Archive for the ‘After Easter’ Category

Seventh Sunday of Easter Reflection

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Daniel 7:13-14
“…there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power… and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

            That picture of the pearly gates, Pete’s got his podium out in front, the recently deceased pops up and there’s clouds and floating winged babies all around. An unusual picture that’s not really found in scripture and sort of downplays the resurrection at the end of time and Jesus as the King and judge of all, but we can see where bits of it come from. The kingdom in the clouds, of course is the Kingdom of God that Jesus so often talks about and that Daniel prophesied about 600yrs before. The Son of Man would come with clouds to the Ancient of Days, God Almighty, and receive all authority on heaven and earth and His kingdom will have no end. And the Apostles witnessed this being fulfilled, Jesus, Son of Man and Son of God, came with clouds to the presence of the Father, His right hand, taken up at His ascension. Crowned at the cross now ascending to the throne.

This is one part of the Easter story, of Christ’s earthly ministry that is often forgotten. We know His teaching, the forgiveness and new life of His death and resurrection, but less about this taking up of His universal ministry as King and Lord of all. But this is just as important as His death and resurrection because after ascending He is not bound to a particular place in the universe, He is at the Father’s right hand, not a particular place but as the psalmist writes again and again, wherever God is working, wherever His power is (Psalm 16:11; 17:7; 78:54). Paul too writes that He ascended to fill all things (Ephesians 4:10) and that in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). So, it’s not as if when Jesus ascended 2000yrs ago He abandoned us, or even that He left us with just the Holy Spirit and now has nothing to do with us. No Jesus Himself promised last week and the week before that He would be with you, in you and you in Him, so close that we are part of each other (John 14:18-15:11), one body as Paul writes elsewhere (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:23).

The body of Christ, that phrase is used both of all Christians and also somewhere else… Holy Communion. Yes it’s in a different sense but if Jesus does have authority and power to do anything and in Him we live and move and have our being, then Jesus can be here with us now. And in His grace and mercy He has said of this bread and wine, this is my body, this is my blood. He has promised to be here for you in this meal for all Christians, here we can hold Him and receive His forgiveness and new life. A wonderful, little confusing, but amazing gift of Christ’s presence and love that we share with all Christians, those before us and those after, and now also in full with those coming for the first time today.

And so the peace that He brings for you, the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Text:Acts 16:16-34 & Revelation 22:10-14″
Actions of Being”

A common misnomer in our thoughts these days is this: If it gets the jobdone then it’ll do. This seems to be the bottom line in doing what one must do tosurvive. Unfortunately this type of rationale pays little to no respect

for rightand wrong. In fact one might be tempted to believe, if it gets the job done then it’s justifiable, no matter what the means are of getting there.

As Paul and Silas walked through Philippi on their way to a place of prayer each day, a slave girl possessed by a spirit, repeatedly but rightly points to these men as “servant of the Most High God!” She was not wrong in what she said even though she was a noisy nuisance and others were making money out of her prophesies. Surely this might be used as a means of doing God’s work; after all she was proclaiming the Most High God?Surprisingly though, Paul tired and troubled by her daily ranting, turned andsaid to the spirit in her, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to comeout of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. (Acts 16:18)After Paul took this action, he and Silas were seized, flogged, and thrown into jail. One would imagine they would have been sorry and sore. But instead, they sat up singing hymns and praying past midnight. Suddenly and unexpectedly an earthquake shook the prison, the doors flew open and the chains came loose.To the horror of the jailer, he awoke at the commotion, thinking his worst nightmare had come true. Believing the prisoners had escaped he reached for his sword to end his life, but Paul shouted,“Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28) 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God he and his whole family. (Acts 16:29-34)What must I do to be saved? The question “what one must do?” is perhaps avery natural response for humanity. The jailer faced death, because theprison had become unsecured under his watch. He was frightened, humiliated, and his immediate response, before Paul stopped him, was to take his life.In this account from Acts, we’ve just heard of two responses to two situations.They seem to be knee jerk sudden responses, with little thought to what one must do. The response of Paul and the jail keeper were natural responses according to who they were. They were immediate responses from their beings, they didn’t have to stop and think what to do! In the core of Paul’s being he was troubled by the spirit filled girl and in an instant he turned and cast out the spirit. The Jailer was troubled in spirit too, and in an instant he turned to take his life. Both men acted according to his being, they acted as according to whom they were called to be. The difference between them is this: Paul’s being was led by something or someone external, whereas the jailer’s being was led by his internal being or will. And this was leading him to death.The difference between the prisoners and the jailer doesn’t end there either. In fact, ironically, the prisoners act as free men, singing hymns and praying, way after midnight; whereas the jailer acts as a prisoner, and Paul needs to stops him from killing himself. Then in desperation the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?”As Christians we often place ourselves back under bondage, as did the jailer.Instead of our freedom in Christ allowing us to be who we are called to be, we get caught up worrying what we and others must do to be Christian what we must do to be saved and save others. However, “being a Christian” is exactly that, “being” rather than “doing”. When one faces the question of doing failure, depression, and death follow hot on the heels of our defective human deeds. It’s not so much a question of “what I must do to be?” but rather, “my being in Christ allows me to do what he wills for me.”From Revelation Jesus says to us, “ Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:10-11)Here we are told not to bind up the words of Revelation because the time is near. In fact Jesus is near; the Kingdom of God is near. When Jesus returns to usher in his Kingdom, those who have appeared to be in bondage will be shown to be free while those who seem free, and bind others with their human judgements, will be bound in eternity. Those whose being is dependent on what they do will reap their wage; their means for getting the job done despite God’s way, will be paid for in full. Whereas, those who allow God’s means to make them holy, so that their being is holy, will also get their reward.Jesus continues, “12 Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First andthe Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:12-14)

We all must ask ourselves, “What have I done? Am I doing what God wants me to do, or am I doing something else? What must I do to be saved? How do I wash my robes that I might have the right to the tree of life?”It’s at this point we must turn away from the deathly deeds of our own rationale and understanding, and be continually drawn back into God’s word. In fact, just like the jailer which Paul saved from death, we must be led away from meditating and trusting in our deeds, and our desire to try and put things right by our own action, lest we too die from our futile and failing deeds.Paul and Silas acted according to their being. They were not focused on what they must do. If they had they might have moaned and agonised over the actions causing their arrest. They may have grizzled like victims, “what have we done to deserve this?” But instead they worshiped God with joy knowing their fate and suffering, was about who they were called to be in Christ, rather than what they had done.Likewise, Paul and Silas acted according to their being, when the jailer pleaded, “What must I do to be saved”? They pointed the man to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking God’s Word of truth and grace, so the Spirit could implant faith in his heart too. So in hearing this word, our crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus was planted in the jailer by the power of the Holy Spirit, as he and his family were baptised. He no longer had to do anything to believe, belief and being were given as a gift, and the work of being a Christian, moved him to immediately cleanse the wounds of Paul and Silas, take them into his home and feed them, and live in joy that he had come to believe in Jesus Christ.We like the jailer have been captured in baptism, so we might remain in Jesus Christ, receiving all the gifts of his deeds, living as free holy beings of God, who have a right to the tree of life.The grace of the Lord Jesus is with us, because God’s people have received the being of Jesus, through his gracious means of the cross and baptism. And therefore, the last word in Revelation, the last word of the bible for us is this:

The grace of the Lord Jesus “be” with God’s people. Amen.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

Text: John 14:27(Jesus said,)“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I donot give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

‘Peace I leave with you’
Apparently there is an element of truth in this story. A plane landed after a long flight.The flight attendant explained that there was enough time for everyone to get off the aircraft and then reboard in 50 minutes.

pilot

 Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman. The pilot had noticed him as hewalked by. He could tell that the man was blind because his guide dog lay quietlyunderneath the seat next to him. “Sir”, the pilot said to the blind man, “we will behere for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?”The blind man replied, “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.”Picture this: All the people in the gate area came to a complete stand still when theylooked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog! The pilot was even

wearing sunglasses. Fear took control. People scattered and queued at the airline desk trying to change planes!Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life perhaps moreso in some people than others but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time.There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts.The latest wave of flu strains makes us worry for our health.The fear of terrorist attacks permeates public events.The nuclear build up in North Korea has caused nations to fear the possibility of theuse of nuclear weapons.Mothers, fathers and children in Israel and Palestine live in constant fear of another bomb blast or being caught in crossfire.Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news ofpeople who would want to harm them.We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night.We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations.And where there is fear, there is no peace. Fear brings with it anxiety, worry,apprehension, dread, restlessness, panic and tension none of which lead us to feelcalm, peaceful, relaxed and stress free.One of the best newspaper cartoons is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin comesmarching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in herfavourite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a largespace helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.“What’s up today?” asks his mum.“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.“So far?” she questions.“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvinmarches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”Calvin’s mum looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suite like that!”That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimesthis world seems too violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats. A suitlike that would help, so we can say along with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way,I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you this morning, but I do have someimportant words from Jesus this morning to enable us to say, “Whatever may come

my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”It is the night of the Last Supper. Jesus has just spoken of his impending death. Hetells the disciples that one of them will betray him and urges Judas to go and doquickly what he has planned to do.Peter boldly claims that he would rather die than deny his Lord, but Jesus knows that before the rooster crows he will say three times that he does not know the man they are talking about.
Jesus talks about going where they cannot follow and they are confused about this.Haven’t they followed Jesus for the past 3 years? They have watched him heal thesick, they have seen him bring comfort to the afflicted and laughter to the faces ofchildren. Not a day has past where Jesus has not been with them. Their sole thoughtand attention has been him since the day they were called. And now they are facedwith the thought of life without him. Where is he going that they can’t continue tofollow him in the future?Jesus knows that what will happen his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, histrial and tortuous death the next day will upset them.Like a child lost in a department store, these disciples are afraid, uncertain, confused and nervous. And so he continues saying,“Do not be worried and upset. Believe in God and believe also in me….Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid”(John 14:1, 27).In the New Testament, the peace Jesus gives is an unconditional, eternal gift to hisfollowers in every time and place. That’s why he does not give peace to us as the
world doesfor the world, peace is often very conditional, fragile, temporary, and, isfrequently reduced to mean only the absence of war and strife.Worldly peace always has some kind of strings attached, some kind of conditions,and worldly peace lasts only as long as the conditions are kept. Two feuding neighbours can’t agree over the type of fence to be constructed between their properties. They come to an agreement about the cost, type of fence, what kind of materials are to be used and how high it should be but immediately one reneges on what was agreed, the feud starts again. However, with Christ’s peace there are no strings attached; there is the wonderful promise that it will last forever. Peace, in the New Testament sense means: salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and humanity. The sin that stands between God and us has been done away by the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection. We no longer fear God’s anger because of our rebelliousness. Jesus reconciles us with Godhe restores the friendship between God and us.Peace is also the Holy Spirit in our lives as friend, comforter, counsellor, teacher and healer.Peace is knowing that no matter what troubles may come our way, God, ourheavenly Father, has promised to never forget us and to always be our helper andstrength. He sent his Son to go all the way and die for us in order to reclaim us as his own. He won’t give up on us now. We are his special and most loved children.Peace is the flow on of God’s peace into the rest of our lives as we live and work with the people in our day to day relationships and activities.This peace has a positive effect on our health and well being. It is well documentedthat stress, tension, and fear have negative effects on our body.What can we do when fear grips our hearts?Firstly, get to know what kind of God we have. He is gracious, loving and faithful. We don’t deserve it but he loves us and will always stand by us. We see just howpowerful his love for us is when we look at the cross and see what Jesus has donefor us.Get to know God as the king and ruler of the universe. There is nothing so great ortoo difficult for him to handle. Parting the sea to save the Israelites, saving Danielfrom the lions or Jonah from the belly of the big fish, springing Peter from jail, orsaving Paul from a shipwreck were all a piece of cake for him. Helping us when weare afraid is just as easy.Secondly, get to know God’s promisesand trust that he will stick by what he says.Memorise and trust words like theseThe Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me fromall danger; I will never be afraid. (Psalm 27:1,2).God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we willnot be afraid… (Psalm 45:1,2).Or Jesus words of authority and power,“Don’t be afraid! I am the first and the last. I am the living one! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead.” (Revelation 1:17).Be assured that God keeps his promises; that he is with us, even in the worstpossible situation imaginable on this earth.Thirdly, realise that there are too many times whenour human attempts to be boldare not sufficient. There will be times when even the texts of promise that we havelearnt off by heart will do little to ease our anxiety. We may even feel that God has deserted us. It’s then we need the Holy Spirit to help us to forgive us for our weakness of faith, to enable us to trust that God has not forsaken us, to spport us while we tremble in fear and to help us get through. He even takes our cries of fear to God and pleads to him on our behalf (Rom 8:26 27).Our strength, our mind, our skills are of no particular use. We just have to relax and wait patiently, trusting in the God who knows all of our needs and is willing to use his power to help us. The Holy Spirit reminds us when fear is near, God is even nearer.Fourthly,pray.Ask God to intervene in our troubles and the fear they bring. Pray forfaith, for boldness and courage when we are afraid. Pray that we are able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit who points us to the love and compassion of God, and pray that in the end God would take us from the troubles of this world into the eternal world where there will be no more fear.When fears and worries create tension and upset your life, Jesus promises,“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”Amen

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 19th, 2019

John 13:34
A new commandment I give to you, so that you should love one another as I have loved you so that you love one another.

            What defines you? Who are we? What should we do? You might be asking these questions as you look back at what this congregation once was and look forward with the knowledge that things are changing, even faster. Looking to the past we’ll also remember Resurrection Sunday that great celebration of the church year, and forward to Pentecost the birth of the church; 50 days between the two. I wonder, 2000years ago, what was going through the heads of those eleven disciples, we’ve heard their meetings with Jesus the two weeks after His resurrection, but now they’re waiting for something to happen, the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. Who are these eleven bludgers, what were they doing while they waited back in Jerusalem?

            I don’t know but I’d guess that they were probably thinking a lot about what had happened those last three years with Jesus, and on that Holy Week, the resurrection, the death, and that last meal with His disciples, what He had said and what He had commanded, our text for today. He said many things that last night according to John, they cover from the end of chapter 12 through to His prayer in chapter 17 and arrest in chapter 18. That’s 4 chapters of conversation and teaching in one sitting, I don’t know many people who’ve done that. Through those words Jesus is preparing the disciples for what will follow, His glorification, the fulfilment of God’s great promises, forgiveness, reconciliation, renewal, and life everlasting. The glory of God in the crucifixion and the glory of Jesus in the resurrection! To God be the glory! And thank God! Jesus gave His entire life for you and me, for the disciples and all people; for our forgiveness and salvation. Better to save you than go on living, that was how Jesus loved you. And since His resurrection and ascension continues to love you, to live for your benefit.

            And so, as He said on that last night, I’ll send a helper the Holy Spirit to be with you. And also He said, I live in you and you in me, together with the Father; the whole trinity in you and you in God. Together. But also, when Judas left to gather the mob, Jesus knew His death was soon and told the disciples what He had told others, where I am going you cannot come, yet. And where was He going? Peter found Him in the temple courts, John at the cross, Nicodemus in the grave site, but no one came with Him into new resurrected life, that death has no power over; at least not yet. He was glorified when He took on all our sin and it’s consequences, forgiving us and cleansing us by His blood; the Father was glorified in the fulfilment of His promises; And the Father glorified the Son, raising Him from the dead to new everlasting life. The disciples didn’t realise what Jesus was saying at the time, that last supper, I’m sure a painfully confusing time, ‘that’s wine Jesus, not blood, you don’t look like a vine.’ Confusing before His resurrection, but after and in light of it, Jesus helped them understand all He had said, that He is God and man, and He can remove all your sin, giving you peace, joy and life everlasting. This is true, but still the disciples after this explanation were told to sit and wait before they could tell anyone. So what were they defined by? Their confusion? Their waiting? Is that what defines Christians? Or as Jesus said, bringing something new, so that they are know by their love for each other. Love that finds it’s origin in Christ Jesus.

            No other order or task could they do at this time, but Jesus’ glorification, His death and resurrection, forgiveness and life giving, meant that the disciples could do the same for each other, as Jesus first loved so that you love. Jesus in His death and resurrection has reconciled you to the one you have betrayed and ignored many times in your life, God Almighty, your creator. How often we forget Him, what He has done for us, giving us life, food, friends, family and all the rest; ignoring that and going our own way, at times not even loving and caring for ourself. This is our sin, our betrayal; but He doesn’t return the favour, He so loved all the world, even those traitorous humans, even you; so loved that He gave His only Son to reconcile us to Himself, to make things good again, to forgive and bring life and peace. And because you and I have that peace with God Almighty, we can have that peace and love for each other. God has forgiven you, He has given His whole life to forgive you; That is love; and He has done the same for every Christian so why would you hold anything against them? This is the one thing that the disciples could do while they waited, all the other commands to go into the world, teach, baptise, spread this wonderful news, they had to wait, but not this one. Love one another as I have loved you so that you love one another. This is what defined the disciples, they were reconciled to God and to each other, they thought of each other as more important than themselves, cared and forgave, in this new life they had in Jesus. And you too have this new life, one of peace, of joy, of love, to God and each other. So live!

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

            Have you been paying attention this morning? Have you been listening for God’s Word to you today? Parts of the Scriptures have been read, songs based on these sung, prayers prayed and confessions made; but has any of this really sunk in, have you been listening to Jesus?

            The same could be said for you and your mother. How many times was it that you were so absorbed in something, a book, driving, another discussion, that mum told you to do something, but you didn’t listen? Or for mums, how often did you have to tell your kids to clean up before they did it? Mum told you those things because she loved you and because she thought they were good for you. Even if what you are doing right now seems important, it’s still important to listen to your mum.

            Now the Pharisees were like kids who thought they were good and better at being good than all the rest. They knew the Old Testament, God’s Word to His people of Israel, far better than you or I do; even in the original languages and the same land. They knew what God had commanded and what He had promised, and they cared about it! They followed God’s command and had parts of Scripture attached to their doorframes and foreheads, they had memorised sections and everyday they sought to obey the teachings given by Moses all those years before. But they were not listening, hearing what God was telling them. When you come to God’s service on Sunday, say amen and thanks be to God, are you listening to what He says to you? When you come home from a hard day at work, take off your shoes, have a shower and sit down to watch the TV; do you listen to the promises Jesus gave you? Or in all your effort in this life do you forget His gifts, zone out of what He is telling you, ignore the Words of the Almighty God of all?

            I know for myself, driving to Gilgandra for a visit and a Bible study, both good things, thinking, ‘should I go through the roadworks, or the Mogriguy road; Mogriguy; Ah, there’s a caravan, when can I overtake this? Oh, it’s turning off now, good; here’s another slow car, where’s a good place, I’ll use my car gadgets; here’s one, ok let’s go; past that car, ok what’s the time; good still making good time, … oh yeah, I’m driving up here to bring Jesus Christ’s peace, love and encouragement which I’m only able to give by the strength the Holy Spirit provides, with this body, car, fuel and time that our Heavenly Father has freely given. Why is it so easy to loose sight, or be selectively deaf to Jesus’ voice even when that’s why I’m here!

Jesus still speaks all through our lives, like how we hear mum’s words even when she’s not around. He speaks maybe reminding us of passages of scripture, perhaps through the Christian music we play, by our reading and by others’ advice, through mums, or even those few miraculous times one might here clearly His words to oneself. And He had spoken to those Pharisees, Told them that He is the gate, it is through Jesus that we come to salvation, there is no other way; He told them that He is the good shepherd, the kind, wise ruler of God’s people, who will die for His sheep and rise again by His own authority for you and me. He had shown through the many mighty miracles and fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies that He is the Messiah, the one to come; but still the Pharisees refused to listen, refused to believe.

And to you He continues to speak, and in His word is your life and freedom. Tabitha heard God’s Word from Peter and received life back in this world (Acts 9:40). And Revelation shows us an image of this eternal life Jesus gives, free from suffering and sin, with Him and all the children of our Heavenly Father (Revelation 7). And to you, God spoke at your baptism, ‘your sins are forgiven’, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’, ‘you are my beloved Son’ daughter, ‘death has no power over you’ (Luke 7:48; John 20:22; Luke 3:22; John 11:25-26). Don’t forget that, you are Jesus’ sheep, you hear His words, believe Him, trust Him and He has saved you giving you eternal life. Those Pharisees refused to listen to what Jesus plainly said to them, refused to believe its truth; they were caught up in trying to do God’s Word, they ignored what He was saying even to their face. Sometimes you and I do the same, caught up in this world, caught up in action, ignoring the words of the one who loves you, who has laid down their life for you. Jesus, your Good Shepherd, has given His entire life for you, for your family, friends, everyone in this wide world. He devotes that life for your life, and from His birth, His death, His resurrection and ascension, now and all the way to the end, He is speaking to you, you are forgiven, you have life eternal with Jesus and go in peace. Amen.

And that peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus now and forever. Amen. 

Pastor Joseph Graham

Third Sundayafter Easter

Sunday, May 5th, 2019

John 21:17
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

            Peter said, “Lord you know all things” and that is true, the Lord Jesus knows all things. Ananias said, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem” and this was true, Paul had killed followers of Jesus (Acts 22:4). Jesus knew who Paul was and what He had done. Jesus knew that Peter also had rejected and denied Him three times. And Jesus knows how you and I have done the same.

            Today we hear about Paul the persecutor and Peter the denier, and through these accounts you and me as well. Paul had rejected the teachings of Jesus and the prophecies of old; Peter too had rejected even knowing Jesus, breaking His promise of following Him even to death (Luke 22:54-62; Mark 14:29-31). Both were together in their rejection of God, both had denied the truth of Jesus and both in danger of the wages of their sins, danger of death. But, Jesus comes to them both, the Risen Lord, power over death, forgiver of sins, and true judge of all.

            Jesus confronts both these sinners with the truth of their failures. Paul with his persecuting and Peter with his doubtful love and denial. This is not an easy confrontation for either Paul or Peter. For Paul he sees and understands that his faith and devotion were not toward the true God of his people, but rather to the destruction of God’s followers. He thought he was doing good, even God’s will, when he watched the first martyrs’ death with approval (Acts 7:58), but he was not. On top of this he was struck blind and did not eat or drink. He suffered in the revelation of truth. And Peter, though perhaps lesser, suffered too. To be asked once if you love a friend, that’s nothing, to be asked again straight away might be strange, but to be asked again after that … And Peter knows his betrayal, he knows why Jesus is asking this of him, and in exasperation he confesses the truth of Christ’s power that He knows all things. And Jesus, who had been betrayed, who had been persecuted, instead of punishment, He renews and restores, even giving great responsibility to both these men, the apostle to the Gentiles and the shepherd of His flock; not Paul the persecutor or Peter the denier, now Saint Paul and Saint Peter the apostles, the ones sent out by the Risen Lord.

            We see here the forgiveness and restoration that the Risen Lord freely gives, both to those outside Christianity and those within. When you reject His way and go your own, still receive again in His Words the truth of your failure and the restoration in Him. His Words weekly by my mouth, or from the mouth of another Christian (James 5:16). It is a painful thing, to bring into the light your wickedness and failures, to make them known, but still greater are the blessings that come with Christ’s forgiveness, renewal, peace, joy, freedom from sin and death, restoration to the family of God and the love of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham

Second Sunday of Easter

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

John 20:19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

            Sometimes things can be pretty hectic, a lot can happen in one day, and you think back, how did all that fit in, surely that was yesterday? Maybe you felt that way last Sunday, food, family, God’s service, travel … For the disciples on that Resurrection Sunday I’d bet it was a hectic one too; going from devastation at their friend and teacher’s death; grief at the supposed lies that Jesus was the King to save the world; then waking up to confusion at the women’s news; then when Peter and John confirmed the empty tomb; fear of the Jews who had just killed their leader and probably were looking for the disciples and the body; two leave for Emmaus and come back with news of their conversation with the risen Lord; then Christ suddenly appears inside locked doors says a few words shows His body and just as suddenly leaves. Now I doubt most of us even remember how I started that sentence, but that all happened to the disciples in one day. Devastation, grief, confusion, curiosity, disheartened, surprise, joy, wonder, disbelief; all these emotions within 24hrs, certainly an emotional rollercoaster if there ever was one. Hectic! And into all this Jesus speaks peace.

            To have all your plans destroyed, your position redundant, your friend and leader dead, and the authorities the ones who killed Him. Your whole world crumbled before your eyes, emotionally exhausted, from the heights of Palm Sunday your King welcomed royally, within a week His crucifixion; can we just go back to our lives before all this happened? But now the body’s gone, will the authorities come and try to kill us too? What can we do? And then, in the midst of this fear, worry and the darkening of the day, suddenly, there’s someone else in the middle of the room! Whose that? What’s, How’s…? Peace be with you. Holed up in this house for fear of the authorities, probably exhausted from the events of the previous week, Jesus comes to them bringing peace. Perhaps the disciples thoughts; What’s happened to Jesus my Lord, the promised Christ? He is alive! Am I following a madman to my own death and destruction? No, Jesus has ultimate power over death! What can I do to save myself? Peace, you don’t need to worry, Jesus has done it for you, He saves you.

            Here Jesus first and foremost brings the peace that comes from knowing He is alive, their friend and leader is alive, but also that He has God’s power to appear where He wills and the truth that death has no power over Him. It’s not just a vision, but Jesus, body and soul, is fully alive, risen and glorified. God’s Word is true, Jesus is alive and so peace to you. Earlier Jesus had said that He would turn sorrow into joy (John 16:22); and how true that was this first Resurrection Sunday! From fear and terror, to wonder and joy in just two words. With His physical body, His scars He proves who He is and that He lives, and the disciples rejoice! What an amazing experience, what wonder, to have your whole world destroyed and now three days later restored and glorified! To be like Job in His devastation, seeing all you love destroyed, but then here to have it all suddenly restored and so much more! That wonderful joy and release of grief and fear, but then Jesus still has more to say, and again He says peace to you. First peace to allay fears then peace for calm to listen to the truth.

            Peace to you, as the Father sent me so I send you. The mission of the church, the body of Christian believers, is to continue Jesus’ mission, to bring God’s Word of forgiveness and truth to the world. And He breathes on them, just as the Father breathed life into Adam, so now Jesus in new life breathes on the disciples and says, receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven, if you retain them, they are retained. This is Jesus’ mission, what God sent Him for, to bring His forgiveness and condemnation of sin, truth and mercy. Now Christians are called to follow Him, to speak God’s Word of mercy and truth to all the world. And that Word has power, when I say to you today God’s Word of forgiveness, your sins are forgiven, God does forgives your sins. This is the grace that Jesus gave to the church and that you and the LCA have given to me to serve you. He also gave the authority to declare the truth, just as He did, that those who reject Jesus, who reject that they sin and reject Christ’s forgiveness are not forgiven. This is the truth, it is God’s Word, Jesus’ mission, and we need to be careful how we do this, so again you have entrusted me with the public working of His mission, but we all Christians also declare Christ’s truth to each other, forgiving one another and trying to lead all people back to Jesus, in word and action.

            Now I don’t have all the answers, just a guide to speak the truth in love. However, we see how Jesus again, does His mission when we hear of Thomas the Twin. He was struggling, as we all do, with two people inside himself, the believer and the unbeliever. He was not with the twelve and when they tried to fulfil Christ’s mission by telling Thomas the truth, He did not believe. Thomas was staying in His betrayal and rejection of Jesus. But Jesus again suddenly appeared. Did Thomas have a flash of fear? Again He had betrayed His Lord, will He now be struck down as that fig tree? No, rather Jesus brings peace to a troubled conscience. “Here are my wounds, touch them, do not be faithless but faithful, believe!” God’s Word works its forgiveness and Thomas makes the strongest declaration in the whole Gospel of John, ‘My Lord and My God.’ We know that Jesus was more than a man, more than a prophet, so much more than even the archangels of God. But throughout His life no one had confessed that He was God Himself. Now Thomas, who has been called the doubter, gives the strongest confession of trust and faith in Jesus, My Lord and My God. So Jesus shows His mission, bringing truth and forgiveness; then Thomas gratefully receives it. This is now our mission to together bring Christ’s Word of truth and mercy to each other and all people and receive it well from each other, responding in joy, trust and love; confessing together who Jesus is, Our Lord and Our God.

            And so, the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

7th Sunday after Easter

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

John 17:14-18

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

The words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your eyes, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

            Who are you; an Australian; a cooker of good food; a child of your mother; mother to your children; a migrant; a man; a woman? Where do you find your identity? In your politics, ‘I’m a Liberals voter’; your work, ‘I’m a truckie’; your family, ‘I’m a mother/father’; your friends, ‘I’m the funny one’? Or do you primarily find your identity, who you are and what you are, in Jesus Christ, God’s Word?

            This reading is an excerpt from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He meets Judas and is arrested to be tried and crucified. The church tradition knows it as the High priestly prayer, in which Jesus, our High Priest, intercedes/speaks on our behalf to God our Father praising Him and asking for a number of things. Two things He asks for that we read are protection for His disciples and that they are made holy by and kept in the Word of God. Now Jesus is God, and He’s praying to God the Father, I think it’s safe to believe that what He prays for comes to reality; we have this assurance from Jesus that God always speaks truth (verse 17), and also we know this word held true for the disciples when they were rejected the world but ultimately protected from its lies. Jesus’ prayer is sure. God declares you saved and righteous in Jesus and He does strive to keep you from the devil.

            Also true is that you are not of this world. You are of Jesus and the Father (verse 9, 10). Christ Jesus is where we find our identity, where we learn who and what we are; sinners who have been saved. We no longer find our identity from this world, from our political or national affiliations, from our community ideals, from this world’s worldview, but from God. There is now no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ; heirs of the promise (Galatians 3:28, 29b).  Heirs of the promise of eternal life in Christ, not heirs of the promise of Shorten or Turnbull, or the promise of ethnic nationalism, or multiculturalism, or capitalism, socialism, or any other promise of any other group of this world.

There is only one who has the power to save you from sin, death and the devil, to bring you ultimate love, peace and joy. That one is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the only one who loves you and all people, and loves you completely (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:9-10). He sent Jesus, His precious, only Son to die in your place so that you receive eternal life and freedom from evil. That is the promise, “whoever believes in Him will live forever” (John 3:16).

            What might this truth of God’s Word change in our lives? Who would we be if in everything we who claim Christ Jesus as Lord thought, spoke and acted with His words in mind, rather than the chattering of the voices in the world? How does God’s Word change you? “No one is righteous, no not even one”, “I forgive you all your sins”, “This is my body”, “This is my blood”, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners”, “Do not fear”, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Psalm 14:3; Jeremiah 31:34; Mark 14:22-23; 1 Timothy 1:15; Deuteronomy 31:8; Matthew 5:10). Throughout your Christian life you have heard God’s Word, you have heard the truth, and you have learnt what God likes. You love God and so you try to do what pleases Him, He told us ‘Be holy for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). This is our life that is not of the world.

            Unfortunately, sometimes, many times, we forget the Bible, God’s Word, we lose sight of our identity in Christ and we find again an identity in this world. We are still in the world, for Jesus has sent us just like He was sent. He has sent us with God’s Word to proclaim God’s Good News to all who do not know or understand it. And because we are still in the world we still struggle against it, we still struggle with temptation and sin. You dismiss who Christ tells you you are, and focus again to what the world tells you: it’s us against them and they’re evil (men/women; locals/foreigners; Labour/Liberal; black/white; or any other group and those outside); you are basically a god who can achieve anything, or even you deserve everything and everyone should love you because of who you are; or you belong nowhere, you deserve nothing and are worthless. Your gender defines you, or your sexuality, your political leanings, your skin, your family, your friends, your pay check. In this world I have heard all these things and more, many promise peace, wealth, joy, power, safety because of who you are. But look around, we don’t receive these; maybe some people for a little while but ultimately this world cannot ensure that we receive salvation from suffering. Only God can. But the world can ensure that we suffer because of who we are and sometimes that’s what it promises.

            And we are still in the world. We do still experience suffering because of who we are in the world. It is true that according to this world we live in I am a young man of European descent, good pay and scattered family and friends. These identities I have do influence how I live here, but Christ tells me and you that these are not our true identities, not the identity that He has given us. We find our identity In God’s Word. You are part of Christ’s body, you are in the Church His bride, you are adopted as His sons, you are one in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:23, 25; Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 3:28). You are not of the world, now you’re made of different stuff through Christ and are keep protected and safe by God’s true Word.

That is who you are, a chosen nation, a royal priesthood, God’s people. The life of the Christian is different to the life of the world. We are sent, just as Jesus, to minister to the world and to bring the Word of God, the Good News to all people. This is not a completely safe task, because the sinful world hates this Word and us because we belong to Jesus. However, God the Father will protect us and the Holy Spirit guides us. Thanks be to God!

The peace of God which passes all our human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and always. Amen.

Chosen to bear fruit

Saturday, May 5th, 2018
Text: John 15:16
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit”.

Harry Lipsig, a New York lawyer, took on cases that others lawyers refused to touch. 

A woman was suing a drunken police officer who had struck and killed her 71-year-old husband with his patrol car. She argued that the city had deprived her of her husband’s future earnings potential as a psychiatrist. The lawyers for the police officer believed they had a water tight case against such a claim and argued that at the age of 71, the man had little earnings potential.

They thought they had a clever defence until they realized that this woman’s argument about her husband’s future earning power was being championed by a vigorous 87-year-old Harry Lipsig. His case rested on the argument that he was 87 and still practicing law and suggested that the psychiatrist, too, could have looked forward to many more years in the work force. Mr Lipsig’s client was awarded $1.25 million.

Facing some of the brightest minds in the legal profession, the 87 year old could have said but didn’t, “I can’t take on a case like this. I’m too old”. However, I’m sure all of us at some time have said, “I can’t do that.  What can I do?  I wouldn’t know what to do.”

For example, we learn that a close friend or relative has met with tragedy. Our immediate reaction to the news we have just heard is a desire to do something. We want to say something, do something, anything that will help.

But as we contemplate all this we start to ask ourselves, “What can I do?
I wouldn’t know what to say.
What if I say the wrong thing?
I might offend the person if I offer to help around the house.
I don’t know how to deal with overwhelming with grief.
I am only a housewife, a labourer, an accountant.
I am only a teenager, a farmer, a retiree.”

“I am only ….” are only 3 small words but have the power to stifle anything we consider too challenging or too demanding.

We hear those words spoken numerous times through the Scriptures and even if they aren’t spoken out loud we can assume that they were in the minds of those who questioned God’s command or even rejected it. When God told Jonah to call the people of Nineveh to repentance, I can well imagine Jonah saying as he boarded a ship to get away from God, “I can’t do this. It’s crazy. I am only …”

There are others who initially said, ‘I am only’ but then responded with obedience.

Take Jeremiah. No sooner had Jeremiah been told that he was chosen for a special job by God than the prophet-to-be blurts out, “I can’t. I don’t have the training. I am only a teenager.”
When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, Moses tried to wriggle out of undertaking such a risky task and excuse himself from going to the Egyptian king by saying he wasn’t very good at making speeches, saying, “I am only a shepherd. I’m a nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:11). 
Gideon was a farmer and God told him to lead an army to rid the land of an enemy. We can imagine him using those 3 words “I am only …” as he complained, “How can I save Israel? … I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15).
When the angel spoke to Mary and told her she was about to bear a child, the Son of the Most High God, she too said, “How can I? I am only a young girl not even married yet.”

When God called Amos, an orchardist,
Andrew Peter, James and John, all fishermen,
Matthew, a tax collector,
Saul, a persecutor of the Christians,
one and all could have quite legitimately said, “I can’t do this! I am only a … farmer, a fisherman, a tax collector, an ordinary sort of person”.

When God chooses people for certain tasks and calls them to do what is seemingly dangerous and downright crazy, he knows what he’s doing. Even if the individual can only respond with ‘how can I do this’ and proposes all kinds of objections, God can see past our weaknesses and insecurities and see the real potential that exists within each of us.

When God came to young Jeremiah and said, ‘I am appointing you as a prophet to the nations’ we can understand why Jeremiah starts to object. Here is a teenager who is told to speak God’s Word of warning and judgement and repentance to people who would not take too kindly to this kind of message, especially from the mouth of a lad. But before Jeremiah and those like him can say anything else, God assures him that he will always be there to assist, rescue, support and strengthen his messengers, even in the worst of situations.
He says to Jeremiah, 
“Do not be afraid, for I will be with you to protect you. …. Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak”.

To Moses God said, “I will be with you”.
As Joshua takes over from Moses as leader of the Israelites, God says, “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you”
As Jesus commands his disciples to preach and baptise people of all nations he says, 
“I will be with you always”

The words God uses here indicate his deep commitment to those he chooses in much the same way as the Bible describes the commitment between a husband and wife or the way God speaks of his commitment to the people of Israel.

Just as God came in his grace to Jeremiah, and called him to be his prophet, he has come to us. Through Jesus and his death and resurrection he has given us
a new identity as his chosen people and given us a new life.
Just as Jeremiah was given a new responsibility that day so also we have been given new responsibilities as his chosen people.
To be God’s voice to speak his Word of comfort and grace;
to be God’s ears to hear the cries of those who are hurting;
to be God’s hands to demonstrate God’s love through our care and love;
to be God’s feet to go and be his disciples in the every day matters of living in this world,
to be a witness to God’s love for all people in our neighbourhood, our community, in fact, the whole world.

It all sounds very nice to talk about Jeremiah and all the others and their call to be God’s messengers and seeing a parallel with God’s call to us to be his chosen people through holy Baptism. But when it comes down to it our response ends up no different to the biblical characters, “How can I do this. I am only …” and like Jeremiah, Moses and the others feel totally inadequate to carry out what God is asking us to do.

The words “I am only..” are words that deny the gifts God has given us to develop and use. “I am only …” is offered as a reason why we can’t do something. I don’t have what is needed to be on a congregational committee, or visit the sick, or talk to a neighbour about Jesus and the Church, or help in the worship service. I am only a farmer, a house wife, a retiree, a council worker.
Our fear of failure is nothing unusual. Our feeling of inadequacy is normal as we wonder how we will cope and what we will do. We would prefer that God leave us alone and ask someone else.

Like I said, it’s normal to feel afraid and inadequate and it’s just when we feel like this that we need to be reminded of God’s commitment to us.
It is God who chooses us to be his children and to actively be his disciple.
It is God who has promised those whom he has chosen that he will never leave them and will always be beside them to give guidance and help.
His commitment to us whom he has chosen as his people and given the task of using our gifts and skills to bless others is no different to the one he gave young Jeremiah, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you”.

If God can overrule the objections of Jeremiah, and Gideon, and Moses and Peter, he can do that for us as well. God chooses us and appoints us to bear much fruit, to use Jesus’ words (John 15:16). We can be sure he won’t challenge us with anything for which he hasn’t equipped us. And we can be sure that he will help us in our times of hesitancy and lack of confidence. He will provide us with those who will help us be what he has chosen us to be.

I know that you and I will all too willingly shy away from challenges that are presented to us. It is part of our human nature to want to take an easier path and not to step out of where we feel comfortable. Be assured that our God who knows what we are capable of better than we know ourselves is the one challenging us to extend ourselves beyond what is comfortable and easy. And as we are reminded of this, let’s also remember Jesus own words, “You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit”.

Those are reassuring words – we have been chosen by our Lord and Saviour to carry on his work and as his chosen people he is not only ready to forgive us when we fail but also gives us the means of carrying out his work. No matter how inadequate we may feel, God has a marvellous way of using what we say and do to bring blessings to others.

When you hesitate and wonder what you could possibly say and do, remember you are God’s chosen people, made clean by the blood of Jesus and given a new life through his resurrection. He has chosen you, appointed you, will support you and provide you with the means and opportunities to bear much fruit.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

 

Love comes from God.

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

1 John 4:7-11, 20, 21

Beloved, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

The words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your eyes, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

My beloved brothers and sisters, It seems we’ve been covering most of the first letter of John while I’ve been gone, three weeks ago we heard from the first chapter that God is light and He forgives your sins. Now we hear that oft quoted phrase, God is love. The Almighty Creator of the whole world, the one who has authority and power over all things even calamities (Isaiah 45:7), has revealed to us that He is love, here in His Word. That is a wonderful message, comforting and reassuring, and a very well known saying. But have you ever really thought about what that means? Does it mean we should just be nice and accepting of others? Or something much more?

But something that has bothered me before is the words that come before this statement, I’ll try and address these now because I love you and I want God’s Word to work on you and through you, also I’m sure some of you have questioned it too. How is it that everyone who loves is born of God? What does this mean for your friends and family who, though not in the Christian church, are ‘good’ people? They love their spouse, they care for their children and they try hard to make the world a better place for all. Does this verse seven mean that they will be saved because of their love? Of course, it doesn’t, but still…

I’ve thought on this a bit, and asked others in the past, and I can see two answers to this. One is a bit of a cop out, but true nevertheless. This message is meant for those already in the body of Christ, a letter to Christians, for you and me. It is not for those outside the church and it is not about you judging the love of another and so their salvation. John writes later that His reason for writing is that who believe in Jesus Christ may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13). And so it is instead a great comfort and can also be a little bit of a warning for you and me. The comfort in knowing that God loves you, is with you, saves you, bringing you life and taking away your filth; and a warning to you if your love is fake.

And that brings us to the other answer I see, which actually starts with a question immortalised in song, but. What is love? We all know we use the word differently in different times, the, ‘I love pizza, I love my dog and I love my girlfriend; but I’m not going to kiss my pizza goodnight, eat my dog or train my girlfriend to sit’. The Greeks were more fortunate or a bit smarter than us, they had four or so words for love in different contexts, brotherly love, erotic love, and here the word can be translated better unconditional love. But that’s all semantics, John, and God, are very kind in that in verse ten he writes, ‘This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.’ That He sent His son to die for you. That’s a bit of an odd definition, but Paul helps shine some more of God’s light on the issue. Romans chapter 5(:6, 8, 10) Jesus died for you when you were still a sinner, when you still hated Him and were still Christ’s enemy. That is what you were when Jesus brought you to new life, when He paid for all your evil and reconciled you to God the Father. Even though you might hate Jesus, think Him the worst of liars, and try to kill Him, He brought you life and deep lasting peace, not just that, but He died to give it to you. That is love. That is God.

That is the great love He has shown us, He was willing to sacrifice for our benefit even when we were against Him. He gave the ultimate sacrifice of His own life, and also the life of His only Child (can you imagine?); to bring you from death to life and life never ending and to destroy and remove each and every one of your evil desires and failures now you are righteous in His eyes (John 3:16; Romans 6:4; 1 John 1:7-9), and He did this not when you loved Him but when you hated Him and called Him the worse hypocrite and deceiver.

Now my beloved brothers and sisters, because of God’s great love for you, because of the New life you have in Him and Him in you, because you have been born again and know God, because of these you show His love to others and love your siblings in the Faith. Indeed this is what we should do and what Christ Himself commanded, ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself’, and ‘by this all men shall know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another’ (Matthew 22:36-40; John 13:35). So we should love each other, sharing the truth of God’s great love around. John here (1 John 4:8, 20) also writes that if you do not love you do not know God, you are not a Christian; that if you hate your brother in Christ you are not able to love Christ.

This being true, going back to my question, it should be easy to gauge who is a Christian and who is not; people who love unconditionally and completely are Christian and people who don’t are not. However, this is not the only way a Christian shows themselves, for someone who has rejected and still rejects Jesus Christ as Lord and God’s Son, they do not abide in God, or God in them, they are not followers of Christ (1 John 4:16, Romans 10:9).

But you who have been given the Holy Spirit in baptism live in God, and you who believe in the promises and action of Jesus God’s Son, which we can only do by the power of the Spirit, and confess Him as your Lord and saviour, as we do time and again in the creeds, God lives in you. Some here will have felt hatred towards others at sometime in their lives, or just refused to show love to others, remember how much, how great God’s love is for you, how much He has forgiven you, how much He gave for you to have life everlasting. This is love and this is The Truth, that the Almighty Creator of all gave the ultimate sacrifice for your sake, when you were the least worthy and entirely against Him, He did this to bring you the greatest gift, of purity, of peace, of joy, of hope, of life eternal, of Love. God is love and He loves you.

In this knowledge may His peace which surpasses all our understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus now and forever. Amen.