Archive for the ‘Easter Sunday’ Category

The napkin is still folded

Monday, April 17th, 2017

 

John 20 : 1 – 18

Looking at verse 6- 7

Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.

In bible days, when someone died, it was the duty of a family member to close the eyes and kiss the cheek of the dead. When Christ died, it was the duty of two men, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus.

 They went to Pontius Pilot and begged that they be allowed to take the body of Jesus. As they were given permission they removed the body from the cross and placed it into a new tomb that Joseph had prepared for himself. They washed the body and wrapped it in white linen, closed Jesus eyes, kissed His cheek, and placed a napkin over his face.

 As they walked away from the tomb I’m sure they would have been silent, sadness would have overcome them, and they would have felt like there was lead in their stomach and a lump in their throat. I’m sure they would have thought that it was all over, the end of a dream, and it only lasted three short years.

 The next days must have passed like an eternity for them, however, for those days I am sure the devil and his demons would have rejoiced, the forces of darkness, thought they had won. The Jewish leaders, as well as the Roman government, congratulated themselves on their brilliant scheme.

 But, on the third day, something wonderful and miraculous happened, on the third day God the Father said to an angel in heaven, “Go and bring my Son”.          And as the angel’s feet touched the ground, the stone rolled away,    and up from the grave,  Jesus arose…. He lives!!!!!!!!!!

 In the Gospel message Mary, Peter and John all went to the tomb and saw that it was empty,  but there was something interesting in the tomb,     something that caught their eye.They saw that the grave clothes had been tossed in a heap, BUT THE NAPKIN  that was placed over Jesus face was folded neatly and placed at the head of the stony coffin…… Is that important?……….Absolutely!!

 The Gospel of John tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of the coffin.

 In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little of the Hebrew custom or tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the master and servant and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.

 Now if the master had finished eating, he would rise up from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and then would screw up the napkin and toss it on the table……… The screwed up napkin meant,…………. I’m done……….. The servant then knew, he was to clear the table.

 But,…. If the master got up from the table, folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant WOULD DARE NOT TOUCH   the table, because the servant knew that the folded napkin meant, “I’m not finished yet”.                 The folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back”!!!

 Peter and John spent three years with Jesus; they watched Him as He opened the eyes of the blind, as He literally raised people from the dead. They saw Him heal the sick, the compassion He had for the poor and the lonely, the outcasts……… Then…….. They watched Him die.

 As they saw Him die all their hopes and dreams would have shattered!!     All they could think of was, “IT’S OVER……..IT’S ALL OVER”. …….For three days they were in the depths of despair, the lights of their soul had gone dim……. Peter even said I’m going fishing;                      I’m going back to what I used to do.

 After three days they saw the empty tomb, BUT THEY ALSO SAW  the folded napkin.              “He’s not finished yet;……..He’s coming back”.

 I thank God today that “He’s not finished yet”

 Right now Jesus is busy saving souls; the bible says that Jesus came into this world for one reason,……to save sinners. John 3:17 “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved”.        

In the eyes of God there are only two kinds of people, those who have already been saved, ………. And those who need to be saved.

 Some mistakenly say that good people are saved and bad people need to be saved. This is incorrect as all need to be saved; there is no-one so bad that they cannot be saved.

 We are all sinners in need of saving. In God’s eyes there is no difference, there are no big sinners or little sinners. In God’s eyes, there are sinners like you and me who have been forgiven, and then THERE ARE the sinners who have not yet been forgiven, but certainly CAN BE.

 ‘The napkin is still folded,            He’s still saving souls”

 A few days before Christ died, He took the disciples aside and told them what was about to happen. He said, “I’m going to be betrayed, arrested, beaten and crucified. Then He looked at the disciples and said, “All of you are going to desert me when the heat is on”.

 Peter in true fashion rose up in typical style and said, “Not me”.

 Can you see Jesus shaking His head saying to Peter, “You are going to deny me three times before tomorrow”?

 Now let’s go forward in time when they found the empty tomb and the angel tells Mary and the other women to tell the disciples to meet with Jesus in Galilee.

 Mark 16:7 “Now go and tell His disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there, just as He told you before He died.”

 Can you imagine how Peter might have felt.  Jesus wants to see him, what for? He not only denied Jesus three times, but he also cursed and he ran off deserting Him.

 Peter was in total despair, He couldn’t have meant him, He would have meant the other disciples,    not me.                            But they replied that the angel had named him,the disciples and Peter!!

 Why did Jesus want to see Peter?………. To rebuke him? ……………No to restore him!
One of the sweetest scenes in the Bible is Peter and Jesus coming together, and Jesus hugging him and saying,“Peter do you love me”?

 Did you notice!!.. Jesus does not mention anything about Peter’s denial, .. Jesus does not mention anything about Peter’s Dessertion of Him,……… Did you notice that Jesus didn’t mention anything about Peter’s cursing?
Do you love Jesus?Jesus loves you.The napkin is still folded.

 Are there friends, neighbors or maybe even a member of your family that you are concerned about…… It’s not too late……… Go to them……. Tell them about Jesus. Do it in love, be gentle, understanding compassionate.

 We are to imitate Jesus and He was always gentle and loving with ordinary people like you and me. Nowhere in the New Testament will you find an account where Jesus was abusive or scolded an ordinary person like you or me.               Yes He was critical of the Pharisees and Sadducees,         but not the ordinary people they were the leaders, AND THEY BURDENING THE PEOPLE TERRIBLY.

 Jesus wants you and me to be a part of His great commission,.. ……we are to be the messenger,………. He will do the rest. ………God does all the real work, we deliver the message, God opens their heart so that they can hear the truth. It is Jesus who will bring them home.

 Now let’s look at the key issues. When Jesus arose from the dead,…He folded the napkin to let us know He is coming back, His work is not finished.

When Jesus met with Peter in Galilee He didn’t remember any of Peter’s sins. He hugged him and asked him “Do you love me”.Do not be concerned, Jesus won’t remember your sins either. I beg of you, don’t wait until it’s too late.right no.. the napkin is still folded.

 Jesus won’t scold you; He will hug you like He hugged Peter and ask you, “Do you love me”. The napkin is still folded                    Amen.

 

Let’s pray.  Dear Jesus, you suffered so much to save us, help us to remember all that you have done for us. Help us never to forget that you love us, and you are coming back for us. Amen.

Pastor Ian Kotzur

Easter Urgency

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Text: John 20:1-9

We have, unwittingly, set a tempo with our current Easter celebrations that is quite contrary to the nature of the event.  We have the longest of long weekends…  A break…  People go away…  Switch off…  Shift our focus from the everyday and escape into wall-to-wall footy, or family get-togethers, or a lounge-chair, chocolates and a book…

Our weekend, even if it is ‘busy’, usually lacks the sense of urgency that drives the story in the Gospels:  secret plotting, finding the right moment to make the capture, money taken and then almost immediately returned, the repeated plea to “keep watch!”, a rushed trial full of movement between three courts (two of them uncomfortable and unwilling), a hastily considered trade-off for another criminal, and even a hurried crucifixion constrained by the Passover regulations and timetables, a nearby tomb procured quickly, and incomplete burial rites.  It is an urgent business.

…and no less urgent on the Sunday morning, as today’s Gospel makes clear.  At the first light, they run!  The waiting during the Sabbath and the darkness has been an agitated waiting.  They are not resting.  They are disturbed.  They are uncertain.  They are distressed.  They have been dragged—urgently—through the trauma of the previous days and they are unsettled about the “what next?”.

And…as you will know from hearing the Easter story over the years…when they are confronted by the fact and by the message—“He is risen!”—they do not calm down, or become less agitated.  The urgency continues.

The implications of Jesus’ resurrection necessitate urgency.

This was not the first miracle.  This was not even the first healing in which someone who had died was made alive again.  But this was an event in which the worst of human injustice, oppression, hatred, and cruelty had been offered by religious and secular authorities alike, as a public statement, as an assertion of power and authority.  And over and against this powerful, public statement Jesus had said, “Father, your will be done”; “Father, forgive them”; “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.  And the one who openly identified with the weak, the ill, the poor, the displaced, the outcast, the hated, the oppressed, the suffering, and the dying—the powerless—the one who openly identified himself with those who suffered the worst of sin and evil in the world—he didn’t assert power and authority, but offered himself over to the will of the Creator.  He gave his life into the hands of the one who created all…in the beginning…and said, “It is good.”  In the middle of the mess, of all the ugliness of sin, he handed it back to the one who said, “It is good.”

And to that, God answered with the resurrection.

And to that answer, they ran…with urgency.  To that answer.  To that declaration.  To that new creation.  To that new “it is good”.

We have developed a bit of a tradition in the Church—(and even if we don’t really ‘own’ it we will have to, at least, recognise that it is a perception held widely)—that the only time we get urgent about things is when we are facing the grave.  Historically, we ‘evangelise’ (which means we ‘tell the good news!’)—we evangelise with some sense of urgency if we think that someone might miss out!

But the urgency of the first Easter springs from a much more immediate question:  What are we going to do tomorrow?  How are we going to live tomorrow?  We, who have followed the one who serves, who keeps forgiving, who releases from guilt for sins past and into new opportunity, who is generous in time and spirit and gives all he has to those in need, who distinguishes not on the basis of ‘who belongs?’ or ‘who deserves?’ but on the basis of ‘to whom can I show love?’ & ‘to whom can I be neighbour?’—we who have learned the day to day reality of grace from God walking with us…how are we going to live tomorrow?  As they ran to the tomb they wondered!  Is it over?  Is it gone?  Or is he alive, like he said?  Is he still loving, and giving, and forgiving?  How are we going to live this next day?  This is the immediacy and the urgency of Easter!

Those same followers of Jesus would, in the coming days and years, focus their Easter urgency into proclaiming a message of “hope”.  The New Testament term “hope” has a very definite meaning:  We know that God, in Christ, has forgiven us, and given to us eternal life.  This is made certain in the resurrection of Jesus—his life for us.  There are no ‘ifs’ or ‘maybes’.  This is certain.  Hope is the certainty of the fulfilment of God’s promises.  Easter is the Christian foundation for hope.  Easter is the moment in which the Christian says “I know that my Redeemer lives”—and because he lives, I have life, his life, my life, all bundled into the one.  I am God’s new creation.  Hope is the certainty that looks forward in life because God has demonstrated his absolute power and authority and victory over sin and death.

I think Easter should be our ‘moveable feast’.  Easter should be the Christian celebration we have the day our family welcomes a new baby—a day filled with a sense of urgency over the fact of this new life, this new life created by God.  Easter should be celebrated on the day a new marriage begins.  Or the day we begin a new job, or a new course of study.  Easter should be our celebration at the moment we buy a new home, or build one for someone else!

Easter is the celebration that marks our living in the presence of the God who has declared absolute grace, declared eternal love, declared that he is with us and for us in every circumstance and every stage of life—one with us from birth through all the realities of living, through death and the grave.

And we, like Mary and Peter and John—we can declare “Christ is risen!” with the joy of recognising that our neighbours, like us, have lives to live—and they can live them in the knowledge of God’s loving presence, today!

Urgency comes about at the point of intersection between a question or uncertainty, and an answer.  In our world, in our society, and in our very local communities and families (and selves!) there is often much agitation and anxiety:  Can we save the world from ecological disaster?  Can we save the world from economic disaster?  Can we survive on-going hostility and war?  Can we survive on-going injustice?  Can we survive our own individual weaknesses and the hurt they cause?  Can we live past the next generation?  Or the next day?

Today God proclaims again, and reminds us again, that he has heard our prayers, our cries, our dying breath, and has made his statement:  I am the resurrection and the life.  Believe and me, live, trust, hope, be certain.  I am for you.  And trusting in me you will always live.

Urgency comes at the point of intersection between a question and an answer.  We are surrounded by a world with the question.  You know the love of God and the life of God for the world.

I urge you to be urgent in celebrating and proclaiming the answer of life in God’s grace.

Amen.

Sounds too good to be true

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Luke 24:5

StMarksThere is a saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” and in this day and age of scams that is pretty good advice. Interestingly, yesterday when I was researching that saying on Google, I was directed to another statement or saying to that of “Opportunity knocks but once” in which alongside the English explanation of such a phrase- was an advertisement from “Charm Date.com” inviting me to date beautiful Russian girls. How in the world this saying was linked on the World Wide Web to the previous saying about being “too good to be true” I’ll never know, because if you had seen how that young lady in the advertisement was dressed and looking at me-you too would have known it was not a scam.

Obviously, I had to turn her down but at least I did reply to the email I received from a compassionate Nigerian General promising me great wealth if I gave him my bank details.

When I receive it I might send some to that girl so that she can buy some more suitable clothing for the Russian winters.

From the book of Proverbs: Chapter 31, verses 4-6: “It is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!”

And the Apostle Paul’s words to “Pastor/Evangelist” Timothy in the 1st book in his name: 1St Timothy Chapter 5, verse 23: “Do not drink water only, but take a little wine to help with digestion and illness.”

It’s like looking in a mirror: Beer for the struggling, wine for the Pastor. Twenty four hours in a day and twenty four beers in a carton: co-incidence-I think not.

Words used for myself out of context and most unlike those of the two angels at Jesus’ empty tomb who after seeing Mary Magdalene and friends looking to tend to His body greet them with a quizzical: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ and then continue with ‘He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you that on the third day he would rise again.’

And as we heard from the scripture reading: Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  But these words seemed to them ridiculous – too good to be true – and they did not believe her (Luke 24:5b-11).

We face the same challenges today.  People will believe in just about anything.
Pills that burn fat so you don’t have to diet or exercise.
Creams that make you look younger.
Ancient secrets to living longer.
People will spend money to take the risk in case it is true.  But try to tell them about Jesus, who rose from the dead and now offers eternal life to anyone who believes? I’m sure you would off heard some more than once: ‘It’s all make-believe.’  ‘I’ve never heard of such a thing!’  ‘It’s too good to be true.’

And, you’ve may have even heard other, not so nice responses to the news of the Resurrection.

Believing in the resurrection was never going to be easy.  It wasn’t then; it isn’t now.

But why?  Isn’t this what everyone wants?  And if it’s true – isn’t this then it is the answer to all of life’s concerns.

Life is full of suffering: death; grief; worries.  Knowing that at the end of this life we will experience eternal life means that the hurt is limited.  The emphasis of Paul in his writing today is that the resurrection of Jesus is victory over every oppressive power in our life, including, and especially, death (1 Corinthians 15:19-26).  The last enemy to be destroyed is death!  And so whenever we doubt or disbelieve in the resurrection of Jesus, death is still the power in our life.  That is when we and others look for anything that will help relieve the suffering, pain and death.  For many it becomes their life search – their job, their wealth, their success.  And when these fail, as they ultimately do, then so does hope for the future.

Even as Christians, these other things can all too often become the focus to bring hope and meaning into our lives.  But when we look to anything but the resurrection then the message of the angels is spoken to us too: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  Nothing in this life can bring us any comfort despite the promises they make.  When we listen to the media telling us about how to find true meaning and happiness in the idols of this world, then we are looking for the living among the dead.

Amos, the first earthly prophet announced to the Jewish people that: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.  People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east: They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.”

Words said to those awaiting the Messiah in Old Testament, and yet, Words that could be said for those looking for the meaning of life still in these days, and Words said to us when we seek the idols of our world that never stop asking for more and more of the same.

Copy a recipe from the endless cooking shows: but still hungry the next day. A world traveller: but still weighed down with those 22 countries I “haven’t done yet.” The latest and greatest gadgets: that are already outdated by the time they’re released. Good things in life that we know are gifts from God, like that of the Gift of God truth’s truth that shows that they still are only things.

Because our hope is in the resurrected life. Our hope that changes the way we live our lives from as if our earthly life is the only life we have, to a life living as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and declare with absolute joy and confidence like that of Mary Magdalene that  “We have seen the Lord.”

It’s natural to feel the pain and heartache of this life.  When we suffer, we hurt.  When a loved one dies, we grieve.  When we lose a job, we are concerned about paying the mortgage and other bills.  But it’s where we go to for comfort and assurance that matters.  Mary went to the right place, but was looking for the wrong answer.  She went to see Jesus, but didn’t understand the meaning of the empty tomb.  Mary was despaired, but was pointed to Jesus.  When we face our own empty tombs – when we face those times when we feel loss and despair, pain and grief – we are pointed to Jesus.  The empty tomb meant that Jesus was no longer in the grave but is now living with us and in us.

Jesus said before his death, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it” (John 2:19).  On the third day Jesus rebuilt his temple – His risen body, His Holy Church and in His people

We are now living witnesses to the Lord. We have seen the Lord and now we share this living hope in a dying world that has put its hope in the wrong things and still looking for the living among the dead.

Proverbs Chapter 31, verse 6: “Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish.”

Yes there is an element in that proverb of deadening the pain of life, but greater the element of deadening the pain of death.

The death faced by the criminals on their way to execution on the cross who were given by  the ladies of Jerusalem a drink of medicated wine to help deaden the pain of suffering.

The wine like that offered to Jesus said to be of vinegar, gall and myrrh.  A cheap Roman wine mixed as a drug to dull the senses of the person being crucified that they may a little easier endure their cross.

The same pain relief offered to but rejected by Christ who willed to taste the full bitterness of death and suffering, that we when bearing our cross see not hope in the perishable of the world, but in the imperishable of Himself, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ here with us today as we will be with Him in eternity.

The Easter story is our story and as He has risen, forgiven in Christ so shall we.

So whether you are here each week, each month, each year – or whether it’s your first time here – let this Easter Story be your story.  Let it renew your life and hope in the living Lord, so that you no longer look for the living among the dead but become the place where others can find life. Amen.

I’m confused

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

“Nothing in my hands do I bring,
simply to the cross I cling”

Acts 16: 16-34

Two of the most confusing years of my life were my first the seminary studying to be a pastor. For an older student the languages and doing assignments it was a culture shock and difficult. So yes, the doing “stuff” was at times difficult. But the confusion was from within because I continually self-doubted whether I was meant to be there. I wanted so much to do what God had wanted me to do but kept thinking that maybe I had misinterpreted just what that was, and maybe it was my own human construction that had led me there.

So one day I asked to see one of the lecturers and told him of my situation-of being torn daily and the anxiety it was bringing me. His answer was not one of let’s look how you got here or working through things but simply “it seems you have a faith problem”.

I’ve been called many things in my life, but that hadn’t been one of them. But over the following weeks and months I got it. Yes, I knew who Christ was and what he came for. The son of God, the saviour of the world and even me. But I got it. I was so wanting to follow what he wanted that it was getting in the way and yes I was continually asking Him, but also myself and then rationalising it with my human mind and I’d be back at the start again which was like, maybe I was only there because I was like Whoopi Goldberg in the movie nuns on the run where she only went to the nunnery because she was boxed in by the stuff she had done and was there by default.

And maybe I was right, but maybe also, that’s what had to happen.

Maybe that’s what had to happen to see through the eyes like the jailor in today’s reading from acts. To where you are brought to the brink, think of all the options and realise you have none and have a seemingly simple but nevertheless, unfathomable choice. To either follow what seems the logical outcome to destruction, or just give all that has gone before and lay ourselves at His mercy-say “what must I do”.

I’m done-What must I do to save me from myself? What must I do to take away the guilt? What must I do? I’ll climb mountains. I’ll do anything to start again. I’ll beg for mercy and if the only way to see some peace is to end it, then let it end because this world is too hard for me, no rather-I’m not strong enough to fight the world, to fight what I’ve done and what I’ve become. To be trapped like the jailor in Acts.

To the horror of the jailer, he awoke at the commotion, thinking his worst nightmare had come true. Believing the prisoners had escaped he reached for his sword to end his life, but Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28)

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family. (Acts 16:29-34)

What must I do to be saved? The question “what one must do?” is perhaps a very natural response for humanity. The jailer faced death, because the prison had become unsecured under his watch. He was frightened, humiliated, and his immediate response, before Paul stopped him, was to take his life.

No more excuses or lying up the sleeve. When there’s nothing left but a broken spirit-we look to the Lord and ask “How can a person like me be saved, how can a person like me go on?”

And His answer “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”.

Saved eternally-Yes, but also saved today-from yourself.

As Christians we often place ourselves back under bondage, as did the jailer. Instead of our freedom in Christ allowing us to be who we are called to be, we get caught up worrying what we and others must do to be Christian – what we must do to be saved and save others. However, “being a Christian” is exactly that, “being” rather than “doing”. When one faces the question of doing — failure, depression, and death follow hot on the heels of our defective human deeds. It’s not so much a question of “what I must do to be?” but rather, “my being in Christ allows me to do what he wills for me.”

Martin Luther wrote that: “In the matter of faith one must let everything go and cling to the Word alone. When we have gripped that, let the world, death, sin, hell and every misfortune storm and rage. But if you let go of the Word, you will be doomed.”

If you let go of the Word you are doomed because then it comes back to us, of how we feel inside.

The Word of God comes from outside and is not accountable to how we feel-it remains resolute and does not change.

I would like to read a passage from Revelations. Revelations Chapter 7, verses 9 to 14:

“9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 14 (I asked who they were)

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “

We are in the great tribulation-trouble, trial and ordeal. And in that things get confusing to us but not to the Lord.

He sees every self-doubt and burden we carry-and that he knows they are heavy-he offers no catches or tricks. That we make it through this great tribulation still in faith even astonishes the angels. Our Lord’s offer is simple because there is no other way but belief in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour and to be washed clean in his blood.

We ask our Lord for forgiveness and most certainly are given eternal life.

We ask each other for forgiveness that we may be free today, and today-I beg of your forgiveness.

 

What now

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

“Now what?”

Acts 10:34-43, 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, John 20:1-18.

There have been many cases where extremely gifted sportspeople have retired to only make a comeback later. Boxing is one that certainly comes to mind and when we see it, one of the first things many consider is that it’s from the lure of one last big payday and that may be right in some sense but I’m sure that for most, it is that sense of loss and maybe even belonging when something they have dedicated their life to comes to an end.

James Hird, one of the finest players to grace the football field who is now the current coach of Essendon, several years ago while still playing and after having received steel plates in his head from a serious injury was asked by a commentator “You have won a Brownlow medal, won premiership’s and captioned your side. There’s nothing in football you haven’t done and nothing left to prove. You have four young children, you’re a smart man-you have a degree in civil engineering and have many flourishing investments and your doctor has warned that should you play on you risk grave irreversible damage”. His response, “yes-but I’m a football player, that’s what I do-that’s what I am” and in one of his last games he swapped his guernsey/footy jumper with an equality respected footballer of great ability and great courage in Glen Archer from the North Melbourne Kangaroos. The next day Glenn after noticing his wife in the laundry and putting his footy gear in the wash, with some urgency said “don’t ever wash that guernsey”. To which came her obvious question of a puzzled why? Only to hear, “Because that jumper has the blood and sweat of James Hird on it”.

Today the stain of our sin has been washed from us through the work, sweat and blood of Jesus Christ. His work, sweat and blood that has set us free, yet his work, his saving sweat and blood that cannot be removed from us by (Romans 8:38) “neither by death, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

A person told me that his friend having lost a young child was in mourning and when visited by his pastor was so stricken that he could not get out of bed. After the pastor arrived and was ushered into the bedroom he simply took off his shoes, laid down next to him and they wept together without a word spoken. Sometimes what’s best said is to say nothing. When trying to write the Good Friday address I felt like I had nothing to offer and had a constant, almost overpowering feeling to just turn up, announce and hear the Word of God and say nothing. Not out of disrespect, but out of respect because when we stand at the foot of the cross we see we have nothing, not one thing other than sin and at best we go on just to trying to put one foot in front of the other.

In today’s Gospel verse 19 the disciples had assembled together in fear, and the risen Lord Jesus “came and stood in their midst and said “peace be with you”.

Peace be with you. This is the peace we offer each other every week in our liturgy when we say “peace be with you, and also with you”. This is not just said for the fun of it. This is the peace that Christ has brought to us in his resurrection. The peace that overturns our fears. A living unjudging peace, a peace that says you too are alive again, free from the fear of sin and free from deaths consequences. A peace that finally allows us to truly rejoice. To rejoice in our Lord and to rejoice for every second of the life we are given this side of heaven. It’s the peace of the Lord that makes things look different. It’s the peace of the Lord that make things different and instead of wandering and ambling along placing one foot in front of the other, we now walk with purpose and in the sureness as expressed by our brother in Christ St. Paul in today’s reading from Corinthians. Paul, a fierce opponent of Christians until he met Jesus Christ for himself. A meeting that changed his whole being from persecutor to being persecuted and was a loyal soldier to the end who amidst the constant storm of opposition against him, the clamour of his enemies and the desertion of his friends would look back to what happened on the cross and be given new enthusiasm and zeal to press on and tread the blood-stained path that Christ had trodden before him to spread the knowledge of the Saviour crucified and the saviour risen.

When leaving the sem. a lecturing pastor said to us “as pastors and Christian’s you are not asked to go looking to suffer persecution and death, but if it finds you and you are ‘ásked’ to be a martyr, you face it in Christ”.

Every person who walks this earth will at some time and at some level face persecution. And all will face death. That’s just how it is.

But in Christ what may happen is not what we dwell on; we dwell on what he has done. What has happened? That he has brought us forgiveness, has brought us eternal life, has brought us freedom and has brought us life here today, on this earth.

His love that cannot be taken from us by neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation.

His love for us and joy of life he has given that cannot be taken from us by neither those who ridicule us, nor those who turn from us and treat us unfairly, nor the knowledge of our own sin, nor our self- loathing. For we are now free.

Free to cry and free to mourn, and free to live. Free to build up those who look to bring us down and free to love those who love us not. Free to climb the highest mountains or free to rest at the bottom.

“Born down in a dead man’s town the first kick I took was when I hit the ground, (and) you end up like a dog that’s been beat too much till you spend half your life just covering up”. The opening lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the USA”. A protest song about his country that he doesn’t much sing anymore since the tragedy of September 11 and instead wrote a song called the rising.

A song with biblical overturns directed towards his country, a song of rebuilding and a song of hope

“I make my way through this darkness

I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me….

There’s holy pictures of our children

dancing in a sky filled with light.

May I feel your arms around me

May I feel your blood mix with mine

A dream of life comes to me.

Come on up, lay your hands in mine

Come on up for the rising

Come on up for the rising tonight”.

Pain upon pain yet that brings hope.

A young boy who at age four or five in the middle of the night was more than once woken by his loving mum and told to run the two miles through the wheat crops to the neighbor’s house for safety. In some ways that boy, now a man is still running through the paddocks. But now he does not run along with only the light from the moon to guide him, but in and under the light of Christ.

Our pain upon Christ’s pain, that has brought hope.

Our rising upon Christ’s rising, that has brought life.

On Good Friday looking up at Christ I had no words to offer. Today looking at the raised Christ and knowing that there is nothing more I can do other than what he’s done, I see that I have everything to offer.

In Christ your sins died on the cross and in his resurrection so too have you been raised up. Towards eternal life you have nothing to offer as it has been done and in that knowledge and in that freedom-today, tomorrow and the next you have everything to offer-so wether the moments you have remaining are many or few-live, truly live and bask in every moment this side of heaven in the sure knowledge of what awaits for you on the other side.

 

The Aftershock

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

 Mark 16:1-8

 

One Friday, an innocent man, a Holy man, deserted by even his closet followers, nailed to a cross like a criminal, alone and on a lonely hill died that others may have life, and the earth shook.

Three days later, the earth shook again when this man was raised from the dead and brought life to the world, and the aftershocks of this good news has been felt ever since.

He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

Yes, and in our risen Lord we rejoice, for Christ’s victory over death, is our victory over death. On his way to the cross, Jesus brought earthly and eternal sight to a blind man.Raised Lazarus from the dead and gave him life and the promise of eternal life.

Now, we receive our Risen Lord, and receive life- today and eternally, AND REJOICE, and never again need to be afraid.

Today, storm clouds don’t threaten, they bring soothing shade.

Today, there are no tears of sadness, only of joy.

Today we don’t see the sun setting on our lives, but the rays of sunshine in the beautiful break of day, WE REJOICE that in our resurrected Lord, we live in the sure promise that will be fulfilled on our last day. That we too will be raised up, to meet our Lord and be welcomed home.

And meet those that have gone before us, and see their smiling face’s again.

We rejoice in the truth, that the Words of our Lord have been fulfilled, that in his death, we died to sin, and in his resurrection, so to will we be raised up.

Just as Jesus told his disciples the truth, that he would die and be raised again in three days, Jesus has told us the truth “believe in me and receive eternal life”. Yet there are those who conspire against this truth.

The genious of Bill Gates was to take a highly intellual process and make it simple and easy to understand and available to all. Yet, his vision of making computer technology accessable to the masses and not just the select few, caused many to conspire against him.

Jesus on a cross died for sinners, not for a chosen few, but for thieves, prostitutes, the poor and the rich, the lowly and the highly, and made forgiveness assessable too all. Was raised to life-and says here take it, says to us there’s no catches, believe in me-repent and follow me and receive forgiveness and life.

Forgiveness in Christ alone-it is that simple, and it is assessable to all.

Through no efforts of our own, Christ has won our battle over darkness and death- that is the Gospel.

The battle has been won and the biggest conspirator of all, the devil knows it-that he was defeated on the cross yet though he knows his days are numbered, he still works against the truth.

Beaten by Jesus on the cross, he now attacks the Word of God.

Sometimes blatantly, and sometimes to sutially attacks the Church and its people-to make them doubt the truth, to hide the truth behind lies.

Jesus, the truth is the centre of our lives, the truth that others conspire against.

Like Judas was bought off to hand over Jesus to those who wanted to kill of the truth, after the resurrection, the same people bought off the guards in order to hide the truth.

A blatant attempt to hide the truth-that we see clearly as a lie.

For we know: He has risen-he has risen indeed.

But the most deceitful lies are those that are partly based on truth.

We are constantly reminded that we are sinners, and we cannot argue that-because even the Word of God confirms that.

But the lie comes after. That in our sin, in our walking away from Jesus, in our weaknesses, and in constantly failing to live as we would wish, that we should doubt our forgiveness-that’s the lie.

Or, yes, Christ did die and was raised for sinners-but not sinners like you. You’re too far gone, beyond help or at the very least-you better get your act together and become that perfect person you have to be.

That’s the lie and the deception.

A deception that in the Gospel today we can clearly see for what it is an out and out lie.

A lie that if we only saw an empty tomb would leave us guessing, but in faith don’t see just an empty tomb but the living presence of Jesus.

The legendry American Gridiron coach Vince Lombardi once said that a players greatest moment, is not winning or losing, but when you are broken and busted and have nothing left to give, and you look across and you see your team mates-and they are the same.

In our lives, we still take the bumps and the bruises, and we take them with our families, friends and loved ones. But sometimes, we look across and they are no longer there, just emptiness, except for Jesus, and

as he lifts us up, we see he wears our bruises, and says I am with you, I have always been with you and will be to the end.

Fear not, my victory is yours.

In Jesus selfless act on the cross, and in his desire that we accept in him our victory over death, accept in him undeserved forgiveness-the lie is dispelled and we see the truth. We see the love of God, shown to us through His Son Jesus, given to us-to save us.

Jesus backs up his Words with actions.

Just as he said he would be raised, he was.

Just as he said he brings forgiveness, he has.

The words of the angel in today’s Gospel that were said then towards the disciples, are also said to us.

The angel in declaring to the Mary’s “He has risen just as he said. Go quickly and tell his disciples, that he has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee” shows what’s to come.

The women are to give this wonderful message to the fallible disciples who had fallen away. It’s not “tell them Jesus told you so, or boy are you going to get it”, but a message that says “you are still in his plans, he has not forgotten you -you still matter to him”.

In Matthew 28:9-10, the corresponding text to today’s Gospel we hear that on their way to Galilee, Jesus meets the women and greets them.

And what does he say? When we consider the Greek text, the closet common day word is Hi. Which in Australian speak would be G’Day.

Jesus has been raised from the dead, and in his first recorded conversation, there is no choir of angels, no sound of trumpets or visions of glory. No words of ridicule towards those that gave away to their fears while he suffered, but an earthly and friendly – G’Day.

That is brilliant. What a wonderful picture that gives us. Jesus reaching out his hands to us and warmly says Hi, G’day-great to see you.

In the garden, Jesus needed the disciples most, they slept. When Jesus was on trial, Peter denied him, and when he had risen as he said he would, they are no where to be seen.

Yet when Jesus meets the women on their way to the disciples, he confirms the angel’s message; except for one thing.

Jesus does not call them his disciples-he calls them his brothers.

In that one change, that one Word is crammed the whole New Testament Gospel of forgiveness. Jesus could have said many negative things of his disciples-and all would have been true.

But what IS Jesus response: he calls them his brothers:

welcomes them into his family.

Jesus says what he means and means what he says.

Jesus said he will be raised, and he was.

Jesus said he brings forgiveness, and he has.

Jesus says that in him, we are given eternally life-and we have been and we rejoice.

Amen.

 

Can you believe it?

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Text: Matthew 28:5,6
The angel spoke to the women. “You must not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying.

FOR US AT EASTER

Insurance companies often get some interesting stories on claim forms. This is one that is said to be true from Canada about a four wheel drive that was write off.

This is what happened in the words of the owner.
“A couple of friends and I went fishing but the lake where we intended to fish was frozen. I parked my four-wheel-drive on the edge and instead of making a hole in the ice one of my mates lit a stick of dynamite with a long-burning fuse and threw it out onto the lake to break up the ice.

Unfortunately the dog thought it was a stick and ran out on to the ice.
Fortunately the dog retrieved it in record time but unfortunately he started back toward us.
Unfortunately when we yelled at the dog to drop it, the dog ran under the four-wheel-drive with the stick of dynamite in his mouth.
Fortunately the dog got burnt on the muffler, ran out from under the four-wheel-drive.
Unfortunately he dropped the dynamite under the vehicle. The dynamite went off, transforming the four-wheel-drive into a pile of junk.

That is supposed to be a true story, well, according to the person filling out the insurance claim.

If you think that story is a bit far-fetched the disciples must have really thought that the women were pulling their leg when they arrived out of breath with a story about Jesus having risen from the dead.

They had seen him late on the Friday afternoon when he was taken down from the cross. He was as dead as anyone could be. They accompanied those carrying the body of Jesus to a tomb that had been freshly hewn out of rock. They laid his body to rest and quickly paid their last respects. It was almost the Sabbath. A huge rock was rolled over the entrance to the tomb and Pontius Pilate made sure that a seal had been placed on the rock and guards were posted at the grave. And now the women returned from Jesus’ tomb saying that an angel had said to them, “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying” (Matt 28:5,6). And when they looked, sure enough, Jesus’ body wasn’t there.

There is saying that goes, “If a thing is too good to be true, then it probably is”. In fact I wonder if they even thought that Jesus coming alive again could have been remotely possible. They thought the report of the women who had come from Jesus’ tomb was a pretty tall story and we are told how they reacted. “They thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).The story of the resurrection is even more unbelievable than the one about the four-wheel-drive, the dog and the stick of dynamite.
Why is the story of Easter so special and precious to us?
Why have we come here to celebrate this day when the rest of the world ignores the resurrection of Jesus and enjoys a long weekend holidaying, camping and lying on the beach?
There are those who call this story a legend and a myth that requires a huge leap of faith to accept as fact. It’s a story that defies all logic. When a person is dead, he or she is dead.

We do hear of people being resuscitated after their heart stops beating and people talk about after death experiences but all this happens within minutes of the person’s death. That’s nothing like coming back after being a couple of days in the grave. There are just too many unanswerable questions the least of them being how did a man who was so weak from the beatings and whipping and the actual crucifixion roll away the heavy stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb? How can a body that is completely devoid of all life come alive again?

I don’t have all the answers to these kinds of questions but the Bible is quite clear about what happened on the first Easter morning. The angel said it plainly and clearly, “He is not here! He has risen!” and that message has been echoed throughout the scriptures and down through the centuries to us today. We believe it because God had promised that this would happen, because God’s Word declares so boldly what seems to be impossible, and because so many people walked, talked and ate with the one who had once been dead but is now alive. “Jesus is alive” – there is no doubt about it.

It’s easy to view the whole story about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as interesting religious facts. Maybe some of us who have known these stories since childhood, and we know them very well, but somehow they just remain nice stories – stories that happened a long time ago but have little consequence for this day and age.

But the apostle Paul would strongly object to this kind of thinking. He says, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” The sadness and solemnity of Good Friday are gone. The resurrection of Jesus isn’t just an interesting historical fact – something that happened a long time ago and irrelevant today. Paul talks about God giving us the victory. Jesus’ resurrection affects us now – today – in 2008! The tomb is empty! Jesus is alive! This was a victory – not just for Jesus – but also for you and for me.

Jesus died and rose from the dead for us. That “for us” is an important part of what Easter means. We can easily say ‘Jesus died on a cross and rose again’, but when we add the words “for us” what Jesus did takes on a whole new meaning. That statement then tells us that what Jesus did, he did it for us. There is a personal aspect to Good Friday and Easter.
He died for us to give us forgiveness.
He suffered for us so that we might be made right with God.
He rose again for us to give us the confidence that we too shall rise as he did.

“Thanks be to God who gives us, yes, us the victory.”

That is something that simply blows us away. Jesus’ victory is our victory. Death couldn’t hold him and it’s not going to be able to hold us either!

There is no way that I would want to trivialise death as if it were a minor irritation.
Death is devastating.
It intervenes in people’s lives and severing the special relationships we have with those who are close to us.
Death means no more time with your husband or wife;
no more time with your parents or children;
no more smiles and laughter; not even the pain and the tears that are part and parcel of relationships.
All this is brought to a halt through death. Death can bring with it such pain and heartache that you wonder how you will ever be able to cope in the future. Even for the most committed Christian the grief and anguish that death brings can be ever so painful. It’s not that they doubt Jesus victory over death but it’s the separation, the lost years, the loss of a future life together that causes the deepest pain.

Yet into this kind of sadness and grief comes a word of hope. This is not the end. There is still more to the story! Because of Easter, that separation will not last. It will be temporary. Just as Christ was raised from the dead – so you and I and all those who die in Christ – we will all be raised from death and welcomed into eternity and separation will be no more. God gives us the victory through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This makes a huge difference to the way we live now and the way we face death at whatever time in the future. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that we have in Jesus Christ, not even death. No one likes to think of death and what that means for us and our families, yet people who know Jesus and his love are able to confidently say something like this, “Whatever God has in mind for me, I know it will be for the best”, or “I’m ready to go whenever God wants me”.
There is a peace, confidence and hope that trusts God’s love and goodness whatever may happen, even if it means dying.
There is the peace, confidence and hope that comes from knowing that even if we should die, there is a new life and a new home and a new body waiting for us in eternity.

How can we be so confident that death’s awesomeness and terror have been overcome? How can the Apostle Paul be so sure that death will not just swallow us up and that will be the end of us? He simply looks toward the cross and the empty tomb.

In the resurrection of Jesus we see God’s announcement to the world that everything that separates us from God has been overcome. The power of sin to condemn us has been done away with; death has been defeated. Death itself has been swallowed up in victory. When it comes to our day of dying we can confidently say, “I’ve been forgiven. I’m accepted and now I am being called home.”

May this glorious Easter victory that we are celebrating today fill you with hope and confidence and joy.

Amen.

Don’t hold on…Jesus is Risen

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Don’t hold on…Jesus is risen John 20:1-18

 

He has risen!  We can only imagine what someone would say and do if they suddenly saw a dear friend alive, whom was thought to be dead.  We can only imagine what Mary did when she first saw her dearest friend and saviour Jesus, whom she was certain, was dead, now risen and standing before her.  What would you do if you thought someone you loved was dead, perhaps after a terrible accident or after being lost, and then you suddenly saw them?

Of course you would run and give them a great big hug and hold onto them tightly in great joy.  You would hold onto them, never wanting to let go, thinking, ‘Now we are together, nothing will separate us.’  Naturally, we would want things to return to the way they were before the incident, wanting everything the same, wanting the relationship to be the same, wanting the future to be a continuation of the past.

Mary of course acted in the same natural way we would if our dear friend whom was dead, but now stands before us alive!  She grabbed hold of him, she hugs him and does not want to let go of him.  Things were going to be the same again; going to return back to normal.  Jesus was once again going to be walking with his disciples and caring for them again, teaching about the kingdom of God; by his very presence, his victory over death, shows that he is right in his claim to be the messiah, the resurrection and the life.  What a joyful future it will be, now that the future is going to be the same as the past.

But can it ever be?  Can the future be the same as the past, now that Jesus has risen from the dead?  Can the past be held onto, now that Jesus has over come the past?

As Mary clung to Jesus, he said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’  With these words Jesus announces that the past is finished with, there is no going back or holding on to the past.  His death and resurrection dealt with the past.  Things are not the same the other side of death and resurrection.  Here, where Jesus lives forever, dawns a new life forged in forgiveness and sustained by his presence with us through his word and sacraments.

Jesus’ telling Mary ‘not to hold on me, I’m going back to my God and your God’, is not a word of rejection, but a word of hope and acceptance.  A word that tells us that the past is over; there is no need to hang onto it anymore.  Our God, because of Jesus atoning death on the cross, does not hang on to our past sins, as Psalm 103 announces ‘The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’

Mary certainly understood Jesus’ words in this way and released her grip on Jesus, knowing she will never lose him again, even in her own death; for he is the resurrection and the life.  She does not have to hold onto him for fear of losing him again, because from now on he is going to be present in a different way.  He is to return to the Father, in order to be present always and at all times and in all places, bringing forgiveness and peace through his word and sacraments.  Jesus is giving her the freedom to now go and live without hanging onto burdens of the past.  Guilt and shame of the past, are forgiven.  Now she has the freedom, courage and hope to announce ‘I have seen the Lord!’

Today we witnessed the baptism of Logan and Gus.  Baptism brings the cross and the resurrection to us now.  Through his ascension to his Father, Jesus is present now by his living word and holy sacrament, giving victory over sin, death and the devil, as his word promises ‘whoever is baptised and believes will be saved.

Here today, in the waters of baptism, Logan and Gus died to sin, went to the grave with Jesus where the old sinful nature was put to death, and now by the power of Jesus resurrection, the living word of God brought Logan and Gus to new life in Jesus.  St Paul says ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. ‘   You can go from here today and say ‘I witnessed a death and resurrection!’

Each baptism is a new Easter miracle, a new death and a new resurrection to life in Jesus.  From this moment on for Logan and Gus, and from the moment of your baptism on, the past is finished with; we no longer hang on to the past or live as we did in the past.  We may want things to be the same and naturally, we still try and hold on to our sin or grievances, like we hold on to a friend.  But in baptism the old sinful nature was put to death with Jesus and our new self, which is brought to life in Christ, now lives.

Jesus words ‘do not hold on to me’, give you and me the freedom to let go of past guilt, to let go of past hurts and sinful ways, let go of fear and of anxiety, because in letting go, we are confessing our sin and allowing Jesus to forgive.  Our future is now no longer a continuation of the past, but is a new freedom, forged in forgiveness and sustained by his presence with us through his word and sacraments.

In fact, every time we confess our sins to God and to each other, and receive a word of forgiveness from God, either through the pastor or when in private, through another Christian, the miracle of a new Easter happens; a new death to self and a new resurrection to life in Christ is enacted upon us by the very words of Jesus, ‘If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.’

The life of a Christian is always about the cross and resurrection.  Going to church always revolves around our dying and living, and discipleship is always centred on Christ’s call to let go of the past and to live in the forgiveness of Jesus, just as the prophet Micah said  ‘And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

Our life is a life worth dying to live for, because Christ died for us and now lives in us by faith.  His resurrection is ours through baptism, his life is ours, his righteousness is ours, all that is his is ours by faith, trusting in Jesus very words to you and me today ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’  Amen