‘Remember the Passover’

1 Corinthians 11: 24, 25
Do this in remembrance of me, in remembrance of me.

            Tonight, we remember. Christ’s mandate of love, the Lord’s Supper, what has been passed down for generations, and The Lord’s judgement on all the gods of this world (John 13; 1 Corinthians 11; Exodus 12). This day will be a memorial, a day of remembrance, of remembering, for you and your children and all who are far off (Exodus 12:14; Acts 2:39). As the Psalmist sings, I will call on the name of the Lord in the presence of His people! (Psalm 116:13-14). This day of preparation that has begun this evening, today we remember and proclaim our Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). Tonight, we remember.

            And do you remember the Passover of the Lord? Do you remember what happened that day, when as we heard again tonight, The Lord passed over those faithful households covered by the blood of the lamb, and stuck down the firstborn of all Egypt, struck down the semi-divine Pharaoh’s son. The Lord had visited Egypt after being call on by the suffering Israelites, and fought the gods of Egypt crushing them all in nine dreadful plagues. He even showed His power against the greatest of the Egyptian gods, Amun-Ra that ever present blazing sun in a land without rain, by extinguishing Ra’s light for three days. Darkness for three days, even more than the three hours at Christ’s crucifixion. God Almighty crushed the gods of Egypt for their injustice, for enslaving His people; and He defeated that stubborn semi-divine Pharaoh, the leader of Israel’s enslavers. He brought judgement on all the gods of Egypt and so freed the Israelites, and all who came to believe at that time, from their slavery to sin, death and the devil. A great victory remembered in a meal.

            This memory has been passed down for around 3000 years, this memorial day and remembrance meal has become part and parcel of the lives of countless generations. And today the Lord’s victory over, not just Egyptian gods but, all the gods of this world becomes part of your life. For we participate not just in that ancient victory of God and their freedom from slavery, yet also with its fulfilment. This memorial meal is renewed and empowered by Jesus tonight. Not just the day of remembrance of the Israelites’ Exodus, there is a new remembrance meal of bread and wine, of body and blood, for the salvation of all people. Passed down from generation to generation, “The Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). In remembrance of me, of Jesus. Generation upon generation have been united with Jesus here, as we participate in the Holy Eucharist, as we remember, as we let His life become part of our own, Jesus says to you, “take and eat, take and drink, do this in remembrance of me.”

            Holy Communion is the remembrance meal of the Crucifixion, of Christ’s great love for you.

            And so, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from now to the last fulfilment of this meal. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Body and Blood, Christ’s love for us’

John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

            Here is where we get the name, Maundy Thursday, or in plain English, Command Thursday. The New commandment, that is as new as it is fundamental to creation; the New commandment, that you love one another just as Christ has loved you.

            And how has He loved you? How does He love us today? It is in His Body and Blood. Jesus, the Teacher, the one who knows and understands all things, the best communicator and He has the best message; after all He is the truth! And Jesus is Lord, Master of all, God Almighty, through Him all things were made! He is boss, and all things are under His authority, King of kings and God of gods (Matthew 28:18-20; Deuteronomy 10:17). He is truly the greatest, the union of Creator and Creation, the fulfillment of all God’s promises, the fullness of time (Ephesians 1:10; Galatians 4:4). But all that is just a description of who He is. How does He love us?

            He loves us by serving us, healing us, and knowing us. In His condescension, the Ruler coming down from on High to wash feet from filthy streets. You might have a job, a business, a doctorate, whatever; but we come down to serve our children, to clean up that filthy nappy. This is the relationship God grows with us, and Jesus says, in the same way serve each other. No matter how lowly we might see those in this congregation, how weak or undesirable our brother or sister in Christ; Jesus calls us to love and serve them as He first loved and served us; dying for us who were His enemies (Romans 5:10). Dying to save His people, from our ancient forefathers in the faith; those preparing that first Passover, Pascha, that pointed forward to its fulfilment in Christ. A meal with God, hosted by Jesus Himself, food enough for all; their house saved by the blood of the Lamb, and those at the meal ready to go out and live with God in the desert, toward the promised land. That tradition from Jesus passed onto Paul and down through the ages to us by the Body of Christ, the Church. The proclamation of Christ’s death shared and eaten until He comes. Jesus, He loves us by coming down to know us and serve us.

God Almighty, Lord of lords, comes down to you and me, insignificant though we be; to serve us a meal, to serve Himself as our salvation. His body given for us, and bringing us into Himself, that He knows us and we know Him; His blood covering us, washing away the stain of our sins and saving us from the power of death as the blood of the lamb all those years ago. We cry out for mercy, for forgiveness, for life; and God has heard us, He sent His Son to save us; to defeat our enemies, sin death and the devil, and it is finished! As we come tonight, the memorial of the Last Supper, as we come again to participate with Peter, with John; to be served by Christ as even Judas was; to be in communion, to have that common union with Jesus Christ, the fullness of time, and so to participate in that Last Supper in the upper room, in the giving and shedding of Christ’s Body and Blood on the cross tomorrow, with all His people down the ages and across the world as we lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, and also to participate, to share, to receive a foretaste of the feast, of the life to come! (Revelation 19:6-9). We proclaim Christ’s death until He comes, we declare His Victory over sin death and the devil; Here tonight, in rhythm together with the whole Church, in step with Christ, we share in The Holy Eucharist and call on the Name of the Lord.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forevermore! Amen!

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Maunday Thursday

The Text: John 13


John chapter 13 is a popular reading with many people, Christian and non-Christian alike. There’s something heart-warming about a leader getting on his knees and serving his followers. The love that Jesus preaches tonight, that He enacted with His disciples, and that drove Him on to the cross, is made of quite different stuff than what the world defines and knows as love. In fact the love that Jesus preaches, enacts and suffers himself is so selfless that it cost him his own life.

Jesus had just been welcomed into Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd. Expectations were running high. The opportunity for Him to spark a popular rebellion and topple the Roman authorities was very real. The chance for Him to reclaim the throne of Israel was before Him.

But what did He do? He gathered in an upstairs room and quietly gives his disciples bread and wine and declares that it is His true body and blood given for the forgiveness of sins. And if that weren’t confusing enough, He then gets up and does the work of a slave. Humiliating Himself as He washes the feet of those who should be looking after Him.

But in this act of love, Jesus gives a clear indication as to the nature of His mission. It was not to be one of earthly glory and fame, but one of service and love. And in this lowly task of cleansing their feet, Jesus was pointing to a far greater cleansing about to be take place on the cross. The foot washing was a symbol, only a picture of Jesus’ ultimate humility, his ultimate gift. Jesus humbles himself to death on the cross for all the disciples, for us, to make us clean from all our sin.

Maundy Thursday helps us remember that Jesus overcomes the world, our sin and the Devil, not through an all-out offensive attack. But through love. A love that is actively at work. A love so deep and profound that it is unconcerned about humiliation. Unconcerned about other’s opinions. Unconcerned about expectations of power and victory and honour. This is the love that was hinted at in the humble act of washing the disciples’ feet, but was finally poured out for all to see on the cross. A love so deep and so astonishing, that it still causes offence even among Christians.

How many of us want to picture Jesus slaying the devil in a mighty battle? How many of us want to see Jesus punishing those who are the worst of sinners? How many of us want to see Jesus take control? But He doesn’t do these things. Instead He kneels down before His disciples and lovingly washes their feet – even the feet of the one who is about to betray Him.

Jesus loves you and me in the same way. It is the same love that has washed over us in holy baptism. That simple act that connects us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. That simple act that continues to cleanse us right through to the core. It is the same love that speaks tenderly to us as we hear those golden words –your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name. It is the same love that is placed in our very mouths as Jesus’ body and blood is given for our forgiveness and life. As Jesus took the place of a servant and washed the feet of His disciples, He revealed how He would continue to serve us until we are called home.

The foot washing is an example of Jesus’ humble and loving service. And Jesus makes it clear that as we have been loved and served by Him, so we are to love one another. His example is a call for us to a love that never stops, a love that doesn’t quit when it’s hard to love, a love that includes all—spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters, neighbours, friends, enemies, fellow Christians, and the lost. It’s a compassionate, giving love that gives time, effort, and money. It’s tough love when saying no is the most loving thing you can do.

What motivates us? Where do we get the strength? “We love because he first loved us”. His gift of love calls us to repentance, it forgives us – even when we’ve failed to love as we should, and it draws us to follow him and love others as he did, to the end.

Now some of you might be disappointed tonight because you figure you’ve heard it all before. But this is no small matter for those of us who call Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Jesus considered it a big enough deal to die for. And so we are called to love – especially our brothers and sisters in Christ – so that our life together may be a beacon of hope to this lost world. We are called to leave behind all attempts to have power and control and to seek the way of love and mercy and service. We are called to live out our faith in real, practical and down to earth ways – and mark my words – the unbelieving world is watching.

There is no greater scandal among God’s people than when we fight and lack love for one another. And there is nothing more powerful in bringing people to Jesus than when Christians follow His example and love as He has called us to. One of the early church fathers noted that unbelievers became fascinated with the Christian faith not because Christians appeared so holy, but because of the way they loved each other. It was written that “despite periods of harsh persecution, the witness of generations of Christians living the “new commandment” of Jesus to “love one another,” helped the church to grow and spread across the Roman empire, and led some to proclaim, perhaps with disbelief, “see how they love one another.”

People often show their faith by wearing crosses around their necks. Others post confessions of faith on social media, say grace before meals and refusing to blaspheme. Now as good as these things are in bearing witness to our faith, the only advertisement that Jesus calls us to tonight is to love one another. And in this simple act, inspired by His sin-consuming love, all people will know that we are His disciples. And His love will continue to change the world – one love drenched soul at a time. Amen.

Maundy Thursday

The Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-35    


If you were asked to take off your shoes and socks I imagine you might be a little reluctant to do so. Feet have a reputation, don’t they? We don’t just cover them to make it easier to walk around.We tuck them away out of sight and out of smell. We can probably handle the smell of our own feet but the thought of a roomful of exposed feet is probably not what we want at the end of the day.

And it is the end of the day. Chances are some of us have been on our feet for much of it and that tends to take its toll. Look at the burden our feet have to bear. They carry our weight around from A to B and everywhere else we need to go.

In Biblical times they used their feet much more than what we do these days. Feet were the primary mode of transportation. They didn’t have cars or buses or trains and even horses and donkeys were available only to the privileged few. So if you wanted to get anywhere, from a kilometre to 100 kilometres, you had to walk.

The Romans were known for their road construction, enabling the efficient movement of their legions. But in Palestine this was the exception rather than the rule. There was the Via Maris, the coastal road, and the King’s Highway, a trade route, but that was about it for major roads in that area. The Jews were not into road construction as the Romans were. A beaten, worn out dirt path was basically considered a road to them. A goat track was sufficient to get around.

So we can understand why the washing of feet was as much a part of their culture as the washing of hands is in ours. It must have been a huge relief to wash away the grime of a day spent on your feet. Think of the relief you feel when you can kick off your shoes and socks at the end of the day and put your feet up.

With this cultural background, it shouldn’t be that surprising to find Jesus at the feet of his disciples, offering to wash them. Yes, it was a task normally reserved for a servant of the household or the wife of the host. Failing that, the host would at least provide a bowl of water and some towels for his guests to wash their own. 

But Jesus had told his disciples: ‘the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.20:28).

Jesus had got dirty in the past as he touched lepers, healed the demon-possessed and mixed with non-Jews. He had eaten with tax-collectors and sinners. So why should the washing of feet be so repulsive? ‘No, you shall never wash my feet’!   

Well, the symbolism happening here is more significant and deep-seated than we realise. As the lowest part of the body feet were considered inferior. This wasn’t so much in terms of the function of the feet but their position. Feet acted as the interface between the individual and the ground, the dirt, they walked upon.

That is why the ultimate rejection is to wipe the dust from your feet, indicating that the other person’s dirt doesn’t even deserve to be on your feet.

It is also why it was considered to be an act of submission, reverence and humility to be found before the feet of another person. You can’t get any lower. It was expected for some people to be at the feet of others but not the other way round.

Throughout his ministry Jesus had people at his feet and for a variety of reasons.

Some of them were there because they needed his mercy. A beggar came before the feet of a lord or master in the hope of some morsel. So it is that the woman who was suffering from severe bleeding fell at Jesus’ feet (Mark 5:33). A woman whose daughter was possessed by an evil spirit fell at his feet (Mark 7:25). Even a synagogue ruler, Jairus, whose daughter was dying fell at his feet (Mark 5:22).

Others were at his feet out of sheer gratitude for the mercy that had been shown to them. The Samaritan leper fell at Jesus’ feet when he had been cleansed (Luke 17:16). Mary was at his feet, pouring perfume on them and wiping them with her hair after Jesus had raised her brother Lazarus from the dead (John 12:1-3). 

Still others were at Jesus’ feet in submission to listen to his teaching and wisdom, as was Mary that day when Martha was busy doing all the work (Luke 10:39).

It was entirely appropriate for people to be at the feet of Jesus. After all, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords. You come before a king in all humility to seek his mercy and wisdom and to give him the praise and honour he deserves.

And let’s not forget that a conquering king would literally put his feet on the neck of his enemies (Joshua 10:24). This demonstrated the ultimate humiliation and defeat of that enemy. As Jesus taught in the Temple during holy week, he himself quoted Psalm 110 to refer to this kind of thing: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’” (Mark 12:36).

Think also of the first prophesy connected to the Messiah. In Genesis God said to the serpent: ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’ (3:15).

With all of this in mind, it is truly fitting and right that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord’ (Philippians 2:10).

And yet, here was Jesus, bowed before his disciples and at their feet!

It didn’t seem right. This wasn’t just a gracious act of service. This was a position of submission, reverence and humility. That is not where Jesus should be. This was a position of vulnerability, a place where those who are defeated get trampled on in disgrace. Surely not! ‘No, you shall never wash my feet’!

But Jesus answered: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me’. Unless Jesus can serve us in such a way where he is trodden underfoot and humiliated and rejected and despised; unless he can be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities – we can have no part with him. The full extent of his love was not shown in the washing of their feet but in the piercing of his.

‘He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:6-8).

This Easter as we come before the cross once again we will find ourselves at the feet of our Lord. But truly it is on the cross where he is at our feet. He is there in all humility to submit and to serve. He is there to show us the full extent of his love. Amen.  

Maundy Thursday

Psalm 116:12

What shall I return to the Lordfor all his goodness to me?

 Here we are tonight, commemorating the last supper Jesus had with His friends before He died for you and for me. The night He lowered Himself to the rotten job of cleaning filthy feet that had trodden the dusty paths of Palestine. Serving His disciples, His students and followers, the ones who should’ve ordinarily speaking served Him. Then eating with them and miraculously, mysteriously giving His body and blood to them for forgiveness even before He had died for their sins. And finally giving a new command, a mandate, saying, “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). Then what follows are those dreadful events we remember in the coming days. Dreadful for Jesus, He sweat blood, but also wonderfully hopeful and joyous, for in His dying He freed many captives and in His rising He brings them with Him into new marvellous life.

            That is His story and it is yours too, who trust His words. So what shall you return to the Lord for all the goodness He’s given you? We struggle in this world, to do what is right and to not do what is wrong, we suffer through drought and even plenty. Afflicted by the devil, by sickness, by expectation, by the tyranny of time and money, even in our resting we are tempted to forget the wonder of what God has done for you. He created us and all that is, He gives us life and sustains us knowing what is best for everything’s benefit but we constantly forget what He did, that He sustains us and that all we have is given by Him. Instead we go our own ways, away from God and the source of life, into sin and death, broken relationships, betrayal and lies. We seek to make ourselves masters of our own universe, but what we think is best for us often is most harmful. It’s easy to see this when we think about eating sweets, or meat and alcohol, even that desire to just stay in bed; but also our desires to build up wealth and safety for this life and to please everyone are also ultimately harmful. This is sin, our sickness that drags us away from God.

            But even in our sin, in this slimy hole we can’t escape He sent His Son to save us, Jesus Christ (Psalm 40:1). Despite our rejection of God and His great love for us He is merciful to us, and seeks our good, salvation and freedom from sin, death and the devil. The Lord is gracious and righteous, full of compassion, He protects the unwary and when the psalmist was brought low He saved Him (Psalm 116:5-6). Jesus gave His life to save you, to bring you true and ultimate rest in God. He gave His life for His disciples, even though they all broke their promises, to stay with Him, to love as He loved, He died for them too, freeing them from sin, He forgave them. Just as He forgives you. And so as the psalmist asks, what shall we offer to the Lord for all this wonderful and merciful goodness He has freely given?

            I will life up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all people. Serving Him with thanksgiving throughout this new life He has given, listening to Him, even at this dreadful time of betrayal. Striving to love each other as He first loved us, giving His whole life, from birth to death and beyond, for you and me. Listening to the Word of God, to Jesus, trusting Him and looking to Him for the mercy and forgiveness we so often need. He has given us everything and still He gives more. Thank God for His mercy and great love for you and me, call on His name in your time of need and in your time of plenty Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!

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

Pastor Joseph Graham

This is a night of remembering.

StMarks1 Corinthians 11:23-26

This is a night of remembering. Most of us remember this text from 1st Corinthians, which is the earliest account of the Last Supper we have. We have heard it hundreds of times in the sacred liturgy and it is part of our ingrained memory.

This is a week of remembering for Christians throughout the world, a kind of mental pilgrimage. We recall the irony of Palm Sunday, the ominous last supper of Jesus with his disciples, the agony of his death on Good Friday, and the joy of Easter Sunday. There will be many pilgrims in Jerusalem these days, visiting the sacred sites, including the Cenacle, the traditional site of the Last Supper. Tonight, millions of Christians throughout the world will be revisiting this site if only in imagination and in quiet meditation.

The somberness of this night perhaps gives rise to some personal memories: perhaps your first communion, or the time you went to the altar full of doubts, participating in a ritual that meant little more than empty repetition. But irrespective of what was going on inside, you were drawn to there by Christ to receive grace and a strengthening of faith.  You may recall the last time you communed with a loved one and you may remember that time when you knelt at the altar with a heavy burden of guilt and shame on your shoulders and you went away with lighter step: forgiven, healed, given new hope.

What were the disciples remembering that night two thousand years ago? The ‘Last Supper’—the expression has an ominous ring! Something is coming to an end, and Jesus’ followers are swamped by a fearful uncertainty. Except the one thing that is crystal clear, that Jesus is playing right into the hands of the authorities. It’s crisis time-the time has come.

The disciples are surely remembering how Jesus has hinted at a painful parting from them when he has spoken of the necessity of his death. Now he eats with them in the framework of the Passover meal, which requires the death of a sacrificial lamb. And as he presides over the meal, one thing becomes clear: This is a farewell of soughts.

He is about to die.

“My body given for you…my blood shed for you. Remember me.” This dinner is prelude to a death, his own.

St Paul makes the context of our Lord’s words of institution quite clear. He begins by recalling that the meal took place on the night Jesus was betrayed and then ends his account by speaking about proclaiming Jesus’ death.

The first will be last and the last first. From death comes life and as said so well be St. Augustine:

“Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is the see what we believe. That day will come when all is made clear and we will understand the unblemished mysteries of God.

Tonight we partake in a mystery of God. A gift of God for us here on earth from heaven above.

‘Do this in remembrance of me’ does not mean that we are to cast our minds back to the distant past and remember who Jesus was. The Eucharist is not the repeated last rites for a fallen hero. We don’t remember a martyr who died for an ideal. Remembering here is not visualizing the terrible events of Holy Week: betrayal, false accusations, farcical trial, brutal torture, mockery and death.

The wonder of this holy meal is not that it represents the past, but that it re-presents the past. That is, what our Lord gained for us by giving his body and blood in death for us is made a present reality as we eat and drink. Even better, Christ the Son of God, our crucified Saviour is himself present for us.

As we participate in this sacred meal, God is saying to each one of us: I did this for you. This sacrifice is for you. You are not asked to make yourself worthy of the gift. Just take, eat…take, drink. Do nothing more than receive in faith.

Again, our Lord didn’t institute a funeral wake but a continual re-presentation of a joyful celebration of his presence with us. Even tonight, on the Eve of Good Friday, it is still the meal of joy as it celebrates not only a saving death- but a Easter life and that is why we can repeat the cry of the early church. Come, Lord Jesus!’

As we remember Jesus we are re-membered into him. We became members of the body of Christ by baptism, as the life-giving Spirit united us with him in his death and resurrection. In the Eucharist, in the mystery in which past, present and future are united, we are again membered with all the saints on earth and in heaven into the one body of Christ, his church. His past, present & future are ours.

Tonight as we eat and drink in remembrance of Jesus, so too does God the Father also remember, because in this celebration we hold up to the Father the perfect atoning sacrifice of Christ and in faith we claim that sacrifice as ours, and so yes: with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify his holy name evermore praising him and singing, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts; heaven and earth are full of your glory.

In faith we recognise the  glory of the one who comes in the name of the Lord and in faith, we still see that glory even in the broken body and the blood out-poured.

This experience of glory as redeeming love carries us to a fuller vision of God’s glory out in the world. The one whose story we recite, and proclaim which becomes our own story as we discern God’s power and presence in all the contradictions of life: where hopes are dashed, dreams frustrated, and when injustice seems to triumph over justice-because this through bread and wine we remember the larger vision of Christ’s return, and through His body and blood of Jesus does come the larger reality that as we remember Him, so too does He remember us-for now, and for eternity.Amen

Failing to have a go

“The only failure is failing to have a go”

Maundy Thursday.


Depending how you look at it, precedents can be a good thing or a not so good thing. We’ve all read or seen the situation in a court of law where the judge passes down judgement taking into the account of a precedent set from an earlier case,and giving consideration to the precedent set in Cyprus this week where in-order to re-structure two of the large struggling banks,deposit holders with over 100,000 euros (123 AUD) will be “taxed” at 30% of the balance I would say many in Europe, if not further afield may be a little nervous as they look at the current financial deficit and financial woes on their own shores.

I am certainly not an expert on this, the Cyrus situation nor the term “run on the banks”, but it does ring in my ears as should something cause a run on the banks, being something that gets customers acting in fear and withdrawing funds in plagues proportions there is no bank that would survive if they were the target of such a run, and one financial commentator even remarked that “what has taken place in Cyprus is like the EU holding up a sign almost pre-empting it”. Mind you with the seemingly daily occurrence of massive sink holes opening up around the world it is not just money that’s going down the drain, but houses, cars, people and yesterday in Tasmanian-even a horse.

Tonight’s readings explain to us in today’s world of a precedent we live under today in and through Christ. In the Old Testament reading we heard of the Exodus, the freeing and saving of the Israelite people from bondage under the Pharaoh of Egypt.As you know God having heard the cries of His people enlists Moses, a man who had previously fled for his life from Egypt is asked to return on God’s behalf and ask for them to be set free. Moses having made enemies in Egypt in all the wrong places combined with his own lack of self-belief thought that maybe another maybe more suitable, but as we know, God knew what he was doing and “sorry brother but you’re the man for the job”.

After nine plaques had been bought on Egypt without result, God brings the last, the Passover, where each family outside of God would lose it’s first born to death. The Passover that was to become an annual festival for Jewish families to observe to remember the deliverance God brought about for his people enslaved in Egypt. Where the blood of a lamb or goat sprinkled on the door frame saved the readied and believing people from the death which was visited upon every Egyptian family. The Passover-of the angel of death, who ‘passed over’ those homes who had marked themselves as God’s people. The punishment of God upon the Egyptians enabled the Israelites at last to leave. The strict observance of detail in preparation and partaking signified God’s complete commitment and the people’s reception of life and liberty solely from his hands in sincere repentance and the Passover continues annually to remind Jewish families of their need for deliverance from sin through the substitutionary blood of the lamb.

The night before Jesus death our Lord desired to partake of the Passover with his disciples, and after they had completed the customary Passover celebration, he gave them bread and wine saying that they should take, eat and drink, for this was HIS body and blood, given and shed for them for the forgiveness of sins and when we join in Holy Communion, like the disciples we have the same promise from the Lord as we eat the bread and drink the wine and we receive that same body and blood together with the same blessings he won through the cross.

In tonight’s Gospel John does not deal with the Lord’s Supper, concentrating rather on the farewell teaching of the Lord in the upper room. It could be said that the radical action of the Master doing menial service in washing his followers’ feet expressed symbolically what was coming in his death the next day. He had taught that he came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. The lesson, however, is pointed. They are to serve each other in like spirit.

The love shown in his act and his death calls for the active love enjoined in ‘the new commandment’ to love each other as I have loved you, and that’s quite a precedent for us to live up to. When people find out I am a pastor sometimes the most interesting subjects come up and often those subjects regard understanding the world we live and in one such discussion with a medical Doctor I mentioned that a person I knew and believing of impending danger had chosen to fall by his “own sword”.

This Doctor had a heavy overseas accent that was at times hard to understand but I did understand his thoughts on this when he said “that is never the answer. Some of Western countries are soft, where I come from you are always in danger and if they have gun, I have two guns, if they going to shoot me, I shoot them first”.I’m not even sure why I went to see him but when I left his logic made me smile, not really because of what he said (although his take on one’s own pre-emptive death is most certainly right), but it made me smile because of who is was said by-a doctor of medicine and that being the case, no wonder the apostles were confused when Jesus came to save God’s people not as a warrior as they expected, but as the sacrificial lamb.

Jesus on Maundy Thursday was preparing his apostles for what was to come by conducting both foot washing and the Last supper. Two acts that stood for what he was all about, serving both His Fathers will to save humankind and his own will that in his name we serve others. God and Jesus often seem to come from “back to front land”, where they do things opposite to what we would and Jesus dying of the cross opposed to the “If they going to shoot me, I shoot them first” is certainly one.

On that Maundy Thursday, Jesus washed his apostle’s feet and said “to love each other as I have loved you” and the next day gave his life. That night the apostles did not fully understand. Three days later upon the resurrection of Christ they did. Before we knew what Christ did for us we did not know what those words truly meant, we do now. We know that an innocent man, the Son of God no less, willingly died a horrific death that should we trust in him, we are saved. Forgiving others who have hurt us, standing up for those persecuted, helping the afflicted, not placing judgement of those different from us and trying to let a little of the light of Christ shine through us to “love each other as he loved us”.

God, how could we not at least try?


Remember that special meal?

Maundy Thursday

John 13:1-17, 31b-35


On this night when Jesus gathered his disciples for this last meal before his suffering and crucifixion, he imparts the greatest gift for those he calls to follow him. He transforms this ancient meal of eating and drinking into the source of forgiveness, healing and life for the millions and millions of human beings he would call after his resurrection until his coming again.

There is nothing quite like sharing a meal with family or friends. It is just what seems to hold us together as families and as friends. What would life be like without shared meals- BBQ’s, dinner parties, picnics, restaurants? What would the day be like without dinner time and that opportunity to take a breath and maybe catch up with the day’s events – especially for those with children? Human life is lived around shared meals and the blessing they bring to everyday life.

We cannot thank the Lord enough for his special meal. What a thing to do for us! He knows us and he knows about shared meals. By setting up a special meal he did something that would always binds him and his people together.

For thousands of years since that great night of mighty deliverance from a life of oppression and death under the Pharaohs, God’s people shared this special Passover meal with his people. The Passover was the pinnacle of sharing a moment with God for Jewish people. As they shared this meal and retold the events of God’s saving work for them to their children and their grandchildren, God shared the meal with them and blessed them year by year and they remained connected to God and his blessing and care for them.

And then God’s Son, Jesus our Lord, made this old meal even greater and made it into something for his new people. He changed it. He kind of super-charged it! This meal had always been special but now it had super-charged elements. This was no longer a meal of a roasted sacrificial lamb and bread and wine, but a meal of THE sacrificial lamb – his own body and blood!

Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes way the sins of the world by his own slaughter, now shares his own holy body and blood in bread and wine with his people and they are made holy and acceptable to God through it and they are charged up to live out their new life in the world through this meal.

What a gift – a regular sharing in Jesus’ holiness and healing through the very human activity of eating and drinking.

What a mystery- the holy body and blood of the risen Jesus in the very everyday stuff of bread and wine.

We can struggle a bit with this meal because it is a mystery received by faith and we never really intellectually understand it. We like to rationalise everything and get to the bottom of it. “How is the bread the body of Christ and how is the wine the very blood of Christ?” we ask. “How can this meal give me forgiveness and healing and life here and now – it’s just a church ritual?” we might sometimes think.

This meal is a mystery and so it is only fully shared in faith. Faith in what God says about it. It is what God says about this meal that is the key thing. Not what we believe or do not believe, not what we want it to be or don’t want it to be.

What is this meal according to God? It is the body and blood of Jesus. That’s what Jesus says about the meal. “This is my body; this is my blood”. It is a meal. It is where human beings eat and drink with the Lord of the whole universe on a regular basis.

It is a meal set up by Jesus himself. He is the host of the Meal and the meal itself! Jesus is the meal. He is the beginning and end of this meal. It is all about him giving something to us. And what does he promise to give at his table to those who put their faith in his promises? He says “broken for you for the forgiveness of sins; shed for you for the forgiveness of sins”.

This meal is a meal of forgiveness. It is a meal of reconciliation between God and his people. It is a moment when God imparts his holiness and life by taking away our sin and giving us his new life to ingest into our very souls and carry with us. As Jesus gathered his often troubled disciples for this meal to encourage them and give them a gift for the rest of their life with him, so Jesus still gathers in his people and gives them the gift they most need to live this Christian life – forgiveness and peace with God.

But the meal can be mistreated. Judas was present at this meal and we know his actions before, during and after this meal. This is a meal of humbly receiving God’s promise of forgiveness of our sin and healing for our souls.

But even if a person comes to this meal with no faith in God’s promises, no humility, no recognition of sin in his or her life, does that mean that this special meal ceases to be God’s special meal? What if the minister presiding over the meal is unrepentant of his sin or less then humble concerning his life before God? Does Jesus pull up stumps and get out of there because there is a sinner at the table? No. Just like everything else in the Christian faith – like the Lord’s Prayer or Baptism or the Word of God, so this meal and what God makes it by his promise does not lose its value or power if we don’t believe it or participate in it with faith in God’s promises.

No, God says that in this meal he gives forgiveness, healing, freedom from sin and evil and life itself to those who come to it in simple faith to receive these things from him. A believing heart is all that is required.

But even those who come to the meal without faith receive something because this meal is still very much God’s meal. The unbelieving, unrepentant heart can only receive God’s judgement at this meal. That’s whySt Paultells us to be careful how Christians receive God’s meal. We examine our life, our hearts in line with God’s Word. We let God speak into our life and invite his Word to examine our hearts.

And how do we know we are ready or worthy to receive Jesus’ forgiveness in this great meal? A simple trust in those wonderful words “given for you” is enough. When God says this is all for you for your well-being and continuing life in him, then this meal is indeed for your well being and continuing life in him. If God says that by sharing in this meal you are blessed and restored, then you are blessed and restored as you eat and drink the meal.

As we go from here into the Easter season, let our prayer be the words of the final verse of hymn 285:

For thy consoling supper, Lord,

Be praised throughout all ages!

Preserve it, for with one accord

The world against it rages.

Grant that Thy body and Thy blood

May be my comfort and blest food

In my last moments. Amen.

Remember that Night?

Text: 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God’s new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.”

A Night to Remember

     In my travels I have visited some of the great battlefields in Europe. While walking through countryside that was once a place of death – a place where so many people lost their lives – it’s impossible to not be moved by what had taken place on what are now green pastures.
In the town of Ypres there is a special arched gateway with hundreds of thousands of names inscribed on it – soldiers who had disappeared during the battles and whose remains were never found. Every night at 8pm buglers play the last post, calling everyone to remember those who died from all countries defending their town.
Recently we heard the news that the wreck of the HMAS Sydney had been discovered on the floor of the ocean. This ship sank after a battle with a German ship and all 648 crew members were lost. We have seen on TV families of the crew holding photos of their father or grandfather or uncle and remembering the person whose life had been suddenly cut short.

Remembering people and their deeds of the past is an important part of our lives. We remember with deep appreciation the part that someone has played in our lives.

Sometimes we have what we might call “keep sakes” that help us remember. It may not fetch much if you sold it but as far as you are concerned it is one of your special treasures. Every time you look at it you remember the very special relationship that you had with that person. This is especially so if that person is no longer present with you. Even though death has intervened in your relationship with that person, these “keep sakes” make the memories of that person real and alive.

When Jesus planned his departure from his friends on earth and thought of those who would be his followers throughout the centuries, he wanted something by which they would remember him; remember what happened on the first Good Friday and the reason why he came. And so he gave us a “keep sake”, you might say – the Lord’s Supper.

One of the important aspects of Holy Communion that we emphasise is the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. As we eat and drink the bread and wine we are eating Christ’s real body and blood sacrificed for us on the cross. In a wonderful way our sin is forgiven and our faith in God’s love for us is made stronger.
Our relationship with God is renewed and our hope for eternal life is strengthened as we eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood. As we eat the bread and drink the wine in Holy Communion it is as if Jesus is personally beaming all the love, forgiveness, hope and faith directly on to us from heaven. He says this is “for you” and gives it to you with so much love.

There is another aspect of Holy Communion that I want to especially emphasise tonight. Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper to help us remember.

He first celebrated this meal just before Judas betrayed him to the temple guards in the Garden of Gethsemane. In an upper room, he celebrated the Passover with his disciples. He took a piece of bread and gave it to his disciples to eat, and said, “This is my body. Remember it was broken for you.” He took a cup of wine and gave it to them to drink and said, “Remember that my blood was shed for your sins.”The Passover was and still is a special time of remembering how God chose his people from the beginning of time and how he led his chosen people out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. God wanted them to remember the way Moses challenged the great Pharaoh of Egypt to let God’s people go, and the series of plagues that were sent to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelites.

God wanted his people to remember how he broke the stubborn resistance of Pharaoh with the warning that the first born in Egypt would be slain. There was only one way to escape this death. Each household was to kill a lamb and put some of its blood on the doorposts of their houses. The flesh of the lamb was to be roasted and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. When the angel of death saw the blood on the doorposts he would “pass over” their homes and those inside would be safe.

The Israelites did as they were instructed and they were kept safe that awful night. The wailing of mothers who had lost a child was heard throughout the land of Egypt. Saved by the blood of a lamb, the people of Israel left Egypt.

God said, “This day shall be for you a memorial and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations.” Still today, faithful Jews celebrate the Passover at this time of the year and thank God for their deliverance by the power of God.

And so when Jesus and his disciples and all their fellow Israelites celebrated the Passover they looked back and celebrated the fact that without God’s untiring, never-failing love for his people they would have been left for dead in the Sinai desert somewhere. When they celebrated the Passover they recalled with horror the slavery in Egypt, the lash on bare flesh, the scorching heat, working till they dropped. But they also recalled with great delight how God in his love saw them in their anguish and came to their rescue. They remembered the daily supply of food that fell from the heavens, how the cloud led them during the day, and a blazing fire at night – this whole fantastic story of how God rescued these complaining, grumbling, disobedient people is a sheer miracle.

Not only was the Passover a time of recalling, but it was also a time of thanksgiving and celebration. They praised God for his love.

Tonight we are remembering, celebrating and thanking God for his love. We are not celebrating the Passover, the feast that celebrated God’s rescue of his people from slavery in Egypt, but we are celebrating a “new Passover“, our rescue from slavery to sin and death. Jesus gave us a special meal to help us remember, he gave us his body and blood to eat and drink with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins, and to help us remember the great love that he has for us.

This “new Passover” gets its meaning from the cross. Jesus gave his body and blood on the cross for you and me. He did it because of our desperate need to be made right with God. He did it because we are caught in slavery to sin and we can’t do anything to free ourselves. Like the slaves in Egypt we are unable to free ourselves from this slavery. Our situation is desperate. If nothing is done to free us, we would all die as slaves to sin and death. God was prepared to go to any lengths to save us because of his love – even send his only Son to give his body and shed his blood on a cross.

As we eat and drink we remember the new life that Jesus has given us – to love one another just as he has loved us. We remember that just as Christ was a servant who knelt to wash the disciples’ feet he commands us to be servants of one another. We are reminded that in the body and blood of Jesus we are bound together as his dearly loved chosen ones whose key responsibility is to love another. Jesus said at the Last Supper and he says this to us tonight, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34).Tonight we join with Christians the world over raising our voices in thanksgiving as we celebrate Holy Communion. In fact, one of the names used around the world for Holy Communion is “Eucharist”, which means “thanksgiving”. Like the Israel of old we thank God for his love and mercy, but unlike the ancient Israelites we have seen God’s love at work in ways that has far outshone the Exodus event. We have seen with our eyes of faith the love of God at work freeing us from sin and death through the agony and dying and rising of Jesus.

We receive bread and we eat with it the body of Christ. We drink wine and hear the words: “This is my blood” and we remember.
We remember with regret that it was our sin that led to Jesus’ death on the cross.
We remember with repentant hearts that our lives have not demonstrated Christ living in us.
We remember with thanksgiving what Christ has done for us through his death and resurrection.
We remember with joy that our sins are forgiven.
We remember with anticipation when we will gather around the heavenly banquet table.
We remember in celebration that we have been given a new life to live as disciples of Christ.

Tonight we remember and celebrate the powerful love of God that has made our salvation possible. Tonight is a night to remember what it cost God to bring us forgiveness and eternal life. Tonight we remember and give thanks!

I will wash you.

I will wash you John 13-1-17

There are times, perhaps when we have been working in the garden, or painting, or fixing the car, that we get our hands so dirty that they don’t come clean after washing them.  We can scrub and scrub, but to little effect; the dirt has actually stained our hands.  Over time the stain will vanish and our hands will once again be clean.

At the Last Supper, the Passover meal, where the disciples were eating the sacrificial remembrance meal, Jesus gets up and takes off his outer garment, grabs a towel and a bowl of water and washes the disciple’s feet.  Either, one of the disciples has really smelly feet and the odour was ruining the meal, or Jesus was making a spiritual point by washing the dirtiest part of a person’s body.

Of course we know there was more to Jesus’ foot washing than just trying to clean some dirty feet.  Otherwise he would not have interrupted such an important and religiously significant meal with such an un-dignified display.   The Passover meal drew the Jewish people back to the time of the exodus, the night of the Passover.  By eating a specially sacrificed lamb they remembered the night the blood of a lamb was spread on the door posts to protect the people inside the house from the angel of death.  When the angel saw the blood, he passed over the house and the first born male was kept safe, but all those without the lamb’s blood, had their first born killed by the angel.

Jesus deliberately used the significance of this meal to demonstrate the cleansing he was about to accomplish by his blood on the cross.  Every person, man, woman and child, you and me, are stained with dirt.  Every one of those disciple’s gathered with Jesus were stained with dirt.  No matter how much we wash we remained stained, not with physical dirt, but with the stain of sin and death.

Like when we cannot seem to get a stain out of our hands, we cannot get the stain of sin out of our lives; it is a mark that remains with us forever and taints everything we do and say, as Jesus said in Matthew 15: ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean.‘  The stain of sin is at our core and if left, separates us from the holiness of God.

Jesus washes the disciple’s feet to demonstrate that he will be the one who will wash their sinful hearts, just as king David pleaded and prayed for many years earlier ‘Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Peter however, rejects the washing because he feels Jesus should not wash his feet, that would be humiliating for him, but Jesus replies, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”… “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  The external washing of the disciple’s feet pointed to Jesus’ washing of our hearts that will clean them from the stain of sin once and for all.

The cross was to be the washing instrument and Jesus’ body and blood serve as the cleansing agent through whom God would clean the world of sin, death and the devil.  By washing the feet of the disciple’s, Jesus shows how he must be a servant of the world, a lowly cleaner if you like, just as foretold in Isaiah 53; ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.’

Just as the blood of the sacrificial lamb saved the people of Israel and brought them out of slavery in Egypt, Jesus blood saves us, cleanses us and brings us out of slavery from sin, death and the devil and brings us into God’s presence, as Jesus said ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’  While Judas would have no part in it and left the room, by faith in Jesus word’s Peter allows Jesus to wash his feet, and he was cleansed.  By faith we allow Jesus to wash us clean.

By faith we trust that his blood has washed us, ready for heaven.  By faith we allow Jesus to be our servant, humble and gracious towards us, washing our conscience by his word and blood and serving us with his body and blood in his Holy meal, as the writer of Hebrews says ‘let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.’

We have been cleansed by Jesus and tonight, as I wash the feet of some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are reminded of Jesus servant hood; his expression of love that saw him die in our place to make us clean.  Yet there is something else important demonstrated in this foot washing.  With Jesus in us by faith, we also become servants to one another.  Just by being cleansed ourselves, we are able to cleanse others through acts of love and forgiveness.  We can wash each other by choosing not to bring up past hurts or past sins committed against us.  By the power of God’s word and the Spirit’s encouragement, we can choose not to habour anger and bitterness against each other.

We can also wash each other when we speak, read, sing and pray God’s word to each other.  Jesus is present in his word, therefore his is present washing through the word, as he promised ‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.’ A disciple is really being Jesus’ co-cleaner, who’s only work is to be humble and a slave, to bring cleansing to others through the justifying  word of Jesus and to live humbly themselves as they also seek forgiveness from Jesus and other Christians for failing to do this very thing.

This is what it means to love one another and this is what Jesus offers us.  As you experience or witness the foot washing, we will sing to each other the very cleansing words of Jesus ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’