Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Sermon 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday Text: Matthew 21:1-11 – Built on the rock

Sermon 5th April 2020 – Palm Sunday
Text: Matthew 21:1-11 – Built on the rock

Hasn’t life changed?
If we go back just a couple months ago life was never better.
I had just arrived back from my 2 week cruise and excited that we had rebooked our next cruise.
Coffee shops and wine bars were filled with people celebrating life with not a problem in the world.
But then something happened.
Stories of a virus were doing the rounds.
Rumours that it had come from a wet market in China.
But we felt safe – it was over there – we were over here.
Then we heard of the Diamond Princess and the cruisers whose dream holiday turned into a nightmare.
There were Australians on the ship and it felt like it was getting closer to home – but still far enough away that we didn’t really have to worry about it.
But then the cases started arriving in Australia.
There were rumours that things might get shut down.
We learnt new phrases like “social distancing”.
We started joking about it – don’t come too close – and we’d laugh.
We were told not to shake hands – but we did.
We were given instructions on how to wash our hands.
We were given instructions on how to worship – how to receive communion.
And then we started hearing more rumours that churches might be asked to suspend services – and some did.
We heard more rules – no gatherings over 1000 – we were safe.
Then it was reduced – no gatherings over 100 – we were safe.
Then it was reduced – 1 person per 2 square metres – we found a way to do that.
Life kept changing – it was, what we describe as “fickle”.
And then the decree – places of worship were to suspend all services until further notices – and this could last 6 months.
In today’s readings we see Jesus experiencing that same fickleness – that same uncertainty as he enters Jerusalem to the cheers and support of the people of Jerusalem – only to face the same people asking for his death not long after.
What can we learn from this?
We learn that Jesus knew that this was going to happen.
In Matthew 16 Jesus explains this entry into Jerusalem:
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
What happened to Jesus in that triumphal entry into Jerusalem symbolises life on earth.
It reminds us that we too are on a journey and before we reach that destination of eternal life in Heaven that there is always the unexpected fickleness of life.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be concerned about what is happening.
Not at all.
What is happening is heartbreaking to see.
And it is hitting very close to home for all of us.
We’re used to knowing someone who knows someone who is affected by a tragic circumstance.
But we are finding that we are all becoming personally affected by this first hand.
We have a family member who has lost their job.
We have a family member or friend who has cancelled their wedding.
I have 2 funerals to conduct but only after the pandemic conditions end.
Life is very different to how we have always expected it to be.
But so many times Jesus encourages us to be founded on solid ground for just such occasions as this:
One of my favourite parables for such a time as this is the parable of the 2 builders:
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
It wasn’t the strength or craftsmanship of the house that provided the safety from the storm – it was the foundation.
Likewise, it has not been the things that we have built our lives on that are providing us with hope and strength – our careers – our finances – our social lives –
No all these and more have been threatened.
Even our church buildings are not providing the security – BUT the foundation on which our churches are built – the rock of Christ – is providing that hope in these times.
When Jesus told his disciples about his entry into Jerusalem he explained that while it might begin as a “triumphal entry” to the hosannas of the crowd, it will look anything but a triumph as the crowd which cried out “hosanna” one day, will in just a short time cry out “crucify”.
But we need to remember that even with the fickle nature of the crowd, this is still a triumphal entry.
Because the triumph will be his triumph over death.
At the moment our worldly situation looks anything but triumphal.
There is very little we can do.
I was devastated this week when I led a funeral and seeing the mother of the deceased crying her heart out but I could not even console her with a personal touch.
But what I could not do, God did, as he comforted her with his word of assurance.
The word we heard last week at the death of Lazarus as Jesus proclaims his triumph:
I AM the resurrection and life – whoever believes in me, even though they die, they shall live.
This is a triumph that no one else can give.
Death is the worst case scenario for this virus and any other earthly threat.
Our sporting stars can’t give hope like they normally do in a crisis – they too have had their games cancelled.
Our actors and celebrities can’t give hope like they normally do in a crisis – they too are in isolation.
Only God can give us triumph, even though it presently looks anything but triumph – just like it did on the cross.
St Paul reminds us in our 2nd reading:
Christ humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross.
We are challenged to humble ourselves and trust God.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that 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, to the glory of God the Father.
In this time of earthly uncertainty, let us be like the wise builder who built his home on the foundation of the rock.
Jesus said he would build his church on that rock and not even the gates of hell will overcome it.
 And as we live in the eye of the storm that is beating against our church let us remember that Jesus is the one who even though he was asleep in the helm of the boat while the disciples thought they were going to drown – he got up and told the storm to be quiet – and it ceased.
The disciples felt like we probably feel because Jesus was asleep – don’t you care that we are going to drown.
Don’t you care that I’ve lost my job – don’t you care that I’ve lost my house – don’t you care that I’ve had to cancel my wedding.
Of course God does!
But Jesus showed his power and authority – who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him.
And he will show his power and authority in this as well and he asks us to trust him.
He says: Don’t let your hearts be troubled – trust God, trust also in me.
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Sermon 29th March 2020 - Video link

For a video of this Sunday's service including liturgy of the word and sermon:
(copy and paste)


Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Sermon 29th March 2020 - 5th Sunday in Lent Text: John 11:1-45 – The world’s worst brings out God’s best

Sermon 29th March 2020  - 5th Sunday in Lent
Text: John 11:1-45 – The world’s worst brings out God’s best

Lazarus is one of the best known stories in the Bible.
Even those who are not familiar with him know something about the story.
That Lazarus died and rose from the dead.
But that is not the extent of what Jesus is trying to teach us.
Do you remember the account of Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant?
The Centurion’s faith in Jesus meant that he didn’t require Jesus to be present with his servant in order for him to be healed.
He said to Jesus - Say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Say the word, and let my servant be healed.
The focus in the raising of Lazarus was not to bring comfort that Lazarus was back alive but to show the full extent of Jesus’ power and authority.
Mary and Martha didn’t understand that and were succumbed by the grief of their brother’s death and were upset, even angry, that Jesus didn’t prevent it.
Mary rushed out to Jesus and said; “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Haven’t we heard that – or similar – where is God in all this?
Can’t God stop this?
Jesus didn’t need to be there, as in the healing of the Centurion’s servant.
But Jesus explains God’s plan to his disciples - Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.
What did Jesus mean by that – he was glad he was NOT there so they may believe?
Jesus is using this tragedy in order to create faith because eternal life is more important that worldly life.
Jesus came so that we might not perish but receive eternal life.
He didn’t cause the death but he is going to use it in order to create faith in his disciples.
As a church have we not been saying for a generation or more our grief that our churches are dying and wondering what we can do to bring people back to church?
We have tried making church more entertaining, less judgmental, more worldly so that people will like us and come flooding back.
Has that worked?
The danger to faith is prosperity.
In our prosperity we have no need for God – or so we think.
When Israel were about to enter the Promised Land – a land abounding with goodness and success, God gave them a warning.
In your prosperity – do not forget the Lord.
No one is suggesting that God has caused this situation in the world.
Just as he did not cause Lazarus to die.
But God can, and will, show his strength in this.
The Government has closed our church buildings but it cannot close the body of Christ – you and me.
The church is not a building- it is the people – you and me.
And while a Government can shut down a building, it cannot shut down the people of God.
And God’s strength is made known in times of adversity as seen in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
That’s what John declares at the end of this passage:
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
If Jesus had been there – or had he given the order for Lazarus to get well – then his friends and family and Jesus’ disciples would not have witnessed just how powerful Jesus is.
This is the toughest challenge that many people have had for their faith, including me.
And this is the time that we need to get on our knees and pray.
Because God is the one – the only one - who can bring hope – who can bring life.
It looks bleak.
It looks dismal.
It looks like the scene in our Old Testament passage from Ezekiel:
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.
That’s the picture we see before us.
The queues at Centrelink.
The “closed” signs on shopfronts.
And something I thought I would never see – “cancelled” signs on churches.
It looks very much like the valley of dry bones that Ezekiel saw.
Bones – the last symbol of death.
The last symbol of all hope being removed.
But not for God.
Bones are left after the body has perished – but the body that is buried perishable is raised imperishable.
What is impossible with humanity is possible with God as God gives the order to Ezekiel:
Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.
Hear the word of the Lord.
Thus says to the Lord.
I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live.
Just as death is not the end of life for Jesus, so too in this life it is God who brings renewal.
But sometimes, in order to bring renewal, death must come first.
And that’s where the voice crying out to God comes from in our Psalm:
Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my prayer.
As St Paul reminds us – our hope is in Christ.
The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Next Sunday will be Palm Sunday.
It is the day when we remember what Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem meant.
Jesus explained to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
But he first had to die to be raised from death.
The world did its worse to Jesus – they tortured him; they humiliated him; they put him to death.
But then God stepped in and raised him from the dead to eternal life.
And we know that God will also step in and rescue us.
Yes it is bad at present.
And it may get worse.
But once the world has done its worse, God steps in and does his best.
Sometimes God allows the world to do its worse in order to show us just what God has in store for us.
God didn’t create or send the coronavirus.
That’s the world’s doing.
But sometimes God allows the world to overstep so he can show his strength.
God’s weakness is more powerful that human strength.
Just like he did with Satan and Job.
In order to show Satan what Job’s faith was truly like he allowed his suffering.
But God set the limits.
And then after Satan had done his worse God did his best and blessed Job with more than he had in the beginning.
Friends, this looks dire.
This looks frightening.
But just as God breathed into the lifeless dry bones in Ezekiel;
Just as Lazarus breathed his last and then God breathed new life;
So too God can and WILL bring us through.
And I am certain that there is blessing in this that maybe a new faith will be breathed into our world and into our churches.
Maybe there will be a renewal of people’s faith as they see what the world can do them.
The world that they thought was their friend has turned against them.
But with God there is hope:
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.
 My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.
Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Sermon 22nd March 2020 – 4th Sunday in Lent Text – Psalm 23 – The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want.

Sermon 22nd March 2020 – 4th Sunday in Lent
Text – Psalm 23 – The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want.

So how are you coping with all that’s going on?
Have you started to panic wondering if you have enough food?
Do you panic when you arrive at the supermarket and see all the empty shelves?
Did you ever think that this could happen in Australia?
Someone said to me during the week, the bushfires brought out the best in humankind as we gave and gave and gave.
This pandemic has brought out the worst in humankind as we take and take and take.
What’s the difference?
The difference is because it affects me.
The bushfires were out there.
We were happy to give to help others in need.
But now that we are in need along with everyone else we don’t think of others because fear and panic has hit home.
We think about how we can protect ourselves.
And that is at the heart of human sinfulness.
And if we think back to the beginning of Lent when Jesus ended his 40 day fast, the Devil tempted him to look away from God and turn rocks into bread.
Look after yourself.
You’re hungry; use your power to do whatever it takes.
Human nature goes into defence mode when threatened – and that is what we are seeing.
And the devil uses our fear to create that irrational response.
Think of Adam and Eve.
Even though God would provide for them with everything they needed – the devil convinced them otherwise and they panicked.
Take a bite – your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.
Then you won’t have to rely on God but be in control yourselves.
Fear creates an irrational response.
We keep getting told – there is enough for everyone if we just go about our normal shopping.
There was never a shortage of toilet paper - just a perceived fear of running out and what I would do if that happened.
I could not have thought of a better response to what is happening than the first verse of our Psalm today.
A few weeks ago we had the most known bible text – John 3:16 – for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And today we hear what that means for us:
The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want.
Sheep don’t know where their feed is coming from but they trust their shepherd.
Jesus once gave similar comfort when he said in Matthew 6:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Do we stop and think about that?
It’s hard – and we fall into the same temptation as Adam and Eve and Jesus of whether to keep trusting God or take control ourselves.
We see an immediate threat and we panic.
We have this defence mechanism in us that believes we need to protect ourselves.
And that’s what we are seeing all around us.
When the threat does not affect us we are more than happy to open our hearts to help.
And we are extremely generous.
But when it affects me I go into survival mode.
And we have seen on the news the fighting – the stabbing – the cursing – over a roll of toilet paper.
This is what faith is all about.
This is where your faith becomes vital.
I don’t know how long we are going to have to live under these conditions.
I don’t know if the virus has spiked and is levelling out or if it’s going to get worse.
I don’t know if there’s going to be enough supplies to cope with all that’s going on.
I don’t know when the vaccine may become available.
But I do know – The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want.
And even though we don’t know what lies ahead, again King David gives us assurance when he says:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me;
Friends, this is what our faith has been preparing us for.
When times are tough – when we don’t know what the coming days, weeks or months have for us – our faith in God is where our strength comes from.
A couple weeks ago we had Psalm 121 which began:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth
The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want.
It doesn’t say, I lift up my eyes – where does my help come from – a well-stocked supermarket shelf with all the items I need.
No, my help comes from the Lord.
The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want.
This is a time when we should be staying strong in our faith.
When we should be looking out for one another and helping one another – supporting one another.
Love your neighbour as yourself.
We live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world and all it took was a fear of running out of toilet paper to cause panic and pushing others out of the way to get that last packet of rice or flour or meat.
Maybe this will be a wakeup call to us – firstly for those who live in these conditions as part of their everyday life in developing countries.
But secondly where our faith is in times of tragedy and uncertainty
Let us continue to use this as an opportunity to strengthen OUR faith but also to help our neighbour in need both in physical terms but also in spiritual terms as we give an answer for the hope that we have.
Lift up your eyes— where does your help come from?
Your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
The Lord is our Shepherd – we shall not want.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Sermon 15th March 2020 – 3rd Sunday in Lent Text: John 4:5-42 – Relational Evangelism

Sermon 15th March 2020 – 3rd Sunday in Lent
Text: John 4:5-42 – Relational Evangelism

Last Sunday we heard Jesus teaching Nicodemus a lesson on God’s love.
It ended with the well-known text – John 3:16 – God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
That was a teaching about God’s love.
Today we see that love put into action by Jesus to show us what it means and how it looks.
Jesus meets the complete opposite of Nicodemus.
She is female.
She is unnamed.
She is a Samaritan
She is not a leader amongst her community.
This is where love comes to life and it proves to be the catalyst for the Gospel being preached to her and her community.
Where does this love begin for Jesus?
There are rules about how Jesus, a Jewish male and a teacher should interact with people, especially with women, especially with Samaritan women.
The Jews and the Samaritans were in dispute with each other.
And the dispute was over worship and we know that when there are disputes over worship or religion in general there can grow an intense hating for other groups of people.
Those who can remember the Lutheran Church before amalgamation in 1966 each other was referred to as “the other Synod”.
We didn’t use their Synod’s name – just calling them “the other Synod”.
It’s a division that continues today even with our combined synod – worship styles, creation versus evolution, ordination to name just a few.
Jesus’ love is shown in that he communicates with her where she is at and not through the things that would normally divide and working out who is right and who is wrong.
And she is the one who raises the issue of their division:
The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)
Notice she highlights that she is both a woman and a Samaritan – both conditions that would divide them.
Likewise Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand:
When his disciples came they were astonished that he was speaking with a woman.
So what is this story about – as I said earlier it’s about where love comes to life.
Where head knowledge becomes heart actions.
We transition from Nicodemus – a Pharisee and leading Jews to an unnamed – unimportant Samaritan woman.
And what Nicodemus was struggling to understand about being born again by water and the Spirit Jesus personalises by offering this woman living water.
He doesn’t criticise her in the same way he criticised Nicodemus for his lack of understanding.
Note how Jesus communicates.
Not by coming in all guns blazing but a simple conversation starter:
Give me a drink.
He knew that request would raise many questions by the Samaritan woman.
It’s an interesting introduction to the woman, isn’t it?
Give me a drink.
Do you remember the time Jesus taught - And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."
From that conversation it is the woman who acknowledges the breakdown in their relationship.
She does her own soul searching.
And that asks the question of us – where do we begin in our conversations when we want to share our faith?
Where do we allow a person to begin their own soul searching?
Or are we the ones searching their souls?
Often, from what I’ve seen, it has started with questions like – are you saved?
Do you know that Jesus has died for your sins?
Have you given your life to Jesus?
Jesus is exampling what we call relational evangelism.
It is a sharing of our faith that begins with where we are at with each other.
It is finding a connection with another person that can lead to a continuing conversation that may lead to an opportunity to share your faith.
As St Peter says – always be prepared to give an “answer” for the hope you have.
From that initial conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus is able to introduce himself as the Living Water.
Jesus then asks her to bring her husband along to which she confesses that she has no husband –
Jesus knew that but he didn’t begin by stating that which may have seemed judgmental.
He allowed her soul searching to reveal that.
Maybe she is trying to cover up that she is in a relationship that is not really approved of.
Jesus then confesses that he knows her situation – that she has had 5 husbands and the man she is living with is not her husband.
But at no time did he accuse her of any wrongdoing.
At no time does he judge her.
Unlike the woman caught in adultery, he doesn’t tell her to go and sin no more.
Instead she goes to tell her own people about Jesus.
Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
How is that for evangelism and all because Jesus asked for a drink - a glass of water?
She sounds very much like Phillip in chapter 1 of John’s Gospel:
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
Relational evangelism can take longer and sometimes it seems like you’re not really doing anything or going anywhere.
Sometimes it seems like you’re only ever talking about the weather or football or politics.
But God can gently lead in a way that is so subtle that we don’t always realise that we’re sharing the Gospel with that person.
This conversation didn’t look like it was really going anywhere until Jesus exposed a need.
It would appear that she may have been dealing with guilt.
The reading doesn’t actually say that and we can’t really be certain but we can take from her behaviour that maybe she was feeling some shame.
She told Jesus that she didn’t have a husband when in fact she had had 5 and was living with someone not her husband.
We don’t know the situation but Jesus did not make her feel guilty about it.
She had come out in the heat of the day at noon.
Maybe the other women had been earlier to avoid the heat.
Maybe she had come when she knew there would be no others around to judge her.
Again, we don’t know that but John wants us to know those details.
Jesus begins with her needs rather than trying to correct her ways – if they needed correcting (we don’t know that).
Jesus is exampling what he taught to Nicodemus – God’s love in action.
It began by sending his one and only Son and now it continues by sending you and me.
And like Jesus we don’t know where or with whom that might be.
God works that out – he simply places them in our path like the Samaritan woman.
And it might not be the one we think will respond, as St Paul tells us:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But then Paul reminds us - How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
And as we look at the panic  and uncertainty around us and as we keep our faith in God, what better opportunity to share the Good News.
And as Jesus said to his disciples -look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.
May God bless you as you go and grow for God’s Kingdom.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Sermon 8th March 2020 – 2nd Sunday in Lent Text John 3:1-17- Do not fear

Sermon 8th March 2020 – 2nd Sunday in Lent
Text John 3:1-17- Do not fear

Today’s Gospel reading introduces a character who doesn’t seem to appear much in the bible but is an important person to understand.
John tells us that Nicodemus is a Pharisee, a leader among the Jews.
But unlike the other Pharisees and leaders he actually supports Jesus.
But because he supports Jesus he has to come to him by night because he is scared that the other Jewish leaders might find out.
His fear is similar to what we will see in the disciples after Jesus’ death when they lock themselves away for fear of the Jews.
I feel for Nicodemus.
When I first started going to church when I was 18, I lived in a family that mocked God – that had no time for God.
After reading my Gideon’s Bible that I got in High School I was convinced that God was leading me to find out more.
So I rang the 2 Lutheran Churches near me at the time – Waverley and Box Hill.
I chose Box Hill because they had an evening service.
I could cover up my attendance there better at night than if I ducked out early on a Sunday morning.
Fear can grip us and make us do things to avoid facing our fears.
We are starting to see what fear is doing in society with the Coronavirus.
Many supermarket items have run out because of panic buying.
It’s happening in other parts of the world too.
We fear so we act irrationally.
I remember when we used to have a lot more petrol strikes.
The queues lining up at petrol stations to top up a tank even though it was almost full for fear what MIGHT happen in the coming days.
There used to be a show on TV devoted to this panic called American Preppers.
It was a show about people preparing for an end of world catastrophe who would have bunkers prepared with essential items to they could wait out the apocalypse.
 But fear can also prevent us from experiencing blessings that God provides as he takes us on adventures.
Imagine if Peter, when called by Jesus, said “thanks for the offer but I really need to earn a living so I can secure my future.
But he didn’t.
He took the risk, just as Abraham did in our Old Testament reading.
The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him;
Abraham, or Abram as he was known as then, took a risk.
He left all his security behind him – his family, his house and land – and he went to a place that he needed to trust God about.
Imagine if he had said no.
Imagine if his fear of the unknown stopped him from taking that bold step.
I think it is actually exciting when we don’t know what the future is and that we trust in God.
Yes it can be a little unsettling because it is something we are not in control of.
But that’s where God’s blessings flourish.
That’s what he promised to Abraham:
I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Look how many times he uses the word “bless” – and all of this is contingent on Abraham trusting God and not knowing what the future holds.
Likewise for us in situations we are facing like this current issue of the Coronavirus.
We can panic and protect ourselves and live in fear or we can trust God.
Fear makes us think about ourselves.
If we focus on ourselves – store up food – panic buy and all those other things that everyone else is doing – where is the room for God’s blessings.
How are we different to those who don’t have faith in God?
This is the perfect time to witness to our faith in God.
And remember that it wasn’t all easy going for Abraham going forward.
He feared for his life when he thought tribes would kill him because of his wife.
He witnessed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
He had to deal with the prospect of not having an heir and again trusting God’s promise even though he was turning 90 years old.
And sadly his fear got the better of him and he took matters into his own hands and has a child with Hagar - Ishmael.
But God remained true to his promise and Abraham has a child with Sarah – Isaac.
But because of his fear Abraham caused tension between Hagar and Sarah, Ishmael and Isaac – a tension that continues in the world today.
So again we learn that God will always act but not always in our timing – and we are not to panic.
And that’s what Paul means when he says: the promise that Abraham would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law (through Ishmael) (taking matters into our own hands) but through the righteousness of faith (Isaac) – trusting God.
Ishmael through Hagar represents the law – a breakdown in trust - and Isaac through Sarah represents faith in God.
Blessings don’t come when we take action by our own means.
Blessings come when we trust God.
Again we see that example when Peter walks on the water but then lets his fear cause him to panic and he begins to sink.
His fear caused him to deny knowing Jesus 3 times.
Fear should not define a Christian.
Fear is the opposite of faith as it causes us to move away from faith in God and trust in ourselves.
Nicodemus and Peter will overcome their fear and what different people they will become.
Nicodemus will accompany Joseph of Arimathea to seek Jesus’ body to give him a proper burial.
But this time it won’t be at night.
Peter will become a power preacher filled with the Holy Spirit and when asked to cease he boldly claims – I must obey God rather than human beings.
There is no more fear of the Jews.
No more denying Jesus.
Fear can bring out the worst in us as it relies on ourselves.
We’re seeing that in the selfishness of panic buying – I don’t care if others don’t get any as long as I have enough for myself.
Faith brings out the best in us – the blessings of God – as we trust God and become powerful witness for him.
Jesus says - You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
The world belongs to God and we believe that he not only created us but provides for us.
And he continues to provide for us.
The one who loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son will not forsake us so let us keep our trust in him.