Thursday, 29 June 2017

Year A 2017 - 4th Sunday after Pentecost: Text Matthew 10:40-42 - The Welcoming Community

Sermon 2nd July 2017 – 4th Sunday after Pentecost
Text Matthew 10:40-42 – The Welcoming Community

Traditionally many houses have at their front door a mat for visitors to wipe their feet on.
Invariably there is written on the mat “welcome”.
Hence we get the term “Welcome Mat”.
But then, just next to the doorbell is a different message to visitors arriving.
It is a sign that says “Do Not Knock”.
They come with a warning:
Salespeople not welcome here.
If you knock on my door you’re breaking the law.
So there is a conflicting message – one that says “welcome” and another that says to certain people “you’re not welcome”.
On many church signs there is an accompanying message on their signage that often has “All Welcome”.
As a Christian community this is something that we need to keep looking at to see if we are being true to our message and making everyone feel welcome.
I imagine that we would be saddened to hear from a visitor that they came here and didn’t feel welcomed.
Not that we would ever intentionally make a person feel unwelcome but sometimes it is the unintentional things that we do that can make a person feel unwelcome.
We do things in church in ways we have always done them.
We call them traditions.
We’ve done them over and over again that we can recite them without looking at the screen.
We can sing the liturgy and the hymns without referring to the words.
But how does a person coming for the first time participate.
And what we find as inspiring because we know the tune so well that we can belt out the words at the top of our voice we might think that a visitor would be very impressed but in fact they can feel very unwelcome and out of place because they don’t know what we know so well.
That doesn’t mean we should change what we do to accommodate a visitor but it’s about identifying the visitor and maybe sitting with them to help them.
Making them feel welcome even if they feel out of place.
But then there are also our regulars who are here all the time.
Sometimes our regulars can feel unwelcome even though we cannot understand why they would feel that way.
Maybe there’s something different in their behaviour.
Maybe they’ve missed a few weeks.
Maybe they’ve started sitting up the back so they can leave before the service has ended so they don’t have to talk to anyone.
And maybe they begin to feel that they are not as welcome as they used to be.
But it’s not just in church where we are called to be a welcoming community.
We don’t come to church and then switch off our godly presence when we leave.
As we go from here to our daily lives we take the presence of God with us.
Remember what Jesus said in our baptism – I am with you always.
Which means that wherever we go, Jesus is with us.
So if we are disrespecting or hurting others then it is as if Jesus himself is disrespecting and hurting them.
We are the body of Christ not just here but wherever we go.
So in our work place, in our community groups, in our schools or social settings we continue to be the welcoming community of God.
We continue to be the welcoming presence of God to others, living out the love of God.
Loving our neighbour – loving our enemy – forgiving those who hurt us – confessing when we have hurt others.
The welcoming community of the church is not just in here on Sundays but it goes with us as we are sent out into our wider communities.
Jesus said to the disciples – as the Father has sent me so I am sending you.
We are a “sent” community.
As we go out from here the world is not always welcoming of us.
As Jesus had earlier said – I am sending you out as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16).
And sometimes we can just feel like giving up – as if it’s not really worth the pain and rejection.
But Jesus also assures us that there are people in our communities that will welcome us.
Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (Matthew 10:40).
It’s not easy going out from here to be Christ’s presence.
It’s safe here.
We are all here because of our faith.
But it is “out there” that God needs his message heard.
And with almost half the population identifying as non-Christian in the latest census – it is becoming more and more important.
It has never been easy to witness the Christian faith.
As you read the Book of Acts and the first missionaries it was difficult.
Some were put to death because of their message.
Some were imprisoned.
Some were brutally attacked.
But many also heard the message and believed.
It would have been easy for the first disciples to stay locked in the upper room but that’s not where God needed them.
And God also needs you in your communities.
It’s not easy to witness as our message is often rejected and ridiculed.
But Jesus assures us that there will be people to welcome us.
There will be people to receive us.
There will be people to provide us with support.
 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet's reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
As daunting as it might seem, there are people out there that need to hear how much God loves them.
They need to hear how much God wants to welcome them into his kingdom.
There are so many people that are so disillusioned about life.
The threats of terrorism.
The threats of climate change.
The threats of crime.
The threats of drugs.
It makes people want to lock themselves away, like the disciples who had locked themselves away in fear.
But just as Jesus came into their midst to bring peace so we are sent to bring peace to troubled souls – as the Father has sent me so I am sending you.
What a wonderful opportunity we have to invite and welcome them into a community of hope.
And sometimes we can share that hope we have by living our lives in ways that people see a difference in us.
They don’t see us getting involved in the hate and judgment of others.
They don’t see us fearing what might happen next.
They see us living lives of hope amidst the gloom and doom.
And so St Peter says:
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
We have a wonderful message.
We have an amazing hope.
But it won’t do the world any good if we keep it hidden to ourselves.
So much of our culture is opposite to the welcoming community that Jesus asks us to live out.
We hear of countries building walls – we hear of people held in detention – we hear of deportations.
We are sent out to be witnesses of welcoming others, and thereby welcoming Jesus and the one who sent him.
And when we don’t receive and welcome others then it is to them God who is not receiving and welcoming them.
Jesus sends us out so others can share the hope and community we have.

May God give you the strength and assurance that you’re never alone but you have The Good Shepherd leading to create the welcoming community.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Year A 2017 - 3rd Sunday after Pentecost - Text: Genesis 21:8-21 - Dealing with sin Baptism

Sermon 25th June 2017
Text: Genesis 21:8-21 – Dealing with sin through Baptism

The story of Isaac and Ishmael is an interesting story.
God had promised Abraham a son with his wife Sarah from which would become a great nation – so numerous that no one could count them – like sand on a beach or the stars in the sky.
The problem is that Abraham is nearing 90 and there was still no child – Sarah was nearing 80.
So Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands and gives Abraham her maid Hagar to have a child with her.
As a result Ishmael was born.
The problem was, that even though Ishmael was the first born of Abraham, he was not the child of Abraham and Sarah as God had promised.
13 years later Abraham is visited by God’s angels to advise that the promised child would be born the following year.
Isaac is born.
So now Sarah is conflicted.
She now becomes jealous of Ishmael who is a constant reminder of her lack of trust in God’s promise and she demands that Abraham get rid of Hagar and Ishmael so she is no longer reminded of her sin against God.
Sarah’s lack of trust in God will leave a scar in her – a reminder that she did not put her faith in God’s promise.
And that’s what sin does to us also.
Sin leaves a scar that continues to attack our consciences with guilt.
And even though we come to God and ask him to forgive us, sometimes the guilt of our sin continues to haunt us, just as the sight of Ishmael continued to haunt Sarah.
So Paul directs us to our Baptism where God washes away the guilt of our sin every day – every moment of the day.
As St Peter says about Baptism - baptism now saves you --not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. (1 Peter 3:21).
Sin does its worse damage by attacking our faith through guilt.
So the real danger of sin is not so much the bad behaviour that we have done but the attack on our guilt that Satan is able to carry out.
We know that God forgives our sins but Satan also knows that while God forgives and forgets – we don’t.
As the book of Hebrews says: For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:12).
So for Paul, he really sees the spiritual harm that sin does in our lives.
He puts the equation before us – if God’s grace comes by his forgiveness, then if we sin more then more grace comes.
Paul says – no way!
Don’t be so stupid – sin is our number one enemy in our relationship with God.
Sin is what breaks down our relationship with God.
And because of our human nature we often deal with sin the same way that Sarah dealt with her sin before God.
Get it out of sight and problem solved.
Or we deny it or we make excuses.
King David dealt with his sin in the same way when he committed adultery with Bathsheba.
He believed that if he could trick her husband into believing the child was his there wouldn’t be a problem.
When that didn’t work he thought that if he had her husband killed he could then marry her and deal with his sin that way.
But he discovered the real power of sin when he wrote Psalm 32:
When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Sin has a power over us that we cannot control.
No matter how much good we do – no matter how hard we try not to do the things we shouldn’t do – sin finds its way into our conscience.
You can hear that diabolical work of sin in Paul as he struggles to try and control it himself only to find out he can’t:
He says: I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Even if we do good 99% of the time, that 1% will attack our conscience with guilt.
So Paul directs us back to our Baptism, not to the 99% of good that we do.
Our sin can only be dealt with by burying it with Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to create a new life in us.
We need to remember that God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for our sins.
And God invites us to take our sin and bury it with Jesus.
Satan will still try and our response is not – I’m not that bad – or – what about all the good I’ve done.
No, our response is, like Luther when he was being tormented by Satan – I am Baptised.
We cannot deal with our sin except by taking it to Christ and letting God bury it with him.
Sin, through our guilt can make us question our assurance of going to heaven.
Sin can make us believe that God is our enemy as it did to Adam and Eve as they hid from the presence of God.
But God is our friend, not our enemy.
Despite our sinfulness God loves and cares for us.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Jesus says; Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
We cannot avoid sin as Paul reminds us - all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – but we can deal with our sin by taking it to God and allowing our Baptism to wash away the guilt that does so much damage.
Sin tempts us close to our hearts and sometimes we need to make sacrifices.
Sometimes we need to give up friends or careers or personal interests that are not good for our faith, but Jesus promises that whoever loses their life will save it.
And sometimes we may come under threat for standing firm on an issue we know is sinful but again Jesus says, Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
And because we are loved by God and he knows the very hair on our heads, that is a fear we will never have.
Because we are children of God through our Baptism.
Let us not be like Sarah who lacked trust in God’s promises.
Even when it seemed totally impossible in human terms for her – with God everything is possible.

Let us not be like Sarah who tried to deal with her sin by herself but let us take it to God and bury with Christ so that we may also rise with Christ to new life.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Year A 2017 2nd Sunday after Pentecost - Text Matthew 9:35-10:-23 God’s Mission

Sermon 18th June 2017 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Text Matthew 9:35-10:-23 God’s Mission

Although last year’s census has not yet released the results for religious beliefs – it is expected that there will be a drastic decline in the number of people who identify as Christian.
Part of this view is because the option of “no religion” was placed at the top of the list of options.
Perhaps in the past people were less reluctant to say they had “no religion” but in our growing freedom of speech culture people are more confident to say how they feel.
There may be other issues also.
The growing threat of terrorism linked to Islam, while not being Christian, does affect people’s view of religion.
There is the growing debate on Same Sex Marriage where much of the public blame the church for holding back a vote in parliament.
And probably one of the biggest turn offs of people towards religion, especially Christianity is the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse in institutions which people identify as “the church”.
With the decline in church attendance and the growing separation of the public from the church the task of mission is getting more and more challenging.
Not just because of the growing amount of non-Christians to witness to but because of the hostility of the public towards the church.
This is not unexpected for the church – far from it – as Jesus says - See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves.
This is not how we often see our mission work.
We easily fall into the trap of thinking that the church is failing unless it is expanding throughout the world.
Whereas that would be a magnificent result as it would mean more souls being saved for heaven, it is not symbolic of how the church has been received in the world throughout time.
From the beginning of the church it has faced persecution and rejection.
Many of the letters in the New Testament are written in a climate of persecution and rejection to give encouragement to Christians.
And with that encouragement the church continued to grow.
The church has lived with the experience of suffering for the faith as did the disciples of the first church.
As we read the Book of Acts and the beginning of the Church we are introduced to a man by the name of Stephen.
He tries to reason with his own people to tell them how much God loves them and what Jesus can offer to them.
They block their ears and drag him into the street and stone him to death.
A young man named Saul is standing there giving approval.
He sees how much this pleased the people so he goes from house to house dragging Christians, men, women and children, from their homes and throws them into prison.
Jesus says that this is how it is going to be in the life of the Church:
He says: they will hand you over to councils and flog you; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me.
So what we need to do is not to be disheartened by our seeming failure and rejection in the world but understand that this is part of the mission field we are sent into.
We are not to see rejection as failure but how the world has always responded to the church.
Sadly we too often judge the success of the church like the success of a business.
But what the world deems as successful is not how God deems success as we are reminded so often by Paul especially in first Corinthians:
Paul says: The message of the cross is foolish
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
And just as rejection and persecution only made the Christians stronger so too it is to make us stronger and not give up our mission work.
In fact, Paul says, we should rejoice that we are having this affect.
He says: we should boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.
People often talk about “the school of hard knocks” where a person learns skills that can’t be taught in a class room.
They are skills learnt “on the job” as you make mistakes and learn from them.
I remember coming out of my 5 years of study at Seminary to become a pastor.
You come out thinking you have all the answers and you’re going to fix all the problems in the church and get it back on track.
But nothing in the class room prepares you for sitting with a parent who loses their child in a car accident.
Nothing in the class room prepares you for that call in the middle of the night to tell you someone has died.
Nothing in the class room prepares you for the news that one of your parishioners marriage has just broken up.
Nothing prepares you with the words to answer why did I get cancer.
These are not learnt but are handled with compassion, love and being there for them – not with answers but with hope.
And that’s what mission is about – showing compassion and creating hope.
Just like Jesus did when he saw the crowds and had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
What can be very disheartening is when that opposition comes from those close to us:
Our friends and family.
Jesus also prepares us for that when he says that: Brother will betray brother, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents; and you will be hated by all because of my name.
There is only one success in the church that we focus on.
And that has nothing to do with us as Paul tells the suffering Romans.
Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
The success of the church has already been achieved by Jesus and he has given us the results of that success: we have obtained access to grace of God in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
There’s that hope again that does not disappoint us.
It would be lovely to see the church flourish in worldly terms but that has the danger of taking away what Christ has already achieved and instead focusing on ourselves and becoming disheartened when we don’t see “success” in what we are doing.
Success in worldly terms.
We are all sent out as missionaries in the world and it can be a daunting situation.
I know I have been verbally abused and I know many others that have also.
But we are to keep strong.
And it begins with compassion as it did with Jesus.
When you are rejected, don’t retaliate.
Use it to pray about.
When Jesus says to move on if rejected it’s not because we are condemning them but so we don’t lose heart and give up – move on to the next town.
We need to remember that the true mission is God’s.
God is the one who converts the heart and as Jesus has said previously –
Whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
I don’t always understand mission.
It’s not like a program that if you do A plus B you’ll get C.
At the end of the day it’s not about us.
As St Paul says:
Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
It is the Lord’s harvest not ours and if we are disheartened then imagine how disheartened the Lord of the Harvest is.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Year A 2017 - Trinity Sunday - Saving the best till last

Sermon 11th June 2017 – Trinity Sunday
Text: Genesis 1:26 – Saving the best till last

There is a saying that you “leave the best till last”. Sometimes it can be misused to cover up an oversight like when you’re thanking a group of people and realise you’ve missed someone and add them in later telling them “I was leaving the best till last”. Often when eating dinner I might use this approach eating the things I don’t like that much first and saving the best till last. In the story of creation this is what God did also – he saved the best for last.

The process of creation was planned and methodical as God created order out of chaos. And in that process of creation he left the best till last – us. Human beings. With all the wars, crime, drugs and other things happening in the world some might disagree that human beings represent God’s best. But the fact of the matter is that God’s intention was that human beings would be his masterpiece. When he created us he created us in his own image. He created us to be his presence in the world to care for everything that he had created.

God said to Adam and Eve - have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. So what happened? What happened to this creation that was once “very good” but became dominated by violence, crime, terrorism, pollution, poverty, war. Maybe it’s because human beings have misunderstood the word dominion to mean to dominate. That’s not what God intended.

When God created human beings he created them in a very special way – vastly different to the rest of creation. God created human beings “in his own image”. And “in his own image” was not a visible image but a presence in God’s place. God is the creator of all things and the sustainer of all things. And God placed human beings to create ongoing life – be fruitful and multiply and to sustain life by caring and providing for it.

Part of the image of God created in us was also our free will. And it is our free will that caused the disruption to God’s “very good” creation. By our free will we chose to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil. And so now our fruitfulness will damage God’s very good creation by the knowledge of Evil as well as Good. But God as our creator would not abandon us and continued to love and care for us. And even though God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after their disobedience he did not banish them from his love, care and protection. He would not abandon them to their own care but took the pitiful clothes they made for themselves from fig leaves and created proper garments from animal skin.

Let me read that closing text from Genesis 3: The Lord God made clothes from animal skins for the man and his wife. And so the Lord dressed them. Then the Lord God said, “Look, the man has become like one of us. He knows good and evil. And now we must keep him from eating some of the fruit from the tree of life. If he does, he will live forever.” The banishment from the Garden of Eden was not punishment but protection. If they stayed in the Garden of Eden they would live forever under the effects of evil. So God was now limiting the harm of evil by removing the tree of life.

As we celebrate Trinity Sunday today we acknowledge that God is an intimate God who exists in relationship. God exists in relationship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But even more exciting is that God also exists in relationship with us. Confessing God as Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, might sound unimportant but it acknowledges so much about who God truly is and who we truly are to God. He is our Father and not an oppressive tyrant; Jesus is our brother who serves us rather than lording it over us; the Holy Spirit is our comforter, reassuring us that despite our sin we are accepted by God. God exists in relationship within the Trinity as we see in our first bible reading where God says: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;

So God is not some inanimate impersonal entity out there but rather he is our intimate creator and sustainer of all life. And even though we disobeyed God, God did not stop loving and caring for us. And what God has done to ensure our continued relationship is that he has created a new heaven and new earth and nothing evil can exist there (Revelation 21:27). So this new creation, this new heaven and new earth will not be “very good” – it will be perfect. The tree of life will be restored to bring us healing having the tree on which Jesus was crucified bringing eternal life.

Until then, our close and intimate Triune God promises that he will be with us until the end of the age. And that’s because not only does a relationship exist between the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but as the image of God we too exist in that relationship. Human beings, with all our faults and shortcomings are still God’s masterpiece as St Paul says in Ephesians chapter 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (New Living Translation).

We worship God as Trinity because that is how God has revealed himself but also because it is so intimate and personal. Maybe it seems exclusive to proclaim that the Trinity is the one true God but that’s because God has OUR interests at heart. And God loves us so much that when he commanded to have no other God’s it was because of his love for us and concern at what other gods would do to us if we followed them. So God says – I am a jealous God lavishing unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me. When God reveals himself in the Old Testament he reveals himself over and over again as - merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding with steadfast love.

The sending of Jesus was to bring us into that relationship of the Trinity as Jesus explains to his disciples: Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. I and the Father are one." And Jesus concludes by saying: When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (John 14:20) The Trinity is a beautiful image of God who longs to be in a relationship with us – who longs to invite us into his relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God created us in his own image and he longs to be in a relationship with us. What a beautiful image of a God who will not let us go but promises to be with us always till the very end of the age. So may you experience every day the loving presence of God who will not let you go. And the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit will be with all of you.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Year A 2017 Pentecost Sunday - God's gift to us.

Sermon 4th June 2017 Pentecost Sunday
Text John 20:19-23 – God’s gift to us

Every year in our household birthdays and Christmas are becoming harder and harder to find a gift to give.
As children grow older and no longer scream for the latest toy that all their friends have it’s hard to find a personal gift.
In this day and age with credit cards we find that people don’t wait for birthdays or Christmas to ask for the gift they want – they just buy it straight away which makes it even harder to find a gift for them.
We’ve tried different ways to buy gifts – Secret Santa (where you pick someone’s name out of a hat), buying gift cards which become a burden as you end up rushing to use them before the expiry date.
As we celebrate Pentecost today the central focus of today is “gift giving”.
And the gift God gives at Pentecost is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The gift of the Holy Spirit continues to draw a lot of confusion and a lot of controversy in the Christian church still today as denominations differ on what it means to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.
And the confusion and controversy happens because we sometimes confuse what a gift is.
When buying a gift for someone you analyse the person.
You look at what their interests are.
You look at what their needs are.
You look at what their age and maturity are.
God does the same when the gift of the Holy Spirit is given.
As St Paul says when he speaks about the gift of the Holy Spirit.
He says: there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. To each is given the Spirit for the common good. All gifts are given by one and the same Spirit, who gives to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
As we look around our church today we all have different gifts.
Some have the gift of leadership.
Some have the gift of hospitality.
Some have the gift of servanthood.
These are all gifts of the Holy Spirit given for the common good.
No gift is greater than any other gift because it is given according to the needs of the person and the needs of God through that person.
In the early church the gift of tongues was very prominent because there were so many nationalities and languages but the Gospel was emanating from the one group of disciples who spoke the Hebrew language.
So as we heard in today’s reading - each one heard the disciples speaking in their native language. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
Notice that the focus of the gift was the hearing rather than the speaking.
The people needed to hear God’s message so that was the gift.
As time went on the gift of tongues lessened because it was no longer needed as much.
The message had gotten out – new churches were established in the different countries and the gospel was being spoken and heard in those languages.
So what is the need for the Holy Spirit today that it needs to give to the church as its gift?
Well I think there is a timeless gift that is needed in every generation and it was the gift given by Jesus himself when he gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples.
Jesus said: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
As we look around the world today Christians are sent into the world to bring forgiveness into the world.
There is so much hatred and anger in the world today that it seems the world is living on the brink of war wherever we look.
We look around at the amount of people caught up in violence on the street.
We see road rage ever increasing especially the ongoing battle between cars and cyclists.
We see the anger displayed between those who agree and disagree with Same Sex Marriage and the hurtful words from both sides of the argument.
We see the anger at refugees, the indigenous and welfare recipients.
And that’s without looking at the worldwide scene with ISIS, North Korea and American “anti-Trump” protests.
Forgiveness is a gift that God has given to us break free from the anger and hatred that seems to be dominant in our lives.
Forgiveness allows us also to live our lives free from fear which can cause irrational behaviour and responses to the things happening around us that we don’t understand or that we don’t agree with.
Fear of things happening around us can affect our behaviour towards others s we saw in our Bible reading:
The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.
A lot of the times our responses to things happening around us are motivated by fear.
Our responses can be harsh and very unchristian when we fear the unknown – send them back to where they came from – I hope he rots in hell – lock him up and throw away the key.
Forgiveness doesn’t always mean restoring things back to how they were before the breakdown or accepting the things that are happening.
But it does mean that we can be freed from our anger and hurt by handing it over to God to deal with.
There are some hurts that can never be healed by earthly justice.
Even the death penalty won’t restore things back to the way they were.
It won’t bring back the life of a loved one.
But forgiveness means that we won’t allow that situation to keep hurting us knowing that God is going to deal with it.
Forgiveness releases us from the need to take judgment and allows us to heal.
And that’s why Jesus not only spoke about the forgiveness of sins but also the retaining of sins where justice is not served.
But that is God’s action –not ours.
As St Paul said to the Christians in Rome –
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
Jesus himself showed that same forgiveness when he cried out from the cross – forgive them Father, they do not know what they are doing.
The gift of the Holy Spirit allows us to live with the peace of God that Jesus brought to the disciples –
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
Forgiveness is not an easy thing for us to do.
It can make us feel vulnerable to further hurt just as Jesus experienced when he refused to retaliate to the flogging and the mocking when he was arrested..
It can make us feel as if we have been short-changed as we let go of taking our own retribution.
Sometimes it is easier to hold on to our anger and rage and lock our hearts away.
But Jesus continues to find a way in to our locked hearts to remind us of his own hurt as he comes to the disciples behind the locked door to bring them peace and then he shows them his hands and side where he too experienced the hurt that humankind can deliver.
But he sends them out not with a message of war and anger but with a message of peace – to announce forgiveness of sins.
And so too, you are sent today into the world to take Christ’s forgiveness which is shown by our own examples of forgiveness.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the worldly responses to the injustices and things we disagree with.
But we are sent to announce peace and forgiveness.
And God gives us his Holy Spirit to break down those locked doors and to remove the fear just as the disciples who previously fled and denied Jesus now go into the marketplace and tell the world about God’s love through Jesus.

That is God’s gift to the world – that is God’s gift to you – forgiveness even though the world executed God’s own Son and that is also the example God has given to us to enable us to forgive those who hurt us and live in peace.