Blessed are the hospitable

Text: Luke 14:1, 12-14

Lillie loves to open her home to others. Often church folk have gathered around the organ in her home and sang together in praise of our Lord. The highlight of this time of fellowship is the supper which Lillie has delighted to prepare. Were you to ask her, she’d say with other Christians who love to practice hospitality that she has always received far more from her practice of hospitality than she’s ever given to others. In inviting folk into her home, she has no doubt “entertained angels unawares.” In stories of Christian hospitality, it’s a case of “for it is in giving that we receive.” In fact, it’s hard to tell where giving and receiving begin or end.

Many Christians will tell you that some of the happiest moments of their lives have been when they’ve invited newcomers or visitors into their homes and discovered with great joy how much they have in common with them. From New Testament times until recently, hospitality has been one of the chief ways Christians have expressed their love for strangers. The Greek word used in the New Testament for hospitality means “love of strangers”. The New Testament uses the same word for “guest” as for “stranger”. The early Christians were treated as strangers in the Roman Empire because of their strange new Faith. It was the warm welcome strangers received into Christian homes that assisted the rapid growth of the Christian Church.

A powerful opponent of Christianity, the Emperor Julian, wrote: “It is the Christians’ benevolence to strangers … that has done the most to increase [it]”. In our Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan, a foreigner, treats a Jewish stranger as his neighbour. Jesus acted as Host to 5,000 hungry listeners when He fed them all from the five loaves and two fishes a boy gave to Him. What a motley lot of people there would have been in that crowd. We need to see newcomers, guests and visitors as our Lord does. “I was a stranger and you welcomed Me”, Jesus says in Matthew 25:35.

On the way to Damascus, two disciples of Jesus welcomed what they thought was a stranger into their home. What a blessing that turned out to be as they discovered the stranger was Jesus! Our potential guests may not look like the Jesus we expect. But then, how often do we expect our Lord to come in the guise of a newcomer or visitor? The New Testament links hospitality to folk we’ve never had in our homes previously, to love for Jesus. It’s a practice that enriches all involved. The quality of hospitality doesn’t depend on the cost of food, but on the warm, enthusiastic welcome given and received.


In encouraging you to show hospitality, I’m not wanting in any way to place an added burden on you, but inviting you to be blessed, really blessed, beyond all expectation, through your practice of hospitality. This is something too good to just leave to others. Jesus invites you to look on others as either your neighbour or a potential new friend. Many Christians have found that in their practice of hospitality, the distinction between host and guest evaporates in recognition of a new-found unity between those involved. Angels are messengers from God. Your guest may be a messenger from God as you discover how much they can bring God’s presence into your life.

Meals in the Bible were never secular occasions. They frequently turned out to be events of great religious significance. Simon the Pharisee’s guest in the Book of Luke is, through the stranger – the woman who weeps on Jesus’ feet – revealed to be the ultimate Guest. As the meal proceeds, the role of known and stranger, guest and host, is reversed. Jesus becomes a Host with the best news ever, that is, forgiveness for even public sinners, and the welcome announcement that the woman’s faith in Jesus has saved her.

After Easter, Christ’s followers discern His identity when He assumes the role of Host in the “Breaking and Blessing of Bread”. This “breaking and blessing of bread” illustrates Holy Communion where Christ Himself shares His richest treasures with us, so that we can pass onto others the blessings we’ve received from Him. Of all the means by which Jesus could have chosen to be remembered, He chose to be remembered by a meal, by His Holy Supper. What our Lord considered memorable and characteristic of His ministry was His table fellowship. Jesus transformed one of our most common daily events into an occasion of profound spiritual import. The early Christian Church continued His approach.

An outstanding feature of the Church in the New Testament is its enthusiastic practice of hospitality. The Book of the Acts ends by telling us that St. Paul practised what he taught: “Get into the habit of inviting strangers home for dinner (Romans 12:13)”, Paul encourages us. While in Rome he welcomed all who came to him for a bite to eat (Acts 28:30). In St. Peter’s first letter, Peter implores us to ”Be hospitable to one another without complaining (1 Peter 4:9).” In his third letter, St. John commends Gaius for his exemplary hospitality: “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the friends, even though they are strangers to you; they have testified to your love before the Church. You will do well to send them on in a manner worthy of God; for they began their journey for the sake of Christ, accepting no support from non-believers. Therefore, we ought to support such people (3 John 1:5-8).”

Worship flourishes in a climate of hospitality. Research has found that the most important factor in whether visitors return to Church again was the presence of welcoming hospitality. Hospitality brings the Church into our homes and links Church and home inseparably together. We need to see our church as a “House of Hospitality”, and perhaps set aside the fifth Sunday of the month as “Hospitality Day”.

As we receive Jesus into our homes and meet His hunger, He reminds us that He is preparing, as our Host in heaven, a place where we will be His guests forever. Jesus moves among us now in ways we often only discover in hindsight. We can do more for one another than we’re aware of, as we act as co-hosts with Jesus.

Young people can make us feel younger as we listen to their fresh ideas and life plans. We can travel to others places in our imagination as they tell us about their home-places. A listening ear is the best cure for loneliness. I know of people who felt unneeded and undervalued until someone invited them into their home. It’s easy to be hospitable to relatives and close friends. In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord presents us with something more challenging and open to unexpected blessings. We offer hospitality in the context of Christ’s kindness to us, with our Lord as both our gracious Host and our blessed Guest. You don’t need surplus resources to do this. We aren’t out to impress anyone. Our Lord promises to bless whatever we share with others. It has been remarked on again and again that Christians of modest means make the best hosts. Hospitality can include a host of activities like afternoon tea, a card games afternoon, a chat over coffee, a video evening, a walk along the rail-line walking track, or an invitation to drop in for half an hour when the other person is nearby.

Visitors are to be received into our homes without apology, even when preparations haven’t been completed or when a house is untidy. The hosts needn’t do everything by themselves. Let your guests assist if they ask to. Resources can be pooled, like “Let’s have a leftovers party together.” Hospitality which is done for Christ doesn’t suffer the mistakes Martha made in Luke 10:40. “Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’”

No, hospitality comes before pride. It’s carried out in a spirit of humble service for the glory of God rather than as an end in itself. “Given and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap (Luke 6:38).”  You will receive a far greater blessing than you give.

The Christian practice of hospitality is too weighted with blessing to be postponed. God’s Word urges you, “Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7).” Above all, respond eagerly to your Lord’s call to you – that He may remain a permanent Guest in your home. He says, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with Me (Revelation 3:20).”

“Lord Jesus, we are Your guests;

 Through Your gifts to us, may others be blessed.” Amen.

Honour the Sabbath

The Text: Isaiah 58:13-14.

Honour the Sabbath

(Isa 58:13-14) “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, {14} then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

(Heb 12:28-29) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, {29} for our “God is a consuming fire.”

(Luke 13:14-15) Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” {15} The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?


Today our readings throw out a challenge to us all with regard to our Sunday worship. More to the point, we are called on to reflect on what is our attitude towards Sundays and what and why we do what we do? And on reflecting on these readings this morning we see that we all fall into the dangers that God is making us aware of here. But even more significant is the fact that we are denying God the opportunities that he wants for us.

In light of attendances across the churches, we would do well to reflect on what God has to say to us here. I recognise that there is sickness and many other issues for a number of people, but at the same time the devil and our sinful nature is at work as well. Unless we take these things seriously we too will find ourselves in serious trouble; and we will be denying God the opportunity to bring the blessings that he wants, to us and our nation. He may well level at us the term hypocrite.

As we reflect on this issue then, we see that there are three keys problems that we regularly find at work in our lives and which the devil feeds.

The first one is that we don’t need to take what God has to say with regard to the Sabbath seriously. I’ve heard many comments over the years that go along the lines of: ‘You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian? I can miss a Sunday here and there and it is not going to affect my faith! I have to do this or that on Sunday. Worship is boring. I don’t get on with the people there.’ And the list could go on. Underlying many of these comments is the attitude that we have more important things to do on Sunday, or that we decide what is good and right for ourselves.

The other problem that so often arises and which our Gospel reading places before us, is the legalism that all too often becomes associated with the Lord’s day. ‘You can’t do this or that on the Sabbath! We can only do it this way. It has to be hymns out of the hymn book or it is no good. Or the opposite, ‘We have to move with the society and the times and change everything.’ As long as I … Or, ‘As long as I keep doing [insert pet sin], then I cannot commune because I’m too sinful’ And again, the list could go on. Here underlying it all is the attitude that we must do things just the right way or else we will not receive God’s blessing.

But overarching these problems is that much deeper and more pervasive issue of the fact that we see ourselves as the centre of what the Sabbath is all about. Worship is what we do for God, not first and foremost we he does for us. It is we determining if and when, where and how, we worship, and everything else that has to do with this day. Even right down to what we think is important and what needs to be in our worship services. Or more to the point today, what we can discard and not have. Therein lies the sin of each one of us. We want to be like God and we want to decide for ourselves what we think is good and important. We want to be our own gods. And it is that attitude which brings death. And maybe there is a good indicator as to why the church today is dying in the western world.

However here it is that Jesus reminded the Pharisees of his day, as well as us today, that there is a far more central issue involved here, than what we do and how we do it. This day has to do with us being freed from that which binds us and grinds us into the ground. He speaks of being freed from Satan. It has to do with forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

It has to do with our Lord and who he is and what he does. It has to do with, as Paul says to the Hebrews:

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Yes, that is what God has in mind for you and me here this morning and every time we gather here in his presence. He wants to meet with you here, together with all the saints, and he wants to reassure you that you are part of a new covenant where we can have that guarantee that we are forgiven for all our selfishness and sin, and that he has many blessings surrounding that for you and me. God and what he has to offer is what is essential for this life and the next. He is here to do just that and along with that, he gives us the directives that we need for our worship and for life.

Here also remember that he was the one who set aside the Sabbath so that he could allow us to rest in his presence and receive all the good that he has in mind for us. He commands us to ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” That means as Luther says; ‘we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and his Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.’ We are to use the form of worship that he has set down for us since the early days of the Church.

Here also listen to what he says in our Old Testament reading today.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honourable, and if you honour it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

This is just as important for us today as it was back then. So we use this as an opportunity to turn away from doing that which “I” want to do and instead look to him and receive what he has to give. Following his Word, rather than the word of our sinful selves and the world around us. We take on board the fact that he is the “Lord of the Sabbath.” He is the one who is important, and he has much to give us as we live in a world full of temptations and troubles.

So as Paul said to the Hebrews:

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. [That is Jesus and his word of forgiveness] If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things–so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

We have a great, awesome, and loving God who calls us week by week into his day of rest and receiving of all the good things that he has in mind for us. Through Word and Sacrament, he seeks to richly bless us. Who then are we to deny him this opportunity? Or do we think that we are greater, stronger and wiser than God almighty, himself? No let us be challenged and encouraged to see the Sabbath as God’s gift to us for our welfare and good. And through it, may all glory and honour go to our great God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


All good things must come to an end.

The Texts: Luke 12:49-51, Hebrews 12:1-4

“All Good Things Are Yet To Come!”

All good things must come to an end. This is the way we view much of our lives.

As children we all look forward to birthdays, and Christmas celebrations with family. But when it’s time to go home sadness, tears, and tantrums take over because the fun is finished, and all the good things have come to an end.

We part company with our cousins, and the festivities, to return to the mundane everyday motions of life. The division causes distress, the fun never seems to last. It’s takes so long to arrive and then in a flash it’s over. Mum and dad are the agents of division and the destroyers of delight. It’s at this time children would rather be separated from mum and dad and reunited in celebration with their cousins.

This type of sentiment doesn’t end in childhood. We carry on through life looking to live for the moment, or we reminisce over the past. We long for things to be the way they were. We get distressed about what the future might bring – failing bodies, loss of loved ones, loss of our independence, and finally loss of life. Are you anxious, uneasy, or distressed about what you are becoming over time?

Jesus was anxious too! He was distressed but not in the way we are about the future. Rather Jesus’ distress occurred because of the present, and all the while his hope was in what the end of his ministry on earth would bring.

So, Jesus laments in a way which is different to us, he says, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Luke 12:49-51)

Jesus looks forward to finishing what needs to happen. He is torn to the core of his being; he is distressed, until the result is complete. While a quasi-superficial peace exists he is distressed. Until the things we perceive to be good come to an end, there is no peace in Jesus’ heart.

Just like a parent taking distressed kids home after a fun filled day, Jesus knows no peace until God’s children are laid to rest, so we might be rested and refreshed through his rest at the cross and in the grave.

See the problem here is as old as there have been parents and children. There is the constant struggle between those who have age, experience, and wisdom on their side verses the young who lack wisdom but have a whole bundle of energy to burn.

We put recreation before both groups asking, “What is recreation?” and get two very different answers. For some the idea of recreation is to go, go, go! Experiencing action is what recreation is all about! But for others recreation takes on a more subdued event of relaxing, sleeping, and resting the body.

For Jesus recreation is somewhere in between! He was distressed and wanted to go, go, go, but this is so he could get to the place where he was placed in perfect rest, completing his work of recreation.

Now this might seem all a bit confusing to us who live in an age where recreation and holidays have lost their original purpose. And we do well to take the word recreation and stick a hyphen in so we hear recreation as re-creation. Our recreation is a time to be recreated or re-created. So too for holidays! Holidays were once holy-days set apart for a very different purpose than what they’ve become today.

To find the function of holidays and days of recreation, the commandment “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy” is as good a place as any to begin. After all the Sabbath is where God rested when he finished creation, and it’s where we’re re-created as we rest in God’s presence. And if it’s good enough for God to rest, perhaps we can enjoy the work God gives us in creation, and rest in him to be re-created and made holy as he is holy.

In the Old Testament the Sabbath begun at sundown on Friday and finished at sundown on Saturday. The Sabbath was a day to be re-created, and it was done by resting in the hearing of God’s Word. And so recreation and holidays flow on in the same vein. We are called to enjoy our work while we have it, and look forward to the holidays and days of recreation, not to glorify ourselves and neglect his Word, but to learn and hear it through teaching and preaching, regarding it as holy and therefore bringing glory to God.

How mixed up we have become in these things today! We lament and are distressed by the work God gives us and then when times come for us to be re-created and made holy, we choose to busy ourselves to the point of exhaustion and distress.

When we need re-creation and holiness, we are blinded by our desire for recreation and happiness, and the holidays and days of recreation become difficult days of uneasiness — and dis-ease!

Recreation is meant to lessen our dis-ease, yet for many their pursuit of recreational activities has become a disease! In fact, our distress from the unholiness and chaos of our search for fulfilment exposes the greatest disease of humanity – our sinfulness.

So as life seems to ebb away we become more and more like children at the end of a day of celebration. We become distressed over what is passing away, rather than being distressed over the fact we have become addicted to death and transient things around us. We want to stay and play, wearing ourselves out to the point where we’re so delirious we’ve lost all sight of what God truly intends for us.

Jesus says his coming has brought fire to the earth rather than peace. And this fire comes not only to the world but to us as well. There’s a division within us; a struggle between who you once were, and into whom you are being re-created.

The Holy Spirit delivers the fiery Holy Word of God into our hearts and the battle begins. Jesus seeks to conquer our unbelief, restlessness, and idolatry. Our hearts are receiving the will of God, and subsequently the distress of Jesus dwells in us until our baptism is made complete at the day of our resurrection after our earthly death.

But the old nature doesn’t die easily; it fights and assails us because Christ is in us. Our human nature would have us believe life is about selfishness now! That peace comes from me being number one! We would be at peace if conflict didn’t occur in us. But the reality is we are not living but dying, and for those who allow God to re-create them in Jesus Christ, they are being made his new creations. But it causes distress within as it divides sinner from saint. Like Jesus we are looking forward distressed until the fire of Christ’s fiery baptism of blood on the cross finishes its work of refinement in us. Then life will really being and death will be a thing of the past.

Jesus’ work of recreation divides not only the new believer from the old Adam within. Jesus also says it divides families and communities. Our sin separated Jesus from his Heavenly Father’s love on the cross. He experienced the full gamut of God’s wrath as a result of taking our addiction to death on himself, so we might be joined with the Father.

There are no shades of grey at the cross, Jesus was completely cut off from life, and experienced death in all its viciousness. And so the division continues to this day. We wrestle and struggle with those who choose the opposite from us. The question is this: Am I upholding God’s holiness and re-creation won for me in Jesus’ death, where one day I will be living in eternal peace? Or am I choosing to chase re-creation in unholy things, forsaking Christ’s work on the cross? There’s no halfway here! Either there’s surrender to Christ or surrender to eternal death. And between the divisions there will be an impenetrable void, impassable for all eternity.

So the reality for you is not that all good things are coming to an end but the truly good things are yet to come! Until death is a thing of the past, there will be times of distress, but at the second coming of Christ, we look forward to perfection and joy. Therefore, we’re encouraged as God’s children not to resist him but to be encouraged by all those who have gone before us bearing the forgiveness and faith of God. And so we hear…

…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:1-4)


Fixing our eyes on Jesus

Hebrews 12:1-2
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Beginner and Completer of our faith.

            In these last four years we have seen trials and troubles, drought, fire and flood; pandemic; death and for some family break up. Life in this world is hard. Imagine being driven out of your country, fleeing an army coming to slaughter you; being in a city as walls and buildings collapse around you; being rejected by your family and friends, being locked away not allowed outside. Now, I’m not talking about fleeing Prussia or Ethiopia, or the war in Ukraine, or disownment because of conversion, or even those Covid lockdowns; rather the Exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, Rahab seeing her corrupt city’s walls fall around her, David rejected by his people for a time, and Samson imprisoned. There is nothing new under the sun. God’s people have always struggled since our first failure in Adam and Eve when pain, tears and death came into the world. And yet God came to help, He comes to save.

            The saints of old suffered because of their own sins and the sins of others. In the face of that sin, in the face of death, and before the face of the devil; they suffered, yet God provided for them. The Lord God gave them strength! “Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; they shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; their weakness was turned to strength; and they became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.” You know these saints, Joshua, Josiah, David, Daniel, Elijah and Elisha. You know what God has done through them and for them in their struggles, the same struggles you now face.

            And yet God did not take their suffering away. “There were those who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” They suffered sickness, cancer, rejection and ridicule even by their own family, their own children. “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God has planned something better for us so that only together with us they would be made perfect.” That we would be made perfect in Jesus, by His suffering, death and His resurrection and ascension.

            Before Christ, the Old Testament saints were longing for the reconciliation to come, yet they could not see or understand what God was doing. Now with Christ, in the Year of our Lord 2022, we know Jesus our Saviour and Lord. We know what He has done for us and all people, all His Creation. United in Him, we join His suffering, His joy, His peace, and His faithfulness; yet still often we cannot see what God has done. And so Lewis, John, Ruth, Bev, Geoff, Joy, Vee, and Bill also joined Christ in His suffering and death and in His Resurrection being made children of God; yet still not seeing God’s promises fully come to pass.
We have commended them into God’s care, put in a eulogy, a good word, for them because of their faith. Yet God has planned something better for us all, that all together at the end of this world we will not just see the fulfilment of His wonderful promises, peace, joy and love everlasting; not just see Jesus; not just see each other; but also hold each other, and dwell with each other forever. This is the Resurrection when this fallen world finally passes away with all brokenness, corruption, pain and death passing away with it. When all those things that separate us, sin, hurt, death, and not enough hours in the day, when all these things that separate us pass away and we dwell together, with all the saints, with Jesus the founder and completer of our faith.

            He is the one who began the good work in you, and He is the one who completes it. He is the one who sends the Holy Spirit from the Father to guide you and draw you to His gifts. He is the one into whom you were baptised, united with Him in His life, death and resurrection. And He is the one who gathers the souls of those who fall asleep in faith, bringing them with Him wherever He goes. And finally He is the one who will raise the dead, the faithful to continue in His love together forever, and those who reject to continue in their rejection and hatred of Him forever. Now we see as through a dirty glass, but then we will see the truth clearly (1 Corinthians 13:12); that as we are in Christ, you are surrounded by all these saints whose souls rest in Jesus, resting in peace as we together await the consummation of God’s promises. You are today surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, even if we cannot yet see; these who kept the faith despite all that the world and that pathetic devil threw at them. Who through many of the same sufferings you face, by the strength the same Spirit provides, stood against the same enemies, and now stand together with Christ in Victory.

            This is our goal, to stand with them in the Resurrection, in Christ. So throw off all the things that hinder you and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing your eyes on the goal in everything you do; your focus on Jesus the author and perfector of your faith, on Jesus who began and completes your salvation and the salvation of all the saints.

            So together with this great cloud of witnesses, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.

Christ might come tonight.

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

Luke 12:40
You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.

            In a little over a week from now, my family and I will be driving out of Dubbo toward Biloela. Are we ready? No. To be honest it’s an overwhelming thing to have to leave those you love, and the work you’ve done in the garden, and the connections you’ve made in the communities, and the hurts you’ve caused and the failures you’ve made. To leave the stability you’ve found in this world, and uproot yourself, your spouse and your children and drive off to another place. It’s an overwhelming change, and yet it will be nothing in comparison to the coming of Christ. I’m packing to leave on Tuesday week, and I’m not ready. Christ might come tonight. Are you ready?

            Are you ready for this world to pass away? Are you ready to die tonight? Are you ready to never sin again? Are you ready to give up all your plans for this world and rest in the everlasting work of God? If you are, act like it. Provide for those in need, those in your family, among your friends, especially among your brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve been told that, in the past people spent time to save money, yet now we want to spend money to save time; but money doesn’t fix every problem, often time with another is what is needed. This is why a pastor who visits is much more loved than one that doesn’t, yet it doesn’t have to be the pastor to come and listen, to eat a biscuit and lead another sibling in Christ to prayer. You can bring the love of our Lord to each other, you be Christ to one another, after all that is who every child of God is called to be. You are called to be Christ; to live in His life, death and resurrection, to love as He loves and serve as He serves. And that is who we will be when Jesus returns either to take you home, or to make all things right.

            This is why we do not need to fear. All the things that may terrify us, pain, loss, death; those things we fear, hurt, failure, sin; all the awful things, hate, murder, the demonic; Jesus is greater than all these. For in Him all things are made right with God. Jesus is stronger than all demons; the Holy Spirit more powerful than the zeitgeist, than the spirit of the age; and of course Our Father in Heaven is far greater than any king, president or prime minister, or father on earth. So do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Do not be afraid of the future, for Jesus is coming back in glory; do not be afraid of your past failures and sins, for you have been reconciled with Our Father in Christ; do not be afraid of lacking a full time pastor, for you have the Holy Spirit the greatest and most caring companion and guide. And you have each other, the kingdom of God; distance cannot separate us who are united by God’s love, not even death can separate us from Jesus or each other. As we gather in Christ’s presence, we gather with every Christian, every saint, from the beginning of Creation to now, and with all the angels, with Michael and Gabriel, we sing and glorify the King of kings!

            And yet we don’t see this treasure. We await that time when Christ finalises His victory, like servants waiting for their master to return from a feast; He won’t abandon His people, He won’t forsake His Kingdom. And so we wait, for 2000 years the Church has waited, now Phoebe joins us as we await Christ’s appearing in glory; the rest at the end of this fallen world, when He comes, our treasure, God’s love, joy, peace and life everlasting with all our brothers and sisters in Christ; the destruction of sin, death and the devil. What a wonderful gift to Phoebe and to all of you, Christ Himself, His eternal life, His victory. And today a foretaste of this treasure, a family right here! We might not see all the heavenly hosts, or all the saints from across the world and who have fallen asleep in Christ; but I see you and you see me.

Thank you for your love and for showing me Christ, and God continue to bless you through His Word through His sacraments and through each other. This is how we prepare for the life to come, to live in Christ now, to live in His Words and live in His authority, to live in love and trust with other Christians and for the benefit of all people and all Creation. This is the way of life the Son of Man will bring when He appears in glory, are you ready for it?

As you await our Lord, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now into the everlasting life. Amen.

Your Most Precious Treasure

The Text: Hebrews 11:1-6, 8-16

Your Faith in God Is Your Most Precious Treasure

There is a lot written in our newspapers these days about trust. Our political leaders are calling on us to trust them even though many people feel they have betrayed our trust. Perhaps that’s why God’s Word says, “It is better to trust the Lord for protection than to trust anyone else, including strong leaders (Psalm 118:8).” So much of life is a matter of trust. If you don’t have faith in the safety of aeroplanes, you’d be reluctant to fly on them, just as it’s important to trust our doctors for our health’s sake. The playwright G.B. Shaw believes “We have not lost faith, but we have transferred it from God to the medical profession.”

Yet the remarkable thing is that so many people still see their faith in God as their most precious possession. What you believe is the most important thing about you, will make all the difference both for this life and for all eternity. The kind of faith today’s text speaks about is something we can be sure of. We are assured that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (v1).” Faith in God is defined as a conviction that inspires confidence in God and leads to God-pleasing actions. The first example of God-pleasing faith in Hebrews 11 is that of Abel’s faith-inspired worship of God. The desire to worship God is in itself a significant form of faith. The truest expression of trust in God will always be worship.

A faith that loves to worship God pleases God immensely. One of the best ways of showing our love for someone dear to us is by praising them a lot. We show our love for God by our praise, thanks and adoration of our Creator. We say that actions speak louder than words. Worship is faith in action for the benefit and blessing of both ourselves and those around us. We can worship God on behalf of absent family members, relatives and friends, as we plead with God to be as merciful to them as God has been to us. Our worship of God together seeks to get us thinking more about others than about ourselves. Worship is education in unselfishness. Worship seeks to make us other-centred in our thinking and our actions.

This is what made Abraham’s faith so praiseworthy. His whole life was one great adventure in faith as he obeyed God and left his homeland for Canaan. Although Abraham engaged in lies and deceit on more than one occasion, his faith enabled him to think of others and put their needs ahead of his own. Abraham let his nephew Lot choose the better land for his flocks and herds. When God informed Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham interceded on their behalf and pleaded with God to spare them. God encouraged Abraham to listen to his wife Sarah and heed what she said. “Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you (Genesis 21:12).”

Sarah’s faith in God enabled her to make great sacrifices. She had to wait a long, long time before she became a mother. At first she laughed at the impossibility of becoming a parent in her old age. But when God said, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”, her misgivings turned into faith as she looked forward to God fulfilling His promise. We’re told that she received strength to conceive because “she judged that God who has promised would keep faith (v11).” When her son Isaac was born, Sarah confesses, “God has brought laughter for me (Genesis 21:6).”

The heroes of faith celebrated in Hebrews 11 are less models for us than they are part of that great “cloud of witnesses” already in our Lord’s presence, urging us on to run the race of faith with diligence and single-mindedness. “And what of ourselves? With all these witnesses to faith around us like a cloud, we must throw off every encumbrance, every sin to which we cling, and run with resolution the race for which we are entered, our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom faith depends from start to finish: Jesus who, for the sake of the joy that lay ahead of Him, endured the cross, making light of its disgrace, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).”

Abraham is mentioned seventy two times in the New Testament. The writers of the New Testament believed that Christ’s coming into our world has made it possible to recapture the pristine faith of Abraham, a faith that continually pleases God. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, made it easier for us to believe by becoming one of us. The God we believe in, love and trust, is a Christlike God. Jesus Christ is God with a human face and a human heart, overflowing with a love for you that is both human and divine.

Faith in our Lord expects great things from Him. Expect little from your Saviour and you will receive little, but if you come with eager expectation, you will be blessed beyond all your expectations. In the Gospels, our Lord honours the faith of all who come to Him for mercy and help. When two blind people come to our Lord asking Him to have mercy on them, Jesus asks them, “Do you expect that I am able to do this?” After they say, “Yes, Lord”, Jesus responds, “According to your faith let it be done to you.”

The first thing that Jesus seeks from those who come to Him is faith. Faith in Christ alone is so powerful it suffices initially in the absence of other virtues. Often Jesus first wants faith, before He performs a miracle. Faith in Jesus needs to be constantly fed if it isn’t going to shrivel up and die. God’s Word says, “Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ (Romans 10:17).”

Christ-centred preaching strengthens our convictions about our Lord and all He has done for us and seeks to still do for us. Faith enables us to view life differently from those with no faith. Faith in our Lord gives us both insight and super-sight. Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see God’s glory (John 11:40)?” In other words, “believing is seeing”. Faith enables us to see God all around us where we didn’t see Him before. Faith involves believing in advance what often only makes sense in hindsight. We cannot rely on our feelings, but we rely on God’s promises to sustain our faith in our Lord. We can trust God to keep His promises. Our prospects for the future are as bright as the promises of God.

One Monday a man went to his pastor to complain: “Yesterday I was filled with joy in the service but now all is gone and I do not know what to do. All is dark as night.”

His pastor replied, “I’m glad!”

“Glad?” asked the astonished man, “Glad! What do you mean?”

His pastor continued, “Yesterday, God gave you joy, and today He sees you are resting on your emotions instead of on the promises of Christ.”

You see, our feelings are like the weather; they change from time to time. They’re not necessarily reliable indicators of the state of our faith. When we feel depressed about our faith, we must focus on our Lord’s promises like John 10:27-28:”My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of My hand.”

For the person stressed and worried about how she’s going to care for her elderly parents, God gives a promise: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”

For the parents fearful about where their wayward child is, worried about whom he is with and what he is doing, He gives a promise: “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you (Hebrewws13:5).”

For the out-of-work person desperate to get a job, God offers a promise: “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).”

William James, a great psychologist, described a time in his early life when he was in the grip of a deep despair. “Fear was so incisive and powerful that if I had not clung to Scripture texts like “The eternal God is my refuge”, and “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden”, and “I am the resurrection and the life”, I think I should really have gone insane.”

Our faith is sustained and strengthened by constant exposure to God’s Word, on which we can fully rely and completely trust. At present we walk by faith and not by sight. But one day soon, faith will give way to sight.

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).” Amen.