Thursday, 24 October 2019

Sermon 27th October 2019 – Reformation Sunday Text: Luke 18:9-14 – Have mercy on me Lord, a sinner

Sermon 27th October 2019 – Reformation Sunday
Text: Luke 18:9-14 – Have mercy on me Lord, a sinner

Ask anyone to describe “the church” and you’ll get a variety of answers.
But, no doubt, top of the list would be – those do-gooders who keep telling us how bad we are – those “righteous know it alls” who are living in the past and complain every time we try to move into the future.
They complain against Same Sex Mariage – they object to euthanasia – they complain about abortion – you name it – they complain against it.
Ask Christians what they think about the state of the world and most likely, top of the list – you’ll hear how evil and depraved the world is.
The old stereotype image of the world – sex, drugs and rock and roll – is still how many Christians describe the “outside” world.
And sadly we are seeing growing polarisation in our world where the church and Christians are growing further and further away from the world.
And that should worry us.
Not because those people aren’t going to church but because we are failing in our mission to the world.
One of the central teachings of Luther during the Reformation was his teaching of the 2 Kingdoms.
And what was pivotal in this teaching was that both Kingdoms belonged to and were governed by God.
He called them the Kingdom of the Left and the Kingdom of the Right – not to be confused with our political divisions of the Conservative Right and the Liberal Left.
God’s right hand kingdom is where he governs through the Church – through Word and Sacrament – through grace, mercy and forgiveness.
God’s left hand kingdom is where God governs through law and order – through the governments – and even though this is a secular rule it is still God’s, not Satan’s.
If we don’t understand the world that way – that both kingdoms belong to God - then we create a divide and attribute the other kingdom to Satan and, really, we don’t care what happens to them.
We start to have this “wait till your father gets home” mentality in that we become comforted knowing that we are going to heaven and they will have to answer to God on Judgment Day.
And we almost take joy in believing that the likes of Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Suddam Hussein will be punished in hell for the evil that they did in their lifetime.
We might even “hope they rot in hell”.
We start to sound a little bit like the Pharisee - God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
Tax-collectors were on the wrong side religiously, politically, and economically,
He is an unlikely prototype to hold up, just like last week where a widow is held up as the prototype of prayer.
This is the second of two parables in a row about prayer with fairly unconventional role models.
The first was the persistent widow in last Sunday's reading (Luke 18:1-8).
She was a most unlikely example as a teaching aid: widows were at the bottom of society, without power or voice, and yet how powerful was the voice of that widow!
She taught us about persistence in prayer.
In today’s Gospel, another dimension of prayer is addressed, the heart of prayer:
The Pharisee’s prayer is about praising himself and his works and his own goodness.
He has it all figured out, and things come together rather nicely for him.
In contrast we have the tax-collector.
The Pharisee far outshines him in his religious observances before God.
He doesn’t need to tell God about all he has done.
Surely God, who is all knowing and all seeing has surely noticed how good the Pharisee is.
Actually, there isn't much need for God to do anything in the life of this Pharisee except to agree with him.
So Jesus uses an unexpected example to teach his audience a lesson.
The tax-collector pours out his heart and buries himself so deeply into voicing his deepest anguish - awareness of his own weakness, failures, and sins, that he doesn’t even notice the Pharisee, let alone compares himself to him.
Probably not that dissimilar to Luther who tried to be like the Pharisee before God – I have translated the Bible into German – I have slept on a bed of straw, when I have sleep – I gave up being a successful lawyer to become a monk – and yet Luther didn’t find that peace he was desperately seeking.
How do you find your peace with God?
The tax collector throws himself at God’s feet begging for his mercy even though he doesn’t deserve it.
And that’s what mercy is – undeserved grace from God.
So too did Luther – in fact the last words attributed to Luther before he died were “We are beggars. This is true”
Jesus teaches a lesson about God's mercy in accepting the sinner, the tax-collector, instead of the apparently holy Pharisee.
What does this say about us?
How do we present ourselves to God?
Do we present ourselves to God confident that we have done the best we can – or at least we not like others who profane God’s name?
Maybe we don’t do that publicly but in our hearts what do we feel about ourselves in our relationship with God.
When we hear about the depravity in the world – the conmen – the drug addicts – the thieves and liars – the abusers – do we feel somewhat good about ourselves and proud that we have led a better life than that?
Or do we come before God as beggars – have mercy on me Lord, a sinner.
So what was the problem with the Pharisees’ prayer?
Did he lie about his goodness?
Did he do things that were wrong?
The problem was, according to the Pharisee, he had done everything right.
So what else could God do for him?
He had no need for God – and that was the problem.
The problem was that he acknowledged everything he did that was right – but he failed to acknowledge before God where he had not done everything God demanded from him.
Where God had said to love the Lord with all your heart – and also to love your neighbour as yourself.
So the answer is not for the Pharisee to stop doing all the things he was doing but to acknowledge that before God he was still a sinner so that God could shower upon him his grace and mercy.
The Pharisee and the Tax Collector may have looked poles apart when it came to the good works they were doing.
But when it came to what God expected from both they were identical twins.
Whichever side we are on – the Pharisee or the Tax Collector - we all have common ground and a dependence on God’s grace and in desperate need of his mercy through forgiveness.
No matter what divides us we have a shared prayer that unites us - `God, be merciful to me, a sinner! This is our shared recognition before God - that we are all sinners, but we all belong to God.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
All glory to God. Amen.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Sermon 20th October 2019 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost - Text: Luke 18:1-8 – Persistent in prayer

Sermon 20th October 2019 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Luke 18:1-8 – Persistent in prayer

Last week saw a week of disruptions in the city, including other states around Australia, and in fact around the world to demand what they call “climate justice”.
Despite the disruptions that it caused to many people going to work or going home from work we are a society that respects people’s right to protest for justice.
Whether it’s climate justice or justice in the work place or justice for persecuted countries – protesting is a way to get our message across and hopefully to bring about change.
Jesus today tells a story about a widow who was demanding justice.
We don’t know what sort of justice she was after but she went to the one whom she knew could grant her the justice she needed.
We don’t know what she was after but what we do know is that even though this judge she went to didn’t fear God and had no respect for her or any human being, he was the one who could grant the justice she needed.
Even though she had no certainty whether he would listen to her or whether he would grant her request, she knew that only he could do it.
Whether he “would” wasn’t the issue – whether he “could” was the issue.
Jesus tells this story as a way of encouraging us to remain confident in our prayer life.
Maybe sometimes we’ve prayed to God and nothing seems to have happened.
Jesus says – keep praying.
The difference between the judge in our story and God is God’s love for humanity.
This judge had no fear of God and no respect for humanity.
In our prayers it’s different – we pray to God and not only does God have respect for humanity he has unconditional love for humanity.
He created us.
He loved us so much that he sacrificed his one and only Son to assure that we would live with him in heaven.
So if there is something we need, then God is certainly the one to whom our requests should go.
Prayer has always challenged people.
I pray but I don’t see any results, is one that I often hear.
Sometimes when people protest the results aren’t always seen or they don’t see the results immediately.
Prayer is communicating with God – both speaking to God and listening to God.
We know that in any relationship that communication is how that relationship grows.
I speak with my wife – I listen to my wife.
We don’t always agree on things but as we communicate we grow in our relationship and in our understanding of each other.
That’s how prayer works with God.
We communicate with God – we speak with God – we listen to God.
We don’t always agree on things but we work towards understanding each other.
Sometimes God answers our prayer – sometimes God changes us to understand a certain situation.
Like St Paul in 2nd Corinthians.
Paul had a suffering in his life that tormented him.
He prayed to God to remove it.
He prayed a second time to God to remove it.
He prayed a third time and received an answer from God – but not in the way he had requested.
Through that time of prolonged prayer God worked with Paul in a way that while his suffering didn’t change – Paul’s understanding changed.
Paul grew to trust in God’s love and grace in his life for strength to cope with his suffering.
Parents have to deal sometimes in the same way with their children.
Children can sometimes demand things from their parents which their parents know is not in their best interest or for their wellbeing.
It doesn’t mean they don’t love their child but it’s because they love their child that sometimes as a parent we say “no” to those demands.
But we’ll explain why and teach our children through that “NO”.
You can’t have that biscuit because you’ll spoil your dinner.
You can’t stay up because you need your sleep.
You can’t go to that party because I’m not sure about the adult supervision.
They may challenge that “no”, like the widow challenged the judges persistent “no” to her request for justice.
They may throw a tantrum and are especially good at choosing situations where they know that tantrum will get maximum effect – like at the check-out in the supermarket.
And sometimes there’s some negotiations as the parent may even begin to learn that their child is growing up and needs extended boundaries.
Maybe a curfew is negotiated to allow the child to stay up later.
And this is what persistent prayer to God can be about.
Prayer is about growth.
Growth in us as we grow in our trust in God.
But also growth in God’s understanding of our needs.
God is not a genie whose bottle we can rub every time we want something.
God is our loving Father who cares for us and loves us like no one has ever loved us.
God only wants the best for us and sometimes God says “no” to our requests.
Or sometimes, even though God has said no he has later said yes.
Prayer is a special gift of God that enables us to get to know him better.
But even more important than that, prayer is an opportunity that enables us to get to know ourselves better.
If God said yes to everything we asked then how would we ever develop and grow.
Can you imagine if every time a child asked a parent for something they got it – we would probably have a very spoilt child on our hands and one who never matures.
So here we have an opportunity through prayer with God to develop ourselves and develop our relationship.
In the story Jesus told we also see that through the persistence in prayer that the unmerciful judge finally changed and showed her mercy.
So in prayer there is also an opportunity for God to grow in his understanding and relationship of us.
I know that to many that might sound strange, or even wrong – but that’s what Jesus has asked us to do.
And we have many examples in the bible where God did just that.
Abraham was able to convince God that wiping out a whole town because of a few was wrong.
The people of Nineveh were able to convince God that people can change their lives without him destroying them.
Moses was able to convince God that destroying all the people of Israel because of their disobedience was not a good look to the surrounding nations.
God is not some autonomous unfeeling overlord who is sitting up above with no care for the people of this earth.
No, Jesus says that God knows the very hairs of our head.
But neither is God some genie who is at our beckoning.
God is our creator.
God is our Heavenly Father.
God cares for us and wants the best for us – and he wants the best from us.
But the best for us comes by our lives growing in our trust in God – by our relationship with God growing.
We don’t always understand everything that goes on in our lives and in the lives around us.
But neither does a child always understand and accept the decision of their parents.
But they learn to trust that their parents love them and want the best for them and they learn to trust in them.
That’s what Jesus is wanting to teach us in this story.
If an unmerciful and uncaring judge can eventually come around and give this widow what she needs – how much more will a loving, caring Father graciously give to us all that we need.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Sermon 13th October 2019 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost Text: Luke 17:11-19 – Unity through suffering

Sermon 13th October 2019 – 18th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Luke 17:11-19 – Unity through suffering

Border Security is a major political divide in many countries.
Whether it’s the wall being built on the border of the USA and Mexico – or the sending of those deemed to be “illegal immigrants to detention centres or being deported.
We have even had disputes with our near neighbour New Zealand over the sending back of New Zealanders who have made their home in Australia but have committed crimes and we don’t want them anymore.
But it seems New Zealand doesn’t want them either.
So border security and citizenship is a massive issue in many parts of the world.
And it was also a massive issue in Jesus’ time particularly regarding Jews and Samaritans
But Jesus breaks down those barriers which we see in a couple places at least.
2 important ones include in John chapter 4 with the Samaritan Woman at the well:
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans).
Then there is the parable of the Good Samaritan who stops to help a Jewish national who has been attacked and left for dead.
Jesus says this is the greatest example of loving our neighbour and tells us to go and do likewise.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus again shows that he breaks down barriers in that he heals ten lepers which included 9 Jews and one Samaritan.
But there is something that has struck me this time.
As the Samaritan Woman said – Jews do not associate with Samaritans.
Something that is easy to miss here in this reading as we focus on the miraculous healing is that these 10 lepers seemed to be living together in community.
Whereas once their nationality and religion divided them their suffering united them.
In their suffering they didn’t care about the things that previously divided them.
The things that they objected to were no longer of significance.
And so it would appear that in their suffering their eyes have been truly opened.
Just as the Good Samaritan who, in seeing the suffering of an enemy, was able to set that aside.
And here too 10 lepers – Jews and Samaritans – have set aside their differences that had divided them and come to Jesus united as one:
Note what they say to Jesus: they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
Have mercy on “us”.
There is no individual here;
There is no “us and them”.
Have mercy on “us”.
Not have mercy on “me”.
Suffering, however, is something we don’t like.
Suffering is not something we desire.
And yet we see that in suffering there is a mystery of blessing.
Would those 10 in our Gospel reading ever have come together without their suffering?
St Paul likewise speaks about his own sufferings and even goes to the point of that he rejoices in his sufferings.
And as we read his 2nd letter to the Corinthians he explains the mystery of how that can be.
He says: I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
In his suffering Paul grew to trust in God’s grace and mercy.
Paul’s suffering made him realise that he could not manage life on his own strength.
Unfortunately, sadly perhaps, we live in a world where we don’t see suffering as a positive thing – and I can understand that – no one likes to suffer – no one likes to see a loved one suffering.
And that’s why there has been such a push for Voluntary Assisted Dying – because we don’t understand the ministry of suffering.
Even in the church, as we go through our bouts of suffering – we struggle to see God’s blessings.
One of the understandings that led to Luther’s renewal was what we call “a theology of the cross”.
A recognition that behind suffering is the glory of God.
In fact Luther likened  that glory of God to when Moses was granted his request to see the glory of God.
God said to Moses: There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock and when. my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”
A theology of the cross understands God’s blessings in suffering.
Unfortunately because of our sinfulness and human nature we always want more.
Just like Adam and Eve who were created in the Image of God and fell to the deception of Satan to disobey God with the promise of “you will be like God”.
It sounded tempting but was actually a step down in glory from being in the Image of God to being “like God”.
And so we continue to see that human nature in the 9 lepers who failed to return to Jesus to thank him.
So what is the difference between this one Samaritan and the other 9 Jewish lepers?
It was in how they saw their relationship with Jesus.
When Jesus sends them on their way they hurry to do what lepers are supposed to do when they're healed: go to the temple and show themselves to the priest.
While they're still on the road, they look at each other and they're already healed.
One of them, a despised Samaritan, turns around and goes back.
He's so full of joy and gratitude that he throws himself on the ground at Jesus' feet to worship him
So what of the other nine Jewish lepers?
They are obediently doing what Jesus told them to do and what they know the Law requires of them.
They're being good, observant, faithful Jews.
They’re not doing anything wrong but following Jesus’ directions.
So what this goes back to is what is at the heart of their relationship with Jesus.
Is it love or is it obedience.
Both are important but what motivates the relationship with Jesus?
Is it love or is it obedience?
This outsider, this Samaritan, this "them," in the “us and them” relationship is so overwhelmed by gratitude and joy that he turns back to Jesus to show his love.
But why didn’t he first do what Jesus asked him to do?
It’s because he knew that the Temple isn't a place he'd be welcome even if he is cured of his leprosy.
Whilst he had been cured of being a leper there is no cure for being a Samaritan – an outsider.
So while he knew the temple would not be welcoming of him he knew that with Jesus there was no border control.
Today, our churches are not struggling with the Jewish-Samaritan question but who are the “them” in the “us and them”.
Are we welcoming?
Are we inviting?
Are we breaking down “us and them” boundaries?
Are we more like one of the nine lepers trying to be good and religious who obey the religious authorities and Laws?
Is that our starting position?
Or is our starting position that we are saved sinners who have experienced the love and grace of God and have been asked to “go and do likewise”?
To love the Lord with all our heart and our neighbour as ourselves.
I don’t think this story is always about remembering to say thanks but rather why did the Samaritan say thanks before he did what Jesus asked him to do.
This Samaritan leper did not disobey Jesus but because of his love for Jesus he was able to see the true temple.
Remember what Jesus said:
“Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ will rebuild it.” They people were furious: “It took forty-six years to build this Temple, and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?” But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple.
And YOU are the body of Christ.
You are the new Temple.
Do we need rebuilding?
The Samaritan Leper did return to the temple and he reported to the priest – the true priest – Jesus Christ – prophet, priest and king.
And not just any priest - For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
So what is at the heart of our worship?
What is at the heart of our relationship with God?
What comes first – obedience or love?
Both are important.
If obedience comes first then it is a relationship of obligation.
I won’t commit murder because God forbids it.
I won’t commit murder because I love God and my neighbour.
Same outcome but different motivation.
Or, I won’t commit adultery because God’s commandment forbids it.
Or, I won’t commit adultery because I love God and my wife.
That’s what we see at the heart of this Samaritan Leper.
He obeyed Jesus’ command but he did so through love at the true temple presenting himself to the true high priest.
And that’s why, when Jesus was asked, what is the greatest commandment he responded – love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.
He didn’t need to recite all of the 10 commandments but cited the one – the only one needed that motivates all or actions.
Isn’t that interesting – 10 lepers, one returns because of love.
10 commandments – one greatest commandment to love.
And we love because God first loved us.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Sermon 6th October 2019 – Creation Sunday (Companion Pets) Text: Genesis 2:18-25 – God’s gift through pets

Sermon 6th October 2019 – Creation Sunday (Companion Pets)
Text: Genesis 2:18-25 – God’s gift through pets

There is an old saying that says – Dog spelt backwards is still man’s best friend.
Often a person will get asked – are you a dog person or a cat person.
Because they are different.
In fact it is often said – you own a dog but a cat owns you.
They have different temperaments.
Cats can be more fussy.
It was also once said that a dog gets fed, gets patted, gets pampered – and they think to themselves of their owners – they must be God.
A cat on the other hand gets fed, gets patted, gets pampered – and they think to themselves of their owners – I must be God.
Whether you’re a cat person, a dog person, a fish person, a bird person – or you don’t like pets at all – animals are part of the created order and given as a gift to human kind as companions.
It’s interesting that apart from the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, the animal kingdom share the 6th day of creation with human beings.
So there is a close connection with chimpanzees sharing something like 97 to 99% of the human DNA.
In Genesis chapter 2 we read of the original purpose for the animals that God had created:
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
So as we know God created Eve from Adam – bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh.
So we see that the animal kingdom has a special role in the life of humanity and it is part of our role to love and care for them.
It was in the very first chapter of Genesis when God said: “Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
And to rule over means to care and provide just as God cares and provides for us as he rules over us.
Not everyone is a pet type of person but it is hard to deny that pets and other animals play an import role in the life of human beings.
Whether it be for providing food – or warmth through clothes.
Animals have played and continue to play an important part in people’s lives.
And that  includes seeing eye dogs – assistance animals – even sniffer dogs to protect our borders and canine squad with the police to help with crime prevention.
But for many people companion pets have provided much love and companionship for the lonely.
In fact I was reading an article last week about Australian swimmer Shayna Jack.
You may recall earlier this year she tested positive to a performance enhancing drug and was kicked out of the world championship in South Korea.
She posted an emotional message to Instagram, admitting she "couldn't stop crying" after she tested positive to a banned drug.  But she also posted a picture of herself with new puppy Hugo, who she writes helped her during her darkest moments after the drug scandal broke.
There is something about a companion pet that mimics the love of God.
It is unconditional.
It is forgiving.
I’ve often come home late from a visit or meeting and while everyone is busy and doesn’t notice me coming home,
the dog, however, is looking out the window because he has heard my car from a distance.
And he then runs to the door grabbing a ball or toy along the way wanting to greet me and play.
While not everyone is a pet person or has the ability to own or care for a pet, we are thankful to God that for so many people a pet has been their saviour in providing companionship in loneliness – unconditional love when there is no one else.
My experience reminds me so much of the parable of the prodigal son.
Here was a father who lost a son but never stop waiting a watching out the window for his son’s return.
He never gave up hope that his son would return home.
And when he gets a glimpse of his son returning home he runs excitedly to meet him.
He doesn’t ask questions.
He doesn’t tell him how disappointed he is in him.
He is just happy that he has come home.
God’s gift of animals and pets also form part of the worship of God as we hear in our Psalm today:
Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds.
Even St Francis of Assisi is believed to have spent time preaching to animals, particularly to the birds to encourage them to bless God with their singing.
He reports that the birds remained attentively gathered around him until he blessed them and they flew away—some heading north, some south, some east, and some west—going out in all directions as if on their way to pass along the good news of God's love that they had just heard to other creatures.
We have so much to be thankful to God for and whether or not we are pet people or not let us never forget and give thanks to God for the companionship and love that they provide to so many people without whom their lives would be filled with sadness and loneliness.
Praise be to God.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Sermon 6th October 2019 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost Text: Luke 17:5-10 – Increase our faith?

Sermon 6th October 2019 – 17th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Luke 17:5-10 – Increase our faith?

It’s an interesting request from the apostles to Jesus today – Increase our faith.
I wonder why they made that request.
Were they having doubts?
Were they going through some sort of crisis?
I know I’ve heard well-meaning Christians tell a sick person that if they had enough faith that God would heal them.
How much is enough faith?
How do you measure it?
I have heard TV evangelists tell their viewers that if they have faith and send in a donation that God would bless them.
Is that what faith is about?
Actually the request came after Jesus had challenged them to forgive someone who had sinned against them 7 times in one day and asked to be forgiven 7 times.
There are times when we seem to need more faith.
Maybe when we are going through a difficult time.
Maybe when we are in a time of grief.
Jesus doesn’t do what they were hoping but rather he points them to what they already have.
They have faith.
Can faith be measured?
How is faith measured?
If faith is a measurable quantity why doesn’t God give everyone the full amount of faith?
I don’t believe faith is a measurable quantity but faith can be hindered by doubt, like when Jesus says to Peter, who had faith to step out of a boat and walk on water like Jesus – but when he sees the wind and the waves he begins to sink.
Jesus says to him – you of little faith – why did you doubt.
As I consider this again – in light of what Jesus says today about “a little faith” – was it a criticism that he said “you of little faith” – or was it a statement of fact.
Maybe “a little faith” was all that was needed to walk on water just like a little faith is all that is needed to uproot a mulberry tree and have it transplanted into the sea.
But Peter’s doubt quashed that.
Notice though what Jesus does when Peter starts to sink.
He doesn’t “increase his faith” so he can again walk on water.
No, Jesus reaches out his hand and brings him back to the safety of the boat.
Faith is not a quantity issue – it is a gift of God that comes to us.
As Christians we have faith which we believe first comes to us in Baptism when we receive the Holy Spirit.
Faith is a gift and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
St Paul says that no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
That is faith.
We have faith that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The question is – what do we do with that faith.
There are times when, like Peter, we are travelling along okay with our faith.
We might even feel at times like we can walk on water.
But when we are confronted with a situation that challenges us that’s when faith is required.
But it’s not as if it isn’t there.
But that’s what faith is for – so when we are confronted with a situation we are having difficulty with that we rely on God and not ourselves.
Otherwise it’s not faith.
It’s simply ourselves if we are not challenged to trust God.
Peter walking on the water was an amazing feat.
But that, in reality, was just an ability to challenge the laws of nature.
Some might even say it falls into line with what could be a trick of magic.
But to look at adversity in the eye – the wind and waves – and say to them – you can’t overcome me – that’s faith in action.
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that Peter walking on water was simply a magic trick – but there was nothing in there that was challenging.
But to continue to walk on the water while the wind and the waves attacked him – that’s faith.
And that’s what we face everyday.
It’s an act of faith to confess to the world that we are Christians.
We walk each day and are prepared to call Jesus Christ our Lord.
But what happens when the wind and the waves confront us?
What happens when an adverse situation arises and we actually need to put our faith into action?
Peter focuses away from his faith and focused on the adversities.
He didn’t need his faith increased.
He needed to rely on his faith in Jesus.
Likewise when we are faced with an adverse situation then we are called to rely on our faith in Jesus.
We don’t need to have our faith increased, we need to trust in God – which is what we call faith.
Adversity comes in many forms.
It can be a personal adversity – a sickness, a death, a family crisis.
In those situations faith can help us to weather the storm and look for God’s presence and help in it.
It’s doesn’t mean the adversity will disappear but God will help us move forward.
When Peter began to sink, note 2 things.
It doesn’t say the wind and the waves disappeared.
Faith doesn’t mean that God clears away the adversity or prevents it.
Sometimes they remain.
Sometimes a sickness doesn’t get better despite people saying if you had enough faith you’d get better.
Sometimes a death cannot be averted.
Sometimes a family crisis ends in a divorce or a relationship becoming untenable.
And that’s where the 2nd part of Peter’s experience reveals how God helps.
When Peter sinks, Jesus doesn’t “increase his faith” to enable him to start to float again and walk on the water.
Jesus reaches out his hand and takes hold of Peter and places him back in the safety of the boat and then the wind dies down.
And that’s what faith does for us.
It allows Jesus to take hold of us when we face adversity and he will lead us to a place where we can cope with that adversity and then we can continue to move forward with life.
Again, faith was not about preventing or immediately removing the adversity.
Peter faced the full force of the wind and waves until Jesus placed him back in the boat.
Faith was not restoring back to how things were.
Peter did not go back onto the water but to a place where Jesus knew he could cope.
So it was not about Jesus increasing the faith of the apostles but explaining that they had faith to use.
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
What prevents our faith is when we look to our own strength alone to deal with an adversity in life.
When we want to take control of a situation rather than accepting God’s will and allowing God to direct our way forward.
And that includes not just in our personal lives but also in our church lives.
We also need faith in the church when we face adversity.
Too often when things are not going the way we hope that we take matters into our own hands.
The early church faced much adversity – divisions, persecutions, theological differences.
But they worked together and grew stronger.
They faced the great schism in 1054 which saw the church divide between East and West.
They faced the Reformation which saw the Western church divide into Lutherans, Church of England, Reformed Churches and continues today.
We’re still facing massive adversities today;
The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.
 The Ordination of Women.
Same sex marriage.
Declining numbers through many factors.
We need faith more than ever and God will guide us to where we can grow and move forward.
He doesn’t remove the adversities but he puts out his hand and says – trust me!
Let me take you by the hand like I took Peter – you of little faith – don’t doubt.
Little faith is good – doubt is bad.
Even with little faith we can uproot and be replanted.
But if we take matters into our own hand to fight the adversity we will sink and drown.
Sadly because of our human nature we believe we are owed more, like the story that Jesus told to go along with his explanation of faith when he said - `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!.
As servants of God we trust in God as our Lord and Master.
But as our Lord and Master Jesus does not Lord it over us but leads by example and came as a servant also.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,
And he remained a servant trusting his father and remained humble and obedient even unto death on a cross.
And by that trust God gave to him the name above all names.
And that is also where God is leading us but we have to trust him.
If we want to take control then we need to be prepared to hear Jesus say to us, as he once said to Peter – get behind me Satan, for you have in mind not the things of God but the things of man.
And that’s where the apostles were heading today when they didn’t trust the faith they had but expected more.
You have faith.
You might think it is small but God doesn’t.
God could work with 2 small copper coins of the poor widow.
In fact God created the world from nothing – so a little faith is more than enough for God to work with.