Author: Adrian Kitson (page 1 of 19)

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.


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.



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.


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.

The Good Reckoning

Sermon, Lent 2, Sunday February 25, 2018

St Petri

The Good Reckoning

Romans 4:13-25

13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’[a] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’[b] 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ 23 The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.


Friends, I would like you to do some reckoning with me this morning.

I would like to ask you, “what do you reckon” about where we are as people. I am asking ‘what do you reckon’ about the average human being. What is your assessment, thinking, evaluation about how people are?

Is your reckoning anything like some of these people?

I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.

Oscar Wilde (Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet 1854 – 1900)


 Man is the only animal that laughs and has a state legislature.

Samuel Butler (English composer, novelist, & satiric author 1835 – 1902)


If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.

Or another anonymous thought: I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that they haven’t made contact with us! T. S. Eliot (British (US-born) critic, dramatist & poet 1888 – 1965)


Is humanity in really such a bleak existence? Or, is the truth about us really more positive, as these people have said…

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty”. Mahatma Gandhi


“My message is the practice of compassion, love and kindness. Compassion can be put into practice if one recognizes the fact that every human being is a member of humanity and the human family regardless of differences in religion, culture, colour and creed. Deep down there is no difference”.                                   Dalai Lama


What is your assessment of the human situation; your ‘reckoning?

The New Testament is the story of men and women trying to express what they are learning about the huge ramifications of the coming of the promised Messiah for how to be human, how to live in the freedom and acceptance of God, how to respond well to this great grace of God.

In his letter proclaiming the dynamic impact of Jesus on life as a sinner, St Paul gets right into this question about how we human really are, for his people in Rome.

From the Old Testament, his experience of Jesus and years of working with people armed with only the gospel of Jesus, Paul gives witness to God’s reckoning about the human condition.

Even as we begin to try to take in God’s reckoning of the human condition we need to acknowledge something: Woody Allen said. “Human kind cannot bear much reality”. Paul agrees. He says that human beings naturally “suppress the truth” of things – about themselves, others and God, in Romans 2:18.

Romans 2:18-21 Because of this natural human propensity to ignore God’s truth, Paul says that human beings are always prone to make inaccurate, untruthful reckoning of their situation and themselves.

We humans make three bad deals – bad exchanges, bad judgement calls about what it is to be fully human.

Romans 2:22    We have this problem of serving created things rather than the One who creates all things. We love to spend our time, effort and talent on anything other than the Lord and his will. With a stone-cold hear toward the Lord, we don’t give thanks to God for all that much.

Romans 2:25    We reckon that serving ourselves is the truth. Serving ourselves will restore us, make us happy and whole. Problem is that we are not that good! We let ourselves down and then have nowhere to go.

Romans 2:26    We exchange healthy human relationships for relationship based on our own self- feeding desires which make us unhealthy and an offence to God’s love and holiness. We seem to be more “takers” than “givers; more “users” of people we love than simply “being with” the people we love.

In the end Paul gives us God’s reckoning of how it really is for human beings.

Because of these unwholesome, unhealthy and ever worsening bad exchanges, humanity is,

“full of every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity….full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. People have become gossips, slanderers, heartless, ruthless (Rom 1:29-31).

What’s worse is that Paul is quite clear on the truth that all of us, by ourselves cannot do any other. The words he uses give the meaning that these things are spinning out of control, faster and more frequently to destruction of human life and relationships.

The end of all this, the wages of this is Godless death – a chasm between us and God – God’s judgement and wrath.

….Not sounding too good at the moment!

But this brutal honesty about us leads somewhere else; somewhere good. This truth leads us the very best thing.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, first the Jew and then the Gentile. (1:16).

Yes the gospel of Jesus Christ is the “Good Reckoning”. The grace of God in Jesus is the only thing that lifts me from myself and recalibrates my understanding and experience of who God is and who he has made me to be and what it cost him to do the heavy lifting and what that means for living now.

 I kiss my self-righteousness goodbye as I hear of this other righteousness revealed, a righteousness that is “by faith (in Jesus’ cross) from first to last”.

These gifts of God, this story of the Lord’s involvement with us and his deep and wide love for us is not a ‘Johnny come lately’ thing, here today and gone tomorrow, or a mere ideology or philosophy of human construction. It is from ancient of days and divine and lasting on into our future.

It all starts with Abraham.

Abraham, is the beginning point of God’s promise to deal with our human problem. Abraham is the prototype and holder of the promise of human beings restored by faith in God’s grace.

God has always been about grace. Abraham, a 100 year old wandering sheep herder from the east and his elderly wife, Sarah, were given the promise that from them would come millions of descendants – even kings and indeed the King – the Messiah.

So, it was not through keeping of the law, or being obedient to God’s will that Abraham was reckon by God to be righteous, but through faith in God’s promise that God gave Abraham. “Righteous living is nothing more than simply trusting the promises of God for you.

It is God’s promise, his will, his giving of a new deal for humanity through Abraham that is the heart of the matter – not Abraham’s response to it. And that make all the difference for Christians, Paul says.

Christian man or woman, like Abraham you are saved from your own false reckoning of yourself and of God, by God’s promise, fully revealed in Jesus now, and this is given to you through faith in God’s grace, not by your keeping of any law. 4:23

The remedy for our trusting of the wrong things, the damaging things, the untrue things, the unhealthy things with all its brutal effects is not trying harder or getting it right or performing for God, but the simple receiving of God’s unconditional and unqualified acceptance of us, in all our dirt and deception.

And this has been fully given in Jesus and received it can only be by faith and with a heart of thankfulness; a simple trust; a direct trusting of God’s word as the truth about you – you are a dead sinner and a fully graced, fully resurrected immersed, baptised saint by his grace.

Joy comes from the “good reckoning” of the Lord. Joy for your suffering, your challenges, your shame, your regrets, your heart-ache your plans. Friend, you have peace and joy with God.

And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Friend, you have already been restored, made righteous and this will last forever. Romans 5:6-11

And our response?

Repentance: Repentance is simply returning to what has already been won for you in love – freedom from sin, the evil one and death itself.

And then praise! Praise God for he has given us a new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from death, and an inheritance of life forever in the Lord our God that cannot rot or rust or fade because God protects it and us.

Life: My whole life in all its parts

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

Or as Jesus put it – “take up your cross and follow me”.


The fifth way

Sermon: Lent 1B, Sunday February 18, 2018

St Petri

The Fifth way

1Peter 3:18-22

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[a] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God.[b] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

I have a little Poem… “If Jesus came to our house”.

1.  If Jesus came to your house
to spend a day or two
If he came unexpectedly
I wonder what you’d do?
2.  I know you’d give the nicest room
to such and honoured guest
and all the food you’d serve to him
would be the very best.
3.  but when you saw him coming
would your welcome be sincere,
or deep down would you worry
that this man had come too near?
4.  Or would you change your clothes
before you let him in
of hide some magazines
and put a bible where they had been!
5.  Would you turn off the video
and hope that he had not seen
the movie that was showing
on your Samsung TV screen?
6.  Would you hide your world of music,
tuck you CD’s out of sight
would you rush about and tidy
other things that were not right?
7.  Would you take Jesus with you
everywhere you planned to go
or maybe would you change your plans
for just a day or so?
8.  Would you be glad to have him
meet your very closest friends
or would you sigh with great relief
when he at last was gone!


Lent is the time for letting the Spirit question us – not to be embarrassed, judged or shamed, but to be made new, made straight, made alive.

We ask the Spirit to show us our inner thoughts, the things upon which we feed our spirit, mind and body, the place of Jesus in our lifestyle and being Christians when so many are not.

It is good that we have text from Peter’s first letter today. We and Peter’s people have a lot in common.

They are a minority compared in the prevailing culture of their day. They are Christians in a vast community of non-Christians of varying varieties. That’s us too.

It seems that many of Peter’s people are displaced people – new immigrants, people who have come from somewhere else either a long time ago or just a little while ago. This is the story for many of our local families too.

They are people who go to work, raise their children, interact with a vast non-Christian world that seems to be a little feisty, a little antagonistic toward Christians. They are feeling that pressure – that pressure of being different because of their calling to be faithful to the Lord Jesus.

Unlike us in the Barossa, they often paid dearly for letting their faith show by loss of job, relegation to the lower valued people in the community, maybe even economic ruin, political coercion and oppression in the towns they lived.

Christians always have four things to ponder as they live their faith in the face of an overwhelming non-Christian or even anti-Christian society. They could either;

Go along,

Go underground,

Give it back, or

Give it up.



They could go along with the belief of the people around them. Everyone has to find their own way to a spiritual peace (god). Everyone has to get to peace and joy in their own way. This can be done at sunset on the beach or morning in the tall trees or by boat on the crystal-clear lake. This can be sought in books and on-line (self-help section). This can be sought by taking up all kinds of practices of meditation, fitness, stillness. This can be sought in the raising of children, the building of a family lifestyle or professional lifestyle or financial security…..

Everyone has to find their way to “god”, however they define god for themselves.

In Lent we ask, are we just going along?



Peter’s people could go underground. They had the option of keeping their faith all very hush-hush. Under extreme threat of physical attack or even death, Christians have often met in secret to survive. But Peter’s people and we are not there. Still, whatever level the opposition, year after year…. it all wears Christian’s down!

In Lent we ask, are we hiding?



We could opt to give it back to ‘em! We could choose to fight fire with fire, get political. We could spend a lot of time trying to make our society “Christian” as we define it. We could lobby Canberra, get in the ear of the rich and famous or community leaders to get a better deal or claim our rights and the like. In extreme moves, I am also thinking of ‘normal’ people like you and me actually bombing an abortion clinic or spreading violent words about anyone they don’t like (Indigenous, Gay, Immigrants…), from the safety of their computer at home.

In Lent we ask, are we trying to give it back to ‘em?



Then, there is always the choice that every Christian has, or at some time or other will have to deal with – what about actually giving up this faith, this church, this belief of heart and mind? Many have. Some still are in the process.

In Lent we ask, are we just giving him up?



Peter will have none of these four. He suggests a fifth alternative – the gospel alternative and it is founded on the truth that we have been brought to God BY GOD, not ourselves.

“For Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (3:18).

We can’t make God up, connect with God, be with God on our own terms or by our own vision, goodness or pious living. God has to get to us, make us, find us, grace us, love us. And he has. That is Peter’s starting point.

Peter goes straight to baptism to really give us strength of faith for the world we live in.

He thinks back to Noah and how God was patient and how God saves 8 people. God saved these 8 through water and then the truth just hits us – God has saved us by water too. By baptism we are with God and we are found by God.

So, if God has got to us, loved us, immersed us in his Spirit for living now, then what is the fifth option?

Friends, whatever happens and however the opposition comes, we have no need to go along with a dead-end culture, go underground and hide from it, give it back by making the church some political force playing the manipulation game of the world or give it up the Lord Jesus..


Peter’s option; the gospel option is to Go and tell – to bear witness. We don’t go along, go underground, give it back or give him up, we go and tell.

And in this spirit

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and give glory to God on the day he eventually visits us (1 Peter 2:12)

 But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who ask you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Friend, steer clear of just going along, hiding your love for the Lord away, reacting in anger or giving up on Jesus. No need. With him we simply go and tell.

Jesus has come to your house

to spend a lifetime with you

He goes with you wherever you go.

No need to change your clothes, tidy up or make a special meal.


The honoured guest is glad to provide the best clothes –

those of his righteousness and acceptance.


He will also provide the best meal

The one that makes you holy as he is holy,

no matter what you wearing inside or out..


Be glad to have him meet your very closest friends

The joy comes when even one of them is gives glory to Jesus on the day he visits.





Lent is upon us. It is the time for a preparation to receive the Resurrected jesus anew and so, to be made new again in faith, hope and love. How will you play it?


The three great and ancient disciplines as outlined by Jesus in Matthew 6 in the Sermon on the Mount are;





To engage in any of these things for the 40 days of Lent is NOT to earn favour with God or try and look good to ourselves or others. We do not need to earn favour with God because we already have his favour and blessing by the cross and resurrection of Jesus given in full to us when we were adopted as his loved sons and daughters in baptism and in all the ways the Lord has been with us along the journey since.


So, if we don’t do these things in lent to earn God’s favour, then why? I would say – for clarity: clarity of heart, mind and body in the gospel. Being more clear about who we are in the Lord. Being more aware of what things, people and circumstances pull away from our identity and place in Jesus to put our identity ion them – things like work, relationships, looks, food, drink, and etc, etc, etc.


As for Praying, Giving and Fasting, they can be done in many forms and some are to do with going without a comfortable loved thing or taking on an extra thing like regular daily prayer and bible reflection, serving somewhere, helping someone out and etc…. We can give more, do more or do less or different things or give up some things. We are free in the acceptance and love of Jesus to ask him to show us ourselves so we can see him even more.


As for the “prayer” one. There is a biblical principle at work here. Prayer needs to be shaped by God’s word more than our imagination or desire. Our imagination and desires can get pretty clouded. Yes, there is time for pouring out one’s heart to the Lord about a thing, but there is more time for letting his word shape our daily prayer. To this end, Christians for centuries have lived in order of prayer at set time of the day which all begin with, are surrounded by and end in God’s word.


There is morning prayer, midday prayer and evening prayer as a basic three time a day way to pray – simple, to-the point and you can make it what you have time for and need. The thing is that the prayer orders are all scripture. Why don’t you seek them out and see how they fit you this Lent?


Even grabbing a daily devotion book and sticking with it might be good for forty days.


It is always better to pray in the same place and at the same time(s) if you can. Prayer and Word become habitual then. A rocking chair in the spare room early in the morning might be good if you are a morning person. If not, the same chair in the same room 30 mins before going to bed or before dinner time……


The Fifth way

1Peter 3:18-22

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive,[a] he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits – 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience towards God.[b] It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand – with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.


Read the text slowly and follow the logic of Peter.


Notice the foundation of what he says about being Christians in a hostile world is what God has done in Christ, not our brains, looks, skills, and etc. See verse 18 and 21-22. Everything comes from the resurrection of Jesus and his forgiveness of sin and defeat of evil and death for us.


His victory over “imprisoned spirits” lying in wait for his victory is complete and then baptism is the thing he raised to give his people a strength of faith in difficult times. It is our baptism and what the Lord did there for us in a real event in real time that is worth remembering and bringing with us to work, school, social life, marriage ad every other aspect of life!


Interesting how Peter remembers Noah and unlike in other place in the Bible where the waters are seen as the thing that threatens and kills humanity, here is it the thing that gives life to humanity – like baptism. We are “saved through water”…..


Notice that Jesus is not dead, but alive and active in our lives. He is currently ‘at God’s right hand” with everything and everything in submission to him. Not easy to believe when we can’t see it! But by faith and via our ears and into our heart, we trust this. Now and again we actually do see it – in the working of the Sprit in our own lives or that of a friend, in the simple but sure receiving of the bread and wine; the body and blood of Jesus for life, healing and forgiveness.


Which way to you find yourself tending to go when it comes to living the Christian life among non-Christian people? Have a look at the list and ponder which one is your temptation and what happens inside you that triggers it.

Go along,

Go underground,

Give it back, or

Give it up.


We named peter’s fifth option as “Go and Tell” or “witness”

But always in a gentle and respectful way WHEN ASKED.


How might you be able to take this option more where you work and live at the moment?


Do you feel ready to give an account of the hope you have in Jesus? If not, how might you get ready for the moments that will surely come?


One way is to simply “Bring Jesus”. Simply relate a story that seems to fit the conversation and question in your own words from what you remember of the story (a parable, a healing, a teaching word of Jesus you know….). Relate the story and make your point and leave it at that. There is no need to ‘seal the deal’ and ‘get a conversion”. That’s the Sprit’s job! If the words don’t come and there is no story of Jesus or word of Scripture that comes, then leave it. Another time will come.


But it would be good to be able to re-tell a few Jesus stories and relate a few bible texts when needed. What would they be?



For a friend in need of love and hope from Jesus

For words to say and opportunity to speak when asked.

For a gentle and respectful spirit at work, and wherever else you need to go.

Thank the Lord for his resurrection power at work in you from Baptism to today.

Being put back together

Homily: Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2018.

Being Put Back Together

Isaiah 58:1-12


Barnaby Joyce is in a bit of trouble. He must feel like he is in that dark forest with evil chasing him. Maybe he is looking for hope, for light, as his daughters and wife probably are.

Like many a politician or public figure, he has been living a double life. He’s been found out and now the consequences of his double life are coming down on him. To many an Australian citizen, this is just sheer hypocrisy – saying one thing and doing another; pretending to be upright and good at the same time as lying and damaging relationships….

Barnaby is not alone. Maybe we should be very careful in our condemnation. Why? Because the great danger and temptation in our own living a life in Christ is hypocrisy; living a ‘two-hearted”, “double-minded” life where we say one thing to others and do another thing under the radar. We can all be Barnaby in various ways.

Because of our broken and rebellious spirit that rages within, we have the capacity to be inauthentic – doing an outward show of the faith while being very much self-centred and careless of Jesus’ call to follow his way and will for us.

The Lord names this problem through his prophet Isaiah…

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
Yes, we can seem eager to know the Lord’s ways by our outward behaviour and habits of worship attendance, prayer, even fasting, but at the same time behaving in ways contrary to God’s call and will for our relationships and our community.

On the very days when we seem to be authentic in our observance of worship and practices of devotion and the like… we remain entangled in family conflict, unforgiveness with a relative or enemy, harsh treatment of someone different to us and etc, by various means satisfying the desires of body, mind and spirit in lots of ways that are not good for us or others……

 Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.

It seems for the people of Isaiah’s time, even their very religious practices of fasting and wearing of sackcloth and having ash thrown over their heads in some outward show of repentance and humility before God are a sham as they fight with each other after the Service and even come to blows!

You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
The Lord says that this hypocrisy; this double mindedness; this inauthentic way is belief and behaviour that cannot expect a gracious response from him.

The hypocrite in side gets cranky with God about this.

‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’

“God, I am doing all this stuff for you and you are not noticing or rewarding me. God. You ow me for all my good work. Pay up!”

Can you see how our hypocrisy shows that we generally want what God can give us more than God himself. We want the good life, protection, safety, and all the rest more than we want him – a living relationship with him as our kind and loving Father who calls us to be his person where we live.

So, the Lord says to his ‘two-hearted’ people, “I am not after devotion that wants to get, I am after devotion that is real and honest; a devotion to me and people that give for my sake and theirs – not to score point with me”.

 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Jesus says exactly this too.

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

So, where do people are quite capable of doing a “Barnaby Joyce” in any area of life (probably a bit less public!) go to find acceptance, forgiveness, a non-judgemental spirit and a future that can deal with our “TWO-HEARTEDNESS”?

Where do we go to address the problem and find that authentic faith where we act in God’s will – in his justice and compassion for his world?

Step 1 – “Be reconciled to God” says St Paul.

Seek God’s mercy and forgiveness knowing that it is possible to endure and triumph over your built-in hypocrisy only because…”God made Jesus Christ who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. …..I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”.

Step 2: Believe.

The 40 days of Lent is “anti-hypocrisy therapy”! Lent is all about knowing your hypocrisy and the Lord’s forgiveness of it.

That is what either going without something valued or giving more of your self to others and the Lord in some way does. The ancient disciplines of prayer 3 or 5 times a day, giving to those in need, fasting of some treasured thing show us help us get to the truth of how we are and who we are before the Lord.

Lent is being re-established in his call to endure through it and be his man, his woman where he has placed you.

As we trust in Jesus and the work he has done to get us to God’s mercy and favour – the work we re-tell and re-live in these 40 days climaxing on Easter weekend, we are renewed. We are put back together again – re-integrated into one heart, one mind, one faith, one Father, one baptism, one Lord.

And then we find our heart is true and what comes from the heart – our words, our actions are true and of great value to others.

Step 3: See.

As we humble ourselves this evening and in these 40 days we will see more of who we are, who Jesus is and who is calling us to be, we will experience his presence and his healing.

Indeed, God promises that “your healing will quickly appear”. We will no longer be double-minded or hypocritical but in-sync and much clearer in our relationship with Jesus and each other – and so we will be the compassion and justice of Jesus for our people.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.


Friends, the Lord will guide us all in our repenting, our believing and our seeing this 40 days. This is his promise.

With this promise comes the call to commit ourselves to the Lord again in these 40 days and let him help us really see his ways and his will for us as individuals and as his local church community here.

11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

He is that hope. He is here waiting for you. He lets you stay. He will restore.


He Will Shine

Sermon, Transfiguration Sunday

February 11, 2018. St Petri.

Mark 9:2-13

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what ‘rising from the dead’ meant.

11 And they asked him, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’

12 Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.’

The Lord is always close to us. It is just that he is hidden in things we do not expect. Sometimes he has to simply open the curtain a little to let us in on his stunning presence; to let us know that he is right here with us as he promised. So Transfiguration Day comes…..

The curtain is drawn back in a special way for just a minute in time for three flabbergasted guys. The special man of God is revealed in the glory from which he came, and three blokes seeing it are tongue-tied and rather dazed by the brilliance of it. How long has it been since you were flabbergasted by the presence of the same Saviour man, Jesus?

These three have followed Jesus for a while now and they have followed him up this hill today. All the ‘bells and whistles’ of divine experience are coming their way.

It is an ancient experience reborn.

Moses and Elijah are there: two men of the Old Era who were taken to the Lord’s heaven without being dead and buried like the rest of us. Elijah went bodily into heaven (2 Kings 2:9-12) and Moses’ grave was never found (he was buried by God himself in Deuteronomy 34:4-7). As a result of their special departures, many Jewish people believed that these two could return to announce God’s new reign was at hand. And here that reign is, up on the hill – Jesus.

But what about those three tents or “booths” Peter asks about? People often say that Peter was stunned like a rabbit in the head lights and just blurting out some nonsensical stuff to try and make the moment last. Maybe. But maybe he is doing a lot more thoughtful thing as he says that the three amigos should built some booths to stay in.

According to some Jewish expectation of the day, and as stated in the book of Zechariah (see 14:16-21), God would usher in the “Day of the Lord,” during the Feast of Booths.

The Feast of Booths was upon them. Surely Moses, Elijah, and Jesus need not construct their own booths for the celebration. The three other amigos will do it!

And what about blinding dazzling light? Remember Moses and his dazzling face transformed by being in the presence of God (Exodus 34:2, 29-35). After Moses has been in conversation with God about the future life of God’s people, he descends from the mountain so reflecting the light of God’s glory that he must cover his face lest he frighten the children – not to mention his wife!

Similar in Daniel. In Daniel the “Son of Man” is also dazzling white. The mysterious messianic figure who will bring about God’s will and God’s justice, is a supernaturally stunning figure (Daniel 7:9-14).

And what about all in the cloud? The Shekinah. The ‘glory cloud’ that was there when it really counted – The Red sea crossing (Exodus 14). Every day of the desert journey (Exodus 13:21). The day the Tabernacle was dedicated as God’s dwelling place (Numbers 9:15), on Mt Sinai at the giving of the 10 Commandments and the feast of the Elders in God’s presence (Deuteronomy 5), the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Solomon (1 Kings 8).

With all these bells and whistles, it was easy to remember. The gospel writers record it in their proclaiming of Jesus. Peter obviously never forgot it because he reflects on it later in his second letter (1 Peter 2:16-18).

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eye-witnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’[b] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

How Peter remembers it later on, and how Mark tells it now gives us the clue as to what this mysterious spiritual experience is really all pointing to.

It is the clear Word of God that makes sense of this dazzling experience. Without this Word, it would just be a nice experience. Without this clear Word of God speaking, this would just be bells and whistles without any clear substance or meaning or sure promise.

God speaks into this experience and makes it clear and good and truth.

‘This is my Son, whom I love’.

It is all about the Son and the Father’s love for the Son. Like a lover on Valentine’s Day, she declares her love and loyalty to her man.

Mark has reported this same stunning affirmation of Jesus before this day. He will do it one more time after this day. The first was at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11). These words will echo at Jesus’ death (15:39).

All three times God says to a world in waiting, Jesus is unique, a one-in-a-million person, divine, chosen, anointed and sent by me. He is the difference between mere human imagination and divine promise and power. He is light. He is glory. He is hope.

“This is my Son, the Beloved” (Mark 9:7). What a title! Especially when the one saying this is the God of Creation! (see also Deuteronomy 4:36; 2 Samuel 22:14; John 12:28; Acts 11:9).

No one else gets this title; “God’s Son.” Not Moses. Not Elijah. Not John the baptizer. None of Galilee’s other preachers or demon casting exorcists (Mark 6:7, 12-13; 9:38). Only Jesus is the beloved Son. He is “unique,” “one-of-a-kind.” A father’s love for such a son is fathomless, because there is no other.

What are supposed to do with this cloud, this dazzling white, this mountain, this Son of God, this man of all men? Only one thing is needed. Listen.

‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!’

“Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7). This is the first and only time in Mark, the voice from heaven orders Jesus’ disciples. The only way to glimpse his giftedness and receive his light and hope is by the ears.

And what should we be listening for especially. Well that is clear here too. The crucial stuff to hear is everything to do with Jesus’ suffering and victory over evil and death stated in Mark 8:31.

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

It is when he rises that the curtain will be torn in two for all time and heaven will be open to all believers in a new and close way. That is us and that is now.

But do we value him as we could? Or does he blend into the background of voices we hear?

I wonder whether I have often lost any deeper appreciation of Jesus’ uniqueness and his high place and transforming presence in my life. How about you?

It is easy to lose true appreciation and love for him in all the long-held things we do and say in this rather comfortable life (for a lot of us but not all).

It is just so easy to reduce Jesus to be like others and miss his uniqueness and his divine presence and transforming word. It is so easy to just never peer through the curtain as we whizz by doing all the things we believe we must.

And so, for many, Jesus can only then be our sage, our hero, or even just a tragically betrayed and naïve fool. He can and is often reduced to an historical person you learn about on some history show. We can lock him in that closet and stay with him there and never come out.

But come out he will, as he did here on this mountain! Here he is uncaged. Like a mountaineer finally summiting the mountain and dropping off the heavy pack to enjoy the moment of light sun, the Jesus we try and cage is uncaged and we feel his hope and light.

Thank him for that. I need that tiger loose in my life! So do you, for he is light and sun and life. He is grace. In our attempts to make our own light and draw our curtains on Christianity and the church, he speaks and the curtain is drawn open again and there is hope and life and love again.

Whatever happens in my life, he is in it. Jesus will be heard, and his kingdom will continue to come close to me. Whatever happens to us as a church, he will speak and some people somewhere sometimes will catch a glimpse of his love and his light and his grace and be lit up themselves.

I pray that is you today




Read the text out loud again pausing to  try and  picture this scene Mark paints.

What words, phrases, images catch your ear? What questions come to mind?

Someone said recently that it not as if God is in another space and has to travel to come close to us. He is always close to us but unseen. But now and again he draws back the curtain of his presence and our day is transformed! This is what is happening here on this Transfiguration hill.

Where else does God draw back the curtains so you can know his presence for you?

How long has it been since you experience this kind of presence of the Lord in your life?

I suggested that this was a word totally founded in and rich with Old Testament themes and images. Go through those and the reference texts to enjoy that rich texture. Note your conclusions/learning points.

I suggested that the thing that makes this overwhelming experience of God’s presence gracious and clear is the Word that is heard in it.

“This is my Son whom I love. Listen to him”. Do you agree/disagree and why?

It is one thing to have an extraordinary experience of the Divine, but quite another to have an experience of closeness and power of God, Father, Son ad Holy Spirit. The way God lets us know it is him is by his Word. Has this happened to you – where you have heard God’s speak to you or found that a bible text has met you in a moment of spiritual experience? Real that experience and the Ord that God gave….. Is this still current for you now?

I suggested that for long term church people or for people who have largely given up on a personal relationship with Jesus, Jesus quickly can become so much less than who he really is – Saviour, Brother, Friend, Lord…. How have you sometimes forgot his uniqueness and his transforming power? What distracts you from his presence at the moment? Is the Lord calling you to look beyond the curtain of everyday life to see and hear his promises?


We believe that the curtain separating us from the Lord’s glory has been ripped in two by the resurrection of Jesus. We believe that even though it may not feel like it, worship in God’s presence with God’s people is a meeting of heaven and earth and a moment of open access to Jesus as we hear him speak and receive his gifts of grace. What hinders you from trusting this? What does the Lord need to do for you to help you hear him and see his light and love in your life up close?


Pray to him for the things you need and ask him to show you what you need to have the curtain pulled away and his light and love more present in your job, your school, your family, your life.







Sermon, Epiphany 5B Sunday February 4, 2018, St Petri

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

What compels you?  What is absolutely “non-negotiable” for you?  We probably all have things we believe SHOULD compel us, but whether or they always do is another thing altogether!

How do you tell what compels you? Maybe if we think this way this morning.

What if the principal of your school, or your partner in life, or your mum or dad, or your most trusted and respected buddy said, “No, you cannot do that, believe that, say that, be that”. And you had to respond: “I have to. I am sorry. I am compelled. I have to do that, believe that and say that”?

For me there a few non-negotiable things:

  • You just cannot throw your empty disposable drink container out of the window of the car. It is wrong. Looking after the environment is important.
  • You just cannot ride anything but a triumph motorcycle. (No good reason here!)
  • You just cannot say anything bad about bald people, red haired people or people over 50! All people count! Everyone needs encouragement!

There other things that compel us;

  • A parent’s fierce protection of their child?
  • A man of the land’s protection and care for his land?
  • Your fierce loyalty to your team or your family name or your home, your country, your friends?

Paul says he is compelled to live something. He says it  because this Corinthian congregation, who seem to have replaced Paul and his gospel with their own self-importance, seem to believe that Paul is just “fake news”, or in it for himself. Paul needs to speak some words in defence of himself as an Apostle (along with Barnabas).

He has just talked about the freedom that he and all believers in Jesus have, and yet, how we are indebted to each other under the debt of self-giving love.

Now he goes on to speak of how in his calling as a “Sent One” (an Apostle) of Jesus, he has never placed burdens on them by demanding that they pay him for his preaching of the gospel. He has always looked after his own needs (money from his Tent making trade) and exercised his freedom in the gospel to preach the gospel among them for free. He is not in it for himself. He is not indebted to them in any monetary sense, but he is indebted to love them, and they he,  brothers and sisters in Christ.

And why does he do what he does and do it with no benefit to himself? Because he is compelled. There is something that drives his life. He just has to do this no matter what they say or do and above all else in life.

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Like a grape-grower harvesting the fruit, a woman bearing down in labour, a small business owner doing the end of year tax, this living and telling of Jesus and his story, his promise, his calling just has to be done!

Not surprising when you know Paul’s story. He was a fiercely committed man to the cause of the Jewish faith. So much so, that  he was an angry man bent on destroying that first community of the gospel in Jerusalem. Remember, Paul held their coats as the Jewish leaders stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the gospel to death.

But then, Jesus reached out to this violent Paul on that road to Damascus and called him of all people to be a good news man of love. He is now to live and tell the gospel among non-Jewish people for the rest of his life.

No wonder Paul just has to say it! For two big reasons,

  1. From his own experience of the underserved and unlearnt love and acceptance of Jesus and

  2. Jesus’ direct calling. Paul just has to speak that good news to as many as he can, including the people of Corinth.


OK pastor. We get it. You are saying that we should be like Paul in his “non-negotiable” proclaiming of Jesus. Yes, I am.

But here is the truth. I am not always compelled by this gospel I know. I suspect you aren’t either.

Often, I proclaim other things, other gods in whom I trust more than the mercy of the Lord because they compel me more at the time.

What might you and I proclaim more loudly than the good news of his grace? It could be many things.

  • Financial security and a comfortable life
  • Good name that says we are if not as good as the next person, we are probably just that little bit better than the next person – we are winners, not losers, we are the strong, not the weak. We are the right, never the wrong.
  • Health and wellbeing as we want it – which is achieved by the avoidance of opposition, any suffering at any price.
  • Our self-determination without any responsibility for others – “guilt free living” by living for one’s self and that is it! “I am not my brother’s keeper”.

I can easily use my freedom in Christ to speak of just about anything as my life driver, my “non-negotiable”, more than the love and calling of my Saviour, and often do. As a result, I come up short.

Jesus says that as we let anything other than his life and hope and forgiveness compel us, drive us, spring out of us –  we come up so much shorter than if we allow his word to compel us. “We have received our reward in full”, says Jesus (Matthew 6), if we set our hearts and lives on the pursuit of things and people and the things we have mentioned. There is no more. The world is as good as it gets and there is no more.

Paul has to speak more because he knows there is more. He knows to the bottom of his soul that Someone was compelled to reach out to him in his anger and arrogance, his mistrust and self-importance, and, not to condemn him but love him. He knows Jesus! He just cannot but share that. Paul has to respond to his call, lest he shrivel up and die inside.

He is compelled to love you, friend. His words, his life, his rugged cross and bleeding body, his rising light, his gifts of grace, his presence now tells you that.

Proclaim him. Angry man, sad woman, frightened child, broken heart, lost soul, empty spirit, proud man, right woman, popular young person but dying inside, he is compelled by love to call you and turn you into a person of gifts, grace and God-given go.

Go ahead. Speak him. No boasting, no seeking self-congratulation or accolade, just serving; just giving, just trusting him; just taking him at his word and being his witness to the weak and the strong, the proud and the timid, the well-healed and the damaged and disenfranchised in your sphere.

This community needs your voice and your presence, even if they are unsure or quite clear on their rejection of him. Nothing new there.

Some community of graced people need to give everything to the task and pay whatever the cost to get the message out in word and deed. People’s lives depend on it. Time for comfortability is past and opportunity for winning some for the gospel is upon us.

What compels you? If it is not the grace of Jesus, then it is only you and there is so much more than that.

He loves us beyond limits. He is crucified and we are raised. He is sin and we are free. He is lost and we are found.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

O Lord Jesus. Compel us again and we will speak and act and share in the lasting blessing and life of your blessing. Amen



What is ‘non-negotiable’ for you at the moment? Make a list of the top three things that compel you to be involved in what you are. Share these….


Read the text slowly/deliberately taking note of things that jump out at you are raise a question in your mind. Note these as you go…

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.


Paul is defending himself. There is much evidence that the relationship between Paul and the congregation is rocky. For many reasons the people have sought other teachers and become “puffed up” with their knowledge about spiritual things. They also seem to be experiencing some kind of conflict.


What is Paul saying about himself and his integrity under question here?


How do you go about winning others to a good appreciation of the good news? Paul says it is important to be “all things to all people”. To be all things to all people would require beginning where the other person is at and going from there. Think about/share and example of when you did this and what happened.


Being all things to all people would require more listening than speaking, lest you just speak words that cannot be received/understood. How would you describe your ability to listen to others at the moment?


Paul’s motivation for becoming what he needs to be to relate to people and share the good news in a way they can receive it is to “win them”. That implies that the motivation is not to tell people what they should think, as if they are completely wrong! Sharing the good news to be right automatically makes the other person ‘wrong” and they sense that. This is a denial of the Spirit’s work in the person’s life long before you or I turned up!


It also implies that when we have an opportunity to share something of our relationship with the Lord that we don’t do this to be right. or good, or better than the other person, and certainly not to judge and condemn them for being wrong, but to ‘win them’ back to their heavenly Father who loves them. How would you say you go about this, or would like to go about this in your workplace, your family, your home, among your friends?


Most people, find speaking about their faith in the Lord a little daunting at times. Why is this so for you? Are you scared of what people think of you – that they will dismiss you or even reject you? Is it just a fear of getting something wrong – saying the wrong words or misleading someone? Is it just that you are not that compelled to win others to God’s grace? It is easy to be complacent rather than be compelled in our busy and largely comfortable life here in the Western world.


Share/think about your motivations and fears when it comes to sharing the gospel and ask the Spirit to show you what the real barriers are and give you his power to have courage and try sharing your faith next time the opportunity presents.


One thing that has helped many people be more confident in this is just to “bring Jesus” into the conversation. This means just sharing a story or parable or event in Jesus’ life that you know in your own words and letting that just be in the conversation. In this way you cannot get it wrong. You are not forcing your opinion on the other person (which we all dislike!). You are simply speaking what you know from experience and God’s Word in a way that does not judge or condemn but simply is. People can make of it what they will and the seeds of the gospel are planted and in the Spirit’s hands.


Pray for one person whom you would love to see come to a living faith in Jesus this week.


Sermon, Epiphany 4B, Sunday January 28, 2018  

St Petri, 10.30 service


1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

How do we Christians use our God given freedom to look after each other – especially when we disagree on something?

“Knowledge puffs up while love builds up”, says Paul to the troubled Corinthian Christians. So, we need to acknowledge that when we disagree on a belief and its practice we are capable of being puffed up like a big Cane Toad and not looking after each other very well!

It is possible to know everything but to love nothing. It is possible to be a genius in some area of human knowledge but be no more than a “noisy gong; a clanging cymbal”, as Paul says later on in chapter 13.

It is one thing to know a lot about a thing, it is another thing to use that knowledge to love others who don’t know much about that thing.

It is one thing to have a great family, a great property, a great history and place in the community, it is another to use that name and place and status to love those who don’t.

It is a great gift to have a privileged place of freedom and joy in this community of Christ, it is another thing to share it, give it away and build others up into these gifts with those who don’t see themselves as part of the church or are just different.

There is an issue that the Corinthian Christians had to face in their day. It was difficult because of their past, their culture and who made up the congregation.

It was the problem of eating food that has already slaughtered in the service/worship of various gods (little ‘g’).

In the ancient world, there was literally a god in every shop, on every corner of town, in every park, and in every home – and not just one or the same but many and different gods.

We still have this to a degree. Ever noticed a Buddha statue in a shop with a bowl of fruit near it?

In Geraldton in the West, a lot of Vietnamese people came to that place in the 80’s. If you go there today in the market garden part of town you will see bowls of fruit and nuts etc at the farm gate. These are an offering to a god to ensure prosperity, a good crop, protection from evil and fertility.

If you were offered that banana by a friendly market gardener there, would you eat it? Should a holy, loved baptised person of Christ eat lamb (on Australia Day!) that has been slaughtered in honour and with prayer to a god?

The Corinthian Christians said, “Yes”. We are free in Christ. They seemed to know what Jesus said. He said that nothing from outside a person can make him unclean or acceptable to God. It is only what comes out of the wayward heart of a person that makes him unclean – thigs like hatred, malice envy, lust and etc…(Mark 7:15). In other words, “Yes”.

Paul agrees. A piece of beef is a piece of beef.  It does not matter if that meat was offered as a sacrifice to a false god in a pagan temple or home or park.  Eating it will not hurt you.  This is because there’s no actual power in it to do damage to you.  Why?, Because gods (little ‘g’) are not God. They are just speechless, action-less, lifeless “things of stone and wood”.

But Paul has to say more. The Corinthians are not only right about their freedom, they are very proud of their freedom. Too proud. They think they know it all and that simply knowing a lot is the goal of their faith; as if Christianity was simply about being the smartest, and most right! It isn’t. Christianity is a relationship of trust in Jesus’ word with others. It is what you do with your knowledge for others that is the goal.

They have turned their freedom in Jesus into a weapon that is damaging those who don’t share all their knowledge or who find this issue of eating meat sacrifices to idols very difficult.

Some of the people in the congregation have only recently come from this pagan culture of idol worship. It is how they grew up. They have been taught all their lives to pay off the gods for the sake of themselves, their families, their farms and their society.

But now they hear and believe that “there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live” (v6), and that all those little gods are actually “…nothing at all in the world” (v 4).

Paul says that eating a chicken probably sacrificed to an idol by the butcher from which you purchased it in the privacy of your own home with people you know and who share your understanding of freedom to do so is one thing. But eating that chook at the church pot-luck lunch with new converts or people who have a tender conscience about it is another thing.

What if you, long standing Christian person with a substantial knowledge of the Word and experience in living as a disciple of Jesus that enables you to enjoy the freedom of eating any food at congregation pot luck lunch is seen eating this meat already sacrificed to an idol by a fellow believer who does not share your confidence, your understanding or experience? Wouldn’t eating that meat sacrificed to an idol confuse your brother or even encourage him to go back to what he used to always do which is going against the Lord’s will?

See how knowledge of the freedom you have in Jesus’ love without love for the different person, especially a fellow Christian and especially a more vulnerable person can have a harmful effect on that person?

Let’s use a real-life example that we are facing to see how Christian freedom works for us now…

What about the issue of how we re-shape this building in our mission? There is disagreement about this. It is a similar to food issue for the Corinthians because;

  1. It has no effect on our standing before the Lord as his loved people – that is already sure.
  2. We are within our right and quite free to disagree about it.

Most of us want to make that plan happen, but a significant number do not.

Again, hear Paul on using our freedom here;

But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Changing this building in the way suggested will not bring us closer to God or take us further away from him. We are no worse off as God’s loved people if we do not build and no better off when it comes to  our standing before the Lord if we do.

Then how do we proceed? This is how Luther understood Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians:

  1. Christians have complete freedom and power over everything, and are under no obligation to anyone.
  2. Christians are servants of all, and are under complete obligation to everyone.                        Martin Luther: Freedom of the Christian

So, we are free and yet bound. We have rights, and yet we called to lay them done in service. We have knowledge of much, but we are called to use these to love each other (especially the vulnerable) so that our knowledge, our rights, our freedom are in the service of love for each other.

This year as the conversation goes on, I believe Paul (and Luther) would prompt us to ask the only question that really matters for free people in Christ who disagree on anything: “What is the loving thing to do?” – loving for us and loving for those who do not know the freedom and joy of Christ yet.

Or, how do we use our knowledge of our freedom in Jesus, our gifts from him, his considerable resources he has passed down to us to love him and love others more fully when it comes to deciding on how best to make use of this facility?

If our knowledge, experience, status and freedom is to serve love, then how do we do this disagreeing and finding one mind to move forward in?

For Paul, this is how:

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Be “careful” be “full of care” for each other. That is how we go about living with each other in Christ and making decisions about thing on which we have a difference of opinion. We use our knowledge and experience in the service of love. Why? Because we are completely free to do so and we are completely bound together in this.

Friends, I hear today that being a Christian is not about winning over another person but about loving another person win, lose a draw, just as the Lord loves us when we win, when we lose and when we break even.

We love, we serve, we even sacrifice ourselves for each other and then we are a beautifully played cymbal in this orchestra called St Petri, and a wonderfully sounding gong that indicates God’s time, God’s will, God’s welcome invitation.

Let’s know a lot but let’s use what we know to love even more. Then we will be Living In Freedom Everyday!



1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Read through the text slowly and deliberately keeping two questions in mind:

  1. What captures my mind/imagination; what do I find hard to skip over
  2. If there was a biblical scholar in the room, what questions would I ask.


This text is Paul teaching how Christian freedom in the church works. The issue he focusses on is a tricky one – especially for Jewish Christians in the congregation. The prevailing culture regularly offered food/produce to the many gods that were named/worshipped. They did this to find prosperity, wellbeing, blessing, protection, a good harvest and fertility.

For a Jewish person to eat meat that had been already offered to the gods was unthinkable. Animals needed to be slaughtered in a certain way. All blood had to be drained from the animal. Jewish people could not eat blood. Blood was the essence of a life and very much the Lord’s domain alone. But there was also the association with braking the first commandment (idolatry) – to not love the Lord with all your heart, mind and strength, or, to not trust the Lord for your prosperity, protection and blessing.

For non-Jewish people, it was still a problem. They grew up with many gods and the offering of many sacrifices to appease the many gods. Then they were taught that there is only one God (Father, Son and Spirit) and that all other gods are nothing but things of stone and wood. Idols have no power over you and are not worth appeasing!

But he Corinthian Christians knew this and they rightly knew they were free in Christ to eat and drink whatever was on offer – whether or not it had been sacrificed to idols or not.

What do you think about the example of a Vietnamese family offering you a banana from the little bowl of fruit next to their statue of Buddha? Would you eat the banana, or would you have to abstain because you felt you were too closely associating with their false belief in a false god?

To help the reflection along, read the next passage 1 Corinthians 9:19ff.

Also read Mark 7:15ff, Matthew 15:17-20. re Jesus’ words about this subject.

Note your conclusions on this…..



Can you see the problem of the misuse of freedom that Paul is trying to highlight? He says that not everyone shares the same understating or experience in the Christian faith.

But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.

So, from the example in the sermon, you as a mature Christian who know you are free to eat whatever food do so in a public setting (church pot-luck lunch) but there are new Christians there who know that the food has been sacrificed to an idol and they are very confused or even emboldened to take up their old pagan practices of doing the same which leads the back to a belief in many gods and having to appease the gods by doing things (keeping the Law). Or you deeply offend the Jewish Christian who cannot but see a too close association with unclean idol worship.

What do you think Paul is saying to help the Corinthians do this differently? If Paul were at the lunch, what would he urge you and I to do as we eat and drink in the presence of those different to us or ‘weaker’ in conscience?

Note your thoughts as you re-read Paul’s words – including Chapter 9:19ff


I used the issue of whether or not we as a congregation re-shape our church building along the lines of the plan give last year as a real life test of how we live our freedom as brothers and sister in Christ. Like eating food sacrificed to idols, it has no bearing on our standing with the Lord. We are free if we do build or don’t build and is not a matter of salvation at all. It is adiaphoron – neither right or wrong.

How do we exercise our freedom in Christ not relying on mere human knowledge – which Paul says will just puff us all up. When we are puffed up with prised we get angry and we hurt each other.

What, in your view, from this Word, makes all the difference and helps us use our freedom carefully and avoid getting puffed up?


What does this little quote from Martin Luther mean for you, or what does it direct you to do as a part of Jesus’ church at St Petri?

Christians have complete freedom and power over everything, and are under no obligation to anyone

Christians are servants of all, and are under complete obligation to everyone.

Martin Luther: Freedom of the Christian

Ask the Spirit to show you what action you may need to take or what attitude you need to adopt as we continue to live together in the bonds of Christian love sharing the love and hope of Jesus in our community.

Pray for our church, our building plans, the Lord’s will to be done, our schools as they recommence, anyone sick, a friend who is weak in conscience, a non-Christian friend whom you would love to see know the freedom of Jesus.

Fruitful 2018

vector apple tree with fruits, over white background

Sermon, New Year’s Eve 2017

Luke 13:1-9

Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’

Every New Year I find myself a little unsure what to do with a new year.

On the one hand I want to get organised, make some decisions and commitments and try and do better. On the hand, I know that all of this can and probably will come to naught as either I mess it all up or stuff happens to get us all off track again!

So, I find myself a little unsure of how I as a baptised and loved person of God would be best to approach another year.

On New Year’s Eve, enter the little parable of the unproductive fig tree in Luke 13.

…. ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

So, God comes looking for the good fruit in us for all his tending and gifts to us. Fair enough. He is God. He gave us everything. He has the authority to cast his eye over our productivity.

I hear too that it is possible to be alive but unfruitful. That is what this particular fig tree is – alive but not bearing fruit in its due season. We hear that this cannot go on forever. There is a limit on God’s patience.

When is the limit for me? I find myself caught between being urged to trying even harder or give up all together on any sense of progress in a new year. I find myself between trying to conjure up being even more positive, more planned, more productive to please God, and giving up on God all together in complete resignation to eventually getting the chop anyway!

I find all talk of ‘making next year better’, ‘becoming the real you’ or being a ‘better Christian’ irrelevant now.

Maybe that is Jesus’ point. He wants to totally disarm all our attempts to be good for him, to “work for God” or “be a better Christian” as if there is such a thing and such a demand from him. I suspect Jesus wants to remove any belief that we can make our 2018 better, we can make ourselves more fruitful by our own imaginations and loves and skills.

How so? Well, we need to hear what prompted this parable.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’

So, this little parable was spoken to a people who knew about the brutality and suffering of life. They knew of two terrible tragedies and those tragedies forced them to ask big questions of God.

Pontus Pilate apparently dealt with a group of local rebels by executing them and mixing in some of their human blood with that of the regular sacrificial animals’ blood they had offered to God at the holist place on earth – the Temple. This would make them unclean after their death, the worst possible way to treat the dead – a complete desecration of all that is sacred and Jewish. This would be worse than burning the Australian flag in the middle of the MCG on ANZAC Day.

Then there were this other group of eighteen people who had apparently been in the wrong place at the wrong time and lost their lives when a stone structure in the city fell on them (the Tower of Siloam).

The inevitable questions come: Did they cop that freak accident or suffer that unholy desecration and have their lives snuffed out because they were particularly bad people and God was finally getting them?

Jesus says to both the state sanctioned punishment for rebellion and the completely accidental death, one truth.

“But unless you repent, you too will all perish”.

In the innocent suffering and the brutality and fragility of human life., “Repent”. There is only one way to live beyond the fear of getting the chop from God, or the slavish attempt to stave off an angry God or find a way out of complete resignation in life: “Repent”, says Jesus.

“Repent” does not mean “be good” or “feel sorry” or suffer more positively! “Repent” means seeing it differently, being persuaded to take on a different understanding, a new stance, a new perspective. It is not trying harder to escape condemnation but a response to the truth that there is now no condemnation for those who are already “in Christ” (Roman 8;1)

The one speaking the parable to people who know human suffering and its many questions will suffer human brutality and condemnation to death to triumph over it so that others may by faith triumph too. So, repentance does not come from within you. To repent is only possible because the Lord creates it by his Word spoken into our heart by means of his Holy Spirit.

Whatever 2018 holds, the basic daily approach is repentance. The rest takes care of itself. The home base is always Jesus and his Word, no matter how alive or dead you fell, how well things are going or how hard the suffering.

What I hear is that there is only one means to deal with whatever happens in a new year. It is the year lived in the grace and peace only Jesus can give. All good fruit comes from that.

How so? At the end of the parable there is this other character introduced by Jesus. It is himself.

‘“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’

We have another year of reprieve! You may feel dead and very fruitless, but the garden is still tending you! He has not given up on you yet. Your year is not dependent on you bearing fruit single-handedly without water or nutrient. But only with his food – water, word, bread wine and community of peace.

What am I going to do with New Year this year? I will ask this Jesus to help me live a daily repenting, turning to him, seeking his word, hearing him and his people’s voice of the Gardner who has me and the fruit of my life in his hands.

I pray tonight you receive your Saviour who tends you, gives you living water, makes you grow in his grace for another four seasons in any kind of weather.

Singing with Simeon

Sermon, First Sunday after Christmas

Sunday Dec 3, 2017, St Petri

Luke 2:22-40

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’.[b]

 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

 29 ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.’

 33 The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[d] She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

 39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Have you ever waited a long time for something promised to finally happen – and when it does finally begin to happen you are just so relieved and overjoyed?

Through the 1980’s we watched the Australian cricket team get hammered by those big fast West Indian bowlers and be regularly beaten by the Poms. We wondered how on earth we would ever triumph again! We waited for a new day, a new leader, a new cricketing future!

Enter “AB” (Alan Border): A ‘Captain Courageous’, who by sheer grit and determination, and without much show and shine, provided the spark that oversaw the dawn of a new cricketing future for Australia. As a young man, “AB” was my man. We could all breath a sigh of relief because the future would be better now.

Same for the old man, Simeon, and the even older woman, Anna. They saw their “Captain Courageous” in this one-month old baby boy.

Mary and Joe did all that faith required. On the eighth day after he was born, they had the boy Jesus circumcised and named in accordance with Jewish law.

Now, thirty-two days later, Mary and Joe are again living out their faith by returning to the Temple in Jerusalem (from the Bethlehem stable?), this time in order to offer a sacrifice and to consecrate their child to the Lord. Jesus is the first-born son. This is what is required in order for this son to take his place as the guardian and protector of his family and its long-term future.

They pay five shekels and bring a couple of doves (because bringing a lamb would be  too expensive) to be sacrificed to the Lord in thanksgiving for the child.

Can you imagine what they felt when this old guy, who they don’t know, Simeon, who just happens to be in the temple and is a priest comes from nowhere and grabs the boy and starts to speak words of prophecy over him!?

29 “Now, Lord, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
30     because my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
32 It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and a glory for your people Israel.”
(CEB version)

The joy that just has to be put to song was of a new baby for sure, but even more because of a God who keeps his promises. God is a God who can be trusted and who makes good things happen even in tough time, dangerous times, scary times, confusing times. God keeps his word and his word keeps his people – that is why Simeon sings this different Christmas song.

Same for us post-Christmas? Christmas has come. God has appeared up close and personal. He is here. The bible’s promises are fulfilled and the future promised life with the Lord is secure again. If our end came today, we would be OK because we have been visited by the Lord in the manger. The future is assured even if unclear and difficult.

The remarkable thing is that after all the happy songs of Christmas with angels and light and trumpets and “glory be to God”, we can now talk of death and dying – but with a new joy.

“Now, Lord, let your servant go in peace”

Simeon can speak of his old age and his natural end freely and openly. Like finally getting the will and all the affairs in their right order, like making peace with that person after years of conflict, like a coming to faith of one’s partner for whom you have prayed for decades, like getting the ATAR score you were shooting for after year 12 exams, rest is sure, the future is brighter and peace is in the heart – all thanks to the Lord who keeps his promises despite appearances and suffering.

Simeon sings that he does not have to keep up the vigil of waiting and hoping. He can die in peace. He has seen it. He knows God is still in his world and on the move.

Can you sing this way as you face a new year? Are you convinced again that God keeps his promises and can be trusted? Or does this remain elusive for you? Can you trust that this Jesus is actually the guardian and protector of his family and its long-term future?

We sing this song. In the Lutheran liturgy it is sung straight after we have seen, tasted, smelt and touched the body and blood of this risen Jesus Saviour.

We sing it in the evening. The song turns up in the last prayers of the day. As darkness descends and sleep comes, Simeon is there singing his song and we with him. “You have been in my day, Lord Jesus. The kingdom has been near and I am still here. Help me rest this night in peace”.

And there is one more place we sing with Simeon. It was sung as they lifted the coffin high and processed my good friend, Jenny, out of the church a while back. The song of God’s people gathered rose as another departed saint was taken home and we were left to sing this Christmas carol that named death and helps us trust the Lord in it and beyond it.

Same at St Petri. Simeon’s song gets a run at every funeral of one of our faithful number whom the Lord calls home. I pray that when it comes to my funeral, this grand song of joy and faith is sung as they commend me to the God who keeps his promises.

Would you like it sung at your funeral? Would you like this song to be a part of your day? It does speaks of trust in your Lord and Saviour and all of his promises to you for every day.

I pray you learn to love this song and sing it in your own words and way as you live your day the way he calls you to live it – with confidence in his presence and rest in his promises.

As you sing it, pray it, love it, you will be the light that Simeon speaks of –

“It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles…’

As you sing it at any time of year, you will be a sign of God’s glory in an often dark world.

“…..and a glory for your people Israel.”

As you trust like Simeon trusted and keep watch and wait for this same Jesus to complete everything, you will have a very special gift with which to face 2018.

With a trust in the Lord’s solid faithfulness to deliver what he promises to you, as Simeon and Anna displayed, you will be able to face the new year neither denying the harsh realities of this life nor being deterred by them.

Singing with Simeon you will find yourself facing whatever comes your way in the coming week and year with courage. For you are God’s beloved child, and it was for your sake that Christ was born!

This is because, like Simeon, you will be able to name your own death, name the trouble we have and the struggles we experience freely and openly, because these things will no long terrify or diminish you as a person.

This is because in the birth of the Christ-child so long ago, and now again as we gather around word and meal, we too have seen and heard, tasted and felt, God’s steadfast and tenacious commitment to be both with us and for us…forever!

“Lord, now you let your servants go in peace today; because your word has been fulfilled”…for Christ the saviour is born!

Letting Something Be

Sermon, Christmas Day, 2017

St Petri

Hebrews 1:1–4 God speaks to us through his Son

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.


What does God look like in 21st Century Australia? What does he sound like? Has he anything to say? Many are saying, “I don’t care”, “I don’t know” and “No”.

Has God got much to do with Christmas anymore? The songs are sweet but the content seems largely passed over. The story is packaged into a family/child friendly box that you might find difficult to reconcile with a power hungry and paranoid civic leader, shifty underclass shepherds, Arab turban wearing easterners, bitterly cold winter for people from the other side of the tracks in terms of income and lifestyle, a screaming woman in labour pain in the danger of childbirth without sterile instruments, medical expertise, soft clean warm birthing suit room, but with cow poo, scratchy straw and great risk.

And what about Joe? Such a confusing time for a man who thinks his lovely young fiancé has been unfaithful!

Somehow, by the Lord’s leading, Mary and Joe get to that scene of all scenes we have packaged up to look sweet, but isn’t really. The scene is actually ground, dust, cold, flesh, blood, baby birth.

And there is that obvious question: what will the child look like? He will no doubt look like Mary because he comes from her genes. But what about Joe? The boy does not come from his genes. Joe had no idea what the boy was going to look like. You hear him say it – this woman is not really mine and this child won’t be either.

Maybe you reckon this is true for you too? This baby has not got anything to do with me and neither has Mother Mary. The Beatles can sing about her all they like but does Mother Mary or baby Jesus come to me in times of trouble saying comforting words, “Let it be”?

But God always said he would do this. God always said that he would not be silenced by our lack of regard or interest or humility and listening. God always said he would let something be, something the world had not seen so far.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

The world might have stopped listening to this baby these days, but God has not stopped speaking; speaking by this child.

It is a special child indeed

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

In this child lay the truth of life, the light of God, the freely gifted kindness and acceptance of God. We call him “star child, earth child, go between of God, heaven’s lightening rod”.

So what will you do with this child? He did not come from you and yet he comes to you. You may struggle to know what he looks like, but you more easily know what he sounds like because he still speaks. He speaks by the wood of the manger and the cross and cold stone of the empty tomb, and by the blinding light of his ascension to authority and rule over all we know and are.

Will you “do a Joe” and name him yours. In the end Joe made that choice. Joe adopted the boy as his own, put him on his lap and named him the name Jesus, “God saves”, as directed.

And now the risen adult boy Saviour has adopted you as his own boy or girl. He did so when you were baptised into his name. He puts you on his lap and holds you up for all to see and names you “Mine”.

He has been doing so every day you call on him to be with you, forgiven you, make you his star child, his earth child his go between person for the world, his lightening rod to bring light into dark places for people he loves and calls.

Joe asks the question, “Who does my boy look like?” he answers, “My boy looks like God”.

He says it well. He would be in sync with the gospel writers and the writer to Hebrews who we have heard.

What does God look like and who does he speaks through today?



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