Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Sermon 5th May 2019 - 3rd Sunday of Easter - Text: John 21:1-19 – When you least expect it, expect it

Sermon 5th May 2019
Text: John 21:1-19 – When you least expect it, expect it

When you least expect it, expect it.
It’s a saying that inspires hope into a hopeless situation.
When you least expect it, expect it.
It’s a saying that inspires us to never give up hope.
For Christians it has often seen God acting in his timing rather than ours.
Like Abraham and Sarah.
Promised a child by God they had given up hope and took matters into their own hands by Abraham having a child with his housemaid Hagar.
But not long after that God sends his messengers to tell Abraham and Sarah to expect the child that God had promised –
At the ages of Abraham 100 years old and Sarah 90 they did not expect God to come through with his promise.
When you least expect it, expect it.
Today’s readings are a message to the church to never give up hope.
To expect God to act when we least expect it.
In our first reading it is a message of hope to never give up on someone you’ve been trying to bring to the Christian faith.
Saul, a leading Pharisee, an enemy of the Christian is hell bent on destroying the emerging church and arresting every Christian in sight.
He’s already seen how much joy it brought to the people when the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death.
This is the last person you would expect to be converted to the Christian faith.
But not for God.
On his way to Damascus a blinding light hits Saul and the voice of Jesus reveals the truth of the Christian faith.
Saul is converted and will become the one we know today as St Paul, the great missionary to the Gentiles and establisher of the first Christian Churches.
No one would have expected Saul to become a Christian.
Even Ananias who was directed by God himself to take Saul in and look after him didn’t believe that even God could do this:
 “Lord, I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
Ananias shows how God can act totally against our expectations.
So this reassures us that if there is someone that you’ve given up hope on ever believing in God – don’t give up, because God never does.
With God, when you least expect it – expect it.
If it’s your will for that person to believe and it is also God’s will for that person to believe – keep praying as Jesus did – your will be done.
God will not give up just as he did not give up just before the thief on the cross would breathe his last and was assured of living in Paradise.
Like many people, if not all, I have loved ones, friends and family, that I pray for and I will not stop praying and I will not give up hope.
Our Gospel reading is similar in expecting the unexpected when you least expect it.
And there are 2 examples here.
First is with the fishing experience.
Peter and the others had been fishing all through the night and had caught nothing.
A stranger tells them: "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some."
You would have to ask, wouldn’t they have already tried there?
And yet at the request of this stranger whom they soon discover is Jesus they do so and are unable to haul in the net because of the huge catch.
Firstly we should never give up even if we’ve tried before.
Have you shared the Gospel with someone with no result?
Have you invited someone along to church or an event and they’ve said no?
Have you prayed for someone and not seen any result?
Try again.
Don’t stop.
Who knows when the fish may start to bite?
I’ve been fishing many times in my younger days.
Sometimes you go to the same spot and have different results.
Who knows whether the person you’ve been trying to share the Gospel with has had something happen in their life and they’ve been waiting for someone to speak with them.
Maybe they weren’t ready the last time you spoke with them.
Surely the disciples would have fished from the right side of the boat earlier that night – but now the time was right.
When you least expect it – expect it with God.
But the other part of that story is God’s grace that is shown to Peter.
Totally unexpected by Peter – and maybe us.
Peter had denied Jesus 3 times at his arrest.
No doubt Peter had felt dejected and unable to understand how Jesus could possibly love him after his denial.
I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll mention it again – there are 2 different forms of love in this exchange between Jesus and Peter – agape love – a deep sacrificial love and philos – a general form of love from which we get words like philately – a lover of stamps and philosophy – a love of wisdom.
Jesus asks Peter – do you “agape” love me – and Peters says – yes Lord I “philos” love you.
Peter seemingly cannot accept or understand Jesus’ gracious act of love towards him and perhaps is ashamed to accept it.
Jesus asks a 2nd time the same question.
Agape – to which Peter responds Philos.
But the 3rd time Jesus sees that he needs to meet Peter where he is and asks him to “philos” love him – start there.
Maybe you’ve struggled to understand how God can love you.
Maybe you’ve struggled to understand what there is in you that is of value to God.
Maybe you’ve been ashamed of how you’ve lived your life and couldn’t possibly expect God to still love you.
Well, when you least expect it, expect it with God.
God loves you and gave his one and only Son to assure you how much he loves you.
God is a God of the unexpected.
Israel expected an all-conquering King – God sends a baby to an unwed mother.
The Jewish leaders expected one like themselves and received one who ate with sinners and tax collectors.
The disciples expected a valiant king to lead them into battle and received Jesus riding on a donkey.
They expected Jesus to fight against the roman leadership and reinstate Israel as a mighty nation – and he dies on the cross.
They went to the tomb expecting to bury a lifeless corpse and found the tomb empty.
God is a God of the unexpected – when you least expect it, expect it.
Maybe you’ve expected differently from God in your life – that doesn’t mean God hasn’t forgotten you or does not have something special in store for you.
When it comes to God, don’t settle for the everyday norm but expect the unexpected.
That huge haul of fish may be just around the corner on the other side of the boat.
But you won’t catch them if you’ve stopped fishing.
That Damascus Road conversion may arrive when you least expect it.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Sermon 28th April 2019: 2nd Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 5:27-32 – Obeying God’s authority rather than human authority

Sermon 28th April 2019 – 2nd Sunday of Easter
Text: Acts 5:27-32 – Obeying God’s authority rather than human authority

The sporting world has been divided in recent times regarding the punishment dished out on Rugby League player Israel Folau.
In case you missed it, Folau posted a quote from the bible that offended some people because he said unless they repented of their sin that they would end up in hell.
Irrespective of whether you believe he was right or wrong in posting what he did on Social Media, he was so convinced in what he wrote about his Christian faith that he was prepared to risk his $4,000,000 contract over it.
A couple years ago, tennis champion Margaret Court now a Pastor in a church in Western Australia faced similar backlash about her controversial comments but refused to back down even after threats of removing her naming rights from the iconic Melbourne tennis arena – Margaret Court Arena.
In our bible reading today, Peter and the disciples are also warned about speaking about their Christian faith in the public sphere to which they respond -
"We must obey God rather than any human authority”.
There may come a time – or maybe you’ve had a situation – where you’ve had the opportunity to speak out about your Christian faith but felt that fear that many, if not all Christians have felt at times.
Peter and the disciples weren’t always that brave.
We have the situation in our Gospel reading when they had gathered together and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews,
Whether you have conservative views of Christianity or more progressive views it’s getting harder to share your faith as the rejection of the Christian faith is growing in Western culture.
In fact a senior magistrate is calling for all Bibles to be removed from courtrooms in Victoria, labelling them relics that belong in a museum.
Again the outcry is that Australia is a secular society so why are we swearing on Bibles in court.
It’s the same with the teaching of RE in schools, playing football on Good Friday, singing Christmas Carols, or whatever other attack is made on our religious freedom – how can we respond.
First of all we need to remember what our mission is.
The first place we go to when understanding that is to what we call the Great Commission.
Matthew 28 says - “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
The first thing we take from that is recognising that the world can say and do whatever it likes but it doesn’t take away the fact that - All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
That’s what Jesus’ victory on the Easter cross is all about.
Secondly, there is the sending – go and make disciples of all nations baptising them.
Not go and fight the infidel – or go and make sure everyone believes what you believe.
No, the final part of that says – “teach” them to obey everything I have commanded YOU.
Not “force” them to obey everything I have commanded THEM.
The call is to live YOUR faith not to demand it from others – that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
St Peter says that in his letter when he 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.
We should not be frightened by the criticisms and attacks on the Christian faith because it has been the pattern of things for it since the birth of Jesus even before he is born.
There was no room for Jesus when Mary gave birth to him.
Just as there is no room for Jesus for many people today in our society.
He was rejected when he went to preach in his home town and they wanted to throw him off a cliff.
He was abandoned by his own disciples when they fled at his arrest.
He was betrayed by his own disciple Judas.
He was denied by his closest disciple and friend Peter 3 times at his arrest.
His death was demanded by his own people even though Pilate, a foreigner, looked for any way that he could release him.
One of the mistakes that we can easily make as Christians is to believe that our success in mission is gauged by the same measures as worldly success.
As we see the change in courage from those frightened disciples locked away fearing for their lives and now prepared to stand up for their faith, it was not because of some worldly courage they had received.
What enabled the apostles to open the doors where they were huddled in fear and go out into the threatening world to proclaim the resurrection?
What enabled Peter and the other disciples to resist the orders to stop preaching Christ among the people?
It did not come from earthly courage they had suddenly attained.
Our gospel reading tells us quite clearly today what, or rather “who” gave them that couage.
Before his death Jesus had promised to send an “Advocate” to teach the disciples the truth, set them free and send them out into the world.
Today Jesus keeps his word and breathes his Holy Spirit upon his followers.
We know what the disciples were like during Jesus’ ministry, right up to his death.
They showed early signs of ambition hoping Jesus was the promised Messiah who would give them positions of earthly power in the new kingdom he was proclaiming.
But when their world fell apart and Jesus was arrested and killed, they fled in fear.
That’s what earthly courage does – it fails in times of distress beyond our control.
That’s where we find them in today’s gospel -- behind locked doors in fear.
Again, what changed them?
Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them.
If we think back to the opening verses of Genesis which describe the earth as “a formless void, and there was darkness over the deep...” what brought light and order to the darkness and “formless void?”
 “God’s Spirit hovered over the water.”
Then God began the work of creation.
What gave the lifeless Adam life?
Formed from the dust of the ground God breathed his life – his spirit into Adam.
John’s Gospel began the same way as Genesis – in the beginning;
In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth – Genesis.
In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the word was God – John’s Gospel.
Now John’s gospel ends the same way with the Spirit of God bringing order into the chaos of the disciples fear.
Bringing courage to replace fear.
And now God sends you out into the world and asks you not to fear.
You have nothing to fear as Jesus earlier told his disciples:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
God sends you out into a hostile world where again we see what the world thinks of Christians in the example in Sri Lanka where Christians worshiping on the most holiest of days are slaughtered.
And in the midst of this hostility towards us the primary mission of the church is to preach and act as Christ’s messengers of peace and forgiveness and love.
Jesus says – love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
It is Jesus’ gift of his Spirit that gives the power to disciples to overcome their fears, prejudices, and doubts and become powerful witnesses and preachers of God’s love and forgiveness – not revenge and hatred.
Each of us has that same power, the Spirit, given to us in our Baptism, that urges us to move out from our comfortable places into a world that sorely needs the good news --  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
That’s who we are; that’s our mission statement as disciples inspired by the Spirit of Jesus.
Jesus commissions his disciples to continue his ministry:
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
They will proclaim forgiveness of sins, not by their own power but from the power the Spirit gives them.
They will pronounce forgiveness, not on whom they determine to be worthy but on those whom the Father moves to repent just as he forgave the thief on the cross – just as he forgave those who crucified him crying out – forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing.
We are called to urge those who have committed the atrocities in Sri Lanka, in Christchurch, anywhere in the world to repent so they can be forgiven.
We are not called to condemn them because that alone is the work of God.
What an example we can be to the world when we come out of our fears and be brave enough to forgive those who persecute us – to love those who hate us – to befriend those who reject us – for that is what Jesus did and that is what his Father sent him to do – and as the Father has sent him so he now sends you.
And if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Easter Sunday Sunrise Sermon Text John 20:1-18 – Believing is seeing

Easter Sunday Sunrise Sermon
Text John 20:1-18 – Believing is seeing

Seeing is believing – or is it Believing is seeing.
In this case at the tomb of Jesus it is definitely Believing is Seeing.
Mary has come to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ body for proper burial.
She arrives and doesn’t “see” Jesus body so she doesn’t know what to believe has happened.
Seeing doesn’t lead to believing.
She runs off and tells the disciples who come running to the tomb and likewise they don’t see Jesus’ body in the tomb.
So the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Mary stays and begins to weep.
Jesus comes to her to comfort her and even though she “sees” him, she doesn’t believe it is him – she believes he is the gardener.
Seeing Jesus face to face she still doesn’t believe.
But then Jesus calls her by name and she believes – and because she believes she sees.
That seems to be the consistent occurrence throughout the Gospels.
Later on that same day 2 disciples will be walking along the road to Emmaus.
They too had heard about the empty tomb and stories of Jesus rising from the dead but they did not believe.
And because they didn’t believe they don’t see Jesus when he stands beside them – walks with them and talks with them.
But when he stops with them for the night and breaks bread with them they believe and they see – in that order – believing is seeing.
It’s the same with Peter when he sees Jesus walking on the water and believes and is able to also walk on the water.
But then he sees the wind and the waves and stops believing and sinks in the water.
And that’s the message we are to take from this Easter Sunday experience.
As we journey through life we see some tragic things that might suggest that God is not with us – that God does not love us – that God does not care for us.
We can't see God - so we don't believe.
And as we see what God gives to us to help us we can sometimes be underwhelmed.
Some bread – some wine- some water.
If that’s all we see then how can these really help us with all that’s going on?
That’s what Mary experienced when she thought she was dealing with the gardener.
And that’s when we need to stop seeing and start believing - to have faith 
As the Book of Hebrews says: faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
And when we start to believe that’s when we start to see clearly – like Mary, like the disciples walking to Emmaus.
That’s when we see that the baby born in humble surroundings is no ordinary baby but the Son of God – God’s Word made flesh.
That’s when we begin to see the that the suffering and humiliation that Jesus received from humankind was actually suffering and humiliation that we deserved from God.
That’s when we see that Jesus death is victory over death that leads to eternal life through his resurrection today.
Believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour is seeing that God is for us and with us.
That’s when we see that the bread and wine we receive is Jesus body and blood that assures us of eternal life
That’s when we see that the water of Baptism recreates us as God’s children and promises that through all the turmoil and strife in the world that Jesus promises “I am with you always”.
We believe and we see that promise.
Like Peter walking on the water we will go through times when we are tempted to look at the turmoil around us and begin to sink.
And that’s when Jesus stretches out his hand and brings us back to himself.
So as you celebrate Easter may it strengthen your faith so you may believe and as St John ends his Gospel - may you continue to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name to proclaim to all that Christ is risen – he has risen in deed.
Go, in the peace of the Lord.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Sermon Easter Sunday Main Service 2019 Text: Luke 24:1-12 – Who believes this nonsense?

Sermon Easter Sunday Main Service 2019
Text: Luke 24:1-12 – Who believes this nonsense?

Before I have my tea at night I like to watch the News headlines to see what’s been happening in the world.
If I’m home in time I like to watch the Channel 10 news.
But because I don’t like to miss the start of the news as I turn it on a couple minutes early which means I usually end up catching the last couple minutes of The Bold and the Beautiful.
And I’m always intrigued how it ends with great suspense which it does to hook in the viewer so they’ll tune into the next episode.
I wish to apologise at this point if I offend anyone, but I usually ask myself – who on earth watches this nonsense.
Apparently a lot of people as it’s been on TV for over 30 years
That response is not a lot different to people’s response to what we believe happened on Easter Sunday.
In fact our bible reading says exactly that:
When Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women went and told the apostles about angels telling them that Jesus has risen from the dead they didn’t believe them because their words seemed like nonsense.
Who believes this nonsense
 Some feel it’s because they were women that they weren’t believed – but it’s not.
Let’s remember that even after 40 days of walking on the earth after his resurrection when he was ascending to heaven it says that some of his own disciples still doubted.
Who believes this nonsense?
I’m hoping you do – because it is nonsense.
That might sound strange coming from me but it has to be nonsense.
Because if it made sense then you wouldn’t need faith to believe it.
In fact everything we do in the Christian Church seems to be nonsense;
We eat a piece of bread and have a sip of wine and say this is Jesus Body and Blood which washes away all our sin and assures us of eternal life in heaven - nonsense.
We splash some water on the head of a baby and say that this saves the baby from sin and assures them of eternal life in heaven.
It seems nonsense to those who have no faith.
Which is what St Paul says in 1 Corinthians - the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
In fact Martin Luther said that very same thing.
When explaining the Apostles’ Creed he says: I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him;
And that’s what makes the Christian faith so special – because the world can’t explain it.
This is the one thing that we cannot control – that we cannot manipulate – because it’s from God.
It is so ludicrous – so nonsensical that no one would make this up.
Do you remember as a child – or if you have children – the wild stories that they would make up that you would always be able to disprove.
Well, the world has been trying for 2000 years to disprove the Christian faith.
If we read Matthew’s gospel it would have been the perfect story to disprove the resurrection:
The chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate and said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
How easy it would have been to spread that story of the disciples stealing the body – it would have made a lot more sense.
In fact that is what they did when we read Matthew’s gospel further it says:
Some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews.
But it didn’t circulate for long because it was not the truth and because it made sense.
So just because what happened on Easter Sunday doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean it’s not true.
And if it is true – which it is – what does that mean for you.
If it’s true – and it is – then it means that everything else that Jesus has said and promised is also true.
And what Jesus has said and promised is wrapped up in the most quoted verse in the Bible:
John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
There it is!
That’s what Easter Sunday is all about for you.
That’s why the Christian message has stood the test of time because nothing else deals with death in such a way.
That death is not the end but the beginning of eternal life in heaven.
That’s why I believe.
That’s why the church with a message that doesn’t make sense has stood firm for 2000 years and despite what the media is telling us the Christian faith is growing around the world.
The message is such a beautiful message of hope and comfort in this age where we are bombarded with such tragic news of terrorism, crime, murder and so much terrible news around the world.
And here we are again to celebrate the best news ever.
That Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and promises that we too will rise from the dead when we die to live forever in heaven.
Until that day Easter still has significance in our daily life also:
Every day Jesus comes into our lives and offers us his peace in the middle of our fears, frustrations and insecurities, especially when things seem to be totally out of control.
And when death comes we can remain strong knowing that Jesus is walking with us when we walk in the valley of the shadow of death as our good shepherd.
In your baptism St Paul says you share in the resurrection of Jesus, and when you receive Holy Communion today you receive the body and blood of Jesus who gives you the assurance that he is truly present with you every day of your life and will make you strong in body and soul unto eternal life.
Who believes this nonsense?
We do!
That’s why we are here today because the Holy Spirit has called and gathered us here and keeps us united in the true Christian faith.
May God bless you every day as you walk in the knowledge that God loves you so much that he sent his one and only son so you will not perish but receive eternal life in heaven. This is most certainly true.
Christ has risen, he has risen indeed.
Let us go in the peace of the Lord.

Sermon Good Friday 2019 - Text: Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 – Our empathetic Saviour

Sermon Good Friday 2019
Text: Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9 – Our empathetic Saviour

When tragedy strikes it’s interesting to see the different responses from our leaders.
When the terrorist attack happened in Christchurch last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern came out with obvious grief and hurt in her voice and demeanour.
It was similar some years back during the Queensland floods when the Premier at the time, Anna Bligh, showed that same grief and disbelief.
Irrespective of their political leanings or effectiveness, these leaders were praised for their empathy during time of tragedy as it was clear to see that they truly felt the pain of their people.
There is comfort that people take when their leaders come out to the place where there’s been a tragedy and simply just stand among the hurting even if they have no answers to the tragedy.
We see that when bushfires and floods and other devastations hit – the Prime Minister or Premier, or both, come out and stand with their people – not with answers but with empathy in their pain.
There are other styles that we have seen, such as when September 11 happened and President George Bush came out saying that they would hunt down those responsible and show the full force of their might.
For some reason that style doesn’t always gel with the people.
We want answers – we want responses – but at the time of hurt we mainly want to know that our leaders truly do feel our pain and anguish.
If you’ve ever been to sit at the bedside of a loved one who is dying – you don’t need to say anything – just being there empathising with them speaks much more powerfully.
Our bible reading today highlights that quality about Jesus today.
It says: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.
To put that into more simpler language – Jesus feels our pain because he too experienced it.
Jesus doesn’t explain why we suffer – he doesn’t promise us deliverance from our suffering in this lifetime.
He does more than that by suffering with us.
But we do want answers.
We want the empathy at the time of our hurt, which the leaders have shown, but we also want answers and assurance that things will be made right and it won’t happen again.
And that’s what Jesus does.
Good Friday is only the beginning of Jesus dealing with our tragedies.
On Easter Sunday we have the conclusion and we have the answer..
Today we remember that Jesus suffered our suffering – that Jesus suffered our humiliation – that Jesus suffered our feeling of abandonment – that Jesus suffered our death.
But on Easter Sunday morning Jesus will present us with the answer we so desperately are looking for.
Whatever tragedy is before us, behind us, or we are presently experiencing, Easter Sunday will give us hope.
It won’t immediately take away the pain and suffering but it gives us the comfort of knowing that God has prepared a new future for us.
And that future is eternal life in Heaven where there will be no more suffering or death.
The difference between what Jesus offers us and what worldly leaders can offer us is that he continues to be there for us and offers us personal access to him.
At Jesus’ death it says that the curtain in the Temple was torn in two.
The curtain was there to prevent access into the most holy part of the temple where God’s throne was.
The curtain, now torn in two has given us access to God wherever and whenever we need it.
So our reading says: . Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
As lovely as it is to have worldly leaders come to us in times of need, we cannot go to them anytime we want.
But because of Jesus’ death we have been given full access to God anytime we need it.
But especially important is that through Jesus’ death we have been given access when our earthly time comes to an end.
Jesus’ death assures us of God’s forgiveness and therefore assurance of eternal life when we die.
And that’s the worse that this world can do.
Terrorists, sickness, tragedies of any type can take away our life but nothing more.
On Easter Sunday we rejoice that the life that the world took way from Jesus today is restored.
And not just any restoration – but resurrection to eternal life.
And as our bible reading concludes it says he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Whatever situation you’re facing at this time – whatever tragedy you’re dealing with, God gives hope.
Hope that he empathises with you – hope in that sometimes God can bring miraculous healing – but the greatest hope is that through Jesus’ death on Good Friday, our suffering is limited to this life only and that Jesus has opened the entry to eternal life in Heaven where nothing evil can exist – where there will be no more suffering or death.
Nothing else, and no one else, can give you that comfort and assurance.
So let us hold fast to our faith and let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find God’s grace to help in time of need.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Sermon Maundy Thursday 2019 - Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 – loving by example

Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 – loving by example

Children are really good at watching their parents and imitating them.
So as parents we always need to be careful about what we say and do around young impressionable children so we teach them right.
When you see a child misbehave or use swear words in public you actually look at the parents and blame them rather than the child.
Today, as God’s children, Jesus is leaving us an example that he wants us to follow as well.
And it comes as an object lesson and a verbal lesson.
The object lesson is he washes his disciples’ feet.
The lesson here is one of servanthood.
Jesus had turned things around so much that Peter objected to what he was doing – I need to wash YOUR feet and yet you wash mine.
As Christians we are sent into the world to serve one another and turn things around in the world.
We are called to look for ways that we can help one another which goes against the view of looking after yourself first.
We are sent to look for ways that we can build one another up rather than tearing down others to build ourselves up.
So Jesus gets down on his hands and knees and washes his disciples’ feet.
Totally unheard of for a master to lower themselves below their servant.
But that’s what Jesus did – he came as a servant – not to be served but to serve.
It’s an object lesson on how we are to treat one another – to look for opportunities to help others in need and sometimes that means lowering ourselves and putting ourselves out.
But at the foundation of this object lesson is a verbal lesson – a command –
Love one another as I have loved you.
Previously Jesus had said – love your neighbour as yourself.
Now the command to love has been further defined.
A love where in serving one another our love may require sacrifice which is what Jesus’ love for us meant as he sacrificed his life for ours.
It’s not always easy to love one another and that’s when we have to look beyond our own feelings and be prepared to extend the love of God even to those one might consider unlovable.
To extend love to those we don’t like.
And that’s exactly what Jesus did for us –it is what God did for us when it was while we were yet sinners – unlovable – that he sent Jesus to die for us.
So with that as an example – to love as Jesus loves us – I can’t think of an example where I can ever be right in not extending love to someone.
That’s what Jesus meant when he said: servants are not greater than their master.
If Jesus, our Master, made that sacrifice, then we, God’s servants, are to show the same sacrifice.
At the centre of this object lesson and command, Jesus institutes what we know as The Lord’s Supper.
Here servanthood, love and sacrifice are brought together in Jesus’ Body and Blood.
This is the same Body and Blood that while on the cross continued to show his love for us by crying out – forgive them Father.
As our Father, God has set us an example in much the same way that parents are asked to set examples to their children to teach them the correct way.
And as we example God’s love for us by loving others – not only will our children see what we are doing and copy it – but others who experience God’s love through us will also learn and begin to extend that love to others.
It’s not always easy to love others as Christ loves us but as we receive his Body and Blood in this sacrament we remember that Jesus went to great sacrifice in extending God’s love to us.
And that is what Jesus’ life and death are:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but receive eternal life.
So may God grant you the strength to show that same love to one another that he has shown to us and if you love one another as Christ loves you – then all people will know that you are his disciples – that you are God’s children.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Sermon 14th April 2019 Palm/Passion Sunday Text: Luke 19:28-40 – God’s invitation to Paradise

Sermon 14th April 2019 Palm/Passion Sunday
Text: Luke 19:28-40 – God’s invitation to Paradise

We are about to enter Holy Week where our most holy observances begin on Thursday night with Maundy Thursday, the night that Jesus was betrayed.
It continues the following day, Good Friday where we worship around a bare altar, stripped of all its beauty and colour to reflect Christ’s dignity that was also stripped bare dying on the cross.
We will wait through Holy Saturday to return around a fire for the dawn service to watch the rising of the sun as we celebrate God’s Son rising from the grave.
It will see numbers in church increase slightly as people still see the importance of worshiping God on this most sacred of days.
Around the nations however, most will be oblivious to the sacredness of this time in the church as there will be different observances starting on Maundy Thursday night, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday as the nation gathers to cheer on their football side.
Many of you can probably remember when religious observances of these sacred times were held throughout society.
I even remember as a child that TV programming wouldn’t start till lunchtime on a Sunday, the milkbar would be open from lunchtime on a Sunday for a couple hours but no other shops would open.
But now we have no influence on any day that is sacred to the Christian faith.
Good Friday was the last stronghold of any resemblance that our society had a Christian foundation – although it would be difficult to actually remove the holidays associated with Christmas and Easter – but as to them being religious holidays – don’t force your religion down my throat.
Christmas is family time.
Easter is getting away for a very long weekend before the winter starts.
Do you feel like being a Christian is becoming more and more a thing of the past?
Do you feel more and more like the church has a very limited life span and that one day soon in the future we won’t have churches around.
Well, the theme of today’s service speaks right into those fears.
We began as always with the reading known as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem or Palm Sunday.
The day that Jesus entered into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd wanting him to become their king.
But as we journeyed further the cheers of praise for Jesus became similar to what we hear today against Christians and the Church, jeers full of mocking.
Jesus is going to example exactly what his church is experiencing today and has experienced since the days it was first established.
We think that these days are difficult for the church –but  let us remember that after his resurrection, Christians experienced horrendous treatment including being fed to the lions, imprisoned, exiled to deserted islands and this harsh treatment of Christians continues still around the world if you read news from the persecuted church.
It is believed that 11 Christians per day are put to death for their faith – around 4,000 per year.
But the church is very much alive today and we continue to see God’s hand at work today.
God is not going to let his church die – even though from the outside it might look like it’s dying.
God promised that not even the gates of hell will be able to destroy his church.
And in today’s reading at the start of our service we heard that even if the entire world were to abandon God, the stones would shout out praises to God.
It is so important that we don’t lose heart.
The world may be telling us that the church is not important – that the church is not relevant – that the church has no place in today’s modern secular society – but God begs to differ.
The bible reminds us that Jesus is still well and truly alive today and that all people will acknowledge that – if not now then certainly in the future when at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The difference will be from where that is done.
The entire world is invited to do that from the paradise of heaven – although not everyone accepts that invitation.
And we see that at Jesus’ death when the thief on the cross who is being crucified next to Jesus restores his relationship with Jesus before he dies:
He said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
The same comfort was not given to the other thief who continued to reject Jesus and hurled insults at him.
We don’t like to think about death but Easter is where that subject must be considered because it is the whole purpose of Jesus being born at Christmas leading to his suffering and death at Easter.
Jesus died for our sins at Easter so we can with confidence know where we will be when our time comes to stand before God.
Will we live for eternity in Heaven – in Paradise with Jesus – or will we choose to live separated from Jesus for eternity.
In our Baptism Jesus has opened that door for us and invited us into his Kingdom.
He has promised whoever believes and is baptised will be saved.
We heard that promise made today.
And so we celebrate today for those who have received that promise today in Baptism.
Today they have received that same promise we heard Jesus say – today you will be with me in Paradise.
The world, like the Pharisees, is ordering us to stop – we are causing offense.
But it is only an offense if we say that God loves and accepts only certain people.
But the invitation is for all people.
For God so loved THE WORLD that he gave his one and only Son so that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but receive eternal life.
Palm Sunday celebrates that Jesus is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
That Jesus is the one who brings us Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!
But our move to hear the suffering and death of Jesus reminds us of the journey we have ahead of us as the world continues to reject God’s invitation.
But today in the journey from Palm to Passion we are reminded through our Baptism that our journey is not alone but with Jesus by our side as he promises in our baptism – I am with you always till the end of the age.
And at the end of the age we shall join with Jesus and the dying thief on the cross along with all those who have not rejected Jesus’ offer of Heaven that today we shall be with him in Paradise.