Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Sermon 3rd March 2019 Transfiguration Sunday Text: Luke 9:28-36 – Jesus’ glory revealed

Sermon 3rd March 2019 Transfiguration Sunday
Text: Luke 9:28-36 – Jesus’ glory revealed

In our Gospel reading we have the account of what is known as the Transfiguration.
The account of Jesus’ appearance changing before his disciples, Peter, James and John while Moses and Elijah appear talking to Jesus.
Peter is struck with amazement and doesn’t want the experience to end so he offers to build 3 dwellings – one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.
But God rejects Peter’s offer and tells him to listen to Jesus.
Peter, it would seem, wanted to keep that experience of God alive so he could return there whenever he needed strengthening of his faith.
But what Peter didn’t understand is that God is not a God who stands still.
When King David wanted to build a temple for God it sounds like God was rather disappointed in David despite his noble gesture:
the Lord spoke his word to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Will you build a house for me to live in? From the time I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until now I have not lived in a house. I have been moving around all this time with a tent as my home.
As I have moved with the Israelites, I have never said “Why haven’t you built me a house of cedar?”
in the Transfiguration we hear God say to Peter, James and John the same words that were spoken at Jesus baptism - "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!"
At the Transfiguration the disciples are given a glimpse of Jesus true glory.
For a brief moment the human flesh of Jesus is drawn back and they are able to see behind the human flesh the true power of Jesus as God’s beloved Son.
This is important because they are about to witness Jesus undergo humiliation, suffering and death and he will seem powerless.
But despite what their eyes will see, Jesus is wanting them to remember that experience to strengthen their faith and know that whatever they are going to experience in the future after his death and resurrection that the same glorious experience is waiting them in Heaven.
And that is also the purpose for us, that in times of doubt – times of suffering – times of difficulty – our baptism becomes a source of strength that points us to the future glory that awaits us to pull us forward through those times.
There are difficult times we go through – dark times –as Peter, James and John experienced even on that mountaintop despite that glorious experience:
It says -  a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
Sometimes it can be terrifying following God’s will.
As we journey through life we will find that the times ahead can be quite difficult and uncertain - terrifying.
Even if the road has been clear for years and years there is no guarantee that just around the bend there is not a road block that is going to grind us to a halt.
A death, a sickness, a conflict.
Sometimes we don’t want to go forward but wish things could stay the way they are, like Peter did, or even pondering about going back to the good old days.
In the church it is no different.
We often ponder about the good old days.
Remember when Sunday Schools were packed to the rafters.
Remember when our church was full.
Remember when we only had the organ and page 6 or page 23.
It was much simpler.
No doubt, for Jesus, the way forward was quite frightening also.
Maybe Jesus pondered back to the good old days while he was still in heaven.
Perhaps Jesus even wondered why he couldn’t stay on earth as the popular Rabbi that drew massive crowds and healed many sick people.
But that’s when Moses and Elijah appeared speaking of his departure.
It’s interesting that the word “departure” is the same word used in the Old Testament for Exodus.
The exodus was when Israel left Egypt for the Promised Land.
And even though that journey to the Promised Land was led by God, it became terrifying and uncertain at times.
And all along the way they pondered about the comfort of their home back in Egypt – the food we ate – even though it was mingled with hard slavery.
The uncertainty of what lay ahead frightened them more than slave labour that would await them back in Egypt if they returned.
The beauty of our Baptism is that it comes with a promise that we are never alone in our journeys.
As he was departing from this earth at his ascension Jesus commissions his disciples to take Baptism into the world and along with it the promise: I am with you always till the end of the age.
That’s why Jesus didn’t want Peter or anyone to build a dwelling for him because he had already made his dwelling in us.
Likewise for David building a temple for God was not what God asked for.
God would make his temple in us as St Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 - Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
We are about to embark on our annual Lenten journey.
It’s going to be a tough journey as we relive the aspects of Jesus’ passion.
It will begin with Judas agreeing to betray Jesus.
Maybe you’ve been betrayed by someone close to you.
Maybe you’ve been betrayed by the church.
How betrayed do Roman Catholics feel today by their church after what happened during the week?
Even the one that Jesus felt was his closest companion-Peter – whom he took onto that mountain top and revealed his glory – he too will deny him along the journey, not once but 3 times.
Maybe you’ve been denied by a friend when you’ve needed them most.
Maybe you’ve felt denied by the church when you needed it most.
Jesus will be abandoned by every one of his disciples the moment he is arrested.
Maybe you’ve felt all alone in your time of trouble – abandoned by your friends – abandoned by your family – abandoned by your church – abandoned by your faith.
Jesus knows all about that feeling when he cried out – My God, why have you abandoned me.
And finally Jesus will be handed over by his own people to be mocked and ridiculed before being put to death.
Betrayed by his own people.
And when Pilate – not a Jew – wants to release him – it is his own people who abandon him and demand his death.
Many of us experienced that same death last year at Synod regardless of which side of the debate you were on.
We felt abandoned, denied, mocked, ridiculed by our own people.
Sadly until we arrive in glory we are going to experience that.
But we take heart because we have a high priest in Jesus who has experienced this and more and can empathise with us in our suffering.
And again today he gives us a brief glimpse of his Transfiguration begging us to trust him and not give up hope as we take him into the world with us.
We will experience that in a moment as we gather at the mountaintop around the one bread and the one cup to strengthen and affirm our baptismal unity as children of God whom God loves.
Here God will draw back the earthly flesh of Jesus and reveal his glorified body and blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins.
What we will experience here at this mountaintop of Holy Communion is the glory of God that comes through Jesus suffering and death as we receive his body and blood in Holy Communion – put to death for us.
As we leave from here, we will enter the cloud as Peter, James and John did which at times seems very fearful.
(a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud)
We will enter the cloud as Moses did in the Exodus which says - The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:21).
Sometimes the way ahead seems dark and uncertain.
But with the glory and promise of our baptism we have received the light of Christ and we can confidently enter that darkness and uncertainty knowing that we are not entering it alone but with God who is right in the midst of that darkness to strengthen us.
He is Immanuel – God with us to transform our lives.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Sermon 24th February 2019 (Confirmation Sunday) Text: Luke 6:27-38 – Being different

This sermon has been personalised for our Confirmation Students. It has been modified to suit normal service.

Sermon 24th February 2019 (Confirmation Sunday)
Text: Luke 6:27-38 – Being different

People in society today like to do things that make them stand out in the crowd.
They might do it by the clothes they wear.
They might do it by the hairstyle they wear.
A lot of people in recent times have done it by having tattoos or piercings.
Many do it because they want to stand out from the crowd.
They want to be or look different.
Sometimes they do it to be what we call counter-culture.
They like to be known for being different to everyone else in society.
The problem is that soon it creates a fashion and then everyone starts doing it and you’re no longer different to anyone and you have to look for something else to make a statement that you’re different.
Jesus stood out in the crowd too – he was very different.
In fact Jesus made such a difference that we distinguish dating as “before Christ” and “in the year of our Lord” – BC and AD.
Jesus liked to rock the boat and do things that went against the normal culture of his day.
He talked with people everyone else ignored.
He ate meals with people that nobody else liked.
He was different and it made him stand out in the crowd.
As Christians you have opportunity to stand out in the crowd .
You have the opportunity to be very different to your peer group.
By honouring your Baptism vows you continue to learn about the Christian faith.
Instead of turning on the TV, spending time on  Facebook, Twitter or whatever else they do on the internet and mobile phones these days – you can continue to learn about the Ten Commandments – the Apostles’ Creed – Baptism, Holy Communion – the Lord’s Prayer and the Office of the Keys.
Jesus is sending you out into the world and he asks you to be different.
He asks you to live lives that are going to make you stand out in the crowd.
Lives that are going to make people even think you’re a little bit weird.
Let’s have a look at what Jesus says that’s really going to make you different and stand out from the crowd.
He says:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Talk about different – Love your enemies!
That’s not what everyone else is doing.
That’s not the advice that your friends and society are telling you.
If they’re your enemy then you should do everything to make sure they have bad things happen to them.
Gossip about them.
Tell your friends that they have to be their enemies also.
Laugh when bad things happen to them.
Tell lies about them.
Can you imagine how different you would be if while all your friends at school are picking on someone that you point out that what they are doing is wrong!
That’s what Jesus did.
Jesus loved everyone.
He said that anyone can love their friends – be different – love your enemies.
Or what about when someone hurts you?
What should you do to be different?
Jesus says: If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat even give them your shirt.
Jesus is saying, if someone hits you then don’t hit back, but ask them if they want to hit you again!
Now that’s just silly isn’t it?
Or if someone steals something from you ask them if they need anything else.
That sounds very different.
Anyone can hit someone back.
That’s the easy thing to do.
Jesus wants you to be different and not hurt people back.
Even Jesus when they were nailing his hands to the cross cried out “forgive them Father, they don’t know what they are doing”.
Could you imagine how different you would be if you loved someone who hurt you.
When we read the 10 Commandments and Luther's explanation there are 2 parts to them – what you must NOT do – and what you MUST do.
So in the Commandment – you shall not kill – it said you should NOT hurt your neighbour in any way but you are to help them in all their physical needs.
Or the eighth commandment – not only should we not lie about our neighbour but we must speak well about them and explain their actions in the kindest way.
When we confess The Apostles’ Creed we confess to everyone that we believe in Jesus.
Do you think believing in Jesus is going to make you popular?
Probably not – but it will make you different.
What brave people you are when you don't listen to what we call “peer group pressure”.
It’s not cool to be a Christian today but it’s not about being cool.
The Apostles’ Creed says why we believe in Jesus – I believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
Being a Christian is not about being good people – it’s about believing that when I die I will live forever in Heaven because Jesus died for my sins.
Being a Christian today and believing in Jesus is being different.
Do not underestimate what you are doing today as you worship God.
What you are doing today is very different.
When you were baptised you probably had really no say.
You were most likely infants and were brought along by your parents.
This is your choice to keep believing and it is different to what the world is teaching you to do.
The world today believes it doesn’t need God in their life.
You’re saying “we do need him in our life”.
And God encourages you – don’t stop your involvement and learning.
The church needs you to keep learning and keep being involved in the church.
If you want to be different – if you want to stand out in the world – keep doing what you’re doing.
You may get teased – you may get laughed at – but remember – that’s also what happened to Jesus – so you’re amongst very special people.
Jesus even said that the world may hate you because of me – but remember it hated me first.
Don’t let that worry you.
Just remember what believing in Jesus means.
It means that you don’t have to worry about anything because God is looking after you especially that your home in heaven is 100% guaranteed.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Sermon 5th Sunday after Epiphany - 10th February 2019 - Text – Isaiah 6:1-8 - Respecting authority

Sermon 5th Sunday after Epiphany - 10th February 2019 - 
Text – Isaiah 6:1-8 - Respecting authority

I’m not sure how you feel about it – and maybe it’s just my age showing – but I get really annoyed when I hear our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, referred to as ScoMo.
To me it seems like a lack of respect for the office he carries.
Even when he is being interviewed and they refer to him as Scott – it really irks me as a sign of disrespect.
The correct way off addressing our current Prime Minister is The Honourable Scott Morrison MP or Prime Minister Morrison or even Mr Morrison.
This lack of respect for authority probably began back a generation or two when school teachers started telling students to call them by their first name.
Today we see a real lack of respect for authority, whether it be police, firefighters, paramedics, teachers or Pastors.
I get shocked when I watch a TV show, Highway Patrol, that follows real life police action in Melbourne and the abuse they cop from people as they uphold the law.
We’ve even seen a growing incidence of paramedics being bashed and abused while trying to save the life of a person.
Teachers and even parents are fearful of exercising the authority they have for fear that they may be sued or prosecuted.
I also wonder whether this lack of respect is a significant contributor to the decline in the church in society today.
But I also wonder whether it’s a lack of understanding of what authority is that has seen a rejection of authority in society.
Let’s first understand what authority is NOT.
Authority is not a right to abuse people.
The disciples were being given authority by Jesus and he explains to them:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.  Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
A person who is given authority is given authority to help and serve others.
Sadly we don’t always see that, including in the church.
We see people abuse their authority to put people down.
Like other authorities we have seen the church use its authority to suppress people.
We have seen a misinterpretation of the word “submit” when there is a call to submit to authority.
And as a result, instead of trying to understand authority and submission people have rejected it and in a sense “outlawed” it.
Let’s have a look at 2 examples that we have in our bible readings today of authority.
First we have Isaiah:
I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him. And one called to another and said:  "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!"
Here we can see that in the presence of authority there can be a response of fear, like when you see a police car on the road and you immediately look how fast you’re going.
God’s response to fear is to remove it:
Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: "Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out."
Likewise in our Gospel reading when Peter discovers that he is in the presence of the promised Messiah of God: He says:
Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!"
Jesus responds to Peter’s fear: "Do not be afraid”
A submission to authority allows that authority to protect you and in the case of God it allows God to use you in service to him and others.
For both Peter and Isaiah once their fear of God was removed then ALL fear of everything was removed.
For Isaiah: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"
For Peter: "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
I think we have a lot of work to do as church to re-educate the world around us of what our authority means.
That it’s an authority that wants to serve society for the betterment of society.
When Martin Luther explains the 10 Commandments he begins each explanation with “we are to fear, love and trust God so that …”
This is a fear that loves and trusts God in whatever he calls us to do.
It is a fear that actually removes all other fear from us as we live our daily lives.
We live in a world where there is much to fear at times but as Jesus says - Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Jesus is not telling us to be afraid of God but to not be afraid of those who don’t have any true authority over us.
When we go out into the world knowing that God is the authority under which we live and that his authority is to protect and serve us then we can live a life that is of great benefit to the world we live in.
But it begins with a respect for God – who God is – what God does – and how God acts in the world.
God does not want to supress us but he wants us to accept and understand his authority.
And we best understand and accept his authority by showing that same servanthood and love to others to regain the respect of the world around us.
But it begins here and our respect of God.
If we can’t respect God how can we respect one another created in God’s image.
In God’s holy house we respect one another in the body of Christ.
If we can’t respect one another here – our brothers and sisters in Christ – how can we respect others.
From here we respect our families.
If we can’t respect the ones we love and who are closest to us, how can we love and respect others?
God gifts us with our church and families so we can exercise love and respect in a close and safe environment.
We live out in our church and families what God lives out with us.
We learn from God and how he treats us to how we are to live our lives her in church and in our families and then take that out into the world and treat others in the same way.
As God has forgiven us we forgive others.
As God loves us we love others.
As God serves us we serve others.
That’s true God given authority.
As St Paul says in our2nd reading:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins.
We hand on to the world as of first importance what we received from God.
We have received from God unconditional love that forgives rather than condemns.
We have received from God unconditional love that serves us rather than judges us.
But what we also received from God is the assurance that we don’t have to fear trusting him.
Peter and the other fisherman dropped their nets and followed Jesus.
They dropped all their worldly trust and trusted in Jesus.
They sacrificed their earthly livelihood, their earthly families, their earthly securities to follow wherever Jesus was going to send them.
Jesus also gives you the challenge to trust him when he calls you.
Maybe that call takes you out of your comfort zone to serve him in an area you’ve never served him before like Isaiah – here I am Lord, send me.
Maybe he is calling you to let go of your earthly possessions and trust him with your giving.
Maybe God is challenging you to let go of some hurt and forgive and trust what God is doing.
It’s when we let go of those fears that we think are giving us freedom that we are able to find true freedom.
May God give you the courage to let go of whatever is holding you back in fear and to trust God.