Archive for the ‘Epiphany’ Category

There is no other way

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

“1st Corinthians 9:16-23”

“There is no other way”Pastor Steve

Last week we talked about how the virgin birth of Jesus plays out in our lives and for those not present, or those present but catching up on some well-deserved rest, I would like to start by re-affirming  that message again, being: that back in the day, should two kingdoms be at war, sometimes in the desire to bring peace. One kingdom would give a Kings Son to be married to the other Kings daughter. Problem is that should things flare up, each is still tied by blood to their relevant family and kingdom. But when they had a child, that person could truly unite both kingdoms because he/she had the blood of both within them.

So too the virgin birth of Jesus. Born a human in a human body but not of human seed but of God Himself.  Jesus born of both kingdoms of earth and heaven. Jesus 100% human yet 100% divine and Jesus the Son of God, of One with the Father and of one with us, that we are of one with Him.

I mention this again in response to today’s epistle reading from St. Paul. Paul who when still called Saul was leading the charge against Christians to silence them, persecute them and even kill them. Hardly the one we would think to be chosen as a great disciple for Jesus Christ and yet as we know, Jesus pulls off a master stroke by converted this driven man, who once converted continues as before in his full frontal, lay everything on the line driven manner, only now not to suppress the gospel, but to bring it to the attention of any who will listen. The gospel he breaths and lives by, and the gospel he understands implicitly having been against his desires pulled from the way of salvational ruin and be given faith, forgiveness, and eternal life.

Paul stakes his life on the gospel because he knows that he had absolutely nothing what so ever to do with having either received or believed it and if we remember back to Christs words to him in his conversion experience Jesus gives him a great truth up front and centre when he says “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Not why do you persecute, Billy, Joe or Jane. But why do you persecute me? And in that one question again we see God our Father send His Son to this earth the mend the fracture from sin between heaven and earth, between God and humans, between life and death. A little baby, born a human in a human body but not of human seed but of God Himself.  Jesus born of both kingdoms of earth and heaven. Jesus 100% human yet 100% divine and Jesus the Son of God, of One with the Father and of one with us, that we are of one with Him.

A truth that should once and forever take away our human made legal gospel of:

If you really have faith, God will care for you.

If you are sincere, God will be on your side.

If you give up this or that you can be regarded as a true Christian or,

If you trusted more in God your troubles, worries or sickness would be over.

Statements of a legal gospel that is no gospel at all and ifs and buts that are the greatest enemy of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ for it then makes what God does dependent on what we do.

Paul knows these lies for what they are because he, like us have received the gospel and continue to receive it like the pious Christian man who on his death bed and under the attack of his conscience sees his thin veneer of eternal life through good works and deeds taken from him to be replaced by that which he sought to hide from himself of a life of jealousy, revenge and self-righteous pride.

The truth he sought to suppress from himself, yet the truth that saw him know the true gospel for the first time when in the last moments of his consciousness and asked by his daughter if he was still thinking of Jesus” replied “I am not able to, I can’t think any longer. But I do know that Jesus is thinking of me.”

A situation I have witnessed and up front and personal in a dementia ward where though I know that they probably won’t remember our service or the message, you can see and feel Christ there with them and when you are there, though they may forget the whole event, the able minded don’t as they see Christ still with these people holding them close.

That is the Gospel and that is the Gospel that the great apostle Paul knew when the light of Christ entered his soul not to reveal Paul’s greatness, but rather his cobwebs and see the truth that in Christ alone are we saved.

In Christ alone as seen in one of those services in the dementia ward where a lady upon taking Holy Communion asked who I was and where I came from. Either hard of hearing or off having never heard of the Lutheran Church and after my three attempts to explain were made in vain, the nurse jumped in and replied for me that “I was a Pastor from the Presbyterian Church” to which the elderly lady responded oh, that’s O.K. resulting in the nurse then turning to me and saying softly “today we are all things to all people.”

It was a funny and endearing moment for me and while I believe and adhere to the confessions of our church, the Church is Christ and Christ is the church and in Christ, when you came to faith, that for each of you though you did not hear it, we know from scripture that the heavens erupted in joy and praise to God for you that one sinner saved.

The same joy and praise given light in the book of revelations that though you still fell to sin, again we hear of all the company of heaven with trumpets playing, angels singing and praising God that you having been kept in faith by Christ have made it through the great tribulation to join them in eternal worship as described in chapter 21: verse 22 “(and) I did not see a temple in the city, because it’s temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. The city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God shines on it, and the Lamb is its lamp. The peoples of the world will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their wealth into it (and) the gates of the city will stand open all day; they will never be closed because there will be no night there.”

Our earthly Christian Churches are the start of that reality, and while nobody in the church will object to faith, self-sacrifice, prayer, trust, social concern or true doctrine, God does not accept us because of these because they are the results of the gospel and not its conditions.

WE ARE SAVED IN CHRIST, So saved in Christ we like Paul can be all things to all people, not to simply try and please everyone by being someone you’re not. But by being what you are and that is a forgiven sinner who knows the unwarranted and undeserved grace of God.

The grace that though our hearts were closed, we received because the Lord held the gates open till we saw His light, and the gates of his earthly home that we hold open, shining His light here from this building, and shining His light from the open hearts of forgiven sinners that others not see the glow of righteous pride or judgement, but His radiant light shine refusing to be restrained by the dark cobwebs of our lives, but shining through and made even brighter by its contrast that others follow it to your witness. To your story that is Christ alone.

Praise be to God. Amen.

When I was very young

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

“Lord I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Luke 2:22-40Pastor Steve

When I was very young I used to think, how great it would be if I knew that I would go to heaven because then I wouldn’t need to worry about anything that happens, be it being hurt or having no money or failing in things because none of that stuff would matter because it would all be so unimportant and trivial up and against living forever in heaven.

Maybe the silly musings of a child. But maybe the musings I should, maybe we could re-visit  when caught up in our adult lives with so much going on. Old age, illness, western society seeming to impose the need for earthly success and all the stuff that can sneak in and consume our thinking and striving and even supposedly decide our peace and happiness score.

All these hurts and joys, losses and successes are part of life and if say someone becomes very fortunate in life it’s certainly not a sin, but a gift and so enjoy it.

Similar if we see a great miracle that can only be God given, we shouldn’t say we don’t want it but delight in such a gift.

Yet in all things we can take a lesson from Job who in gain and loss simply remarks “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” and we know following that, the Lord gaveth  Job back his earthly riches.

Last week we talked about our peace within not being based on how we feel, but coming from outside us in knowing that irrespective of how we feel a particular day, that we are still forgiven and saved in Christ and likewise whether great in earthly riches or not, whether witnessing a great miracle from God or not, it is irrespective to how we stand before God the Father as forgiven, saved and redeemed before God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son.

To believe in this we don’t have to witness a great miracle like a burning bush in the desert or the parting of the Red sea because we know it in the greatest gift and miracle we’ve been given which is faith, and then in faith do the scriptures further enlighten us.  This could all seem a little like the chicken and the egg but is far from it because only in faith can we then understand and believe in the other ways that God has shown us how he has done things. Things like in today’s text where God gives us some back up logic to help confirm things, yet logic that can only bring that peace I wished for as a child when seen through the eyes of faith.

It’s sought of a paradox that when in faith, the logical can be helpful when we associate with the man as recorded in Mark 9:24 where we hear “And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

And the logic that defies logic unless seen through faith that sees us accepting the words of Romans 8:17 for ourselves that “if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if so it be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Joint heirs with Christ. Us, the us that we know think bad thoughts and do messy things-we know in faith we’re saved in Christ, but joint heirs with Christ? Wow.

We know it’s true because the scriptures tell us but even in faith it does tend to be a little, yes “I do believe; (but) help my unbelief.”

So, God gives us a hand to understand through the gift of faith to understand the miracle of the virgin birth to yes, help answer our inquiring and logical mind.

Today’s text sees Jesus being taken to the temple after forty days and remarkably although the Jews were waiting for a warrior type king and saviour, Simeon and Anna blessed with the Holy Spirit saw and knew that this little baby is the Saviour and in that miracle itself could we talk.

But for the purposes of helping answer a little boy cry out “I do believe; help my unbelief” I would like to dig a little further.

Firstly why is Jesus being presented in the temple after forty days? Forty days that comes up so many times in other parts of scripture:

In the Old Testament, when God destroyed the earth with water, He caused it to rain 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:12). After Moses killed the Egyptian, he fled to Midian, where he spent 40 years in the desert tending flocks (Acts 7:30). Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18). Moses interceded on Israel’s behalf for 40 days and 40 nights (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25). The Law specified a maximum number of lashes a man could receive for a crime, setting the limit at 40 (Deuteronomy 25:3). The Israelite spies took 40 days to spy out Canaan (Numbers 13:25). The Israelites wandered for 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2-5). Before Samson’s deliverance, Israel served the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1). Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him (1 Samuel 17:16). When Elijah fled from Jezebel, he travelled 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).

The number 40 also appears in the prophecies of Ezekiel (4:6; 29:11-13) and Jonah (3:4) and
In the New Testament, Jesus was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:2) and there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).

But right here, the forty days that Mary and Joseph have followed in bringing the baby Jesus to the temple is straight from Leviticus chapter twelve where we hear that: “The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over.

“‘When the days of her purification for a son….are over, she is to bring him to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting, a year-old lamb for a burnt offering (and/or) a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.[a] 7

The thing is that while the bible nowhere specifically assigns any special meaning to the number 40 and that whether or not the number 40 really has any significance is still debated by scholars, it does seem that the Bible definitely use’s 40 to emphasize a spiritual truth.

And the spiritual truth here is a truth seem through the faith of “yes I believe” that answers the “but help me in my unbelief” together with bringing the shining light of Christ where we can know peace on earth no matter our situation through understanding the extraordinary claim by Paul in Romans that we are “joint heirs with Christ of God’s Glory.”

The truth of this little child being presented in His father’s house that is so simple yet so profound that we need never listen to those thoughts of “If, or of earthly hope” but of know and rejoice and live in the peace of our salvation no matter our circumstance.

This has been a little long winded but the answer to our peace here on earth is when seen clearly through the eyes of faith and of how God has brought our salvation about that cannot be attested.

It goes like this:

Back in the day, should two kingdoms be at war, sometimes in the desire to bring peace. One kingdom would give a Kings Son to be married to the other Kings daughter. Problem is that should things flare up, each is still tied by blood to their relevant family and kingdom. But when they had a child, that person could truly unite both kingdoms because he/she had the blood of both within them.

So too the virgin birth of Jesus. Born a human in a human body but not of human seed but of God Himself.  Jesus born of both kingdoms of earth and heaven. Jesus 100% human yet 100% divine and Jesus the Son of God, of One with the Father and of one with us, that we are of one with Him.

For me the unfathomable made fathomable and I hope that has helped you as it has helped me to both understand and more importantly rest totally in the truth without second guessing that yes, we are joint heirs with Christ himself and in all things and situations that arise, that we can take peace in the comfort that of what is now, and of what certainly will be, that:

“…in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38).

And in that we thank you Lord and depart today with our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus understanding the peace of God, that surpasses all human understanding. Amen.

When I was 22

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Mark 1:14-20

Pastor SteveWhen I was about 22 years old one of my best friends took his own life in one of the most horrifying ways and when I was told over the telephone by my dad of what had happened I was basically stunned to silence. Stunned by what had happened yes, but also stunned that only weeks before he had rang me pleading with me to repent of my sins and follow the Lord Jesus Christ and in all seriousness, when I sat down and pondered his life and what we had done together and what I could’ve and maybe should have done,

I’m not sure which of the two phone calls stunned me the most because as I looked back in retrospect, it became evident that unless a miracle occurred he seemed destined for a short life and in one of the more subdued moments we shared together, I remember when about both 18 years old and sitting in the pub late in the evening on a cold and blustery night he became agitated and saying he was going for a drive. His agitation worried me and so I joined him and the next few minutes would see us hurtling along the highway with the accelerator flat to the board in his old Datsun 180B with him advising me that in the fierce rain, wind and puddles on the road that he was finding it hard to control with the car skating left and right and if that wasn’t bad enough, I knew I had only a five minute window of opportunity until we arrived at the infamous S bend in the road that had already claimed many lives from car roll overs. So what to do? I knew I couldn’t talk him down by pleading or logic because this man was on a mission. So, I did the opposite and urged him to go faster and after he eventually said he can’t because he was already flat out and couldn’t drain another ounce out of his Datsun, I remarked something to the effect of “what a piece of crap, let’s just go back to the pub”-and he did.

One of the more “unremarkable” situations we shared that in hindsight, was a life somewhat like experienced by people in car accidents where they say that while it was happening, it all seemed so slow. That his life was short, in hindsight if without great fortune, luck or a miracle did not surprise. But what of that phone call a few weeks before his death-urging me almost anxiously to repent and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Maybe that was his life saving miracle, and just maybe it was part on mine.

The common theme in the readings this morning is a call to repent, to turn away from those things separating us from God, to turn about around and look back to God.

But turn from what and why?

Our lives can be confusing and in many ways, the experiences we have had, the sins committed and the grace received can see us living like what is said of the brilliant where often their great skill is because they walk that fine line between genius and madness. A fine line that has seen many of the greatest minds in authorship, musicians, artists, comedians and invention cross that line and be devoured by the very experiences of desire, of ambition that never seems to bring peace but painfully higher striving, of things started small in drugs or alcohol that started innocently enough but now have taken over to claim the mind, body and if not for the Lord and Saviour, the soul.

A sermon I will never forget is one which over and over carried the message of forgiveness in Christ. Everything the Pastor said was true and it was comforting like all messages based on the grace of God are. Until he said the words that shook me too my core finishing with “you know what you’re doing wrong, so stop it, stop it now.” A very unfamiliar technique of Gospel first, law second. Unusual because the recommended manner, and the truth of the matter is that in the law we are convicted and brought to our knees in order to see the grace and forgiveness of our Lord and Saviour as said so well by once slave trader John Newton in his great hymn Amazing Grace of his life’s testimony with the words:

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; (and) how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”

In that Church listening to message of Christ I knew that grace just like you know it now, and yet I was still brought to my knees with those words “you know what you’re doing wrong, so stop it, stop it now.” And so I left, still knowing of the precious gift of forgiveness but also mixed with a heightened desire to change my ways only to find myself here today still doing what I don’t want to do, and not doing what I want to do and as you too are both sinner and saint, sinners in ourselves and saints in Christs forgiveness I imagine that you to only know too  well that daily physical and spiritual battle, and that if weighed down more by our failure than the Lords grace and forgiveness, life can truly seem harsh. A battle when we see our own dark hearts up against other Christians so upbeat in song and the greatest battle of all of when the powers of darkness come and remind us of what we are in order to take our focus away from the only answer that is Jesus Christ.

A Spiritual battle fought between good and bad, between God the Father and the fallen angel Satan and the battle within us and in the Church. A battle were one seeks that we take our eyes from the cross and punish ourselves with dread, up and against Jesus who asks we see simply the truth that is Him. A battle where one desires that those of the church lower their eyes from the cross and bicker, argue and create divisions based on their own agendas or air of superiority against simply keeping their eyes lifted and stead feast to the cross and see these side shows for what they are. Yet try as we do too remain focussed, that inner battle, no matter how our great faith still to some extent continues to rage. A battle that can so easily take our minds away from the truth of the good news in the battle itself.

The battle the sinless Jesus felt when in the garden of Gethsemane and approaching the direct moments that would see Him crucified on a cross ask His father is there another way. The battle Jesus felt knowing of Lazarus’ certain fate of eternal life, yet still weeps when his earthly body lay before Him. In Jesus earthly body He felt our battle and knows the grinding within us and the grinding between His earthly and Heavenly kingdoms. The battle He felt yet followed His Father’s will to perfection, and the battle that He sees in us, A battle that He does not dismiss lightly, but one that He sees in truth as we run the good race. The good race still with that grinding, yet remaining in faith. Remaining in the faith in and amongst our lives of grinding that does not question, but actually confirms that the Holy Spirit is in you and that truly you are of childlike faith and will most certainly inherit internal life in Jesus Christ the Son of God-Your Saviour.

That is the good news and should you lead a life still scarred from the past but still with faith in Christ, or upbeat and still with faith in Jesus Christ the result is still the same. That in Faith in Jesus Christ as the only measure of forgiveness-that you are forgiven, both now today and on your last day, that will see you will stand beside Abraham, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Stand beside Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther, your departed husband, wife and children and all those who have departed in faith in Christ. Stand together united before God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and for the very first time feel absolute peace.

There may be a fine line between genius and madness and between earthly happiness and sorrow, but there is a canyon between our earthly self-destructive sin which we daily fight to the sin that has been taken away and forgiven eternally in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

So daily we repent, not to be saved, but because we are. And so too daily does the Lord ask us to turn back to him. Not with a big stick, but with a loving heart that asks us to remove the hurdles between us and His loving arms. To not remove them not to add discomfort, but to bring comfort. To turn over to Him the chains we feel bound by that promised much, but only brought further and greater discomfort. To repent and turn back to God not that we live dour and joyless lives. But repent and turn back to God to live vibrant and joyous lives in the freedom that with or without our earthly binding chains we are saved and forgiven in Jesus Christ and rejoice in all things, and yet still take a chance to follow Him without our props and like Lazarus know of Jesus’ power, love and compassion that saw his earthly life re-ignited. To be raised from the dead to live “a new” life on earth as most assuredly he would again in forgiveness on his last day in the presence of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit and all the Company of heaven. Amen.

“The game changer”

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

“The game changer”

Matthew 5:38-48

Not long after getting a transfer in my banking employment from a small country town to the regional “city” of Port Augusta, I found myself waiting to play my first game with my new Central Augusta football team mates while watching the lead up game and as “luck” would have it I learnt something of what was in store for me when I saw one of the forwards take a mark in front of goal and then be punched flush in the face from an opposition player coming from the other direction.

Interesting style of football I thought but what “got” me was not that a fight followed, nor the comment of my team mate next to me who remarked that “the player involved was gutless and shouldn’t be allowed out there.” What got me was that after having agreed was what his assessment actually meant when he continued with “yes, if someone can’t take a punch without fighting back he is pathetic and a blight against the whole team”.

I thought he might have been pulling my leg until half an hour later as we got changed I saw one of the other teams players come in with a clearly broken arm seemingly bearing no pain and chatting merrily away to the guys in our team that he knew as if he’d only hurt a fingernail and in that 30 minutes of time I learnt more of the courage required than I had learnt in enduring the previous four months of preseason fitness and weights training.

It was a valuable lesson not unlike of what Jesus talk of today in the gospel where we after our “preseason training” of hearing and studying the Word are led by that strength not to retaliate against those who attack us, but the strength to absorb the hits and stay true to the game plan of what it means to be saved in Christ.

As with my Central Augusta team mate to me, Jesus in today’s gospel yet again challenges the Jewish people listening to him not by changing the game, but by changing how it’s played in hitting them with scripture that they all knew and for us to see what they came to hear we need not criticise and abuse, but firstly take a walk in the shoes of those hearing this radical message of Jesus for the first time.

“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” is straight from the old testament and not designed by God for the outbreak of violence but to limit it by curbing our desire to give back more than what we got and even then, though this law allows one to get even within limits, it does not require one to get even and in that light we see the true purpose of this Old testament law not as savage and bloodthirsty, but of a beginning of mercy.

Enter the fulfilment of mercy in Jesus Christ who doesn’t render His audience as wrong but gives a fuller understanding and in saying “Do not resist the one who is evil” and knowing that in the word translated as resist in this context means “do not render evil for evil” we see that Jesus is not telling us to be weak and passive, but to have the courage of not being of a vindictive and revengeful mind set and return fire not with fire, but return fire with goodness and I would suggest to those present and indeed to ourselves that at the very least we ask ourselves how does this actually play out in our lives and so not to leave either of us wondering Jesus responds with four examples of which due to time constraints I will talk of one.

In understanding Jesus response of “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” again we have to sit with those present at the time to understand. Firstly we see that is not about standing there like a punching bag because in knowing that the first blow mentioned is to the right cheek and in likewise knowing that by far the most natural hand used is the right hand we see that it’s virtually impossible when face to face to properly land a blow flush with right hand to the left cheek. So physically it cannot be a punch but a slap from the back of the hand and in the time of Jesus and still in parts of the world now, a slap to the face with the back of one’s hand is not designed to physically punish but to insult and to the Jews of the time it was considered a gross insult and one of the most demeaning acts one could inflict on another person, and so again, Jesus is saying to us not to return fire with fire with insults and rumour, but to avoid retaliation and personal revenge.

Those of my era may know the song that goes “O’ Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way” and if we as Christians did to that of how Jesus changes things around we would be singing “O’ Lord it’s easy to be humble when we are not perfect in anyway”.

Problem is that in our sin and in our world that that keeps showering us with our right to do this and our right to do that, as is it hard to always be humble so too is it not to return fire with fire. Because that’s our right, right? Well contrary to what society tells us in self- help groups designed to empower us to reach our potential and reign at the top of the heap in all our glory, as disciples of Christ we have actually given away those rights and signed up to die to self as said in John where we are told “He must become greater and we must become less”.

Unfortunately, this side of heaven we will never fulfil those words as most assuredly in ourselves we will never live up to the last words in today’s gospel that inform us that “therefore you must be prefect, as your heavenly Father is prefect”.

So what to do? Nothing and everything.

Nothing because in belief in Jesus Christ alone you have been saved and given the right to eternal life and from those most wonderful Words of Romans do we rest our doubts and rejoice in hearing again and again that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yet in requiring nothing other than we trust in the Lord, he gives us the right to live a life of everything.

The right to live a full life. Not a life of always getting our own way or of harbouring anger and judgement towards others whether it is just or unjust or our right. But a life of peace free from such distractions that we see the beauty of Christ and the hurt of the world and strive in any small way we can to bring them together that as He is made greater, so too the hurt smaller.  Amen.

Facing the Truth

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Matthew 5:21-37

Maybe it’s because our congregations are coming up to the times of their AGM’s, I’m not sure but during this week, without meaning to I came to considering my ministry in our parish and what I saw was not enjoyable and though I tried to find something, anything that I could hang my hat on and feel good about, every angle I took led me to the same place and so knowing my inadequacies, I came to TRULY understand the apostle Paul for first time when he says he has nothing to offer those before him other than the truth of Christ crucified.

In his letters Paul tells us time and time again not cling to one shred of self-righteousness because “there is none righteous, not even one”.

It is a message that can sit a little uncomfortable with us and it would seem with our world as we replace biblical words like sin, wretch, lies and iniquities with behavioural disorders, non-truths, unproductive personal habits and compulsive personality types.

Yes, some of these modern descriptive terms do describe medical conditions born in us and thankfully, with modern medicine can be treated. But we are also born in the affliction of sin. That’s reality, but a reality that not only does society not want to know, but worse, some of the holders of the mysteries-being the churches and the people of Christ don’t seem to want to preach, teach or talk about and indeed I’ve been in discussions where the advice I received was not to bring up the law in services where there will be those of in-frequent attendance.

Most certainly, we preach and base every ounce of our well-being on the gospel and the gospel alone, that’s how it should be and how it has to be but the problem is, that unless we have felt the law, we won’t feel, know and relish in the true freedom of the gospel.

Without the law there is no sin, without sin there is no need for forgiveness and without the need for forgiveness there is no need for Christ and so in our world where the only reality has become what we decide it to be, unless we as the church talk about the reality of our need for Christ into it, the reality of His atoning works don’t even get a chance to be heard never mind accepted or discarded.

The saying what we don’t know won’t hurt us does is not always the case and certainly does not cut it in relation to matters of salvation and just as un knowingly we carry around soft drinks going by the label of “Monster” which carry the Hebrew letters for the number 666 and urging us unleash the beast, so too without the knowledge of our sinful state we will find ways to overlook the need for Christ.

Thirteenth century Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev wrote that:

“I don’t know what the heart of a bad man is like, but I do know what the heart of a good man is like and it is terrible”.

Unfortunately, I would suggest we may have all felt that realisation and unfortunately without a remedy life can become a game of chasing the cure through self-medication and surrounding ourselves with the noise of the world to where we present ourselves to both the person looking in the mirror and those looking on like a photo shopped Facebook page.

Problem is the wolf won’t leave the door and far from fleeing from it, we draw even closer as we thirst to fill that internal hole that won’t be filled and continue on a merry go round that while once enjoyable, has now become the substance of our life as we go round and round and though we can see things outside flashing past, they are blurred and though there’s a feeling that’s what’s out there is good, we can’t stop to see it clearly because we can’t let go of the pole we are holding lest we fall and suffer greater injury.

God said he will write the law on our hearts and he has for the religious and atheist alike as we all chase that ever elusive desire of happiness and inner peace and should the Holy Spirit not show us that the cause is sin, we stay on the merry go round chasing our tail but never catching it.

So the Lord does us a favour and humbles us in the knowledge of ourselves up and against the heavy weight of the law and asks that we pass it on to those who don’t want to hear it, but like us most definitely need to.

Many have said that while under the grip of incurable illness they come to see the beauty and smell of a rose like they could never have imagined. So too, that when one comes to see their incurable sin in the law does come the sweet fragrance and taste of the gospel.

The Gospel of our Lord that doesn’t say don’t go on that overseas holiday, but says by all means do it; but do it not to search for happiness but to enjoy happiness.

The Gospel of our Lord that says yes, build your business, buy a house or learn the guitar. But do it not to hide yourself from yourself or because you have you, but because you want too.

And the Gospel of the Lord that came to a Pastor that he not be free of his inadequacies, but that his inadequacies bring him the freedom to serve God and His people in the strength of the Lord and not of his own, and that is the freedom of what John talks of in his gospel where he tells us that: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed”.

We all here today fall short, yet in knowing and acknowledging it, in Christ we have never been in a better place.  For in falling short we have come to know that in salvation, peace and happiness there is only one way that fulfils that aching hole within us and that is to trust in Jesus Christ and in what He done on the cross for us.

So today we stand before God the Father not content in our sin, but content that we know of them and of joyful hearts that though in sin we fall short, we know that in Christ our weakness brings strength, our failures success and though once trapped in ourselves, like our Lord’s body was broken on the cross that He may rise in victory, so to from a crushed spirit have we risen to see to that His victory is ours and know for ourselves how sweet and precious is that grace which we have received. His grace to you that brings eternal life, and His grace to you that he pleads that you know today, to walk in it, to revel in it and most certainly, to find peace in it. Amen.

Back to the Future

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

“Back to the future”

1 Corinthians 2:1-12 & Matthew 5:13-20

In his autobiography, one of the greatest AFL footballers of all time, revered not only by his own teams supporters, but by all remarked that often his dislike for playing was so great that before the game he would sometimes hide in the toilet cubicle in tears just wishing he could be anywhere but to where he was about to be, being in front of up to 100,000 football fans both admiring and in disbelief of what this man was capable of doing on the footy field.

A man revered by all, yet a man torn within himself who remarked that if it wasn’t for his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, would most certainly not have “made it out alive”.

This is the wisdom of God that Paul talks about in today’s reading from 1st Corinthians. The wisdom of God up and against the wisdom of the world. The wisdom that Paul, then still known as Saul had the full authority to preach and teach, because it was the wisdom he had felt and knew first hand when as a man of high esteem and power and as Acts tells us, “was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples (and so) went to the high priest  and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem…yet  as he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

A terrifying moment, but even more so, that when struck down with blindness by the Lord became like a little child who had to rely on others to lead him, fend for him and care for him. Three days later, after who knows what would have gone through his head his sight was restored that again he could see the majesty of a new day. A physical miracle, yet a miracle that pales into insignificance compared to that which had brought him to see the truth of the shining light of Christ.

The light and truth of Christ followed by this man Paul, who once revered by his Jewish colleagues, now stands before the Corinthian church while both being violently opposed by those once were admirers, and regard of him as weak, foolish and powerless.

From riches to rags and under the constant threat of, and often realisation of being beaten, bashed, and insulted, here stands Paul professing his testimony to any that will listen. His testimony of God proclaimed not with lofty speech or of earthly wisdom, but proclaimed by the gift of the Holy Spirit his testimony of knowing nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. His message for others that they too not rest in the wisdom of the world, but in the power of God.

And though Paul who in his own words is “in weakness, fear and much trembling”, and “the greatest of sinners”, ironically has found peace. Not the worldly peace which is merely the absence of trouble, but biblical peace. The peace of Christ that is not related to circumstances, but His peace that be we be in the midst of great trials and hardships is still there up holding and sustaining us.

This is the peace of Christ in which we live and the peace of that in today’s Gospel that Christ tells us to take to the world and let shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Two years ago after being ordained as a pastor, I had a terrifying realisation, I was a pastor. That, though in itself was nothing short of a miracle, I knew it to be true because I had the certificate. The greater miracle was that on that day, the 4th of December 2011 I became a man of virtue, goodness and love. Problem was that as they didn’t give me a certificate of that, I found myself facing up to the fact that far from shining my light into the world of good deeds and great character, I may indeed need to hide my deeds and inner self under the very basket that the Lord says not to, and so confused I rang a fellow pastor who I knew very well and asked of how to handle this predicament I found myself. Too which he responded and to whom you can now blame for the predicament you have now found yourself placed, was “to just be myself”.

That can be an interesting light to show.

Tonight on T.V. there is a show “documenting” the life and times of Inxs and their lead singer Michael Hutchence and from what I’ve seen and read, Michaels light of charisma, talent and kindness shone bright, as to did the light of his substance abuse, sex and self-disregard.

Though it seems his life was a contradiction of both light and darkness, and though I do not know his spiritual standing, in co-writing these lyrics it would seem that he knew of the true light of which our Lord tells us to let shine:

“This is the power
Since time began
Every single hour
That we have known….

Shine like it does
Into every heart
Shine like it does
And if you’re looking
You will find it…

This is the story
Since time began
There will come a day
When we will know”

Michael was a man of rare musical genius but to judge his light to the world would be like judging mine to our parish and maybe even your good works to and for society. A mixed bag that I would suggest would leave us in a precarious position should they be the defining factor in bringing others to give glory to the Father who is in heaven.

The power since time began, every single hour that we have known that shines as it does into every heart is not that of us, but of Christ and most certainly, as Christ himself did when he walked this earth, we are show charity, kindness and love.

But the true and perfect light and the good works of today’s gospel that we are to show to the world that they to come to know God is that of Christ.

Our light and good deeds that we take to others is our confession of the truth of what we like Paul, have come to know for ourselves.

The truth of not what we think or argue over in our minds, not the truth of our human logic, but the clear and un movable truth of Christ and His message of the Gospel that is not part of, but the entirety of the power to bring those placed before us to know the Lord and His peace.

Our good works and deeds are our testimony to the truth that though born of worldly sin and falling constantly to its charms and its persuasive ways, it does not condemn. For when we knew Him not, the Lord came to us that as He was to die on a cross, so too our sins so that as He was raised to life eternal, so too in Him are we. And that we still fall to sin and hear those condemning judgments from the devil and our own logic of being not good enough and needing to earn our salvation, we discard them for the lies they are and listen not to ourselves, but to Christ himself who has told us, that though you still fall to sin you need not despair. For on the cross I gave my life you. And in faith in Christ alone as the one who has brought the gifts of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life, those gifts are now yours.

The truth of Christ is our peace in this world and our light to the world, for in him the scriptures tells us not to wonder of our last day, but to know that this day, that today in faith, belief and trust in Christ you have received eternal life, and that having accepted Christ, He has promised:

“that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And though be we in weakness, fear and much trembling, or of power and authority”, our true peace is not of that which is merely the absence of trouble, but in the presence of our Lord who though we see Him not, walks with us, holding and sustaining us in faith that though like the thief on the cross we see His paradise not, we hear His words for ourselves and know them to be true in the present as much as they are in the future, that “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”. Amen.

Colours of my life

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

“Famous for being famous”

Matthew 5: 1-12

In today’s landscape of reality T.V. there are some very wealthy and well-known people and families that seem to be famous for being famous and are viewed by many as living the dream. And maybe they are or are not living but that’s their business and not for us to guess. Yet when reading of their “followers”, many see these peoples fame as something to aspire to that will bring happiness and make them something in the world.

Fame, irrespective even if only being famous for being famous equates to a blessed life and happiness.

An equation that I wonder what the likes of those of unending fame would comment.

Vincent Van Gogh, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Isaac Newton, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and some of the funniest and finest comedians through the years. Famous names not just etched in a few years or a decade, but famous names in the journals of history that our children’s children will still be reading about. Unimaginable fame, yet fame that did not quell for them what Winston Churchill called “The black dog”.

“The black dog”, a metaphor for depression: an-ever companion lurking in the shadows just out of sight, growling, vaguely menacing, always on the alert, sinister and unpredictable and capable of overwhelming you at any moment.

Famous yes, happy-maybe not so.

Martin Luther was noted to suffer melancholy, the word for depression of that time and “His name sake so to speak”, the great civil rights activist Martin Luther King Junior, so named because his father, A Baptist priest after travelling Germany changed his name by deed poll from Michael to Martin is said by most of his auto biographers as an “intensely guilt-ridden” and “depressed man.”

When asked if his fame, money and possessions had brought him happiness,  the very rich and powerful Rene Rivkin several years before his suicide answered, “no, just a better level of misery”.

Many of these people where blessed with things the world applauds, money, fame, courage, power and great minds. Yet it seems the equation of those things equalling a blessed and happy life as the world sees it may not have eventuated to the extent that some would imagine.

Is it a sin to be blessed with a talent that exceeds others and brings the fruits of worldly life-absolutely not?  Just as it is most certainly not a sin to want to be happy. In fact I would think it more the opposite that if a person purposely set out to be unhappy I’d reckon Jesus might be a little miffed.

The problem is not happiness, but what we equate happiness to be and if it’s only based on our circumstances and environment, or on fun and laughter, doing our own thing while being free from suffering, sorrow and hardship then happiness will most certainly be a never ending quest and this is Jesus point as He makes His famous sermon on the mount called “The beatitudes”. His sermon to help those, help us to not find fleeting happiness, but real true happiness that brings peace and as normal, Jesus ways of truth are, seem to come from “back to front land”.

Blessed are the poor in spirit are those
that are aware of how much their sinfulness is out of control; those desiring a greater faith and struggling cope with upsets in life.

Blessed are those who mourn.

Those living with loss those upset by the injustices in our world and grieve for the starving, the homeless, refugees and those suffering wars and those who know of and are distressed over their own stupidity and sinfulness.

Blessed are the humble

Those helping others at cost to themselves. Gentle with others and refusing to do anything for their own personal gain at the expense of others; People who don’t push themselves forward because they are satisfied helping others.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Those with a deep sense of what is right; they are passionate about justice for the underdog and won’t rest until something is done while also struggling in their own lives because of their want to live more as God intended.

Blessed are the persecuted.

Persecution because you are a peacemaker, or because you have shown mercy and compassion on someone whom everyone else thinks doesn’t deserve it, or being pure in heart you know what is the right thing to do and stick to it even though  no one else sees it that way and they retaliate.

The blessings of the beatitudes present to us a very different and somewhat challenging form of happiness to what the world and our head may suggest will bring happiness because he cuts out “the stuff” that promises yet never fulfils and gets to the core that at the end of the day, the only thing that will not perish or need to be updated is to know God and be accepted into his kingdom and ironically, just as those I listed earlier with their “cross to bear” of depression and doubts of self- worth help lead them to great things, so to in our moments where we are laid bare in the knowledge of our own sins and shortcomings and see that only in Christ can we be given rest from the “monkey on our back.”

Abraham Lincoln, a man very much fuelled to do the right thing for people because of knowing of his own pain in, 1812 made a speech proposing to advance his quest to end slavery and re-unite a country half free and half not and quoted Mark 3:25 in stating that a “house divided against itself cannot stand”.

We in our lives in Christ are totally free and yet we are still continually drawn to find other ways we need not. And if blessed by God with many things, be it employer of people or being employed, be it be a gift of certain ability or indeed the gift of insight through suffering, we like Abraham Lincoln can use our “gifts” as a blessing to serve our country, communities, families and neighbours and the Lord Himself.

All of us here are blessed with something that’s unique to us and it may or may not be something that brings overly fond feelings because any gift we have can subjective to the weather, the economy, youthful or aged bodies or a never ending array of “hits and misses” that we encounter over our journey.

In worldly terms a blessing can easily become a curse and vice versa and we ride those ways as best we can and that’s part of life. A part of life though that can only fulfil, only bring true happiness and true peace under the knowledge of our life in Christ.

Because outside of Christ, though we may be strong in mind and body we have to see we are weak and feeble. Yet though weak and feeble, He has come to us and gives us strength and though rich and gifted or of humble means and ways He has come that we who accept Him as He is, are accepted as we are. And that as we are, struggling in and with our own sin and indeed laid bare in our own shortfalls of living a life in Christ, we are given peace, hope and happiness when we accept Him as He is, the messiah, the Son of God who came into this world not to condemn but to save.

Jesus Christ the Saviour who gave His life for you that you need not fear or worry of things passing, for in accepting His underserved grace you know the truth of what awaits you at the end of your journey, and that while on the journey we may be given mountains to climb and tears to shed, we go forward not in fleeting happiness but rejoicing in all things and in all ways because of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who today, as He will most certainly on our last day says welcome home my dear brother, welcome home my dear sister and that we can still accept and acquire the perishable, our happiness thought often cloaked in hardship is in Christ.

That’s the truth of God in scripted in stone, a promise to us Christ will not break, and our joy and happiness that no other can take. Amen.

Sitting on the dock of the bay

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Sitting on the dock of the bay “Wasting Time”

Matthew 4:12-23

A few years back and being a collector of “things” I noticed that Elvis Presley’s personal bible was being sold and should I have been from another echelon of personal wealth,acquiring it would have certainly taken my fancy. That was never going to happen but just reading of it said something of the man himself where after having underlined a certain piece of scripture he had written on the side that “to be judged on a particular sin is like picking a single wave in the ocean”.

Elvis changed the world with his take on rock and roll, yet underneath it all his first and probably greatest musical love was Gospel songs and I still remember listening to one of those records in my grandma’s house when I was four or five years old. Later in life, I remember after his death his pastor saying that Elvis struggled his whole life wondering and asking God why He gave a man such as him the talent of such a voice.

Recently, without notice and put on the spot I was asked of what I had learnt in my first years in ministry and the first thing that came to mind was the reality of evangelising in our current times where the words from Luke 15:10 not only describe to me both reality of the roadblocks we face but also the gravity of what’s at stake as we are told “that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents”.

The picture and reality of the heavens rejoicing in song for each person who turns to God leads one to ask like Elvis did of his golden voice, why me, why such as us have we been blessed with the glorious gift of faith. Said so well in song by Johnny Cash when he asks:

“Why me Lord, what have I ever done to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known…Or the kindness you’ve shown…. Tell me Lord, if you think there’s a way I can try to repay all I’ve taken from you. Maybe Lord, I can show someone else what I’ve been through myself on my way back to you”.

Lyrics of life that sit so well with the Johnny Cash story that I am certain have led many others to access Christ in their own lives and never underestimate His love so great. Yet ironically, while this song was written specifically of John’s life, it was not written by him but by Kris Kristopherson who at the time was yet still to be acknowledged for the fine song writer he was to become, and so in not being able to get an appointment with John to give him his song, and that legend has it that he hired a helicopter and arrived at John’s door with demo tape in one hand and a bottle of whisky in the other somehow speaks to me about the magnitude of the Lord’s love for His people displayed in and with us when we least expect it or even understand it.

Elvis, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristopherson and the like, while not as obvious as a Billy Graham, a Wesley or a Luther, were even if they did not realise it themselves were in their own way fisher of people for the Lord as we see in them their awareness of, living in and clinging to the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Why me Lord? “Or “Why Lord?” is a question that is asked when the storms of life threaten to crush us, yet those same questions can be asked when we contemplate the miracle of faith given to us.

“Why me Lord?” I wonder if those fishermen in today’s Gospel asked that when asked to leave everything and follow Jesus. I wonder when suffering persecution those same men then asked the question again and after seeing the raised Son of God and knowing of their own shortfalls in abandoning Him prior, I’m sure that question would have been greater than ever if by then they had not come to know who Jesus was, what He stood for and the greatness of His unearthly and never ending love for all who walk this earth.

Like the apostles, the Christian Church is given the command to “Go therefore, and teach all nations (and all people) baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

When getting taught things in my previous employment I always liked the “KISS” method in keeping it simple and often after I few minutes I would stop my instructor and say please don’t assume I know anything about this, thus so treat me like a five year old (because it won’t insult me, but help me).

“Go and teach all people of Christ and baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” seems pretty straightforward, yet like you can “take a horse to water but not make him drink” I think we all can attest to the same in our efforts of evangelising and while that may lead us wonder why things are not seemingly happening, we have no need to wonder what’s going on, because we know, that as with us, the Holy Spirit does not tire in effort that the truth of the Lord be heard and felt by those in faith, hanging onto faith or yet to experience it.

Teach, preach and baptise is our call and yet the only control we have is to throw the truth of Christ, the seed of Christ to the world and trust not in ourselves but that those seeds will land in fertile ground. The fertile ground that though to us may seems harsh and barren, for all we know may have  been prepared long before we came along through people we may never know and through ways we could not even have contemplated.

God does indeed seem to work in mysterious ways and what a blessing when he does and the shouts of joy abound in heaven as another hears his call. Mysterious ways that are God’s and God’s alone as we as mere mortals are mostly only asked to keep it simple by hearing the Word, living the Word and sharing it and our lives with those he brings before us.

In my previous employment I was working in a large department of a large organisation that had placed upon it sometimes, often unreasonable expectations. These unrealistic key performance indicators always resulted in the latest hired gun with an ascent being moved on and leaving behind a workforce completing their duties in spite and fear rather than thanks and gratitude.

It was an at times torturous soul sapping workplace. Enter CEO number four thousand who upon arrival met with our section of the leadership team of about nine members and talked at length about his plans to bring respect, ownership and an enjoyable workplace to those on the “shop floor”. I thought finally and as luck would have it, after having talked with him publicly in the meeting, not more than thirty minutes later I came upon him in the office space and as our eyes caught contact and I started raising my hand to formally introduce myself, he looked the other way and kept walking as if I was invisible. Yer right.

Two years later enter CEO number four thousand and one. Same job, same unrealistic and unachievable goals and eventually same outcome as number four thousand and two was being “head hunted”.

Yet this man was different and in one of our leadership training courses after his demise and after re-hearing the same principles that we had heard from the past bevy of trainers I made an observation of our recent removed CEO where I said what was different on the floor was that while their sometimes realistic expectations were the same, not once did I hear them blame him and when he was eventually given notice, they actually felt empathy for a good bloke given a rotten job. Asked why this was so I said that as far as those on the floor, the only difference was that he always acknowledged them with a friendly hello or goodbye.

After the trainer had publicly ridiculed me in front of my colleagues I did agree that there is a lot more to leadership but I did remark that being friendly and accepting people how they are might be a reasonable place to start. Previously I felt like the invisible man and now I seemed to be speaking in some strange dialect.

That sometimes the simple and seemingly peripheral things of life are actually the point can be hard to comprehend and after finally agreeing to taking my son Josh fishing when he was very young, it didn’t take long till a repeated question was being asked “how long till we catch a fish”, which was probably fair enough because we could see them there swimming past our hook and occasionally nibbling on a floating cigarette butt. .

I few hours later and leaving fishless I mentioned that when fishing I always look at it as a time of rest and when with another, a great way to spend the day chatting and spending time with them and should a fish be caught, it’s like a bonus. As we left the wharf I saw a few nods of approval although when loading the car with our gear and hearing Josh state that he at least expected to “catch an old boot” left me wondering.

Like Jesus walked past four fishermen and asked them to follow him he asks the same of us. For most, not that we re-invent the wheel or spend our lives in a monastery, but that we keep it simple by trusting in the truth that we are saved in Christ alone and have eternal life and that in the truth of what he has done for us on the cross and in our lives, He too has done for others, wants to continue to do for others, and wants them to know it as they come to know Him.

We are to be fisher of people for our Lord and saviour and though we may not be seeing the results as the disciples in the book of acts, we trust that as He did to us, should we do likewise and share the gift of the Gospel in action and words to those regardless of status high or low, of nationality or any human division, that in accepting them, they may accept Him and should in of our actions the seed land on the ground prepared by Christ and through others and we see that the heavens are rejoicing yet again like at that hour when we first believed, we too rejoice knowing that though they may still suffer and celebrate in equal portion, we know that as Christ suffered and celebrated with them in the past when they knew His grace not, that Christ will certainly in need suffer and celebrate with them again to ensure that they follow that grace home, and that as we fish, still standing on the wharf as the fish seem to pass us by unnoticed we do not need to concern ourselves as our concern is not that we are on the wharf without result, but that we simply remain on that wharf recasting our line.  Amen.

“U2 maybe stuck in a moment”

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

“U2 may be stuck in a moment”Luke 4:21-30

If you go into most Christian book shops you will find rubber wrist bands with the initials WWJD. As a reminder, these in themselves are good for when those tough or confusing situations arrive, that we should stop and think “what would Jesus do” in such a situation? It’s a good question, but what if the answer to yourself is against what you perceive as right by societies standards, is against what will acceptable to your social group, or even against what you perceive as what’s best for you-where “what Jesus would do” will come at a personal cost of giving something away, be it security, following instead of being followed, being judged unfairly or treated badly.

You have two sandwiches and a hungry person asks for one and you ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” But then, up the road another downtrodden looking person asks for a few dollars to buy a pie and without any conversation think, “they will only spend it on booze anyway” but then ask yourself “what would Jesus do?

You’re in a country blessed with free government and security. A country blessed with natural resources and even at the minimal level, is seen by many as a land of opportunity. But then others from lands where due to their birth status are given little in life, hear of your way of life and desire to be part of it and personally ask you, can I join you in your country so that I can make a better life for myself and my family? “What would Jesus do”?

In your work place you have been wronged, snubbed, talked about by colleagues and badly treated. Or worse, the same in your family or your church, and then we ask ourselves, “What will I do?”

“What would Jesus do” is a good question to ask ourselves, but we should only ask it if we want to hear the answer-because the answer may not be what we want to hear. Just as when we ask that other hard question, that if Jesus was walking the earth now and preaching his radical Gospel for the first time like he did 2,000 years ago with his messages of humility, turning the other cheek, forgiving others even when they are wrong and you are right, or even asking you to follow him in the sureness of being ridiculed, imprisoned, beaten and even being killed for doing nothing wrong. Would you receive him warmly? Would you look the other way and continue in life as if he weren’t there? Or ridicule him as an imposter, or even look to get him out the way for good?

If we ask ourselves that question seriously, it is a tough question. It certainly is for me because if I answer no to the “What would Jesus do questions” which are simple in comparison, how could I possibly think I would say yes to the Lord asking of me the same but also much, much more.

Would I, would we be different to those in today’s Gospel message, who upon hearing him preach of inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness, who preached not of their perceived rights, but by quoting scripture preached of the “right thing to do”, like them would we base our decisions on self and preconceived notions, and like them, although it was against their law and the very crux of their belief system, that on the Sabbath of all days, they would look to assassinate him.

Jesus preaches love, not of self: but of others. Jesus teaches not wanting our way: but his way, which is doing what’s best for others. Jesus teaches that should we be wronged intentionally or unintentionally, instead of returning fire in hurt or anger, but to put ourselves in their shoes-to see they are not perfect. Jesus asks us to see “the stick in our own eye before the speck in others”. We all know this is where Jesus stands and unfortunately for me, he means it. Unfortunate for me because at some time I have failed every person I have ever met. I’ve walked past those put before me, I’ve given myself excuses for returning fire with fire towards people or giving some of their own back and yet worst of all, I know I wanted too, and then I see the truth. That at the very least, if I was present 2,000 years ago and Jesus was being marched too the cross-at the very least, I see myself looking the other way.

I see myself in times of war with men of their own free will boarding a boat to Gallipoli, the battle fields of France or Vietnam, yet I don’t see myself with them.

I see myself living in a country where to hold the Christian faith sees them set upon, tortured and killed, yet I don’t see myself holding firm in the faith with them.

I see myself along with my Christian brothers and sisters in the Colosseum being asked to renounce the faith or be fed to the lions, yet I only see them in the arena. Then I wonder of the future, and see myself in a world that may yet repeat its past to where that in order to spread the word of God in a Godless world, would mean giving up the right of salary and financial security, yet can still see myself basing decision’s to take “a call” of ministry to other parishes based on my wisdom, and not that of God’s.

I see what’s gone before and what may be ahead, but like parents in the grip of addiction and wanting to spend their money to feed the children, they cannot as they are stuck in a moment that they can’t get out. That like a person in depression and of hearing their friends truthfully telling them of their worth and knowing those words to be true and that their own negative thoughts of themselves are irrational, they are still stuck in that moment that they can’t get out. And I hear Christ telling me “to be in the world but not of the world”, yet I see myself stuck in my moment “of the world”, that I can’t seem to get out of, and sometimes don’t even want to get out of.

In 1984, along with a few thousand others, on the grounds of the Memorial Drive tennis courts in Adelaide I saw a young man named Michael Hutchence perform in front of his band INXS, and that he and his band would later become one of the greatest bands in the world performing in sold out concert arena’s such as Wembley stadium in front of 74,000 people did not surprise.

Michael was a man of rare musical genius and in 1990 along with band member Andrew Farriss wrote a song called “the stairs” about hardship and of a person trying to hang on and survive while considering suicide:

“The nature of the tragedy is chained around your neck ……. Are you sure you don’t care. There are reasons here to give your life and follow in your way. The passion lives to keep the faith. Though all are different, all are great”.

On 6 February 1998, after the New South Wales State Coroner presented his report that ruled that Michael’s death was from suicide while depressed and under the influence of drugs and alcohol, his friend Bono from U2, sang this of him

“I will not forsake the colors that you bring. But the nights you filled with fireworks, they left you with nothing. I am still enchanted by the light you brought to me. I listen through your ears, and through your eyes I can see. …I know it’s tough, and you can never get enough of what you don’t really need. You’ve got to get yourself together, (because) you’ve got stuck in a moment and you can’t get out”.

Michael had the world at his feet and we wonder how it could have got to this and maybe even place judgement on him like when we “are stuck in our moment” and people are quick to judge us, and we too wish someone would understand and stand up and say of us like Bono did of Michael:

“I listen through your ears, and through your eyes I can see, (and) I know it’s tough.

We are all stuck in our moments that we may fight, but can’t get out of. Moments where we judge, moments where we react not how Jesus would, where we hear the truth, yet react like those against Jesus.

Stuck in our moment where we ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” Yet do not heed the answer. Stuck in our moment where we see our errors and weaknesses, but nevertheless hope that someone “Will listen through our ears and see through our eyes and see that it’s tough” and answer that call from Christ, to not discard-but bring us in. To not push down-but to lift us up. To see us as Christ does, flawed, not perfect and in need and yet respond to us as Christ does-to bring hope to the hopeless and help us on our way home. Pray we receive this in our times of need and pray we have the strength of spirit, to perceive that need in others. Amen.

“Back to Basics”

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Luke 4:14-21

 

“Back to basics”

 

In today’s Gospel in Luke, Jesus gives us a sermon. Firstly he reads from the prophet Isaiah about the future coming of the Messiah then finishes with “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. That’s it and while the audience were receptive to him, we know that later things change and the people then aren’t so sure.
Last night’s much needed rain reminded me of a situation in a rural community that was in the grip of drought. The area was doing it tough, so unbeknown to the community; the local hotelier started putting away a percentage away from profits to give back to those who had supported his business. When he had accumulated enough, he wrote a cheque for the same amount of money to each of the families that frequented his business. While initially grateful for such a gesture, once the details became apparent that all received the identical gift, arguments started because some thought they deserved more than others due to their time in the district, size of the farm, amount of money they spent at the hotel and so forth to that in the end, the publican became despised by many because they had lost sight of the gift they had received.

Sometimes we all lose sight of the big picture and the real deal. Sometimes big words, ceremony and the “offshoots” become the focus. Sometimes less is more and in today’s Gospel Jesus says all that is needed in few words, that he is the one. He is the one and we know that in those words the fathers gift of life to us, is in Jesus. He is the one and though in Luke 4: 14-21 his words are few, they being all we need to know. For in those words we are brought back to basics.

That 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. Three days later, this man was raised from the dead and brought life to the world.

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 and many others earthly life and the promise of eternal life. After his resurrection, Jesus met the two Mary’s, the sisters of Lazarus and said “Do not be afraid” and greeted the apostles that abandoned him and did not lecture them, but greeted them kindly. Today he says to us, don’t be afraid and welcomes us as family. 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.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus has told the Jews present and to us, that the saviour has arrived, that the promises from Isaiah has been fulfilled in Him, he is the one that has been promised and later he will tell of the result, “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 is in Christ alone-it is that simple, and it is assessable to all, that 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 subtly 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.

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 alternatively, 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 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. Jesus said he was the one to carry out his Fathers plan to bring us salvation, and he did. Just as he said he would be raised, he was. Just as he said he brings forgiveness, he has. In the garden of gethsemane, 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 nowhere to be seen.Yet when Jesus meets them after his resurrection he does not call them his disciples-he calls them his brothers. 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 and welcomes them into his family.

In todays Gospel, Jesus has brought us back to the basic truth and Jesus says what he means and means what he says. He was called to give his life for us and he did, Jesus said he will be raised, and he was, Jesus said he brings forgiveness, and he has. Jesus says he has fulfilled the law and the answer to our sins is him and not in ourselves and in him we are given eternally life-and we have been, and we rejoice. Amen.