Thursday, 27 April 2017

Year A 2017 3rd Sunday after Easter - Recognising Jesus by faith

Sermon 30th April 2017
Text: Luke 24:13-35 – Recognising Jesus by faith.

Have you ever stopped to think about how amazing God’s creation is?
I find the colours and variety in nature amazing.
God could have created a world full of bland experiences but chose to have colour and beauty imbedded in his creation.
God could have chosen one type of fish, one type of bird, one type of livestock as a source of food and company for us but chose a variety of species for us to enjoy.
But what I find totally remarkable is the human being created in God’s image.
Presently there are over 7 billion people living in the world today.
And just think of our facial features – 2 eyes, 2 ears, a nose and a mouth are our main identifiers.
And yet with just those few things to work with we all look different.
How does God do it?
And the leading technology companies use the uniqueness of our features as security features on their devices with fingerprint and eye retinas used to lock and unlock telephones and other secured devices.
The human creation is unique.
Our bible reading today is very similar to the Easter Sunday reading where Mary was speaking with Jesus face to face and didn’t recognise him – thinking he was the gardener.
I struggle to understand what was different about Jesus’ features that made him unrecognisable.
Today we have 2 disciples walking to Emmaus who are having a long deep and meaningful talk with Jesus.
And even though they spoke with him in such a deep and meaningful way – and in fact were speaking about Jesus to Jesus, like Mary did, they were kept from recognising Jesus.
That has always intrigued me.
Did God change the facial appearance of Jesus or did God affect their minds to not recognise him.
And why would God do that?
Wouldn’t God want to have eyewitness proof that Jesus has risen from the dead.
The interesting thing about these 2 events is that God didn’t withhold Jesus’ identity from them permanently but used a certain trigger to reveal him.
We need to think back also to last week’s experience where Doubting Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead unless he saw him.
But not just his facial features – he wanted to see the scars of his death to prove it was him and not just someone that looked like him.
While Jesus did agree to Thomas’s request he did say that there would be a greater blessing for those who believed without seeing.
And today’s experience of the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus, I believe, continues this teaching of Jesus about how we are going to be truly blessed in our experience with Jesus by faith and not by sight.
God wanted Jesus recognised in a particular way and in the account of Mary and the 2 Emmaus disciples we see that recognition.
Mary didn’t recognise Jesus until he called her name (John 20:16).
Likewise we recognise Jesus when he calls our name which first occurs in our Baptism.
In baptism we link the child’s name and the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God’s name is important.
It’s how we recognise God.
How do we know God is with us in our worship even though we cannot see him?
Because we call upon his name at the start of our worship – In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
God gave Moses his name to free the enslaved Israelites in Egypt and – not weapons – his Name.
And now God frees us as we hear God’s forgiveness in the words – I forgive you all your sins – in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
God’s name is enshrined in the commandments – You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
It was the power and authority given to Jesus when he humbled himself unto death on the cross by which God gave to him the name that is above all names – that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow and every tongue confess him as Lord.
We recognise Jesus with us not by physical means but by the use of his name.
Today we are given another way by which we see Jesus.
And that was in the “breaking of the bread” or by the 2nd Sacrament of Holy Communion.
When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him;
We don’t see Jesus in everyday ordinary ways.
There were no cameras – no sketch artists.
Jesus said – blessed are those who believe without seeing and he is now teaching us how that actually happens.
Believing by faith is a much more powerful thing in life.
Over these past few weeks with the threats going on between the USA and North Korea, we see many images from North Korea where the people are lining the street as they parade their military strength and a procession of their bombs.
That is their strength.
And with that – what you see is what you get.
What you see is the extent of their power.
But God chose differently.
God chose a way by which his power would not be bound by physical limitations.
As St Paul said in 1 Corinthians:
God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are. (1 Corinthians 1:28).
God is hidden in mystery not in physical presentation.
God is hidden behind what appears to be weakness:
Water – bread and wine – forgiveness – meekness – mercy – servanthood – and above all LOVE.
God’s power is not limited by space and time or by what we can see with our eyes.
God’s power is unlimited and it is seen by faith.
Today, like the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus, you come to the Lord ’s Table where bread will be broken and the cup poured out for you.
Here you will experience the true presence of God through the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
If our hope is based on physical strength then we will not only be limited to “what you see is what you get”.
Sometimes what you see is very disappointing, as we hear in the voices of the 2 disciples:
They were telling Jesus about what they saw and it was very disappointing.
“Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. But, our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
You can hear and feel their disappointment: “We had hoped”!
And as Christians sometimes we too have our hoped dashed when we focus on what we see:
We had hoped that Jesus would have answered our prayers and healed.
We had hoped that our church would have grown.
We had hoped that our children would have stayed in the church.
And the list of dashed hopes can go on and on if we base our experience with God on what we see.
We had hoped he wouldn’t have died.
But Christian hope is different.
Christian hope is not based on what is seen but what is promised, as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
It’s so important to understand how we see God because God’s presence doesn’t always seem to be present particularly when we go through difficult times.
God doesn’t always reveal himself in the way we would hope just as the 2 disciples today show their disappointment – we had hoped that Jesus would be the one to relieve us from our difficulties.
Jesus is always with us but sometimes it is only after a time of difficulty that we see that Jesus has been with us to get us through.
Just like the 2 Emmaus disciples.
It was after Jesus had opened their eyes that they saw he was with them along the way.
But as soon as they realised that and their eyes were opened – Jesus disappears again.
And that can be our experience too.
Sometimes we can feel so close to God and other times so distant.
It’s not about how or what we feel but about what God has promised.
Sometimes we only see Jesus as we look back after a time of suffering where our hearts were burning – longing for Jesus to be with us – and realising that he was and got us through.
Looking back and seeing one set of footprints thinking we were alone and then realising that those footprints were God’s while he carried us.
Like Mary and the 2 Emmaus disciples, sometimes we don’t recognise Jesus with us but he is there as he was with them.
Sometimes he is there in a friend or neighbour.
And sometimes we are there for others.

It is not his physical presence which makes him present but his promise to be with us always till the end of the age.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

3rd Sunday After Easter - The Road to Hope

3rd Sunday After Easter Sermon 4th May 2014
Text: Luke 24:13-35 – The Road to Hope

It is the road we have all walked at some time in our life.
It is the road we will all walk again in the future.
The Emmaus Road is a road that is symbolic of hopes that were dashed.
The 2 Disciples are saddened – you can hear it in their voice:
They stood still, their faces downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, asked Jesus, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people.
We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (v18-21)
The road to Emmaus symbolises the road of broken hopes.
How has the Road to Emmaus let you down?
We had hoped in our marriage vows, till death do we part.
We had hoped in our careers that would last till retirement.
We had hoped in our health to enjoy our old age together.
We had hoped in our church.
We are living in a society where institutions and heroes have let us down.
Hey Dad star Robert Hughes a family favourite years ago charged with sexual abuse.
Even Aussie favourite Rolf Harris charged with similar offenses.
Our Aussie sporting heroes, Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett have falled from glory and then this week Geoff Huegill and his wife were charged with drug possession.
We’re told again this week that Australia is in the grips of an Ice epidemic because this is where people seem to think they find hope.
Even our most trusted institutions have been rocked by accusations letting people down where they had put their hope.
None more prominent than the church that is being investigated by a royal commission for sexual abuse against children.
A church should be a place where our children should be safe and we should feel sure they are safe.
If we can’t put our hope in the church – the body of Christ, where can we put our hope?
What can people put their hope in today?
Real Estate, Banks, Superannuation, all of these have been sources of broken hopes and dreams for many people who have lost their security especially in the recent Global Financial Crisis.
Politician after politician seem to be embroiled in corruption whether it’s a seemingly innocent bottle of wine or an under the table cash deal.
Police caught up in crime.
Doctors charged with infecting patients with Hepatitis.
Who can we put our hope in?
What can we put our hope in?
The road to Emmaus is a road of broken hopes.
But the Road to Emmaus is more than a road of broken hopes and dreams.
It is a road of hopes restored when we walk it with Jesus.
Walking with the 2 downcast disciples is Jesus.
They don’t recognise him, but more importantly, he recognises them.
He recognises their downcast broken hopes so he reaffirms their hopes by redirecting them away from the tragic days of his crucifixion to the promises of God.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (V25,26).
Jesus restores their hopes by pointing them to the Word of God and the glory that awaited him at the resurrection, and therefore the glory that awaits us at our resurrection.
The Road to Emmaus is a long road for us as we journey the road of Good and Evil – the consequence of our disobedience in the Garden of Eden.
But it is a road that is leading to glory as St Peter reminds us:
Through Christ you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. (1 Peter 1:21)
When we take our eyes of Christ, our eyes refocus on the broken dreams and hopes that the world continuously throws at us.
Like the disciples, we stand still and become downcast.
We need to keep journeying the road because it is leading us to our glory.
Along the way God feeds us, as he fed the 2 disciples with his body and blood, which we are about to do in Holy Communion.
When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
As we come to his table we too are strengthened for the journey and our eyes are opened to see Christ clearly in our lives.
But, like the transfiguration, we can’t stay here.
We need to keep journeying the Emmaus Road including the broken hopes and dreams it throws at us.
Just like the 2 disciples, as soon as they recognized him, he disappeared from their sight. (v31)
And so too, Jesus will at times seem to disappear from our sight as the hopes of the world are broken time and again.
But remember, even though we can’t see Jesus clearly at times, he sees us.
And so we need to return, again and again, where we can clearly see Jesus for that hope to keep journeying the Emmaus Road.
In God’s word, in our Baptism, in our Worship, in Holy Communion.
In our love of God and our neighbour.
As we forgive as we have been forgiven.
These are where our hearts will burn in our desire for God as we hear again the promises and hope that God gives.
The Road to Emmaus is a difficult journey but the destination is glorious.
May you journey it with hope as Christ, Immanuel, God with us, journeys that road with you.

The peace of God that surpasses our understanding, keep your hearts and minds forever in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

2017 Easter Sunday Matthew 28:1-10 - Eternal Life - not a scam.

Easter Sunday Main Service – Matthew 28:1-10 Eternal Life – not a scam

Rarely a day goes by when I don’t receive an email trying to lure me into a scam. They range from Lotteries that I have won that I did not enter. Or beautiful Russian women that somehow got my email address and tell me how much they want to meet me. Then there are the banking emails from banks I don’t bank with. There are the Generals from Nigeria who want to sneak out an amount of money from their country and promise to share it with me if I give them my bank details. That last one always amazes me because it’s not just a few dollars but usually 10s of millions of dollars. Just like the solar panel phone calls that I get every evening – I get rid of them straight away. They are scams.

I wonder in this generation when there are so many people wising up to scams whether the Easter Story is going to fit into that category also. We have the story of a person, Jesus Christ, who is crucified, dies and is buried and then rises from the dead. There is a great earthquake; an angel descends from heaven rolls back the stone covering the entrance to the cave which was used to bury Jesus and sat on it. Then he announces to the 2 women coming to the grave that Jesus has risen from dead. Is this a scam?

We are so used to these sorts of offers that we are told – if it’s too good to be true then it probably isn’t true. And that’s what the Easter story sounds like – a story too good to be true. Jesus rises from the dead and promises us the same when we die at no cost. That’s the difference between the Easter story and a scam. Scams intend to take things away from you – your money, your passwords, your identity. The Easter story is the opposite. It intends to give at no cost to us but has been fully paid for by Jesus.

What always amazes me about scams is that no matter how far-fetched the offer is someone will always fall for it. You hear about it so often. People who have lost thousands sending money to people they have never met because they hope that maybe it might be true. What surprises me about the Easter message is that people don’t take that same chance. Let’s look again at what Easter is about. Easter is about what happens after we die. Everything in the Christian message is about that one detail. That when we die we rise to a new life in Heaven.

The Christian message is not about how to make people live moral lives. The Christian message is not about making sure that same-sex marriage doesn’t happen. The Christian message is not about complaining that the AFL is now playing football on Good Friday. But sadly this is the Christian message that has been heard. Too often we allow earthly things to distract us and we forget what it is that is important to our message. And that’s why Paul says;  Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

The Easter message is so beautiful, so simple, so complete. It’s everything everyone is wanting. That after we have lived our life here on earth there is a home in heaven waiting for us. But too often we allow ourselves to be distracted by earthly things that we forget what it’s all about. I think this year I have been asked more about my views on Same Sex Marriage, Hot Cross Buns so early, the commercialisation of Christmas and Easter and playing football than how I feel about so many people not believing in Jesus Christ. We are more concerned about people saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas than the amount of people who say they don’t believe in God.

Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and assuring us of eternal life after we die is all we should be concerning ourselves about. When the 2 Marys saw the angel they were given the message to take: Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This is my message for you. When you lose a loved one or you’re facing your own questions about death, the other things don’t seem as important. It’s not to say they aren’t important but that’s not the message we are sent to proclaim. The message of the church is the same message given by the angels to the 2 Mary’s: He has been raised from the dead. That’s what people want to hear – that’s what people NEED to hear. Christ is risen – he has risen indeed.

That was the message of the first church before they became concerned about Hot Cross Buns, and Happy Holidays and Football. As passionate as we are about those things it can take away the reason why we are here today celebrating Easter:  ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ Christ has risen – he has risen indeed – This is my message for you.

2017 Easter Sunday Dawn Meditation John 20:1-18

Easter Sunday Dawn Service – Seeing by believing John 20:1-18

The resurrection cab be a confusing story and apparently was equally confusing for those who were present at the time. Mary Magdalene, whose life had been transformed by Jesus, came to the tomb early in the morning.  Despite what Jesus may have said about rising from the dead, it is clear that Mary had come to see the dead. She believed that death was final including Jesus’ death. When she saw the empty tomb, she assumed that someone had stolen the body. What other explanation could there be?

She reported this bad news to two of Jesus' closest disciples, and they ran to the tomb. Peter saw the empty tomb, but the story continues to be confusing. "Then the other disciple ... also went in and he saw and believed; but what did he believe for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead."

So what was it that the disciple believed? Maybe just that Jesus’ body was missing?There seemed to be some sort of misunderstanding. What was their response to this earth-shattering event? "Strangely, even though it says they believed, the disciples returned to their homes." It was Mary who stayed around but she too didn’t understand.

Because Mary believed that death was final, she did not recognize Jesus when she saw him. Even being spoken to by two angels did not change her understanding of death. Even when she spoke with Jesus face to face she thought he was the gardener. It was only when Jesus addressed her personally that her mind was opened to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. When she believed, she was able to see. Seeing wasn’t believing. Believing was seeing. And that is an important distinction – it’s what we call “faith”. Believing without seeing – as the book of Hebrews says: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Sometimes, like Mary we too fail to see Jesus in our lives because we fail to believe he is with us when we look at the terrible things happening in the world. When we see the terrorist threats, the threats of war or anything that threatens our lives or livelihood, we forget that Jesus has promised to be with us and so we fail to see him in our lives even though he is standing right there beside us. Believing that Jesus is by our side enables us to see him during those times.
Seeing comes from believing. But if we let the threats around us be what we see then, like Mary, we can sometimes not see Jesus there.

I was thinking about this a couple weeks ago when we had that huge downpour on the Saturday afternoon. I was at the football and I could see the dark clouds gathering. I looked at my phone and the weather radar and could see that the huge storm was heading my way. I saw the crowds starting to rush to get under cover as they too could see the dark clouds. The difference for me was that I had bought a seat under cover. It could rain and storm all it liked because I knew that it wouldn’t affect me. If I just looked at the clouds or the weather radar I would panic. But as I looked at the cover above my head I didn’t have to worry. Jesus is the same.

As we look at Jesus, even though the threats are all around us we know that the extent of what they can do to us is limited. At worst they can take away our lives but Jesus’ death and resurrection has secured our eternal life in heaven which cannot be taken away from us. That’s the good news that comes from Easter Sunday. As St Paul says in Romans chapter 8: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38,39).

Likewise, Paul says again about focusing on the wrong things, like Mary who was focusing on Jesus’ death and missing body: Paul says: Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)
Like Peter who took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the waves and began to sink, we need to keep looking at Jesus and believe what he has said: I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)
The resurrection means that Jesus is always with us but because of our human nature we sometimes become like Doubting Thomas and refuse to believe unless we see. But Jesus reminds Thomas there that blessed are those who believe without seeing. So even though you may not see Jesus in those times when the dark clouds are hovering, may you continue to believe that he is there with you. Seeing is not always believing – but believing is always seeing.

Christ is risen – he has risen indeed.

Let us go in the peace of the Lord.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Good Friday 2017 - Destined to die – destined for eternal life.

Good Friday
Destined to die – destined for eternal life.

At our community meal a few weeks ago I was chatting with one of our guest who was enjoying his cup of coffee after his meal.
We have lots of chats about politics, religion and sport – the 3 topics that you say you shouldn’t talk about.
As he was sipping his coffee I made the comment to him – did you know that 100% of coffee drinkers end up dying.
He was shocked and wondered whether he should give up drinking coffee – until he realised the logic behind it.
One of the other guests responded – yes, and 100% of pastors die also.
It’s a topic no one likes to talk about that we must all face the reality of death sometime in the future.
Death is a common experience of life.
All who lived in the past died. Every one of us now living will die sooner or later.
It is estimated that 150,000 people die each day but it’s something we don’t want to talk about.
On Good Friday we often forget that there were three crosses on Calvary, a criminal on each side of Jesus.
These two men died just as much as Jesus died.
Why then do we Christians make so much of the cross of Jesus?
How is Jesus' death different from all other deaths?
We tend to make a special issue out of Jesus' cross.
We wear it as jewellery.
The cross is a mark of our faith.
We even sing, “when I survey the wondrous cross” even though it was by the brutal cross that Jesus died.
Was Jesus' death different because he suffered?
That could not be the answer, because the two men crucified with Jesus suffered equally with him.
The hurt of the nails in hands and feet was as bad for them as for Jesus.
The three equally shared the agony of the noonday heat.
Since Jesus' legs were not broken, perhaps the other two suffered even more physical pain than Jesus did.
Jesus' death is different because it was the fulfilment of God’s plan for us.
Jesus always referred to his death as being part of God’s will.
Thy will be done are the words he prayed before his death.
The cross was God’s plan from the beginning of the world.
God had it in mind from the time that Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden.
From that time, God began a plan of bringing us back to him.
God decided to clean up the world by the Flood and continued a new humanity in Noah and his family.
But this didn’t work and God looked to a new people, the Hebrews.
He called Abraham and led him to a new country where he was to be a great nation and, through him, the world would be blessed.
God brought his people out of Egyptian slavery under Moses.
He led them into a Promised Land and gave them a king.
God put his hopes in David and made his kingdom great.
None of this was working with bringing people back to God as they kept going after other gods.
So God looked to one person, his chosen one, his own son, Jesus of Nazareth.
Through this one man, sin was placed entirely on him and through Jesus we now find access and acceptance with God.
Because the cross was planned, the death of Jesus was different to other deaths.
The cross was no accident.
Jesus was always master of the situation and reminded the people that he laid his life down on his own accord and that no one took away his life.
This was God's work of bringing us back to him, and Jesus was obedient to that will of his Father.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus experienced the will of God and nothing could keep him from obeying.
Just before he died, he gave a shout of victory, "It is finished!"
The work of restoring us began from the time of Adam, and at last completed, finished, at Jesus’ death.
This great work of returning us back to God was completed on the cross with Jesus’ death.
It was done for each one of us, for you and for me.
Jesus' death is different to other deaths because it had a purpose.
The cross was a place of sacrifice.
His death was an offering for our sin.
No other death had this meaning or purpose.
When Adam and Eve sinned it demanded a penalty.
God warned that if they ate from the forbidden fruit they would certainly die.
The amazing thing is that this penalty of death was taken by God on his own son Jesus Christ on the cross.
He is our substitute.
As the Bible says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
The price was paid for our sins through the life of Jesus.
The purpose of the cross was to save us from eternal death.
Jesus' cross is different.
No one and nothing else can save a person from sin and give assurance of life in heaven.
Because of the cross, the way is open for our return to God.
Now we can know for sure that God will accept us, forgive us, and love us.
God offers us mercy and full forgiveness.
What a tragedy that God goes to this great expense - opens his arms to us and so many refuse to come!
Even as Christians we can sometimes forget to appreciate what our eternal life cost God.
Jesus' death was different because of who the person was on the cross – the son of God.
This really made the difference in the three crosses on Good Friday.
Two were only human beings who were dying as payment for their crimes.
In the middle there was a human being also, but more than just human.
Here was the Son of God paying the price of OUR sin.
There is no other way to explain the perfect life and death of Jesus which we have come to call Good Friday.
Jesus is God on the cross suffering and dying for us.
There should be a deep sense of gratitude that calls us to follow and be his forever.
Without a doubt, the greatest reason for Jesus' death being different from all other deaths in history was the fact that his death lasted but three days.
All others have died and stayed dead.
Jesus rose from the dead never again to die.
On this Good Friday we watch him die as one of three on crosses.
And St Paul reassures us that if we die with him we shall also live with him when he rises on Easter.
So, this is not only a remembrance of the world's most unique death, but it is an occasion for great celebration even though it was the most horrific of deaths.

How glorious will Easter then be - we shall have new life, new beings in Christ!

Maundy Thursday 2017 - True Evangelism

Maundy Thursday
Text John 13:1-17, 31b-35 – True Evangelism

Evangelism is a word that is on the tips of the tongues of all churches.
Churches are feeling the pressure of declining memberships and are looking at ways to attract new members.
There are many reasons why people no longer feel that church is part of their life.
People are too busy for church.
Church is no longer relevant.
I know church is important but I just don’t get anything from it – in fact it is boring.
Churches try lots of things to drive their evangelism to draw new members.
Visiting programs.
Letters to lapsed members.
Small groups.
Running ALPHA courses.
Jesus today teaches us the most effective evangelism program ever:
He says: 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."
There is no point doing evangelism if people come in and see us as no different to what they experience in their everyday lives.
St Paul says a similar thing in the great passage on love in 1 Corinthians:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If visitors, or even long standing members come in and find us arguing with one another – gossiping about one another – putting others down – then it doesn’t matter what evangelism program we run, or how successful it is – it will mean nothing to them.
Even if we have the best music – the best sermons- if people come to us and find a lack of love then they will leave.
For Jesus, this is the basics of evangelism.
Love one another.
Jesus says: When we love one another then “EVERYONE” will know that you are my disciples.
It’s sad that the church is not often the place where people find examples of love towards each other.
They find backbiting – arguing – gossiping – feuding and a whole host more.
But not only that but often they find the church not being an example of love in the world.
When we react to things in the world we don’t always example love.
There are many things that concern us and with which we disagree but sadly our responses are no different to the worldly way in which it responds.
We don’t have to agree with everything but we can still show love.
There is a saying that we are to love the sinner but hate the sin.
That’s what Jesus typified in his ministry – eating with sinners – forgiving the woman caught in adultery while telling her to sin no more – defending the woman who washed his feet with tears.
He is hating the sin but still loving the sinner.
Too often we hate the sin and the sinner which is not what we are called to example.
Jesus today shows us the fullest example of hating the sin while loving the sinner as he gives us his body and blood that was sacrificed for us to forgive our sin.
It is here where we see where God made him who had to sin to become sin while we became the righteousness of God.
God hating the sin by taking it to cross while loving the sinner by forgiving.
As we come to Holy Communion today it begins our journey into the very heart of God that loved us so much that he gave up all he had to rescue us.
As we hear Jesus’ command today to “love one another as I have loved you” we are challenged to consider what is preventing us from loving one another – maybe a hurt, maybe a fear, maybe a disagreement with a person’s lifestyle – and if we believe that we have a right to withhold love then we need to think again about what it meant for God that it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us.
That is true love and that is the love that Jesus has asked, no, commanded us to also show.
If we want to do true evangelism this is where it starts – loving one another as Christ loves us.
Sadly our human nature prevents us at times from showing that sacrificial love.
And so Jesus introduces his sacrificial love firstly with an act of humility.
He does something that no one expected of him.
He gets down on his knees and washes his disciples’ feet.
Peter objects as this is not how it should be.
But Jesus shows that acts of love begin with acts of humility.
Showing Jesus’ love means putting aside our inhibitions and judgments.
As Christians we are commanded to show humility in being the ones who initiate love to one another.
There are times we are hurt.
There are times when we are confronted with people we don’t want to love.
But humility places that all behind us.
And that’s what it means to love one another as Christ loves us.
As St Paul says in Philippians – Jesus humbled himself and become obedient unto death on a cross.
Maundy Thursday is about humility – washing the feet of his disciples – sharing his body and blood with his disciples, including Judas who would betray him.

That is the example which Jesus has left for us – love one another as I have loved you.