‘Peace, God’s command and promise’

John 14:23
Jesus said, anyone who loves me will keep my word.

            When I last preached I was meditating on remembering, on making something part of our lives here today as we live them. Remembering that last week of Christ’s life. Making the crucifixion part of our living. The New Resurrected Life of Christ as part and parcel of our bodies today. Remembering Christ in the way we live. And today we remember some of Christ’s teaching on that last night before the crucifixion. As the disciples and Jesus eat and make their way up to the mount of Olives, Jesus says, “anyone who loves me will keep my word.” Or ‘anyone who loves me obeys my commands’, as it is sometimes translated and rightly so, yet it’s much more than that. Anyone who loves Jesus will keep His word, and if you do not keep His word then you do not love Him. But what does it mean to keep? And what is His word?

            Well, I’ll ask the question, what have you kept? And what have I kept? Digging around in my old box, I found a bag I made in grade 8, with a brass spoon Great Gran gave me, and a wooden spoon I won as last place on a quiz night. I’ve kept both these spoons for over 10 years, safe in a bag in a box, guarded from hands that might want to clean up and throw things out, I’ve kept them safe and haven’t used them. Perhaps that should change.

I’ve also kept in touch with an old school friend, catching up over the phone and face to face maybe ten or so times over the last ten years. Perhaps the friendship would keep better if we were in closer contact, yet we are still good enough friends.

And I’ve also kept some words in mind over the years. My dad told me, “It takes two to tango” a bit vague, especially because I don’t really dance, but it means all parties involved need to take responsibility for it to work, at work, in relationships, in all sorts of things. I’ve kept that word in mind and it’s sort of changed the way I see the world, it guides the way I might interact, and I suppose you could say it shows my love for my father. To keep something well, you guard it and keep it safe, you don’t forget about it or refuse to use it, and your life in some ways revolve around what is kept.

            Anyone who loves Jesus will keep His word. And what is that word? His first sermon, “Repent and believe the Good News, for the Kingdom of Heaven is here!” His last sermon on the cross, “It is finished, complete!” And His sermon before the Ascension, “Go and make disciples of all nations, by baptising and teaching them to keep everything I have commanded you; and surely I will be with you to the very end of the age.” In the word He left, Jesus promises the Kingdom of Heaven; that His mission, the defeat of sin, death and the devil, and full reconciliation between God and humanity is complete; and that He is with you always. In the word He left, Jesus commands us to repent, turn toward Him, and to go and make disciples, teaching them to keep all His commands. This is Law and Gospel, promise and command, and yet Jesus doesn’t separate them. When He declares your sins are forgiven, He promises that He has dealt with your sins and they need not burden you anymore, and He commands that you reject your sinful habits and live free from sin and it’s burden just as He has already freed you. In one word, ‘I forgive you’ He promises and He commands. In one word, ‘You are my beloved child’ God Almighty promises His fatherly love and commands obedience to His family culture. In a word Jesus gives and commands, as He says to you, ‘Peace’.

            Peace as the world cannot give, peace which surpasses all understanding, the peace of God, of Jesus Christ our Righteousness. “Peace I leave for you, my peace I give you.” If you love Jesus you will keep this good word, treasure it, guard it, and share it to the glory of God. Yet it’s not simply only this word of Divine Peace, you can hear all the depths of His word, and for that you need others to teach you, that is your pastor, your parents, your Christian brothers and sisters; and Jesus commands you to teach those He gives to you. To keep all His word, and part of that word is for when you fail, ‘repent, I forgive you.’ Though His Word is not a burden for you to be crushed by, it is a command to hear and to do; yet more than a command it is a promise and a gift of love, life and peace. And so our loving Lord and Saviour says, those who love me keep my word.

            And hear that word again: the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Go in peace! Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

What’s new about the ‘new’ commandment?

The Text: John 13:31-35

 

What’s new about the ‘new’ commandment?
Let me read to you from the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18; ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. This is the Old Testament, and there we have the command to love. So what’s new about the ‘new’ commandment? The newness has to do with the person who gives the commandment, our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who ‘makes all things new’ (Rev 21:5). Jesus has loved, and does love us, and so he transforms our love for each other.

As we meditate on this new commandment to love, let’s consider four features of it today: (They each start with the letter ‘s,’ so we can more easily remember them):

  • Love is given a new shape,
  • Love happens in a new space,
  • Love becomes a new sign,
  • Love arises from a new source.

Shape, space, sign and source.

So first is that in this new commandment, love is given a new shape. What does that mean? Love is given a new shape in the sense of taking on a particular focus, and being characterised, in a particular way: namely the ‘shape’ of sacrifice.  

Jesus says, ‘Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ If we then ask ‘How did Jesus love us?’ the context of this passage tells us a lot. Jesus is speaking these words on the night before he died. Judas has just left room to begin the chain of the events that would lead to Jesus’ death. Jesus talks about loving as he loved in the context of his sacrificial death. He strengthens this connection as he repeats this command a little later where he says: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (15:13)’.

This emphasis becomes like an echo throughout the New Testament, where again and again love is talked about in connection with the theme of sacrifice. To mention just one more example, in Ephesians 5:1 Paul writes,  ‘…live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’. The love Jesus calls for is characterised by sacrifice. That means: total and utter self-giving love for another.  

Let’s just think for a moment about how radical this love is. Think of membership at a football club. Actually in a place like a football club there can be some strong forms of love – strong comradery and this sort of thing. Around Anzac day, football coaches might try to inspire the players by talking of the Anzac spirit and so on. But then think about this: when finals time arrives and there are two players were left competing for the final spot in the A grade team, could you ever imagine one player saying, ‘I’ll give up my spot in the team for him’. It’s virtually inconceivable. Not only would it not happen, it would probably be looked on as weakness.

In contrast, this is the very sort of love that is to be cultivated in Christian community. We love by sacrificing our time, sacrificing our money, sacrificing our own desires and pleasures, sacrificing different parts of our life, for others.

So the first thing Jesus does is that love is given a new shape, that of sacrificial love.

The next point is that in Jesus’ new command, love happens in a new space.

Jesus says love ‘one another’. What does that mean? Who is the ‘one another’? Where, and with whom does Jesus want this new commandment of love to happen? The simple answer is that he seems to be referring to the Christian community – to love specifically within the church. Only his disciples are in this room, and he says, love ‘one another’. A parallel passage might be Galatians 6:10, ‘So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.’

Now this can strike some people as a bit confusing. We hear Jesus teach about loving one’s neighbour, as the Old Testament does, which seems fairly general. We even hear about Jesus radical call to love one’s enemies. So then it almost feels to some people like we’re going backwards here, retreating into a “holy huddle” or something. So it’s worth asking, why this particular command to love one’s brothers and sisters within the Christian family?

Here’s one way to think about it. Isn’t it true, that it can often be hardest for Christians, to love other Christians? Think of the sad history of conflict and division within Christian congregations. Think of the various debates we’ve had in our own LCA in recent times, and how quickly our lack of love for one another can rear its ugly head. Now St Paul does always remind us that love ‘rejoices in the truth’ (1 Cor 13:6), so we do need to have robust discussions in the life of the church. But he also calls us to ‘speak the truth in love’ (Eph 4:15). Think, too, of the way we have sometimes acted towards Christians of other denominations and traditions. Maybe Jesus is onto something more important than we at first realise, when he points us to the Christian community as the space for love.

It’s worth noting too, that this new commandment of Jesus is framed in John 13 by two spectacular failings within this first Christian community. Firstly, Judas betrays Jesus, and secondly, Peter denies Jesus! This, too, can help us understand why Jesus focuses on love within the Christian community.

We find a parallel in human family. Most people would say the people they love most in the world are their family. But if we’re really honest, isn’t it also true that our families are the hardest people to love? After all, we’re stuck with them! We live in close proximity to them. We know their flaws and they know ours. We can’t hide things from each other. We expect more from each other.

There’s a specific focus here in Jesus’ new commandment on living in love within the Christian community. Love is given a new space.

Then Jesus gives another reason why this focus on the Christian community, and this is our next point, that love becomes a new sign. ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’. How interesting and mysterious and even seemingly paradoxical, that if we want to reach out to the world with the love of Christ, the first step is that this love is lived within the Church, with each other. Jesus says in effect, ‘people will notice this, and love will be a sign to the world.’

This has been true throughout Church history. The early church father Tertullian reported that one of the things outsiders said about the early Christian church was, ‘See how they love each other.’ One of the Roman leaders said about the early Christians in one of his letters, ‘They love each other almost before they even meet.’ Love truly has been and will be a sign to the world.

Sadly, we know this today also in a negative sense don’t we? When we fail to love, it will likewise be noticed by the world. We know that it can be incredible damaging to the Church’s witness.

Now Jesus presumably teaches us this because it’s always going to be true. But maybe this is true and even more relevant for us in 21st century Australia than at other times and places. Because one thing we are seeing in our culture today is that people, especially young people, are searching for and craving community in which they can experience true love. This is perhaps because so many of our traditional communal structures have broken down.

So love is given a new shape. Love happens in a new space. Love becomes a new sign. Finally, love arises from a new source. All this teaching we covered so far is good stuff, the only problem with it, is that it’s really, really hard! It’s an incredible, if not impossible task to live a life of sacrificial love within the Christian community, and to become such a sign to the world! When we truthfully examine our hearts, do we find much of that sort of sacrificial love within? It’s interesting how central the issue of love is in one of our prayers of confession of sins: ‘We have not loved you with our whole heart, and we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.’ That’s the truth of the matter!

But the good news is, is that in Jesus we find not only a new shape for love, but a new source of love. We find not only a new pattern for love, but a new power for love. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross is not only our example of love, it is his love acted out for us. Jesus is pointing to this when he says, ‘Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’. The ‘as I have loved you’ is not only saying: ‘Look and follow my example’, but it’s also saying, ‘By going to the Cross for you, I am actually enabling and empowering you to love. That’s what makes it possible for you to even begin to live these lives of self-sacrificial love.’

Because it’s as Jesus gives his life for us on the Cross, that there is forgiveness of sins for us, and that he defeats the powers of evil for us. So he frees us all from this life turned in on ourselves. He rescues us from the path of love-less-ness. Jesus has loved us and continues to love us, so that we can love one another. Jesus himself is a deep well of love from which we draw. In 1 John 3:16 it is said like this: ‘We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another’.

And as we think about how we actually receive his love, it’s worth considering an interesting, or rather vital, connection here. The same night Jesus gives us this new commandment, is the night he also institutes a new meal saying this is the ‘new covenant’ in my blood. There is a connection between the new command of love and the new covenant meal of love. It’s through this Sacrament that all the benefits of what Jesus accomplished on the Cross are given to us, so that we continually receive the love of Christ as we attend this meal. Jesus has left us his meal of love, and he has sent us his Holy Spirit. We remember that the first fruit of the Spirit is… love.

St Paul say in Romans 5 that ‘…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.’  This means that this is something anyone can pray for with great confidence when love seems to be lacking. Are you struggling to love your spouse? Your family? Someone in your congregation? Come to Holy Communion. Receive the love of Christ anew. Pray to God, and ask for the Holy Spirit to work in you his fruit of love. In Jesus there is a new source of love. You’ll be amazed at how receptive people can be in reconciling differences after sharing in this holy and love-filled meal!

So, love is given a new shape – that of sacrificial love. Love happens in a new space – the Christian community. Love becomes a new sign – of where Jesus’ disciples can be found in the world. And love arises from a new source – from Jesus himself, for he has loved us all to the end. ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ Amen.

“I know my sheep”

“I know my sheep”

How often are you identified with a number?
At the bank you have account numbers, PIN numbers to access your accounts, and credit card numbers.
The taxation department identifies you by your Tax File Number.
You have a Medicare number.
When you enquire about your power or phone bill the first thing you are asked is, “What is your customer number?”
When you go to the meat section of the supermarket you are required to pick up a number and will be served when your number is called.
If you are in business you need an ABN (an Australian Business Number);
on internet sites and for email you need usernames and passwords, and we could go on.
If you are pulled over by a police officer for speeding, he/she is interested in numbers – your licence number, your registration number, and … the number on the radar gun indicating how fast you were travelling.

Numbers are so impersonal. Isn’t it nice when someone remembers your name, or when you are known by name rather than by a customer account number?

In John’s Gospel we hear Jesus speak words that give us that kind of warm feeling that we have when someone cares for us, is interested in what is happening in our lives, empathises and encourages us. Jesus tells us about the very personal and intimate relationship that he has with us. He says, “I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:14).

Jesus describes his relationship with us using the closeness and intimacy that he and the Father in heaven share as an example of the personal way he knows us and what is happening to us. However, we can only know the close relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a limited way because our knowledge of the Trinity is very incomplete so Jesus also uses the description of the relationships between a shepherd and his sheep. I believe that this kind of description is easier to understand because it is something that comes from everyday life and in Jesus’ time everyone knew about shepherds and sheep. He says, “My sheep know my voice, and I know them. They follow me, and I give them eternal life, so that they will never be lost. No one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father gave them to me, and he is greater than all others. No one can snatch them from his hands, and I am one with the Father” (John 10:27-30 CEV).

Talking about shepherds who know each sheep individually, even calling them by name, is not so familiar to us Aussies. The Australian sheep farmer is not one bit like the shepherds we read about in the Bible. The modern day sheep farmer has his large mob of sheep, let’s say a thousand sheep, in a paddock and he occasionally goes out to check if everything is all right. When he wants to shift them he hops on his motorbike and with the help of his dog he drives them to where he wants them to go. He doesn’t call them by name though he might call them names when they act stupidly and go where he doesn’t want them to go, but you wouldn’t say they are affectionate names. This is nothing like the picture that Jesus gives, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27).

A shepherd in ancient times firstly didn’t have thousands of sheep to look after. He had a small flock and he knew each sheep individually. One of the most meaningful pictures in Christian art depicts Jesus as a shepherd. We don’t know if Jesus ever really shepherded sheep – maybe he might have done something like this if he had a shepherd friend when he was a lad and they spent time out in the fields with sheep.  Whatever Jesus’ experience was as a shepherd, he uses an image that everyone could relate to. 

Artists have taken up this theme and pictured Jesus holding a lamb, or carrying a lamb across his shoulders, or watching over sheep. Jesus is the one who cares, the one who saves the lost, and rescues from trouble. He is the one who is intimately and individually concerned about each one of his sheep. He provides his sheep with everything they need. He is the one whose staff and rod defend the sheep if any danger should come their way. We are led to think of what would have happened to a lost lamb if Jesus did not rescue it. Even if that lamb was wild and independent of all help, the shepherd doesn’t give up.

A party of tourists was on its way to Palestine and the guide was describing some of the customs of the East. “Now,” he said, “you are accustomed to seeing the shepherd driving his sheep through the English lanes. Out in the East, however, things are different, for the shepherd always leads the way, going on in front of the flock. And the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”

They reached Palestine, and, to the amusement of the tourists, almost the first thing they saw was a flock of sheep being driven along by a man. The guide was astonished and immediately made it his business to approach the shepherd. “How is it that you are driving these sheep?” he asked. “I have always been told that the Eastern shepherd leads his sheep.” “You are quite right, sir,” replied the man. “The shepherd does lead his sheep. But you see, I’m not the shepherd, I’m the butcher.”

The sheep depended on the shepherd. They gladly followed him because they knew he could be trusted because he lived among his sheep,
slept among them,
walked with them,
fed them,
guided, directed and protected them,
knew each sheep by name.
All this builds up a mental image of someone with an intense love for our total well-being at every turn of our life. This is a description of how Jesus feels about each one of us. Big business thinks of us as a number. Jesus knows us by name.

By using this shepherd imagery Jesus is connecting himself to the Old Testament imagery that we read of in Psalm 23. The writer refers to the Lord as my shepherd. There nothing else I need. I will not be afraid be you are close beside me.

It’s obvious that the writer is expressing the personal relationship that God has with him. The real presence of God in his life is not something theoretical or even wishful. It is real. Especially in this Easter season we are reminded that we have a living and all-powerful Saviour who is walking beside us every day through thick and thin.

No doubt there are times when it seems that Jesus is a million miles away.
We have prayed for help in times of sickness and the pain is as intense as ever.
We have asked him to guide us through some difficult decisions but we have blundered on making one mistake after another.
We have wanted him to watch over our loved ones, but they have still been caught up in trouble and accidents.
We may feel as if we are losing our faith in Jesus, stop going to worship and lose touch with the people at church.
But the fact is Jesus hasn’t gone anywhere. He is right here with us. He knows what is happening in our lives. He knows what is going through our minds and how restless and anxious we are – he will use his power to help and support us. Jesus’ promise is good even when we are doubting and despairing, 
“I am the good Shepherd, I know my sheep”.

Even though we are down and almost out, we are assured that we are in the arms of the everlasting shepherd who lovingly supports and strengthens us in our weakest and most painful moments. Like the lamb that is often pictured in Jesus’ arms, we can be at peace and feel safe in the arms of our loving shepherd.

This reminds me of a passage from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament where the people are in trouble and ask, “Has God forgotten us”? God answers, “Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on my hand” Isaiah 49:15-16 NLT).
Those words are just as applicable to us today as they were three thousand years ago. God feels the same way about us as he did back then. He even gave his life for the sheep.

The image of the Good Shepherd is one of love, care, protection, intimacy and closeness. This text about the Good Shepherd has implications for us who are followers of Jesus. We are challenged to share his concern for those who are in trouble, for those who suffer injustice, for the sick and for the poor. It is not good enough for us to say to those suffering “You should trust in Jesus to make things work out for you”. As his followers, we share the same concerns as he has, and show our love in very practical ways, as Jesus did. It may be inconvenient to offer assistance, it may cost us time, effort and money, but love demands that this be done.

What I am saying is that we become shepherds to one another. We are to be shepherds to one another as members of this congregation. We are to be shepherds to one another in our families, to one another at work, amongst our friends.
Just as Jesus guides and protects his sheep, mothers and fathers guide and protect the lambs he has given to us in our families.
Just as Jesus shepherds us with patience and love, we shepherd those lives whom God has entrusted to us.
Just as Jesus comforts and helps us, husbands and wives comfort and help one another.
As I said, we become shepherds to one another.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we do know that we have a loving shepherd who walks with us through the good and bad. And one day when we must walk through the valley of darkness and death he will walk with us and lead us to the glorious new life beyond the grave. Because we have a loving shepherd, goodness and love will follow us all our lives and we will live in the house of the Lord forever.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

“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.