Sunday 1st September A new kind of father – Pastor Graham Harms
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinnedagainst heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your propertywith prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The birth of a child turns a man into a father. A child gives a man a future of a new kind that stretches across generations. Today as we honour all fathers and lift up their role in our community, our text sheds new light on what it means to be a father, as we see the way God carries out that role himself.
It is very hard to lose a child. Some children are lost when they die before their time. Others are lost in a far country, Victoria, perhaps, as they wander off from their families, run away from home, or perhaps leave more amicably but settle overseas and don’t come home. Others still are lost in the world of drugs and violence. Still others reject their parents and bring hurt and misery to whole families.
God is pictured in today’s Gospel as a father who has two sons, and he loses them both. They don’t die, but it’s not much better – the younger one fronts up for his share of the inheritance in a gesture which almost says,
“I wish you were dead”, and heads off for a foreign land that is as far away from his father as he can get. The older one wishes he were anywhere but home. What a miserable situation. To lose both your sons in those days was to lose your future.
But this father is not willing to lose one son just because one is still at home. Children are not interchangeable. One does not substitute for another. Good parents love all their children and are not willing to lose any of them. So the father in the text is outside watching for the return of the lost son, the one who wanted to escape from his father’s house. He is watching so persistently, that when the boy returns, he sees him before anyone else does, and runs out to shepherd him through the village to his home, yes, still his home, in spite of everything.
God is like that with us. He has billions of children all over the world, but one does not substitute for another, and God wants everyone of us to be at home in his company, to call his place “home”. And if we wander off, as we do at times, he comes looking for us to make sure we are not permanently lost.
The other boy in the story was just as lost as his brother – lost at home in plain sight! He resented being at home under his father’s eye. He chaffed at the bit, and would have broken away, too, except perhaps he thought he had too much to lose. I don’t know if you can see yourself in that picture, as children of God who have been given everything – forgiveness, welcome, love, blessing – and still resent the things we don’t have. God reaches out to us again, as well, inviting us back into the feast, reassuring us that the whole treasure of heaven belongs to us. Be at peace – God will not give up on you, whatever you do, or wherever you stray.
This what he showed me: the Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb,[a] with a plumb-line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’
‘A plumb-line,’ I replied.
Then the Lord said, ‘Look, I am setting a plumb-line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.
The parable of the good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
26 ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’
27 He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”[a]; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”[b]’
28 ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’
30 In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
36 ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’
37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
St Petri Lutheran Church Nuriootpa
Reading – Luke 16.12-15 (NRSV)
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
As we gather for the Worship of God on this Trinity Sunday, we recall that the coming of Jesus revealed that what we are dealing with is not have a God who casually meanders around the Universe giving men and women the option of eternal life in Heaven or Hell.
This is no passive benevolent deity. No, here is the Hunter after the hunted, the hound of heaven, the Olympic sprinter in pursuit of the finish line, the Loin of the tribe of Judah pursuing his prey. The youthful romantic in the Song of Songs wooing His lover. God calls the Church into existence through His Word.
He gathers us around Himself to proclaim to us his saving acts in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. He commands us as His redeemed people to daily wait in the upper room and in a mighty rushing wind, with Pentecostal flames of fire we are set upon by the God who has chosen us;
To adopt us into His family – calling us His sons and daughters.
To redeem us by His own blood – giving us victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.
To grant us an eternal inheritance – being coheirs with Christ.
To fill us with His Holy Spirit of Love having “appointed us to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.”
We are chosen to be glorified.
Our experience of God is in stark contrast to a world without God. Such a universe was well imagined by novelist John Paul Richter who has portrayed this sense of forsakeness and desolation in his novel ‘Siebenkas.’
Falling asleep on a quiet hillside, he has a ghastly dream vision of a Christ who has lost his heavenly Father and who confesses that he has been wrong, that he has misled men into a false faith and lulled them into false security. “We are the orphans all, both I and ye. We have no Father.” Tearfully this Christ confesses that he has journeyed through the infinite cosmos, and nowhere has he found a Father. He has met with nothing but the dreadful emptiness of the universe.
Shattered and shaken, this disillusioned Christ sums up his vain passage through the cosmos:
“Oh, dead, dumb nothingness!” necessity endless and chill! Oh, mad, unreasoning Chance!… Every soul in this great corpse-trench of a universe is utterly alone! I am alone-none by me. O Father! Father! where is that boundless breast of thine, that I may rest upon it?
Jean Paul’s terrible vision ends with the sleeper’s wakening
from his nightmare.
He hears the evening church bells ringing and finds that he is back in a comforting world which rests in the hands of the Father of Jesus Christ. And so he finds again his faith in that “boundless breast’ in which beats a heart that cares for us all.
This one divine being is tri-personal, and these three are joint partakers of the same nature and majesty of God. In other words they are ‘one’ in the sense that they possess,a) The same nature – Holy love.
b) The same power – Knowledge & authority.
c) The same purpose – To have an eternal family.
d) The same intention – To love their creation.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the time giving and receiving from one another.
Before anything was created God was love. The society of the Godhead (trinity) has always been together in love. Allah — the God of Islam is one God, however, Muslims do not believe in a trinity. But if God is not a trinity how could God’s nature be love before the creation if there was no-one to love? Plus, if Jesus and the Spirit are not co-equal with God the Father then we are dealing with a remote God who has only ever sent agents of himself.
Jonathan Edwards said;
“It seems to be God’s design to admit the church into the divine family as his son’s wife. The end of the creation of God was to provide a spouse for His Son Jesus Christ, that might enjoy him and on whom he might pour forth his love…Heaven and earth were created that the Son of God might be complete in a spouse. The spiritual marriage of the spouse to him, is what the whole creation labours…..to bring to pass.”
This continuous action of the Godhead in mutual glorification, giving and serving spilled over in the creation of the universe, humanity, and all livings creatures.
God did not create because He was lacking in something but rather because He had everything. The Divine family, therefore, has always intended to have a family. Even before the creation.
The end goal of all the work of the Spirit is to bring us as the bride into the divine family.
The three persons inter-dwell (cf John 17:20ff), that is they find their fulfilment in one another not within themselves. Therefore they naturally do three things which mark all divine relationships, and should be part of human relationships;
1. They SERVE one another.
2. They GLORIFY one another, and,
3. The GIVE to one another.
Jesus said in John 15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” How exactly has the Father loved the Son?
John 13:3 – “…the Father had put all things under his power.”
John 3:35 – The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. (Heb.1:2)
John 5:17-26 contains almost a summary of most of the things that the Son has received from the Father.
John 5:17-20 – The Gift of Work.
John 5:21 – Authority to raise the dead.
John 5:22 – Authority to judge the world. (Jn. 17:2; Matt.
John 28;18; 1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 2:8).
John 5:23 – Honour. (Acts. 2:36)
John 5:26 – Authority to give life.
Then between chapters 6 -13 in John we see some further ways that the Father has given to his Son.
John 6:27 – The Seal of Approval.
John 6:37-39 – Assurance of his inheritance – us.
John 8:54 – Glory – The Father manifested or revealed himself through Jesus. (Heb. 2:9; John 1:8;3:13;8:42;17:5,24).
John 10:30 – Oneness. (John 17:18-24).
John 12:50 – The Truth to speak.
John 13:3 – All Things Under His Power.
All of these gifts of the Father to the Son are done by the witness and the power of the Spirit. The Father having given the Kingdom to His Son we then see the Son giving it back to the Father – 1 Cor. 15:24;
“Then [comes] the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father…”
Here we see the Son completing the work of being the first fruits of many sons and daughters. Bringing them into the circle of eternal love – the true family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This happens by the will of the Father, through the sacrifice of the Son, by the drawing power of the Holy Spirit.
The Father loves Jesus His Son, Jesus in turn calls, redeems, sanctifies, and glorifies us, then we see the Son giving us to the Father at the end of the age.
John 15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”
Can we now begin to understand something of the height, depth, and scale of Jesus love for us as his bride? Can we now see that the end goal of all the work of the Spirit is to bring us as the bride into the divine family? Can we now see that the God our Father calls us all into the life of the Trinity now and forever.
Pentecost Sermon – Sunday 9th June, St Petri Lutheran Church
Stephen Schultz – Assistant Bishop for Mission
“I will Pour Out My Spirit”
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’
Peter addresses the crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[c]
‘All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them’ (Acts 2:4).
Faith is a very personal thing for us: which is a good thing – you want it to be personal. But in Australia, more than most other countries, faith would also seem to be a very private thing.
I have taken plenty of couples through pre-marriage counselling and it surprises me how few of them have had faith conversations with each other. They are going to spend the rest of their lives together and haven’t even discussed the subject of their faith.
Nearly 11,000 Lutherans filled out the national church life survey a few years ago, your congregation included. Only 14% (1 in 7) feel at ease talking about their faith and look for an opportunity to do so (you were a bit better than that at 16%). A further 55% mostly feel at ease and will do so if it comes up – though we have already established that in Australia it doesn’t seem to come up.
In the surveys for children, they were asked what they were good at doing when it came to faith activities. Their lowest response (36%) was ‘talking to others about God’. They were also asked what faith activities they engaged in frequently. The lowest response (10%) was ‘talking to their friends about God’.
This is not surprising, given that only 28% of the children surveyed had frequent discussions about God and faith in the home. Only 16% had conversations in the home about faith doubts/worries.
I’d suggest that keeping our faith in Jesus private is not such a good thing. It acts in direct contradiction to the work of the Holy Spirit, something we celebrate on this day of Pentecost.
Faith is a very personal matter to each of us. We are all on our own faith journeys and have our own faith stories to tell. And there are plenty of reasons as to why we might not want to tell these stories; why we might want to keep our faith private.
Maybe we don’t know what to say and how to say it. Maybe we don’t want to be seen as a religious fruitcake by those close to us; afraid of being misinterpreted or misunderstood. Perhaps we don’t want to be seen as pushy or judgmental or as undermining the right of others to believe what they want to believe. There are lots of reasons why we might want to keep our faith private.
I reckon the first disciples had their own reasons for wanting to keep their faith private. It was certainly very personal to them. They had been through an extraordinary roller coaster with the events of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
You get the distinct impression they were sticking pretty close together in those early days. At the end of Luke’s Gospel account we hear that they returned from the ascension to Jerusalem and ‘stayed continually at the temple, praising God’ (Luke 24:53).
The temple was the most public place in Jerusalem, which seems to contradict the whole privacy thing, but they could blend in with the other worshippers as they carried out their praise of God.
Likewise, our worship as Christians on a Sunday blends in easily enough with our current society. You don’t have to stick out too much simply by going to church. You can do what you want here, as long as it happens within the confines of these walls.
The first disciples also gathered together privately, away from the public eye. In Acts 1 we read: ‘they went upstairs to the room where they were staying…they all joined together constantly in prayer’ (v13-14). And in today’s reading we heard: ‘when the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place’ (Acts 2:1).
We too gather in small groups in our homes to discuss faith matters in private amongst kindred spirits. And that’s great – we should not give up meeting together to encourage one another in our faith, as the writer to the Hebrews urges us to do (10:24-25).
But the day of Pentecost shook things up a little when it came to the privacy of a Christian. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit altered the landscape for Jesus’ disciples in a very significant way.
If I was in their shoes (sandals) I’d be wanting to stay under the radar, to keep a low profile. The Jewish authorities were still a bit antsy, looking for signs of trouble. It would be best to keep blending in and to keep those uncomfortable faith conversations about a risen and living Lord private, out of the public spotlight.
The Holy Spirit obviously missed that memo! They were gathered together in a house when the Spirit came upon them. And look at how the Spirit chose to manifest himself at that time. There was:
“A sound like the blowing of a violent wind’, they ‘saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them’ and ‘all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them’.
Real discrete! And even all of that melodrama would have been fine if it could have been contained in the house where they were gathered. But, without any explanation as to how it happened, they are suddenly not in the house anymore.
They are now out in a space where a crowd of however many thousands can bear witness to this phenomena. So much for blending in, keeping things private and staying under the radar.
The only place I can think of in 1st century Jerusalem where you can have such an assembly of thousands from a range of cultures in the one place at the one time is at the Temple complex.
Pentecost was a high festival where the population of Jerusalem would have swelled in number with religious pilgrims from throughout the ancient world. It is at the Temple complex where they would have gathered for their religious festivities, especially at 9am in the morning, as we know it to be.
And here was this group of 120 disciples of an as yet unnamed sect, who were suddenly declaring the wonders of God in a whole range of different tongues, languages. They were now firmly in the spotlight. They had attracted a great deal of attention and it was not all complimentary – ‘they have had too much wine’.
But it’s not wine they had their fill of – it was the Spirit – a far more potent, intoxicating force that was unloosing their tongues in the public domain. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them!
Historically the Holy Spirit had empowered certain individuals to play a role in God’s unfolding plan of salvation. But on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit opened the mouths of all of them. It was precisely what had been foretold by the prophet Joel:
‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days’ (Joel 2:28-29).
The good news of Jesus is to be proclaimed in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
You better believe that your faith is personal – it is intensely personal because it relates directly to your eternal salvation. That’s how much your relationship with Jesus means to you.
But you also better believe that it is not private. The Holy Spirit was not content to allow the first group of disciples to keep it private and his opinion hasn’t changed when it comes to every generation of disciples since then, our generation included.
There are times throughout history when our lips seem to have been silenced, times when it has been easier to keep our faith to ourselves and only speak about it if it happens to come up.
But the Spirit of God continues to loosen the tongues of Jesus’ disciples so they can bear witness to the good news he is to us.
And this is not the task of a select few. It is not just the task of a pastor or a lay worker or a handful of leaders in a church community. It is the task of all of God’s people because that is who the Holy Spirit empowers – no exceptions.
That’s what happened on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured out on all of the disciples and then poured them out into the community to share the good news.
The Holy Spirit has been poured out on us through the waters of baptism and is poured out on us whenever we gather to hear his word and receive the Supper of our Lord. But we don’t remain contained within the walls and privacy of a church.
The Holy Spirit releases us into the public domain where he can communicate the Good News of Jesus through us! The world still needs to hear that they have a Lord and Saviour in Jesus.
You may try and tell me you are not equipped for this task. You do not have years of seminary training under your belt like a pastor does. Nor had those first disciples, by the way – the crowd even recognised that they were just ‘Galileans’.
Even so, you can insist you have not received the gift of communicating in other languages like they had – your Phrygian and Pamphylian is a little rusty. You’d have a point – if you happen to mix a bit with Phrygians and Pamphylians.
But I’m guessing that the people you mix with are family and friends, work colleagues, people with shared interests, people who you live with in community, people like you. I’m guessing that you do speak their language (Barossan English).
They need to hear the wonders of God in a familiar tongue not a foreign tongue. As the crowd at Pentecost said: ‘we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’
You might not know exactly what to say at all times and when to say it. But that is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still bursting to get this good news of Jesus out to the world and he will empower you to do that in your corner of the world. The Spirit is poured out on all disciples – no exception, you included.
So may God empower you with his Holy Spirit as you declare the wonders of God to the world in which you live. May God’s Spirit open your lips and loosen your tongue, so you can speak the good news of Jesus. This news is very personal to you and the people who are also personal to you need to hear it. Amen.
“God’s church doesn’t have a mission. God’s mission has a church.”
Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia
6 Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Lydia’s conversion in Philippi
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us
Here at the feast of Dedication, the Jewish people have come to celebrate the successful triumph over the Syrians where they drove them out of the Temple they had profaned. A king of the surrounding empire had invaded, forced Greek culture on the Holy Land and even erected statues to Greek gods in the Temple.
In the midst of all this, winter is among them and probably the reason why Jesus is walking in the portico of Solomon for it was an enclosed area of the Temple. But the Jews who are gathering around Jesus here are about to be hit with something more than the winter breeze. They are about to be hit with truth that cannot be hidden from, a truth that they cannot be protected from by a portico or any other form of protection.
This is the truth, that they are not a part of Jesus’ sheep-fold. Well what’s the big deal? Isn’t this just some first century rebellious Jew? Isn’t he just some good man that taught and exemplified love?
Who then cares if one is a follower of him or not, as long as you just respect his message to stick it up to authorities and love people that’s all that really matters … ?
Well this would be true if He didn’t claim to be divine … It wouldn’t matter that you didn’t believe in Him, don’t belong to Him, don’t listen to Him and are not within His safe and secure hands, if He wasn’t God.
So we have two alternatives when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth … it’s either that he is a mad-man who fooled everyone and Christianity is the biggest hoax or it is the best news because Jesus is who He says He is, the Christ, the Chosen One of God, the One who holds death and life in His hands, the Good Shepherd.
So let’s have a look at how this all unfolds…
22 It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
They encircle or gather around Jesus.
The original text here seems to insinuate not just a desperate request but perhaps even something more sinister. The literal translation of this would read “until or for how long will you hold our life or take away our life?” Jesus not only has the power to lay down His own life and pick it up but also has the power to hold our life and even take it away. Jesus lays down His life for His sheep, for those who hear His voice but he also brings judgment on those do not believe and reject Him. Jesus interprets their rejection as a sign that they do not belong to His sheep-fold, as ones who the Father has not granted (drawn by the Father) and put in the Son’s hand.
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
When did Jesus say this? He told them in the opening parts of this chapter; 10: 1-21.
In comparison to their disbelief, Jesus now goes on to state who He sheep are …
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;
Shepherds in the time of Jesus used very different methods than we use for sheep farming today. No four wheelers to round them up, of course ― they simply led them out of their enclosures or brought them back in by calling them. The sheep would become familiar with their shepherd’s voice and follow them.
My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me … fair enough He may be speaking about Peter, John and James etc. who are following Him … but no … He takes it a step further and turns up the heat…
28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.
Okay, now it’s starting to escalate … now He’s claiming to not just have followers but the key to heaven and eternity … but wait there’s more …
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
But what is so significant about what Jesus says, is that he applies it to people in the context of faith ― something that has already been done in Ezekiel 34 where God brings judgment on the religious leaders of Israel for failing to care for his people and He promises his people that he will care for them:
“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34 vv11-12, 31).
And what does Jesus say to the Jews in our text? “You do not believe because you are not of my sheep.” The connection Jesus makes to Ezekiel 34 would be inescapable to the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus is claiming to be the God who speaks in Ezekiel 34! The Jewish leaders would have been fuming!
And even though they would not have missed the connection, Jesus takes it a step further ― after all they did ask for a plain answer! He says in verse 30: “I and the Father are one”. Jesus has existed for all eternity, just like his Father. Jesus has the same divine nature as his Father. Jesus is true God, just like his Father.
This is exactly what Jesus means, for in the very next verse after today’s text, John tells us that again the Jews picked up stones to stone him ― stoning by death was the penalty the Old Testament prescribed for blasphemy. They think Jesus is guilty of blasphemy ― making fun of God ― by claiming to be God. To them, Jesus is just a “crazy man” in the Temple but really He is God Incarnate, God in the flesh.
Just as quick as children fill up their buckets with pebbles at the beach they have not recognised the voice of God, so they pick up stones to haul at him ― that the one who spoke these words in Ezekiel 34 is speaking to them right there in Solomon’s Colonnade.
If they were His sheep they would’ve recognised His voice and believed but instead they gather rocks to stone Him for blasphemy.
Jesus is saying that He and the Father are one. In other words the ‘temple’ in which God dwells is now standing in front of them, Jesus is the Christ.
He holds your life in His hands my brothers and sisters. The safest hands there are.
My question to you today is … how well do you know this Good Shepherd?
Do you hear His voice and follow Him?
If you look around this place, your brothers and sisters in the pew next to you, the amount we know the Lord may vary. Some very much and some very little. And as important as getting to know the Lord Jesus is, to know who He is as your Good Shepherd; it is not half as important as the fact that He knows you.
The real key here is that He knows you!!
The Lord cares enough to know you.
Our knowing of Him may vary in this place and even be inconsistent in our own lives. But one thing is consistent, that is He knows you as much as He knows your brother and sister in the pew next to you. Very intimately.
“my sheep hear my voice…” – that is they hear and listen to Him speak. So you are a sheep if you’ve heard Him. His Word, Baptism, HC, Absolution…
“…I know them…” you are known by Him if you are His sheep, He knows you intimately. He knows your failures and tendencies to go astray and yet calls you, gathers you and embraces you.
“… they follow me…” we follow Him not to become His sheep not to remain as His sheep but because we are His sheep. Having our life in His hands, He sustains us our Good Shepherd by…
David once broke a lambs leg to keep it from wondering off… I’m pretty sure that isn’t a biblical quote, however, just as the Father disciplines children and those that He loves… and Jesus and the Father are one… and Jesus is our Good Shepherd, so it may not be stretching it too much to say that the Lord Jesus does have an intimate relationship with His sheep that incorporates loving fatherly discipline. (Heb 12:9-11).
Friends, may we not be like those who are not apart of the Lord Jesus’ sheep by not hearing His voice, by not recognising our need to be known by the Lord, not following Him.
Luther at the end of his life uttered … “we are beggars, this is true”.
After all his discovery and re-discovery of God’s character in light of the Gospel, many theological writings and hundreds of sermon and pastoring of people. He concludes it all with those words. Beggars aren’t too different to sheep, fairly silly in constant need of tending to and feeding.
That’s me and you. And it’s who we would stay without the Good Shepherd knowing and taking care of us.
Friends, you have heard His voice today.
You have heard His voice because He has gathered you into His sheep-fold again to be tended to and fed. Through His word and words being spoken this day.
So wherever you’re at this day… feeling disciplined, feeling like a lost sheep in need of rescuing once again.
He has you friends, and always has. And your presence here this morning testifies to the fact that He still has you in His safe hands.
Despite our rebellion, our straying, and even our discipline, no one snatches us from His hand. And He grabbed and claimed you at your Baptism and has never looked back since…
This is not a crazy man who says all these things, this is the Lord, so let’s not treat Him and His words as if He is. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.
Despite how much or how little we know the Lord.
The Good News is that He knows you, you are known to Him.
Our trouble is catching up this side of eternity …
We get glimpses but still struggle to see who He really is, what He has done and who we are as a result.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Amen
Easter 3 – May 5th John 21: 1-19
Vicar Shaun Manning
21 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the
Sea of Tibe′ri-as; and he revealed himself in this way. 3 Simon Peter
said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go
with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.
As I mentioned the other week, when we read the Gospel narratives it is always important to know who Jesus is speaking to, so we can better understand what He is saying.
Jesus doesn’t speak to all people the same way.
He doesn’t speak to the crowds the same way He speaks to His disciples, neither does He speak to His disciples the same way He speaks to certain individuals.
And I don’t believe this is by mere coincidence.
The Great Commission to baptise and teach, is not given to the crowds but to His chosen eleven. Likewise with the keys of the kingdom, that is the authority to forgive sins, He doesn’t give this authority to His followers in the crowd but to His close disciples and also here, He commissions Peter to tend and feed His sheep, not just any random person He interacted with. And He does so by premising that “if you love me”… then tend, feed and look after My flock. This could mean that loving Him cannot be separated from the calling He is giving them.
Does this mean that the crowds and Jesus’ followers have no role in tending and feeding the sheep, since they are just a part of the flock? Of course not.
I remember a few years before my Nan died, she had a health scare in which she thought she would probably die. She spent moments with us a group, as a family and then she asked to speak to a few of us on our own and I was one of them.
Me being around 16 at the time, Nan had witnessed me date or at least speak about a handful of girls that I was interested in, you know high school relationships some last like weeks or even days sometimes. So Nan, having a few moments alone with me, reassured me of her love for me etc. but then hit me with me “I want you to settle down and be with just one girl… please”.
This was her dying and departing wish.
And this is Jesus’ departing wish, to tend and feed His flock.
Her saying this to me didn’t mean that it doesn’t extrapolate out to the other members of my family but this was specifically intended for me, first and foremost.
Likewise with Scripture as a whole but especially when Jesus speaks. We have to know who He is speaking to, to find out what He is actually saying.
He tells one man to sell all He has and give to the poor… how many of us take that literally for us and our context. The church, other than certain monks throughout history, have taken this to be applicable to them.
This is not the blueprint for Christian giving but was specific to that man and His idolatry.
So today, I believe that Jesus is speaking to His disciples which He was going to put in charge to oversee the tending and feeding of the flock, in His stead. But of course, like with my family, the principle being conveyed is not irrelevant to the rest of the flock. My Nan also wouldn’t want her other children and grandchildren living frivolously.
Our text today is all about Revelation.
And what is that the Lord Jesus is revealing about Himself this time?
Well primarily that He is Risen.
He is their intimate authority. (4-8)… He is their Good Shepherd (15-17)
And so calls Peter and the others to do the same (18-19).
Nothing on their own… (literally and symbolically), they need the Lord.
It calls to mind the vine and the branches, for without Him, Jesus, we can do nothing.
Why do they and we need the Lord?
Because the answer to that question is the same answer of why you have Him.
Someone has preached Him to you. Someone has administered Him to you by baptising you, by giving you Holy Communion.
Someone has taught you His Word and witnessed Him to you, encouraged you or even dragged you along to the places where His people gather.
My point is that we have Him because He gave Himself up for you and to you. He did through His life, death and Resurrection, of course. But then He gave Himself to you through His Church and through His shepherds.
His shepherds have been called to bring, not themselves and their teaching but Christ, the true and Good Shepherd, and His teaching.
And so the reason why any of us have Him is because we were given Him, through His shepherds and through His Church.
Here, the Risen Lord Jesus calls the initial ones to tend and care for His sheep in His stead, so that even we 2000 years after the Resurrection and thousands of miles away from the Sea they gathered, can partake in Him and all that He has won.
The day was breaking when the Risen Lord appeared to His disciples on Easter Sunday, now also the day is breaking as He reveals Himself by sea here.
He calls out to them as His ‘children’? A word which calls to mind a ‘calf’, or a young lamb of His. For He is their intimate authority, their Good Shepherd.
Typical Jesus, asking questions He already knows the answer to. “Children, have you any fish?”
Annoying as it is… He is again, calling to reflection of their state and need for Him, then providing for and comforting them.
Similar to that in St Luke’s Gospel… where Jesus tells them to cast their nets again… “we have toiled all night but at your word, I will let down the nets”… a miraculous catch happens and Peter says “depart from me, I am a sinful man”.
Now at the end of His ministry He is calling them to cast their nets again, a reminder for they will be catching people in His people in His departure. They will do so by tending and feeding the sheep, His sheep.
Beloved Disciple and Peter are the ones to respond, as in the Resurrection account.
Peter jumps into the sea, just like he jumped into the tomb to find it empty.
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore… 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.
He feed the crowds, now it’s time to have breakfast with the disciples before His ascension for they are to continue this mission. This mission of tending and feeding the Lord’s sheep, standing in the place of the Good Shepherd.
Does it get more human than “come and have brekky”?… “It is the Lord” do we understand how profound this is? This is God, the creator of the universe, taken on human flesh sitting on the beach with a fire, waiting for and then calling His disciples to come have brekky with Him.
This is who your God is! This is the God we have… it is so different to the God people think we have. Ones that don’t know Him, ones that He hasn’t revealed Himself to. Even One that we don’t expect.
This calls to mind that which so outraged the Pharisees: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” Yes—he does! It’s true! These disciples are not especially worthy of Jesus’ presence, fellowship and favour. They haven’t done anything to deserve it. They haven’t lived perfectly holy lives. They don’t have exceptional faith. Remember they rebuked Jesus for welcoming little children. Now they are called children by Jesus.
They sought to correct what Jesus meant when he had spoken of his coming death, trusting in their own wisdom instead of his words—“surely Lord, this will never happen to you!” They selfishly squabbled about who should be considered the greatest. They couldn’t stay awake and keep watch and pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. They’re actually just like us. And Peter even denied who Jesus was, not just once, but three times.
Peter is about to reinstated by the reversal of his three-fold denial. Again it is by a charcoal fire, as it was that night of Jesus’ arrest.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
From the seven disciples present this day, He pulls Peter aside and speaks with him. Perhaps re-emphasising Peter’s leadership as well as to reinstate and reverse his denial.
Compare this integration to Confession/Absolution questions.
” … do you love me?”
“Feed my lambs”
“Tend my sheep”
“Feed my sheep”
Peter is not the Shepherd but has been called to stand in His place, to tend and feed the true Shepherd’s sheep. How so? What does feeding and tending look like? (1 Peter 2:18-25).
Pastors & Priests for centuries have been called to stand in the Shepherd’s place to be a shepherd to God’s people by feeding and tending them. It might seem like they are drumming on about the same things all the time, but that is what they are called to. Because we are all like sheep who have gone astray and keep going astray. Hence we have to be constantly called by the Good Shepherd, by His Gospel, through the shepherds He has appointed and called to do so.
This is a life and calling that is intended to a laying down of their lives for the sake of the sheep. (v18-19) He lets Peter know of the type of death he was going to experience as a result of this calling.
19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Just before today’s text Jesus had said to His apostles: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23). At the end of Matthew’s Gospel He had told them to make disciples of all nations by baptising and teaching everything He had commanded them. What Jesus is speaking of in today’s text is not a literal feeding of the poor. He is speaking to Peter, an apostle to whom He had commissioned and given the authority to publicly forgive and retain sins in His stead.
The Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is so concerned about you that after laying down His own life for you He appeared to his apostles and charged them to feed His sheep with His teaching, which is really just Him. He and His word cannot be separated, He and His gifts cannot be separated.
This has been handed on to you―through which the Lord Jesus himself declares to you that your sins are forgiven and that you are His lamb which He has bought with His shed blood.
Our text from the book of Revelation said that:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12), who by His cross has conquered sin and death. With His blood, He has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
This same Lord Jesus visits people of all nations and calls them to Himself by the Gospel, even as He “was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:14).
And so this started here in the Holy Land, and now has made its way to the Barossa. And this is not by any accident. It has been the result of hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries of tending the flock and feeding the sheep.
Shepherds of His Word and Sacraments have been supported by the sheep to enable them to preach, teach and administer. But this does not mean that the those of us who don’t have leadership in the church have no place for God’s mission, of course not.
We all have our role in Shepherd’s work. Pastors, shepherds of the flock, can’t be at all of our work places, family’s houses, friends birthdays and the like to try and exemplify the faith to them all. But he is called to tend and feed you as part of his flock. He is called to love the Lord by loving and caring for you. He is called to equip you as sheep so that other sheep may see you and your relationship with the Shepherd and their need for Him too.
So I encourage this day to think about those who have left the sheep-fold. Those who have taken for granted their status as a sheep of the Shepherd. Those who have forgotten their Shepherd and traded Him in for something else.
So we come to be fed and tended to, so we can witness to why we need to be and why they, whoever they may be, need to be also constantly feed and tended to by the Lord also.
The more you realize who you are the Lord’s sheep and who He is as your Shepherd, the more you know what a sheep of the Shepherd look, smell and talk like.
Just like sheep, we cannot grow old of being tended to and feed.
Be tended to and fed this day.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Amen
“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let this food to us
I want us to think about what we mean when we say
Reason being is that it can be easily misunderstood.
What do we mean when we are inviting the Lord to
come and be with us in this meal?
Come for a meal we have prepared for you to join?
This understanding alone would be similar to saying to our car manufacturer to come for a drive with us, when they are the ones responsible for the car.
Or even more so a child saying to His mum and dad, come and join me for a meal which they have purchased, prepared and provided.
Hang on a second, am I your guest or are you mine?
Are you the provider of this meal or am I?
There is nothing wrong with saying this prayer of grace but I am just challenging us to think about what it means.
Don’t get me wrong I think this prayer assumes the fact the Lord does give, has given and continues to give everything we have but there is no harm is rehashing this from time to time.
He is not the Lord just because we recognise Him to be, He is regardless if we recognise it or not.
It doesn’t change Him or His reality when we recognise Him as Lord, but it definitely changes ours.
It is a prayer that calls upon the Lord to be present our table, in our family as we give thanks to you for all you have provided for us.
The Catechism’s pre-meal grace touches on this more succinctly.
Do you know it? We started with it at the beginning of our service today.
“Bless us and these thy gifts which we receive from your bountiful goodness.”
Giving is good but we/you are not the Lord. We are used by the Lord so let us never forget all that we have comes from Him.
By saying… “Come Lord Jesus” we may be treating Him as some addition…
The Lord isn’t some addition to your life but is your life, sustains your life and has granted you eternal life.
We are called to use these gifts for Him and His kingdom … not to simply fill stomachs and make money.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”
Seeking… what does it mean to seek the Lord Jesus, and can we do it and do we?
And if we can, what is our motivation for seeking the Lord?
The Lord can truly search the heart and know our motivations.
And here He sees that their motivation is not to see Him as Lord but as provider, a somewhat divine bellboy who we give us what we want and need.
Do some of us do this? Most definitely. Our motivations are almost always flawed, we very much prone to think of human concerns of our stomach, bank accounts, sexual desires and social pleasures than we are the things of God and His kingdom.
We also have a habit of deciphering who is genuine in their seeking of the Lord or not.
This is not in and of itself but it is if we think we are infallible in our labelling of who is genuine and who is not in Worship especially.
Jesus knew this about the crowds but didn’t turn them away. He also knows this about us but doesn’t turn us away. Rather He looks to remind us of our tendency to strive after what is temporary rather than what is eternal.
What does it mean to ‘labour’ for that which endures to eternal life in comparison to food that perishes. (Stomach vs is God’s Word “man shall not live on bread alone”. “do not worry about what you will eat…” “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth but rather…”)
Jesus says that the Heavenly Father knows that you need such things, He knows that you need company, need your stomach full but seek first His kingdom, Jesus says, and all these things will be added.
Trinitarian aspect: Christ has been sealed by the Father so what Christ gives is divine and endures to eternal life. Examples?…
28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
They’re looking for a ‘work’ to do and so Jesus gives them a work of God, which is just that a work of God… God works faith, so that we are able to believe in the One He has sent.
God commands faith, provides a faithful One and also works faith in us, as a gift.
Just as He commands prayer, provides a prayer and prays with us in Christ, by His Spirit.
‘Signs’… big in John’s Gospel. He had already performed a sign at Cana as well as His dealings with them til this point. However they still request something to show them why they should believe. This is a prime example of why they need a faithful One and one to work faith. Their own faith is fleeting and inconsistent even though they had already seen and heard Him do miraculous works already. Much like the Israelites, with Moses and others, still complained and lacked faith despite the waters parting in the Red Sea for them.
God imparts the waters of Baptism but that is still not enough for us.
Offers His body and blood but we are still ungrateful and look to do things for Him rather than receive from Him.
The crowds wanted to know how to do the works of God and Jesus gives them a long list of things to do on the synagogue roster… no… He calls them to believe more in Him, recognise Him as the Divine Lord, provider and call them away from confidence in-self, which comes from a sinful attitude of self-sufficiency.
You want something to do? Believe more deeply in the Lord, the Lord of your life who has granted you life with at the font. Grow in reliance and trust in the Lord of your Baptism, discover and re-discover what He has done for you in your Baptism and what it means for you now and eternally. Kneel at the altar, receive His forgiveness and the power it gives to live out your life as a child of His in your vocation.
32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”
Not only is this periscope reminiscent of the Israelites but the woman at the well (John 4). As well as the whole biblical narrative in fact.
Reminds me of the woman at the well, “show me so that I may drink of it always”…
Jesus reminds them of the obvious, that God the Father was and is the true source of the manna not Moses or anyone else.
The Father has raised the stakes… not just sending bread/manna from Heaven but Bread of Life.
This bread never runs out, for it is eternal and encompasses truth. For He is eternal, He is truth and He is the Way.
“we don’t know the way…” is similar to the above statement “Lord, give us this bread always”
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”… He says to Phillip… “The One standing with you, I am He” He says to the woman at the well (John 4).
And here Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” He says here… it is me not something He will give, I am the Gift.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”
What the Father is giving is not something to fill the stomach, load the bank accounts and comfort the body. But to give you His Son, the bread of life. This is the Son who gives life eternal because we don’t have it apart from Him. This premises that what we have apart from Him is perishable.
We should ask the Lord to be amongst us, as we eat and do anything as the epistle reminded us. But the true and divine invitation is “Come to me” (show pic of trinity with mirror).
“Come and dine with us”.
This what we get when we consume the bread of life in faith.
This is what occurs in Holy Communion… we are invited to dine with the divine and consume the bread of life literally. Jesus later in this chapter goes on to say that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life and He will raise them up on the Last day.
This is why God Almighty, invites us for the sake of His Son, the One who has made us worthy to dine with them.
We invited to this divine meal so that we can witness to this Divine love to others by hosting others as Christ hosts us here.
By having strangers in your home, serving and feeding them is partaking in what God in Christ has done and does for you. Strangers to God but now made dear children of the Heavenly Father by Christ sharing His inheritance with us.
A famous Christian once reflected on his faith, exclaiming “I’m just a beggar, who founds living bread.” You and I can now be beggars, who tell other beggars where to find bread, the living bread of life who satisfies all hunger of the human soul.
When we have fellow beggars who are strangers in our home or life, it starts to challenge what we think of our time, our possessions and the fruits of our labour. Is it for us to live on and be comfy or is to be in service to God and neighbour??
Think about it for a moment… using up petrol, money or time on some random in comparison to your wife, kids or family members.
Of course we are suppose to prioritise our vocations as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives etc. But is that it? Is that our only call?
We also have a call to love our enemy: If you love those who love you back, what gain is that?
Welcome the stranger: Jesus’ quote about banquets… Luke 14
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
My goodness me, that is challenging…
Hebrews 13 about welcoming the stranger.
13 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
May God grant us the wisdom and awareness our who is the true source of our belongings, gifts, time and resources so that we are better able to give Him thanks for all we have and use them for His kingdom and His mission.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus, the bread of life. Amen
Good Friday – April 19th So that we may dwell in the Father’s Place
Vicar Shaun Manning
17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol′gotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
God who creates, gives life and is life, is now being lead to a place which represents death and where he will suffer death. The One who built with wood and nails as a carpenter’s son, was about to be crucified with these same tools – wood and nails.
It is of comfort when we know someone who has experienced sufferings as we have. If a sinful human being and their experience can bring us comfort, what about the Divine? In Christ, the God of the universe has experienced human devastation and the tragedy of the fallen world we live in.
What did He do to be crucified? What crime did He commit to suffer such a death?
If he was guilty of anything it was unfathomable love. Love that fulfilled the Lord’s promises of old and becoming sin, experiencing death and despair. Despair that led him to feel abandoned by His Heavenly Father.
It is easy to read this account and forget that the man who is bearing this cross and is crucified with criminals is the Divine Son of God.
Jesus is in the centre of the three, and symbolically this makes sense, for His death is the most significant death of all time. Having a mocking sinner on one side and a repentant one on the other.
19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Did Pilate know and believe Jesus’ claim? We can’t be exactly sure but it does appear so, or at least that He was used by God to inscribe this.
It was inscribed in all spoken languages of the time and place. Perhaps symbolic to the fact that He is king to all and Lord of all.
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also, his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the scripture,
“They parted my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”
25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene.
26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
28 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so, they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Overview of fulfilment: Crucified on Golgotha with inscription In all spoken languages of the time and place. Perhaps symbolic to the fact that He is king to all and Lord of all. And through the Great Commission this would be actualized by “making disciples of all nations”.
Garments and tunic is distributed (to fulfil scripture) Four parts. Imagine how you would feel as His mother or His friend that they in the last hour they are dividing His clothing. It’ll be like arguing over inheritance in the hospital room whilst the person is dying, but even worse it is strangers doing so.
Mention of all three Mary’s, and His command to mother and beloved disciple. Fulfilling and giving commands in the midst of agony. Even in the midst of His crucifixion He is concerned for the welfare of His mother … the fourth commandment, a commandment in which I struggle with personally, was fulfilled by Christ in His earthly life where He honoured His earthly parents as well as His Heavenly Father … He was also concerned for His beloved disciple. Fulfilling another commandment which He gave in His earthly to love the Lord your God with everything and your neighbour as yourself … even the night before, love another as I have loved you.
“Mother behold your son”… Some have interpreted this as calling His mother to take care of all disciples for Mary would’ve played a motherly role to the early disciples (think of Luke’s Gospel).
And finally … “I thirst” (to fulfil scripture), vinegar (also scripture Psalm 69:21); “it is finished” and bows His head and gives up His spirit.
Fulfilling Scripture? Commitment to His promises at all costs.
The Lawgiver Himself is fulfilling the Law and all the prophets. “I will be your God and you will be my people”. How? Through Christ … He is the One who not only is Divine but represents you to the Divine, the very mortal one sitting in the pew this morning.
The Law, Prophets and the Psalter anticipated this man … who comes because He needs to come. There is no other way to buy you back but to fulfil the promises and scripture He has given since the beginning of time.
The ramifications of “it is finished” and the salvation it has achieved spills on into your devastation and despair of life. Despair, depression, devastation, darkness and the devil’s use of such things has been entered into and crushed. Crushed by Christ’s fulfilment of Scripture. The fulfilment to bring you to a place where there will be no fears, tears or heartache. And He brought you into this life with His Father both now and for eternity by experiencing fears, tears and heartache and more.
This is who God is, this is who your Saviour is. He is a promise keeping God and nothing can stop Him from keeping them. Even death. In fact, it may even cost bloodshed for Him to fulfil His promises, and it did.
I finish with the words of a beautiful song which reflects on the Lord’s death…
O humble carpenter, down on your hands and knees,
look on your handiwork and build a house so you may dwell in Me.
The work was done with nothing but wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands
O show me how to work and praise trusting that I am Your instrument.
O loving labourer with the sweat upon your face,
oh, build a table that I too may join you in the Father’s place
oh, in the Father’s place!
So may this Carpenter bring you peace this Good Friday in His death, dying the death we deserved on the wooden cross. He did this so that you may dwell in the Father’s place with Him.
May He keep your hearts and minds safe in Him this Holy weekend and evermore until you meet Him in Paradise.
Isaiah 12:1–6 | 2 Corinthians 5:16–21 | Luke 15:1–3, 11–32
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’
3 Then Jesus told them this parable:
The parable of the lost son
11 Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.
13 ‘Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 ‘When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” 20 So he got up and went to his father.
‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.
21 ‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
22 ‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
25 ‘Meanwhile, the elder son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”
28 ‘The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
31 ‘“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”’
Christ Has been made the Prodigal Son for us to be Reconciled to the Father
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…
In chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells three famous parables. First, the parable of the Lost Sheep, second; the parable of the Lost Coin, thirdly and lastly, he tells of the parable of the prodigal son.
Many scholars and theologians don’t particularly like this title for it is not primarily about the younger son who takes his inheritance early and squanders it. But rather it is generous loving and waiting father who welcomes him back with open arms.
Let us pray…
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our be acceptable and pleasing to you O Lord, Amen.
When we look at the Gospels and we read and hear our Lord Jesus speak, it always important to ask a few basic questions… where is He speaking and to whom. Sometimes the former is important due to what He is saying might be better understood by the surrounding geography. But the latter is always important. To whom Jesus is speaking helps understand why He said what He did in the first place. And do we have in our case today…
15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable…
So who is this parable directed at? The Pharisees and scribes. Why? to help them understand why He welcomes sinners and eats with them and also to help them see their flawed attitudes in all this.
The scriptures are filled with conflicts between people and one of the more common ones is not to dissimilar to our common conflicts and what are they, sibling disputes and rivalry.
This is your common “that’s not fair” dispute between children and this matures as we get older but the same attitude of inequality continues to pop it’s head up in different ways.
What Jesus was trying to convey to the Pharisees and scribes was really just one primary point, the generous heart of God. Although this truth had ramifications for both brothers, it is the God’s unmerited, unimaginable and illogical generosity that Jesus wants them to hear.
The ramifications of it for the younger son were that it was a place back home in his father’s house after self-inflicted estrangement from it.
The ramifications it had for the older son were revealed in his inability to understand his father and his love, even though he had been there with him and obedient to him.
I wonder you’ve ever been to a foreign land, either voluntary or involuntary. Picture if you can, a place where you’ve been that is foreign, feels foreign or perhaps just made you feel uncomfortable being there. I know hospitals are a place where people typically don’t like being in and are often looking to get out of ASAP to return home to the comfort of their own bed, own clothes and own surroundings.
Now the place that this younger son went to was the extreme. The place where he had lived a life that was worse than his father’s servants. Had a diet that was also nowhere near as nutritious as they had either. In fact he didn’t get to eat what the pigs did when he tried.
We often applaud the repentant heart this prodigal son had when he returns, but let’s think of what it actually was that sparked this reminder to go home – Hunger. Perhaps it was hunger that turned into a contrite heart but hunger nevertheless. It is Interesting that he did not think of the sin he was committing before he got hungry. The selfishness this reveals in the heart of the younger son is devastating. And I don’t think the rest of us are much better by the way.
In fact, we were so badly rotting with the pigs, hungry, depraved and self-centered, that our Father sent Christ to come and get us. We were, and are, trapped in a foreign land, full of sin that stinks of dirty animal pens and that is where we would be if Christ didn’t come get us.
It is actually Christ who has made us worthy to be loved, embraced and kissed. Christ did not only come and get us and lift us out of the dirt and rottenness of sinful rebellion … He actually became sin. Our Father made “Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is what our epistle reading highlights for us, for this very reason.
He/we must remember that we are only in this house for Christ’s sake, that we were the younger brother and still are at times. How would we want the Lord to treat us if and when we fall into temptation.
The Lord will bring justice and reward to everyone, but let him do that. Do not be the dictator of how and to whom the Lord should or shouldn’t show mercy. Let us be at one with the Father’s will, heart and intent for sinners.
We are therefore called to rejoice with heaven when a sinner comes home. In fact, since we are in the Father’s house let us prepare our hearts, our homes and our churches for a place for lost sinners. As we partake in the Father’s mission, and are not hostile toward it, let us never grow out the truth and reality that we are in this house by grace. We all deserve to be still in a foreign land and would be if it weren’t for Christ.
Younger sons and daughters… come home.
For those of us here who are yearning for a return to church and Christian community of our children, grandchildren… align yourself with the Father’s heart today and wait with Him.
Elder sons and daughters… rejoice with the Father when sinners in our family or friendship circles repent. I know myself how tempting it is to say “I told you so” or something to that effect. For many years growing up, when I first came to faith, my mum was one of a group in my family who would want nothing to do with the faith and still doesn’t… When she calls to ask about God or the Scriptures, the temptation of course is to be cheeky or aggressive, “I thought God didn’t exist mum?”.
You see, our heavenly Father is nothing like this… he makes Himself vulnerable and runs out to greet the son with no questions asked.
This is the difference between us and God that this parable highlights.
When we are tempted to be the elder brother in situations and judge the younger brother, sister, family member or friend remember this…
Our Lord Jesus became the Prodigal Son for you too… The ‘prodigal son’ was off feeding pigs, Jesus was born in the place they eat from…
He went to a foreign land, didn’t squander His Father’s inheritance personally but was treated as if He did… to the point that He felt abandoned by His Father, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”.
This is what our Creed is speaking of when it says “he descended into hell”. To be in hell is to be separated from the Father. This is why we are to call on our Lord when we feel like we’re living in hell and struggling with life… because He stepped into it Himself.
He did this so that He could take us from this foreign land, from Satan’s grip, and bring us back home. This is how the lost become found, the dead made alive… This is how God the Father sees us while we were “still a long way off,” He saw us and “felt compassion”… only through Christ. In this return He sees Christ and His righteousness, and so runs to us. This is a belonging and affirmation that only Christ has the right to. But through His incarnation, life, death and resurrection… He has incorporated us into this house filled with celebration by God’s servants and all the company of Heaven. He has taken sinful and rebellious humanity on as His own and brought us back as forgiven sons and daughters. And it is only by Christ are we able to return home to the Father’s house.
May you always keep this at the center of your heart and mind so that you may continue to know what it means to be a child in the household of the Heavenly Father, trusting and learning from Him, mimicking Him in His love and generosity to his fellow children… this is part of what the Lord Jesus is getting at when He says “love another, as I have loved you”…
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus, the One who was made the prodigal for you. Amen.