Thursday, 9 April 2020

Sermon Easter Sunday Text: Matthew 28:1-10 – Fear and Joy

Sermon Easter Sunday
Text: Matthew 28:1-10 – Fear and Joy

If we could sum up the feeling of the world at present I believe the word “fear” best sums up how people are feeling.
Fear of catching COVID-19
Fear of the economic cost
Fear of keeping my job.
Fear of how long this is going to go on for.
Fear of inadvertently breaking the rules and getting fined like that teenage girl who received a $1,600 fine when her mother took her out for a driving lesson.
Fear is also at the heart of our Easter Sunday Gospel reading.
When the 2 Marys went to the tomb to tend to Jesus’ dead body a great earthquake happened – an angel of the Lord came and rolled away the stone covering the tomb and then sat on it.
Matthew says that the guards there shook with fear and became like dead men.
When the angel spoke to the 2 Marys – they too feared.
But their fear was different.
It says they left the tomb quickly with fear AND GREAT JOY.
Notice the difference.
The guards had fear and they became like dead men.
The 2 Marys had fear but it was a fear that was comforted by Joy.
Joy in the knowledge that Jesus was alive and had risen from the dead.
Likewise, as we live in the midst of this pandemic – we have a level of fear – even as Christians.
We don’t become flippant about it and disregard the warnings.
We don’t act irresponsibly and ignore the safety aspects thinking “God will protect me from getting it”.
That’s how Satan tempted Jesus when he told him to jump off the top of the temple because God will not let him get hurt and catch him.
No, we abide by what the Government has asked us to do.
We follow all the recommendations of hygiene, social distancing, self isolation.
We haven’t looked for loopholes or flaunted the rules.
Following the rules is not a lack of faith or suggesting that God is not in control.
The difference is that we place God above it all, knowing that he is in control of everything.
The 2 Marys believed that Jesus had risen from the dead and had great joy.
But they still lived in the midst of knowing that the Jewish leaders who put Jesus to death and the Roman Government were still hostile towards them – so there is that physical fear – it’s human nature.
They weren’t quite sure what the future might hold for them physically but they knew that Jesus was alive – and that created joy.
And that’s the same situation for us.
It’s not a lack of faith to be fearful of what is ahead.
The difference for us is that we can place all our fears upon Jesus.
That’s what St Paul encouraged us to do in the mixture of heavenly faith and earthly fears.
He says: you have been raised with Christ – the Easter message.
So seek things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God – the Easter resurrection message.
So Paul is clear on our Christian joy – Christ has risen and ascended – and we too have been raised with Christ.
Notice Paul writes in the present tense – you HAVE been raised – not WILL be raised.
But Paul also acknowledges that even though we have been saved by Christ that we are still affected the things of this world that can create fear.
He says “your life is hidden with Christ in God”.
Hidden behind the veil of sin and worldly flesh that still strikes fear.
But what is different for us who put our hope in Jesus Christ is that we have that comfort and joy of knowing that anything the world throws at us that can create fear does not have the final word.
And that’s the joy that Easter Sunday brings to us – is that God has the last word.
Whereas death was the last word – life in Christ is now the new last word.
A life that is hidden with Christ – safe with Christ until Christ returns and reveals his glory and our glory.
At present that glory is hidden to the world.
A world that has been brought to its knees in fear.
But we have been brought to our knees in praise of Jesus Christ.
The world around us is closing down – including our church buildings which have been closed.
But the grave has been opened forever and no one can close it.
At the moment we are caught between 2 worlds.
The world we live in physically – we are in the world but not of the world – as we often say.
But we are also citizens of heaven.
So, we live here but our true citizenship is in heaven because of Easter.
So it’s okay to be fearful but our fears are overcome by the joy of knowing that Jesus has won the victory.
That Jesus has defeated death – the worst weapon that Satan and the world had against us.
So Jesus says to you – as he said to the 2 Marys in their fear – Do not be afraid go and tell the others that they will see me.
Friends, let us also not be afraid when the fears of the world confront us as they presently are –
But let us go and tell the world about the joy we have and the joy they too can have because Jesus has been raised from the dead and so have we.
Christ is risen – he is risen indeed.
Let us go in the peace of the Lord.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Video link Good Friday

Good Friday Sermon 10th April 2020 The 7 last words of Jesus

Good Friday Sermon 10th April 2020
The 7 last words of Jesus

Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
I was watching a special on TV last week about the Coronavirus and the presenter said – let’s get the world through this pandemic and as soon as we’ve beaten it we’ll find out who is responsible and make them pay for it.
Is that really the attitude we want to have?
When we are through this all I want to give thanks to God and keep praying for those who are affected by it still. The sick, the unemployed, the financially crippled, the grieving.
I’ve heard all the conspiracy theories about how it started.
I’ve heard all the rumours about how and where it started.
I’ve seen the videos of the racial abuse because people want to blame someone.
We recently had Psalm 130 in our worship which included the verse:
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness;
Jesus death is all about forgiveness and not blame.
What amazing words that come from our Lord to his heavenly Father – forgive them.
Jesus could have asked his Father to take revenge and to punish those who put him to death.
But he doesn’t.
The nature of God is to forgive – love keeps no record of wrongs.
And the very nature of God is described many times in the Old Testament – slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Let us also example God’s nature with one another and forgive as we have been forgiven.
Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
We are told that the restrictions we are facing could go on for 6 months.
No one knows.
We’ve shown signs that we are doing the right things but no one is suggesting that we cut short the isolation and shutdowns we are facing.
We are all worried about the future.
Will we recover – will we ever get back to normal or will there be a new normal we will all have to adjust to?
And what is concerning is that we haven’t even entered the normal flu season which affects thousands and thousands of people.
We don’t know what the future holds.
But for a thief on the cross he didn’t have to worry about the future because Jesus said to him “TODAY” you will be with me in paradise.
How could Jesus make that promise?
Does he know what sort of life that thief had lived?
Doesn’t he have to be punished for all the crimes he has committed?
Jesus’ death today means that Jesus can assure him that TODAY he has the assurance of living in paradise.
And so too, TODAY, you have the assurance of living in paradise with God.
There is no exam at the end – there is no balancing of the books
Jesus death means that all our sins have been paid in full.
So the promise of paradise can be made today.
And that means we can enjoy living the blessings today – not tomorrow – not in 6 months time.
Times are not easy at present but St Paul reminds us that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that awaits us in heaven.
And that joy can be experienced today because our future home in heaven is assured today.
And only Jesus can give you that comfort today even if everything around us is crumbling.
Woman behold your son. Then he said to the disciple – behold your mother.
Even as he was about to die, Jesus is concerned about his family – both his biological family and also his Godly family – his disciples.
In this time of social isolation our families have also been our lifeblood.
Our families with whom we have been isolated and who we have been able to speak to either by phone or other technology.
But also our Christian brothers and sisters.
As I have rung you I have been overwhelmed by those who have told me that someone else from the congregation has also spoken to them.
I have had people contact me asking if I know anyone who needs any shopping done – who needs their garden looked after.
This is family – especially the family of God.
We are all aching because we cannot gather together to worship our heavenly Father but until that day we continue to be the family of God to one another.
And through this love connection we will get through.
The book of Hebrews says – let us not stop meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.
That is not what we are doing –
We are still meeting together and we thank God that the technology that has often frustrated us with mobile phones going off during church or our faces glued to screens – has now been used by God for his purposes.
You are family of God – let us be the family of God to each other.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Need I say more?
Isn’t this on the tips of many people’s tongues.
Isn’t it strange to hear those words come out of Jesus’ mouth?
What Jesus is here showing is the difference between reality and feelings.
It feels like God has abandoned him.
He is experiencing the full extent of the pain of sin.
He is experiencing hell – the absence of God.
A pain that cannot be compared to anything we experience in this life time – the separation from God.
But that’s not the reality.
The reality is that God abandons no one.
God promised in our baptism through Jesus – I am with you always till the end of the age.
Maybe it feels like God has abandoned the world – abandoned us – abandoned YOU.
But that is not the reality.
God is with you and he shares your pain which he did, fully on the Cross.
And as Jesus will experience on the Third Day when he rises from the dead – the sting of death is gone.
The victory is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When Christ, who is your glory appears then you also shall appear with him in Glory.
Until then our Glory is hidden – but real.
God has NOT abandoned you and never will.
I thirst.
Just as Jesus thirst on the cross, so too we are thirsting for his body and blood.
Jesus promised the Samaritan woman at the well that he can give to us Living Water so that we shall never thirst again.
Jesus promised in the beatitudes - Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled"
It may be a while before we can gather together again around the Table of our Lord and have our thirst quenched, but let us be assured that Jesus knows our thirst and what a celebration it will be when we can gather again.
It will be like the woman who lost a coin and when she found it gathered all her neighbours to come and celebrate with her.
I hope and pray that when that day comes that our churches will be overflowing with members, friends and those who have not been to church for a long time will come and celebrate with the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven to have our thirst quenched by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is finished
“It is finished” is often misunderstood as a sign of defeat.
That Jesus cannot take any more and has given up.
But that cannot be further from the truth.
It is a cry of victory.
The battle is over – I have won.
Satan tried his best to direct Jesus away from this end.
He tempted him 4 times – the last one his greatest – come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God.
But he didn’t.
Despite the pain, despite the abandonment, despite the betrayal, despite the denials – Jesus remained on the cross for you  and finished his mission of defeating Satan and death.
It is finished.
Father into your hands I commit my spirit.
When all is said and done what more comforting place can we find that in our loving Father’s hands.
With all the pain and hardships happening all around us today where can we find more comfort than in the loving hands of our Father in Heaven.
When the prodigal had nowhere else to turn he returns to his Father because he knows that despite all that he has done wrong, he is still his Father.
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
But it is his father who when he sees his son returning rushes out to him and throws him arm around him as the prodigal son places himself into his Fathers hands.
Despite what is happening all around us – the statistics – the warnings – the predictions – the fallout – the uncertainty – let us, like Jesus today, commit ourselves into our Father’s hands.

Video link - Maundy Thursday

Sermon Maundy Thursday 9th April 2020

Sermon Maundy Thursday 9th April 2020

I wonder how Jesus would have coped under today’s restrictions.
Washing his disciples’ feet.
Gathered together – 13 of them – sitting close together.
Passing around a common cup for Holy Communion.
Breaking bread and passing it on to one another.
They dipped their hands together into a bowl.
Even Judas would betray Jesus with a kiss.
No social distancing – no hygiene practices – lots of physical contact.
There are lots of people who are in crisis over the lockdowns that have occurred during this pandemic.
Those who have lost jobs.
Those who have had weddings affected.
Those who have had funerals affected.
And the church has not been spared from those affects.
Our church services have ceased – although we have found ways to still conduct worship through technology.
I have heard some people who enjoy this.
More than a few have said how they enjoyed getting up on Sunday morning and “watching” church in their pyjamas with a coffee.
But let us never downgrade worship to an event that we “watch”.
While what we are doing is patching a hole as we wait for the restrictions to ease – worship is not “watching” it is participation.
Yes God is everywhere – even in our loungerooms – but this is not the presence of God that we pine for.
We pine for the presence of God in his body and blood.
We pine for the presence of God in the people of God who gather around Word and Sacrament.
And so we won’t devise a situation where a Pastor will speak the Communion liturgy through the webcam while you have a piece a bread and a cup of wine at the other end.
That’s not what Jesus instituted.
This lockdown should be making us hunger and thirst for the time when we can again gather together – when we can shake the hand of our neighbour and share the peace of the Lord – when we can kneel together at the altar (or stand) and reach out our hand and have the body and blood of our Lord placed into our hands and not electronically transmitted.
Personal touch and togetherness is at the heart of worship and that’s why we are suffering.
 I can’t help thinking of that passage in Matthew when Jesus is pining over Jerusalem, wanting to gather them under his arms like a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings and he says:
Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’.
And that is what our churches look like at present – desolate.
And they will remain desolate until that day when we gather and hear those words again in the Communion liturgy -  ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
Until then we have the assurance of God’s presence with us as he promised in our Baptism – I am with you always until the end of the age.
And he will continue to be with us until the end of this current pandemic.
Like you I am pining for the day when we can gather together again and sing the liturgy together – sing our songs and hymns together – gather around the Table of our Lord together – to shake your hand in peace.
Until that day, which we place into God’s hands and trust him we can continue to be the body of Christ together as we fulfil the New Commandment that he has left us:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
So until that day when we meet again and sing “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” let us love one another as Christ loves us.
Let us call one another – let us support one another in any way we can – and let us pray for one another, for the world, for the church and for all people according to their needs.
Come Lord Jesus Come – come into our weary world.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Amen.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Palm Sunday video

Video for tomorrow's Palm Sunday - check each week as I'll have one for every service.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Sermon 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday Text: Matthew 21:1-11 – Built on the rock

Sermon 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday
Text: Matthew 21:1-11 – Built on the rock

Hasn’t life changed?
If we go back just a couple months ago life was never better.
I had just arrived back from my 2 week cruise and excited that we had rebooked our next cruise.
Coffee shops and wine bars were filled with people celebrating life with not a problem in the world.
But then something happened.
Stories of a virus were doing the rounds.
Rumours that it had come from a wet market in China.
But we felt safe – it was over there – we were over here.
Then we heard of the Diamond Princess and the cruisers whose dream holiday turned into a nightmare.
There were Australians on the ship and it felt like it was getting closer to home – but still far enough away that we didn’t really have to worry about it.
But then the cases started arriving in Australia.
There were rumours that things might get shut down.
We learnt new phrases like “social distancing”.
We started joking about it – don’t come too close – and we’d laugh.
We were told not to shake hands – but we did.
We were given instructions on how to wash our hands.
We were given instructions on how to worship – how to receive communion.
And then we started hearing more rumours that churches might be asked to suspend services – and some did.
We heard more rules – no gatherings over 1000 – we were safe.
Then it was reduced – no gatherings over 100 – we were safe.
Then it was reduced – 1 person per 2 square metres – we found a way to do that.
Life kept changing – it was, what we describe as “fickle”.
And then the decree – places of worship were to suspend all services until further notices – and this could last 6 months.
In today’s readings we see Jesus experiencing that same fickleness – that same uncertainty as he enters Jerusalem to the cheers and support of the people of Jerusalem – only to face the same people asking for his death not long after.
What can we learn from this?
We learn that Jesus knew that this was going to happen.
In Matthew 16 Jesus explains this entry into Jerusalem:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
What happened to Jesus in that triumphal entry into Jerusalem symbolises life on earth.
It reminds us that we too are on a journey and before we reach that destination of eternal life in Heaven that there is always the unexpected fickleness of life.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about what is happening.
Not at all.
What is happening is heartbreaking to see.
And it is hitting very close to home for all of us.
We’re used to knowing someone who knows someone who is affected by a tragic circumstance.
But we are finding that we are all becoming personally affected by this first hand.
We have a family member who has lost their job.
We have a family member or friend who has cancelled their wedding.
I have 2 funerals to conduct but only after the pandemic conditions end.
Life is very different to how we have always expected it to be.
But so many times Jesus encourages us to be founded on solid ground for just such occasions as this:
One of my favourite parables for such a time as this is the parable of the 2 builders:
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
It wasn’t the strength or craftsmanship of the house that provided the safety from the storm – it was the foundation.
Likewise, it has not been the things that we have built our lives on that are providing us with hope and strength – our careers – our finances – our social lives –
No all these and more have been threatened.
Even our church buildings are not providing the security – BUT the foundation on which our churches are built – the rock of Christ – is providing that hope in these times.
When Jesus told his disciples about his entry into Jerusalem he explained that while it might begin as a “triumphal entry” to the hosannas of the crowd, it will look anything but a triumph as the crowd which cried out “hosanna” one day, will in just a short time cry out “crucify”.
But we need to remember that even with the fickle nature of the crowd, this is still a triumphal entry.
Because the triumph will be his triumph over death.
At the moment our worldly situation looks anything but triumphal.
There is very little we can do.
I was devastated this week when I led a funeral and seeing the mother of the deceased crying her heart out but I could not even console her with a personal touch.
But what I could not do, God did, as he comforted her with his word of assurance.
The word we heard last week at the death of Lazarus as Jesus proclaims his triumph:
I AM the resurrection and life – whoever believes in me, even though they die, they shall live.
This is a triumph that no one else can give.
Death is the worst case scenario for this virus and any other earthly threat.
Our sporting stars can’t give hope like they normally do in a crisis – they too have had their games cancelled.
Our actors and celebrities can’t give hope like they normally do in a crisis – they too are in isolation.
Only God can give us triumph, even though it presently looks anything but triumph – just like it did on the cross.
St Paul reminds us in our 2nd reading:
Christ humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross.
We are challenged to humble ourselves and trust God.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In this time of earthly uncertainty, let us be like the wise builder who built his home on the foundation of the rock.
Jesus said he would build his church on that rock and not even the gates of hell will overcome it.
 And as we live in the eye of the storm that is beating against our church let us remember that Jesus is the one who even though he was asleep in the helm of the boat while the disciples thought they were going to drown – he got up and told the storm to be quiet – and it ceased.
The disciples felt like we probably feel because Jesus was asleep – don’t you care that we are going to drown.
Don’t you care that I’ve lost my job – don’t you care that I’ve lost my house – don’t you care that I’ve had to cancel my wedding.
Of course God does!
But Jesus showed his power and authority – who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him.
And he will show his power and authority in this as well and he asks us to trust him.
He says: Don’t let your hearts be troubled – trust God, trust also in me.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!