Archive for the ‘Palm Sunday’ Category

Jesus our King

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Text: Matthew 21:8, 9
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”

As you look through history books you soon realise that when it came to kings and queens that some are remembered for the way they abused their power and used the people of their kingdoms.

One notorious ruler in England was King John who was born on Christmas Eve 1167, the youngest son of Henry II. When his brother, King Richard, was killed in France and Richard’s son was murdered, John became king. (Many believe that he was responsible for his nephew’s death).

John faced one disaster after another.
His army was defeated in France and had to retreat.
To rebuild his army he imposed incredibly high taxes.
The country broke into civil war when his nobles rebelled.
John even managed to get the church offside and was excommunicated by the pope and no baptism or marriage performed in England would be legitimate until the pope said so. And without church approved baptisms or marriages the people were afraid that they would all end up in hell. They blamed John.
John’s life was at risk when the pope declared that if anyone overthrew King John they would be legally entitled to do so.
After John was again defeated in France his barons were fed up. John was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215. This guaranteed the people of England rights that the king could not go back on.
When John tried to ignore the Magna Carta the barons rebelled against him again and soon after John died.

Today we hear about another king. This king is nothing like bad King John. He was quite the opposite. There was nothing arrogant or evil about this king. He demonstrated nothing but humility and kindness. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a work animal used to carrying loads for farmers and traders. The disciples and those who lined the roads hailed him as the king – ‘the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’

Even before Jesus was born the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her son would be a king, a descendant of King David.
When the wisemen were looking for the Christ-child they asked King Herod, ‘Where is the baby born to be king of the Jews?’ When they found the child-king they knelt down and worshipped him, presenting him with royal gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

King of the Jews! That title followed him into the trials before the Sanhedrin, King and Herod Pontius Pilate. The Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy on the basis that he claimed to be the Messiah. But they knew that the Roman Governor wouldn’t be interested in any of their religious reasons for getting rid of Jesus, so they brought a charge against Jesus they knew would interest Pilate. They accused Jesus of treason. He claimed to be a king and was a traitor to the Roman Empire.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus looked nothing like a king. In chains, beaten – having been slapped in the face, and with spit in his hair and beard.

Jesus’ answer is unexpected. He soon sets Pilate right about who he is and affirms clearly that he is a king. But not a king as Pilate might expect. John’s Gospel reports Jesus saying, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!”

Such an idea doesn’t make sense to Pilate. With puzzlement written all over his face, he asked a second time and Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me” (John 18:36-38).

So you see, Jesus admits to being a king but a king with a kingdom and a kingship quite different to anything that we have seen in history. Jesus wasn’t interested in power or politics, pomp and pageantry. His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom but one that existed in the hearts of people.

Pilate was puzzled.  The people outside were quite clear about what they wanted done with Jesus. They called for the death of this meek and gentle king and the release of the brutal and murderous Barabbas.

Something is wrong here. Jesus hasn’t been brutal and oppressive. The crowd had hailed him as king when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and now they were asking for this king’s blood. Here is king who is on the side of the people, the friend of the poor, the sick, the guilty, the sad but the people turn against him. A murderer goes free, while a king like no other king, loving and kind, is heading for execution.

Pilate mockingly placed a sign at the top of the cross, “This is the King of the Jews.” This was truer than he imagined. This bleeding broken man on the cross really is a king. The criminal crucified beside him recognises Jesus as a king and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

When we were baptised, through the simple water and the Word of God we were made members of God’s kingdom. Jesus became our king. Not a ruthless and pompous king like bad King John, but a king who was so generous that he gave his life for us.
A king whose throne was the cross,
whose crown was made of thorns,
who was dressed in a royal robe as a king and mocked by Herod and his soldiers,
whose blood was called for by the crowds when they said, “Take him away! Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar. …!
Jesus is our king who loved us so much that “he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

What does it mean to have Jesus as our Lord and King?

  • With Jesus as our king we enjoy a royal pardon for all our sin. This pardon means that there is nothing that stains our lives. We have been made clean with the righteousness of Jesus. When God looks at us he doesn’t see sin and weakness; he only sees the purity and newness that have received through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary. When Jesus declared from the cross “Father, forgive them” he was also saying that to us.
  • With Jesus as our king, he says to us as he did the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. He promises that we too will share in his eternal kingdom where there will be no more pain, or crying or dying.
  • With Jesus as our king – our ever present and living king – he promises all those who belong to his kingdom that he will always be there for us in times of joy, in times of sadness, and in times of suffering. When we are discouraged and weak, ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (1 Tim 6:15, 16) assures that there is nothing that can stand between God and us; nothing that can stop him loving and forgiving us; nothing that can harm us. Even when we face death we can confidently say, “I have a king and a friend who will never give upon me and when the time comes for my departure, I am confident of his love for me.”
  • With Jesus as our king he lovingly rules and directs our lives as citizens of his kingdom. He has bought us with his blood, made us his chosen people and urges us to lives of repentance, faith and love. In the Small Catechism Luther says after describing how Jesus rescued us from sin and death through the events of Good Friday and Easter, “Jesus did this so that I can belong to him, and he can rule over me as my king. I can live under him and serve him, innocent and happy forever” (1996 Openbook).
  • With Jesus as our king we are joined together in his family, his kingdom, his church. He has placed us in a baptismal relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
    We have been called to care for one another and to show compassion and understanding wherever it is required.
    We have been called to work together sharing the Good News about Jesus with those who need to know of his love for them.
    Through us, he calls them out of the darkness of sin into his marvellous light.
  • With Jesus as our king we have an advocate before the throne of God. He hears our prayers and answers them. He sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty and has the authority and the power to answer all of our petitions.
  • One day the king will return. He will come on the Last Day and will reward those who have trusted his love and been faithful to their calling as disciples. He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant. … Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt 25:23).

As we enter this Holy Week it’s a good thing to ask ourselves where we stand in our relationship with our Lord.
Does he rule our lives?
Is he truly the Lord of our lives, Lord in the sense that he directs our actions, our words, and our thoughts?
Does the Lord of lords rule every corner of our lives; not just a small part but every part – our family life, our work life, our church life, our leisure life.
Because Jesus is our Lord and King no doubt there are some things that we need to change, some things we would stop doing, and there are other things that we could take up, all because Jesus rules our lives completely.

This is serious stuff that we don’t take seriously enough. We are good at giving all kinds of excuses. But Jesus is our Lord and King now. As Saviour he has committed himself to us, and as Lord he wants us to be committed to him.

But if we are honest, often we are like the people of Jerusalem – sometimes we are all excited about Jesus being our saviour and king but there are other times when our faith has grown cold (at best lukewarm) and we find ourselves distant from Jesus. Instead of Jesus ruling our words and actions we find ourselves so self-focussed that sin rules our lives as our words and actions hurt others.

When this happens this is a time for repentance – turning back to Jesus, his love and forgiveness, and his rule in our lives. It is a time for renewed faith and trust in him as the one who loves us, died on the cross for us, and calls us to be his people in the world around us.

We have a king who has done so much for us. Today let’s welcome Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!” He is our Saviour from sin.
Let us also shout “Hosanna!” and welcome him as the Lord and King of our lives.
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

 

Easy to welcome Jesus but hard to follow

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Luke 19:28-40/Philippians 2:5-11

 

Could it be true that Palm Sunday prods us to ponder that it is easy to welcome Jesus but hard to follow him?

StMarksAs we hear of this new king being welcomed to great applause, we know from our own experience that it is easy to welcome a winner. We have probably applauded the winner many times. Like when our child’s team or our own team won the grand final or or when Australia won the Americas Cup so long ago. It is a good thing to experience welcoming and applauding winners now and again!

If it is easy to welcome a winner, like they did on Palm Sunday, then it is probably quite easy to follow a winner too. If the winner is loved and has good skills and a good plan and the right intentions, then following can be done with relative ease. We are happy to jump on a winning band wagon and see where it leads.

It may be easy to welcome a winner, and even follow a winner, but it is a lot harder to welcome and follow a loser. You may have done that too; like when you are on the boundary line of junior sport or in the crowd of a production and mistakes are made and things do not go well. You have to welcome those who have not done their best and that may not always be so easy.

If welcoming a loser is hard, then following one is harder still. Remember that teacher you once had who you just could not follow but had to in order to get through? Remember that boss you worked under who didn’t always know what was going on or understand the issues, but you worked away anyway.

What about that colleague whom you just find it hard to trust and work with, but you have to anyway; that kid at school who was cruelly named the class “loser” whom you found it hard to stick up for?

It is hard to follow a person or a faith that you or others sometimes judge to be a “loser”.

What would inspire you to do this difficult thing of following a so called “loser”?

You might follow if you knew that the person was not actually a loser. That would take some attention and working through. It would take a seeking heart to find this out. It would take some application, patience, personal time and reflection to discover that your and others’ judgements about the person and their views were actually inaccurate.

You would follow a loser if you trusted that it was all for a great and noble purpose – a purpose of hope, of life, or renewal, of learning, of growing, of truly living and understanding.

You could follow if you trusted that his loss was others gain: a gift given so that good things come to us, and to a world in need.

If the loser was actually a winner who operates on a completely different scale of who is a winner and who is a loser, and if you could understand his way of winning and what it meant for the good of you and the world, then we might follow him.

What of this Jesus on the donkey? How do people in our time judge such a man on a cross and in a tomb. In our time and place, many people would regard him and those who follow him as “losers”.

Even those who profess to follow Jesus – may wonder if they have actually backed a winner when they are not held in great esteem, just as he is no longer held in high esteem by many in our community.

We may even get to the point of only following parts of Jesus – the parts that are easy and don’t confront us too much or make us uncomfortable.

An example:  we hear a lot about God’s grace. “It’s all about grace” we say. Our life is based on simply receiving the free gift of God’s grace and learning to be gracious, and so it goes. This is true, but it is also incomplete.

Jesus doesn’t really allow anyone to leave it there. Yes, he is magnificent in his lavish grace as he takes a beating from evil itself in our place on that cross. Yes he is grace personified as he is lifted up in pain and blood to lose it all so that we can gain all.

Yes, we are connected with the maker of all things in a relationship of compassion and love by the compassion and passion and love of this divine man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God.

But then he lays a call on us. He called  those 12 people entering the city with him that first Palm Sunday, to “follow”. In his grace – which is grace enough to overlook our ignorance and offensive ideals and actions – he calls us to “follow”. His call to us is a call of underserved love and confidence in us, and yet it is still a call to follow him somewhere or into something.

“Follow what or whom?” we might ask. Follow a lifestyle goal? Follow a code of ethics? Follow a set of values. Follow the great thinkers and theologians? Follow the church and all its teaching religiously? Follow the family tradition of Christianity?

No, not in the most basic and first instance anyway. “Follow ME”, the donkey riding, Servant King calls. “Follow me into the city; into an unknown future”.

So, we are called by this grace-filled God to follow him somewhere in the journey of life he has given us. Today he calls us to follow him into the city and the suffering and the crucifixion and death and then that life at the end of the tunnel.

So, how about it? As we welcome the winner, Jesus, will we also follow him into an unknown future? Will we welcome this divine crucified man who will win the greatest victory of all – the ability and the power and authority to overcome death, forgive human sin and heal human blindness?

Will we welcome him as he reveals the wise and divine to the foolish and impatient this Holy Week? Will we follow him into Easter and see where he leads us? Will we follow him all the way to the cross?

The opposite response to this call would be to settle for a theoretical brand of Christianity. Peter, with all his promises to practice his faith and stay with Jesus even to death, found that the practice of faith and following is more confronting and scary that the theory of it. Actually following in faith is confronting.

But imagine his life after it was all over and he was restored by Jesus to full belonging and love. The practice of following the resurrected Jesus was a joy and a light burden and a great love and fulfilment to his being!

So, will we go for more than only the theory and let Jesus lead us into the practice of being Christian, and in so doing, find that world-shaping and fulfilling life which the Saviour promises?

The time for just entertaining Christianity is over! The call of Jesus to this generation is upon us. He still calls to all of us – “Follow Him”.

Follow him to the cross and stay there with him in your spirit these holy days. Stay in the tomb with Him and wait for the stone to be removed and stand with the Son in all his glory on Easter Day.

He is calling all of us to let him love us, let him surround us with his underserved kindness. He is gifting us with a call right here – to follow him in this place with our skills, our relationships, our hopes, our plans, our whole selves.

So, we welcome the king. We ask with all our soul for this winner to lead us into his suffering and into his glorious power and light for our calling here – in this place, at this time.

Welcome the winner, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and follow him, even if for now-it may mean losing something. Amen.

We were tired, but He was tried

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Matthew 26:36-46

 

“We were tired, but He was Tried”

 

The reading for today’s meditation is written in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 26, starting at verse 36.

 

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray”.

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them,

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed,

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will”.

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.

“Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?”

He asked Peter.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak”.

He went away for a second time and prayed,

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done”.

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them,

Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer”.

While the disciples slept, Jesus fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will”. Jesus, shown at the transfiguration to be the divine Son of God, is shown here in his humanity battling with the enormity of what has been placed before him.  This is not Jesus involved in some theological window dressing, this is real and harrowing.

The Gospel of Luke highlights the situation even more where he tells us, “Jesus being in anguish prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”.

Sweating blood, modern medicine tells us this is a symptom that can result from when a person is under intolerable stress. The suffering of Jesus here in the garden is intimately related to Calvary. Gethsemane is to Calvary what anticipation is to fulfillment, and Jesus in his humanity, in prayer asks his Father “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”.

Jesus’ is faced with more than physical pain. Jesus the sinless one, who abhors sin, is faced with taking our sin on himself and to suffer the wrath of His Father. And asks his Father, is there another way. Nowhere else in the scriptures do we hear Jesus utter a prayer in anyway comparable to this. Yet, in the face of this, Jesus voluntary abides by the Fathers Will. “Not as I will, but as you will”.

In Gethsemane and Calvary, if taken as a crucially linked event, we can see the history of the world reaching its highest moment, the cultimation of the ages and the apex of the destiny of the world. The greatest thing ever done or could be done. That God would give himself, his Son as a sacrifice to reconcile the world to himself. Yet the disciples slept.

Peter, James and John, the inner core, who saw the Glory of Jesus on the mountain at the transfiguration, and Peter who had said “even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you”. Are asked by Jesus, stay awake and pray. Yet they sleep. Jesus, faced with what was to come prays to his Father. “Not mine, but Your will be done”, and receives strength. Strength gained from prayer   in knowing that it is His Fathers Will. But Peter, who desired to serve Jesus until even death, could not overcome his humanity to even stay awake and pray.

It is a stark picture. The Jews are seething for Jesus’ blood, the Romans are unconcerned, and even the people of God are sleeping. Our lord cuts a lonely figure as single handedly; He gives himself to The Father’s Will in this great transaction of redemption. Amos 8:11 tells us “The days are coming, declared the sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine through the land, not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the Words of the Lord”. Like Peter slept, we too sleep and become complacent as our society teases and seduces us with its attractions, its offers of money, possessions and fame. Things that threaten with us the spiritual famine that Amos described. We come complacent before Christ,          and like Peter, we do not have the power in ourselves to follow our Lord.

2, 000 years ago, while those in the world went about their normal business, Jesus came to them to bring salvation. At the cultimation of Jesus’ prayers in the garden, he finds Peter still sleeping, yet reaches in and brings him out of his complacency, and takes him with him saying “Rise, let us go”. In our complacency Jesus comes to us. In our shortfalls, weaknesses and sin, he comes to us. The Gospel story we have heard it not just about Jesus, Peter            and the world all those years ago. It’s also about us now. As Jesus reaches into us, to give himself.

Like Peter came to know himself in the garden and, and later before the cross, before Christ we too see ourselves as we are. We may have the best intentions, Yet, while “The spirit is willing, the body is weak”. And like Peter, we fall short. In this season of lent we see and reflect on our failures before God, but louder we hear the Good news:

While you slept:

I have come to you,

Your sin, your guilt and your punishment I have taken on myself.

We here from St. John “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”

We hear from St. Paul “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” And we hear it from Jesus himself “Take heart…your sins are forgiven”. God has dealt with our sin, so that in Christ he can deal mercifully with us.

Let that good news beat upon our hearts and mind’s, because it wakes us up. It moves us to pray for now we can with confidence draw near the throne of grace. The Gospel wakes us up to confession, to repentance and to be daily in His Word and prayer, and to say with the psalmist: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’”. Amen.

What’s in a name?

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

“Arming the hopeless”

Philippians 2: 5-11

Robert Zimmerman, Marian Robert Morrison, Stefani Joanne Agelina Germanoth, Alecia Moore, Paul Hewson, Ramon and Carlos Estevez, Peter Parker and Rene Phillips. Or maybe better known as Bob Dylan, John Wayne, Lady Gaga, Pink, Bono, Martin and Charlie Sheen and Spiderman. And that last name, Rene’ Phillips was what the internet stage name generator gave me for our brother in Christ Tim Moult.

Wikipedia says stage names are often taken because their real name may be: hard to pronounce, already used by someone else famous, difficult to spell or unintentionally amusing or alternatively taken to project a desired image or to retain anonymity.

What’s in a name?

The meaning behind the name Timothy, Tim is “honouring God” and if ever Tim has or will live up to his name it is today as he honours the Saviour in his Baptism.

As a side, the 2011 list of most popular names in the USA puts Timothy in 123’RD spot, one ahead of Steven in 124 TH-what are the chances. Similar, as I was Baptised as a 29 year old and then both ordained and called as your Pastor last year, I make it that you will able to call Tim as your Pastor in the year 2032.

But today Tim honours God. But not by what he has done as it is not of us that we come to faith, but from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. But truly Tim, having been given free will honours God because he has not rejected the gifts of his Saviour, and given our human characteristics and tendencies that is no small thing.

Thirty or so years ago a professor concluded his historical studies regarding humankind’s quest for the “way out” or a “saviour/s” and identified four categories:

The “Creative Genius”; (2) the “Saviour with a Sword”; (3) the “Saviour with a Time Machine,” one dreaming of a utopia or an archaic past which never existed; (4) the saviour as a “Philosopher, Masked as a King.”

From these studies he concluded that eventually history rejects all four with the first to fail being the swordsmen, the next the archaists and the futurists, the next the philosophers, until only gods were left in the running. False Gods who fall away until we stand and gaze with our eyes fixed upon the further shore and then a single figure rises from the flood and fills the whole horizon, the God Incarnate in a Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

On Palm Sunday the Gospel reading tells us of the marked change of tone from Jesus entry and the joyful shouts of “Hosanna” to the tension filled hours of Christ’s Passion ending in cries of “Crucify him” and this is the background for the outcome of the priceless confession by the apostle Paul in Philippians and background for the confession thirty years ago by that professor and behind the confessions of Tim, me, you and all Christian’s today.

Our confession of Christ the saviour. Jesus Christ, God’s surprising and amazing gift given to people who have looked to other “gods” for help. Jesus Christ, the divine one who allowed himself to be humiliated and suffer an agonizing, shameful, and criminals death to rescue our lost and dying humanity.

What’s in a name?

At Christmas we speak of Jesus as “God with us”. At Pentecost as “God in us” and on Palm Sunday and Easter as “God for us”. In Jesus our Lord we have hope, peace and joy and this Easter we should shout it from the mountain tops. Every day we should shout it from the mountain tops, but the problem with communicating the truth of the Gospel is the problem of getting out the way-of not confusing, not perverting, not exploiting and not manipulating it, but letting it be heard in its truth and purity.

A week before our class was to be ordained a Pastor said to us that when it happens, something will happen and you will feel different and in truth I did-for about ten minutes. Fortunately, how I feel is not the cornerstone of the Gospel. The corner stone, the only stone is Jesus Christ whose promises do not change due the whims of our sensitivities.

It is not our job to judge where people are at in relation to God for only he knows the heart and as evidenced by the salvation of the thief on the cross, God sometimes does his business in ways that we cannot apprehend or expect and we pray and carry hope for all those that come before us that too they may fall under his grace.

I carry that hope with me for many I know and have known. I even carry an expectation that God will shower them with His grace.

But Christ gives us something better than a “worldly type” of hope, he gives us his hope and when we read the word “hope” in the Bible (like in 1 Peter 1:13—”set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”), hope is not wishful thinking. It’s not “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, or I hope it happens.” That’s absolutely not what is meant by Christian hope.

Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass.

Christian hope, Christ’s hope is sureness-and so that we can live in that he gave a command to his apostles, to “Go to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt: 28-19), as “They who believe and are baptised will be saved” (Mark 16:16).

To be baptised and believe is what brings the sureness like we know when the storms and floods approach and threaten to overwhelm, yet amongst it we see a rainbow-a gift from God to bring us sureness against what may seem. In baptism, when the flood of our own sin threaten to devour us we see his sure promise in baptism and know that it will never devour us.

Last Thursday at men’s shed I heard a great comment I’d never heard by C.S. Lewis “Humblest in hall, fiercest in fight”.

Brothers and sisters in sin we stand at the foot of the cross of our Saviour and humbly admit that we have no power of forgiveness and salvation other than in Christ and this is most certainly true.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, though our sin, fear of death and the devils deceptions show their teeth and threaten to crush us, they cannot bite for the fight has been won by Christ and all who are baptised and believe are most certainly God’s children.

Friday night in Sydney I watched as Bruce Springsteen and his band performed at a breath-taking pace for three hours and ten minutes without a break. It was pinch yourself stuff and I knew that this was something truly, truly special. It was everything I expected plus much more and I will never forget it. But two things “particular” struck me. Firstly the guitarist had painted in big print in homemade fashion on his guitar “Arm the hopeless” and after about two hours Bruce said “while in Sydney we are supporting the NSW food bank in collecting for the needy, so when you leave if you can we would appreciate it if you could support those here tonight who are doing God’s work in the frontline”.

Tim, you and me, we are in the frontline carrying the knowledge of our sin, carrying our hurt and carrying the fear of knowing what we are really like. But “humble in hall” we know that in crying for mercy Christ bestows to us the release from ourselves and gives us his truth and his strength. And “fierce in fight” when you reminded of yourself and of your peril, turn to Christ and know that in baptism and belief you don’t need a stage name or to be something you’re not, for Christ has armed the hopeless that you know that your name has been written in the book of life.

Rejoice for today because we have seen something truly, truly special in Tim’s baptism. And I rejoice, that before me today I see a group of people living in the frontline of God’s kingdom, knowing the truth of Christ for themselves and in living in that truth, and in living a witness to that-maybe more of the “hopeless” will be armed and made free in the truth of Christ”.

 

Deserving to be given a serve.

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

John 12:12-16, 13:1-17, 31b-35

Deserving to be “given a serve, we were served”.

When I was 25 years old, basically against my desires-I was talked into coaching the senior football team. This team had very little success over the previous years-but now there was great expectation and excitement.

In the first game, we played the arch rivals and lost by more than fifteen goals and boy did I know their disappointment and disillusionment. Because I was the subject of that disappointment and disillusionment.

Misguided or unrealistic expectations.

Being a Christian: never have any more worries, life will be good, and if its not, it means your faith is not strong enough. Even, according to the odd late night evangelist, send in money and you will be rewarded tenfold.

Misguided, unrealistic and even sinister crap.

Becoming a Christian is like becoming a husband or wife and then a mother or father. Absolutely the joy increases, but so does the hurt-because their hurts and sadness’s become yours.

Having faith in Christ-in being a Christian we share with Christ, the injustices and hurts of this world and its people. We may get sick or we may not, we may struggle financially or we may not-so be it, that’s life. Jesus never promised either way, he promised that he would be with us through it all, to serve us and get us over the line.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and is welcomed as the great king. “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. The King of Israel”.

Absolutely true. Albeit misguided-those welcoming Jesus expected a warrior type of king to release them from the bondage of the Romans. To drive them out of town and when this doesn’t eventuate-we know the story.

But as we know, Jesus had a bigger fish to fry. Yes Jesus would release them, release from the bondage of sin. To bring true freedom, not as the warrior king, but as the servant king.

Jesus didn’t come to run the bad guys out of town, but to bring the bad guys, Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans and Australians-you and me into town-into his kingdom.

Jesus did not come to give people a serve, he came to serve. Let’s fast forward to Maundy Thursday. It is the night in which Jesus was to be betrayed and he has gathered with his disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal for the last time. It was during this meal that he instituted the Lord’s Supper.

He took some of the bread, gave thanks, and broke it; he gave it to his disciples saying “This is my blood”. Then he took the cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” and added, “Do this in remembrance of me”.

The Word Maundy means command and in verse 34 Jesus tells his disciples “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.

Jesus giving his body and blood for our forgiveness of sins certainly demonstrated his love for us. But also that night Jesus demonstrated his love in washing his disciples’ feet.

These days, foot washing is not all that prevalent-and when it is it is done in only a symbolic manner. In fact I remember attending a chapel where it was announced that they would conduct foot washing during the up and coming Maundy Thursday worship, and then finished with the instruction that it would be preferred if you would present your  feet were in a reasonable hygienic fashion.

Which as we will see is rather like telling a homeless person we won’t help them until they get their act together, because in Jesus day there was a logical purpose for foot washing.  The common practice was to wash the guests’ feet as they entered the house. Since most people wore sandals, and because there were no foot paths or paved roads, the visitor’s feet would be dirty from travelling. Also, in a hot climate like Israel to have your feet washed was very refreshing.  A jug of water, basin and towel at the door were marks of genuine hospitality.

But it was still considered a menial, if not even a demeaning task, it was the responsibility of the household slave to conduct the said feet washing and make them refreshed and comfortable.

In the Upper Room that night, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, not only to make them comfortable, but to also as a demonstration of his purpose in life. As well what their purpose in life should be.

Earlier in his ministry Jesus told his followers in Matthew chapter 20: “Whoever wants to be first must be your slave-Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”, and later that evening “love one another as I have loved you”.

On that night, just hours before he would suffer for them, for us-Jesus acted out what the purpose of what his life was and still is: to serve, both you and me.

I remember several years ago I went to watch the Port Adelaide Magpies; the most successful semi-professional/professional Aussie Rules football club in Australia play arch-rival Norwood. There was not a big crowd there, but none the less two Port guys sat right next to me. Initially I thought this is good because in Adelaide, if you go for Port every one’s your arch rival except for fellow Port supporters. So I was thinking along the safety in numbers scenario. Then he started. One of the guys was the Pavarotti of football fans. Just before the first bounce he started, and he never abated until the final siren. Port that day lost, but on the way, this guy constantly in a booming voice-for every second of the 80 minutes never shouted  ridicule, only encouragement to the players. He displayed if nothing else, a voice box made of granite, loyalty to his club and courage under fire to continue with the opposition supporters giving it to him as Port went steadily backwards.

Halfway through the third quarter, his quieter mate, maybe sensing that even I would like him to tone down a touch-turned around and said “he’s a barracking machine”.

Jesus is a foot washing machine.

Like that Port guy to his club, when we aren’t performing, when we are losing the battles-Jesus doesn’t take a backward step: he just keeps on keeping on.  That’s why we are here tonight. We just didn’t wake one morning and say-I have decided that I believe this Christ stuff. It may seem like that, but it is really only from Christ presenting himself in our lives again, again and again. In our daily lives, in hearing the Word of God, in Baptism and Holy Communion. The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit bring us to faith, retain us in faith and strengthen our faith.

That is why Christianity gets such a hard time. It’s illogical. No different from when the Jews were expecting a war type king or messiah to rescue them from being impoverished by the Romans-only to receive a man of peace, totally the opposite to how general society would deal with the issue.

(and) we ask ourselves what’s changed.

Jesus serves us and we are too serve others. Both these are counter cultural, not just too general society, but to us.

Jesus serves us. Yes we know that. We know he died on the cross for our sins and we know he’s with us everyday day. But then, do good works-but no amount of good works, even the Mother Theresa      type of give your life to poverty and service in the India slums won’t save you one iota: “only faith in Jesus can save you” may start to get us a little edgy. But the piece of résistance, we who know our sin and our own darkest places are not only forgiven in Christ-but he loves us how we are: when you get your head around that one let me know.

But it’s all true. How do we know-because Jesus has told us. Of course in our minds it is illogical-as is faith in Christ to a non-Christian. But having been brought to faith, to believe Christ died for our sins-you can’t have it both ways: Jesus Christ, the only person that walked on this earth sinless, perfect-the person who raised people from the dead, cured blindness, leprosy and so forth-LOVES YOU AS YOU ARE NOW.

(and) what does Jesus ask for all this. Accept it. Accept it and pass it on-because see that CEO making 8 million dollars per year, see that office worker, see that outlaw motorcycle gang member, see that mother and father that use their welfare payments to buy drugs instead of food, and see that prostitute who is funding her family with the only asset she has-I love them too, not later but now, this minute-I know them and I know their hurt.

Deep down, they know there is a better way-but from sin, being beaten battered and scared by Satan and his evil temptations they are imprisoned.

But you are my workers in the field. With you, I will sow the seed, work the ground and reap the crop.

Yes, in humility we are to accept forgiveness in Christ alone, and yes, in humility we are to serve his people-for him, for Christ and not for ourselves.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, they saw him as the coming king, cheering and honouring him-only to fall away in his hour of need when he was beaten, bruised, ridiculed and slain.

When our neighbour enters our life in their hour of need, beaten, bruised, ridiculed and lost-in that person we see the loved child of God. We see Jesus serving them, washing their feet in the hope that he can cheer and greet them in his eternal home.

Imagine, that person who comes into our lives in whatever disguise: rich or poor: who is in need in this world-hungry, starving, wandering, looking for “something”, alone and scared. Imagine on our last day seeing that person smiling with no hurt or tears and glowing in the light of Christ.

I cannot think of a better day, except for the day that, that person was given hope, peace and came to know the true love of Christ while here amongst the storm.

Our Father in Heaven, your will be done- on earth as in heaven, for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.

Riding on a donkey

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Jesus our king

Text: Matthew 21:8, 9
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest!”


As you look through history books you soon realise that when it came to kings and queens that some are remembered for the way they abused their power and used the people of their kingdoms.

One notorious ruler in England was King John who was born on Christmas Eve 1167, the youngest son of Henry II. When his brother, King Richard, was killed in France and Richard’s son was murdered, John became king. (Many believe that he was responsible for his nephew’s death).

John faced one disaster after another.
His army was defeated in France and had to retreat.
To rebuild his army he imposed incredibly high taxes.
The country broke into civil war when his nobles rebelled.
John even managed to get the church offside and was excommunicated by the pope and no baptism or marriage performed in England would be legitimate until the pope said so. And without church approved baptisms or marriages the people were afraid that they would all end up in hell. They blamed John.
John’s life was at risk when the pope declared that if anyone overthrew King John they would be legally entitled to do so.
After John was again defeated in France his barons were fed up. John was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215. This guaranteed the people of England rights that the king could not go back on.
When John tried to ignore the Magna Carta the barons rebelled against him again and soon after John died.

Today we hear about another king. This king is nothing like bad King John. He was quite the opposite. There was nothing arrogant or evil about this king. He demonstrated nothing but humility and kindness. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a work animal used to carrying loads for farmers and traders. The disciples and those who lined the roads hailed him as the king – ‘the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’

Even before Jesus was born the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that her son would be a king, a descendant of King David.
When the wisemen were looking for the Christ-child they asked King Herod, ‘Where is the baby born to be king of the Jews?’ When they found the child-king they knelt down and worshipped him, presenting him with royal gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

King of the Jews! That title followed him into the trials before the Sanhedrin, King and Herod Pontius Pilate. The Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy on the basis that he claimed to be the Messiah. But they knew that the Roman Governor wouldn’t be interested in any of their religious reasons for getting rid of Jesus, so they brought a charge against Jesus they knew would interest Pilate. They accused Jesus of treason. He claimed to be a king and was a traitor to the Roman Empire.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus looked nothing like a king. In chains, beaten – having been slapped in the face, and with spit in his hair and beard.

Jesus’ answer is unexpected. He soon sets Pilate right about who he is and affirms clearly that he is a king. But not a king as Pilate might expect. John’s Gospel reports Jesus saying, “My kingdom does not belong to this world; if my kingdom belonged to this world, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. No, my kingdom does not belong here!”

Such an idea doesn’t make sense to Pilate. With puzzlement written all over his face, he asked a second time and Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this one purpose, to speak about the truth. Whoever belongs to the truth listens to me” (John 18:36-38).So you see, Jesus admits to being a king but a king with a kingdom and a kingship quite different to anything that we have seen in history. Jesus wasn’t interested in power or politics, pomp and pageantry. His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom but one that existed in the hearts of people.

Pilate was puzzled.  The people outside were quite clear about what they wanted done with Jesus. They called for the death of this meek and gentle king and the release of the brutal and murderous Barabbas.

Something is wrong here. Jesus hasn’t been brutal and oppressive. The crowd had hailed him as king when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and now they were asking for this king’s blood. Here is king who is on the side of the people, the friend of the poor, the sick, the guilty, the sad but the people turn against him. A murderer goes free, while a king like no other king, loving and kind, is heading for execution.

Pilate mockingly placed a sign at the top of the cross, “This is the King of the Jews.” This was truer than he imagined. This bleeding broken man on the cross really is a king. The criminal crucified beside him recognises Jesus as a king and says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”When we were baptised, through the simple water and the Word of God we were made members of God’s kingdom. Jesus became our king. Not a ruthless and pompous king like bad King John, but a king who was so generous that he gave his life for us.
A king whose throne was the cross,
whose crown was made of thorns,
who was dressed in a royal robe as a king and mocked by Herod and his soldiers,
whose blood was called for by the crowds when they said, “Take him away! Crucify him! We have no king but Caesar. …!
Jesus is our king who loved us so much that “he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).

What does it mean to have Jesus as our Lord and King?

  • With Jesus as our king we enjoy a royal pardon for all our sin. This pardon means that there is nothing that stains our lives. We have been made clean with the righteousness of Jesus. When God looks at us he doesn’t see sin and weakness; he only sees the purity and newness that have received through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross of Calvary. When Jesus declared from the cross “Father, forgive them” he was also saying that to us.
  • With Jesus as our king, he says to us as he did the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise”. He promises that we too will share in his eternal kingdom where there will be no more pain, or crying or dying.
  • With Jesus as our king – our ever present and living king – he promises all those who belong to his kingdom that he will always be there for us in times of joy, in times of sadness, and in times of suffering. When we are discouraged and weak, ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (1 Tim 6:15, 16) assures that there is nothing that can stand between God and us; nothing that can stop him loving and forgiving us; nothing that can harm us. Even when we face death we can confidently say, “I have a king and a friend who will never give upon me and when the time comes for my departure, I am confident of his love for me.”
  • With Jesus as our king he lovingly rules and directs our lives as citizens of his kingdom. He has bought us with his blood, made us his chosen people and urges us to lives of repentance, faith and love. In the Small Catechism Luther says after describing how Jesus rescued us from sin and death through the events of Good Friday and Easter, “Jesus did this so that I can belong to him, and he can rule over me as my king. I can live under him and serve him, innocent and happy forever” (1996 Openbook).
  • With Jesus as our king we are joined together in his family, his kingdom, his church. He has placed us in a baptismal relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
    We have been called to care for one another and to show compassion and understanding wherever it is required.
    We have been called to work together sharing the Good News about Jesus with those who need to know of his love for them.
    Through us, he calls them out of the darkness of sin into his marvellous light.
  • With Jesus as our king we have an advocate before the throne of God. He hears our prayers and answers them. He sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty and has the authority and the power to answer all of our petitions.
  • One day the king will return. He will come on the Last Day and will reward those who have trusted his love and been faithful to their calling as disciples. He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant. … Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matt 25:23). As we enter this Holy Week it’s a good thing to ask ourselves where we stand in our relationship with our Lord.
    Does he rule our lives?
    Is he truly the Lord of our lives, Lord in the sense that he directs our actions, our words, and our thoughts?
    Does the Lord of lords rule every corner of our lives; not just a small part but every part – our family life, our work life, our church life, our leisure life.
    Because Jesus is our Lord and King no doubt there are some things that we need to change, some things we would stop doing, and there are other things that we could take up, all because Jesus rules our lives completely.
    This is serious stuff that we don’t take seriously enough. We are good at giving all kinds of excuses. But Jesus is our Lord and King now. As Saviour he has committed himself to us, and as Lord he wants us to be committed to him.But if we are honest, often we are like the people of Jerusalem – sometimes we are all excited about Jesus being our saviour and king but there are other times when our faith has grown cold (at best lukewarm) and we find ourselves distant from Jesus. Instead of Jesus ruling our words and actions we find ourselves so self-focussed that sin rules our lives as our words and actions hurt others. When this happens this is a time for repentance – turning back to Jesus, his love and forgiveness, and his rule in our lives. It is a time for renewed faith and trust in him as the one who loves us, died on the cross for us, and calls us to be his people in the world around us. We have a king who has done so much for us. Today let’s welcome Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!” He is our Saviour from sin.
    Let us also shout “Hosanna!” and welcome him as the Lord and King of our lives.
    Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna!Amen