Archive for the ‘After Pentecost’ Category

15th Sunday after Pentecost 2nd September

Saturday, September 1st, 2018


Some people are obsessed with cleanliness. They are always dusting, cleaning, scrubbing and vacuuming. Now I’m not knocking that. I’d sooner live in a clean house than in a pig sty.

Before God, however, we have to be absolutely clean. We can’t approach God if there is the slightest sin in our heart.

How do we become clean? There are only two methods.
First, it is up to us to clean ourselves. We clean up our lives and hope such cleanliness is good enough.

Second, God cleans us. He gives us a new and clean heart.

Our text from Mark 7 shows us that the first method doesn’t work. We can’t clean ourselves sufficiently to come before God. Only Jesus can make us clean enough to enter God’s presence. May we come to Jesus for true cleanliness.


At the time of Jesus there was a group of religious leaders called the scribes. They dated from about 500- 400 BC. They were legal experts. They devised dozens of rules and added to the ten commandments. They thought that these additional rules would help them to keep God’s law perfectly. These became known as the tradition of the elders. By obeying them they thought they would have clean lives. They thought they were now good enough to come near to God. They were quite wrong, of course.

Let me give you an example of some of the rules they made up in connection with the third commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy’. Women were forbidden to look into a mirror for fear they might see a gray hair and be tempted to pluck it. You couldn’t trim your beard or finger nails, or carry a burden such as earrings or even false teeth. You could not walk more than 3,000 meters from your home. Parents could pick up a child, but not if the child had a toy in its hand. You were not allowed to eat an egg a hen had labored to produce on the Sabbath. If a wall collapsed on a person, it was permissible to clear away the rubble only to see if the victim were still breathing. And what could one carry  out of a burning house? Only the clothes on one’s back. You could rush naked back into the flames, however, to put on another set of clothes.

Orthodox Jews still try to follow some of these rules today. One President of an AFL football club was an orthodox Jew, hence he couldn’t attend the Grand Final on the Sabbath, the Saturday. Do you know how he got the football scores? He instructed two non-Jewish security guards to tell each other the match scores as they walked past his open window. Apparently it is all right to overhear such things on the Sabbath!

Helen and I discovered some of these rules in Israel one Sabbath. We had to drink coffee without milk because it took work to milk cows and so the hotel didn’t have any milk. Also some of the lifts in our hotel stopped automatically at each floor even if no one got on or off. The reason, orthodox Jews wouldn’t have to press the lift button to get to their room as this was regarded as work!

In our text Jesus and his disciples were accused of not observing the tradition of the elders. They were eating food with unwashed ‘hands’. This hand washing was not in the interests of hygiene; it was ceremonial cleanness. Before every meal, and between each of the courses, the hands had to be washed. The water for washing was kept in special large stone jars and kept clean.

First, the hands were held with the finger tips pointing upwards; the water was poured over them and must run at least down to the wrist; the minimum amount of  water was 1½ egg shells full of water. While the hands were still wet each hand to be cleansed with the fist of the other. This made the water on the hands unclean.

So, second, the hands had to be held with the finger tips pointing downwards and the water had to be poured over them in such a way that it began at the wrists and ran off at the finger tips. After all that had been done the hands were clean.

            The point is, if you didn’t wash your hands like this you were unclean in the sight of God. And you would be subject to the attacks of a demon called Shibta (Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, 166-167).

            You can see why Jesus often got into hot water with these strict Jews. He didn’t observe all the tradition of the elders.

            And you can also see why Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. They were more interested in their scribal laws than the laws of God. As long as they kept these man-made laws they were clean. It didn’t matter if they hated someone, or were full of envy, jealousy, pride and bitterness.

            Jesus said that what makes us unclean is not neglecting to keep these made-up rules. They are outward things. What defiles us is what comes from inside, from the heart. The heart is the source and center of life. It is the spring from which either good or evil flows.

            Take a child, for example. It might push or punch its brother or sister. Dad comes along and tells this child, ‘Say sorry’. The child says sorry, but it is clear that the sorry doesn’t come from the heart.

            So the orthodox Jews thought washing their hands would make them clean before God. How foolish. But we can also fall into the same sort of trap. We can think that clean living makes us right with God. If we go to church, if we give generously, if we work hard on the job, if we read the Bible, if we say table grace, if we live a decent life – then we are clean enough to enter God’s presence.

            A do-it-yourself religion doesn’t work. Our attempts to clean up our act are not good enough. We can never make ourselves clean enough to come before our holy God.

            On the contrary, our heart is full of sin. It is dirty. And that means all kinds of evil pour forth – evil thoughts, motives, interests and actions.


            So how can we get ‘clean hands and pure hearts’ (Ps 24:4) to approach  our holy God? There’s only one way. And that is to confess our sinful attempts to please God and with a humble heart receive the  clean heart he gives us. When did God give us a clean heart? When we were baptised. Baptism links us to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only one who has ever really lived a ‘good, clean life’ before God. He alone is the spotless Lamb of God who never dirtied himself with the stain of sin. Yet in spite of his own cleanliness, he chose to cover himself with all the dirt and filth of every other person’s sin. and God chose to give him our punishment for that sin, and us his cleanliness.

            In the waters of God’s holy washing, baptism, He gives us Jesus’ clean, holy life as our own and washes away the stain and dirt of our sin. That’s what you call cleanliness.

            Now, by the power of forgiveness in baptism we are enabled really to do what the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and our own hypocritical natures can only mimic – offer a life to God that is clean or godly. Now, in Christ, our actions as God’s people – from the rituals of our worship to the duties of our daily tasks – are clean in God’s sight. No wonder St Paul calls baptism a ‘washing of regeneration’ and ‘renewing of the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:5).

            In the power of our baptism we can say daily, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me’ (Ps 51:10). That’s exactly what God does for us.

As you know today is father’s day. Their role is vital. There are three things fathers need to do with their children. Much of this applies to grandparents too.

First, take time with them. As one son writes, ‘When I was around 13 and my brother was 10, father promised to take us to the circus. But at lunch time there was a phone call. Some urgent business required his attention downtown. My brother and I braced ourselves for the disappointment. Then we heard him say, “No, I won’t be down. It will have to wait”. When he came back to the table, mother smiled and said to our Dad, “The circus keeps coming back you know”. “I know”, said father, “but childhood doesn’t”’.

Second, fathers need to teach their children spiritual truths. They need to teach children that we cannot make ourselves clean before God. We are all sinners. We all need to repent, that is to own up to our sins before God. We can only become right with God through the cleansing blood of Jesus.

Children will never forget what they learned from their fathers. They will follow Jesus. Some may for a time depart from the way of Jesus, but through God’s Spirit, most of these will come back.

Third, fathers need to model Jesus by the lives they lead. If so, the following incident should never happen. Two boys were walking home from church and sharing their reflection on the lesson. They had been studying the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Little James said to his friend John, ‘Do you believe that stuff about the Devil? Do you think there really is a Devil?’ John looked at him and said, ‘Naah, it’s just like Santa Claus – it’s your dad’ .

Ahh, model Jesus. And this goes for grandparents too. It means decent language, honesty, concern for others, a spirit of forgiveness, all laced with love. (This also means that you will monitor the internet when your children surf it. There is so much evil on the internet which is so readily available.)

This reminds me of some children who wanted to watch a movie on TV. The father said no. They came up with all the regular reasons as to why they should watch it. Everyone else was seeing it. The language was pretty good – the Lord’s name was only used in vain three times in the whole movie. They admitted that there was a scene where a building and a bunch of people were blown up, but the violence was just the normal stuff. The father still said no.

A little later that night the father asked his children if they would like some biscuits he had baked. He explained that he’d taken their favorite recipe and added a little something new. The children asked what it was. The father calmly replied that he had added dog droppings. However, he quickly assured them, it was only a bit. All other ingredients were of the highest quality. He was sure the biscuits would be superb.

The children said ‘Thanks, but no thanks’. The father acted surprised. After all, it was only one small part that was causing them to be so stubborn. He was certain they would hardly notice it. Still they held firm and would not try the biscuits.

The father then told his children how the movie they wanted to see was just like the biscuits. Our minds are telling us to believe that just a little bit of evil won’t matter. But, the truth is even a little bit of dog droppings makes the difference between a great treat and something disgusting and unacceptable.

Now, when this father’s children want to see something that is of questionable material, the father merely asks them if they would like some of his special dog biscuits. That closes the subject.

I cannot overemphasize the importance of fathers for the Christian upbringing of children. No one else has a greater effect on children than their father.  


            Some parents were visiting their newly married daughter. They noticed a turkey thawing in the kitchen sink under a dish drainer.  The father asked why the drainer was being used this way.

The daughter turned to her mother and said, ‘Mum, you always did it’. ‘Yes’, her mother agreed, ‘but you don’t have a cat’!

Traditions! Traditions may be good; but some are not helpful. The traditions in Jesus’ day were not helpful. The people thought that by keeping the traditions of the elders they were clean and their life pleasing to God. They didn’t realise that their traditions were drawing them away from God.

Only Jesus takes away our sin. Only Jesus makes us clean. Only Jesus gives us clean hearts. His death on the cross and his resurrection have made us altogether new. Through Jesus and his Spirit we walk in newness of life. That’s what you call true cleanliness.

It being father’s day I thought I would finish with this little piece: 

Dads Turn Out All Right – In Time.

 4 years: My Daddy can do anything.

  7 years: My Dad knows a lot, a whole lot.

  8 years: Dad doesn’t know quite everything.

12 years: Oh, well, naturally Dad doesn’t understand.

14 years: Father? Hopelessly old-fashioned.

21 years: Oh, that man is out of date; what would you expect?

25 years: He comes up with a good idea now and then.

30 years: Must find out what Dad thinks about it.

35 years: A little patience; let’s get Dad’s input first.

50 years: What would Dad have thought about that?

60 years: I wish I could talk it over with Dad.

Rev. Peter Kriewaldt

14th Sunday after Pentecost 26th August

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

John 6:60, 67-69

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

            Hard teachings, we have a few of those in the church don’t we? The Bible is true, and it says God told the Israelites to kill the Canaanites, there’s Sodom and Gomorrah, the laws and culture God gave the Israelites regarding deviant sexual behaviour, diet and shelter, many of which are seen as abhorrent and evil by today’s culture.  The hard teaching that Jesus Christ is the only way for salvation and every other religion is wrong; that there is life after this one and there is eternal salvation, life and eternal death and separation from God’s grace; that there is an all good, all powerful and all-knowing God but there is still evil and horrors in this world He created. There’s the man Jesus being born with a virgin for a mother, the almighty creator of the universe becoming a man, then we also teach that despite His power God died. Now just take a step back, God died, what kind of a person would go around saying God made the universe, no one is greater or stronger, He knows everything and is in control of everything, then He died. That’s one of our teachings and to many these teachings are ridiculous.

            There are also hard teachings for us Christians. We think of the Divine trinity, three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, but only one God. Also back to Jesus, He was fully human and fully God; He died and rose again to life by His own power. He came down from heaven and ascended back there to God’s right hand. He is the bread from heaven and we are called to eat His flesh and drink His blood. Even, no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. These are hard teachings, this world teaches us that we get what we earn, either reward or punishment, but God freely gives His grace in salvation from sin and death unconditionally; we do not work to earn salvation. We love because He first loved us. We were dead in our sin, but God made us alive together in Christ, by grace you have been saved. That is the teaching we as Christians struggle with the most.

            These are hard teachings, but they are the words of God the one who loves us and all people so very much. He’s gone out of His way to give us His word in a way we can receive it, written down in the Bible. That’s a fantastic teaching as well, that God cares so much that He’s stooped to our level to help us understand the things we’re able to. So that, like a parent to a young child, we know what we did wrong, and why it was wrong, and also how it has been fixed in Jesus. So that we understand what is true about us and this world God has created. Truly a wonderful thing, thank God for His love through His Word.

            So God loves us, He stoops to our level, but why doesn’t He make those hard teachings easier for us to understand. If only Jesus had said things differently, maybe those disciples wouldn’t have left. These people came after being fed and wanted to know more of Jesus, but He tells them to believe Him, then says that He is the bread of life, eat Him and live. They reply not understanding, thinking ‘Is this man telling us to canabalise him? That’s against God’s Law!’ So Jesus tells them, ‘Unless you chew and swallow my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you.’ They say, ‘that’s a hard teaching, who will accept it?’ He says, ‘this offends you? Wait until you see me rise to heaven where I’ve come from. My words are true and life. I knew you didn’t believe.’  And those many disciples left Him never to come back.

            Wow! Dial it back a bit Jesus, not so harsh, you gotta butter them up first, if you speak like that no one will come to listen to you. We as enlightened, Post Modern people know that if you want people to come to faith you need to start on the small and easy things, nice songs, prayer for health, God loves you, He wants the best for you; we know we should leave those difficult questions about hell, damnation and God killing, for later, or the pastor. You don’t start with cannibalism, like why didn’t you say you’ll just be eating bread and wine, not your actual flesh and blood, people would’ve been on board with that, well more than the other teaching.

            And then Jesus turns to His twelve dedicated disciples. ‘You gonna leave to?’ But Peter replies, “Lord, to whom would we go? For you have the words of eternal life and we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus doesn’t even try to repackage hard teaching for His disciples, but they know that He speaks the truth, not only that but it is Jesus, The Word of God, who gives us eternal life. The truth is sometimes hard, difficult and painful; but it is always true. Like confessing failure, the pain must be dealt with but the forgiveness and healing is sweet. As we eat and drink Jesus in Holy Communion He is with us in a most intimate way, bringing life and forgiveness. We are brought in and with Him into the loving relationship of Father, Son and Spirit; being joined with the triune God. God died on the cross, for you on the cross. And it is God who has saved you, forgiven you and loves you, not because of what you have done, but because of what He has done for you. We can’t make Him love us any less or any more. Jesus loves you, has promised you that you have eternal life with Him, the gracious gift of God. We know and we believe that He is The Way the Truth and the Life. And despite the offence He is our Lord, the one whose words give life eternal.

And the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts in Christ Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham

13th Sunday after Pentecost 19th August

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

What a wonderful time today, when we can celebrate and share Godly joy with Duncan’s baptism this morning. Thanks be to God for bringing salvation and assurance to Duncan through this washing and through His Word. This is a great day.

            Duncan is now together with us a child of God, a brother of Jesus and a member of God’s people here on Earth. But, the happiness of today will pass and things will be tough again, because although we are now of Jesus this world rejects us (John 17:14-16). Listening to the News and living with people who reject Jesus, the saviour and life-giver, we hear many things that may make us afraid of being with Christ, being a son of God with Duncan. This is a dangerous world for us, and not just socially and financially, but also spiritually.

It’s not just a vague thing of the world against us as Christians, but we are tempted all around. Tempted by the government, perhaps into hoping that they will come to save you, or anger when they don’t; tempted by the T. V., into thinking that you just need that new thing and you’ll be happy, or into wasting your life away watching it for too long; tempted by friends or maybe even family, into focussing on work, gossip or life in this world and forgetting our life in Jesus Christ; And of course we are tempted in ourselves by our own selfish desires, indulgence, pride and putting ourself in the place of God. The danger of sin is coming from all around, and Peter tells us this in his first letter ‘your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

This is the life we live as Christians, the life into which Duncan has been brought into. It’s not all rain and roses for us as Christians. Temptation is always there, so Paul tells us to be careful in our lives, in what we do and how we do it, to be wise. He writes to make the most of every opportunity, because time is short; to not be lazy in our work, in our life, our love and our faith. If we don’t we’d be like a farmer in a drought who thinks, ‘I’ll feed the stock next week, it’ll be fine until then.’ We might find that we develop habits that take us away from Christ, away from the Bible and away from prayer. This is not good.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand the Lord’s will. What is the Lord’s will? What does He want to happen? What does He want us to do? 1 Timothy tells us God our saviour desires all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4). And from Ezekiel we learn that the Lord God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in that the wicked turn from their way and live (Ezekiel 33:11). And of course Jesus tells us all in John 3:16 the God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have life everlasting. We know that God loves us, He loves you, and wants all to be saved from death and evil, and receive eternal life. He tells us that us and all who believe, who have the faith of a child (Luke 18:15-17), receive eternal life and ultimate salvation from our sin and the evil of this world (John 3:16; 1 John 1:9). He wants all people to hear and learn of this salvation He’s given all of us. That is why Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). And Jesus also tells us that the work of God is this, to believe in the one He has sent (John 6:29). So what does God want to happen? All people to hear His Word and be saved. And what does He want us to do? To believe in Jesus, what He said and what He has done for us; saving us from sin, death and the devil.

Thinking on this we can join with Paul from Romans 7 (:25), who can save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! We thank God for all He has done for us, joyfully receiving His good gifts; life, family, food, shelter, our siblings in Christ, the Bible God’s Word, our faith and our salvation and eternal life over death in Jesus Christ. We know what God has done for us, but He doesn’t leave us to suffer in this life alone. The Father, Son and Spirit sustain us in this life, comforting us and supporting us so that we may live wisely and make the best use of this time He has given us; to encourage and bring joy to each other and He even helps us give thanks to Him for all of this. So truly, Thanks be to God for all He has given you.

And may He now give you His peace which passes all our understanding and guard your hearts in Christ Jesus now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham

12th Sunday after Pentecost 12th August 2018

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Ephesians 4:25, 27 5:1-2

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body,and do not give the devil a foothold.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

            I remember when I first became aware of politics and politicians, didn’t really pay much attention when I was young. It was in 2007 when the two big names were John Howard and Kevin Rudd. For the first time after seeing a few of their on screen appearances, I wondered, ‘why are they mostly just saying that the other person/team is bad?’ As I paid more attention over the last ten or so years it seems this slandering of others has grown. Basically to the point that I don’t really know what politicians actually promise except that it’s the opposite of whatever the other politician wants. I even made the mistake of watching question time.

            That’s just one example of slander, and insults. Throughout my life I’ve seen, experience and probably joined in on this practise in our society; beginning at home, school, sports, and work. Slander, false accusation, is part and parcel of this sinful world, and that makes sense. That word in verse 27 translated ‘devil’ is diabolos, or slanderer. In Hebrew the word translated satan is accuser or adversary, and that is what satan, the devil is. He tempts us into sin and when we fall he condemns us to death because of our sin, the devious part is that he lies saying that God could never forgive us and that we couldn’t be saved by Jesus. Accusing us and slandering the cross and Christ’s words of truth for you; ‘my blood for the forgiveness of your sin.’ Slander is fundamental to this world under the power of sin. What does this mean when we falsely accuse someone else?

            When we speak false and malicious words about each other, or anyone else for that matter, we are walking in the way of the devil. But you have been baptised! You have been cleansed of your sin and have put off that old sinful self, died with Christ to sin and now are alive in Him. You are, together with all Christians, one with Christ, holy and saved and walking in His way. Why would you give this up and return to the way of the world, the life that leads to death? Actually, why would we leave a life of peace, love, forgiveness and kindness for a life of anger, bitterness and malice?

            But that’s what each and every one of us does, what every follower of Christ here on earth has done and will do. That is our struggle with sin, our weakness. Elsewhere Paul writes of the thorn in his flesh, the weakness of his through which Christ’s strength is displayed; and also of the Christians earthly struggle with our corrupt and sick nature (2 Corinthians 12:6-8; Romans 7). And here in his letter to the Ephesians, what does Paul tell us? We are to stop speaking falsely and are to speak the truth to those around us, to not sin in our anger, to not give any ground to the devil, the slanderer, to build up and speak grace to those hearing and not grieve the Holy Spirit of God; to let all anger, bitterness, and malice be removed from you and be imitators of Christ, walking in love. To let malice be removed? Huh, I wonder who removes it if we don’t? The Holy Spirit, who we grieve when we reject Him; and Christ in whom we are forgiven and into whom we are baptised and renewed. It is God who takes away our sin, who forgives us and loves us. And it is He who we grieve and make ourselves the enemy of when we slander His Son, when we sin.

            God has saved you through the blood of Christ from death and has forgiven your sin. Paul tells us to be like God, who is kind, merciful, forgiving and loves you His child. We are to imitate Christ, walking in love and giving Himself up for you. We can’t imitate Jesus if He hadn’t done it first, and we can’t be like God if He hadn’t revealed Himself to us. God acts first, then we respond. He has saved you and taken away your sin, you are holy in His eyes. Now, because of Him, we imitate Christ, we walk in the way of God acting like Him who saved us. Not like the slanderer, the accuser, the father of lies, who lead us before in malice and to death in our sin. Christ has saved you, don’t forget the truth.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham

11th Sunday after Pentecost 5th August

Saturday, August 4th, 2018


People have been known to make outlandish-bizarre claims. When I was studying Psychology at Adelaide University we made a visit to Parkside mental home. I remember meeting a man who claimed to be Napoleon. pastorh2And there was woman cradling a doll in her arms. She said she was the Virgin Mary and the doll was the baby Jesus. Because of their mental illness, these people were obviously deluded.
 Jesus also made some rather striking-unusual claims. On one occasion he said, “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE”. And he wasn’t the baker at the local mental hospital.  This statement is in fact the first of the 7 great “I am” statements of Jesus recorded in John’s gospel. I am: “The Light of the world” – ”The Door” – “The Good Shepherd” – “the Vine” – “The Resurrection and the Life” – “The Way, Truth and the Life”.
Now these are tremendous claims. They are saying that Jesus I not a mere mortal man. They are in fact claims to be divine. It is Jesus’ way of saying that he was the Son of God-that he was One with God.
This morning we focus on the first of these claims-“I am the Bread of Life”. Note that Jesus didn’t say, “I am the medicine of Life”. That would have implied that he was only for emergencies-sickness-particular needs.  Unfortunately that is how many people treat Jesus. They only turn to him when they are in trouble-desperate. Jesus didn’t say, “I am the desert of life”. That would have implied that Jesus was an extra, but not really necessary. He didn’t say, “I am the tea-coffee of life”. He says, “I am the Bread of life”.
 Throughout history, bread has been the staple –basic source of nourishment.. It was called the “staff of life”. It was nutritious-healthy. For the people of the Middle East food meant bread. So it was culturally appropriate for Jesus to say, “I am the Bread of Life”.

Cultural versions:
Italy: The pizza of life.
America: The MacDonald’s of life.
Asia: The Rice of life:
Germany: The Schnitzel of Life.  Sound better than the sauerkraut of life:
Ireland: The Potato of life.
Hungary: The goulash of life.
Australia: The BBQ-meat pie.

In Israel at the time of Jesus it was appropriate to say, “I am the Bread of life” because bread was the basic-essential food of those times.
The day before Jesus made this remarkable claim was the time when he fed the crowd of 5,000 with the 5 small loaves and two fish. And as a result of that miracle the crowd wanted to make Jesus their King. But it wasn’t for the right reason –it wasn’t because of their commitment to him-it wasn’t because they wanted to be his loyal subjects. They simply saw Jesus as providing an easy life for them. They wanted Jesus to be their King who would provide for all their needs. They then could have an easy-care free life. It is in this context that Jesus makes this striking statement. “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE; HE WHO COMES TO ME WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY AND WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER THIRST”.
It is quite clear that Jesus was not talking about ordinary bread.  You can eat bread (any food) and that will satisfy you hunger for a little while-stop you stomach from rumbling.  But after you have eaten and your stomach has digested the food you begin to feel hungry again. That is the pattern with ordinary food. But Jesus says quite emphatically, “HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NEVER HUNGER”.
 What Jesus means is that he can meet all our needs. Not just the physical needs the people were focussing on but in particular our spiritual needs. Jesus can satisfy all our hungers-thirsts.  He said, “Blessed are those that hunger-thirst for righteousness”. Those who want to know God-to have a relationship with God.
  It is interesting to note that that many people who seem to have “made it” in the world-people who have acquired fame-wealth-status-power-influence, often don’t seem to be very happy-satisfied. Many of these “high flyers” have made psychiatrists very wealthy. To be having “therapy” was the “in thing-trendy-fashionable thing for many of the Hollywood set. Pop stars commit suicide in large numbers-Janis Joplin-Jimmy Hendrix-brain Hutchence-the comedian Tony Hancock. The list is endless. Fame-wealth-success is no guarantee of happiness-satisfaction. Take Howard Hughes-Paul Getty for example. Success with material things does not-cannot- bring true satisfaction-happiness. Jesus said it many years ago, “  A MAN’S LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS POSSESSIONS”.
Perhaps you have experienced that for yourself. There was something you really wanted –a large screen TV-DVD player-new car-new furniture-new hobby etc. But once you have got it-once you have reached your goal, it soon looses its appeal.  It doesn’t seem as important as it once did. The reason why we don’t often find satisfaction is that we are looking for satisfaction from things that ultimately are unable to satisfy.  When Jesus says, “HE WHO COMES TO ME SHALL NOT HUNGER-HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NOT THIRST”, he is claiming that he can satisfy All our needs-spiritual-emotional.
 But for this to happen we need to come to him- accept his invitation-believe-trust in him. His promise is that he will meet our unsatisfied longings.
The spiritual hunger that we have, can only-will only be met when we really come to know Jesus personally. That is when we experience his love-concern for us. Then and only then, will the restless soul find rest-the hungry heart be satisfied.
You know it is a strange thing. Our generation is probably the best off as far as material possessions-comforts are concerned. And yet so many people don’t seem to be happy-satisfied- despite all the things they have. That is why some people flock in droves to the various New Age alternatives-astrology-Buddhism-Eastern religions-even witchcraft-Between 1996-2001 there was a 140% in people turning to witchcraft in Australia. The reason is quite simple. More and more people are discovering that material possessions-outward success don’t and can’t ultimately satisfy the human spirit.
St Augustine knew the reason for that. He said, “OUR HEARTS ARE NOT AT REST UNTIL THEY REST IN GOD”. And the only way our hearts can rest in God is when we come to know Jesus who is the Bread of life.   

There is a song by Andy Park-“Only You”.

No one but you Lord can satisfy the longing in my heart.

Nothing I do Lord can take the place of drawing near to you.

Only you can fill my deepest longing

Only you can breathe in me new life.

Only you can fill my heart with laughter.

 Only you can answer my heart’s cry”.

Pastor Haydn Blaess

10th Sunday after Pentecost 29th July

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

2 Samuel 11:1, 4, 13, 15

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. But David remained in Jerusalem.
Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home.
At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

King David is one of the characters in the Bible that most people have heard of. He is the great military ruler of Israel who unified the tribes and defeated all their enemies. The Jews revere Him too, and a common symbol of Judaism is the star of David. And for those who’ve read some scripture, they’ll notice that many, maybe most, of the psalms were written by Him. For us Christians we know He is mentioned in many prophecies, the coming King like David, He will unite Israel again, and save the people. It is eve3n said that He is a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). He was a great man in history, and a devote follower of God.

But then what is this? What devote follower of God would fall so far? How could the psalmist and man after God’s own heart sin so grievously? Is  there anyone who can live the righteous life? It’s true when David writes in Psalm 14 and 53, that everyone has turned away from God, all are corrupt and no one does good. What does it mean to turn away, or turn aside from God? It means to go our own way. That we think we know best, that I am right about everything and God doesn’t really understand His creation. Also that I know better than you and others about what we should and shouldn’t do and how we should or shouldn’t do it. It is sin, trying to putting ourselves in God place.

And what does that mean for us? How do we live like that, living in our sin and selfishness? When you try to take full control of your life you don’t want to let it go. When we dedicate ourself to something we will try to keep it going. An easy example is making a cake, you don’t stop halfway through otherwise bad things happen. Also we know that when you choose to lie and deceive people, one lie will lead to another, then another and another, until it consumes your life or you reveal the truth and cop the consequences. Sin leads to sin. Here with David we see that play out, first he rejects his role as king and leader of the armies, then he falls into lust and adultery, then deception, then leading another into drunkenness, then the murder of one of his loyal soldiers. Throughout all of this he doesn’t seem to feel any remorse or regret, but rather he has let go of God’s Word, he’s turned aside and done what he saw as right and he has fallen prey to Satan the deceiver.

Sin led to sin and resulted in death; the death of Uriah, the death of David and Bathsheba’s firstborn, the death of four of David’s sons and the death of David himself (2 Samuel 12:9-12, 14). David’s first sin, when he turned aside from God’s calling as king of Israel, didn’t seem too bad but he fell deeper and deeper before turning back to God, before repenting. Now what might this mean for you? I won’t ask for hands up, but how many of us sinned in a small way last week? How many times have you then ignored your sin and refused to confess it? How many times does that lead you to sin again? And finally how do we stop falling?

David was a great figure in our Christian history, but another is greater. David had another Israelite, a speaker of God’s Word, reveal his sin to him and immediately David confessed his sin to Nathan and Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin.” (2 Samuel 12:13). David confessed the truth and turned back to God and God remove the sin and took David out of the spiral of sin, out of the depths of hell. There were still earthly consequences for his sin, just as there are for us too. When we deceive someone we break trust and even when we repent and come clean the broken trust needs to be healed. This is the same with God, our relationship is broken by sin as deception.

But Jesus Christ, the Great King of Israel David’s descendent, is also the great healer coming to heal us sick with sin. Jesus came to live, teach, die and rise again for us; to wash us clean by His blood; to heal the sickness of our sin and corruption and to bring us into a whole and loving relationship with God. No matter how great our sin, Christ is greater. He forgives you for all your deception and wickedness, you are now free from it in Jesus. You know that Jesus is the truth, the life and the way of God (John 14:6), and we are joined with Him by baptism and the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:3-5; 8:9-11). Certainly sin is ever tempting to turn us aside to our own will, but we like David before us confess the truth of our sins, and turn back to God who gives us free mercy and grace. Cling to God for you are forgiven, and now you are free from sin.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

9th Sunday after Pentecost

Saturday, July 21st, 2018


Ephesians 2:14-16

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.


One of the first things I learnt about this congregation is that our ancestors have come from very different places and different ethnic groups. We are different. I bring this up partly because the word here for Gentile is ethne which is where we get the word ethnic from, meaning nations. We’ve got Prussian descent, Silesian, other German, English, Scottish, Irish, and that’s just me, (Dutch, Swedish, Ethiopia, Nigerian, I know there are different ethnicities in those two, but I don’t really know the areas [Dubbo]). And now here we are in Australia, another nation. We are of the nations and Paul is talking here to you and me. At one time you nations were separate from Christ and without God (verse 11). In Peter’s first letter God tells us, once you were not a people, now you are God’s people, once you had not received mercy and now you have (2:10). Now despite our different heritages, we are all united in faith and are part of St Mark’s/John’s Lutheran congregation. We are one.

Paul here is writing specifically about separation between God’s covenant people of Israel and the new non-Jew converts to the way of Jesus. This separation was far greater than the difference and hostility between the European settlers and the Aboriginal people, big though that was. The difference between Jew and Gentile was hope, true peace and God Himself. The Jews had it and everyone else didn’t. The Jews had grown up as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the children of the promise (Romans 9:6-13).  They were the one ethnic group, the only nation that God had chosen and guided, even formed Himself. He was their God and their God alone for around 2000yrs. He spoke His promises to them, He provided land and salvation from their enemies, His presence and Spirit dwelt with them. He was their God and they were His people and they were different.

But God in His infinite grace has not kept it that way. This is what Paul is assuring the gentiles of Ephesus of, and reminding the Jews of Ephesus as well. As both were joined to Christ in baptism, both are now people of God’s promises and Christ has dissolved the barriers between them. Once they were separate, now they are one in Christ. Certainly there were differences between the cultures and appearance of Jews, non-Jews and other non-Jews, we can still see that today, but in Christ we are all one. And Jesus Himself prays for us that we would be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:11).

And now comes the question. Between you and me is there a barrier, are you uncomfortable around me, do you dislike me, not understand me, or perhaps something else? What about each other? As members of God’s family, do we see each other as our own brothers and sisters? If not, what is separating us, why might we avoid each other? In a similar way to the Jews and Gentiles, we are separated from each other by sin, the sinful acts of the other person, or our own. Perhaps we don’t forgive a fellow Christian, or we think we’re better than them, a better Christian, a better age, better life circumstance, or maybe we even dislike them and act upon our displeasure. Sin is the enemy, not each other, and it is sin that separates us here in this world.

Sin is what separates us from God as well, our rejection of His way and our arrogance in saying our way is better. And sin has been defeated by Jesus Christ. God has promised you peace, deep and lasting peace for eternity with Him. We have been promised this our Baptism into Christ. And He has died to sin, so in Him sin has no power and peace reigns. He has destroyed the dividing walls between people of all nations, there is no longer Jew nor Greek for you are all one in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Now there is peace between us Christians, but much more significantly, peace between us and God. In Christ we have become a new humanity of peace, reconciled together to God through the cross, by which Christ has put to death all hostility between us. We now live in peace with each other and with God, that everlasting peace that only God can provide.

May that peace which passes all our human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Graham Joseph


Saturday, July 14th, 2018


The Boss was complaining that he wasn’t getting enough respect from the staff. Later that morning he went out and returned with a sign that said, “I’m the boss”. He taped it to the office door. When he returned from lunch he found that someone has taped a note to the sign that said, “your wife called-she wants her sign back”.   

Review story: John had been arrested by King Herod. WHY? Because John kept reminding Herod that he wasn’t above God’s law. He said,”It is not lawful for you to take your brothers’ wife”. Herodius, Herod’s wife resented John’s criticism and wanted to kill him. But Herod has refused because he regarded John as a holy man-a man of God. Finally with some scheming-manipulating she was able to achieve her goal and have John killed. Herod was please with Herodius’s daughters dancing.  As a reward he foolishly made a promise he came to regret.  Herodius seized the opportunity and told her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Herod was greatly distressed at her request but he had backed himself into a corner and couldn’t get out of it. The point is: be careful about making promises.                But the story raises deeper issues: Questions like:” How could God let John the Baptist be treated like this? How could God stand by and let John who had devoted his life to serving God die like this? This question reflects the assumption of people who think that their faith is some kind of insurance against trouble-tragedy. They think that God is letting them down when problems-illness-tragedy hits them. They think that God is deaf to their prayers or doesn’t care about them if He doesn’t give help-healing right away        But nowhere in Scripture does God promise that just because we are Christians we can expect to be spared trouble or tragedy. You only have to read the Bible to see how many of God’s faithful servants suffered in a variety of ways. Eg Prophets-Jeremiah. Of the 12 disciples only John dies of old age. All the others became martyrs-died for their faith in Jesus. But is this so strange when we remember that Jesus himself suffered  and died for us-crucifixion was one of the most horrible ways to die. Life wasn’t easy for Jesus-no bed of roses.                          The thing that should astound us is not that we have to suffer at times but that we don’t suffer a lot more than we do.  That is particularly true of us here in Australia.  Dictators like Hitler-Stalin Mao Tse Tung –Pol Pot-and more recently Islamic Terrorism-ISIS i Iraq-Syria-Christians persecuted-killed. We have been fortunate in that we have escaped unlike Christians in some countries who suffer harassment-persecution. As far as our personal health  is concerned, considering how complex the human body is it’s a wonder we don’t have more health problems than we do.

We sometimes forget that God’s concern is not to fill our Bank accounts-to give us a comfortable enjoyable life-not to pander to our whims. His concern is that we serve him-become more like his Son Jesus. God’s concern is that His Will be done and that his Name is praised. It cost God dearly that we might have fellowship with him-it cost the life of his Son. We need to think about that when we think we are hard done by­-facing troubles-difficulties.

The main point is this: God would have us witness to him no matter what our situation in life. There are some people who whenever things go wrong let everyone know about it. But you don’t find John complaining-grizzling about being in prison. I’m sure he did a lot of thinking-praying while in his prison cell. But there is no mention of him complaining about his lot. But we are told that John speaks to Herod about the things of God. In fact it seem that Herod’s conscience led him to have a number of conversations with John. You sometimes hear people say that it is not necessary to speak about your faith. As long as you give a good witness with your life. I don’t believe that. The fact is most people don’t have any clear idea what Christianity is about. They think that as long as they try to live a “good life” they will be right. As long as they “do their best” God will treat them kindly. So if we think that our efforts to live a “good life” are going to convince people about the truth of Xianity- we are being naive. Especially when non Xians live lives that are just as good as ours if not better. We don’t have a monopoly in living a “good live. Frankly when we look at our own inconsistencies, our lives aren’t such a credible witness to Christ. The early apostles didn’t rely on the witness of their lives –they knew that many people worked hard at developing a virtuous life. They had something more glorious to offer. They declared that they were sinners under God’s judgement and so were others. The message was that despite the fact that all people were sinners, God sent his only Son Jesus to rescue them from their hopeless situation. Because sinners could not come to God through their own efforts, God came to them with his mercy-grace. He had given his own Son to pay price for our sins-the sinless One took upon himself the sins of the world and died for us. And to top it off Jesus had conquered death by his resurrection and given us the promise of eternal life. The apostles had a message to proclaim that gave hope-meaning for people’s lives.

It is in this light that we need to understand the witness of John. He was in the power of a man who could have had him killed at the drop of a hat. But Herod had no peace. In search of peace he kept coming back to this uncompromising  man of God-who told him the truth –about himself and God.  Ironically, although John was in prison – he was free-in his conscience-mind. While Herod was a captive to his weakness- ambition. Throughout this period of Imprisonment, John did not complain-whinge.  Instead he witnessed to the Truth. May we pray: God use me for your glory’s sake and help me to witness like John, whatever situation  you place us in. Amen. 

Pastor. Haydn Blaess

Now,do you beleive?

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

Mark 6:2, 6

When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Have you ever been utterly dumbfounded? You think you know a person, you understand all the things that could possibly happen, then BAM! Something’s strange. Some of you might have felt that when the World Trade centres were hit by two planes. My dad was dumbfounded when my brother and I told him we had girlfriends, and again when I told him I was going to propose. And when Jesus’ family, childhood friends and workmates heard Him spout this wisdom, the Truth of God, they were dumbfounded, amazed, astonished. Where’s this from? What is this wisdom? What are these miracles? Isn’t this that bloke I grew up with? Who is He to preach to me?

Jesus had, by this point taught at quite a few synagogues on quite a few Sabbaths, but had never had a reaction quite like this. In Marks first chapter the people were amazed with the authority that He spoke with and told everyone about this new teacher, the new teaching, ‘God’s kingdom is here, repent and believe the good news.’ (Mark 1: 21-28; 15). Jesus healed them, and many around the city, but He only healed those who had faith that He could. But here, among His own people, His own earthly family, they didn’t believe and so He could only heal a few. This is the first time in Mark that a town rejects Jesus and the Good News and He marvels that His own people do not believe.

Now, do you believe? Do you believe that God’s kingdom is here, that you must turn from your ways, and that Jesus speaks the truth, the Good News? Do you truly believe that you are evil, that everything that comes from you is corrupt, your actions, thoughts and even desires? Or do you look at me instead of the message? ‘Who is this kid, telling us we’re sinners?’ ‘What authority does he have over us?’ Would you trust these words more if I were your son, or if I were a chippy, someone you knew well, but hadn’t seen for a bit suddenly telling you gotta change? Or would you dismiss what I have to say, maybe even get angry and kick me out as in Luke’s account when the locals try to kill Jesus (Luke 4:29)? This is what happened to Him, because He was a tradie, not a teacher, had a questionable birth, and was family, too familiar. Not just that, but also Jesus brought God’s Word and wisdom; that hard word that you are evil, turned in on yourself, stealing honour for yourself and in and of yourself rejecting the one who created you, loves you, sustains you and talks to you. You need salvation and Jesus brings it too you, and in Him with the Holy Spirit you are changed, forgiven, renewed, cleansed and made holy.

Maybe you’re less worried about who I am, but have become too familiar with the message itself. Do you still repent and try to change or have you become complacent in your Christian life? Do you think that though Christ died for your sins on the cross, that was not enough and you need to still do something for your salvation, that what you do can make God forgive you? Have you come to think that deep down, there is good in you after all, that you are not sinful to the core? You have heard this Word from God for years, perhaps your whole life. It is part of your history, your story, it has become familiar. Maybe you think you understand God’s Word and don’t need to hear it more, you’ve heard it once and don’t need to think on it and now you rely on your own memory and thoughts. But then you rely on your self, that self that Jesus tells you is dirty, rotten, wicked and must be changed. Maybe this message is so familiar that you ignore how offensive it is to you and every other, and Jesus’ childhood friends and family.

One thing that stuck out very clearly to me while reading this passage was this fact, the reject of Jesus by His family. Even though He spoke the truth to them, they did not accept it. And how often do we experience the same with our families. Interestingly after this He sends the twelve to spread His message in the region. Now I’m not certain of His aim there, but I do know that even if God’s Word from you is rejected by your family, He certainly can and many times does send others to them.

That is a hope we have, despite the offence that God’s message brings. And another thing, this message of God is true, and even though it is a hard truth, because it is true, it’s hard to ignore. We see it in ourselves, a sudden desire for violence or other sin, a subtle inclination for small but growing lies, an action without thinking that brings no good or godly result; and of course, we see it in others. We humans are by nature, sinful and unclean. This truth stands and we cannot get rid of it, maybe we can try to ignore it, distract ourselves or lie to ourselves, but the truth still remains. And if it remains for us it remains for all those we love too, and just like Jesus’ family there may come a time when we accept it and our family does too. Jesus’ brothers James and Jude who rejected Him here later became leaders in the Christian church, both with letters kept in the Bible. Despite that initial rejection and offence, they kept listening to God’s Word, to scripture, and through that the Holy Spirit produced faith. In the same way as your family hears God’s Word from you and others, and as you yourself continue to read and listen to God’s Word, God will work in you and them, reminding of the truth of our situation. You are wicked and sinful, and Jesus, sent by the Father, has saved you from that and The Spirit is changing you, making you holy and good.  Amen

Pastor Joseph Graham

Fighting with love

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

Mark 6:2,3
When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many people were there, and when they heard him, they were all amazed. “Where did he get all this?” they asked. “What wisdom is this that has been given him? How does he perform miracles! Isn’t he the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here?” And they rejected him.

A young couple had been married a few short and disappointing months. He never dreamed there were so many ways to ruin chicken. She couldn’t imagine why she ever thought his jokes were funny. Neither one said aloud what they were both thinking – the marriage was a big mistake.

One hot afternoon, they got into a terrible argument about whether they could afford to paint the living room. Tempers flared, voices were raised, and somehow one of the wedding gift plates crashed to the floor. She burst into tears, called him heartless and a cheapskate. He shouted that he’d rather be a cheapskate than a nag, then grabbed the car keys on his way out. His parting words, punctuated by the slam of the screen door, were, “That’s it! I’m leaving you!”

But before he could coax their rickety car into gear, the passenger door flew open and his bride landed on the seat beside him. She stared straight ahead, her face tear-streaked but determined.

“And just where do you think you’re going?” he asked in amazement.

She hesitated only a moment before replying, just long enough to be sure of the answer that would decide the direction of their lives for the next forty-three years.

“If you’re leaving me, I’m going with you.” 

This story about conflict has a happy ending. As so often is the case, conflict can result in a stronger and closer relationship between people. But as we know conflict can have an opposite effect. We can all tell of stories where conflict has led to a total breakdown of friendship between the people involved. So what is it that makes conflict a positive or a destructive force in our lives?

The question that should be asked first of all is whether Christians should ever be in conflict – in situations of confrontation, tension and agitation?
Whether you answer that with, “No they shouldn’t” or “Yes they can it depends on how they handle it” the fact remains conflict is part of our world and our life in this world. God never intended there to be conflict when he created the human race. Conflict came when Adam and Eve set on a course wanting to be like God. That ended in a headlong clash with God.

Well let’s look at what happens in Mark’s Gospel. Here we see Jesus in conflict with the people in his own hometown. The people of Nazareth knew him. They knew him as the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter. They were familiar with his brothers, James, Joseph, Judas and Simon and his sisters. When they heard Jesus speak in the synagogue they wondered what this local bloke was up to. How can this man whom we have known since he was a toddler have such understanding and wisdom about the things of God? He didn’t even go to seminary; he was just a carpenter. How dare he speak as if he was an authority in these matters? In his own hometown, Jesus experiences sarcasm, rejection, and conflict. We are told he was rejected.

In John’s account of Jesus ministry we hear Jesus speaking about his relationship with the Father and that he himself was God in the flesh. And when he said, “Before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:59) his listeners picked up stones to throw at him. Jesus must have known that his words would cause conflict.

In a seminar on Jesus, the group was reading some of Jesus’ parables. “Why did Jesus speak so many parables?” the seminar leader asked.
“Well,” said one member of the group, “he was trying to communicate with simple, rural people so he had to tell them everything in these little stories, so they could get his point.”
“If that’s so,” spoke up another, “then Jesus failed because most of the people didn’t get it.”

The group finally came to the conclusion that Jesus must have been using parables for some purpose other than to ensure that everyone got his point. He was willing to be misunderstood, rejected because the truth had to be spoken whether people were ready to hear what he had to say or not. The truth of what Jesus said didn’t depend on the acceptance of the listeners to give it validity. He spoke the truth with love even though it might lead to conflict. You and I know from experience that even when we try our hardest to speak with love to someone about an important issue, there is always the possibility that the other person will not receive it with the love that was intended and so conflict arises.

The English word conflict comes from a Latin word which means “to strike together”. Whenever two or more people go after goals that they perceive to be correct and whenever one person’s ideas and needs collide with another’s, conflict arises. If people did not make a move to fulfil their ideas, goals, or desires and they were not prepared to put forward ideas and test to see what others thought about them, then there is conflict.

We know that there is always a tension between the Christian and the rest of the world. Just as Jesus was faced with opposition and he was in conflict with the people of his time so are we faced with similar conflict. The values of the world are not necessarily those of the Christian.
The community in which we live might believe that casual sex, taking advantage of others, cheating, abusive behaviour and language, crude jokes, stories and actions are normal and so are okay. Everyone else thinks it’s okay so it must be okay.
I recall a discussion with a young teenage couple who attended a church where I was pastor asking me if it was okay for them to have sex since everyone else at school was doing it. They were stunned when I told them that God intended sex for marriage – for couples who were committed to each other for life – for those who were ready to take on the responsibilities that go along with having sex.
But it is clear that the standards of the Christian and that of the world can be poles apart.
The world may think that it is weak to seek reconciliation when it is clear that you are the one who has been wronged. The way Christ wants us to respond in a situation like this is to act in love and to make amends where there has been a falling out no matter who is in the right or the wrong.

The fact remains – no one likes conflict. No one likes to be ridiculed as “old fashioned” and “out of touch with the real world”, but in the end there can be no compromise. If we are followers of Jesus, then we will want to be what God intended us to be and to live the new life that we have in Christ. And there will be times when we will find ourselves in conflict with others because of our faith in Jesus. As long as we are in this world there will always be tension between the followers of Christ and the world. Doesn’t Jesus say, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”? To know Christ will more than likely put us at odds with the world and its values. Jesus even says that this conflict may even occur between members of the same family.

But what about tension in the church? Is there a place for conflict and unease in the church? The response I’m sure we would all give is that there should not any tension and conflict in the church. However, I was challenged with this thought I read recently.
In conflict, a group is energised. As an old pastor once said, “You can put out a fire easier than you can raise the dead”. Where there is absolutely no dissatisfaction, no vision of anything better, no pain, there is little action. A church in which there is a healthy amount of tension and conflict is a church alive.” The writer went on to say that the church needs to be exposed to the demands of Scripture, to be assured that there is a power for change, for good, and for meaning in our world, and that … there is something better than merely present arrangements.
Do you see his point?
A church that is no longer challenged;
a church in which there is no tension;
a church where there is no healthy conflict,
no critical examination of its ministry and mission,
no pain as it seeks out better and even more appropriate ways of fulfilling its mission in the world;
that church will do very little.

You see in the church there should always be pastors, lay people, or committees who will ask the question, “How can we do what we are doing in a better way”. There will always be those who will propose with conviction a certain direction the church should go in order to fulfil its mission more effectively. And there will be those who will propose a different direction. That is conflict.

If we didn’t care about Jesus, our faith, one another, the church, our own congregation or even those in our community and in the world, then there would be no conflict. We would be happy to go along doing what we always have done even if it doesn’t work very well. But we do care; we do have our own individual ideas of how the mission of the church should be carried out. We care about the kingdom of God and that’s why conflict in the church can be so vigorous. That’s is why two people, both sincere, both concerned about God’s work in their congregation, both dedicated to serving God can have opposing views. Both are seeking the best way to do God’s work.

The Gospel, the love of God for us sinners, the love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross, our faith in Jesus will not let us sit on our hands and do nothing to improve the way we are doing things. When there is tension because the church is being confronted with new ways to carry out God’s mission, then the gospel is being truthfully preached and enacted, and we are participating in the same kind of conflict that characterised much of Jesus’ ministry.

But the problem is this – we are afraid of conflict. We try to go out of our way to ensure that peace, calmness, acceptance and harmony reign supreme. There is a reason for this fear of conflict. Too often we allow conflict to become personal and we quickly label people as “hard to get on with” because they challenge our point of view. People get hurt, things are said that shouldn’t be said, harm is done to relationships, dirty tricks are used to get the upper hand, and some leave the church because of what has happened and the way the conflict got out of hand. What that happens Satan has won the day.

There are those times when either we have created conflict or fanned the flames of conflict, not for the good of the church and its mission, but because we have some personal need. There are times when we have let creative tension in the church or our families become destructive. When Jesus found himself in the midst of tension and challenges of his authority he always acted in love. Our wills and God’s collide more frequently than we are aware. But God always loves even though we are in conflict with him. He died for us, and forgives us.

Our prayer should always be this. Lord, stir us up and disquiet us by your Holy Spirit. Help us to learn to fight for what’s important and, in our disagreements with one another, to fight like Christians, that is with love, with truth, and with the conviction that we are all brothers and sisters here, all of us trying to be faithful to the One who has called us to be his church. Amen.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy