Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Year B 2018: 2nd Sunday after Pentecost: Text: Mark 2:23-3:6 – The Sabbath – work, rest and play

Sermon 3rd June 2018
Year B – 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Mark 2:23-3:6 – The Sabbath – work, rest and play

One of my favourite chocolate bars is the Mars Bar.
When I was growing up their slogan was “A Mars a day helps you work rest and play”.
I found that more enticing to having an apple that had the slogan “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
Regardless of the health differences, the Mars slogan seemed to understand the life balance:
Work, rest and play.
God also understands the importance of life balance – work, rest and play.
If it were not that important to have a life balance then God himself would not have rested:
On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
But God also knew that our human nature would forget about God’s blessings and seek to create our own blessings in much the same way Adam and Eve forgot about God’s blessings and sought to be like God rather than living under God’s blessings.
And so God enshrined our Sabbath rest into the Commandments: Remember the Sabbath and keep it Holy.
But still, because of human nature, we did not trust God to bless us.
When God was leading Israel to the Promised Land he provided for them manna from heaven to feed them along the journey.
God would provide it – they just had to go out in the morning and collect it.
But in keeping with the Sabbath Moses told Israel:
On the sixth day you are to prepare what you bring in, and that is to be twice as much as you gather on the other days (so they could keep the Sabbath free from work).
On other days they were to collect only what they needed so they could learn that God would give them “their daily bread”.
But sure enough: some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.
God promised that on the 6th day when they collected double that what they kept for tomorrow, the Sabbath, would not spoil as it would on other days.
But, sure enough, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.
What we learn from all of this is that despite our disobedience, God still desires to bless us.
The Sabbath rest is God’s blessing to us – the Lord blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.
But we also learn that the Commandments are also God’s blessing to us and not a way that God restricts or modifies our behaviour.
Since we are created in God’s image, just as it was important for God to rest in the blessing of Sabbath so too our source of blessing comes through the Sabbath rest.
This has been a source of controversy as there are some groups that insist that to receive the Sabbath blessing we must strictly adhere to the Sabbath commandment.
In particular that it can only be on the original day of Sabbath – the 7th Day – that is Saturday.
It is this sort of approach that caused the Pharisees in our Gospel reading to lose the understanding of God’s blessings and again turned things around and got the life balance out of kilter.
What the Pharisees and teachers of the law introduced into the Commandments is what we call “legalism”.
Instead of seeing the commandments as God’s gift of blessing to us they saw them as a strict code of conduct that prevented God’s punishment.
Legalism is where the letter of the law is applied without any other considerations.
God was not being legalistic when dealing with the Israelites but teaching them to trust that he was going to provide for them.
That’s not what we see here with the Pharisees and legalism.
Legalism places the law above the good of people and instead of it being a source of blessing it becomes a source of punishment for when it is broken.
That’s not the intention of the commandments or the Sabbath.
In fact I find it interesting that the 4th and 5th commandments are structured differently.
The other commandments all have “you shall” or “you shall not”.
The Sabbath commandment is “Remember the Sabbath”.
The 5th Commandment “Honour your father and mother”.
So these are not so much a behaviour directive or prohibition but an invitation to enter a special blessing through relationship.
As Jesus said: The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath;
For the Pharisees, the Sabbath had simply become another part of the work cycle rather than the work and rest cycle.
It meant that the Sabbath ignored the needs of the people as we see in our Gospel.
Firstly, Jesus and his disciples were hungry so they picked some grain to eat which was deemed as working on the Sabbath.
That is different to what Israel did on their journey.
Their picking of manna on the Sabbath was a lack of trust in God providing for them.
And then Jesus is faced with the moral dilemma.
Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?
A man living in suffering is seen by Jesus.
To this Jesus asked - Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?
And that’s where the balance comes in and the wisdom of Solomon is needed.
The wisdom to discern between right and wrong.
When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment he said:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
But then he said: the second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
All the law and prophets hang on these TWO commandments.
We might call Jesus’ decision to heal on the Sabbaths the lesser of 2 evils – the seemingly disobedience of the commandment or to do harm by keeping the commandment.
The commandments are still valid but Jesus has reminded us that they are properly defined by the Love of God and Neighbour.
For example, Jesus said – You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
If I love God with all my heart then I won’t have any other gods or use his name in vain.
If I love God then I will love my neighbour who has been created in God’s image.
So I won’t murder or hurt them in any way.
I won’t commit adultery or steal or lie or desire what my neighbour has that I haven’t.
In his Catechism Luther always saw 2 sides to the commandments.
The need to refrain from certain behaviours to show my love for God but also to act in certain way so I wasn’t hurting my neighbour.
If we become legalistic then we’ll be like the priest and Levite who ignored their hurt neighbour because they didn’t want to defile themselves and become ineligible to serve in the temple.
But the Good Samaritan stopped and helped his enemy and Jesus said “go and do likewise”.
Jesus is putting the Law back where God intended it.
As a blessing to guide us and to be a way that we show our love to God and neighbour.
It was never intended as an electric fence to zap us if we touched it ever so slightly.
That’s why King David was able to say in Psalm 119:
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.
What Jesus corrects here is a misunderstanding of the commandments and uses the Sabbath as an example when he says – the Sabbath was made for humankind – not humankind for the Sabbath.
In the same way we teach our children about the right ways to live not so we can punish them when they mess up but so they can get the best out of life.
God loves humanity but he knows that because of sin we can easily fall into the wrong ways.
And the Sabbath was a gift from God as a way of resetting our lives each week.
As we come before God we take time out from the world and its ways and hear again the ways of God.
God’s ways are in our interests to protect us from spiralling out of control.
And just like we need our physical rest to rejuvenate our bodies so too we need our spiritual rest to rejuvenate our souls.
As human beings we don’t always like rules but the commandments aren’t rules they are the path on which God leads us to a fuller life.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Year B 2018 - Trinity / Thanksgiving Sunday - Text John 3:1-17 - Giving thanks

Sermon 27th May 2018
Text: John 3:1-17 – Thanksgiving

From an early age we are taught to say “please” and “thankyou”.
We might hold something out before a child and say – “what do you say” and we wait until they say “please”.
And as soon as we then give it to them the next question comes – “now what do you say” – hoping they will say thank you.
Hopefully over the years those please and thankyous will come more naturally rather than as a response to a directive.
And even though we at times give something to someone from the goodness of our hearts without expecting anything in return, if they don’t say “thank you” we might reconsider giving them something again.
God is not dependant on our thanks before he gives us anything.
In fact, as we hear in the bible – it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.
It was while we didn’t deserve anything that God gave us everything.
So why is it good – perhaps even important – for us to give thanks to God?
Is it for God’s sake that we learn to thank God?
It’s for ours.
And that’s because of our human tendency is to become complacent about what God has gifted us with.
We see it so often in society that instead of being thankful for what we have received we become ungrateful and complain about what we have not received.
Even those that receive welfare come to expect it as their right rather than a generosity.
It’s human nature that goes right back to Adam and Eve who while they had everything given to them from God, they looked for the one thing God asked them to leave alone.
Instead of being thankful for the life and all the gifts God gave to them they believe the temptation of the devil that there was still more that God owed them.
The bible shows that even the most loved and dedicated servants of God easily fall back into the same ways of greed when they stop giving thanks to God.
King David, the benchmark of all Kings in the Old Testament – loved and favoured by God – even he allowed his greed to replace his thankfulness:
When David took another man’s wife - the Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him he told David a story:
He said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him.
Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man.
He couldn’t see that he was the one being described in the story.
He said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you. I gave your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
Notice the character of God in that rebuke of Nathan to David.
I gave you your master’s house.
I gave you all Israel and Judah.
I would have given you even more.
And that is the nature of God – to give.
Just as he gave Adam and Eve life and gave them all that they needed for life – we hear in our Gospel reading that giving continues despite our rebellion.
God loved the world so much that he gave us his one and only Son.
When we come to Holy Communion today for the first time they will hear the invitation and response:
Let us give thanks to Lord –
And the response – for that is fitting and right.
It is truly fitting and right that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to you O Lord, Holy Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Giving thanks helps us to remember that all that we have, even if we’ve worked hard and long hours for it, is still a gift from God.
As Martin Luther explained in the Apostles’ Creed – I believe that God has created me and all that exists. He has given me and still preserves my body and soul with all their powers. He provides me with food and clothing, home and family, daily work and all I need from day to day.
All this he does out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy though I do not deserve it. Therefore I surely ought to thank and praise, serve and obey him.
How easy it is to slip back into the understanding that everything I have comes from the sweat of MY brow – so why should I thank anyone for it.
And that’s when we begin to lose the joy of everything.
We don’t see what we have as blessings from God but things I’ve earnt and deserved.
And then we begin to see all of life like that we and believe we deserve more.
And when we see others blessed by God we aren’t thankful but resentful.
What did they do to deserve that?
But what did we do to deserve Jesus dying for OUR sins?
Giving thanks is an important part of our children’s development but we must never forget to give thanks as we mature.
Because it reminds us that God is the giver of all that we have.
And even in times where we think that we have not much to be thankful for, we can join with King David and his Psalm of thanksgiving, Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Year B - Pentecost Sunday - Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 – Our Advocate

Sermon 20th May 2018 – Pentecost Sunday
Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 – Our Advocate

I enjoy watching American Crime drama – shows like Law and Order, Bones, Major Crimes and others.
And one of the things that I’m always intrigued with is what they call the Miranda Rights and if they are not said at the alleged criminals arrest then any evidence or testimony gathered from them is inadmissible in court even if they confess outright.
In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the historic case of Miranda v. Arizona, declaring that whenever a person is taken into police custody, before being questioned he or she must be told of the Fifth Amendment right not to make any self-incriminating statements.
As a result of Miranda, anyone in police custody must be told four things before being questioned:
You have the right to remain silent.
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
You have the right to an attorney.
If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
As I read our bible readings it seems that they are saying something quite similar.
Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit coming and refers to him as our Advocate.
An Advocate, like an attorney, speaks and acts on our behalf.
He does so because he is well versed and experienced in the coming proceedings.
Last week Jesus said to his disciples – don’t go anywhere until I have sent you the Holy Spirit – the power from on high.
And today we find out why – because the Holy Spirit is the one who testifies to the truth:
”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.
The Holy Spirit is the one who knows what to say – just like an attorney who protects his client so they don’t say the wrong thing and get themselves in trouble.
Jesus says; When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Sometimes we don’t know what to say into a situation which is where the Holy Spirit comes in as your Advocate.
Maybe you don’t know your bible all that well.
Maybe you don’t know how to look things up quickly.
Or maybe you don’t know what the bible says about a certain situation.
How many times have we said the wrong thing or made things worse by what we have said.
Do you know the story of Job’s friends?
Job was a person in the Old Testament who underwent great suffering and was trying to work out what he had done wrong to deserve his suffering.
His friends came along and for 7 days said nothing.
As soon as they began to speak and tried to work out what God was doing it all went wrong.
They should have taken the right to remain silent.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth;
Sometimes we don’t know what to say and perhaps just being with the person, praying for them, letting them know you’re with them without trying to explain is all that is needed.
It can be hard, and God knows that – that’s why he has sent us his Holy Spirit to be our Advocate:
And that’s what Paul highlights also about the Holy Spirit:
He says: the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
An advocate plays an important role is defending the rights of the vulnerable.
The advocate knows the right words to say.
The advocate knows the rights of the one they are representing.
And that is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.
To be there beside the person.
To defend and support them in their time of need.
The devil plays a different advocate role – and we often hear people say – I’m going to play the devil’s advocate.
The devil’s advocate tries to undo good work – brings up doubt – brings up questions – in much the same way that the serpent did in the Garden of Eden as the Devil’s Advocate when he raised doubts with Adam and Eve – “did God really say you can’t eat the fruit”? Surely you won’t die
So God sends us the Spirit of truth as our advocate to correct the accusations of the Devil’s advocate – and he highlights 3 areas: sin and righteousness and judgment.
Sin: The Holy Spirit, God’s Advocate, deals with sin differently to the Devil’s Advocate. Satan uses our sin to cast doubt in our relationship with God.
He convinces us that God couldn’t possibly love us.
Or he convinces us that sin really isn’t that bad.
The Holy Spirit uses our sin in what we call Law and Gospel.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin but then he directs us to God’s love and mercy so we can hear God’s forgiveness and experience his peace.
When it comes to righteousness, the Holy Spirit, God’s Advocate, again deals with us differently to the Devil’s Advocate.
Cleverly the Devil uses our righteousness rather than Jesus.
When we feel discouraged – guilty – ashamed – the devil guides us to make things right and then come to God.
The problem is that it is an unpayable debt that we owe.
We never feel that we’ve done enough.
We never feel as if the debt we owe to God is finally paid off and we end up in more and more despair.
The Holy Spirit, God’s advocate, guides us directly to Christ’s righteousness as St Paul says: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.
When it comes to Judgment, again the Devil’s Advocate plays a different role to the Holy Spirit, God’s advocate.
The Devil’s Advocate uses Christ’s delay to make us complacent about our Judgment.
We’ve always got tomorrow to change our ways;
Live life now and don’t worry about tomorrow.
But tell that to the rich man who built bigger barns to store his wealth and told himself to eat, drink and be merry but that very night his life was called upon.
Or tell that to the Rich man who ignored the needs of poor Lazarus begging outside his door and then when his life was called upon his own pleas for relief were ignored.
Even his change of heart to warn his family of the coming judgment so they could avoid his agony were ignored.
The 2 rich men never thought of a coming judgment and neither do people today.
They simply lived for themselves.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t deny the coming judgment as does the Devil’s Advocate, but the Holy Spirit is our Advocate at the Judgment point constantly to Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.
He has appointed for us the ultimate defence attorney in Jesus Christ our Lord.
When the devil’s advocate accuses us of our sin, the Holy Spirit, God’s Advocate cries out “objection my Lord” and points the judge to Christ’s blood that has already paid for our sin.
He points to Christ’s righteousness that has been granted to us as asylum so we are spared the judgment we deserve.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit – our Advocate, our Comforter.
I don’t care if I never speak a word of tongues or experience miraculous healing as is often associated with the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
But knowing that he is my Advocate, standing beside me on Judgement Day, and until then interceding for me and ensuring God’s forgiveness of sins is more than I could ever ask.
And when the sun turns to darkness  and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day, I will only be concerned for the work of the Holy Spirit that assures me that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.' "

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Year B - The Ascension - Text: Luke 24:44-53 - still with us.

Sermons 13th May 2018 - Ascension
Text: Luke 24:44-53 – still with us.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human to journey into outer space in 1961.
While he was so high up in the sky he is quoted as saying "I looked and looked and looked but I didn't see God.
The Ascension is often misunderstood as Jesus going up into heaven as if it is high above us and if we could fly high enough we would see him.
Likewise we often see Hell as a physical place deep down in the face of the earth where people go to be punished.
But the Ascension has nothing to do with Jesus physically ascending UP into Heaven but ascending to the throne of heaven to the right hand of God, in the same way we speak about a King or Queen ascending to the royal throne.
We often make reference to God looking down upon us making us believe that God is an absent God – more like a coach who sits up high in the coaches box watching his team play and coming down every now and then to spur them on or to reprimand them for poor play.
As we look at the state of the world today it’s fairly easy to come to the conclusion that God, if he exists, is not really present in the world.
If God were here would he allow everything that’s going on to happen.
He’s more like an  absent landlord that allows his tenants to trash the house and then leave without paying rent.
The wars, the crime, the natural disasters, the human made disasters – if God were really here would he allow them to happen.
How often haven’t we felt like crying out like Jesus did on the cross – “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me”?
As we look at our Gospel reading we soon discover that Jesus’ ascension does not mean Jesus’ departure.
The disciples seem to have finally understood.
After fleeing at his arrest – after denying knowing Jesus at his trial – after hiding in fear after his death – the disciples seem to understand that Jesus’ ascension is a positive event rather than Jesus leaving them on their own.
This is what we read: While Jesus was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
There’s a few things that we can gather from those couple verses:
First – Jesus withdrew from them while he was blessing them.
We might have thought that might say – AFTER he had blessed them he departed.
But Jesus’ ascension is a continual blessing for the world.
And that’s because Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for the world.
Praying for the world.
As Jesus said to doubting Thomas – blessed are those who believe without seeing.
As those who believe without seeing we live in a continual state of blessing – whether we feel it or not.
It’s not about what we see or feel – it’s about what God does.
So while we might think that our world is in a state of disrepair – or as the saying goes – going to hell in a handbasket – we actually are living in a world that is and will always be under the blessing of God because Jesus is constantly and unceasingly praying for the world.
I love Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John chapter 17 that he prayed before his ascension.
In fact, that would have been the Gospel reading for today if we weren’t observing the Ascension which was actually last Thursday:
Let me read a couple portions from that prayer of Jesus:
“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am.
Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
What a beautiful prayer and blessing Jesus has left with us and keeps praying for us.
No wonder they returned to their homes with great joy rather than distress that Jesus had left them.
And that’s the next part of that scene – the joy they experienced and displayed.
As Christians we can easily get caught up in the despair of the world and become defeatist in our body language.
The world keeps telling us that the church is dying – the church is irrelevant – the church is out of touch with reality.
And sometimes we believe that.
We need to show the world that despite what is happening in the world we have everything to be thankful for.
We want the world to see there’s something different about us as St Peter says in his letter:
Set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you have.
And then the final part of that ascension we read:
And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Luke’s Gospel ends in the same place where it began – in the Temple.
It began with Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, receiving a vision from an angel about the birth of his son.
It ends with the disciples in the Temple worshiping God’s Son.
The temple is the source of blessing – and now our bodies are the living temples of God where the Holy Spirit has made his home.
Jesus has ascended but he has not absented as he sends his Spirit to live in us.
The power from on high.
He is here in a very powerful and special way blessing us with his presence in Word and Sacrament – the foundation of worship.
In his word we hear all the promises of God – just as Jesus did in preparing the apostles: when he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
We experience Jesus presence with us in our Baptism as we hear his promise “I am with you always till the end of the age” – Not – I will be with you at the end of the age.
We experience Jesus saving presence when he invites us to reach out and touch him as he did to Thomas but in a more intimate way – he says take and eat –
take and drink – this is my body and blood – given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Now we begin to understand when Jesus says – blessed are they who believe without seeing.
The Ascension is a very special day in the life of the church and the life of the Christian.
It’s sad that with our busyness we no longer take that time to worship on Ascension Day.
In the European Union Ascension Day is actually a public holiday.
In Australia we reserve public holidays for things like the Melbourne Cup and AFL Grand Final.
Perhaps that indicates where society’s priorities really lie.
So let us continue to observe the Ascension as one of the great days in the church when Jesus completes his work of reconciliation in his death, resurrection and ascension awaiting the fulfilment of his High Priestly Prayer when we shall unite with all Christendom  and gather around his throne.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Year B - 6th Sunday of Easter - Text: John 15:9-17 – Friends of Christ

Sermon 6th Sunday of Easter
Text: John 15:9-17 – Friends of Christ

I have a bible that I received some years ago that has a page at the back for me to date and sign to indicate the day I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal saviour.
It sounds honourable and perhaps you’ve done that before.
I’m not criticising the intention but, for me, it changes the dynamic of the relationship that Jesus Christ has established.
Jesus is very clear when he says:
You did not choose me but I chose you.
While it sounds admirable and respectful and appreciative of all that God has done for us to proclaim our decision to make Jesus our personal saviour, decision theology, as we call it, can place ourselves in the driver’s seat with Jesus as the example we are simply following.
Jesus leads the way – I make the decision to follow him.
It puts “me” as the one who has begun the relationship – the day “I” chose to accept Jesus as “my” Saviour.
Again, Jesus warns against this type up understanding.
I do not call you servants any longer … but I have called you friends.
One thing is clear in the way Jesus describes our relationship with him: Jesus promises to stay in relationship with us regardless of what we might decide. 
Jesus has established an intimate relationship with us whether or not we have accepted him as our Saviour.
Jesus relationship with us is not dependant on anything we say or do or sign.
Jesus did not come to set an example of right living, goes away and then returns someday to see how we did. 
Jesus didn’t come to live a model human life for us to imitate and then leave us on our own to live up to his example. 
Not according to Jesus who says “I am with you always till the end of the age”.
Our relationship with Jesus is not a relationship where “I” have decided to live the example he set.
Yet that is how so many people understand Christianity – a decision to follow Jesus and the example he lived.
And sadly so many people struggle to live up to that example and believe that God no longer loves them because of the way they live their life.
And that leads many to disassociate themselves from Jesus because they just can’t do all the things God commanded us to do.
But while we can disassociate ourselves from Jesus by our own decision, we cannot disassociate Jesus from our lives.
Jesus is intimately involved in each of our lives whether we have accepted him or not.
That might sound strange – why would Jesus want anything to do with people who want nothing to do with him.
Well, that’s the nature of God.
God is always seeking the lost and unsaved – just like the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep that have decided to stay with him so he can look for the one lost sheep who has decided to leave the sheepfold.
It surprised Peter and the other disciples when God revealed himself to those who were outside of their sheepfold:
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers – those who were in the sheepfold - who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
Even on the Gentiles – those who were outside the sheepfold.
God is always active and present in the world.
He isn’t up ahead at the “pearly gates” waiting for us to arrive and check out how we measured up to Jesus’ splendid example. 
If there is any role that we play in the relationship then we will always be wondering “will he let us in, or tell us that we failed to live up to his expectations”.
Have I led a good enough life.
We could sign a million pledges towards God and it would make no difference at all because Jesus is the one who has done it all.
We have a saviour who stays with us.
I don’t know if that’s important for you – but I’m finding it more important than ever.
Satan seems to know exactly where to find where I am struggling in my faith.
Whether it’s because I haven’t been visiting enough.
Whether it’s because I haven’t been praying enough or reading the bible enough.
He seems to know exactly where he can make me feel inadequate no matter how much I’ve done.
He knows how to make me wonder about my salvation.
And what Satan does next is quite extraordinary.
He will guide you back on track to do even more for God to show your love and dedication for him.
Satan wants to turn the relationship around so we feel that we are the ones serving God faithfully.
And that’s when we find we can never do enough for God.
That’s when people begin to burn out.
That’s when people become disillusioned about their faith.
That’s when the work of Christ becomes so important for us.
It is only when we begin with the starting point of what God has done for us rather than what we can do or are doing for God where we will find a loving and caring God who laid down his life for us.
It is only then when we will discover God as our friend and not as someone to whom we are answerable as servants.
As Jesus said – I no longer call you servants but friends.
We are known and cared for, as sheep are loved and cared for by the shepherd who even lays down his life for the flock, rather than running away.
Unlike the frightened disciples who ran away when Jesus was arrested.
Because of that love, we can trust the One who knows us intimately and cares for us tenderly, who holds our very lives in that care even when we fail to live up to the commandments.
We are known and held and loved.
We don’t need a model of ideal behaviour to follow with our lives.
We need a saviour who will stay with us to guide us until we have reached our home in heaven.
And that’s exactly what we have in Jesus who promised – I am with you always till the end of the age.
Without our relationship with Jesus we would be left on our own to do our best to follow his life and live his commands and we would fail miserably.
And the truth is, on our own, we wouldn’t be able to live such a life. 
And if God’s love for us depended on us living up to such an example then none of us would know just how much God loves us because we would always be basing God’s love for us on what we have done.
We are assured we already have God’s love.
This is real love--not that we loved God, but that he first loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
It is not something we must earn by keeping the commandments. 
God’s love always comes first.
We are his friends and he tells us, so now go out and live like friends with one another. 
Love one another as I have loved you, he says.
We apply various titles to ourselves as Jesus’ followers: we call ourselves his ambassadors of Christ, apostles, messengers, servants,
But no greater title that we can claim for ourselves than we are his friends.
We are his beloved friends.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
And that’s exactly what Jesus did for us.
So don’t look to what we have done for Christ but let us keep looking to what Christ has done for us:
In our Baptism where we were made children of God.
In the Lord’s Supper where Jesus body and blood are given to us for the forgiveness of our sins.
And may we continue to abide in his love as his dearly beloved friends.