Archive for the ‘After Trinity’ Category

God Throws Rocks?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

God Throws Rocks?

Colossians 3:1-4 (246)                                                                                                31 July 2016

You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ image001sits on his throne at the right hand side of God.  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory.

A builder was working three stories up on a construction site when he looked down and saw a woman unknowingly drop a parcel from her arms.  He tried to get her attention by calling out to her, but the noise of the traffic was just too loud.

So he searched for something in his pockets that he could throw down and hopefully to get her to look up.  He found a twenty cent piece – so he threw it down.  The woman didn’t realise where it had come from, thought that it had just fallen out of someone’s pocket, but she couldn’t see anyone around that was looking for a coin, so she picked it up and kept on walking.

The construction worker tried again – this time with a two-dollar coin, but with the same result.  So he looked around, found a reasonably large piece of scrap metal, and threw that down.  His aim was good, and he certainly didn’t hit the woman, but he did give her a bit of a fright.  She looked up, saw where it had come from and started to abuse the builder for his carelessness.

It took a little while, but he finally got through to her, that he wasn’t in any way trying to hurt her, but rather that he wanted to let her know that she’d dropped something.  The woman did thank him in the end, but she was still a little shaken by what had happened.

It can sometimes take a bit of a shock to get our attention too.  We can be absorbed in our own lives, busy with lots of important things – even busy helping people, serving in the church and community, doing the work that’s expected of us, raising our families and caring for others.  One day can run into another, one week into the next, and even one year after another.

And things might be going quite smoothly and pleasant.  We might be quite content with what’s happening, and not aware that anything should change, or that we might we missing out on something else.

We can be walking along the footpath of life, perhaps blissfully unaware that we may have lost something, be missing out on something, or that there’s something more that we could have to make us even more happy and joyful.

 

At times like this, our Lord God may be wanting to get our attention so that he can say something to us.  He throws some blessings down to us so that we’ll look up and see who’s talking.  He gives an exciting new opportunity for us to enjoy, or a recovery from an illness, or healing in a relationship, or an unexpected bonus from work, or a win in a competition, or satisfaction from some job completed, or a new friendship, or passing an exam.

Whatever it may be, whatever the gift or experience, it may be our Father saying through it: “Hey you, look up and thank me for it, and listen to some other things that I want to say to you”.

Often though, we can receive what we’re given, smile to ourselves with a sense of satisfaction, and just continue on our journey through life, with no thought of looking up.

 

So maybe, God has to drop some lumps of metal, some rocks, around us to really get our attention.  And sometimes it may seem as if the rocks get a bit too close, maybe even hit us and injure us a little – but that’s not God’s intention.  It’s never his desire to hurt anyone.  What he wants more than anything else is for us to look up and listen to what he has to say.

And when we do respond, we don’t hear him yelling at us, or making us always feel guilty or ashamed of what we’ve done; we don’t hear him demanding things from us like a dominating authoritative figure; and we don’t hear him telling us that we’ve got to come up to some kind of standard of behaviour before we can receive anything from him.

What he says and gives are things that can give us confidence, help us to cope better with life, and look to the future with real hope.  He comes to us with gifts and promises that can give us what we need to be able to have a good and positive attitude and a desire to serve him, despite what goes on around us.

He comes to us in and through his Son, Jesus Christ, to give us a hope that can enable us to live on despite all the struggles we face.  He comes to give us a peace of mind that can make us satisfied with what we have and not to always have to go after everything that seems bigger and better and brighter.  And he gives us a future to look forward to, a future that can give us certain victory over death and the grave.

 

There are lots of things that keep our attention, that stop us from looking up.  We spend time with our families.  We’ve got financial commitments.  Our sport and recreational activities are important.  And so are our homes and our work and our service in the community and the church.

And our Lord doesn’t want us to neglect any one of them.  We may be irresponsible if we did.  But God comes to us and wants us to have his perspective on all these things, and see how they fit into the overall scheme of his plan for our lives.

So he says, spend time with your families – and enjoy it.  See this as being the most important gift you can give them, and know that God wants to give you the peace, the patience and the wisdom to be a valuable family member.

Don’t forget your financial commitments – but believe that God can provide for you even when you have to pull in your belt and make some sacrifices.

Be involved in some sport or recreational activity – not to prove you’re better than others, but see that through it God wants you to enjoy life, build relationships with others, and use it as a way to help others to have a healthy outlook on life.

Put an effort into caring for your home, do your work to the best of your ability, and serve others in the community and in the church – but see these things not as burdensome or drudgeries, but as ways in which God can work in and through you to use the gifts he’s given you.

 

In everything then, look up and see the blessings God’s given to you, look up and thank your Father for the opportunities you have to touch the lives of others, look up and see that God has a plan for you and a reason for putting you here.

 

 

He doesn’t want you to be focussed on merely surviving or just putting up with the things of this world.  He doesn’t want you to spend your energies on doing things that are just going to make a difference in this world – because this world won’t go on for ever, and you won’t go on for ever, and because he’s got much more in store for you than even the best that you experience now.

God adds a new and exciting dimension to life.  Life is more than food and clothing, working hard and paying the bills, scrimping and saving simply to keep our heads above water.  It’s also more than having employment, raising a family and participating in and enjoying life in our community.  Those things are a part of life, but they don’t make up the full meaning of life.

 

You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right hand side of God.  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory.

You have been raised to life with Christ.  The fact is that we may not always want to hear that.  We can be so content to just live this life – where things are reasonable and comfortable, and maybe most of the time happy.

But God has something more that he wants us to have, something greater, something better, and he invites us to look up to him, listen to him, and receive what he has to offer.

We have life in and with Jesus Christ.  We have God’s presence with us, God’s promises for us and God’s protection over us – in Christ; we have forgiveness for our sins; we have the opportunity of a new start in life every day; we have hope for the future; we have the free gift of eternal life.

 

God just might throw some rocks our way at times to help us see this and appreciate his gifts, but his intention is always good.  He wants to get us to look up and listen, and receive what he wants us to have.

So lift up your eyes.  Set your sights on the rich treasures that you can’t buy with cash or a credit card.  God has new and rich experiences that he wants you to enjoy.  He wants you to have real joy and peace in your lives, and a confidence that when this life is over, you’ll have another better life to enjoy forever.  Amen.

Live – Evil

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Mark 12: 1-8

StMarksThe book of Isaiah tells us: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Yesterday, seemingly almost like Déjà vu these days, I awoke to the news of another hostage situation-this time in Paris.

The saying is “one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.” That may be the case for the French Resistance in World War 11 and even the Roman hating Barabbas who at the crowd’s insistence was released by Pilot in the place of Jesus.

Purposely targeting unsuspecting civilians going about their business is not collateral damage. It is out and out evil.

Barabbas instead of Jesus, evil instead of live-the same letters but spelt back to front.

Surveying our times we see natural disasters, war, famine, persecution, moral and social decline seemingly unchecked, gaining speed and it would seem all heading in the one direction. Clearly we are at living in the end times that Jesus has spoken of in today’s Gospel.

Just as the apostles were in their times. The beginning of the end started at the end of the beginning-the time that the promised messiah, Jesus Christ the Son of God came to earth and defeated sin and death on the cross.

Life is fleeting and as our time here passes here we do know we have another life to come and so we live now with our eyes on both. An eye to the consummation of the promise, that our last day will become our first in God’s Kingdom where there will be no death, trials, tribulations or separation from those we miss.

And an eye to God’s kingdom now, living in it and participating in its growth. To live amongst our world’s fears and distractions and amongst its joy and beauty. To live knowing the truth of how we stand before God. That whether we meet God the Father through his Son coming from the clouds, or meet God the Father in death, meet him here today in worship or meet him in the person we meet up the road, that in Christ we stand before him with our names written in the book of life. To live as Martin Luther responded “I live everyday like it’s my last, yet still planting a tree”.

Things happen in our lives that hurt. Our own stuff and seeing others with theirs. There is much joy in our world but just as much of the other. But with that one eye to the promise we have been given in Christ, our road here and now is full of promise and beauty.

The hard stuff will come along but we can face and endure it in Christ, knowing that it will pass.

I read of a man that was led to Christianity, to our Lord’s kingdom through his medical studies where he continually saw how Christians reacted to impending death. We may not be as close to the end as those who witnessed to him. But we all one way or another in our remaining time, be it one day or one hundred years are all in the same hospital bed as those that he saw. That we travel these days of confusion, danger and fear in hope and faith is a question or a thing to ponder for those still searching. Our faith is our witness.

In our times it takes great courage to be in the world but not of it. To live in the face of death in hope. To live and work with our colleagues and friends and treat Christian and non-Christian alike. To give ourselves, to love and support those who may ridicule us because of our faith and beliefs the same as we do for those that thank God for our faith.

“Keep fighting the good fight”.

And sometimes that’s exactly how it seems and though it sometimes feels like a fight that we don’t seem to be winning and may not be particularly good at is not the point. The point is Jesus Christ our Saviour.

“Keep fighting the good fight”. Jesus fought our battle on the cross and The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit have fought and worked tirelessly throughout our lives that we see and accept that truth. To rest in that truth.

In our lives we go out daily into the mission field to fight the good fight. Not against our fellow citizens but against the lies that have led them astray. To not stand in front or behind our earthly brothers and sisters, but stand alongside them in front of the cross, that they too may see, hear and understand the truth of our Savior.

We go out knowing who we are: Forgiven sinners in Christ with our names written in the book of life. Not maybe, but certainly.

And in that, we go out in the certainty that through those even as such as us, that God will be God and though turmoil stands at the door, we stand in the peace that is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has shown us the way home, is with us on our journey that come what may,  should it be flood or drought, bushfire or rain, we keep our eyes on Christ that we persevere and not be troubled by the times, but know that the time is now. To stand up and be counted and renounce evil that others may live. To stand up and point to the one that is life, and gives life-Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dependant on whom?

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Mark 12:38-44. Dependant on whom? By Roger Atze
Here in this reading God gives us a very important teaching as we go forward in life. There is a very important lesson in the comparison between those rich church leaders and the poor widow that we need to remember as we live out our lives every day. The Christian life today, as it has been throughout the centuries, is strewn with well-respected, pious, good-living people, who are even active in their church, but whom here, Jesus warns us to watch out for: and whom will be punished most severely. Then he highlights the attitude of the poor widow, as that which we are to have as we go about life in our world and if we are to receive God’s blessing.

Now we are on a journey that will be a constant struggle for us if we take our Christian faith seriously.

We have a society around us, and a human nature, that seeks to focus on self and what we do, and there is an attitude of self-dependence and self-promotion that is seen by the world as vitally important. Yet, here in this reading, along with many others, God warns that this attitude leads to disaster.
Think of this poor widow, she had nothing; well a few cents in terms of today’s finances, and that was all. It is quite likely that she was one of those widows that Jesus mentions here who had her house taken away from her by the wealthy leaders. She had nothing. She was old; a widow, no money; and no welfare system, and by worldly standards, no hope. She had no way to get on in life, from a human perspective; and yet the implications here are that she is blessed: that she is the one who God favours. Because she does not seek to stand in God’s presence, on her goodness, but is entirely dependent on him. The question that arises for us then is,

Does God let her down?

Let us remember today’s Old Testament lesson, of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. God was true to his word there, and I am sure that he was also to the widow in the temple. Even if the very worst possible happened to her after she left that temple; we know that she was blest, because she trusted that her life was in God’s hands and that he would take her to heaven.

So we can see that it is not wealth and status that makes us right and acceptable to God. It is not a matter of how good or bad that we are. Nor how high up in the church we might be, or how good our feelings or even knowledge may be. It is clearly a matter of on whom we are focussed and dependant: On God, or on ourselves and what the world promises us. Are we going to trust in our money, good status, feelings, numbers and the like or are we prepared to look to God alone for our help and salvation.

Now how do we go about this? How can we see to it that we keep our focus on Jesus and not get side-tracked and led into disaster?

First and foremost, we need to remember that we are sinful and that anything short of perfection is just not good enough. We constantly need to hear God’s word of law so that we can see that we have fallen short, and need help from outside of ourselves. To do that we need to attend worship regularly, because the world out there will try to shift the focus; blame someone else; and try to say that it is not so bad; you are doing a good job and you are moving up the ladder. But God and his word tells us that we don’t measure up: we are just not good enough and never will be.

Knowing then, that we are sinful, we constantly need to be reminded:

Firstly, despite our sinfulness we have been baptised into God’s family and so he is happy to be with us.

Secondly, if we confess our sins’ God forgives us all our sins;

Thirdly, we need to be constantly reminded that Jesus Christ is our only assurance of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation; and in Holy Communion, we hear ‘given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’. There we have the news that enables us to go forward with confidence to look to God; to depend on him; to listen to him; and to survive in a world full of temptation and evil.

Lastly we need to be reminded that the ‘The Lord blesses us and keep us, the Lord makes his face shine on us and is gracious to us. The Lord looks with favour on us and gives us peace’.

With all of that, then we can depend fully on our God. So let us go from here today watchful, but confident. Looking first and foremost to our God, and seeking to rely on him, throughout our lives.

In our giving and our living, we will be like the widow in our reading, knowing that we are fully dependant on our God for our life and our salvation. Through our life and our life together, may all glory then go to our great God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit: To him alone be all praise and glory, now and always.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

When worlds collide

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

When worlds collide

Mark 10: 35-45

StMarksC.S. Lewis was raised in a religious family that attended the Church of Ireland. He became an atheist at age 15. He eventually

returned to Christianity, having been influenced by arguments with his Oxford colleague and friend J. R. R. Tolkien of the “Lord of the Rings “ fame and wrote this of his his last fight before his acceptance of Christ:

You must picture me alone in (my) room, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.

Later he became a great endorser of the Christian faith, of which in one of his books he wrote a fictional account about several people from our fallen world, meet those from another who had not fallen to their temptation in the garden. Parallel universes the same, but unparalleled in outcomes that gave neither understanding of the other.

Worlds colliding that we know in our inner self like that as in a song titled “The Pilgrim” as written by Kris Kristofferson where he goes:

“He’s a poet and he’s a picker, he’s a prophet, he’s a pusher
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he’s stoned
He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction
(and) Takin’ every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.”

A song that talks to me, as do the lyrics from another penned by him:

 “(There was a man) from Atlanta, Georgia
By the name of martin Luther king
He shook the land like rolling thunder
and made the bells of freedom ring today.

With a dream of beauty that they could not burn away
Just another holy man who dared to be a friend
my god, they killed him!

The only son of God almighty
The holy one called Jesus Christ
Healed the lame and fed the hungry
And for his love they took his life away

On the road to glory where the story never ends
Just the holy son of man we’ll never understand
My god, they killed him!”

Two worlds colliding. The sin of man separated from the holiness of God that could only be restored by the good and not the bad. A separation restored not by the transgressor, but by the innocent.

Two worlds that collided in the man of Jesus Christ who did not reconcile with demands, imprisonment or powers of destruction or from afar, but came to the fight not with fists clenched but hands open. Came not to punish, but to be punished. Came not to persecute, but to be persecuted.

The Son of God who came to earth via the womb of a young girl, born in a stable, poor, in danger, a refugee from powerful and wicked rulers.  Such an upside down way for the almighty and everlasting God, who has armies of angels at hand and the power of the universe at his fingertips, to enter the world.
His life is simple – a wandering teacher, mixing with the lowliest and poorest, the diseased and the outcast, speaking a simple message of love for God and one another and living out that message in everything he did – so unlike the Son of God, the Messiah that had been expected by the people of God.  No, surely this back to front wandering rabbi can’t be the Messiah.
His death on a Roman cross – so cruel, so humiliating, so shameful, so painful and yet he was so innocent.  This was such a difficult thing to understand even for those who were the closest to him. The Messiah on a cross – that is so wrong.

And then there are all those strange sayings of Jesus.
“The greatest one among you must be your servant. Whoever makes himself great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be made great” (Matt 23:11-12).
“Those who want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it” (Matt 8:35).
“If anyone of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if anyone wants to be first, you must be the slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).

Jesus is back to front and upside down and in so highlights that the ways of the Kingdom of God are not the same as that of the rest of the world.  Jesus defines greatness in such a different way – he uses words like love, humility, service, kindness, meekness, mercy, servants, slave, losing one’s life, and says that anyone who has these attributes is considered great in God’s Kingdom.

Because of the love of Christ for us and the love of Christ reflected in us: attitudes, behaviours and values are changed.  What is great in God’s kingdom are often different to what is considered great in the world.
It might be considered great in the world to put down those who want to achieve, or ridicule people who are different,
but greatness in God’s Kingdom is to show kindness and offer help and encourage them to get ahead.
It might be considered great in the world to unkindly criticise others and gossip about them but in God’s Kingdom greatness means to defend others, speak well of others and be supportive.
It might be considered great in the world to ignore the poor and look after our own needs first, avoid the pleas of others for help even though we could well afford to give assistance but in God’s Kingdom greatness means to give food to the poor, a cup of water to the thirsty, shelter to the homeless, visit the sick and clothe the naked (see Matt 25:31-46).

When Jesus spoke of what makes a person great in the God’s eyes he spoke of being a servant, a slave even, and connected the task of the disciple to the service he offered to all humanity which came at a price.  He said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served; he came to serve and to give his life to redeem many people”.

Following the upside down ways of Jesus is not easy.  They are challenging. They will make us rethink our values and the ways our culture and society influence our thinking and behaviour.  Jesus’ upside down ways will make us feel guilty as we realise how we have fallen into going down the easy path, followed popular trends, done the “in thing” rather than taken the harder path of humility and service to others.

Yet it’s just when we are being hard on ourselves for getting it all wrong when God’s upside down love beams down on us.  We call it grace.  We fail.  We think greatness is all about us.  We ignore the people God gives us to serve.  We let God down and what does God do?  He loves us.  He doesn’t seek revenge, an eye for an eye, but loves us, forgives us and embraces us as his children for whom Jesus has died.

And we thank God for his grace that turns everything upside down!

His grace known by a man named Martin Luther King which allowed him to rise up and reconcile the races at the cost of his life. The grace that allows a devoted and outspoken atheist to say “I was wrong” and devote his time left announcing it so.

The grace that allows his people, that though walking contradictions say yes, but while this may be so, I know a man who is not.

The grace that allows his people that though often taking many wrong directions on their way home say yes, but while this be so, I know a man who did not.

The grace of God given to His people through Jesus Christ. His grace that allows the poor to rise up and serve the rich and his grace that allows the rich to drop on bended knee and serve the poor.

The grace you have received in Jesus Christ to know His forgiveness that sees not the reflection of a fallen sinner in the mirror, but that of that one that has been forgiven and restored.

Forgiven and restored not to hide in the shadows and lurk in the darkness of this world, but forgiven and restored to walk in the light of Christ. To walk in the light of Christ, though we be troubled, broken and sore. Though our burden may be great and seem to overwhelm, rise not in our own strength, but in that of our Saviour Jesus Christ and know our Lords words to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane for ourselves and trust in them for where He has placed us: That though we may ask “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me”, we now in the love and strength of a man that while we once we knew Him not, He has taken us to the mountain top, that now in view of the promised land we too can join Him and ask, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Amen.

“My Big Mouth”

Saturday, October 10th, 2015

Job 23:1-9, 16.17, Mark 10:17-31, Hebrews 4:12-16

StMarksNoel Gallagher was the lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist and principal songwriter of the hugely successful British rock band Oasis and while I had little knowledge of their music, I knew he was well known for his exploits and controversial outspoken statements as reported in the newspapers.

A fact that he knew of himself as seen in his acknowledged of such indiscretions in his song titled “My Big Mouth”.

What a difference fifteen minutes can make as ironically after seeing him on T.V. in a chat show my preconceived perceptions were changed to that of seeing an intelligent, witty and humorous straight shooting likable person, and like him or loath him, it would seem that the unexpected popularity of Donald Trump in the U.S. Presidential race is in effect from his shoot from the hip, impolitically correct and what you see is what you get statements.

Today, you would have noticed that our scripture passages were read in a different manner with firstly the Old Testament, then the Gospel and finally the epistle. The reason being that these three messages from scripture in that order, give a very clear message for us as the method of the Bible was composed.  The history and background of God’s people the Jews that shows us why they believe what they do, why they worship and act as they do and ultimately why this confused and overshadowed their acceptance of the much awaited Messiah. A situation of preconceived ideas and confusion that feeds into the Gospel where a radical Jew by the name of Jesus appears on the scene performing unfathomable miracles and in many ways, unfashionable home truths to the Church elite. The simple yet cutting-edge state of the art words of the Gospel of Christ given further understanding of their impact on our lives through the ongoing teaching and preaching from the God inspired messengers of the New Testament epistles.

The Old Testament where Job, a legendary man of faith but here after suffering unthinkable situations, has been led by well-intentioned colleagues to a mixed state of mind to where God has seemingly become his enemy, acting randomly and unkindly, while yet in his heart of faith still recognizing that God makes and carries out his own plan for his servants even if they cannot comprehend how or why.

An unimaginable situation and time of testing that without faith and hope would most surely have crushed even the resoluteness of the much esteemed Job.

The faith and hope that Jesus shows to the God following rich man in the Gospel who wanting to, yet unable to carry out Jesus’ instructions of giving away all his wealth to follow Him, hears that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

No doubt unsettling for that man as it so should be for us because as with senselessly trying to class our levels of sin up and against others, so to with wealth. Because what is rich. Is it Warren Buffet or James Packer? Are you rich if you can provide a loan, or rich if given approved to receive a loan based of your ability to repay it? And what of the Australian living in what is conceived as of humble proportions and yet of extravagance to that of the villagers in parts of our world where daily survival is from searching through others rubbish, begging or the soul destroying reality that the making available of their only asset, their body is the only thing that stands between starvation and life.

It’s a scenario that, like my catalogue of ever growing sins and ever growing inability to fit into my once comfortable jeans sees our eyes shifted to the reality of Jesus words and cling to His promise that “With man it is impossible (to enter the kingdom of God), but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

It’s refreshing to know that all things are possible with God; it may be also refreshing for you to know that tomorrow it is possible that I will give up smoking.

It’s a bit of I hope it’s so, but with the clause of we’ll just have to wait and see.

John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address after being elected famously said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” and in matters of salvation the same could be said of those who acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God and trust in His Words of salvation as from that eventful day some 2,000 years ago where the promised Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Savior willingly gave His life by hanging on a cross and defeated Satan and the once damning legacy of our sins and his accusations. Our Savior who three days later rose to announce the legacy of God’s love as seen in Him-Jesus who once and for all sees us never need search in vain or wonder of God again-but see the truth that is Jesus Christ.

The truth explained to us in today’s Hebrews scripture: “Since then we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

With confidence let us draw near to the throne of grace. The grace showered over His persecutors from a top His cross when Jesus asked His Father “to forgive them for they know what they do.” The grace that the gangs, the so called gang bangers of Los Angeles who knowing no other way to survive do what they do, yet still draw near the grace of God through Christ as evidenced by tattoos to where a cross below the eye is to that of “crying for Christ”, a tattoo on the wrist is too “bleed for Christ” and with one on the heart declaring to “die for Christ.”

The grace that two of the Bali nine rested their eternal lives upon who after being ministered to over the years by an Irish born priest and had heard through Him the call of Christ, were able to receive their human life death penalty, though tied with cable ties to crosses with their arms outstretched and legs strapped at the bottom, were said to be of joyous spirit and singing with some gusto the Hymn amazing grace.

Some would argue of the lack of spiritual fruit displayed by the ongoing actions of many I have listed, but as to what is the measure of wealth, so too what is the life changing fruit of the spirit to one born within an urban battle zone to one born to devout Christian parents within a stable political environment.

Yes, the Church is within its rights and implored to explain and direct sinners towards the law of God which is good. His law that keeps a lid on earths Chaos and his law that leads to turning back towards Christ as we see our inability to pass through the eye of a needle like that of the camel.

Sinners like us who do not cast the first stone at others for we know that if not for Christ, it is we that would feel the first stone strike.

On any given day of the week in worship, at home or on the battle field countless souls will kneel before the throne of Christ in prayer and trust in the only thing they can, that what is impossible for them is not in God as they rest in the reconciling truth and mediator that is Jesus Christ.

Today we come before the throne of God, and be it with heaviness of sin or with sin unknown to us, whether it be your first time or the continuation of your customary routine-today before the throne of God, be it that your rivers have run dry or your wells overflowing, today here, and when you return home you stand before the throne of God in the presence of His Son Jesus, who having walked your journey and seen it’s traps and snares stands with you before His father with his own crown of righteous placed upon your head to hear “yes my son”, to these I give eternal life. Amen.

On the other hand

Saturday, September 19th, 2015

Mark 9:30-37

 

StMarksJesus never held a position of power in Society, and though that be the case, this doesn’t mean it is wrong for anyone in our society to hold important positions of authority, like Governor General,  Commander of the Armed Forces, or Prime Minister. We need people in such positions of authority. The New Testament tells us to honour heads of government and to pray for them, and of course to obey them. These people rule as God’s servants so we live in peace and safety.  Through their rule we enjoy freedom from chaos and evil. We honour these rulers for the important role they play, and not necessarily because they are always wonderful people.

Jesus obeyed the earthly rulers like Pilate, even when they used their power to have Jesus executed as a criminal.

Luther understood God’s rule to be seen in our world in two ways. He used two hands as examples of this rule by God.

God rules countries with his right hand through people in authority, like monarchs and presidents and prime ministers who keep law and order in our societies. These people may not be Christians, or religious people, but they might still rule well in their important role. With history also showing that some of the worst rulers in Europe have been Christians.

God’s left hand rules the Kingdom of Grace. People are won for this Kingdom by God’s love, and not by force. People enter this Kingdom by God’s grace.

Jesus builds the Kingdom of Grace. Things had not been going well between people and God. One could say, things had not been well at all for thousands of years. Jesus came to change that. He came out of loving concern to win people with God’s love. It is a love which cost Jesus his life. This is his important role, his moment of honour and glory, to take the place of the marginalised people, the victims of evil in society, the people with broken relationships with God and their neighbours and partners. Jesus suffers the consequences. It cost Jesus his life.

Jesus comes to win people through his love, and not by using force or supernatural powers. Even his closest disciples can’t understand this. They want Jesus to use his power to set himself up as a powerful earthly ruler. In his miracles they see that Jesus has tremendous power from God. They dream of setting him up as their King who would use his power to drive out the Roman rulers who had invaded their country.  His followers were prepared to fight, like Peter who drew a sword and lashed out to defend Jesus. His closest followers expect Jesus will build an earthly kingdom of power. Maybe that is why some of them follow him. They want to be up there on the dais with him when he is in power. Jesus tries to explain that this is not his role. He even goes into hiding with them so he can have time alone with them and tell them of his impending death, his sacrifice. His victory dais would be a rough wooden cross. Verse 30 describes how:

Leaving that region, they travelled through Galilee. Jesus tried to avoid all publicity in order to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” But they didn’t understand what he was saying, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

It was no use. They had their hearts set on becoming important. Jesus even asked them, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest.” Their aims are so human, and earthly and natural!

We can find people like that in the Church. They aspire to positions of power and might even look down on other people, especially those who don’t get to worship very often.

Jesus doesn’t look down on people. He gets alongside of them, even those who are usually despised in their community. The love of God is so deep. The love of God is so expensive it cost Jesus his life. In verse 35 we read how Jesus sits down with the disciples:

Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the servant of all.”

To become a follower of Jesus is not to grasp for power, or to use others as a ladder to climb up higher. It is to get alongside the weak, the hurting, the broken hearted and the despised people. To give a practical and down to earth demonstration Jesus actually takes a child as an example. A child is an obvious example of someone who has no power. A child was to be seen and not heard. A child is one who takes orders from adults. A child wouldn’t boss an adult around. Jesus puts his arm round the child, and says to the disciples:

Whoever welcomes in my name one of these children, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not only me but also the one who sent me.

 

Jesus rules unlike any earthly ruler. Jesus wins people with God’s love for a kingdom that lasts forever. He even invites us to come and eat and drink at his table out of his great love for us.

If our Christian ministry is to be effective, we need to be like Jesus: we have to get alongside of people, and at times put our arms round them, and not Lord it over them. That is God’s challenge to us. Where this costly love is genuine, people will respond. Think of the way Australians respond positively to the people of the Salvation Army: they are people who are known widely in our community as the people who get alongside the people in need.

It is not always easy to meet this challenge. We need to sacrifice any dreams of power and authority we might harbour and instead become servants, we need to receive nourishment from the Lord’s table – new life and love – so that we can share this with others. And we need to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by Jesus, and when we do the view of ourselves is changed to that of hope and security in him alone, and our view of others seen through Christ becomes the same, as we see Him in them and them in Him, and see them as ourselves. Knowing their joys and sorrows and see there is no difference between us in wants and needs, and no difference in Christ’s love and see that in all ways and in all things – we serve to and receive from those that the Lord puts before us, all the while joyously knowing- that nothing in our hand we bring, but to the cross alone do we cling.

 

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

You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

James 3: 7-10

StMarksWhat are the most welcome words you’ve ever heard? Were they “You’ve got a promotion”? or were they “I love you”? Good words like “I love you” can be life-transforming. Said by the right person, you never feel the same again. On the other hand, careless and unkind words are difficult to erase from our memories. Sarcasm, rudeness or slander can devastate a person’s morale, and cause them to despair. Have you caught yourself saying things you have never meant to say? “I shouldn’t be saying this, but …”, and before you know it, you end up saying words you regret for ages afterwards.

Our magazines and newspapers cater for people’s desire to know personal details about others. Magazines have full-time gossip columnists. Their latest revelations about famous folk sell extra copies. Fallen human beings seem to enjoy hearing about the failings of others, because it takes the focus from themselves. When a failing of ours is pointed out, we defend ourselves by blaming someone else. When we’re accused of something, we often reply with accusations aimed at the other person in return.

“Stop doing the devil’s work”, a woman heard in her dream. She then prayed to the Lord: “How am I doing the devil’s work?” And then the pastor’s sermon text from last Sunday came to mind: “The devil is the accuser of our brothers and sisters (Revelation 12:10).”  So, one evening she gathered her family together in the living room and shared with them what had happened to her. She mentioned folk her family had heard her criticise and continued: “God doesn’t have to consult me about the way others lead their lives. God may have purposes and plans I don’t understand. I grieved Him when I was critical.” Later she said, “As I finished our conference, I sensed a sweet release. Now, when the temptation to criticise comes back, I know it’s time to re-examine my heart and mouth.”

As prayer is valued so much by God, so criticism is valued by Satan. The Bible condemns the kind of criticism known as “judging”. Jesus says: “Judge not and you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1).”  It’s been said that half of our sins are sins of the tongue. James paints a bleak picture of the damage our tongues can do. He does this so we act on what he says. You see, our words are a good indicator of the state of our hearts. Jesus says: “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Matthew 12:34).” There’s no substitute for self-control. Those who can control their tongue, can control everything else about themselves. James says loveless words are sinful because of the damage they do to the speaker as well as to the listener. On the other hand, kind, caring and considerate words have a positive effect on both speaker and listener. Those who speak kind words end up feeling kinder towards others.

James speaks of our ability to tame animals. At a circus we might see a wolf and a rabbit that have been trained to romp playfully together. But James believes it is beyond our human ability to tame our tongues. This is something that only God’s grace can do. That’s why James goes on to tell us that God is a Giver, a greater Giver of more grace (James 4:6). The more God demands of us, the more grace God gives us to meet what He desires of us. Our gracious God gives to us what He requires of us. God’s Word and sacraments are the wonderful means by which He provides us with all the life-changing grace we need for daily living.

Grace is a precious gift which we receive as beggars from God’s throne. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God’s throne of grace is at the centre of the universe, a throne where we can go to receive help in time of need? The more we seek and embrace God’s costly grace, the more it can mould us into gracious speakers and listeners. “Be quick to listen”,  James urges us, because the first sign of a grace-tamed tongue is that it listens before it speaks. First of all, we listen to our Lord and let His words impact on what we do or say: “Bless those who curse you”, Jesus says in Luke 6:28.

Our text speaks both of blessing God and bestowing God’s blessing on those who have offended us, or with whom we don’t readily get on. To bless God means to acknowledge God as the source of all our blessings. The Bible abounds in words of blessing. To bless God is to recognise his presence among us, and to acknowledge with gratitude His grace and goodness to us.

In Holy Communion, God offers us His cup of blessing, so we can be a blessing to others. “Bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).” Blessing is the language of heaven. When we bless someone, we commend them to God, so that God can fill their lives with peace and joy. To bless someone is an expression of goodwill, harmony and well-being. The simple blessing we give one another, “God bless you”, means “May you experience God’s goodness and grace in good measure.”

 Our Lord invites us who treasure His words of comfort,to speak the truth in love to our neighbours. To speak well of our neighbours and family members is a joy, because by doing so, we draw attention to the gifts Christ has blessed them with. We’re encouraged to put the best construction on their actions, and explain them in the kindest way we can. Our words are to be calm, apt, honest and kind. The Bible reminds us that a gentle answer will calm a person’s anger: “A soft answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).” Harsh words win no arguments. There’s no such thing as winning an argument, only winning an agreement.     

 Admitting your mistakes removes barriers between yourself and those with whom you speak. People warm to those who admit their imperfections instead of boasting of their own virtues. Apologies have a soothing effect as they create warmth between people and make conversation easier. The essence of any good relationship with another person is knowing when to listen and when to speak. Compassionate conversation is the bond between friends and spouses. Love dies when the dialogue stops between those under the same roof. Silence may be golden, but prolonged silence is cruel. Small talk between family and friends keeps family members and friends close to each other.

Words shape lifelong relationships. The Bible reminds us “The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as golden apples in a silver bowl (Proverbs 25:11).” The influence of calm words is especially potent: “A gentle word can get through to the hard hearted (Proverbs 25:15).” Calmness allows time for tempers to cool and a fair hearing to occur. Here courtesy is a wonderful help. Courtesy can help your dialogue partner to calm down and not say things that may be regretted later. Colossians 4:6 champions courtesy in speech when it says: “Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down (The Message, p.505).”

 We can be tempted to think lightly of words compared with deeds, but words are deeds. They can be the most revealing deeds in which we’re involved. The wise are those who use words wisely, the Book of Proverbs tells us. Proverbs 18:20-21a says: “You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say. What you say can preserve life or destroy it.”

 Let our words be in the life-preserving, life-enhancing business. So don’t say everything you think. It may not be helpful. Before you say something, ask: “Is it true? Is it loving? Is it necessary?”

Finally, we pray with the Psalmist: “Lord, place a guard at my mouth, a sentry at the door. Keep me from wanting to do wrong (141:3-4a).” Blessed by our Lord’s words of grace and forgiveness, we seek to practise the Bible’s wisdom, as given to us by Ephesians 4:29:

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.”

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

What price my integrity

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

James 2:1-24, Mark 7:24-37

StMarksAn aspiring young driven leader was sent by senior management to work alongside me for a period of time. He had many desirable abilities, including his honesty where he openly talked of his willingness to burn anyone that gets in his way to make it to the top. Amongst other things one day I was discussing the scenario of where if he had trained up a person from his team so well that upon them both applying for the same higher position, that should the person that answered to him be successful and as such become his superior, that he should not only be very happy for that person, but also content in his role of having helped form that person’s leadership skills to the point that it over shadowed his own.

He did not agree with such an outcome and in all seriousness, though I meant what I said it was easy for me because I was never promotionally focussed. But what if it was something important to me? What price my integrity?

Integrity: genuineness, authenticity, reliability, honesty, honour, uprightness.

The saying is that everyone has a price and mine certainly wasn’t getting promotions. But what about reputation, money, friends, family? What if the thing we hold dearest was on the line? Would we resort to returning fire with fire, payback, bringing them down publicly by tarnishing their reputation with well- placed half-truth’s all the while giving ourselves the comfort that they either deserve it or that we are doing it for the right reasons.

The book of James both from last week’s readings and this week’s gives us some interesting if not challenging advice for us as Christians: Be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Be doers of the word and not hearers only. Love your neighbour as yourself and show no partiality or judgement based on appearance, wealth or status-either way be it upon what may appear lowly or vice versa an attack like that of the tall poppy syndrome.

What price our integrity?

The refugee crisis unfolding in Europe. Hundreds of thousands fleeing their home countries with just the “shirt on their back.” Many once successful business people and all that once called a location home but for safety have no other choice than to flee.

From afar it’s disturbing. But what price our Christian integrity should we see the nation’s leaders in order to broker peace revert to a time like after world war two and re-align nations and their borders and for our part it is decided that the nation of Syria Mark II will be self-governed and located in a region encompassing the northern part of NSW and a Southern section of QLD.

What price our Christian integrity when to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. To be doers of the word and not hearers only and show no partiality or judgement based on appearance, wealth, status colour or creed when to do so will mess with something we hold very dear to us like that of Abraham who when asked to do so offered up his Son Isaac on a mountain top alter.

“Big ticket items” that prey we never have to contend with because it would seem it’s enough for us just trying to have two congregations of the same Christian identity not throw stones at each other never mind Christian groups that assert that they are the one and only true way to salvation and so it’s no wonder that upon becoming a born again Christian shock rocker and once legendary hard living Alice Cooper wrote that “Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.”

So what price of our Christian integrity? I for one, after reading the Book of James know that many times mine has been far too low. So low at times that James words today in isolation are unsettling.

That if “You love your neighbour as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails at one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, do not commit adultery, also said, do not murder. If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.”

But what then of today’s Gospel where Jesus heals a man and a women simply because of their belief, their faith that He could do so.

The key is the context. The context of James whose audience is Jewish converts with works based backgrounds who ultimately are being led to ask the question of “That if we are saved by both faith and works, then how many works must we do to be placed in the saved column?” An answer of participating in salvation through works that can never be answered never mind give any comfort.

But the answer seen in the context of Jesus’ dealings with the two in the Gospel who not only were healed simply through faith, but just as important in context is that they were the dreaded and unreligious gentiles.

What our Christian integrity? Is it borne of legalism that serves not salvation but to that of removing the hope and joy of serving Him out of gratitude?

Or is it borne from when Jesus on the cross cried “it is finished” that we know that in faith in Him alone have our sins been forgiven.

So what price our Christian integrity? A price we could never keep, but the price paid by Jesus Christ who showered his riches upon us at the cost of His own life.

The riches and genuineness of your faith, of greater worth than gold, and to which glory and honour to Jesus Christ is revealed.

The riches of Christ showered upon us that lets us heed to His call from John 9:4 that “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.”

And the riches of Christ that bring understanding to His words from Galatians 6:10 and Ephesians 2:8

That “not that of works should we boast”, but “to that of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to us, and we to the world.”

“For was by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Because of the Work of Christ, saved in Christ we are and saved in Christ we shall remain, as to in Christ shall in this world we strive.

Good habits

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

             

Mark 7:1-8,14,15,21-23

StMarksTraditions, habits, routines, customs, practices – call them what you like. We all have them.

It could be as simple as washing your hands you’ve been to the toilet, having a cup of coffee or beer at set times during the day or night, watching TV from a certain lounge chair, mowing the lawn or planting a crop the same way each time, sticking to ‘Holden’ or ‘Ford’ when buying a new car, or saying grace at mealtimes and bedtime prayers.

Even today,perhaps you are sitting in the same spot you usually sit.

You may have a good reason why you sit there, but maybe you sit there simply because you’ve always sat there! Your routine, your practice, your habit, your custom, or your tradition is that you sit there.

If you sit somewhere else, worship just isn’t the same, is it? If someone else is occupying your usual seat, you might even get quite upset and try to bore holes with your eyes into the back of the head of the person who ‘stole’ your seat!

Now there’s nothing wrong with having traditions, in fact we even need them.

While some may argue routines can make life boring, routines can also structure our life in such a way that we feel safe and secure to live in freedom and joy.

You could  say traditions or routines are a bit like ‘home’. Sure, it’s nice to be on holiday for a while and have a break from normal routines, but it’s also nice to get ‘home’ and back into the security of routine.

The problem with traditions is that we might try to impose them on others.

Take the Pharisees and scribes for example.

They were faithful religious people, perhaps not unlike you.

They would read the Word of God and try their best to live by it. In fact, to make sure they lived out the Word of God, they created certain traditions or customs to live by so they wouldn’t break any of the commandments and therefore live as holy people of God.

One such custom was they would wash their hands a certain way before every meal. Now, washing hands before meals is simply good hygiene and necessary for our health and the health of others. But when these people saw Jesus’ disciples eating food without washing their hands, they were horrified and openly criticised them, and even criticised Jesus for not correcting them.

Now, whether Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands at all, or whether they didn’t wash their hands the correct way like the Pharisees’ custom, we don’t know.

What we do know is that the Pharisees and scribes, those ‘faithful people of God’, were imposing their own set of traditions or customs on others, and judging them accordingly. They were looking down on the disciples and wanting them punished for their lack of faith,

simply because they didn’t wash their hands the right way before eating!

But where in the bible does God command us to wash our hands before eating?

He doesn’t! This isn’t a command of God, but a tradition of men. It’s OK and even helpful to have traditions, but to impose them on others or punish them for not keeping our own personal traditions, is wrong.

Despite the Pharisees’ best intentions, they had made their own man-made tradition or custom into a law that sat equal with, or perhaps even above the commands of God! Put another way, they were trying to make themselves look holy by doing their good little works.

No wonder Jesus calls them hypocrites!

They’re acting out their faith, living up to their own man-made traditions and customs to make them look like they’re faithful people, yet as soon as they open their mouths with criticisms or insults toward others, everyone can clearly see their hearts for what they are: callous, cruel, harsh, bitter, and sinful.

Despite their good intentions, they had set up their own little traditions as their idols; over and above God.

Now we probably all want to say we’re glad we’re not like those judgmental and cruel Pharisees and scribes, but here’s some bad news: unfortunately there’s a Pharisee in all of us, eager to come out and assert itself.

Just think about it…have you ever criticised, either in words, or even by your thoughts, the actions of someone else in worship?

A scenario:

Perhaps you sit during Confession, but the person next to you kneels.

“Look at them kneeling, as if that’s going to make you a better Christian – it’s all a pious act, a great show of repentance, but I know how you live!”

Or maybe you kneel, but the person beside you sits. “Look at them sitting as if they’ve done nothing wrong to repent of, don’t they take their confession seriously?

Are they truly sorry for their sin?”

Now, there are good reasons to kneel during confession. But the action of kneeling or sitting during confession is not commanded by God.

To look down on others because they sit or kneel is to place a human tradition above God’s Word. By judging people to be ‘no good’ because they sit or kneel, is to set up a human practice into an idol.

The only time we should place a human tradition so highly is if the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake. So in any congregation, is his Gospel at stake whether you or the person is a ‘sitter’ or a ‘kneeler’? No! Is it necessary all kneel? No.

In a similar way,

you may appreciate a worship service where the pastor chants liturgical parts, where hymns are played on an organ, and where the whole service is quite structured and formal, or you might prefer a worship service where a band plays songs,

where a pastor tries to avoid any hard to understand theological terms, or where we might use drama or dance to communicate the Gospel.

You might like one or the other, or even a mix, but a personal preference should remain as such.

When you impose your own set of traditions, customs, desires, or preferences on others and criticise them when they don’t do it or don’t like it, is to do what the Pharisees where doing.

However faithful and well-intentioned you may be, if you impose your own set of traditions or preferences on others, you’re setting up salvation by works. And this goes for the Pastor too, because

Attending ‘traditional’ worship won’t save you.

Attending ‘contemporary’ worship won’t save you. This said, a good worship service will always point to Jesus and deliver his gifts.

But kneeling or sitting during confession won’t save you. Sitting in that same seat every Sunday, or even sitting in a different seat every Sunday won’t save you.

Washing your hands the right way before eating won’t save you (although it might save you from possible infection). The good news is that Jesus saves you.

Jesus knows we’re naturally idol worshippers. We naturally worship ‘things’, but we also naturally worship our routines and practices.

In this way, many of our practices, no matter how ancient or recent, and no matter how well-intentioned, can be either helpful or harmful.

They’re helpful when they’re a natural expression of our faith in Jesus alone who saves us. They’re harmful when we’ve turned a tradition or custom into an idol and we sacrifice those ‘heathens’ around us who don’t worship your same idol.

The trouble with idols is they always demand sacrifice. All too soon, our idols progress from a desire, to a demand, to a judgment, and into punishment. That’s no way to live in the light of the Gospel of Christ!

We don’t have to throw out all our traditions, routines, customs, practices, or habits. We don’t have to impose any new ones either.

But if we’ve turned any of our desires or customs into idols that others should also practice, then we need to turn to Jesus.

Our outward appearance and actions that others see won’t make us clean.

Our ‘righteous works’ won’t save us.

You can wash the outside of a rotten apple as much as you like, but it still remains rotten. The rottenness of our heart is exposed by our evil thoughts and desires: stealing, murder, adultery, jealousy, low or no moral values, taking advantage of others, pushing the boundaries of decency, disrespectful speech, arrogance, and foolishness. Our ‘traditions’ can’t hide our rottenness.

There’s only one who can create a clean and holy heart: that place within us that motivates and directs our thoughts, words and actions. Jesus alone can make our hearts clean so that what comes out of us is also clean and holy.

As we attend worship, the Word of God settles on our hearts to wash it clean and to bring forth the fruits of faith through our actions.

Although baptism might seem like an outward act, it makes the whole person clean. Although eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper may seem just a tradition, actually the grace and love of God is at work.

Through faith, Jesus enters us to clean us from the inside out. Only he can get rid of the rottenness of sin within and help us live in grace, mercy, forgiveness, peace, and love.

If we’re going to impose anything on anyone, let it be the love and forgiveness of Christ on each other.

If they don’t live up to our standards or agree with our traditions, love them. If they don’t live out their faith the same as us, accept them as our brother or sister in Christ.

If their words or actions annoy us or frustrate us, forgive them. Our ‘traditions’ won’t save us.

Jesus saves us and thank God for that. Amen.

At the movies

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Ephesians 6:10-20

StMarksThe movie “Fury” is set in April, 1945 and portrays the Allies making their final push into the European Theatre of war through the lens of a group of six men in a Sherman army tank led by Brad Pitt who behind enemy lines are outnumbered, out gunned and with inferior tank technology to that of the opposition are thrust against overwhelming odds into battle to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

It’s one of those movies where at the conclusion you know you’ve just watched a very, very good piece of cinema while also feeling that you wished you hadn’t. At times it’s a hard film to watch as you see through the horror of war of what from each side of the conflict of what humanity can inflict on the other.

It’s a Hollywood movie and while it does portraying Hitler and his secret service the SS as the despised villains, it is also fair in its assessment of both the allied soldiers and the German soldiers with it showing both as simply being thrust into a war that neither wanted nor had a part in playing other than that of being present in such a time. Nevertheless the battles are seen through the eyes of this group of Americans united to live and die as one from within the confines of a coffin in the guise of an army tank and while the group are shown as one in the fear and hatred of that which is war, they are also shown as detached in the matter of faith and nearing the end and entering an unwinnable battle their leader resorts to a scripture passage that it would seem has enabled him to get to this point and to the point he must go as to both himself and those with him he recites from the book of Isaiah “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me” to only be followed up later when in situation of hopelessness and awaiting certain imminent death brings hope through the words of 1 John: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. …..(for)……The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Misused scripture? I guess some may so, But scripture if it was I who through whatever measure it be, be it from my own failures or those of another see me in an alike situation I would certainly not see as misplaced but understand with faith and throwing myself at the feet of Christ in mercy see not guilt and damnation but forgiveness and new life with Christ in heaven where the hurt, the shame, the pain and the fear of a life-that was has been erased like that of a white board and seen or known no longer.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. Words from 1st John that misplaced or not was those said to me on what was to become the “eve” of their suicide.

Scripture not heard from the safety of theological discussion, but scripture known from the melees of life like that of psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Words of our Lord understood at hospital bedsides and then read at funerals for those still living that they too can remain upright and fight the good fight of life through the Saviour Jesus Christ.

Words of the Lord not to mislead and scare, but His Words to guide and reassure. His Words of guidance and reassurance of what is when all seems otherwise that we not get led astray seeking truth where non is to be found, but stand firm clothed in the full armour of God that we not be moved by sleight of hand nor earthly circumstance, but stand firm in the power of Christ clothed in His garments.

The armour of God that Paul clothed himself with in times of imprisonment and persecution that he not be moved by the devil and his schemes nor in his false doctrine. But Paul in the world but not of the world who relates the two opposing sides as seen through his jailors and encourages the early Christians to not falter from what may seem but stand firm in what is known. To not see the belt of a Roman soldier designed to hold loose clothing and move quickly in battle as they do, but be clothed in God’s belt of truth that alone can counter the world’s lies. To not place a breastplate of steel to protect the chest and its vital organs in battle but rather shield ourselves in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. To not cloth ourselves with a Roman soldiers boots studded with nails to stand firm in battle, but stand firm in the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ that sees us need not dip our shield in water prior to the onslaught of flaming arrows, but be shielded by faith in the waters of baptism and see no need for adorning a bronze Helmut nor carrying a sword for close combat, but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit to know of our sure salvation in Christ.

The current Pope on the sixth of June this year, Pope Francis remarked that with the reality of so many armed conflicts affecting our world, “they are kind of Third World War being fought piecemeal” (in fragments).”

Whether that be the case in title or not, be it WW1, WW2 or WW3 all are in reality different battles and outpourings in the one War that is between good the good of God the Father and his adversary of evil.

Battles nonetheless in our fallen world both real and tangible just as they are real and spiritual. Spiritual warfare in our church’s, homes and workplaces of where one desires in Christ we see others through love and the other that we lower our eyes from the cross and bicker, argue and demand.

Battles seen through flesh and blood where we desire God be on our side, yet battles of the Spirit that we need be on his side like that of a young shepherd boy named David who understood this as he single-handedly opposed Goliath in the name of the Lord for when the Philistine Goliath said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.” David responded with, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD.

David won that seemingly unwinnable battle not because of a slingshot but because he was clothed in the armour of God. God’s armour for us in our world. His armour seen in the truth of Christ righteousness that you are clothed. His armour given to you through the Holy Spirit that in faith you know His Gospel and of your most certain salvation that you have received in forgiveness through Jesus Christ your Lord and Saviour.

Every day it seems our world is changing. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys and countries allegiances change with the stroke of a pen. What was once a sin is now a “sin to oppose” and the right of life is becoming the right to extinguish it because of our right to live how we deem fit, and how our world will be tomorrow or the next we do not know nor can we control. Our world that is crying out for leadership yet our world that seeks it in the towers of Babylon.

Our world in such times that we are so blessed live in and see and be the people of God provided with and clothed in his invincible spiritual armour to live every aspect of our lives serving in God’s divine purpose to gather all things under the headship of Jesus Christ.

In the movie “Fury” that I mentioned earlier, the soldiers though portrayed suffering in severe trials, in their belief of being sent to free the world from Adolf Hitler would often remark “It’s the best job they have ever had.”

Today, in our world what a great time to be a Christian and serve our Savior through those he brings before us that they may be open to the Holy Spirit and see not human war and suffering but the spiritual peace and joy that is found in Jesus Christ, that as they lay to awake before the Savior, they too know for themselves that you know for yourselves. That yes, though you may walk through the darkest valley or atop highest mountain splendor, you did not fear in the valley nor gloat on the mountain, for as in both was Christ that was present and it was Christ that prevailed, so to in Christ did you travel not in the shame of sin- but in the boldness of His grace knowing that in either life or in death through this fallen yet redeemed sinner has His love been known, and His love been magnified. Amen.