‘Peace, God’s command and promise’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

What’s new about the ‘new’ commandment?

The Text: John 13:31-35


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

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

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

Shape, space, sign and source.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know my sheep”

“I know my sheep”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Love is Law’

John 15:17
This is my command: love one another.

            Thank God for love, thank God for His Law. And of course, thank God for mothers without whom we would not be here, and neither would Jesus. Eve, the mother of all the living, broke the law of love and sinned; yet Mary the mother of the Resurrection and the Life, kept this law; more especially her Son through whom God’s infinite love is shown. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Law of love; for He lays down His life for you, who were His enemies, now by God’s loving grace His friends. And it’s not just that He died for you, yet also that He lives for you now and forever. His love is immense, wonderful, glorious and victorious!

            This is the Gospel, God’s love for you. That in Him we are victorious we have overcome sin, death and the devil. And now He calls you to love, He commands you. This is His Law. As He has loved us, we must love Him; Just like John wrote, ‘this is love for God: to keep His commands’ (1 John 5:3). Of course we remember today the 4th commandment, ‘honour you father and mother that it will go well for you in the land’ the only commandment with a promise. So, the child shows their love for God in this life by honouring their parents, by loving them. And the parents must show love to the child otherwise things fall apart; disintegrate, the family dies. This is what we mean when we say the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). If we fail to love God, if we fail to keep His commands, then things die; a broken arm, broken relationship, broken family, sometimes people become emotionally dead, and horrifically sometimes people die. This Law, this truth, is not abolished (Matthew 5:17); Yes Jesus fulfills it and united with Him we are separated from our sin, yet God’s Law, the Law of love still applies to you and me. It is the way of our New Life in Jesus, His way. We are commanded to love each other, to live our lives for each other, for our parents, our children, our bosses, our workers, our government, and our society. I’m grateful He’s narrowed 600 odd commands in the OT down to one, and this is that one command. You must love.

            Do you? Do you desire what is best for those around you? Do you want God and His love to be known by all people, that wonderful relationship of His joy and peace? Do you live for your family, for your brothers and sisters in Christ, for those who do not yet know Him? Do you love? Or do you fail and cause pain, do you need help?

            Last week we heard that Jesus is the True Vine, that apart from Him we can do nothing. And sometimes that’s obvious, so thank God we are not alone by ourselves and without help. We have each other, and more so we live with the Triune God. He has chosen you, adopted in Baptism and united with Him by the Holy Spirit. He has called you, not servants, but friends revealing the truth to you. And His Work changes you, united with the vine the saps changes you to a living branch. Listening and living with Jesus changes what you want and how you act; like an old faithful couple have worked through their difficulties and continue to grow closer, like the loving mother and child are changed and learn from each other. And He serves us here, as we listen to His Word about what love is, separation from sin, guilt and failure, reconciliation; He serves us rejuvenating our relationship with Him and each other, refreshing and sustaining us together, especially by His Body and Blood; sending us out with His promise of the Holy Spirit to walk with us, to change our desires and provide what we need.

            And we need this help He provides, to keep His command. Which is how John can write that His command is not a burden, to live in love toward all people is only hard when we are overwhelmed by our guilt/failure, pain or torment. And yet, He has declared that in Him you have overcome these things. Hear again His Words, ‘You are forgiven! I sent you free from sin, death and the devil, and free to love.’ I wanna make sure this is clear: Jesus does not want you to burden yourself with this command to love, listen to Him not the world, He does not want you to be burdened and enslaved to a command, rather as He sets you free and provides us all we need. His teaching in scripture, from our brothers and sisters in Christ, of course Bible reading; turn to the psalms when you are struggling, I pray the Holy Spirit open your ears to His prayers. And your prayers, especially the Lord’s Prayer, where the Holy Spirit works on our hearts to conform our desires to His; may He remind you to pray in your struggles, to look to Jesus and His victory. And His presence most especially in the sacrament and also in gathering with other Christians in encouragement, not complaint rather talking about how God is at work in our lives, what He is teaching us, and certainly praying together, casting our burdens on Him who cares for you.

            And so 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.

Grafted into Jesus.

John 15:5
I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 


            Grafted into Jesus. This is about a relationship. And we have seen it begin today. Matilda is baptised, joined to Christ. Now, according to the promise, the Holy Spirit brings the wonderful gifts of God to her and all the baptised to sustain us in the Christian life that we live for those around us to the glory of God. The Holy Spirit is that sap from the vine that provides the branches with the nutrients to produce good fruit.

            Baptised in the name of the Holy Trinity she is, according to His Word, a child of the Father, united to Jesus the vine, and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Now God has declared this, yet where do we see it? Where does God promise to sustain Matilda and all His baptised children? It is where His Word is spoken, where His Word is heard and received. In the gathering of Christians for mutual encouragement around His Word, our common confession summarised in the Creed. In the prayers of Christians, long and short, crystalised in Our Lord’s Prayer. In the living out of Christ’s victory, living in the freedom of the Ten Commandments and all their gifts. And of course, we can’t forget the wine of the vine, Holy Communion, Christ’s Most Holy Body and Blood. That’s the small Catechism, and that’s this Divine Service.

            It is here, that we remain with Him, make our home in Him and He in us; where we are refreshed together in our mutual relationship. It is here, where He has promised to cleanse us by His Word, ‘I forgive you’. It is here, where we are prepared for the Good Works God has prepared for us to walk in our lives ahead; the fruit of the vine. And as He says, ‘if you remain in me and my words remain in you ask whatever and it will be done’.

            Yet we so often forget Jesus’ words, sometimes ignore them, sometimes replace them, but so often His words do not remain in us. So a question we can ask anytime, what do you spend your time thinking about? Debts? Family issues? A TV series? Who do you listen to? Whose words remain in you and keeps coming back? To ask the same thing, in your thoughts, words and deeds, what and who do you worship? …

And how can we receive again Jesus’ words? Receive again His love? How can our relationship be restored? Like coming home to your family or friends, by returning and listening again, prayer, confession, and meditation on His Words, and sharing His Holy Meal.

            So pray that, not only the Holy Spirit grants what you need, but also that we abide in Him and He in us.

            And the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

” War of Love “

1 John 3:20
If our heart should condemn us, know that God is greater than our heart and He knows all things.

            Look to Jesus, listen to His Word. Today is ANZAC day. A day commemorating the landing at Gallipoli in Turkey. A disastrous campaign marked by death, innovation and resilience. An event that has become a sort of birth for Australian and New Zealand national identity, truly to some a holy-day; that blood spilled marking the ground as holy to Australia, a proclamation of our island nation born in war. Now there were commemorations that year, offerings given up for the wounded soldiers, and a call for more to risk the sacrifice of their lives. Yet through the years it had become less popular, especially after the Vietnam war, then just a few years before I was born there was a revival. There are now pilgrimages to the sites of WW1, and a broader commemoration for all those who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping, and for the contribution and suffering of all who have served.

            It is a day to mark lives lost in service to Australia. A day of mourning and gratitude. And yet it is also Good Shepherd Sunday, when Christians hear again Christ’s Word that He is the Good Shepherd to give up His life for His sheep. Those men and women left their country and lost their lives, I do not know their reasons. Yet we do know why Jesus died on Good Friday; it was for love of us, of you, even of all people of all nations, all of this broken creation. And in war, neither side truly knows if the deaths will result in victory like a shepherd dying to a wolf does not know if the sheep will stay safe. Yet Jesus knew, He knew He would lay down His life for the world, only to take it up again in Victory! He has the authority.

            In His victory over sin, death and the devil; Jesus gave up His life for us. Not just in death but also with every breath; Jesus died for you, and also lives for you. This is how we know love. It is not love to dehumanise others as the British did the Germans and Japanese, it is not love to relish a kill count or the brutalisation of your enemies. Yet to stand against the desire to murder, to stand against concentration camps, gulags, genocide, to stand against those who plan the death of your family and friends, community and country; to live your life for others, even the life of your enemies; that is love. That is the love we have received, that is the love we are called to live.

            We ought to lay down our lives for our family. I’m learning this more and more as my children grow, my life is not about me. And John continues, If you have material possessions, see your brother or sister in need and have no pity on them, no pain in the gut; how can this love of God be in you? As John wrote, the Holy Spirit instructs us to love not with just our words or empty speech, but with action and in truth. Do you? Do you live for others, for those in this congregation, parish, in your communities? Are you willing to die for them as Christ died for you? You know what is right, do you do it? Or does your conscience condemn you?

            Hear what your conscience says, and look to Jesus. You know who you are in Christ, a baptised child of Our Heavenly Father, united to Jesus His Son, by the Holy Spirit who is now at work in your life. If your conscience condemns you, telling you that you are a failure and deserve abandonment for what you have done, for what you have failed to do; know that God is greater than your conscience and He knows everything. He knows everything you have done and everything you could have done; and also He knows His love for you, He knows what Jesus has done, the great victory is won, and He knows what He has promised to you. You cannot keep anything from Him.

If your heart condemns you, look back to Jesus and listen to Him. Confess your sins and hear again His Word, I forgive you. Hear again who you are in Christ, child of God, forgiven, beloved. Hear again His call into His victory, in the only war that truly matters, that against sin, death and the devil. We are soldiers in a war that is already won, but now is not the time for rest. The war is won, but is not yet finished. Everyday we still battle sin, death and the devil; in big ways and small. We are soldiers of Christ, living in His love, His victory; and we are called to live this love for all God’s creation, to bring His victory to all people, this is evangelism. To recruit the civilians who are suffering, the non-Christians in your life. To defend and support our brothers and sisters in arms, the Christians in our lives. To point us all to Jesus our Lord and God, to listen to His commands; I forgive you removing your sin, I am with you always, even if you die yet shall you live, it is done.

Your heart, your conscience is right to trouble you; God has given this gift of conscience to all people, written the law on our hearts, and yet your heart is not Lord and God. God is God. So as you go out know that God has said you are forgiven and have confidence before Him, your conscience now speaks against God if it condemns you. So go out reflecting on the love shown to you, the love shown in those best of our armed forces, and seek to love as Jesus first loved you; and if you fail come back to Him and receive His love anew. As you go out into battle, know that we are not alone, we have each other to love and be loved in word and action; and look not to yourself to know what is true, rather look to the Lord Jesus, listen to Him for His Word is truth.

Beloved of God, His peace which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and unto the end of all war. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Be who you are’

1 John 3:3
And all those having this hope on Him, purify themselves as He is pure.

            Children of God, be who you are. It’s interesting how identity has become so much more important in recent years, who you are according to politics, to ancestry, to cultural practises, race, sexual desires, gender roles, even economic history and so much more. There is the call to ‘be authentic’ or to ‘just be yourself’, to live out freely who you are without care for what others think, but only if who you are doesn’t affect or impose on others. It’s a reasonable need, a desire that makes sense, let the rock be a rock, the river a river, the pig a pig. But then the question comes, who says a pig is a pig? Who do we listen to?

            I remember as a child my siblings came to hate the movie, Babe, because apparently I would watch it every afternoon. If you haven’t seen it, or it’s been a while, essentially it’s a movie about a piglet, called Babe, who learns to herd sheep better than any of the sheepdogs. This pig gently asks the sheep to go to the sheep pen and they do, because Babe has a special code, ‘baa-ram-ewe’. Obviously Babe doesn’t live like a pig, rather he finds this strange identity by listening to a Boarder Collie who becomes a foster mother to him. Now why do I bring this up today? Is it to condemn those who identify themselves as homosexual and live it out? Those who identify as any of the LGBTQI+? Those who identify as Greenies, as Country, as old/young, as victim, upperclass, tough, black, white, yellow, pink with purple polkadots? No. Rather to point out that we often, if not always, find our identity by listening to someone. Now that might be yourself, or someone you respect, or even sometimes people you hate. But regardless, once we hold to our identity and know what that is we can live it out.

            Now, God Almighty has called you His children, identifying you with His Son, Jesus Christ the righteous. To Him this is the most important part of who we are, and if He’s the most important for us this identity we have in Christ will be the most important to live out. This is part of what the first commandment means, ‘you will not have any other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). Do you listen to other gods before Jesus? Other identities that are more important to you than being a child of God, other identities that you live out more fully and regularly? Put another way, do you make a habit of sin? If God has called you, although like Babe you look like a pig, to be a sheepdog why would you still wallow in the mud? As John writes, if you hold to this word, this promise of God, you will purify yourself as Jesus is pure. In light of Easter, do you live in Christ’s victory every day? Do you live a life where sin, the fear of death, and the temptations of the evil have no hold over you? The Holy Spirit through John today is clear, if we make a habit of sin, our lives revolving around another identity, we do not have a relationship with God Almighty, neither see nor know Him.

             Is there then any hope left for me, for you? At times I might break these bad habits, then either I fall back or others form. How can we purify ourselves, how can we make ourselves pure as Jesus, God Himself, is? Listen to His Word, His Word in the rest of this letter; From the opening of this letter: if any claim to be without sin, they lie and the truth is not in them; if we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). Listen to His Word, His work throughout the Bible; did Jesus wait for the Jews to purify themselves of bad habits, of other gods? No, God came to die for us while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8, 10). We cannot even know God without the Holy Spirit, He acts first (1 Corinthians 2:7-15). It is only after He lavishes His great love on us, adopting us, that we can live with Him towards the goal of our hope. It is only in this relationship, this listening to Him, to who He says we are, that we can live out of this New identity in Jesus, of Jesus. As you come today after a week of hearing others, to hear His Word, to hear what you are to God; forgiven, beloved, righteous, as Jesus children of God. As you hear all this He is changing you, He is purifying you, He is making you new again. The Holy Spirit is doing His work today, through as we confess in the creed, the church, Communion, forgiveness, toward the final resurrection and life everlasting with Christ; to grow forever in this relationship. The Holy Spirit, after preparing us for this New Life as God Almighty’s children, is sending us out to live as who we are called to be.

            You, together with all Christ’s Church, are living toward Christ; what we will be has not yet been revealed, but we know when Christ appears we shall be like Him and with Him. This is our hope. According to God’s steadfast Word. You children of God are called toward this, the Holy Spirit waling with you, to purify your lives as Christ’s life was pure, to live according to our most important identity, to fight against our bad habits, our harmful meditations, and those stray thoughts that speak against who we are in Christ Jesus. When you fall, just come back, confess, and hear again God speaking to you. Listen to Him, pray together with the Holy Spirit and live the life of Christ.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto our eternal hope. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

My Lord and My God!

John 20:28
Thomas said to Him, my Lord and my God!

            How often do we believe those we love? Your spouse says ‘no there’s no more mud cake’ then you go and check, just to make sure. How often is it that we are distracted, that we can’t focus on one thing, that we’re torn between what to do, even to think? How often are we Thomas, called Didymus, both names meaning twin, a double-minded man who is both a follower and a doubter. Thomas is us. When you heard the message last week, Christ is Risen! What did you think? Victorious over sin, death and the devil; do I see that in my life? Maybe we justify ourselves like sceptical Thomas by saying, ‘well scripture says to test the spirits, the messages we hear’ (1 John 4). So the question is, in my life, do I trust this Wonderful Good News of Jesus Christ, or do I doubt? And for me my name is a reminder, Joseph Andrew Thomas Graham: those middle names, double-minded male man. Often I feel dragged toward two different directions, trust or doubt, useful or useless, right or wrong; often I am my namesake, Thomas.

            But Thomas is not just the person who rejected the words of his beloved friends, not just one who ridiculed the truth that Jesus rose from the dead as impossible; Thomas also gives the greatest confession in all the Gospels. Jesus is not just the Lamb of God as John the Baptist confesses, not just the promised Messiah of Peter’s confession, not just the Son of God as confessed by the centurion who speared Him, Jesus is my Lord and my God. Thomas this man, pulled in two directions, confesses Jesus of two natures, the human Lord, and divine God Almighty. Jesus was not just another man, and neither did He just appear to die; no Thomas recognises, though probably not understanding the mystery, Thomas knows that Jesus, God and man, died and rose again.

            Yes, Jesus truly suffered as a human, tempted as we are in our lives. And yes, He has authority over the chaos of wind and oceans, to destroy sickness and raise to new life, He is God Almighty creator of Heaven and Earth. Jesus Christ, Lord and God, is victorious over sin, death and the devil. That is wonderful news, amazing and all that; yet it only becomes joyful to us when we share in it, when Jesus is victorious over my sin, my death and the devils attacking me. And Thomas confesses this too, not just Jesus, Lord and God; Jesus My Lord and My God. He is my master, and I His servant; He is my God, and I His follower. This is not from me, it is a gift of God Almighty, from Jesus, as He broke in and defeated my captor and carried me off into His kingdom of peace and joy. He is the one who has given you New Life by water and the Holy Spirit, a New Life for you to live today, to serve your King and follow your God. To live with Jesus who has defeated your sin, destroyed the power death had over you, and defends you against demonic temptation and attack. Doubt is not your enemy, just return to hear God, to hear His Word, Peace be with you, and He will sustain you. Jesus is still here with us even though we might not see, even if my hand doesn’t touch into His side, nor your finger the holes in His hands. He is here with us and He is blessing us today.

            I don’t come here every Sunday just to repeat some words, to wear special clothes, to stand and walk around up here. No, I come into God’s presence to serve Him and serve you. To bring God’s Word, to remind us of all Jesus said, to work alongside the Holy Spirit as He comforts and guides us in this New Life. Yet most of all, I do what I do here for the same reason John wrote His Gospel account, that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God, and that by believing you may have life everlasting in His name. That we may live according to our confession, the truth we confess together into eternity with Christ, that Jesus is my Lord and my God.

            And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and into life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Text: John 14:15-21


JOHN 14:15(Jesus said) “If you love me, you will treasure my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father and he will give you another counsellor who will be with you forever: 17the Spirit of Truth whom the world is not able to receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you do know him because he is beside you and will dwell within you. 18I will not send you away as orphans; I am coming to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you. 21Whoever has the commands of me and guards them; he is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love them and reveal myself to them.

“Seeing is believing!” That is the creed of today’s society that wants to see some verifiable evidence before placing trust in whatever the promise or proposition is, ranging from business deals to purchases we make and relationships entered into or ended, right through to the smorgasbord of claims and promises made in the area of spirituality too. Some years ago there was an article posted on the internet entitled ‘God does not exist and religion is a fairy tale for suckers.’ As the basis for their assertion, the person wrote:

“Please, please, please…give me the power to be God for just five minutes! You wouldn’t recognize the place!…no disease!…no poverty!…no crime!…no hunger!…no suffering!…no crack, no heroin, no tobacco!…no evil people running everything!…no ignorance!…no war!…no murder!…no rape!…no racism or discrimination!…no exploitation!”

Of course this isn’t really anything new. The human race says “I’ll believe that God is real when I see demonstrable proof and evidence—because evil is seen so regularly, then there cannot be a God.” But to assert that evil is proof that God doesn’t actually exist raises a greater problem―what sort of existence would it be where human beings, and the world we live in, is the product of random chance? If there is no God, what hope do we have living in an existence in which sin, evil and chaos rule unrestrained, devoid of the hope and means of deliverance from this situation?

The person who posted this internet article asserts there is no God based on what they can see. There’s another problem with this―if the evil we see is the evidence that God doesn’t exist, then the overarching moral code of the Bible becomes redundant, and to remain living under it is therefore viewed as an imposition. So instead, the self becomes the final authority to determine what is right and good. We should put no other gods above ourselves, for to do so is restraining freedom. But unrestrained freedom is a false freedom; in fact it is slavery, bondage to the self where we do whatever we want to feel good or feel safe or feel in control and preserve ourselves, even when that is damaging to others, and damaging to ourselves. Unrestrained freedom is actually the source of evil.

In our Gospel reading today we hear of humanity’s need for the one true saving God. Jesus says “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” The word for ‘obey’ here in its fullest sense means ‘guard’; ‘hold dear’, ‘treasure’. “If you love me, you will treasure what I command.” But not everyone does treasure what Jesus’ commands. If we are honest with ourselves, all of us, at one time or another, does not treasure or guard what Jesus commands. We find ourselves listening to our own hearts and reason rather than the words of Jesus, and as a human race that has been the case since Adam and Eve fell to the temptation in the Garden of Eden to treat God’s word indifferently too: Did God really say?

God dealt with the problem of sin and evil by taking it upon himself in the Person of Christ. That is why Jesus says to the disciples in today’s text: “Yet a little while and the world will no longer see me”. He is about to go to the Cross and die to make atonement for the world’s sin. He is about to go to the Cross where God judged evil and sin in his own Son in order to redeem the world from it. It is there that the innocent Son of God personally experienced and absorbed the full devastation of human injustice and wicked depravity, to save us from ourselves and God’s just sentence of death upon us as sinners. That is a truth that is painful for us to hear―but not as painful as what Jesus endured for our sakes, in order to redeem us and make us his own.

Most don’t see God in human flesh hanging there on the Cross. Our natural condition means that humans can’t. When people look at Jesus on the Cross perhaps they see a good man, or even a social revolutionary. Or perhaps just a poor man, the victim of cruel circumstances, powerless to help himself. Or perhaps they see a troublemaker who actually deserved the treatment given to him, worthy of the mocking from those passing by: “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the Cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the Chief Priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves: ‘He save others’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the Cross, that we may see and believe.’” (Mark 15:29-32). Yeah, that’s it. Come down, do something spectacular that we can see…then we will believe.

In today’s text Jesus said to his disciples: “A little while and the world will no longer see me.” The world will not see him…but they will see him. They will see him after his resurrection. They will see him as he reveals himself to them through the breaking of bread. They will see him as he comes to stand with them and proclaim his peace to them while they gather in a locked room. They will see him as he eats breakfast on the shore. They will see him…not just with their eyes but with their hearts and minds as he is with them. They will see him again: “I will not send you away as orphans; I am coming to you” (verse 18).

And he makes another promise to them: And I will ask the Father and he will give you another counsellor who will be with you forever: the Spirit of Truth whom the world is not able to receive because it neither sees him nor knows him” (verses 16-17). But they will know him. They will know him—the Holy Spirit is not some kind of vague force or impersonal power. He is the third Person of the Triune God. Some versions translate him as ‘the Paraclete’ but there isn’t really any particular English word that sufficiently captures what the original word ‘parakletos’ (pronounced par-a-clay-tos) means. Literally it is ‘one called to the side of’. Some of our English translations say ‘Comforter’ or ‘Counsellor’ and the Holy Spirit is both of those things, giving us counsel and comfort as he leads us into all truth. Another sense is that of an ‘advocate’—someone who speaks in support and defense of another. This is true too, as he stands beside us, defending us from the accusations of the law, others, and Satan himself who accuses God’s people day and night before God (Revelation 12:10). Jesus says that “the world cannot accept this One who walks beside, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Jesus promises them that the Holy Spirit will be their other Paraclete―their other advocate, counsellor and comforter. Their other one called to be by their side and to dwell in them. The first is Jesus himself: “I am not sending you away as orphans. I am coming to you.” The disciples will have Jesus and the Holy Spirit walking with them, guiding them, comforting them, leading them, ministering to them. These promises are first of all to the disciples as they give the apostolic testimony handed down to us today. Though the world does not see or know Jesus and the Spirit, they do, and will, and through the words the Spirit guided them to write, this promise is true for you too as he comes to you with his grace, mercy, forgiveness and salvation in baptism, Holy Communion, the absolution, the word, the liturgy.

In our first reading, we heard of the religious marketplace of Athens, the multitude of idols worshipped. Just to make sure they had all bases covered there was an altar with the inscription “To an unknown God”. Jesus promises the disciples in today’s text: “I will ask the Father and he will give you another counsellor who will be with you forever: the Spirit of Truth whom the world is not able to receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you do know him because he is beside you and will dwell within you.” God is so unknown to most people today―people who look for proof: “If I see God, then I will believe”.

But you do know the God unknown by the world. You have received that which the world is unable to receive―the gift of the Holy Spirit. Your Heavenly Father has sent him to be your counsellor to guide you into all truth so that you treasure the words of Christ―the whole of Scripture. Your Heavenly Father has sent his Holy Spirit to be your helper, your guide, to walk with you and stand by you and empty every accusation against you of its condemning power. He is not like idols of gold or silver or stone and he does not live in temples made by hands. But he lives in the temple he made with his hands—you: “…you know him because he is beside you and will dwell within you”.

The Holy Spirit is beside you and dwells within you together with Christ and his Father who sent him to die on the Cross and shed his precious blood to ransom you, that you would be his very own and have a dwelling place in heaven forever. Through the power of the Holy Spirit you know the God whom the world does not know. You don’t just know about God but you know God, personally, relationally, as he shares his own life and blessings with you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

That is how, when you look around and are tempted to see only abominable evil and heart-wrenching suffering, that we can be sure God is a loving God. For the Cross is where you see that God went to incomprehensible lengths for you, to punish such evil that is part of the human condition, and free you from your own sin and death, so that you will not be left orphaned in the world but have a room in your Heavenly Father’s mansion. His mighty resurrection, which you share in through baptism, is how you know his promise is true for you: “Because I live, you also will live”. Because God has given you faith to believe in your Saviour Jesus Christ, then one day you will see him with the angels and all the other saints in glory, forever. Amen.