Author: Adrian Kitson (page 1 of 20)

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

Sermon, Sunday May 13, 2018 Ascension Sunday

Walking people. Lifestyle.

St Petri

 Luke 24:44-53 

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

“Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, that old spiritual from so long ago, penned by Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson expressed the faith and the need we have.

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be

I am weak but Thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee

But how do you get it? How do you get close to God and walk with Jesus more closely? Why would you pray this and seek this closeness anyway? Maybe those people up on the hill who saw him go into the air might have something to say this …

This Ascension moment is a final departure. Final departures are often very hard. A part of us is being removed, not by surgeon’s knife, but by grief’s affect.

These people lived in the presence of a great person who marked their character and shifted their jobs, families, understanding and hopes forever.

But Instead of being lost in heart-felt grief because the loss of their friend and mentor, they are charged up by his departure! They move from aimlessness and confusion and the temptation to give up and scatter, to great joy and sticking together in praise of God! They somehow seem to believe that they indeed now have “a closer walk with thee”!

What would make you glad at the departure of a loved one? Either you are glad the person’s suffering is over, or, you found great pain and discomfort in their presence and now that pain and discomfort is over, or, the person imparted a great inheritance that will help you greatly.

There is no hint that any of those gathered up on the hill were full of joy because Jesus’ suffering was finally over. Yes, he suffered alright. They saw it and felt it and grieved for him, but then he appeared and showed he had triumphed over all of that. So, they are not joyful because his suffering is ended.

There is no hint that they are glad the guy is finally gone because of any ill-treatment or injustice done to them. So that can’t be the reason for the praise and joy.

It has to be that they are full of joyful words about their God and wanting to be together because they have recognised the full extent of the inheritance he has left them! It is an inheritance better than anything money can buy.

The inheritance is his presence still; it is a possible “ closer walk with thee”; not because they earned it or achieved it or paid for it but because he simply gave it.

The gift of his loving presence always is a free gift. It is not that they have to find a way to be close to him but that he now become close to them and promises to remain so.  “I am with you always to the very end of the age”. “Wherever even two or three of you are gathered together in my name, I am there …”.

But we have trouble with this. Someone has said that we Christians are often “practical atheists”. That is, we say we believe in Jesus but practically live as if he is not really present – as if we have to manufacture a ‘closer walk with thee”; as if he went into that cloud never to return.

Funny how we seem to believe that “we are only as close to God as we choose to be”, as I read on a church website this week. It is as if we have to try and make ‘a closer walk with thee’ happen by our making, our will, our goodness. We have to reach out to him and win him closer.

As a result, when it comes to making a life for ourselves, making decisions, setting direction as a parent, making decisions about marriage, family, business, and all else, we PRACTICALLY rely on ourselves more than the very-present person and word of Jesus.

This all goes OK, we think, until one or two of four things happens: Money gets tight, health breaks down, death breaks in or someone calls our reputation is threatened.

Then the practical atheists become divine prayers! We sing that song!

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be

We call out the Jesus asking him to help us. We may even make a bargain or two with him. We might even clean up our act and stop doing some things or take on some spiritual things just to make sure God comes through…..for a while, until it all leaks out of our hearts and we carry on as practical atheists.

What’s Jesus’ solution to our leakage problem?! What will enable us to have a closer walk with thee?

How will he respond when we call out

Just a closer walk with Thee
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea

Will he say, “you are only as close to God as you choose to be”, so choose! You make it happen, you do it!

No way. We are only as close to God because he chooses to be close to us – VERY CLOSE, UNSHAKABLY CLOSE!

It is HIS reaching out to me that makes me “close to thee” not me.

Friend, there is no need to plead, no need to beg, to steal his closeness. The only need is to trust this present ascended Jesus and his promise to be close to you near and far, here and there, there and then.

What does he give to help us live in his closeness? What will he give us when we are so close that enables us to live with all the confidence, hope and love for which we long?

Three things which are really the same person.

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures

My word will sustain you and make you all you need to be, says the Ascended Jesus. My word will shape you, help you trust my presence any day of the week, any room in the house, any place in the community. I will keep showing you who I am and what your life really is in me.

but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high

You will receive spiritual power that will transform your body, your mind and your spirit daily for the task of speaking and doing what you saw and heard me do and say.

….he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

My blessing, empowering, loving, calling, shaping hands will never cease. They are the wounded hands that bless you. By my wounded hands you are blessed, you are healed – everyday.

Friends, let’s bless each other into;

  • Understand the Scriptures in the joy and sorrow, in the confusion and clarity of life..
  • Receive the Spirit when you feel dead and when you know you are alive
  • Be blessed and bless others – and never stop both. It is his presence, his breath, his wounded hands blessing you to be healing, breathing, moving blessing to the wounded, the broken and the prideful.

His final departure was not final. Neither will yours ever be.

His Ascension brings his presence.

He never left you. He never will.

Praise him with every breath you speak, every day at work, every time with family, every time you use his gifts he has given, with everything you own.

Speak good words of him to others.

We do this together as his church and he is here.

Jesus, move us from self to you; from confusion to you, from death to you, from practical atheism to you in all the fullness of your presence.

Amen

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Pray: Spirit of Jesus, speak, for your servant is listening.

Read the text out loud slowly taking note of who says and does what, and noting questions that come of where your mind dwells/wonders as you go.

Embedded in this simple account of this seeming final departure of Jesus are things that say it is not. This is not Jesus final departure but his beginning arrival in a new way.

  1. Everything is fulfilled. This is the whole biblical story coming to its full fruition. The Messiah is taking up his everlasting reign. All the promises of the Old Testament have been fully kept by God in his Son, Jesus and Jesus will live after this day – always.
  2.  You are witnesses. So, the show goes on. The story is not finished. There is no end here. This is the beginning of the rest of God’s work, and these ordinary folks are involved. They are named one thing – “Witnesses”. They have the calling to bear witness to what they have see and heard.
  3. They will not and cannot do this under their own human power. This new beginning and their calling in it with Jesus can only be done with gift he promises to send soon – the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day (50 days away). Jesus will remain present.
  4.  The last thing they hear and see is a word of blessing from Jesus and his raised wounded hands and rising wounded body and feet over them. The tense of the Greek verb here is not final. it is ongoing. Jesus’ blessing does not come to an end. it goes on. it is still going for these 12 people and for those to whom they bear witness – your and me

I suggest that this is not a sign of Divine Absence in your life but a sign of Divine presence in your life and that jesus is not some spirit floating around the clouds somewhere playing a harp sitting on a cloud, or even some spiritual force that you have to find by some means – be it emotions, or songs or rituals or right therology and anything else. Jesus remains human for humans. The last thing he is is human. The last thing he does is speak human words for humans to hear. We have a human Saviour still. He has not morphed into some spiritual force in our lives. “This same jesus whom you saw go into the skies will return the same”.

What does this mean for you?

The Lutheran community, like all mainline communities has this belief and it shapes their worship life. Why is it that Lutheran can put such a high premium on the gifts of baptism and holy communion and the words of scripture formed into a pattern or rhythm done over and over again? because Jesus is present (where two or three are gathered in his name) even physically and through normal, everyday physical means. When that person is baptised it is Jesus, the living Word present and active using water to discharge his spiritual filling of that new Christian. When that brad and wine is eaten and drunk, it is his body and his blood for his forgiveness and his life now. That is why Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic worship is like it is. it is all based on the belief that Jesus is till present and that the gift of the Spirit is given by him through ordinary means – human words, humans hands, humans bread wine, bodies, prayers songs and etc …

What do you make of all of this? Does this challenge you or comfort you or both?

It is absolutely no problem for me to believe that I partake of Jesus physical body in that bread and his blood by that wine. it is still bread and wine but his word spoken with it make it spiritual and real and healing and life-giving. How about you?

As for who makes a ‘closer walk with thee’ really happen, it is not me. He does. He remains present when he does not have to. He draws close when he has every right to leave me for dead. He loves first, he blesses first, he calls first, he sends me first. I don’t earn it, achieve it, deserve it and even understand it, but he understands these 12 individuals and those who came after them (you!).

We are only as close to God because he chooses to be close to us”.

What do you make of that?

As for our working life, marriage life, relationships and skills, they all count here too. He calls these ordinary people into his global kingdom work of bearing witness and promises to give them the words to say and the places to be. The Book of Acts is the outworking of his promises and it is still going on through all of us today. So we Christians never ‘work for the weekend’, we work in Jesus when we are at work and our work is a gift from him. How I treat my partner is how I treat Jesus and reflective of how he treats me. It all counts and it all bears witness – good or bad.

But yet, we get  guilty about our failing to witness well. Not to worry, there is always another day tomorrow and a forgiving, life-giving ascended Jesus calling us, sending us, trusting us with his words and story.

Pray

I am weak but Thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee

 

Go with what you know

  Sermon, Easter 5B

Sunday April 29, 2018, St Petri

Acts 8:26-40

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian[a] eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

 32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”[b]

 34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

 As they travelled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?”[c] 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

 

 My son, Dan and wife, Leanne, are both in the orchestra for the Faith Lutheran College musical, Cats. It will be a great show!

Of course, a show like Cats doesn’t just happen. It takes so much effort from so many – all the cast and crew, the orchestra … But it needs a Director too – the one who makes all the people work together to accomplish the goal of creating a something beautiful. The Director is the key in bringing it all together.

Just like Cats, this event on the road south from Jerusalem is part of an orchestrated movement of God, skilfully woven together by the4 Holy Spirit and told by Luke.

The Holy Spirit is the Director of this ‘show’. It is called Missio Dei – “The Mission of God”. The Spirit of Jesus risen is the master tactician who directs this “chance” encounter between a searcher and a disciple.

It is obvious……

  1. “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, Go …”
  2. The Spirit told Philip, Go …”
  3. “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture…told him Jesus” (This is not Phillip’s Word, but the Spirit’s Word)
  4. “The Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away …”

It all begins with the Spirit telling Phillip to “Go”. Phillip responds and goes. He goes south on the Gaza Road from Jerusalem and what does he find but a dark African man in royal clothes and carriage.

If that is not surprising enough for Phillip or us or his original listeners, the royal accountant for Queen Candice of Ethiopia is reading the bible!

Understanding No 1:

The Spirit begins and ends our life’s mission – God’s mission to “Go” to whom he sends us with the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness and love.

Understanding No 2:

God is already at work long before we turn up.

 

These two understandings clearly given by Luke make quite a difference to our life’s goal and our direction as a community of the Spirit.

Somehow, we tend to believe that WE determine our life’s mission and contribution. That is the age-old problem we have inherited from our first parents that still clings to us as forgiven and Sprit-filled people.

We also seem to easily believe that God is NOT at work in people’s lives until we turn up and do/say something.

Believing that we are responsible for our life’s calling and contribution and believing that nothing much happens until we do something FOR God, go together and they are wrong beliefs.

Luke is telling us that our life in God’s mission is not a solo, it is a band, an orchestra. And it is like Cats – the show has only one Director who is on to the mission and able to pull it all together daily. Want proof?

How often have you thought that a person you know of would have no understanding or connection to God or the Church or faith, only to find out in one of these “chance” conversations that this person understands quite a bit about these things, or has a spiritual side you never would have picked?

I find this all the time as I work with all kinds of people.

It would be easy to assume that non-church people have lived in a “no-God zone” all their lives. They seem besotted with the trappings of our culture, they seem captured by material or business or intellectual concerns. They might even swear and drink too much. They have relationship troubles, they are in pain, they are lonely, they are ‘all show’ at times, and yet, they have a searching and longing and even at times some experience of God in their life.

Being a being a disciple with Jesus on his Mission to seek and love all of us is actually a calling to join God in what he is already doing – not a crushing guilt trip and pressure cooker calling to have to make it all up in our own strength or out of fear of failure.

Our mission is not a demand by God on us but a gift of God to us. Our mission is not dependent on our solo efforts but on God’s solo grace and power.

All I see in God’s mission orchestrated by his Spirit here in the Gaza road and in the rest of the beginning of the church in Acts, is GOING.

All I see in Phillip is “going with what he knows” – he knows the word and he knows Jesus. He just shares what he knows, not what he doesn’t know. He is not asked to share what he does no know. He asked to share what he does know and learn as he goes.

I don’t see Phillip even waiting around long enough to check the score on his work! As the Spirit takes him away to another encounter way up further north in Azotus and Caesarea, he does not seem to have much idea of what will happen tomorrow, let alone in a week’s time. Neither do we. We do not have to.

We just ‘GO” or “start out”

That’s how we approach our task to share the gospel here – we start out every day. Like a traveller on a long journey with an uncertain shape and destination, we just pack up the cart, water the horses, pull on the boots and hat and start out.

Actually, this is how we Christians approach all of life isn’t it? We just start out every day – well, unwell, free, fearful, under threat of at peace. We just start out with Jesus every day trusting that he has our day, our death, our sin, our weakness and our life in hand.

Faith is trusting the Director of the show to make sense of it all, use of it all and something of us in it all.

We can be sure of one thing though: as we go with what we know and willingness to share it, the Spirit will do a “Phillip” on us. There will be an African man in a chariot with royal robes on and Isaiah the prophet in hand at school or work or footy or netball this week!

And here is the trust factor. Will we play our part trusting the Director of the Show for the quality of the overall show?

Thank Jesus today because I hear here in this carriage on the Gaza road that God says my going with what I already know will be enough – in all my failure, weakness and lack of understanding, he will be enough. He wants me in that carriage with all of me, not just the ‘good’ me.

When the questions come, the comments are made in jest or in barbed wire words or genuine searching, we speak what we have already heard, not what we don’t know.

When the day has not gone well, you have failed at something again, found yourself in the same old dark place or angry place again, or when you just cannot make heads or tails of what is happened and why it has happened and find yourself at ‘dead stop’, the call remains., “Go”. “Go with what you know of me”.

This is because the Spirit of the risen Jesus is already in the carriage before I get there and calls me to engage in the conversation. If the Spirit directs us he will give us enough for the encounter. The Spirit will take my words and make them count.

As Jesus promises to his mission team “…. do not worry about what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at the time what you should say” (Luke 12:11b-12)

Yes, God is already at work long before we turn up, but he calls you to turn up as you are and with what you know and leave the rest to his directing.

Better be ready this week. You might need to jump into the carriage and trust him for the words and the ways to be his witness in his mission…

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Read the text very slowly and intentionally in a quiet place. Do this out loud. If possible, stand up as you read…

Note the characters and their words to each other and Luke’s narration over the top of it all. What questions does this text raise for you? Note them….

What inspires you or makes your imagination kick into gear?

 

ICTS

Instruction: What does this account show be about who God is and how he works in people’s lives? Jot some things down….

Confession: What does this account lead me to confess in terms of my struggle with sin? Do that….

Thanksgiving: What does this account lead me to give thanks for? Do that…..

Supplication: What does this text lead me to ask God for and pray for others about? Do that…..

He Ain’t No Ghost

Sermon, Easter 4B, Sunday April 15, 2018. St Petri.

Luke 24: 36-48

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.

Ghosts don’t seem to do much for you other than scare the heck out of you. The only movie I ever enjoyed about ghosts was that funny 80’s movie, “Ghostbusters”. There was the other move; “Ghost”, with the late Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. That was all a bit much for me, not because of being scary but because of schmaltz!

As for ghost horror movies and stories? I never saw the point of having your mind thrown into fear and confusion. There is enough of that going on anyway! We don’t need movie to ramp up the fear and the disbelief in what is real and true. We humans seem to find it easy to get lost in what is unreal and untrue.

This small band of sisters and brothers in post-Crucifixion Jerusalem saw plenty that was real and true – and it was scary. The real thing always is so much more.

I often wonder whether these people were dealing with deep post traumatic stress syndrome. The violence, brutality and injustice of what others did to their mentor, their friend, and in Mary’s case, her son, must have been traumatic to the core.

Like friends and family sticking close together at the funeral, these grieving people are simply being together in that city apartment this Sunday night.

I want to go easy on them. They are only human.

Grief’s curtains had begun to be drawn – just a bit. Joanna and Mary M had already seen that tomb and the gardener, and angels…. But as Luke says;

“…they (the 11) did not believe the women, because their words seemed like nonsense” (Luke 24:11).

But Peter goes. He sees. He comes away wondering… Wondering is the beginning of believing.

Then two associates turn up after sundown with some news – news that would be easy to fob off as mere ‘fake news’.

He is alive. We saw him. He made our hearts burn. He took what we know and opened up our horizon on everything we knew and extended it”.

But it is still only the beginning of the return. They are only human. It takes a while…

And then those words; those words they have heard and spoken themselves at a thousand family BBQ’s come…. “Peace be with you”.Shalom la ka”.

But different here in this space. This is not mere “G’day mate, Howzit goin’”. This peace greeting is spoken by the Peace himself – in this room. Peace is doing peace, giving peace. Strange though; Peace causes them just the opposite!

“Startled and frightened”, like a rabbit in the headlights, they are. This scary because it is not a movie. It is real, and it is happening. The real thing is always more than the theory thing.

This has happened before. Remember the night out on the stormy sea……? It was him then. Could this be him now – in all the trauma and the guilt and the fear?

Before we comment…… Why wouldn’t you think you are seeing a ghost? The last time they saw him he was unrecognisably beaten to a pulp by ferocious and powerful system of control, mangled beyond human and dead, dead, dead. You can’t change death. We are only human.

This “Ghost” needs to do some convincing. He does.

“Look. Touch. See, it is me”.

But even a man rising from the dead would not convince them, Jesus had said to his hometown crowd a few years back (Luke 16:31). Even that greatest of miracles is not enough by itself. Words need to be spoken with the miracles, otherwise they are just party tricks that can lead you nowhere light….

“Look. Touch. See”, plus one: now He asks something from them. Just like he did on that grassy slope up by their hometown lake when that huge crowd needed feeding: “Do you have anything to eat?”. “Yes”. He eats this roasted fish in their presence.

Jaws drop. Maybe pennies begin to drop. Surely THAT meal in THAT room on THAT night comes flooding into their bodies too. “This is my body, this is my blood – for what? For a new covenant – a new relationship of forgiveness between us; a new way to be together – a new way to be human, no longer trying to be ‘like god’ but God becoming human as we are now, and always….

So the rabbits in the headlight move from being startled and frightened to rising joy and amazement. But Luke tells us that it is still not quite unrestrained, unhitched, fearless joy that comes with fearless belief. This is not the Doubter Thomas’ free-form unbridled faith of “My Lord and my God” …… yet.

What is going to make you forget yourself and your world of tasks and troubles and temptations now, and see, touch, taste and receive him like invites you to? Luke makes it clear: Words. Human words from this human God make it real and now.

The Defib pads are applied…

“He opened their minds so they could understand what? “The Scriptures”.

Words: Holy words. Moses, Prophets and Psalms – the whole lot – now like a surging Kimberly water course converging through a narrow gap into the wild, free sea, all of time has flooding to this moment in this man who is much more than the expected ‘bag of bones’ as we say. His bones still have flesh and more importantly, words.

Friends, by these words can I say;

Jesus is no mere temporary human who like a sci-fi character in a movie, puts on a human disguise temporality to speak with us to achieve his goals. He is the new Adam, the new man, the new human, before all this and after this. He is bodily resurrected. He is still human and remains so.

So, the writer the Hebrews can say that we have a Great High Priest who is us – human, tempted, familiar with all of me; my fears, my darkness, my endless temptation to love God’s gifts above God himself. If that is true, then I can speak my fears and ask my questions why with Doubter Thomas’ freedom.

Jesus is no shape-shifter, no mere ghost without form or clear words. This human God rose from the pit in-tact, still human, flesh and bone.

So, our human flesh and bone matters to God. All matter matters. This environment, these seas, these ecosystems, this Valley, these human babies, children young people, middle agers and strong 85’ers matter! You matter and your matter matters. So, handle with care, he says – yours and theirs.

Renee Descarte, the 17th century Swedish rationalist philosopher was dead wrong. He famously concluded, “I think, therefore I am”. As if it is only our mind that truly makes us human. Not true.

Many others, ancient and now would say that it is only our spirit that makes us human – it lasts forever and therefore the body is not worth too much trouble because it has no place in God’s space. Wrong!

Jesus says, that like him in this city room, YOU make YOU human and HE makes you NEW HUMAN. All of you – body, mind, spirit.

“All of you is transformed by all of me – physical, emotional, psychological, biological, sexual, intellectual”, says Peace.

Your baptism into this Crucified and Resurrected Prince of Peace frees you from fearful fashion, peaceless people pleasing and the grinding work being ‘good’.  You don’t need to be good. You don’t need to be bad. You just need to be made new – new human – and you have been.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are (1 John 3:1)

So, what does he call us to do with this moment?

“Witnesses” he names us again this morning. Witnesses who are his flesh and bones in a scary world with all of its unreal words spoken in real grief, real suffering, real pain, real arrogance, real violence, real injustice.

“Look. Touch. See”. “Listen and Eat”, he beckons, and we “sprechen”!

Wondering is the beginning of believing.

Let yourself wonder today.

Help them wonder.

Help them Look. Help them touch. Help them see. Help them listen and eat.

He knows you are only human. But so is he.

He is no ghost. He is the real thing. So are we.

Peace be with you.

CONVERSATION STARTERS                                                                                                                            

Read the text aloud slowly taking not of who says what and picturing the scene. Ask yourself, 1) What would you ask a bible expert if he was in your room, and 2) what made my imagination fire up as I listened?

Luke 24: 36-48

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.

It is probably best to read the passage before this since the Easter Dawn account to see how the appearances of Jesus work. They are similar and yet all different. See if you can compare the appearance of Jesus to the first people at the tomb, then the two people on the road to Emmaus and now to the disciples in the room u=in the city.

What are the differences? How are they similar?

When you hear those words, “peace be with you”, what comes to your mind? How do you experience Jesus’ peace in an ordinary day/week? What means does he use to give you his peace?

 

It is a staggering thing to believe that Jesus remained human AFTER he was resurrected. It flies in the face of much Christian thought in various communities. So many assume that Jesus is now “up in heaven’ and ‘spirit only”. If that is the case, then what is this whole account of his appearing really about? Why does he eat? Why does he show them his flesh wounds? Surely it is to show them that it is still really him – the man Jesus and yet also of course, God’s Son – divine. This is illogical and cannot be measured by empirical evidence. You can only receive this by faith in his words.

 

If Jesus is still human after his resurrection, then I suggested that this means a great deal.

He was human before all of this and remained after all of this. Therefore, being human is not a bad/evil thing! Being human is a gift. Indeed, humans are the very pinnacle of God’s creative love. We are indeed ‘made in his image’.

 

It means that what is matter and what is spirit BOTH matter. Death is not simply flying away to escape the body but being mad new body, spirit and mind. We say every Sunday “I believe….in the resurrection of the body”. See 1 Corinthians 15 for Paul’s extended treatment of what this means for us now.

 

Jesus being human still means that he really ‘gets’ us still. See Hebrews 4: 14 onward for a clearer picture of this. This means that we can definitely pour out our hearts to him in our need and hear from him in our need knowing that he understands the sin and the struggle and the weakness, but remains the One who prays for us, gives us his hard-won forgiveness and sweet peace.

 

It also means that God in indeed a person, not a concept or a theory. God is a human and divine reality that acts and speaks and does in our day. He has not left us to get on with the task of living life alone. He is involved and aware.

How do you find these things? Comforting? Challenging? Other……?

 

He names us ‘witnesses’. We are people who give testimony to his peace breathed into us at baptism and every day since. How have you given testimony to a friend or stranger lately and what are your reflections/learnings on that? Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15-16 to go right ahead and always be ready to speak a word of explanation for the peace and hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection over our death – bit do so with gentleness and respect for the other. How might you go about this more at your work, in your family, when out socially?

PRAY

Jesus, come and stand among us

We will speak what you tell us

We will go where you go.

You are risen, risen;

You were dead but now you live.

We were lost but you have found us

 For the life you give.

                                                                 (From “Jesus, come and stand among us” Words: © Robin Mann)

A Tonic of Thanks

 Sermon, Thanksgiving Day

Sunday April 8, 2018, St Petri.

 

1 Timothy 2:1-7, Matthew 6:25-33

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…….., that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour. 1 Timothy 2:1-7

I heard an interesting conversation on the radio this week. Two social commentators were discussing the Christian practice of saying grace at meal times. They used to do that when they were kids and have notes other families doing since.

Now that they have left “Christian religion”, they no longer give thanks to God for meals. But they were reflecting on what this habit of saying thanks for food has left them with in adult, non-religious life.

They both agreed that even the very act of saying thanks to a God when they were kids, (a God who obviously was not really there), was still a valued thing. They said it teaches people the value of being thankful for things in life.

Oh well. At least there is thankfulness!

But there is so much more benefit in thankfulness to a real and present God! According to St Paul in our text, giving thanks to God, and to each other is one of the things we are meant to do in life, and especially when we get together in worship.

Paul says,

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone “.

We are directed to give thanks to God for the things he gives – even “for kings and all those in authority”. Yes – saying thanks for our politicians!

Paul directs us to pray our thanks to God for the reason that it will go well for us if we do! He obviously knows that if our community is governed by people who have justice, fairness and ALL people’s well-being at the very core, then we will all have a better chance to live in peace.

I guess this is why we as a Lutheran Church have always prayed for our elected leaders, for national leaders and for pastors, teachers and our own local church leaders.

I guess this is why we, (and in fact, Israel, right throughout the Old Testament years), have this long-held practice of thanking the Lord for all his gifts in a special way at harvest time.

But giving thanks for all we are and have does not always come easy. How many times have I heard a parent say,

“Gee, I do all this stuff for the kids – cook them meals, take them here, there and everywhere, buy their clothes, cover their books, organise their lives, pay the school fees etc, etc, etc and I never get any thanks for it!”.

“I do all the garden stuff, keep the cars on the road, cook the meals, organise the kids, mow the lawn, fix the house – and what thanks do I get?!”

And then of course, there is the church volunteer lament: “I spend half my life at church. I am on 6 rosters, from leading Kids Connect to choir to band practice to funeral catering to fixing things……. and what thank do I get?!

It is easy to see that thanklessness can add to ill-feeling and conflict among us. It is not that we do things for others to get thanks, but it is nice to at least occasionally hear a word of thanks.

No wonder Paul directs us to practice the art of praying and saying thanks to God and to each other!

In the Scriptures, giving thanks to God and to others is not just about being nice or having nice manners (although manners are important).

Thankfulness is a way of life for a disciple of Jesus. It is a way of life that keeps us together in peace and helps us avoid a lot of trouble.

Thankfulness is a stance with which to face the day and relate to God.  Hear these words of God on thankfulness;

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11

  1. God gives us life, possessions, vocation, earning ability, wealth for one purpose – so that we practice generosity to him and others. This one thing results in another thing: thankfulness.
  2. Giving thanks breeds generosity of spirit and leads to more thankfulness. So, thanksgiving begets thanksgiving. It builds upon itself.
  3. Thanksgiving is an active thing that creates life and generosity and peace between people. ….

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving”. Ephesians 5:4

    1. Thanksgiving words are the words that are meant to dominate our speech and help us steer clear of other words that create fear and hatred and hurt. Thankful words are a tonic. They heal. They build up.
    2. What does Luther say in his explanation of the Second Commandment – the one about keeping God’s name holy?

“We are to honour and love God so that we do not use his name to curse, swear, lie or deceive, but gladly use his name to praise and thank him”.

And there is even a deeper level to this Christian way called thanksgiving. We get a hint of it in the word Jesus speaks in the gospel reading from Matthew.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’….. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:31-33

Here, “worry” is the lack of thankfulness. We worry because we are not sure of our well-being. Worry comes from doubting that the Lord really does have your life and well-being in his hands and at the centre of his heart.

Worry is turning our back on the promise that we are more beautiful than the magnificent beauty of the things we see and love in nature. Worry is placing our trust in lots of other things for our well-being.

Worry is a sign that we are clinging to other things for our life and well-being. Instead of giving thanks to God for his presence and peace that is beyond all human peace, we “run around” trying to put an end to our worry, searching here, there and everywhere but still worrying about what we eat, what we drink and what clothes we wear.

We trust our wealth to get us through. We trust medical drugs to save us. We trust science to show us the way. We trust power over others to make our way. We trust our own intellect and personality to have a great life – MORE THAN THE LORD’s WORD and PROMISES.

Worry is a sign of idolatry in our heart. Remember Luther’s words on this? He says,

“anything you rely on (above the Lord) is your god (your idol). A god (an idol) is whatever (or whoever) a person looks to for all good things and runs to for help in trouble” (Large Catechism, First Commandment, p 18).

So, where do you run when it gets hard? Where do you turn? More clothes, more food, more drink, more anger, more control, more harsh words, more judgements about others…..?

Jesus invites us to run to him. He considers us more precious than the beauty we see in all creation. We are more than “here today and gone tomorrow” in his sight.

His cross and mighty resurrection shows us that. That’s the place to run when worry, idols, fear and doubt gather in force to make the day dark.

Jesus turns our worry and fear, which leads to idolatry and doubt, into faith and peace and hope, which leads to peace and life, and most of all thankfulness for who he is, who we are in him and what he gives to us daily.

I am thinking that a thankful people are an ‘infectious’ people; that a thankful local church is a more effective and useful local church in Jesus’ mission the draw all people to himself.

But THE thing about thankfulness is really more than its benefits to you and I. Saying thank you to the Lord Jesus and others daily is the way we remain faithful in serving only one Master – loving Jesus.

Here’s a challenge for us all. Could we say thank you to the Lord every day this week and see what happens.

Could we practice by saying thanks to at least two people after worship today for something – anything.

Could we practice thanksgiving by saying thanks to our partner or really good friend once a day until next Sunday (then stop!!)

Could we say thanks to our boss, teacher or lecturer once this week – for something? Could we say thanks for something to each of our employees this week and see what happens?

Friends, give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his kindness does last – it is new every morning and God’s faithfulness to us is immense and it is trustworthy and we have seen and heard it in the living, dying and rising of Jesus.

Thank God.

Thank people.

He is worth it and so are they. And so are you.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What do you find yourself being most thankful to God for today (3 things)

People will often say they are thankful for things in their life, but not so much thankful to God, but to people or circumstances or their own ingenuity or luck! The biblical encouragement is that God is giver of all good gifts and he knows how to give the very best gifts to his people. he is our kind and loving heavenly Father who knows his children well. he knows the gifts that we REALLY need

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

We pray in the Lord’s Prayer for God’s gifts: Gifts of ‘daily bread’, forgiveness as we forgive, strength to resist temptation to be disloyal and disrespectful of God’s grace, protection for evil and the Evil One and the avoidance of too harsh a testing. it is a good prayer for every day! it’s general assumption is that God is indeed kind and loving parent to us and has our best interest at heart everyday. I encourage you to pray the Lord’s Prayer with a heart of thanks and trust by taking everyone of the first three line – the ones about who God is “Father, Holy, and bringer of his Kingdom on earth.

Our Father in heaven

Hallowed (or holy, be your name.

Your Kingdom come

Your will be done on earth as in heaven.

 

After dwelling on who God is and talking with him in words of thanks and praise using these first lines as heading for your own prayers in your own words, we move to the petitions for daily help and guidance.

We use them as heading also – headings for our own words and expression to our heavenly Father.

Give us our daily bread

Forgive us as we forgive others

Lead us not into temptation (or hard testing)

Deliver (or save ) us from evil (and the Evil One)

 

Then we end in praise to God: Father, Son and Spirit and speak the last ‘Amen” as an exclamation mark.

 

Maybe using this prayer and other prayers to pray our thanks to God is what we need to do in order to know joy in our life in Christ. Thankfulness seems to build on itself and bring joy into our relationships.

I encourage you to take on those last thanks tasks and see what happens. There if course is no guarantee that out thanks will be returned, but even then, we can enjoy a clear conscience that we have done the good things as far as Jesus is concerned.

PRAY

I thank you, heavenly Father, in Jesus name that you kept me safe through another night. I ask you to keep me this day too from all harm and dnager. i place myself and all you given me into your hands and ask you govern my day in your peace. 
Amen.

 

 

HE LIGHTS ME UP

Easter Dawn Service Reflection, Sunday April 1, 2018 

Isaiah 65: 17-25

17 ‘See, I will create  new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
    nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.

20 ‘Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child;
the one who fails to reach[a] a hundred will be considered accursed.
21 They will build houses and dwell in them;
    they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
    or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy  the work of their hands.
23 They will not labour in vain,
    nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the Lord,
    they and their descendants with them.
24 Before they call I will answer;
    while they are still speaking I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy  on all my holy mountain,’
says the Lord.

Friends, like this dark morning needs the sun to rise, this dark world needs this Easter good news.

We long for the dawn. We need the light. We need his light. If only more people would face the dawn and receive his light!

He is our only hope for things to be like the Aldi add says, “Good Different”! He is the only way this old broken heaven and earth are renewed in teeming life and joy.

Our city, our town needs his light to make this place eve more a delight to live in – where there is genuine reconciliation between people, husbands, wives, families, indigenous and non-indigenous, gender groups, church groups, parents and kids, friends and strangers.

If Easter Dawn says anything, it says there is a new dawn possible. New light is possible. New hope for today is possible for any issue, any problem, any conflict, and need.

The empty tomb and its good news yells out, “He is our life – our forever life”, from infancy to old age and in the glory that awaits the baptised faithful.

So, darkness and death are not to be dismissed or even avoided for us in the light. We don’t have to forever be trying to keep people endlessly more and more safe all the time. He is our safety. He is the world’s safety in darkness and facing death.

No. Because of Jesus’ resurrection all of life counts, all suffering has an end point, and even a new possibility when the pain subsides.

Jesus says, when we call he will answer in this, his new day.

So, call to him this Easter Day. Receive your answers from the King of love, your Shepherd.

Sit freely in the presence of your enemies who will no longer have power over you. That giant lion with all its fear is a mere pussy cat munching on grass, like a very content and fat cow, now.

Isaiah says that even the evil one will be nothing to you as he eats your dust!

He lights us up!

TRUTH: Be told!

Sermon: Easter Day 2018, April 1, 2018, St Petri

Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

 ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[a]

A woman at a well. Three women in the pre-dawn darkness.

A woman isolated, thirsty for acceptance, longing for belonging in the noon-day sun.

Three women in grief’s clutches trying to do something to express their grief in the pre-dawn light.

One woman with a bucket of water that never goes close to satisfying her soul but merely keeps her alive.

Three women with spices and oils with which they can anoint the loved man no longer alive.

All scared. All thirsty for more. All in the dark in one way or another.

 

Which one are you on this Easter Day?

The thirsty one; the bucket-burden carrying one, the grieving one, the one trying to do something to express that and find some kind of peace?

Are you the scared one who can’t see a way through?

Are you the amazed one who has caught a glimpse of something truly hopeful today in this man and the news?

 

The water drawing women says, “Your life can change in an instant”. That is true. Hers was changed for the good that day he met her at the well. The other three’s lives changed for bad, so far, in the disappointment and fear of the death and dark.

Same for you and I now.

That diagnosis makes an everyday Tuesday the biggest day of your life so far.

That Friday when the bundle of joy finally comes into your life changes life forever.

That news from the police about one of the kids, shifts your reality sideways never to return to the same spot.

Your life can change for the good or the bad. Which is it today?

Well, something happened that first Easter day and something happens this Easter day and we are changed forever.

What happens when the superior invites the shamed; when the holy invites the unclean, when the connected and loved invites the disconnected, the lonely and the unloved, when the correct and right invites the wrong and the shunned, when the living one invites the thirsty one longing for hope, for love, for new life, when the dead one speaks and tells us to speak?

Does life change? Do you change? It seems so. They all changed on the days they were met by him – at the well and at the tomb. The well woman just has to share the inkling of new hope she with which she is now flooded. The woman in the dawn have somewhere to go and there is not only fear in the dark but the first inkling of the new day – they are ‘amazed’ even when scared.

But all the change hangs on all the truth. That woman at the well heard the truth about her. Those three women had seen the truth about human beings in all their violence, prejudice, cowardice, grief, hatred and cynicism as they condemned this holy man and hung him on that terrible cross a couple of days prior.

Maybe they are still devastated or ‘gutted’, as we say, when they hobble together some spices and head out to the tomb that morning. Darkness has overwhelmed them. “Tears are my only food” they sing with the ancient song writer (Psalm 42:3).

They are in for more shock. Empty tomb. Strange voices. Direction to get out of here…… They run away from the truth of what had happened. It was scary and unknown – at least at first. Truth is often like that.

The well woman was truly seen by him. He did indeed look straight through her in that lengthy conversation that undid her and yet lit her up inside. He spoke the truth of her lost loves and her constant searching for something – for the water of acceptance, family, belonging, respect.

Real change only happens when the truth of things is told and seen. Real courage to truly hope and trust can only come when the truth is told -not in unjust criticism or loveless pride, but in gracious love. That’s the living water for which we all long – truth spoken in love.

To be told the truth by an unfair critic or a self-righteous, self-seeking person is not real truth because there is no love; there is too much human ego in the way for the truth to be told in love. That kind of power play kills us, not raises us.

But to be told the truth about ourselves by a person who is not judging or condemning us but actually wanting us to find the freedom and the faith that the truth brings is gold. It is like water that you only need to drink once – it is that good and that satisfying and that long lasting. Enter the crucified man of love!

Friend, it is Easter Day. It is the heart of our year and faith and life together.

By all that we remember happened and all the words that we have been given about it by the eye witnesses and others, can you hear the truth this morning about you – not from someone who is out to get you and shame you so that you dry up inside and feel terribly alone, but from a man who “knows everything you have ever done”, and tells you about everything he has done to set you free from your fruitless searching, your endless grieving, your continual confusion and fear?

Funny thing about thirst. It kinds of sneaks up on you. They say that if you are thirsty, you have already begun to de-hydrate. Thirst for acceptance, love, hope, life, meaning, and purpose in relationships and work is like that too. When you are seeking them, you have already begun to lack them.

The well women is right. She and we have a thirst that you may not know you have. Know it today though. That rugged cross of despair should tell you that you are thirsty. He said, “I thirst”. This scratching around in confusion in the dark on Easter morn should tell you that you are thirsty. Your own experience of yourself and those around you should tell you that you are thirsty.

We are thirsty. I would imagine that the Australian cricketers are thirsting to be accepted when they have acted shamefully and don’t deserve to be accepted. We thirst to be loved when we have done and said prideful damaging things that have killed love between us. You thirst to be given the gift of peace when you are in turmoil inside and cannot find or give peace. I thirst to be given a name and a place and a status that I have no chance of earning or winning without the truth of this man, the love of this man, the power of this man, the resurrection from death of this man Jesus.

So, today on Easter day he finds you again. Like the one woman he meets you where you are at and speaks his truth and you are a bit scared but also very amazed and lit up with a new possibility of acceptance, future, place, name, hope…

The three woman are not only fearful that are also ‘amazed’ and they are given a direction a future hope, a marker in the sand to reach for.

“He is not here. He is risen. Don’t be scared or troubled. He is going ahead of you. Follow him to galilee. You will see him just as he said”.

Does he sound angry at the one or the three? Does he leave them in the dark? Does he leave them dying of thirst for hope? Does he leave them to their own devices in their fear, their grief their confusion? No, No and No.

Friend, he has found you again today. He is calling you to follow his lead up ahead.

Let him speak the truth about everything you have ever done and who you really are because as these accounts of these women tell us, his truth is spoken in great love and as a result of the great price he has paid for you, and in the authority that comes from conquering our worst fears and our worst enemy for us, so we don’t have to.

Oh Truth, please be told”!

He is the truth and he has found you and he sets you free today.

He is Risen!

He is risen indeed!

He Fills My Tomb

Sermon, Good Friday

March 30, 2018, St Petri

Luke 23:44–47  

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[a] When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”

“Privilege is the power to open doors in my life”, says Joseph of Arimathea.  His Dad taught him this about getting on in life. If you are privileged, then you have power to get on in life. If you are not, then you haven’t. So, you better work at finding some privilege so the doors to the good life remain open for you!

For my Dad, it was not privilege that was the power to open doors but hard work. Hard work was the power to open doors. Same result thought – endless slavery to trying to make it in life – trying to open those doors to privilege. It is all on you and it is a heavy load.

But this man Joseph from Arimathea then came across someone with a completely opposite approach to power and privilege, and therefore a radically different take on being human and living life.

He discovered that Jesus had all power possible but denied all the privilege that goes with it. That got Joseph thinking……  Why does Jesus give up the power and the privilege? Why would anyone do that? Wouldn’t giving up power and privilege or even hard work to earn privilege close doors to a full and good life?

Not according to this suffering and crucified Son of God. It is in the giving up of power and privilege for the sake of the weaker, the different, the doubtful, the rebellious, the disliked, that his vision of life is found.

We might not want to find his vision for our life. We may choose to still go for the power and privilege. But how fleeting can it be? Oh, those poor cricketers who have striven so hard to be the best, only to come badly undone and now cop the disdain of the deeply disappointed.

If we are still chasing the dream of power and privilege over others for its own sake, then we will tend to only be able to be like Joseph of Arimathea – we will only be able to follow Jesus at a distance. Why so? because we will sense that following Jesus closely means being like him – a person who willingly gives up power and privilege for the sake of others.

But friend, today is a day to draw close to him because the ‘others’ he serves in love, is ‘you’. Jesus willingly gives up divine power and sacred privilege for you – so that you can have these today and forever in him. This is so much more dependable, longer lasting, solid and deeply satisfying and fulfilling version of being you.

His cross reveals that it is in the giving up of self-power and privilege that a broken rebellious sinner receives from Jesus more power and privilege than is humanly possible. Close to him you receive the power to pray to God as your own loving parent and ask him to change you, change people and situations in Jesus’ name. By his name pronounced upon you at baptism,  you share the privilege of being forever a son and daughter of the creator of all things.

Luke shows us that Joseph only follows at a distance……until this moment. In this mercy act he gets right up close and personal that Good Friday.

Something must change in him. Is it because he was confronted by an innocent man suffering unjustly whom he knew lived to a totally different beat and he was unsettled to the core. Probably. Are we unsettled by his call to be the same way? We should be.

Being in close proximity to the powerful man now powerless, and this privileged Son of God, stripped bare and publicly shamed by unclean lips makes me wonder.

Do you wonder? Would you wonder enough to draw closer, respond, speak, act, do?

Joseph wondered about this; wonder enough to respond; to get closer; do act, to speak, to even take a significant risk.

Joseph takes a huge risk and asks Pilate for permission to take the dead Messiah’s broken body down from that cursed tree.

On Good Friday, will you take a risk and approach the body still hanging today? As it was for Joseph, so it is for many. People are watching. There is shame by association to Jesus in the offering – more so in Australia today than there has been for the last 50 years.

But, out of sheer wonder and a strange sense of connection and even respect; even love for this Jesus, Joseph handles his dead body and places it in his own grave.

Would you place him your grave – the one you have paid for or will have to eventually pay good money for?

Would you let him be in the place where you were supposed to be buried and remembered? Would you get them to put his name on your grave stone not yours? Would you rather they remember him, not you?

Joseph looks at the tomb he has paid for now filled with Jesus. Jesus is filling up Joseph’s grave.

But what with?

The Centurion overseeing the brutality and shaming tells you.

“Surely this was a righteous man.”

That is what Jesus is filling up your grave with; HIS righteousness. Your grave is now no longer cold and dead but alight and alive……

Indeed, for any sinner who was once dead in body, mind and spirit, the Lord of life fills us up these ‘bodies of death’ (Romans 7) with his divine righteous life.

My dead spirit, mind and body is now by sheer grace of God in this Jesus on the cross, filled with his holy love, light and life.

He gives me his life, his beautiful life with his goodness and kindness and mercy and peace between us.

And he gives me all of this when I was left for dead on the side of the road. I was a rebellious stranger to him – like those thieves and murderers with whom he hung; like those violent ‘yes’ men enacting the carnage without a brain in their heads….except for this one of them

“Surely this was a righteous man.”

IF your death is now filled with his life and your self-righteousness is no longer necessary because you have his righteousness in your body, then you can trust that his grace is really too good for you but still true.

If he fills up my grave with his light and life and peace forever in him, then my privilege comes from his ability to open the doors of heavenly grace to me, not my ability to open doors of power….. and I am changed. I am free from the pursuit of power and privilege.

He is filling the tomb. He will burst it soon. Then you will burst with joy at the privilege he gives.

Jesus, by your imprisonment we are freed.

By your wounds we are healed.

By your death we live.

By your being abandoned we are welcomed into your holy community.

By the taking of all our sin to Golgotha we are clean and holy and pleasing in your eyes.

For this we thank and praise your holy name.

Amen

 

 

He Comes back

Homily, Maundy Thursday

Thursday March 29, 2018, St Petri.

 

MATTHEW 26: 26-30   

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the[a]covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Thomas, like many a person, is judged for one mistake. The mistake was not all together typical of him, but he did do it – he refused to take Jesus at his word. He refused to trust Jesus’ promises.

Thomas, like the others, was going OK. He was following and believing and listening, until that night, that table, that upstairs room.

“This is my body. This is my blood”, said the Rabbi. Jesus speaks of his immanent death, but that is not the hard thing to believe. There are many stories of good people dying unjust deaths for their cause. It is the words about rising from the impossible dead that are hard to believe.

This man of God raised the dead and defeated diseases and demons. I guess that is not totally unheard of either. Faith healers and witch doctors….. It is still special though. But not a special as coming back once dead? What was Jesus talking about?

This Easter, maybe we find ourselves not doubting the death either, but more the coming back from death? It is easier to believe that he died than to trust his words about resurrection from death’s dark pit.

Belief is hard. Maybe, like Thomas, we just do not want to be disappointed. What if we trust and the trust is betrayed? Maybe we are the teacher of that year 9 kid who hardly ever gets it right but puts her hand up anyway on this particular day to respond to his question in class. The teacher just cannot bring himself to give the girl the nod to speak her answer because he just doesn’t not want to be disappointed. So he overlooks. He stays silent. He moves on. Nothing is said or done…… Disappointment avoided.

But could it be that the risk of disappointment or embarrassment might be totally worth it? Thomas found that it was!

I’ll ask you, how does Jesus respond to Thomas’ doubt; our doubt, our fear of trusting his words?

He shows up for Thomas. He shows up for you. Jesus responded to Thomas and Thomas gets to see and hear what many doubters would love to see and hear. Thomas got that definitive evidence many say would make all the difference for them and their doubt, their cynicism, their unbelief. Thomas got to touch him, see him, smell him, hear him. “If only I could do that, then I would believe Jesus and name myself Christian” we think.

But Thomas says that this was not the MOST incredible thing about how Jesus responded to his doubt and fear. Jesus also had said earlier, the greatest miracle of a person coming back from the dead would not be enough for a person to stop doubting and believe. It takes more.

What could be more than actually witnessing Jesus dying and rising in those three days? What will be of even more blessing to the doubter, more calming balm for the fearer and hope for the troubled soul?

Thomas said it this way. “He came back for me”. Yes, the gospel writers agree. That is why the account of the doubter and the healer is included. It’s for all the doubters!

The fact that Jesus gave Thomas this opportunity, while he was lost in doubt, was the thing that brought the great confession of faith from the doubter, “My Lord and my God!”. Jesus came back! Jesus could have avoided disappointment; moved on, said nothing, done nothing…… But Jesus did and spoke and was there – all for the doubter.

Jesus comes back for you. Like a good Marine, he leaves no one behind. To be doubly sure that Jesus does not want to leave you in your doubt as he did not leave Thomas in his doubt, he sets up that room. It is the new Passover table around which he gathers us to remember, re-enact, re-live him. It is the word/meal – the enacted word, the word done to us and for us. It is a holy meal, a holy communion of great thanksgiving and joy.

He sets a table in the presence of your enemies, Doubt, Fear, Self-Righteousness, Pride, Unbelief. He speaks the new relationship of Faith, Freedom, His Righteousness into you. This new meal is the meal of the new relationship, the new era not founded on keeping the law of God but on the love of God for us in Jesus; in his body and blood, bread and wine.

And we smell, we touch, we taste, we see, and we hear him, “This is my body, broken for you; This is my blood shed for you”, for forgiveness ongoing, a real word, definitive act, as we eat and drink at the table together with this Jesus, the wounded servant now glorious and present for us.

He will complete the meal in that room and then ratify his commitment to this new relationship on the Good Friday Cross and Easter Day empty tomb. He will begin the new relationship with you based on his grace by the pouring out of his human blood on the altar of the cross for you.

This Servant King’s throne will be that cross, the cross of divine human love for all the doubters, the cynics, the executioners, the thieves, the grieving loved ones and detached onlookers.

We will all be there as Thomas was there.

Friend, he comes for you tonight. Again, he appears where two or three are gathered in his name. He calls you to the new communion, the new community, the new era of grace in Jesus by the Father’s will and the Spirit’s power. He calls you to believe.

Come to the banquet. There is a place for you.

Eat and drink for forgiveness and life. He is our life over death, faith over doubt, love over hate, grace over self.

He comes back.

Amen

 

 

We don’t need another hero

Sermon, Palm Sunday 2018

Sunday March 25, 2018, St Petri

Mark 11:1-11

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethanyat the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna![a]

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[b]

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

What a hero. For Peter Jesus would surely always be a hero and more. He and they were looking for heroes. So do we, I believe.

Heroes are important to have. We seem to need to look up to somebody sometimes. Heroes help us commit to things we need to do and hope for a better future. We need something to help us believe it’s all worth it.

Who are your heroes? What have they taught you? That is one of the questions we ask blokes at Shed Happens. “Who mentored you? What did they teach you about life? Often, it is a bloke’s Dad or mum or their first boss. Sometimes it is none of these.

Over the years I have had a few heroes who have inspired me to learn, to understand, to work at something hard.

I think of Mr McGaw who inspired me to understand economics and Australian political history; Mr Thomas who taught me to play guitar. Mr Petit, my best footy coach. My brother-in-law, Matthew, who taught me about farming and machinery and motor bikes and the value of Pink Floyd music. My sister who taught me about marriage and parenting and faith and church. Dad, who taught me about having a go at anything and the value of being loyal to your wife. There were other people like Jon and Roger and Rick and Bert and Geoff and David and ….. mentors, who taught me, looked out for me, guided me. Then there is my wife who has taught me much and loved me much too.

You might have a few heroes or you might have many. From JFK to Neil Armstrong on the moon, The Don, Lee Matthews, Ned Kelly, ANZACS, Albert Namajira. Cathy Freeman….

We lift up people and call them heroes even if the person we choose does not really want to be a hero.

Who qualifies to be a hero? R.W Emerson said: “A hero is no braver than an ordinary person but just brave for five minutes longer”.

Will Rogers, the American writer, got it right when he said, “We can’t all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by”. That is quite a relief. Because just as Will Rogers also suggested, “Heroing’ is one of the shortest-lived professions there is”. Will Rogers (1879 – 1935), Newspaper article, Feb. 15, 1925

Now that is true. Just ask a fallen hero – Lance Armstrong, Bernard Tomic, James packer or Ben Cousins! Being a hero is the toughest thing. There is a long way to fall.

Jesus surely knows this. He will be lifted up and he will fall to the ground in a week. The hero parades in to the city. “Hosanna! Hosanna!” they cry as they stand on the curb as he goes by. Cloaks, clothes, leaves are all laid on the ground so that the hero can receive the “red carpet” treatment.

Will Jesus be a hero as Bob Dylan understands a real hero? “I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom”, Bob said.                                                         Bob Dylan (1941 – )

But will Jesus’ character match the public persona? Has he got the goods to be a hero who really stands tall, because there is nothing worse than a hero that falls?

Will Jesus understand the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom?

Friends, I believe he has and does. He was freer that you and I have ever been and yet voluntarily entered our confinement.

Jesus the Son of God, from the foundation of all creation who flung stars into space surrendered his hands to cruel nails hammered in by unclean hands. The Lion of Judah is locked in a cage. The Lamb allows them to lead him to his slaughter.

Oh yes, Jesus takes responsibility. This is God himself taking on the full weight of doing what no other hero we may choose could do. This our heroic God providing a new way to be human; the way to be truly free, to be truly loved, to be fully forgiven all wrongs, to be re-ordered, re-shaped, re-inspired to live generously and fully on this journey he life he gives.

He will hold nothing back from us. As Peter asked, “When did Jesus ever say no when we searched for him and needed his help?

As he processes into his death he confronts death. He transforms death into a mere beginning of a better living; a better country, a closer relationship; a higher hope to which we who are baptised into his death and raised into his resurrection are headed, now in part, and one day fully.

So the question for you from Peter as he ponders what has happened is, “Is Jesus Christ your hero?

As we talk of heroes on Palm Sunday, and this heroic holy week when the Son of God gives it all, does it all, suffers it all and loves us all is he your hero? I guess at this point we are all meant to say ‘Yes”!

But, if we say, “Yes, Jesus is my hero”, I am not sure we have him fully.  Heroes are good people to have, but heroes come and go and they can fail and fall. And all we can do with heroes is follow their example as best as we can. And we know that we will often fail in following them too.

So, even though heroes are what we aspire to be and set up as people to follow, if Jesus is merely one of them, that is not enough. I find myself thinking that we actually don’t need another hero. We need something more.

I am hearing the theme song to the third Mad Max movie that came out way back in the 1990’s. The theme song to the movie was sung by Tina Turner, She sung, “We don’t need another hero, all we want is life beyond Thunderdome…”.

“Thunderdome” was fictional place; a brutal, corrupt, unforgiving, harsh place of death in the wasteland of post atomic bomb earth.

The characters were trying to deal with the despair and the violence. But they longed for a way out.

Thunderdome was a picture of how the world is and how it can feel for all of us at times. In the tragedy and grief, the wrong and the dark, the competitive and the unforgiving goings on of our lives, the song said what is true. We don’t need more heroes. We need something more than that.

Enter Jesus on the donkey – the most unlikely human hero that is the divine hero of all heroes plus more.

We don’t need more heroes or Marvel comics superheroes as much as weed THE hero because only THE hero is not just a hero but a Saviour. This Saviour can give us a life beyond the dog-eat-dog, highly competitive, brutal, unforgiving place in which we have to live.

As this hero strides into the city on a donkey, without a sword or crown of gold or purple robes of his own, he is telling you that he is much more than just a hero.

By what he will do this holy week leading up the via delorosa to the Place of the Skull, and then from that dark tomb into light, he shows us that he is not only a hero but the Saviour. And that is what we all really need.

Jesus is the hero that does what no other hero can do – save dead humans from remaining so. Save blind humans from scratching around in the dark. Save me from my own self-deception and darkness. Give me light with which to face living, dying, suffering, failure and doubt with some hope and even joy.

Yes, Jesus’ character matched his words and he succeeded in dealing with things no-one else could tackle. That is the reason for holy week. It is called Holy Week, not Hero Week! It is why we bother with it and Easter.

It is why we don’t just follow his example (as if we could!), we bow down at his name which the name above all names because of sheer undeserved love.

You copy a hero. You worship a Saviour because the Saviour is more than a hero.

We don’t need another hero.

We do need life beyond this Thunderdome and here he is entering the city to save the city.

Cast off all other heroes for this week.

Call his name, not theirs. Know THE hero. Know him as your Saviour for your life now.

Look at THE hero who is the one and only Saviour of your very life.

Look at his cross, look at his suffering.

Know the love of the man, the grace of God, the courage of the man, the cost paid by your Father to get you beyond this Thunderdome; to get you even beyond needing to make more heroes.

We don’t need another hero, we just need this one SAVIOUR.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What were your favourite hero characters on TV or Radio or elsewhere when you were little?

Who are your all time top three make believe heroes?

Who are your top three all time real-life heroes and why?

What kind of things do your heroes make you want sot be and do?

In many ways, Jesus reveals himself to be an anti-hero – the hero that does not want to be one. He was forever telling his friends not to tell people about what they saw and heard him do. He never seemed to be interested in heroes, full stop. He did refer to the Old Testament prophets and raise them up as worthy to emulate- if you dare ! The prophets did not get rich or acquire great fame for their troubles. They all lost their freedom and their lives for their trouble!

As he enters the city we should take note of this “hero” and conclude that he not just a hero but so much more…… Jesus has no white stallion. Jesus has not won a battle with blood on his sword. Jesus has not even got a sword as he enters the city. He has no visible army, just a small group of pretty average followers. And yet, the people see in him hero status. Why do you think this is the case?

Why do you think we need heroes? it is quite amazing that we pay a young man hundreds of thousands of dollars in a year to be a full-time sports person. Why do we do this do you think?

I said that you copy a hero but you bow down in worship to a Saviour. What’s the difference between a hero and a Saviour, do you think?

Jesus has not won a battle with blood on his sword but he will let them pierce his body and get blood on their sword. he has not won a military battle but he has and will win the battle between good and evil. he has not got a military army but now has a timeless, global community of priests who serve the world. he never wrote a book but he is a living word of God.

I suggested that we don’t need more heroes as much as we need a Saviour. This is because we live in this dark brutal “Thunderdome” of a place called human society. How can we help others find this Saviour above all the heroes they have?

Read Philippians 2:1-11 carefully. What prompts your thoughts as you hear Paul’s summary of who Jesus is and why he is so important and unique, especially when you consider holy week and the events of Easter just around the corner.

 

POEM VERSE

“This is our God, the Servant King.

he calls us now to follow him.

To give our lives as a daily offering

of worship to, the Servant King”

 

PRAYER

Jesus, I ponder ow your holy passion

With your Spirit endow me for such great meditation

Grant that I in love and faith may the image cherish

of your suffering pain and death

that I may not perish

           Hymn 59 Lutheran hymnal

 

Like it or Not

Sermon, Lent 4B, Sunday March 11, 2018.

John 3:14-21

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’[g]

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

LIKE IT OR NOT

Benjamin did not want to go to bed. But his Dad said he had to go to bed. Six year old Benjamin was upset at this decision of his Dad. Benjamin said, “Dad, I hate you.” Benjamin’s father, exercising the kind of parental wisdom you would hope for, replied, “Ben, I’m sorry you feel that way, but I love you.”

Benjamin’s response to such gracious words surprised his dad: “Don’t say that!”, said young Ben. “I’m sorry Benjamin, but it’s true. I love you.” “Don’t,” Ben protested, “Don’t say that again!” At which point Ben’s dad said, “Benjamin, I love you…like it or not!”

“I love you, like it or not”. Is that what the most famous bible text in the world says to rebellious, ungrateful, unaware, immature and self-orientated people like little Ben; like me, like you? I think so.

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him

God the Father of all creation made a decision to love us. He decided, he acted, he gave, he spoke it into the world through John.

For many people, this is a most loved word of God. Luther called it the gospel in a nutshell. It has adorned many a billboard, t-shirt, cup, pen, church sign. It says it all. It speaks of pure grace. – undeserved, unearned, unmerited self-sacrificing love given to flawed human beings…… and we love it. And so we should. It is the very best decision, the best news, the best love.

But could it also be a word from God that challenges us to our very core? I mean, why was Benjamin protesting his father’s loving decision re bed time? Because Ben realized he could not control his father’s love and twist it to his advantage. Indeed, in the face of such love there is no bargaining and, ultimately, no control whatsoever.

If Ben’s dad had said that if he ate all his vegetables he could stay up, or agreed that Ben could stay up later this night if he went to bed earlier the next, then Benjamin would have exercised some measure of control over the situation and, indeed, over his dad.

But in the face of unconditional love Ben was powerless. So are we who are on the receiving end of God’s love in Jesus. God has done this. God has loved the unlovely, restored the broken, set free the bound, like it or not.

Sure, perhaps we can choose to accept God’s decision or not, perhaps we can run away from his decision to love us, but we cannot influence it, manipulate it, or control it. In the face of this kind of love, we are powerless. And only when we’ve died to all of our delusions of actually being in control of God or this world or our lives do we realize that such loss of perceived freedom and power is actually life.

God’s love, you see, is tenacious. And so, God’s love will continue to chase after us, seeking to hold onto us and redeem us all the days of our lives, whether we like it or not. He has proven to be like this in my life. How about yours? How about now?

Maybe this loved verse when heard fully and pondered deeply might scare us for two reasons.

  1. It renders us powerless
  2. It lays claim to us.

If God truly loves me and is present with me not to condemn me but to love me and save me from darkness within and without, and this is all his decision, will and action for me, then my life truly is in his hands and not in mine! I am rendered powerless. All we can do is receive this love of Jesus, not earn it, shape it, decide it, win it. – only receive.

I love this and yet I don’t love this. I want to do something for this love so I can say at least in part “I did this!”. But in this all-encompassing complete decision to love me with a self-sacrificing and vulnerable love, Jesus does it all. As a result, I cannot boast in my winning, our gaining, our earning, our working for it. There is no glory in this love for me, only my heavenly Father who loves me gets all glory and thanks.

This is hard for us who live with one foot in a world literally hell-bent on accumulating and exercising power as a way to try and control what happens. This world seems to have little time for sacrifice and vulnerability. It operates more on “might makes right”. And we are schooled in this from our youngest years.

I ponder the gun issue in the US and here again raising its head with proposals to soften the gun laws in Tasmania. I ponder this when I consider history – Fascism, Socialism, power-hungry people squashing the vulnerable with raw power. I see this in a person doing the very same thing in a marriage or a friendship or acquaintance. I see this in the words of hate and judgements cast over whole groups of people by some other group…..

But our God does not operate this way. He does not squash the vulnerable with his majestic and awesome power. He serves the vulnerable and powerless in self-sacrificing love. He willingly gives up his loved Son to my violence, fear, darkness and death – all for the light of me. He gets the praise. “His is the glory, risen and conquering Son!”

I am led to give up my striving for self-righteous status and admit my own vulnerability and powerlessness to control my life and simply receive his life which is a whole lot better anyway!

We also might be scared in hearing this loved word because it calls me to something that does not come naturally to me. This act of God, “like it or not”, places his Call on our life? This way of self-sacrifice for others and even willing vulnerability with others – putting ourselves in harms way for the love of others battling in darkness challenges me to the core.

If he loves me and does not condemn me when he could or even should, then trusting this decision to love me means being the same in my everyday life – withholding condemnation when it is warranted and giving of myself when it is undeserved by someone.

So, this famous bible text is the good news of the will of God, the love of God that brings light into any darkness and it is all his decision, his love, his making. I might be challenged because I can only receive it and not earn it. I might be challenged because I sense the ay God’s love calls me to love.

But, friend, this gospel in a nutshell above all says this: God’s love is a tenacious love that we cannot manipulate or control or earn or make happen. It just is, whether we ‘like it or not’. And guess what this means.

Precisely because this relationship with God is founded on his decision and will in Jesus, it is also the one relationship we cannot screw up. Because God created it, God maintains it, and God will bring it to a good end, all through the power of God’s vulnerable, sacrificial, and ever so tenacious love.

May this Word today cut through our illusions in order to heal and bring us to death that we might taste real life.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

When did you first become aware of this most famous bible verse (John 3:16)? Is it the ‘gospel in a nutshell’ or you or are there other key bible verses that are that for you?

Remember that this was first spoken to Nicodemus. He is a well educated and pious man of God, but he can sense there is something very special about Jesus. yet, most see that Nicodemus cannot bring himself to declare a real interest in Jesus, so he plays it safe and comes at night, – alone and under cover of darkness.

Do you know a person like that or has this been you at some stage – wanting to ask questions and draw close to Jesus but afraid to do so for fear of what others might say or what Jesus might say!? How would sum up Jesus’ approach to the questioning Nicodemus?

I suggested that this famous verse is also challenging because it shows us that we cannot control God’s love. God decides to send jesus. God maps out the plan for the greatest act of love the world has ever seen as Jesus hangs on that cross for the life of the world. This means that I as a person cannot control God or manipulate him, as that little guy Benjamin found out when it came to his own dad’s unconditional love.

It is easy to try and manipulate God. Share/reflect on how this occurs in your life and how you see others doing this.

I suggested other challenging thing about this kind of love on show by God is that is places a call on our lives. Because we are loved like this we are called to love like this. How do you struggle with this calling?

The gospel of John is full of ‘light and darkness’ language and this passage is no exception. Nicodemus comes in the darkness to the Light! How do you think you “love the darkness instead of light” in your life, as John declares that we do? How do you see people you know doing this?

Share/Reflect on a time when you were scared to let the Lord expose your darkness and what happens when you allowed this to happen?

Nicodemus turns up later in the gospel. In John 19:39 he is mentioned as the one who takes Jesus’ broken and bloodied body down from the cross and prepares it for burial in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. It seems that he was eventually more willing to be seen as a person with a personal attachment and commitment to Jesus.

PRAY

Spirit of Jesus, enlighten my heart and mind by your new birth and the hope it gives me for living so I am light in the darkness I live in within myself and among others.

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