‘God’s Glory

Text: John 1:10-18

‘God’s Glory’

There was once a gentleman who would drop into a church office asking questions about God and faith. The people who worked for the congregation didn’t know whether this gentleman was honestly searching for answers to his questions, or whether he was just looking to have a religious argument with someone. Whatever his reason might have been, his questions were good and challenged the people in the office to search for a deeper understanding of God and the way he is at work in the world.

One question this gentleman asked was one that has perplexed humanity for thousands of years: if God is all-good, all-loving and all-powerful, then why are children and other innocents dying everyday all around the world from war, hunger, abuse, preventable diseases, and other evils? The thinking behind his question was that if God is actually all-good, all-loving and all-powerful, then he would somehow eradicate evil so that everyone, especially the innocent victims of human hatred and greed, could live safe, happy, lives that are free of suffering.

We can understand this gentleman’s struggle with the paradox of God’s love and power because we can see it playing out in a wide range of different circumstances, from personal struggles to global issues of justice and peace. The problem with simply getting rid of evil is that, if God were to do that, God would also need to get rid of human will which is often the cause of the evils in the world. We would end up with a God who controls people instead of a God who gifts people with freedom. People who have no will are people who are unable to love, and if God’s desire is that we live in loving relationships with him and with others, as we hear Jesus teach in passages such as Matthew 22:34-40, then taking away our will also means taking away our capacity to love. In fact, because we are all sinful in our natural condition, and the wages of that sin is death—God would have to get rid of everyone.

Rather than do that, God deals with the problem of evil in a different way. Instead of magically getting rid of suffering in the world, God shows us his glory by doing something that we don’t expect and that no-one else could do.

We would expect God to display might and power and obliterate evil. Instead, God comes hidden in the vulnerability of the manger and the cross. He empties himself of all His heavenly glory and experiences all our vulnerabilities (at his birth, in his ministry and in his suffering, torture, shame and even death).

This is God hidden from the proud and self-reliant who makes himself known through humility to those who trust in him.

That God should do the unthinkable coming to as a child in a manger, go to the Cross and die for the sin of the world is the only way we know that God does care. It’s the only way we know that he rolls his sleeves up and gets his hands dirty. That he should be become one of us and for us. This is not a ‘pie in the sky’ God of our own imagining. This is God that surpasses all human understanding.

So, God enters into the suffering of the world as an infant. In Jesus, God joins us in our suffering, meet us in our pain and confusion, and then gives us the hope of something better.

This might sound a bit too depressing or philosophical for a message during the Christmas season. We expect and look for Christmas to be light and happy most of the time. If we just want to have a good time at this time of year, then we miss the real significance and power of the Christmas story. Jesus wasn’t born in a sanitized, air-conditioned birthing suite at a hospital. He came into a broken world still tearing itself apart, a world captive to sin and blinded by it, a world paralysed by selfishness so much that some people stop at nothing to get their own way—even the murder of innocent people. Jesus came into a world such as this. He was born in a dirty, smelly, unhygienic cattle shed. The circumstances of Jesus’ birth were shameful in their culture as his mother became pregnant before she was married to her fiancé. At the time, the people among whom Jesus was born were living under the oppression of the Roman Empire which maintained control through brutal and oppressive violence. We can sanitize the Christmas story so much that we forget that God entered the world in a humble way, immersed in shame, and into the suffering of an occupied and oppressed people. The Christmas story is really a story of shame, dirt, and conflict.

We see God’s glory in the story of Jesus’ birth because when we are suffering from shame, dirt or conflict, God is with us through the birth of Jesus to give us hope and peace, love and even a deep sense of lasting joy. Jesus shows us the glory of God who isn’t removed or distant from the realities of our lives. He is right here with us, walking with us every step of the way, because he has been there before us in the person of Jesus. God doesn’t just leave us there either. In Jesus, God promises us a life that is free from shame, in which we are made clean through his forgiveness and healing, and is free from the oppression of sin, death and all the evils of this world.

When that gentleman went into the office and asked where God was when the innocents are suffering and dying, the Christians in that church could tell him that God was right there with them in the person of Jesus. This is not an empty platitude to try to win a philosophical argument, but the glory of God at work in the world. In Jesus, God shows us his power by joining with everyone who suffers, including us. God surrenders his power to meet us in the middle of the circumstances of our lives, and then gives us the hope of a better life in this world and in the next. We see the love of God in Jesus as he sacrifices everything – his heavenly glory as well as his own life on the cross – to suffer at the hands of evil in order to free us from the power of evil. We encounter the glory of God in Jesus who meets us where we are, journeys with us to carry our shame, dirt and conflict for us, who sets us free from their control, and gives us life that never ends.

Where is God when the world, or when we, are hurting? Through the birth of Jesus, God is right there with us.

It’s a big Greek word

Ephesians 1:10
In the plan of the fullness of time, to bring together all things in Christ, the things in heaven and the things in the earth.

            Today as we come toward the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the New calendar year, I want to focus on one word; might help with New Year’s resolutions. Anakefalaiosasthai. It’s a big Greek word that I hadn’t seen before. Kefale is in there and that means head, like the medical condition microcephaly or having a small head. But the big word itself means something like, gathering into a head, or union under one thing. So like how those people with five or more dogs, gather the leads into their hand, or the dogs being under their authority, at least sometimes. Another example is really any organisation, our LCA is gathered under our Bishop John Henderson, our country is gathered under our Prime Minister Scott Morrison, or maybe under Queen Elizabeth; either way, we know what it is to be under a head, to listen to someone above us calling the shots, or having people under us listening to our words. One example all of us have seen is parents.

            Now why do I bring this concept up? Well, Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God’s mysterious plan was revealed after Christ’s resurrection and then spread by Christians; and that plan is that at the fullness of time, in the incarnation as we heard last week, all things would be gathered together, everything above and below, spiritual, fleshy, doesn’t matter, all creation would be gathered in Jesus Christ, the head. Now what is the Holy Spirit telling us about God? About Jesus who is human, fully reconciled with divine, creator and creation as one person. What does it mean that Jesus is the head over all things? That Jesus gathers all things into Himself?

            Now we’re gonna talk about that later, but let’s think about how a head works for ourselves. Just your body. You have a head, it does the seeing, the thinking, all that stuff; then you have parts under your head, arms, stomach, nether regions … Now I have control over my arms don’t I? … Yes, I make them move. But sometimes my arms go against my head, against what I want to do; like my stomach when it tells me ‘I need to eat’, or tells me ‘I need more cake’, ‘I should have another beer’. Sometimes I tell my stomach to ‘get back into line’, ‘be quiet I’m in charge’, I bring my stomach under my headship. And other times we let our lower parts take control and things start to get out of hand, maybe even fall apart, which of course is where we get the word ‘dickhead’ from.

            So we see that we have a head, a goal, the one our body listens to, … or doesn’t. And we have those lower parts that might not always want to be who God has told us to be, those desires that seek to take control and take focus off of Christ, our goal. We call Christ our head, the church His body (Ephesians 5:23). So then what does this word, anakefalaiosasthai, mean for you? We are being gathered in Christ and under Him, by God the Father (John 6:44). So as our head, we listen to His Word, He is The Word (John 1:1), as He calls us to a new everlasting life in Him, to forgiveness and separation from your sin, to be children of God as He has called us to be (Mark 9:7). Being conformed, brought in line with, Jesus, God’s Son (Romans 8:29).

            And so hear His Word again: the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Second Sunday after Christmas

Immanuel – At Christmas God enters creation Matt 1:23, John 1:14

  Mary Poppins  is a classic children’s movie. I’m sure you have seen, or at least heard of it. Those who have seen it might recall the scene where Bert, the chimney sweep,  draws pictures with coloured chalk on the pavement. The curious thing about this scene, is that Bert, Mary and the two children don’t just sit back and admire his work – they actually jump into the picture. They enter his creation.  They experience the world he has just drawn in all it’s glory, beauty and wonder. They engage and interact with this world in a way that you can never do so by just observing the picture on the pavement. They dance with the penguins and ride the horses from the merry-go-round as they sing – including the famous Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. There are some similarities here to Christmas.  After God created the world, he doesn’t just stand back and watch. He is continuously involved in it. He continues to care for his creation. He continues to provide for you and me. Many have shared stories of how they or their property were miraculously spared in the recent fires. On Boxing Day, our family had an incident on a river that could have ended a lot worse, but we thank God that he was there protecting us, bringing us all to safety.
Yet God doesn’t just intimately care for his creation. God is so involved, that like Bert entered the world he’d drawn, our God enters the world he has made – our world. John says,
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. … the one and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Christmas is about Jesus, not just admiring his creation from a distance, but becoming flesh and blood to enter our world and become one of us.
Now when God came into the world, he could have come as he was. He could have come in some spectacular way.  He could have come like a superhero with special powers. He could have come with all the glory, glitz and glamour of the greatest celebrity of all time. He could have been the richest millionaire, throwing money at everything and anything so he could fix the world and solve all it’s problems.
Now in some respects he did some of this. Somewhat like a superhero, he performed numerous miracles, but that wasn’t his main message. Like a celebrity, there were times that he had a large following, and times that he felt terribly alone. But he didn’t throw money around to fix our problems.  His greatest miracle and his main message was that Jesus died on the cross to fix our greatest problem – the problem of sin in the human heart.
Sin infects our world. It contaminates us, destroying our relationships with each other and with God. It destroys how we see ourselves. It leaves us feeling broken and hurting within.
The only cure for sin, is for someone perfect to die in our place. We need someone to come as our substitute and sacrifice themselves for us. That’s why Jesus came.  So when Jesus entered our world, he actually became one of us. Not just as a fully grown human, but as a little vulnerable baby, born to a humble couple. Jesus is God in the flesh. He looked like you and me. And this wasn’t just a disguise Jesus wore. In Jesus Christ, God actually became one of us. And that means he experienced all there was to experience about humanity. He experienced deep joy and happiness, but also trials, hardship, suffering, death and vulnerability. So vulnerable that so many times he nearly didn’t make it to the cross.
At his birth, Jesus Christ was extremely vulnerable. His mother was pregnant before she was married. So according to their laws, they could have stoned her to death before he was even born. They travelled so far that she could have miscarried along the way.
Then when Jesus was finally born to a young, inexperienced mother, with no family support, the town was so overcrowded that the only accommodation left for them was out in the garage. We often joke about someone sleeping in the dog kennel or the
3 Immanuel – At Christmas God enters creation Matt 1:23, John 1:14
chook house, but Mary, Joseph and Jesus actually did. Not only was Jesus born amongst animals, he was placed in their food bowl. These conditions certainly wouldn’t meet Australian health standards for a newborn infant.
And if this wasn’t enough, the king at the time was jealous. When he heard that a new king had been born, he wanted to get rid of the child. To make sure, King Herod ordered that all children in Bethlehem and surrounds be killed to make sure the child was dead. Talk about being vulnerable.
This is the extent God went to for you, to become one of us. He experienced the joys of life as well as the pain of suffering we experience.  His death was one of the most horrific and tortuous known in history. That’s what God was willing to go through for you and me – so that by trusting in him, you and I don’t need to experience the torture of hell. That’s how much he loves you.
And God continues to love you. Jesus is Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. Jesus is still with you and me today, walking amongst us and dwelling with us. It might seem hard to find him in this crowded, busy world, filled with many different faiths and beliefs. We often expect God to come in glory, surrounded by angels, bright lights and beautiful music. You certainly wouldn’t expect the king of the world, the God of the universe, to come to us in the dim lights of a stable and the lowly screams of a baby. You wouldn’t expect him to be crowned in thorns and be enthroned on a cross.
Yet he did all that for you and me. He did that because he loves you and wants you to know your sins are forgiven. Christmas is only important because of Easter. You can’t truly believe in the baby at Christmas without trusting in the freedom and forgiveness of the cross.  The place that God promises to be found today is not in spectacular ways, but in a humble book, in ordinary bread and wine. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God comes to us today in many ways, but the most certain way is through the bible and the sacraments. That’s why church services, devotions and a healthy prayer-life focus so heavily on the bible.
Now we all know that Christmas is a festive season. But for many, Christmas is also a stressful time. Many financial pressures with Christmas shopping, cost of travelling, and job losses. And when the day finally comes, some family gatherings aren’t so pleasant. Maybe there’s some tension, arguments or even on-going feuds. There is likely some disappointment after an exchange of presents, as well as the reminder of the loss of loved ones. And of course, this year with so many fires, there are many fearing for their lives, their homes, and their families.  When Joseph was worried about his situation, an angel came and told him it was going to be okay. Everything was in God’s hands. Continue with your plans to marry Mary.
And to the fearful shepherds, the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that for all the people. Today a Savior has been born to you”
I don’t know what you are going through, but whatever your situation, God says to you, ‘Do not be afraid, Jesus knows the stress you are going through, and he wants to take all your worries and anxious thoughts, and fill you instead with his peace and joy.’ (Philippians 4:6) Seek first his kingdom and he will provide all your needs (Matthew 6:33).  Jesus is called “Immanuel” – which means, ‘God is with us’. The loving God is with you! He always has been, and he will continue to walk with you no matter what.
On this, the last Sunday of the Christmas season, may you know true joy, love, hope and peace through Jesus Christ, and may that go with you all throughout this New Year, and on into eternity.

Darren Kukpe.

First Sunday after Christmas

Isaiah 63:7
I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, â€¦ according to all that the Lord has granted us, â€¦ according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

            The steadfast love of the lord never ceases (Lamentations 3:22). This reminder of God’s steadfast love in His prophetic prophecy through Isaiah is hemmed in behind and before with reference to God’s vengeance and the rebellion of Israel herself. Suffering and death behind and before, just as in the Gospel today, Herod’s attack on Jesus murdering all boys in Bethlehem under 2 and Jesus’s own death on the cross. Death and suffering behind and before us, drought and fire, funerals and cancer, the evil foolishness of governments and authorities across this corrupt world and your own struggling against sin, death and the devil. Like the Israelites of old and Jesus Himself we are surrounded in suffering. But remember the abundance of the Lord’s steadfast love for you.

            That word ‘steadfast love’ in Hebrew is a wonderful word, deep and comforting in it’s meaning. It means loyalty to covenants, like integrity and faithfulness, but also kindness and everlasting love because of what God has promised. Then of course the question is what has He promised?

            Salvation in His love and in His pity redemption, carrying the Israelites all the days of old. He gave the Israelites such great goodness, strengthening them and sustaining them by His word and His creation, redeemed from Egypt but now suffering again because of their rejection of their saviour. God had promised through Moses, If you will truly hear my voice and keep my covenant, you will be my treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6). And this promise had been fulfilled, when Israel listened to God’s word it was a holy nation, under King David, under Hezekiah, under Josiah, treasured by God. However, when they rejected Him they suffered their sins and the evil of others.

            And why the Israelites? Through Moses again God told His people, ‘you are a people sanctified. The Lord has chosen you … not because you were many, but because the Lord loves you and is keeping His promise to your forefathers, to Abraham (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). And that promise? I will make you the father of many nations, will establish my covenant with your descendants through the generations giving them this land of Canaan, I will be their God; and now the part we care more about, through you all peoples of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 17:4-8; 12:3). Now we know God kept those first two promises, Abraham the father of the Israelites, Edomites, Arabs, Midianites, father of many nations. And the second promise, the Israelites after receiving the fulfilment of another promise of protection then escape from Egypt did settle in that land of Canaan. But what of that last promise? Through you all people will be blessed? How have all peoples been blessed through Abraham?

            Well, the answer as I’m sure you know is Jesus, Abraham’s descendent. He came to redeem, not just the Israelites, not just the descendants of Abraham, but all the peoples of this world (Isaiah 49:6). God Himself, the second person of the Trinity, descended to be born a human, to live and suffer just like you and me, attacked by Herod, by this corrupt world, hostile and rejecting its own creator, the one who loves them. He came into this world He created, and His own did not receive Him (John 1:11). Jesus lived a life truly hearing and trusting God’s Word, unlike the failure of the ancient Israelites, walking God’s way and speaking the truth of God’s love and faithfulness, His covenant loyalty. Jesus suffered because you and I want to sin, we don’t like to hear that we are wrong rather we desire to walk our own ways and trust not in our creator. Jesus suffered ridicule, abuse, rejection, and finally death because He held tight to God’s Word, to the truth, to love, in the face of this corrupt world. He died, and if He were just a human that would be the end of the story again no comfort for you, but He is not just fully human, but also fully God. Rising from death, God and man united and victorious over all evil, redeeming and glorifying this humanity Jesus was given authority over all things. What He says goes, and He keeps His promises despite His suffering and despite yours.

            Now what does Jesus say? I will send you a comforter to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth … He will teach you all things and remind you of all that I have said (John 14:15-27)! The Holy Spirit came into this world at Pentecost giving birth to the church, another promise kept, but again what is this to you? When did The Father, through Jesus by the Holy Spirit promise you anything? Promise you adoption as His sons, His children? Promise forgiveness and salvation, Redemption or deliverance? When were you joined up with this salvation from your sin, this victory in Christ over death and the devil? When did God promised all this to you? Baptism into His name. The Holy Spirit through the New Testament writers teaches us from that fiery day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-39) that this message and baptism was for those who listened, their children and all who are far off; that is you and me! The Holy Spirit goes on to promise through Paul that He comes to you through baptism and you are adopted as God’s children, and more that you have been joined into Christ, part of His body and one with Him reconciled to God, saved and redeemed (Titus 3:4-8; Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3-11; 1 Peter 3:21). Today we have heard again why God’s loyalty to His promises is such a comfort to us, and no one can take them away from you, you can’t be unwatered, unbaptised; and you did nothing to earn these promises you just lay there or stood there as the Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit, working through the Word of promise, the pastor and the water baptising you into His family, washing you clean from all sin and bringing you into the everlasting life of Jesus Christ. You are in Him, this is God’s promise to you and He is faithful.

Not just this but, He remains faithful even if the baptised goes on to reject Him, rejecting the truth. It’s not that all who are baptised are automatically saved, just like not all those descended of Abraham are God’s children. Jesus tells us, if we reject Him on Earth, He will reject us before the Heavenly Father (Luke 10:16). But in His wisdom God gave us baptism and promised that He is at work in it giving His promises to you specifically, that you can be sure that He loves you. This is why I don’t often condemn those who don’t trust the promise, I don’t know your heart like our Lord does, but I know when I simply say ‘you are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ all those who trust God’s Word just brought again to them receive His forgiveness and all those who don’t trust Him, don’t. I don’t need to tell those who reject God’s promises that they don’t receive them, because they already know that.

But you, you who trust God, who suffer the attacks and temptations of the devil, you and I both need to hear again God’s Word that He spoke to you all those years ago at your baptism, to guard against fear and forgetting. This is why the Holy Spirit sent all those letters we now have in the New Testament to encourage and strengthen you and all the baptised church of God, to remind you that you are in Jesus, God’s children, you have overcome in Him sin, death and the devil, all the suffering in this world and that in the end, either your death or Christ’s return, you will be renewed, glorified and freed from death and the devil just as Jesus was because you are joined with Him (Philippians 3:21).  

            Baptised with Christ into His death, you like those Israelites Isaiah prophesied too are in the midst of suffering. Suffering because of stress, sickness, worry and now because you are in Christ suffering the increased attacks of the devil from many directions, just as Jesus was attacked by Herod as a toddler. But through all this suffering you have God’s sure promises to hold on to, the certainty of the love He has shown throughout the ages, to Abraham, to the Israelites, apostles, to Christians and to you. He promised in baptism you have been joined to Jesus, sharing in His flesh and blood that has destroyed death and the devil. This is your life in Jesus, free from sin, from fear of death, and free from fearing the sufferings of this world. This present suffering is not the end He will come and renew all things. This is His promise and He is loyal to His promises, so you can Have peace.

 And so the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Joseph Graham.

1st Sunday after Christmas

Luke:2 41-52 Mary’s Treasure

Mary treasured all these things in her heart. This is a saying we hear often in the Gospel according to Luke. Mary kept and pondered all that happened in the core of her being! She remembered what happened and meditated on the events of Jesus’ life.Thanks to Mary we have Luke’s Gospel account. In his account we find the most extensive recollection of Jesus’ birth narrative. It is most likely that Luke, the gentile physician and friend of Saint Paul, recorded the events of Jesus’ birth, life, and death personally from Mary.

 This is why in the Gospel of Luke we find this personal reference to Marypondering all these happenings in her heart.We might understand why a mother might ponder the actions of her child. Yet while she treasured the events, she still didn’t understand why Jesus remained in the temple in Jerusalem and did not travel home with them. Nor did she understand why he said he said, “I had to be in my Father’s house?”Nevertheless, Mary pondered all that had happened before her. She remembered, the spectacular way in which she conceived Jesus by the power of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit announced through Gabriel, the archangel.Mary mused over her visit to Elizabeth, her relative, very pregnant with John the Baptist who jumped for joy at her arrival carrying the Christ child. She would have wondered about the awkward trip on the donkey to Bethlehem and the hassle of giving birth in an environment not really fit for a baby in which to be born. And she contemplated the visit of the shepherds and their excitement over finding this baby Jesus lying in the manger.In the Lutheran Church, at times other then Christmas, Mary tends to get shunned in fear we might elevate her to the point were we worship and deify her to the same level as Jesus Christ. However, Mary is a person to whom we can look as a model of what it is to ponder, to treasure, and to honour Jesus Christ.Mary not only bore the Son of God, but Luke uses her recollection and treasuring as the basis of his Gospel birth narrative. And similarly we can use Luke’s testimony, to gain an understanding from the mother of Christ, of what it is to be one who looks out of ourselves to Christ — pondering, treasuring, contemplating, and musing over he who once was concealed in Mary’s womb, but now who is hidden by faith in all who believe in him for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.Unfortunately though, Christmas for our society today has become one of self-centred contemplation. The gifts we receive don’t regularly encourage us to look out of ourselves at all, let alone to worship and honour Christ. Rather our earthly gifts will us to look towards the glorification of ourselves.From a very early age children see Christmas as a “what am I going to get” exercise. Yes, we give, but truth be known, getting gives all of us at least just a little bit more of a sense of warmth. Or, when we give great to someone and they return the giving with a lesser gift, there is a part inside of us that remembers the inequality.Mary too could have bore a grudge against God the Father, her situation, her twelve year old Son staying behind in Jerusalem, and humanity, at her Son’s death on the cross, and ascension into heaven after his resurrection. She could have cried out as the victim! Used by God; losing the company of her Son at the age of thirty three!Perhaps she did in the early days just after his crucifixion! But we’re not to know as the Scriptures report little of her emotion and thoughts after his death. What we do know is while Jesus was alive and conducting his ministry in the lead up to his crucifixion, his family thought he was out of his mind and sought to take charge of him. However, in time Mary and her family, look to her son and their brother, as the Son of God from eternity. They worked and served the church, privileged to be such a special part of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.When Jesus was approached and told his mother and brothers had come to see him, he responded, “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother!” (Mark 3: 34-35) “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s Word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:21)We like Mary and her family should also be growing in the love of God too. As God continually reveals himself to us, as a God of forgiveness. Despite the nature of our sinful being, we, his brothers and sisters, can treasure, ponder, contemplate, and meditate on just how much he does for us. Especially as he sends the Holy Spirit to you and opens the eye of faith in your heart so you see, the holy Child of God, and, the Son of Mary, dwells in you in all his glory.The gifts we received or the ones we thought we should have received. The ones which lead us to place ourselves at the centre, despite their inability to deliver into eternal life, because they are doomed to deterioration! They can be put aside in favour of a gift that we can worship and honour. And this gift will give us lasting peace and good will greater than the peace and goodwill we are supposed to find in the chaotic commercial lead up and Boxing Day sales of Christmas.This gift doesn’t deem that we do anything to give us an emotional lift, or a sense of goodness or peace! Rather this gift encourages us to rest and trust in Christ, by trusting and remaining, or just being, in he who forgives and feeds us faith. Jesus can give you the gift of serving others with forgiveness and love, while still being able to focus solely on him and give him the glory for the work he does in and through you!And in the spirit that Mary treasured Jesus in her heart, privileged to be a part of God’s redemption of humanity, you too are encouraged by Paul in his letter to the Colossians to meditate and muse over Jesus Christ as he uses you also to reflect his light on those in our world who still live in darkness. As he says…Since… you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, and not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Amen (Colossians 3:1-3, 12-17)

Pastor Heath Pukallus 

Depart in Peace

Luke 2:22-40

Let’s take a few moments to look at a picture of Simeon taking the baby Jesus into his arms in the temple.

This must have been an amazing event in Simeon’s life, and for Mary and Joseph, who were amazed themselves at what Simeon was saying about their baby.  Such a small child and yet with so much before him.

When we hold a baby in our arms the future is completely unknown, this child could be a future Prime Minister, mother, father, research scientist?  Who would know?  Even when I look at my own children the future is still completely unknown, but Simeon knew the future of the child he held in his arms.

He had seen with his own eyes the salvation that God had sent into the world for all peoples, not just for the children of Israel, but for the Gentiles as well.  He was asking God if it was now time for him to be dismissed, to go, in peace.

Yet there were also words of warning for Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your soul too.”  The life of this baby would not be without its challenges.  Simeon was prophesying a difficult time for both Jesus and Mary, for Jesus it would be his suffering and death at the hands of those people he had been sent to save.  For Mary it would be watching the incredible suffering of her son as he gave his life for you and me.

Perhaps only a parent who has lost a child can even begin to comprehend the feeling that Simeon described, a sword piercing your soul.  No parent ever wants to go through the pain of losing a child; it’s something we all fear I think, from the time of conception.  Not one of us wants to experience that shock, horror, dismay, the sheer emptiness of the death of a loved one, especially one who is our own flesh and blood, given to us by God.

Whether that death is in the first few weeks after conception, at birth, as a child, or in the teenage years or much later, the pain of their loss is earth shattering.  Mary knew that pain, Jesus knows that pain and they share it with you.  They went through it for an important reason that we still find difficult to comprehend.  Because of the suffering and death of Jesus we have hope.

No longer do we need to fear death, because it is in death that we pass to something better.  Simeon was now prepared to depart in peace, according to the Word of God.  He knew that his salvation had come and the salvation of all people with it.  He didn’t fear death, he was now prepared for it.

Early this year I was at the bedside of a dying man, I saw a peace in this man’s eyes that I had never seen before.  As he lay there knowing that his time was very near, he looked me in the eyes and said quite simply and quite calmly, “I’m with Jesus.”  The image I have in my mind is a reversal of the image of Simeon and Jesus, I see that man in Jesus’ arms, being held closely at a difficult time in his life.  That moment for me was peace personified and I think it was for him too. Jesus was there with us, I have no doubt.

Our theme throughout Advent has been “Here with us”.  Christ came to be with us, so that we might be saved.  Today the sub-theme is, “Here with us, to bring us contentment.”  Perhaps it should be “here with us to bring us peace.”  I’m not sure we can ever be content to experience death, we will always mourn, we will always go through the various stages of grief and we will all do it in our own way, but we can experience peace.  Peace in the knowledge and hope of the resurrection.  In knowing that our loved ones are now at peace themselves, in the arms of Jesus, in that place that he went to prepare for them, and knowing that he is still here with us.

He is here with us, present in his sacrament, given to us on the night when he was betrayed, before the sword pierced the soul of his mother, given to us for the forgiveness of sins.  When we come and receive his body and blood in the bread and the wine, we hold him in our hands and in a tangible way receive him bodily for the forgiveness of our sins.

Having done so, we regularly sing the words of Simeon as we are dismissed from the Communion table, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, in the presence of all people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”

He is not just some intangible God off there in Heaven he is here with us, Immanuel.  We hold him bodily just as Simeon did.  He came as a humble child, born in a stable, lived a humble and obedient life before being sacrificed for your sake.

He gave his life so that you could live in the peace and knowledge of your salvation.

As we prepare to begin a New Year, I pray that you too can experience the peace that Simeon so clearly proclaimed as he held the baby Jesus in his arms all those years ago.

As you continue to mourn the death of loved ones, as you care for those who are still alive, as you contemplate your own mortality, do so with rejoicing, because Jesus came to prepare the way for you and provided his sacraments so that he could still be here with us, even after his death and resurrection, so that we might live in peace and hope and love and share his message of salvation with everyone.


Too many hypocrites

Sometimes people tell us that they want nothing to do with the church. The reason?  Because, so they say, there are too many hypocrites there. Many times we probably feel like saying that one more hypocrite won’t make much difference. But we haven’t, because there’s a point in what they say. The trouble is that Christians don’t always know who they are, and they don’t act accordingly.

People can tell what your relationship with God is like by watching how you treat those around you. If you put people down by insults or jokes, you may not be right with God. If you’re pushy and bossy with people, thinking you deserve certain privileges, you may not be right with God. If you argue or fight with others, you may not be right with God. If you treat people badly out of spite or revenge, you may not be right with God. If you take advantage of, or exploit others, or think you’re better than everyone else, you may not be right with God. If you put on an act in order to gain attention for yourself, you may not be right with God. Even if you do the right things with the expectation God will be good to you and give you what you want because you do the right thing, then you may not be right with God.

Now you might protest, wondering how anyone could possibly say that you’re not right with God. You might want to say Jesus died for you, and therefore, through his sacrifice, you’re now right with God. And that’s correct! You are saved freely for Christ’s sake through faith. You don’t make yourself right with God through your actions, but are made right with God through trusting Jesus.

However, as a result of this saving faith, as a result of receiving God’s undeserving forgiveness, as a result of being joined to the holy body of Jesus through baptism, as a result of having Jesus’ blood course through your veins through your participation at the Lord’s Supper, you would naturally live in peace and love with those around you. If you don’t, then God, and those around you, could easily argue you may not be right with God because they don’t see his love reflected in your living. Christians need to be genuine. They dare not be a phony or a hypocrite. The world is quite right in judging the truth of Jesus by the sort of people faith in Jesus is able to produce.

So the question for us, as Christians, is this: what are we?

The answer to that question comes from Jesus. In the first two verses of today’s Gospel he said, that we are salt and light!  Listen carefully! Jesus does not say you ought to be salt, or that you should be light, but rather “You are salt . . . You are light.” What a tremendous saying! After all, what Jesus is saying is this: “You disciples standing here before me—you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”

Let’s look at what it means that we are “the salt of the earth”. The ancient world felt that there was nothing more useful than salt and light. Salt was seen as indispensable. A bag of salt was reckoned to be as precious as a person’s life. They believed that without salt, human life could not be sustained. The term “salt” is used for that which is permanent, that which lasts, and also to describe a person’s worth and wisdom.

Salt’s power lies in being different from its environment. It alters what it is mixed with. We are the salt God rubs into the wounds of the world. In the context of verse 12, Jesus is saying, “You are those through whose persecution the earth will be seasoned, purified and preserved.”  Christians make the world a more palatable place to live. Like salt, we act as a leavening influence in our world. To not laugh at a cruel joke can season the atmosphere of a group. A healing factor enters in when we forgive someone who is difficult to pardon, whose actions seem unpardonable.

In Matthew Jesus also says 14 “You are the light of the world.

But in reality people; you and me can be like frogs? We can hide in the dark and people can miss seeing us or see us not as Gods Child but something jumpy and frightening. Sometimes we do not feel like Jesus’ light do we? We do things wrong, we can be nasty and cranky sometimes and we would rather not put ourselves out there. But Jesus says to his followers; to the people on the sermon on the mount, to Christians to you to me.“You are the light of the world.… Your light must shine before people”.

There is a continuous, never ceasing aspect to this. There isn’t a switch that you a believer can turn off and say, “Today or at this moment, I’m not a light.  I just want a break.  I just want to go somewhere and hide for a while”.

You are the Light to this world. You will shine a light to your world, your family, your workplace, your school, even if it is the wrong light. So even if you think you are the frog hiding in the Dark; you are not. To everyone around you, you are a child of God, you are Jesus.

It is made easier by being plugged in and switched on!

What are you talking about? You might be saying.

When we come to church, when we worship God, when we praise him, read his word, talk to him we get plugged into God. The more we do these things the more in tune we are with what God wants us to be. When we believe in Jesus as our saviour, like we announced in the creed a little while ago we have his power. Jesus gives us the power, the courage and strength to do anything. When a person is united to Christ, he or she is no longer an ordinary person. When Christ affirms us, we become strong enough to withstand anything, to “take on the world”!  Light makes growth possible. As light reveals beauty, so, too, we radiate with the joy of our salvation.

Remember salt and light become useful only when they give of themselves, when they are mixed with something else; Light goes into darkness and salt loses itself in the food. Salt remains salt if it stays in a jar and if light is kept under a bowl its light helps nobody, and what is more, it exhausts the oxygen and nothing is left but a nasty, shapeless wick.

You don’t need to be super-confident to ask your neighbour to come with you to worship. You can do it faithfully in weakness, and in fear and trembling. You don’t need to be brimming with slick ideas to teach Sunday School,  help with breakfast or Scripture. You don’t need to be comfortably sure of what to say in order to visit a fellow member in the hospital or go with the youth to visit at the nursing home. You don’t have to be financially secure, guaranteed of a surplus for life, to be a steward who tithes. You can faithfully begin in weakness. You don’t need to feel sure of your faith to begin to pray regularly for others. You can stumble over the words, praying in weakness. With day-by-day efforts like that, we make our light shine. We bring rich flavour to a tasteless society, and so become the salt of the earth.

Remember when we are plugged into God’s power supply and turned on to Jesus our light will shine. We need not worry.   The peace of God, which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Getting our own way

1 Corinthians 13


StMarksThe most amazing thing about God’s love is how vast it is. The arms of the cross of Jesus reach out to enfold every person who has ever lived (no matter how bad they were), and all those still to come. We sinful humans could never love like that! We can even have problems showing loving concern for those closest to us in our own homes.

In the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians reading today, we heard a familiar text often read at weddings. It is a beautiful expression of God’s love, but the reality for us human beings is that it is difficult to build the other person up when we don’t get our own way. It is easier to work at nagging the other person in subtle attacks that lower their self-esteem.

Unfortunately, when we don’t get our own way it is hard enough to show the unselfish and loving concern to the people we are closest to in life, let alone showing loving concern to strangers. Jesus, on the other hand, gives an example of a person showing loving concern for a stranger in desperate need of help. We would all be familiar with the parable about the person who was robbed, then bashed up and left dying on the roadside of life. Three different people came past. Each one could have stopped and given the man some help. But it isn’t the pastor, or the church committee member who takes the risk to stop and reach out to give a helping hand. It is an indigenous person, a half-caste, like the Samaritans were. The Samaritan didn’t just give him a few dollars and wish him all the best, and go away feeling good about himself. He goes to all the trouble of loading the stranger onto his donkey, like a four legged ambulance, and takes him to the Inn. He pays for all the expenses in advance.

How unlike people in our modern society! Some would say it is stupid or even crazy to bother to do something like that. But that is the loving concern of Jesus for you and me and every person in the world! If in doubt, look again at the cross and the arms pointing out in every direction to go right round the world. The type of religion Jesus puts forward is a love that costs him everything. Jesus is the one who fulfils this beautiful chapter on love.

Jesus didn’t come into our world with fanfare, like a noisy gong or clanging cymbals. He came quietly in the still of night with a few animals and shepherds for company. Jesus doesn’t leave this world with a big send off or any national awards or medals. He exits via a public execution, a shameful way to go, and out in public for everyone to see. It is the cost of this love that reaches out to you and me.

Jesus doesn’t win people by using prophetic powers to impress them, or by having a smart answer to every question people might have. Jesus wins their love by changing places with people on the cross.  Jesus has prophetic powers, and he understands all mysteries and all knowledge, but he wins people by his self-giving love that costs him everything.

The key point today is that we don’t fulfil this law of unselfish love, described so beautifully in this chapter. We really struggle to show loving concern to others. It is Jesus who fulfils this law of love for us.

If one wants to know what God is like, don’t look for the answer on Google or in the stars. Don’t look for the answer in nature even though it is God’s genius and his creative mind at work out there too. No, if one wants to know what God is really like, then look at the arms of Jesus stretched out on the cross. “God’s love never ends”.

In conclusion, listen to verses 4 to 7 from chapter 13, with the word ‘love’, replaced by ‘Jesus’.

“Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Jesus does not demand his own way. Jesus is not irritable, and he keeps no record of when he has been wronged. He is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”



And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

His task is completed

Luke 4:14-21



StMarksToday’s Gospel text tells us, that after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan, he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. He went to many synagogues and taught there. Wherever he went, people glorified him.

Perhaps news had spread of how well he spoke by the time he returned to the place where he had been brought up, his home town of Nazareth. As was his usual custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, he unrolls it and reads Isaiah 61:1. ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’. He rolls the scroll back up and hands it back to the assistant and sits down, and while all eyes were fixed on Him, He says: ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’.

Jesus is declaring that this scripture is about him. Jesus is the anointed one, anointed not by oil as in the Old Testament, but by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Jesus begins, but begins what? The sermon? No, his sermon was short. He begins his appointed task of declaring salvation and freedom. He doesn’t just say that it is coming, but that it is actually here and has been fully completed.

Jesus begins his ministry of preaching good news to the poor. We poor ones, who have nothing to offer God, who don’t think that we have any talents to offer God, who struggle in our obedience, who lack spiritual discipline – we hear the good news that it is Christ who is obedient to death and who has accepted us as his own through baptism, despite how poor in Spirit, wealth or self-worth we are. It is us who have nothing to offer who hear his words as good news. For because we are in Christ, we are rich. Today we have salvation through Christ. We have more than we think because we are able to offer the very things he wants us to give him – prayer and praise. Ironically, quite often a response to those who have much to offer as they are reluctant to offer these because they are too busy selling themselves and their talents.

Jesus begins his ministry of proclaiming freedom for the prisoners. Who are the prisoners? We who are bound by the chains of the past, who are bound by feelings of guilt or shame for the things that we have done or not done in the past; we who wonder ‘did God really forgive me for that thing in the past because it was surely too big to forgive’. Receive the good news that we are forgiven and no longer bound by our past sins. We who are bound up trying to be a good person, chained to the thought of trying to be acceptable to God, receive the good news that we are free to be children of God. For all of us whose conscience is being held captive by the devil, we have been freed by Christ. For in Christ we are free indeed, free to be children of God, free to come to him and ask for forgiveness, free to be bound to Christ.

Jesus begins his ministry of giving back sight to the blind. Who are the blind? We who are living in the darkness of deception and temptation, we who are keeping our past sins in the dark where they can destroy our soul. We, who continue to live in the dark, are to receive sight and light. Jesus Christ is the true light who gives us a guiding light to live by. He opens our eyes to see the truth – the truth about our sinful state and the truth about his gracious words. He shines his light into our darkest past, not to destroy us, but to heal us through the precious words of forgiveness, those healing words that wash away our darkness so that we may live as people of the light.

Jesus begins his ministry of releasing those who are oppressed. Who are the oppressed? We who are burdened, shattered or weakened by life’s struggles with sin. We who have broken relationships because of the consequences of sin, who are broken in spirit, broken in body or soul – we are released. We are released from our sins because Christ offers us forgiveness. We are released from the binding power of Satan. We are released from our debts of the past, because now is the time of the Lord’s favour.

In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fiftieth year, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest. In Judaism the Jubilee Year is currently not observed in modern times because it only applies when representatives of all twelve tribes have returned to Israel and a majority of the world’s Jews live in the Land.

In Christianity, the tradition dates to 1300, when Pope Boniface VIII convoked a holy year, following which ordinary jubilees have generally been celebrated every 25 or 50 years; with extraordinary jubilees in addition (depending on need). The last Holy Year was celebrated in 2000, and Pope Francis declared recently that an ‘Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy’ will be held in 2016.

But what does that mean: I’m not really sure-maybe it’s as the conspiracy people are suggesting that with nearly all countries being in debt to each other, and that then combined a Global Financial Crisis Mark II, that somehow they’ll wipe the slate clean through some sought of “One world controlling bank.”

I’m not really sure: or maybe it’s like the guy dying of a terminal illness in a remote town who cashed out his credit card to the max. and used the money to make himself a burial casket out of galvanised iron, filled it with ice and alcohol drinks and invited his mates around knowing that upon his death the bank would simply write the debt off-“”That’ll shown them.”

However a Jubilee year looks in earthly terms I’m not sure, but in Christ Christians could argue that every year is a year of Jubilee because of Jesus reinterpreted of Leviticus that shows now, today we are able to live in freedom, knowing that the price of all our debts have been fully paid in the death of Jesus. This is the time when we can rest from our heavy labours and be served by God.

But how does Jesus release us and heal us? How does he give us rest? Jesus releases our sins through the words of absolution. The words the pastor speaks that are not his own,

but are words that Jesus himself speaks to us. We receive forgiveness of sins at our baptism. We return to our baptism with a contrite heart to be sorry for our sins so that daily we may be a new and fully restored person who can live before God in righteousness and purity. We receive forgiveness of sins at the Lord’s Supper where Jesus gives us his holy body, his holy blood for us to eat and drink so that we too become holy.

Today his task is completed for you today for you have been freed because for Luke, ‘today’ is a word linked with news of salvation. We recently heard those words ‘today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you’ (Lk 2:11). Later in Luke’s gospel account, Jesus says to Zaccheus: ‘Come down. I must stay at your house today’ (19:5) and when he gets there he says ‘today salvation has come to this house’ (19:9). And when Jesus was on the cross, during the last hours of a criminal’s life, he says to him: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’. But this is a special ‘today’ because it remains fulfilled even today, the 24th of January, 2016.

His task is fully completed for you, but yet it is not fully completed until he comes again because there is still need for his word, which he has given to his body – the church – to preach to the poor, the bound, the blind, the oppressed. We live in this in-between time where even though it is fully fulfilled, we still look forward to its fulfilment.

It is true that only Jesus could read this text, for it is only completed in Christ, but we too can say ‘the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor’. We too have been baptised, been joined to Christ, been anointed as his priests to go out into the world and preach the gospel, the good news to the poor, the prisoners, the blind, the oppressed. He has empowered us to tell others that even in our ‘free’ country; we are still bound by our sinful nature and are prisoners of Satan. But even more importantly, we can now point to Christ and tell people that there is no freedom from our chains except through Christ. For even though forgiveness comes from God, it is through Jesus Christ and his precious gifts of absolution, baptism and the Lord’s Supper that we receive his forgiveness.

So now we can go out as true free people, freed from sin, death and the power of the devil and serve Him in that truth that all praise be to God through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Is your Marriage broken

Isaiah 62:4-6


StMarksMarriage is a special and unique relationship so in our readings today God uses this close and unique relationship to describe his relationship with his people.

As we know, marriage can turn into a disaster, and hence in the land of the rich and famous the prenuptial agreement is almost a given. I wonder what the lawyers would make of one of the worst non pre-nup. Marriages as described in Hosea.

A marriage that saw Hosea’s wife turned to prostitution and sold her body for money. Their relationship was broken. In Hosea 2 we read:

“But now, call Israel to account, for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to take off her garish make-up and suggestive clothing and to stop playing the prostitute.”

Hosea’s marriage was a reflection of God’s relationship with his people. The unique relationship of God with his people had completely broken down. The people had left him and were chasing after other gods. What particularly hurt God was that everything his bride (the Israelites) had accumulated had come from God’s loving and caring hands: both her daily needs and her special treasures.

“She doesn’t realise that it was I who gave her everything she has – the grain, the wine, the olive oil. Even the gold and silver she used in worshiping the god Baal were gifts from me.” [Hosea 2:8]


It is amazing that God creates people to populate this flourishing earth, gives them everything they need and more, and yet these ungrateful people turn their backs on him and chase after the treasures, which become their gods. Everything they receive is from the generous hands of God – even their very bodies. Everything they might crave and lust after is his generous work. The creative genius of God is seen in every plant, and animal; every drop of life giving rain; each newborn baby, and the daily food we enjoy. But people prefer the gifts to the giver.

The bridegroom wants what is best for his wife and children. He wants his bride to be faithful to him and showers her with gifts but she prostitutes herself and chases after other men. Even the children are not his own.

“And I will not love her children as I would my own because they are not my children. They were conceived in adultery.” [Hosea 2:4].

There are many people today who live as if they have no husband – or God – even though everything comes from his love and care.

But God doesn’t give up on his bride – his people. He wins her back with a love so costly that people might say, “What a waste of a great love!” God’s love never gives up reaching out to people. That is the key message of Epiphany.

Even though only a few people visited the child Jesus, and they were foreigners from far away, God’s love doesn’t give up in reaching out to people. He doesn’t look at the few who turn up, and give up in disgust. He continues to reach out like the arms of the cross reach out in love to encircle the earth and everyone who lives on it.

There’s a saying of cheap grace by some towards others they see as accepting it a little too unrespectfully. God’s love isn’t cheap! The bridegroom is tortured to death, and blamed for the bride’s unfaithfulness. He gives up everything he has for his bride. This is the love that won you and me. In Isaiah 62:4,5 the Scripture announces:
“Never again will you be called the Godforsaken City, or the Desolate Land. No longer will you be called ‘Forsaken’, or your land be called ‘The Deserted Wife’. Your new name will be ‘the city of God’s delight’ and ‘the Bride of God’, for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his own. …Then God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.”

God spoils us! We receive everything from God’s caring and generous hands: just like a devoted bridegroom loves to spoil his bride with expensive gifts and provide for her. Like a bride, we can be proud of our God, and count on him for our future together. We are the bride he loves to spoil.

What an important day a wedding is! It can be one of the most important turning points in one’s life. It’s a time for celebration, and feasting and gathering together with friends and relatives. As we heard in our gospel today, the first miracle Jesus performs is to make the new start to a marriage a social success. He provides hundreds of litres of the best wine. He comes up with the goods where the bridegroom and his family had failed (explain). God cares about us and our relationships!

We belong in a special relationship with God. His loving care and concern for us never end. Any weakness in the marriage relationship is on our side. It can hurt him in many different ways, but he never gives up. In the wine at the Lord’s table we receive the best he has. The cup of wine offered to us isn’t just to forget our troubles: it is given so we can remain united with him forever.

Our earthly marriages are limited. We are reminded of this in the words of the marriage vow, “Till death us do part”. In the unique relationship we enjoy with God, death can not separate us. In fact the opposite happens. Death brings us closer together. It unites us with Jesus in perfect love.

In a marriage partnership it is probably true to say one can never fully understand one’s partner. In some aspects the partner can still be a bit of a stranger. So it is in our relationship with the God who loves us.

On our journey together we don’t always know what he is thinking or planning. We live in a relationship of trust. Part of this trust is that God knows better than we do about important things like love and forgiveness, and our future.

A future that sometimes is not as planned like that of this groom who after 11 years of being gainfully employed and approaching married did a tally of his possessions and most surely saw that I did not need a prenuptial clause in the wedding papers as a fading old falcon as some second hand furniture did not amount to a great deal of material value. A collective total of asset worth that amounted to less than I had been given playing country football. 11 years of wiping out brain cells even though I didn’t have a whole lot to spare, and 11 years times and situations that maybe I had to travel, yet was changed when my bride to be “re-introduced” me to our Lord Saviour.

Now 21 years later I can clearly see God at work before I properly knew Him, just as I can since.

Times even when He let me be boxed in with my own shortfalls and mistakes that I had no option than to go a certain way. To travel a road I’d prefer travel not, but a road that always seemingly against the odds ended in a positive way that I would not have guessed nor planned for.

Road’s where we all travel with God where not He, but we if anyone put in a prenuptial agreement to our Father to act and provide as we think He should.

The wisdom of the Lord like that spoken to Gideon who though having 32,000 men at his disposal, was told by the Lord to attack the enemy the Midianites with no more than 300 hundred of them.

Three hundred against the opposition camp in what the bible describes as “people laying along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels without number as the sand that is on the seashore.” Odds said to be off 450 to 1 yet with some crafty bluff tactics had the Midianites shaking in their boots as they ran for their lives.

The wisdom of the Lord and the road before us that sometimes we all travel like that of Jacob who though only needed to cross the road to become Israel, decided to take the long route with God constantly steering him back to the relationship that God had planned. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

A future here and a picture given to the end of our time on earth as pictured in the New Testament like a bridal party waiting for the groom to arrive.

Until then, we live in hope and trust in our Lord through faith. Faith that He is with us when decisions and situations are against the type. But faith that see us when he arrives knowing of and living in His perfect love. Our God is love. Now we know him a little – from a distance as it were. But through Jesus’ death, he has claimed us as his promised bride. Then our own death will mark the beginning of the closest and greatest relationship possible with the God of love. Our old self will have disappeared completely. We will be the perfect bride for the perfect bridegroom. We shall be united forever in perfect love with God and live with him in his home. It is the best union one can ever enjoy-today though it may seem overcast, and in that tomorrow when the clouds give way that we clearly see to the unencumbered rays of sunshine radiating from our Saviour Jesus Christ-and know not only through faith, but through touch, feel, sound and smell see that yes, when there was only one set of footprints on that sandy beach-they surely were not ours, but that of the Lord carrying His most precious cargo. His cargo not of gold, jewels or diamond that was in honour His to have, but that to what He had to have that could only be bought with the cost of His own life. That which is you. That not only you who He knows by name, but you who He knows as His brother or sister in both this life and in the one to come. Praise be to the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Amen.