits, the false gods of Greece, of Rome, of Egypt, and enters the lungs of many, bringing them the same life of Christ as they breathe together Christ’s one Breath. For Jesus breathed His one Breath into the disciples, His life raised eternally from death; now the one Spirit which animates Jesus, the one Breath which carries the Word of God; Just as your breath carries your words; This One Most Holy Spirit animates the disciples and carries Christ’s Word of Victory, the Gospel through their lips. So with One Spirit we speak One Word with One Breath. So, the Holy Spirit unites His Church.

And He is at work, for peace, for sending, and for the healing of souls, forgiveness and non-forgiveness of sins. The Spirit carries God’s Word to you today, for He is the only one who carries God’s spoke Word to your ears. By God’s grace He is the one who fills this space we have dedicated to Him. By Christ’s command on that day, He is the one who blesses you through my lips; who forgives the sins of those who repent and believe, for the healing of their soul. He is the one to chase away bad spirits, and to fill your lungs as He fills Christ’s and all the saints. He is the one by whom we have confessed with one breath God’s love for us in the words of the Creed. And He is the one by whom we are to live, not in despair, or sloth or sin, or by any bad spirit; but rather in peace, action and justice for those around us.

To live with Jesus and the disciples, to breathe the breath of Christ, here is the Holy Spirit: the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Re-member you need help’

Luke 24:4, 5, 6
While they were wondering, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lighting stood beside them. The men said, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee.

            Many people look out on a beautiful day and say, “God is good, what a wonderful thing He has made!” Many look out on that same beautiful day and say, “what wonderful beauty, it’s amazing how this world comes together!” They both see the beauty, they both speak a truth, yet for one it’s obvious that God Almighty, Creator of all, is at work; whereas for the other they just don’t see that, for them Creation is not proof of a Creator. And you know this, that two people can look at the same thing and see in it something different; especially if you’ve every helped a child find something, ‘go get your teddy,’ ‘I can’t find it,’ ‘look there it is on the couch, there, just up a bit, yep you’ve found it now.’ Sometimes we need help to really see what we’re looking at, to understand what is going on; we even need help to remember.

            Named across the gospels, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary and Martha of Bethany, and possibly others came to the tomb to visit Jesus and to anoint His body after the rushed burial before the Sabbath’s rest at the end of Friday. Yet when they came to the tomb it was open. They saw the open tomb, they entered and saw the empty grave clothes, they saw the evidence yet they wondered. They did not understand what they were seeing. They did not remember what Jesus had said, who Jesus was. They needed help. And God sent His messengers, in Greek His angelous, to help them. To help them see the message, the Truth, to help them remember Christ’s promise. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” After these helpful words, they remembered Christ’s words. These women, disciples of Jesus, needed help to see what was in front of their eyes, needed help to understand the Truth.

            Now they understand they are sent back by God to the eleven who would be sent out by God into the world, or in Greek, they are apostles to the apostles. Eight or more witnesses to God’s message through His angels. They try to help the Eleven out of their grief, guilt and despair and tell them all that had happened, yet the eleven in their despair did not believe. However, Peter and John did get up and run to the tomb, they saw Christ’s burial clothes sticky with Myrrh, lying by themselves and went away wondering. The women had helped them out of paralysing despair, into a confused, yet perhaps hopeful, wondering.

            Then Peter, after Christ Himself revealed the Truth, is again helped by a vision and the work of the Holy Spirit to share God’s love with Gentiles and welcome them into God’s family. As we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter helps Cornelius to understand the Truth of God’s grace. And later Paul is also helping young Christian congregations sending out letters to help them understand, to know the Truth of the Gospel, the Truth of Christ’s Church, the Truth of God’s work, God’s help through visions, angels, pastors and women.

And this has been the case all the way through our history, down to today. We all need help. We all need encouragement. All of us at some point or another fail to see what is right in front of our eyes. This is why God has given us companions, as He said in the Garden, ‘it is not good for the human to be alone, I will make a helper’ (Genesis 2:18). This is why He has given us parents, to help us grow up into the lives God has given us (Ephesians 6:4). This is why He has given families, and especially our Christian family, the family of God, Christ’s Church (Hebrews 10:19-25). And this is why we gather today; to help each other together remember the Words of our Lord; to be united with the wonder of all the Mary’s and also Peter; to remember that Christ did not stay dead, He was not defeated, yet rather He rose, He took His life back from death, He rose and stood in victory over the gates of hell, the devil and the corruption of this world. Jesus resurrected, and now He stands victorious over your sin, your death and your demons.

Jesus, the Word of the Lord, stands forever! He will not be shaken and His victory is sure, so hold firmly to Him as you struggle. Remember to take your stand with Him and not the distractions of this world. Remember your brothers and sisters in Him, help them and seek their help. Remember the help of God, yes visions, angels, people, yet most certainly Jesus Himself and His good words passed down for you. And remember we don’t always understand what we see, you need help.

And so, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forever! Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Re-member the Cross, the perfection of all’

John 19:28
After this, knowing that all things had been completed, so that scripture might be completed Jesus says, “I thirst.”

            What is truth? Pilate’s question, a great question,and one we ask all the more today, what with media spin and propaganda, especially as we come toward another national election. What is truth? A question I get every year as I teach the Faith in the school, what is the truth about Good Friday? Or, more truly, “why is it called ‘good’?”. Today you have already heard why it is good, what the truth of the cross is. Yet, perhaps it might be helpful to reflect on those words again, to remember.

            Jesus, King of kings, whose Kingdom is over and above all kingdoms and governments of this world; has been crowned, has been raised, has entrusted His mother to His disciple and newly adopted brother. Now knowing that everything is complete, Jesus says, “I thirst” so that scripture would be complete. But hang on, I thought that everything was complete? Now in the Greek, finished, fulfilled, complete, perfected, are all the same word. If everything is complete, if all things are fulfilled, if everything has reached its goal, then what more can be done? Yet even after Jesus knows everything is complete, He goes on to complete scripture. What is going on here? What is the truth?

            The truth is, today He drinks anew with you in His kingdom. We know that after the Last Supper Jesus tells His disciples, “I will not drink from the fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 26:29; Mark 1). Then on Good Friday early afternoon, He drinks of the fruit of the vine, wine vinegar held with the hyssop plant (Psalm 69:21). And this is to fulfill what was written, as we remembered last night at Passover, the hyssop was used to paint the blood of the lamb onto the door posts for the salvation and sanctification of the ancient Israelites and the repentant Egyptians among them (Exodus 12:22; Psalm 51:7). And Today we hear, The fruit of the vine and salvation from sin, death and the devil. On the cross, at the fulfilment of all things, Jesus remembers the Exodus, the tabernacle, the purification of God’s ancient people, and also His words last night after His supper. On the cross He remembers all this and fulfills it, completes it, perfects it. On the cross is the fulfilment of all things, the goal of Creation. On that cross, as God Himself reigns, Jesus remembers His disciples and drinks with them anew, just as He remembers you. The truth of Good Friday is, Christ’s kingdom has come, Today He reigns, and Today He wins the victory for you. Today your sin, which you have loved; your death, which you have feared; your demons, which you have obeyed; all these are defeated at the cross and you have the goal of your Faith in union with Christ, the author and perfecter of your salvation.

            The wonderful and dreadful truth is that you have been saved at the cross, you are being saved as you remember and live Christ’s life, and you will be saved when He is revealed at the end of this false world.

            And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now until the Truth alone stands.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Remember the Passover’

1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25
Do this in remembrance of me, in remembrance of me.

            Tonight, we remember. Christ’s mandate of love, the Lord’s Supper, what has been passed down for generations, and The Lord’s judgement on all the gods of this world (John 13; 1 Corinthians 11; Exodus 12). This day will be a memorial, a day of remembrance, of remembering, for you and your children and all who are far off (Exodus 12:14; Acts 2:39). As the Psalmist sings, I will call on the name of the Lord in the presence of His people! (Psalm 116:13-14). This day of preparation that has begun this evening, today we remember and proclaim our Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). Tonight, we remember.

            And do you remember the Passover of the Lord? Do you remember what happened that day, when as we heard again tonight, The Lord passed over those faithful households covered by the blood of the lamb, and stuck down the firstborn of all Egypt, struck down the semi-divine Pharaoh’s son. The Lord had visited Egypt after being call on by the suffering Israelites, and fought the gods of Egypt crushing them all in nine dreadful plagues. He even showed His power against the greatest of the Egyptian gods, Amun-Ra that ever present blazing sun in a land without rain, by extinguishing Ra’s light for three days. Darkness for three days, even more than the three hours at Christ’s crucifixion. God Almighty crushed the gods of Egypt for their injustice, for enslaving His people; and He defeated that stubborn semi-divine Pharaoh, the leader of Israel’s enslavers. He brought judgement on all the gods of Egypt and so freed the Israelites, and all who came to believe at that time, from their slavery to sin, death and the devil. A great victory remembered in a meal.

            This memory has been passed down for around 3000 years, this memorial day and remembrance meal has become part and parcel of the lives of countless generations. And today the Lord’s victory over, not just Egyptian gods but, all the gods of this world becomes part of your life. For we participate not just in that ancient victory of God and their freedom from slavery, yet also with its fulfilment. This memorial meal is renewed and empowered by Jesus tonight. Not just the day of remembrance of the Israelites’ Exodus, there is a new remembrance meal of bread and wine, of body and blood, for the salvation of all people. Passed down from generation to generation, “The Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). In remembrance of me, of Jesus. Generation upon generation have been united with Jesus here, as we participate in the Holy Eucharist, as we remember, as we let His life become part of our own, Jesus says to you, “take and eat, take and drink, do this in remembrance of me.”

            Holy Communion is the remembrance meal of the Crucifixion, of Christ’s great love for you.

            And so, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from now to the last fulfilment of this meal. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Are you the King of the Jews?’

The Text: John 18:33-39


Every Christian has a calling to publicly confess and speak of our faith in Christ and our faith in the Triune God, before others, before the world and even before governors and kings. This confession the Church in our day is called to make—our confession of faith—goes right back to the Lord Jesus himself.

So let’s take a closer look at this good confession that Jesus himself makes, as we heard in our Gospel reading.

We encounter Jesus here in the middle of his trial, before Pontius Pilate. There has been this back and forth with the religious leaders outside, but now we’re inside, behind closed doors, and the focus is very much just on Jesus and Pilate.

Pilate wants to cut straight to the chase, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’

But like he often does Jesus is not too keen on answering questions directly. He responds in this sort of cryptic way, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ He immediately shifts the conversation onto his terms and it’s almost as if Pilate is the one under interrogation.

It seems that Jesus is trying to get back behind Pilate’s tough, matter-of-fact demeanor, and dig deeper, trying to engage Pilate about what really matters.

It reminds me a little of the way Jesus speaks to his disciples elsewhere: “What about you? Who do you say that I am?”

We can’t keep Jesus at arms-length forever and only be interested in information about him. It must become personal at some point, and Pilate, whether he like it or not, is having that encounter.

But Pilate doesn’t respond well. He is dismissive and scornful of Jesus’ question. It’s as if he’s saying, ‘Of course it’s others who have told me, I don’t care about your little Jewish squabbles, I’m not personally interested in whether you’re the king of the Jews or not, except that it’s beginning to cause me political problems and I want to sort it out. So–what have you done Jesus?

Again Jesus answers in an indirect and somewhat cryptic way, saying: ‘My Kingdom is not from this world. If my Kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to other Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here’.

Now why does Jesus answer like this? 

Pilate gets the implication. “So you are a King?” he says. For Jesus to say he has a kingdom is to admit he is a King. But perhaps Jesus answers like this because he knows that old rule of discussion and debate, about the need to define one’s terms. Pilate wants to talk about kingship, but he has in mind a very particular definition of what it means to be a King, which is about political strength, military action, and this worldly power.

And although Jesus is the true King, He is such a different sort of King. His kingdom has such a different character, that he can hardly name it as the same thing Pilate has in mind.

It comes from a whole other world, from above, from heaven, from God. And one thing this means then, that Jesus outlines here, is that his kingdom does not come and does not advance itself by human strength, not by political power and military might, and especially not by violence.

Jesus wants Pilate to consider that, if he were a King like the kings of this world, wouldn’t his followers be rising up in violent rebellion?

And yet they’re not! In fact when one of them did, Jesus stopped him and healed the one he had struck, because he’s an entirely different King, with an entirely different sort of Kingdom.

Now after this incredible statement it’s tragic that Pilate seems to miss all that and go back to the basic question, ‘So you are a King’. Pilate isn’t interested in these deeper questions and the nature of Jesus’ Kingdom, he just wants to work out if Jesus is claiming to be a King or not, and he wants to get on with the job.

But Jesus, in his graciousness and patience, comes at it from another angle, describing his Kingship and kingdom in another way. ‘For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice’.

Yes—Jesus is a king. And Jesus has a kingdom. But its primary concern is not land and wealth. It’s not bigger palaces and more luxury for the King and his court.

But notice this too, it’s primary concern is not in the first place even just making the lives of its subjects ‘better’ in worldly terms.

The primary concern of this King and this kingdom is truth, Jesus says. He’s come to testify to what’s real and what’s true.

Now this evidently grated with Pilate, as much as it still does with people in our day. Our human instinct is toward being pragmatic, even at the expense of the truth, finding what works, what’s relevant for me now today. But truth—well that can be in the too hard basket.

And this is also the temptation for us in the Church. It’s good for us to remember that although the Christian faith brings practical benefits in our lives, ultimately no one should be or become a Christian just because it works for them, but because it’s true.

Pilate’s final response though is the most dismissive and tragic of them all: ‘What is truth?’ And he simply walks away.

And yet Pilate’s encounter with Jesus had meant enough for him to be able to go back out and say, ‘I find no case against him.’

Although Pilate eventually let them have their way and crucify Jesus, his encounters with Jesus did mean enough that the inscription above him on the cross read ‘This is the King of Jews’, and Pilate would say, again somewhat mysteriously and cryptically: ‘what I have written, I have written’.

Little did Pilate know that the one in front of him was not only the true King of the Jews, but the very Son of God in human flesh, come to save the world.

Little did Pilate know, that the one who said he came to testify to the truth, was in fact himself the way, the truth, and the life, who came from heaven to earth, full of grace and truth.

Little did Pilate know that the one he sent to be crucified, had come to lay down his life for the Jews. For Pilate, for the world…and for each one of us.

And as he died and rose again from the dead, as he ascended to his Father, he has ushered in this kingdom, and has invited us into it. Jesus made his good confession before Pilate, as he went the way of the Cross for us. Let us be prepared to make our good confession before the world, of Christ, our King, the crucified and risen Saviour of the world. Amen.

‘Jesus remember me as you come into your kingdom’.

Luke 23:42
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

            Today Jesus marches into Jerusalem, hailed as the coming King of Israel. Hosanna, which means, save us! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Who comes with the authority and affirmation of God Almighty! The King comes to His kingdom and those Pharisees shout, “Jesus, rebuke your disciples!” But Jesus replies, “if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out.” He comes to save not just the people, but all creation and even Creation knows it’s King (Revelation 4:11)! Yet we remember what is coming. Last week we heard what happened yesterday, Mary anointing Jesus for His burial (John 12:1, 7). And those Pharisees who rebuked Jesus, will go on to condemn Him for blasphemy. The Pharisees and Sadducees pressure Pilate to execute Jesus, and Pilate eventually sends Jesus to His death on the cross. To the burial for which Mary has anointed Him. Today we look out over this Holy Week, as though looking out from a mountain top over the valley of the shadow of death, towards a much higher and brighter peak on the other side. There is so many things that happen, so many parts to the week, sometimes it’s hard to remember them all.

            Yet traditionally that is what this Sunday is for, for you to remember this coming week before it happens, to recall all it’s events, to remember; and to follow Jesus into His kingdom. To re-member: to bring all these parts, all these members, of this week together into your life. We don’t often think this way about ‘remembering’ yet when we ‘remember’ we recall parts of our past life together into our present. When you remember an event in your childhood, about how you were walking near the footy field, smelt some horrid cigarette smoke and decided never to try them yourself; when you remember that memory, you unite it with yourself in the present, perhaps you smell the smoke again, or you see the footy field, or recommit to that old decision. However it is, you make that memory part of your body again, seeing again, smelling again, you make it a member of your body, your life, again; or, as we say, you remember it.

            And it doesn’t even have to be part of your life, you can remember events in the lives of others. You can remember the abuse of your ancestors by those in power, the highland clearances of Scotland, the convict settlements here in Australia. You can remember the Papua New Guineans who helped and saved many Australian solders in WW2. And you can of course remember our Christian forebears and Christ Himself, and this His last week of life.

            But then, what does it mean to remember this last week of Christ’s life? To remember His life, instead of our own? To unite His experience together with your own life today? What does this mean, but to live the life of Christ. To make this Holy Week part of your life, of your body, a member of your body, to remember it. To remember yesterday Christ anointed by Mary for His burial (John 12:1-11). To remember today His Triumphant entrance; Hosanna in the Highest! (John 12:12-16) To remember tomorrow Jesus cleansing the temple, removing all distractions from the worship of God (Luke 19:45-46). To remember the next day, Jesus teaching and His foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 20-21). To remember Judas’ betrayal traditionally being paid by the priests on Wednesday (Luke 22:1-6). To remember Thursday, the preparation for the feast (Luke 22:7-13). Then beginning on Thursday night, which is the beginning of Friday according to God’s counting; The Passover, Pascha, the institution of the Lord’s Supper; Jesus teaching and preparing the disciples as they walk to the mount of Olives; His prayer for all His people and all the world; His arrest, Peter’s betrayal, His trail in the dawn; the release of Barabbas and Christ’s crucifixion in the late morning; the darkness at noon; His words to the robber beside Him; His death in the afternoon; those strange words of victory, “It is finished”; His burial; then, to remember, in the night after the Sabbath’s dusk, the glorious peak of the first day of the New Creation finally revealed. (Luke 22-23; John 13-20). The glorious light of Christ, hidden in the dark night of this world. As we heard last week, hidden like that sown seed.

            What does it mean to remember all this? To make this part and parcel of your life? It means to be united with Jesus Christ, to be forgiven and have eternal life. But how can we remember all this? In the past Christians have made their life revolve around this Holy Week. Of course, we still remember the praise of the people on Sunday and make it part of our lives as we sing together with them, Hosanna in the highest, as Christ comes to us. And traditionally Christians have fasted from rich food on Wednesday and Friday, the days when Judas was paid for His betrayal and of course, when Jesus died. It’s not just that fish and Friday start with the same letters. And of course we also have weekends because of observing the Sabbath, the seventh day of Creation, and celebrating the eight day or the first day of the New Creation on Sunday, the Lord’s day.
Yet not content to have their week revolve around Christ, traditionally especially pastors, monks and nuns have prayed at 9:00, noon and 3:00, continuing the practise of God’s ancient people (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10; from the offerings Exodus 29:39) and remembering Christ’s crucifixion, the darkness and then His death. Now to have your week revolve around Christ’s life, and even the hours of your day; these are helpful ways for us to remember Jesus in our lives. As Paul writes, ‘we are to have the mind of Christ’ and what better way to learn it than have our lives revolve around His (Philippians 2:5).

            Good and true as that is, the repentant robber doesn’t say, I will remember you; no, He asks, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ It is important for you to remember Jesus, but you can only do that if Jesus remembers you. And that is what the robber asks for, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus enters Jerusalem in triumph, He is crowned and exalted, with thorns on the cross, He rises and 40 days later ascends His throne as He who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18-20). Dealing with sin, defeating the devil and plundering the place of death, remembering the devil’s captives, He brings them into His everlasting kingdom, His never-ending reign. He does not forget Abraham, with whom He made the everlasting covenant, nor Noah, Seth or Josiah; even if we might have forgotten. Jesus remembers all the righteous dead when He comes into His kingdom, He recalls them and unites them to Himself; making them a part of His life everlasting; making them members of His body.

And when Jesus remembers you, He re-members you, Paul using that picture of grafting onto a tree (Romans 11:17-24). Jesus makes you members of His body, this is one part of the mystery that we are one body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Jesus recalls, He calls you into His life everlasting, He remembers you and doesn’t forget you. Now, there is much more to this mystery, yet how/when/where does He remember you? Where and when does Christ reign? He remembers where He has promised to unite you to Himself, to bring you into His everlasting, sinless, undefeatable life, into His kingdom; When He forgives you, gives you life everlasting, and casts away your demons; chiefly and most assuredly according to His Word, in Holy Baptism, the Absolution, and Holy Communion. It is in these three that He has promised to unite you into His death, His eternal life, His righteousness, and His great love. He brings you into His body, He remembers you as He comes into His kingdom. So as we remember this Holy Week, as we make it a part of our lives today; remember that Jesus remembers you and the robber and all His people, bringing us into His life everlasting.

Today the King comes. Today Jesus remembers you. Today His kingdom breaks forth into this world, with forgiveness, salvation and life eternal! Today we are united into Christ’s life!

            And so as you live out this Holy Week, Jesus remember you by granting the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from now and to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘The harvest hidden in the seed’

Psalm 126:5
Those who sow in tears, will reap with shouts of joy!

            A man without tractor, a woman with a sack of seed on the shoulder. Them trudging along the furrows in late Autumn. Carrying the weight of seed through cold winds to sow it in the warm ground. Hard work as the days get shorter and the winter creeps in. Soon our farmers will join this important and vital work, though things have changed over the last 3000 odd years, seed drills, GPS tracking, air-conditioned tractors. They might not suffer as our ancient forebears, yet still farmers suffer many things today. And as they sow, the Church trudges through Lent. Traditionally we don’t sing Hallelujah in this Church season, we don’t rejoice yet rather we reflect on our lives, our failing, and strive to lead the holy life of Christ even as He has already made us holy, already set us apart. As we trudge through Lent, as we sow in fasting, prayer and giving to the needy, as we suffer in this broken world even to the point of tears; you join with those who sow in tears.

            And according to God’s promise, and the natural laws He put in place, you will join in the harvest with joy! And yet still we are in Lent, looking forward to Easter; to Christ’s glorious victory over all the enemies of humanity, the goal of our lives and the reconciliation of all God’s Creation! When He, 2000 years ago, took our sin on the cross, dying with it and leaving it defeated and broken in hell; when He lifted up into the sky and smote the prince of the power of the air; when He broke down the doors of death so that all who die in Him live now with Him. Yet that is not what people saw (2 Corinthians 5:16). They saw a cross darkened by blood, they saw a corpse buried in the earth, their hearts went cold, and they wept. The sower trudges in the cold wind, and buries the seed in the dark earth; the life of the seed is hidden from the sower, just as Life Everlasting is hidden from this world.

            The sower sows in suffering, maybe even tears; yet they know that come Summer, the great crop will be ready to harvest, come the season of Advent the harvest will be obvious to all. This great thing is done yearly by God Almighty as He continues to sustain His beloved Creation. It would be stupid to say, ‘because there was drought,’ or ‘because there was fire,’ or ‘because there was flood last year and there wasn’t a crop, I’m not sowing this year.’ No, remember when God brought a great harvest, remember the great things the Lord has done for you! Remember what He has done for your ancestors, everyone at least survived unto childbearing and more than that God has given love, peace and joy. God has saved from drought, fire and flood; from war and disease; from despair and pride; from error and evil. What great things God has done for them!

            He is the ever-reliable God of great things. He delivered the Hebrews from the gods of Egypt through the Red Sea as the chasing armies of chariots were destroyed. He delivered the Israelites from exile in Babylon, returning them to the land He gave them. He delivered the Jews from everlasting death by the cross of Christ. The Lord has done great things for them, and through them He blesses all people, to this day. The Lord has done great things, and the Lord has done great things for you.

            Yet now, as you continue to sow, as you take up your cross and follow Jesus, as you suffer; you call out to the Lord, ‘restore our fortunes, do those great things again. Return us to life like streams in the Negev, like floods out west after the long drought!’ Now we know the Lord does great things, just like the farmer knows the seed grows; but the farmer still asks God to bless the harvest, they still long for what is to come. The farmer looks out over the fields of dirt, the graves for tens of thousands of seeds; Judas saw Jesus anointed by Mary’s bottle for His burial (John 12:7); we see the graves of our brothers and sisters in Christ; you see your failure and death, the brokenness of this world, but know the joy of the glorious harvest to come. In a sense that harvest that’s already here but it’s hidden in the seed buried in the earth; that harvest that is already here hidden buried with Christ in Baptism; that harvest that God has hidden in His Church and hidden in you. It is the power of Christ’s Resurrection, victory over sin, death and the devil, the goal for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

            Jesus plants the seed of His victory on Good Friday, hidden from the world yet revealed to His followers; but even they do not see the whole harvest, the New Creation in all its glory. And those Apostles go out to the world, preaching, sowing the seed of Christ’s victory with much suffering and weeping. God and His people have continued the work down to you here today, sowing in tears. Yet today He shows you a glimpse of the harvest, you are forgiven He has taken your guilt away. You are together with His saints, here your brothers and sisters in Christ. You are dead to the world and alive to God in Christ. A glimpse and a foretaste of the joyful feast to come, this wonderful goal you have in Christ. We cry out with songs of joy! While we do know and recognise the best is yet to come, God’s greatest work is not yet obvious to all, that great victory over the all sin, death and devils. Still with Paul we strain towards what is ahead, asking God to restore us, to do again those great things, that we who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy!

            And so as you go out and sow in tears, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the joyful revelation of the final harvest. Amen.