Author: Rosie Edwards (page 1 of 10)

Bad Dreams, Big Ideas and Butterflies

Sunday 3rd November – All Saints/In Memoriam  – St Petri Church

Transcript of Message by Pastor Noel Due

Bad Dreams, Big Ideas and Butterflies

Good morning everyone this is a very special morning.  We have come through a year where one way or another, we have all suffered losses and finally we approached death itself through 1000 losses. We lose one thing after another and then finally we lose the connection altogether. It is really good to be able to take the time, a specific time and a special time like this in the church year, to be able to remember the significance of what has been and what also we are yet to face. Sometimes we get so stuck looking at what has been, that we never actually come to move into what is.

 

I want to speak about a few things this morning that you’ll all be very familiar with. The first is bad dreams. Daniel was having some. We have three readings today, which all in their own way and each specifically emphasise, not just the bad dreams but a big idea that trumps all the bad dreams. Daniel experienced that.

 

Then there is something else in all of those readings, something which is truly gospel, something which is promise. That thing is best represented by a Butterfly. It is just coincidence today that that Pastor Adrian put his stole on and I put on my multi-coloured Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat stoll, and they both have butterflies on them. So, in case you feel like you need now go to sleep – we’re talking about bad dreams, big ideas and butterflies.  I think we have had a bit of experience each with those things. Anyone here ever had a bad dream? You sometimes can think your life is a bad dream – probably not that. Dear Daniel wasn’t really suffering bad dreams, not in the way that we understand bad dreams, not nightmares, but he was suffering very troubling dreams.

 

When we face a loss we generally face the loss of something in a personal sphere. The loss of a person who is very close to us, even the loss of a pet who is very close to us touches us very deeply.  A loss of our livelihood. A lot of our farming communities in the drought stricken areas of Australia, the loss of their farm. Some have been on that property for five generations.

 

When we face loss, we can go into an emotional turmoil which is represented by darkness, it sometimes feels as though the darkness is pressing in. Sometimes like with Daniel’s dream, it feels like the winds of heaven are stirring up all of the breakers and the sea of the world and out of that turmoil are arising beasts that would seek to devour and consume us. We face that loss personally in one or other of those ways that I’ve mentioned.

 

Daniel had faced the loss of all things. His people had lost everything and were now in captivity and Daniel, through a remarkable series of events, was being raised by God to serve the ruler of that new country in which he lived, and also to be a prophet for his own people who were in exile. Daniel’s dreams were not bad dreams in the way that we understand nightmares or bad dreams but they were deeply troubling dreams because when you come through a time of suffering loss, one of the greatest issues is – Why? How did we end up here? Why did this happen? We can become unceasingly afflicted by, what I call the “if only” or the “what if’s”. If only I had … If only we had noticed earlier. If only I had gone to the doctor a month ahead of time. If only I had been home instead of away and what if? What if I had been there? What if that person hadn’t died alone? What if? and in the turmoil and the trouble we can sense that things or it feels like things are spinning out of control. But Daniel’s troubling dream (I won’t call them bad dreams any more). Daniel’s troubling dream was not the last word because the counterpoint for that is also a triumphant exalted vision of God on his throne. One like a son of man coming up to receive from him a kingdom which cannot be shaken. One of whom it said later “all authority is given to me in heaven and on the earth” and it is also said in Daniel that those who share in that kingdom receive a kingdom themselves which cannot be shaken.

 

The writer to the Hebrews takes that up. He says at one point, “once more the Lord will shape heaven and earth” quoting Habakkuk. But he says when that shaking happens, we believe, we know, we experience that we have a kingdom which cannot be shaken.

 

In other words the bad dreams, the troubling dreams. The wind which seems to rise out of nowhere to create havoc, the dark images of destruction that come in the person of those beasts in Daniel’s vision. They are not the last word. They have to be faced. You don’t make any progress in life by making out that they don’t exist. But they have to be face in faith. In faith, based on the revelation of a far greater and more exalted vision which is of the Lord himself who is in control of all things. Even it seems, in control of the darkness. That we are not spinning out of control, the world is not spinning out of control and that is the big idea which is at the centre of all of the readings. That big idea can be summarised in one phrase – it is the kingdom of God.

 

The kingdom of God is the big idea which runs all the way through the scriptures. The kingdom of God means God’s reign and God’s rule. We say at the end of the Lord’s prayer; for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Interestingly enough, that phrase, that little segment, is not in the earliest versions of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew and Luke – but the church felt it was so important to be memorialised in the context of that prayer that for 2000 years or so we have included that phrase or that paragraph. It is a testimony to what we, as God’s people, have held and believed and which has kept us as a whole church over thousands of years, in the faith.

 

There are bad dreams, there are troubling dreams, there are deeply perplexing things, there are deeply painful things – but they do not have the last say. There is a bigger idea, a bigger reality, a bigger truth beyond all of the trouble. And that is the utter assurance of the sovereignty, the kingdom, the rain and rule of God. And if you want any evidence that that is so, you only need to look at the cross. Because in that place, through the person of Jesus Christ, you see once and for all, enacted in human history – the inescapable reality that God’s kingdom trumps everything. Even death itself and God himself in the person of his son went through the valley of deep darkness so that we might participate in the surety and the security of being in his kingdom.

 

I don’t know if you picked up from the reading in Ephesians that it talks about the holy spirit being a “deposit” and a “seal”. Do you remember that bit in the reading? Now, those two words come from the language of the marketplace,, and we are a little bit familiar with them in our own way of doing business. In those days when you put a deposit down it was the absolute guarantee that that thing against which you place the deposit; be it a jar of olive oil, one of those amphora of wine that you see being carried up from the bottom of the Mediterranean,Sea at archaeological digs or a big jar of olives or a couple kilograms of grapes. Whatever you put your deposit on, and then you went off to the other parts of the marketplace – that was yours no matter what.

 

God has made a deposit in us of the Holy Spirit. We are His, no matter what.

 

The other word that is very close to it conceptually is the word seal. He has placed a seal on us, and again that’s from the language of our ancient Greco-Roman markets. When, let’s say it was a barrel of herring or something really wonderful like the fish sauce that the Romans used to prize so much. When a seal was placed on that by a trader it had his mark on it. That barrel of goods or container of goods could not be touched by anyone else except with the express permission of the owner. It had to be presented in a written document to say “I give permission for Joe Bloggs to touch this thing and move it” but apart from that, that seal meant that the item was sacrosanct and no one else could get near it. That’s the way God relates to you! He has put a deposit within you of the Holy Spirit which says that you are his is no matter what. And He has put a seal upon you, which means that nothing can come to you except if it first come through God. You might think of the dreadful suffering of the old Testament person called Job. Even all that happened to him, could not happen without the express permission of God to say “you may touch this one even though he is sealed”.

 

For us, therefore this time of perplexity and pain and confusion, this darkness, this raging of the wind in the rattling of the shutters at night time and the trouble that gets us like Daniel turning on our beds. (A bit like a rotisserie chicken 2 o’clock in the morning?) All of that we actually now face by faith, because if we had to face it in our own strength and with our own resources and just in the life span that we have – and nothing beyond it, nothing under it, nothing over it, then we of all people would be most to be pitied. It would be truly hopeless.

 

God is granted as a great assurance of a kingdom which is an everlasting kingdom which cannot be shaken and which goes beyond death itself. Which takes me to the butterflies.

 

Now, this is probably a question you might not want to put your hand up for, but the first part is okay. Did any of you have silk worms growing up? They were good fun. They were not butterflies, but at least they hatched into a moth and that’s close. Did any of you growing up see? Do you still get them here? Those wanderer butterflies which came in the beautiful blue and silver chrysalis?

 

Now this part is probably what only boys are going to put their hand up for. Did anyone ever try and cut one open to see what was inside?

 

Well, I had a friend. I still have a friend. He ‘fessed up to me during the week. He said he found one and him and his dad and his brothers, decided to cut one open and see which bit had turned from the caterpillar into the butterfly.

 

Now, what happens? How does that process take place? Getting from the caterpillar to the butterfly. Does it happen bit by bit? Do you have half caterpillar and half butterfly? or do you have some butterfly feelers and caterpillar legs? How does it happen?

 

Well, my friends said they cut this one open and to their surprise it was just all grey mush inside. They said – and their dad agreed – “This is probably a dead one, it has gone off” ‘cause they couldn’t see any butterfly bits. In fact it wasn’t a dead one, it hadn’t gone off, because the way in which those transformations happen – from caterpillar to butterfly, is a complete and utter undoing of one thing and an entirely re-doing of a new thing out of the soup that is in the chrysalis. It’s not as though it changes bit by bit from the top down or from the bottom up or from the legs outwards. The whole lot is  dissolved and then the whole lot is reconstructed. So why am I telling you that?

 

Welcome to your life! It’s not just a picture of death and resurrection in the physical sense. Most of us, if I may say looking around this congregation this morning. Most of us have lived long enough (that means we are over 21) to have had an experience where the whole of our lives seem to be broken down – true?  It’s not just that sometimes we lose a loved one and we wonder what’s happened to them, but in the midst of that loss it seems as though within our own selves everything is deconstructed. You think, can anything ever come back out of this again? and what comes back out of that again is a new thing but it is connected to the old thing.

 

I’m convinced that we don’t get over grief. What happens is that that grief is used under the hands of God to bring as into a new future which is connected to all that has been. But it is not the same as all that has been, and in the process coming through that chrysalis phase, it seems as though everything is just dissolved and you wonder, can anything good ever come out of this? and the answer is “yes” because something good came out of that cross. When everything seemed to be dissolved, and they had suffered the loss of all things, and the disciples and the others scattered into the night. Their internal life and their spiritual life and their sense of God’s presence and their love for Christ was totally destroyed – and out of that a whole new thing emerged. That’s why throughout the history of the iconography, (the sacred art of the church) the butterfly has always symbolised not just resurrection but new hope.

 

The word that I want to bring to us today is that if you are still, or have been in that place where it is still bad dreams, don’t fear, because there’s a bigger idea beyond that. The reign and rule, the personal presence of God and the assurance that out of that which you have lost, God will bring a new future. That person whom you have lost is already experiencing it now.

 

We’re sort of stuck in the chrysalis waiting for it yet to happen but it will happen. Personally and corporately.

 

I serve in the Department of the church which works with churches which are suffering the loss of all things. Many on the verge of closure, some wondering if they have a future. I don’t know whether God will want to keep the Lutheran Church of Australia going, we are a bit of a funny bunch. But I am absolutely convinced that he will keep the church going and revive it!

 

We all live in that hope and it’s not just a wish – it is a sure and certain future. It’s a promised future. It has a deposit and a seal and you can be absolutely sure that God is bringing you into it even today.

 

So may the Lord be with you, particularly now, as we come from a time of remembrance and to share the Lord’s supper together in Jesus name. Am

Give Thanks – Pastor Steen Olsen Sermon Notes

Give Thanks – Luke 17:11-19
St Petri Nuri 13/10/19

Sermon Notes:  Pastor Steen Olsen

Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

This is rank disobedience to a clear command of Jesus  – Jesus’ command had been very specific:
“Go and show yourselves to the priests”
As they went they were healed of their leprosy
Nine continued on in obedience to Jesus’ word
One degenerate did not
– he disobeyed the command of the Lord of heaven and earth
this blighter strays from the straight and narrow way to return to Jesus
to praise God and give thanks
Jesus condemns the other nine:
“Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?
Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Jesus commends the disobedient Samaritan:
“Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well.”
This Samaritan-once-was-a-leper reminds us to “Give Thanks”

1)      Giving thanks is part of our relationship with God
To have faith is to be in a relationship with the living God
He has established that through baptism and the Word
“So faith comes from what is heard,
and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” [Rom 10:17]
Faith is a God-given trust in God
Christ died in our place, took our sin upon himself,
so we are now the forgiven children of God

2)      This relationship is not all about rules
The 9 obeyed all the rules
Before they could return to normal society
– before they could approach people up close
they had to fulfill the law of Moses

3)     Fulfilling the law began with a visit to the priests as outlined in Leviticus 14
The priest was to examine the leper outside the camp
If the disease is healed a complicated sacrifice is to be made
involving 2 clean birds, cedarwood, crimson yarn & hyssop

Then the ex leper shall wash his clothes, shave his head and bathe
Only then is he declared clean and allowed back in the camp
But wait there is more: for seven days he is to live outside his tent

Then more shaving and washing he is finally considered clean
The point is the 9 healed lepers set off to obey that law

4)      The one leper sees that he is clean
and rather than first go through the ritual to be declared clean
he rushes back to Jesus and invades his personal space
in regard to a leper, in those days, that is rather important

But no, the cleansed leper barges right up to Jesus feet
and falls down before him
and Jesus commends him
This leper has not only been cleansed of his leprosy,
he has found faith and salvation
and come into a relationship with God

5)      If we make our relationship with God all about obeying rules we miss the point
I am not saying that disobedience is good – far from it
The point is that we have a relationship with God, not with a set of laws,
not even with the 10 commandments
Simply trying our hardest to keep all the rules does not make us Christian
or mature us in the faith

It would be a bit like trying to live in a friendship ‘by the numbers’
– for example:
1  greet hello friend
2  affirm you’re looking well
3  petition please make me a cuppa
4  thank thanks
5  praise that’s a wonderful cuppa
That’s no way to build a relationship
Trying to live by the law brings death, not life

6)       Giving thanks is a very important part of our relationship with God
not because the law says so …
but because we are set free from the law,
free to be spontaneous in our love and gratitude
just like the one leper

As we give thanks we grow in thankfulness and gratitude
which builds a healthy outlook on life
and positive attitude in regard to God’s place in our lives
and the world

The one leper seems to have understood that this is a relationship
not just a task to be done – fulfill the requirements of the law
or a prize to be claimed – healing and a normal life
but the truth that my Lord loves me and I love him in return

7)      Being a Samaritan-leper is a bad combination if you had to live in 1st century Palestine
cut off from human fellowship and the worshipping community
The Jews had no time for Samaritans,
and lepers had to live their lives at a distance
Life was hard – they had lots to complain about
They come to Jesus and cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Jesus heals their physical leprosy
but only one of them appears to understand
the deeper healing that was necessary
the healing from the leprosy of sin …

8)      The 9 were healed, but they would get sick again – maybe not leprosy –
but a sickness would bring death
The one is truly healed because his freedom from leprosy
has become a sign of the gift of faith
and the wellness that is salvation
This deeper healing has become far more important for him
than the outer healing of his leprosy
the priests can wait
first, Jesus needs to be thanked

9)      We are here so that people might receive that deeper healing
That is why God has placed us in this community
So that the gospel may be proclaimed
So that people may come to faith and their lives be healed
That is why we are here today
To thank God for this community of faith
and for our relationship in the gospel
We are working together so that people may be healed
through the forgiveness of their sin

We thank Jesus for healing us from the leprosy of sin
and all the other lesser leprosies along way
As we journey through life we may sometimes be healed of leprosy
or one of its modern equivalents sometimes we may not be healed
but may need to keep bearing the burden
Some of us will enter heaven without being healed in this life
healing will only come then …

Others will be healed of some disease in this life
irrespective, we still need that deeper healing that leads to thanksgiving
So lets give thanks to God for the healing that is ours! Amen.

Pastor Steen Olsen
steen.olsen@lca.org.au
Blog: bring Jesus (subscribe at www.lca.org.au/enews – You find it under ‘LCA Districts’)
Assisting the Church to become more missional in its culture, theology and practice.

Gift – Pastor James Winderlich

Sermon Transcript – Pastor James Winderlich  –  Sunday 6th October, 2019

Gift

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

2 Timothy 1: 3-5

St Paul writes, “I thank God whom I serve with a pure conscience as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers, night and day – greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy when I call to remembrance the unflamed faith that is in you. Which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois. and your mother Eunice and I am persuaded is in you also.

I do a lot of travelling around visiting congregations throughout the South Australian area, although we do serve the whole church. It is much easier to do relief preaching on a Sunday just in the local South Australian area. Something I have consistently noticed is – change.

Those congregations I visit are changing. Many of those congregations were numerically large not all that long ago. They were very, very active, able to do many, many things both within the life of their own, congregational community as well as the wider community. They are now, in what almost seems just like a blink, in a brief moment in time, are experiencing dramatic change. As the average age of the people in those communities increases, they’re finding that there are less and less of them who are able to do what was always done, who are able to keep up with the various programmes and projects which that community might have had. Some of them can’t even get along to church any more. When you look out into those church buildings that were built large, buildings that anticipated a growing future. You see a handful of people.

One thing I consistently notice amongst those people and amongst those diverse communities is this; they are not discouraged, they are not discouraged even though you could say “well they have every right to be, because they’ve stuck with their congregation for all these years and have worked hard. Other people have fallen by the way and disappeared. You could build an argument for resentment, but I’ve not seen that.

These communities I visit are full of hope and as they are confronted by their changing situations they’re finding new ways of doing things.They are able to identify what is important to them, right here, right now, and they find a way of doing it. They find new ways of serving each other, they find new ways of sharing life together in this special and unique community that is theirs. They find joy in each other, and that’s remarkable. That’s remarkable because it leaves me scratching my head, thinking well surely this is not how you thought things would end being for you.

That doesn’t matter. Their expectations don’t matter. What matters for them is the here and the now. Who they are in the here and the now.

We all face difficulty as we look back to the past, because if we look back to the past we can see the building process, can’t we. We can see in terms of our congregations the growth of our congregations as we started with not much at all, and built things up and built things up until we have arrived at the here and the now. As we look back over that past – and they’re wonderful pasts – a sense of expectation about the future is also created. We look at the trajectory of the past and we think that just has to continue on into the future until we are confronted with change. A change that we have no control over.

So what of those little congregations, those little communities dotted all around the country rural South Australia teaching me? I am learning that it’s never a better time than now to be a Christian church, a Christian community, a Christian person in the life of Australia. Why? Because through all the changes that we are experiencing, we have been given a wonderful opportunity to focus on what is really important.

What really matters? Not yesterday, not tomorrow but what really matters, right here and right now?  Because right here, and right now is the only place that I can bear witness to Jesus Christ. I can’t bear witness to Christ tomorrow and yesterday’s witness is finished with. Right here and right now is the only time and the only place that I can serve according to that witness. I can’t do it tomorrow because it hasn’t happened yet. Can’t do it yesterday because yesterday has been and gone. Right here, right now.

What matters? What is of critical importance?

I shared with you a reading from 2 Timothy 1. It is a hopeful reading. It is a positive and optimistic reading. St Paul is writing to his understudy, his trainee, his apprentice Timothy, offering him all sorts of encouragement. Telling him how much he is missing him. Telling him how much he is giving thanks for Timothy. It is a wonderful thing to read but it is even more wonderful when you hear it against the background in which it is written. Paul wrote these encouraging, life-filled, life encouraging words to Timothy from prison.

Now prison 2000 years ago is somewhat different to what prison might be like today, and I don’t want to diminish what prison is today because it’s a horrible experience. Prison 2000 years ago was horrible in another entirely different way. First of all you didn’t get fed. You had to take care of that yourself. So, if you didn’t have family and friends who were prepared to look after you while you were in prison, you would starve and you would die. As simple as that. The other thing about prison is that prison wasn’t a punishment. It wasn’t there to pay off a fine. It wasn’t there to set the balance right in terms of your life in community. It was God’s waiting room. The only reason you would go to prison would be to await your execution. That’s what prison was for. So you knew what awaited you. You knew what was around the corner, and that’s where Paul was.

This is Paul, that in a matter of a few years, had poured his entire life and soul and being into the mission of Jesus Christ. Into proclaiming who Jesus Christ is, for the sake of people. Paul had given himself over to that, Paul had abandoned; his previous status, his previous power, his previous prestige, to take up that Mission. Paul had emptied himself for the sake of Christ. Paul quite remarkably is responsible for the spread of the Christian church throughout the Gentile world, in fact if Paul hadn’t done what Paul did, you and I quite possibly wouldn’t be people of Christian faith right here, right now. And what did he have to show for it? Prison!

Now by any measure that to me doesn’t sound like much of a trophy, that doesn’t sound like much of a reward for all of that hard, faithful work. And that’s where Paul was. He had every right to be embittered. Every right to be discouraged. Every right to be angry, snarky and cynical. And what did he write to Timothy? “I give thanks to God for you.” “In fact the memory of you just moves me to tears.” He wrote from that prison as the clock was ticking down.

And, what to give thanks for in Timothy? Well, in Timothy you have another failure. If Paul seemed like one great big failure sitting in prison – well, Timothy wasn’t much better. Why? What’s the value of a son in ancient communities? Your son was your hope for the future. Your son would be the one who provide for you in your future, Your son would be the one who would carry the family name forward, and everything about your family, forward into the future. And what did Timothy choose to do? Follow Paul. To all intents and purposes, Timothy was a bit of a dud as well. He didn’t live up to expectations except for his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. In Timothy, something amazing came together, the witness of the Apostles through Paul and the witness of family came together in the person of Timothy. And Timothy would take over from Paul, the mission would continue. In the here and the now.

So, that’s why Paul gives thanks for Timothy. Not because Timothy was an outstanding son. Not because Timothy was a prominent person within his own community, but because of something that had been planted in Timothy. And Paul said, ”Timothy fan that flame.” “Take care of that flame.” “Let that flame build within you, because in that flame there is hope!” “Hope for you, and hope for those whom you will serve.”

Fan the flame. That little spark that’s in you right now. That little spark that moves me to gladness, to thanksgiving and that moves me to tears before God.

Fan it! … and how do you do that? Well Paul gives three things; power, love and self-discipline. That’s the plan! That’s as good as the plan is. How does that work itself out? Quite surprisingly. Because we hear power and we think yes! Power, that’s what is needed for the future mission of the church. That’s what is needed for our congregation. That’s what’s needed for all those congregations that I go around to visit who seem to be diminishing, who seem to be shrinking, who seem to be losing their way … and yet have joy. They just need that power. What is that power? That power firstly gives itself away. That power doesn’t hold on to itself but that power gives itself away for the sake of the other. That power is a power that willingly empties itself. Why? Because the future is no threat. Why do we hang on to anything? Because we are anxious about the future. But the power that Paul talks about is a power that willingly empties itself for the sake of the world, for the sake of the other. It is a power that doesn’t talk about hope. It is a power that gives hope. Because when we keep power to ourselves, we steal hope from those who are desperately searching for it.

Love – You would expect to hear love in this list of instructions wouldn’t you? And what does that love look like? Love works with power. Love works together with power and that love is a love that takes delight in the other. It doesn’t begin with itself, but it begins with its source in God. A love that is delighted in God and who God is, and what God does for us. You hear that in Paul’s words, that delight. It also takes delight in each other, in those little congregations that I have told you about, it is the sort of love that – it’s eyes light up and says “You’re here today. You came along today! It is good to see you. How wonderful at you are here with us today.” “What’s your week been like?” “What’s been happening for you, because I am interested!” Yes, I know we could do all the organisational stuff, is all this rostering stuff that has to be done behind the scenes, but, I am going to stop that right now and I’m going to ask about you because that’s where love takes me.

How are things for you? Because it is so good to see you right now.

In this self-discipline and the hope that Jesus gives, and the love that Jesus makes ours, through his own death and resurrection is a thing. It’s actually real. It is not just something we talk about, it is not just something we speculate about. It is not just an idea that holds us together but it is real – the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus is a real hope. Why? Because it is the only hope that speaks from death and silences death. And really that’s the thing causes us the greatest anxiety. Why do we want to hold onto everything? Because we are afraid of death. We are afraid of losing, and yet Christ speaks from the grave to us and says; “You know that thing death? Finished! Done with. It’s over. It has no claim on you.”

That’s what hope is. And it’s a real thing, and it needs to be said, and it needs to be promised. And that’s what self-discipline is – I am going to make sure that I say that for those who are crying to hear it, those who are trying to build up lives for themselves because they are terrified of the absence of life, they are terrified of their own death.

So that’s Paul’s advice to Timothy, but it wasn’t advice, it was encouragement. As Paul saw in Timothy that spark that had been ignited by the holy spirit. As Paul rejoiced at that and gave thanks to God for that, Paul encouraged Timothy “Mate, just do it now.” Just do it!

I know where I’m headed.

In chapter 4 of 2 Timothy it says “my life is being poured out as I write this to you” my life is being taken away from me.I know how this ends. But you get on with it. You do it, because that’s what matters. It’s the here and the now. Don’t be burdened by your past – look at my past. I, St Paul persecuted God’s Church. Don’t be burdened by that. Let go of it. Don’t be anxious about the future because who knows what the future is? But do it now.

So what does that mean for us? Well it’s the same for us. As we feel the extraordinary pressure to carry the past forward into the future, we overlook the here and the now. We forget to see each other. We don’t notice each other and when you don’t notice each other, where do you get to hear about hope?  If you’re not going to tell each other, who is?  This is an encouragement for all of us, to be hopeful about the future, but to live that hope in the here and the now.

So take St Paul’s encouragement to Timothy as your own. Because if St Paul ever got to meet you guys, he’d weep as well. He’d weep with that same joy and the same happiness and the same thanksgiving to God, because he would see that same fire, flame, ignited in you and he would say to you “Keep fanning it”. “Work away at it.” “See it grow in you, give thanks for it, know that Joy and be delighted to see each other. Amen.

Hopelessly Confused – Pastor Noel Due

Sunday 29th September, 2019

Pastor Noel Due – audio and transcript of sermon preached at St Petri.

We’ve got  three readings before us this morning.  As you’ll see from the bulletin notes on the front page, these are centuries apart.

One is the story of Jeremiah buying a plot of land. He is buying that plot of land immediately before the catastrophic destruction of Jerusalem. So when everything is torn up and destroyed, he does the most nonsensical and counter-intuitive thing. He is commanded by the Lord to buy a piece of real estate that everyone else would regard as utterly worthless. But of course the issue is not piece of real estate itself. The issue is what does this purchase say and the purchase says that God is going to do something beyond the destruction.  In other words if your hope has been in all the things that you’ve spent your life building and that is destroyed, is your hope is destroyed. And for Jeremiah his hope was not destroyed because the word of the Lord came to him, and there was a promise of resurrection beyond the death and destruction of the invasion that was about to happen.

Then of course there’s the reading from Luke chapter 16, which is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Again it’s a story of misplaced hope that the rich man felt because he was rich because he had so much, because his life was so defined by his well that he was impervious to suffering, and of course death comes to us all – death reverses things and so those who had nothing in this life typified by Lazarus are the ones finally who inherit the kingdom. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Then you have the account of Paul giving some advice to a young Pastor called Timothy and his telling him about the danger of wealth and the necessity for generosity. and how it is that he, as a young Pastor, must;

a)    He himself must keep himself freely from the love of money which is the root of all evil

b)    To also instruct his congregation, his people, not to be trapped in the love of money which is the root of all evil.

It is significant I think that if you go through the entire scriptures from beginning to end, you will find at some point either the prophets, or the law, or Jesus himself or all of the new testament writers in one way or another – bring a warning about misplaced trust. And that warning about misplaced trust is very commonly expressed in that trust being misplaced because of our wealth, our riches, our money.

So how does a Pastor preach to a congregation about money, and wealth, and misplaced trust apart from wearing a suit of armour. so you don’t get stoned.

If you were here last week and listen to the Lectionary readings. In Luke chapter 16, the last verse of the Lectionary reading was this. Jesus said to them that you cannot serve God and – money. Some translations say you cannot serve God and wealth but actually it says you cannot serve God and Mammon (not marron, they are crayfish!). You cannot serve God and mammon.

Mammon can be understood as wealth, and it can be understood as money, but it’s not just that. Mammon stands for that whole system where you are at the centre of everything. It’s all about you accumulating things and stuff. It’s about you defining yourself by what you accumulate and how you accumulate it.  You providing a display to the world of your worth by what you accumulate and how you express that accumulation. Mammon is all about that activity which money can express, which is an expression of your own selfish ego. That’s what Mammon means it’s not just wealth and not just money. Don’t misquote what Paul says in Timothy. It’s not money that is the root of all evil, it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. Mammon is really not wealth or money but the love of money – that attachment to this stuff which is the expression of your hope.

Now you’ve heard another verse, not in the recent series of lectionary readings, but it comes from 1 Corinthians 13:13 and I bet if I started you’ll be able to finish this:  Now abide these three; faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

If you think about Faith Hope and love, I think you will discover that the whole world needs them. Indeed the whole world seeks to express faith, hope, and love in some way. In other words, there is not a Christian world in which there is faith hope and love and another Christian world in where there is not faith, hope and love. Actually there is the kingdom of heaven where faith hope and love are properly centred. And then there’s everything else where faith hope and love are all scrambled.

So you think about the Jeremiah reading, faith hope and love all scrambled. Loving the wrong things, in the wrong way. So faith is misplaced and hope disappears when the destruction comes.

Think about Faith Hope to love and the rich man. Faith hope and love all scrambled. Loving the wrong things, Mammon in the wrong way for the wrong reason putting his hope in the wrong place. So his Faith is not in God, and when the destruction comes, he has no hope. He is, to quote Timothy, trapped! That is a very strong word in Timothy.

He is trapped by his love of money.  He uses the word trapped and also talked about people destroying themselves.  He talks about are making shipwreck of the faith and that’s because faith, hope and love are all scrambled. It’s not that they don’t have faith, hope and love – but it’s faith in the wrong thing. It’s love, loving the wrong thing and therefore putting your hope in the wrong place. So you and me and every other person that you ever need is a person who runs by faith, hope and love. The only question is;

a)    In whom is your faith placed?

b)    What therefore do you love?

c)    Therefore, where is your hope?  Does that make sense to you?

We live in a society in which faith, hope and love are all scrambled. Everyone in Australia is looking for faith, hope and love or even expressing faith, hope and love in a certain sort of way – but it is faith trust and confidence in the wrong things. It’s loving the wrong things and so, hope in the wrong place. And when, someone drops a brick on your glasshouse, how do you cope? Or, if someone called “God” dropped a big brick on the glasshouse of Jerusalem, by means of an invading army called “Babylonians”. Jeremiah says “Hope comes, not from our security, nor from our ability to defend our borders – but from God, who promised that there would be resurrection beyond the destruction.

Both Pastor Robert and I, in our respective ministries, move around the church a lot. I think that what we are seeing, if I may say bluntly, in the Lutheran Church is that God is bringing us face to face with the fact that we put Faith Hope and love in the wrong baskets. We put faith hope and love in our structures, and our institutions, and our theological formulations. In our liturgies, in our patterns of worship, and if we touch any of those we get all scrambled. We are, as far as congregations go, falling off a cliff.

Within 10 years on current trends, the number of people worshipping in a Lutheran congregation anywhere in Australia and New Zealand will be half of what is now. Within 10 years!

So if faith hope and love are scrambled – Where is the gospel in that? I read the Gospel reading this morning. There’s a bloke cooking in Hades, and there is a gap fixed between him and Abraham’s side and there is no crossing over. There is no redemption. Like there’s no second chance. That’s it, you are done. At the end of the reading I said, “This is the gospel of the Lord” and you said, “Praise be to you, O Christ”. Praise be to you, O Christ for what? What a hopeless picture where there is no second chances. Is that gospel? This is the gospel of the Lord. What that parable does, what that picture does, is actually to press the urgency of what happens when faith, hope and love get scrambled.

Remembering 1Timothy they become trapped! The gospel of the Lord, in that gospel reading, is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Not to the rich man, not for you and me. It doesn’t have to be that way – but you have to work it out now. Not then.

There is an urgency to this beloved, a real urgency and I believe the Lord is asking through the circumstances that he is bringing, where the church is collapsing institutionally. Where all the things that we put our trust in can no longer sustain and buoy us up.  I think the Lord is saying “Listen, there is a resurrection”!

If that thing goes, like Jerusalem, and in its entirety, there is still hope. It’s just that if you’ve got everything in that basket you won’t see this one. If you’ve got all your hope here you won’t understand the true hope.

When I was sometimes teaching students in the theological College, I talked about the difference between hopes with a small “h” and an “s” on the end, like hope that greater Western Sydney might win. I hope this time, this week, that I win the x-lotto. I hope that no my coffee is nice this afternoon. Short-term hopes. If that’s all you’ve got and they taken away, you are trapped and you’ve got nothing compared to hope with a capital “H”, whose name is Jesus.

The gospel is that God is doing everything to realign the faith, hope and love that is being misplaced and scrambled in us and has left us hopelessly confused. God is doing everything to undo that, so that our hope, faith and our love may be in Christ. Does that makes sense?

So even if those things seem to be falling apart it’s only because God loves us so much that there is a greater thing that he wants us to belong to. The question is simply “Do we trust him”?  Not even a question of “will we let him” because he is going to do it anyway. It is “Do we trust Him’?

As we come to the end of the sermon and turn shortly to the Lord’s supper. you have an absolute, sure, guaranteed token of God’s love, in which Christ gives himself and says “No matter what else happens, no matter what else collapses no matter what we have to do to unscramble your faith, hope and love when it’s misplaced, here is true love. “Here, take and eat”.It is where faith is, “Here, take and drink” that’s where our hope lies.

In Jesus name, Amen.

A New Kind Of Father – Pastor Graham Harms

Fathers Day Message  –  Luke 15:11-32

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.

Pastor Graham Harms

 

The Good Samaritan – Pastor Trevor Reu

Sermon – The Good Samaritan

Sunday 14th July – Pastor Trevor Reu

Amos 7:7-8

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.

 

Luke 10:25-37 

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.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

 

 

The Trinity of Love – Dean Eaton

Trinity Sunday  –  Dean Eaton

St Petri Lutheran Church Nuriootpatrinity dance
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.

I Will Pour Out My Spirit – Stephen Schultz, Assistant Bishop for Mission

Pentecost Sermon – Sunday 9th June, St Petri Lutheran Church

Stephen Schultz – Assistant Bishop for MissionHoly Spirit, dove, Sharefaith

“I will Pour Out My Spirit”

Acts 2:1-21

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.

Unpredictable, Surprising, Unexpected

Audio Sermon by Dr Noel Due
St Petri – Sunday 26th May   Easter 6C

“God’s church doesn’t have a mission.  God’s mission has a church.”

Acts 16:6-15

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

 

Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd Sunday – May 12th

Vicar Shaun Manning 

John 10:22-30

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

 

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