Author: Adrian Kitson (Page 1 of 29)

The CALL of COVID

Sermon, Pentecost 3A, 21 June 2020, St Petri

Matthew 10:24-39

Do not be afraid; take up your cross and follow Christ

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!

“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

As Jesus addresses the team before they take to the mission field, he makes it clear that being his sent person won’t be all ‘beer and skittles’!

It is not all ‘beer and skittles’ for us at the moment. Seems to be way more of the ‘sword’ being wielded in the world than there is peace being brokered.

As I hear Jesus sending his disciples into their troubled world I hear him sending us out into ours with this team talk, and I wonder…..

I wonder if the we are exactly where the Holy Spirit wants us to be in this restricted time? Has he got us where Jesus sent these disciples: right out into the community.

We are right ‘out there’ now. Even the very thing we all enjoy, have great respect for, hold as dearest and put most time into – worship: is now being done right out in the streets and homes of this Valley.

Is this COVID time how Jesus has got us back where he has always wanted us to be; with people in homes, streets, workplaces, recreational spaces – and not just for some of our life but all of our life?

Our text is only part of a much longer stirring and troubling team talk that runs right through Matthew chapter 10.

All of a sudden, the disciples have been changed from watching the “Jesus Show’ to doing it; from students (disciples) to practitioners (Apostles) of this new movement of God.

Is this what COVID time is teaching us? Are we being changed from watching the “Jesus Show’ to doing it; from being junior students (disciples) to practitioners (Apostles) of this new movement of God now?

Being Jesus’ sent people puts us right in line with Jesus. He got right out of his comfy ‘heaven’ and on to the stone road of the Via Delarosa up Calvary’s slopes with a heavy, brutal cross on his shoulders.

Being sent is carrying that cross. If Jesus, the Master Teacher or Head of the House, copped this abuse and suffering for his love of his Father and the love of the people, so will we because;

“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul (evil), how much more the members of his household!

It is crystal clear. His team are to share in his poverty and homelessness, taking with them no money or extra clothing, and depending solely on the hospitality of others for shelter and sustenance (10: 8b-13).

They will not be welcomed everywhere (10:14-15), and they can expect to experience the same hostility Jesus often does, for he is sending them out “like sheep into the midst of wolves” (10:16).

They can expect to encounter persecution and trials (10:17-23), for “a disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master” (10:24-25).

They need also be prepared for painful division within families, and to be willing to put Jesus’ mission above family loyalties (10:34-38). For all of this risk and suffering, Jesus promises, “those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (10:39), and this is their ‘cross’ – their burden (10:24).

Friends, is this a time when we mind ‘find our life’ again, as church? Will we find life and love and joy again anew because we have ‘lost’ being church the way we have gotten very used to and very comfortable in?

Is this the Spirit teaching us that we can learn to work with people, listen to and be with people different to us, even when the welcome is not warm and the situation not easy to control?

Whatever you make of this time, we are definitely ‘out there’ now. At least more than we have been. We have always been a church who cares, and we have done and now do some fantastic gathering of people – not for our sake but for theirs. But has the Lord shown us how to do this for the current times by kind of ‘forcing’ us to see some things? Feels like that to me.

We are feeling plenty and learning plenty too. I have had some excellent conversations with our people in homes these last weeks.

No one seems to be wanting or expecting that we can or should simply ‘go back to normal’. People generally seem to be OK knowing that ‘normal’ has just changed. I hear people saying that we need to adjust, learn, pray, seek God’s direction for what worship and what St Petri (or any congregation) needs to now be and do post COVID.

What a church to be a part of! People are not asking ‘what is normal’ but ‘what is next’, and I love it. I think it is the right question for the sent people of God.

Yes, people miss seeing others. I have heard that. I do miss shaking your hand and connecting with you on Sundays. I miss the gathering, the song, the prayer, the space, the chat.

The disciples may have been the same as they stayed out in the streets for extended period. But how good was it when they eventually gathered and shared their stories of what the Lord had done through them. Jesus said as they shared their stories, he ‘saw Satan fall like lightening from the sky”! (Luke 10:18)

And that is the good part about this team talk from Jesus. There is reward in this time too.

Those sent disciples, despite the difficulty and the weight of responsibility (the cross), got to be part of extraordinary moments of transformation – and not just watching it but doing it, and doing this together.

They lived beyond any fear because the One who actually holds their life and death in his hands had already made them live like they could never live before his love came to life in them.

As they got wrapped up in going where he sent them and spoke what he spoke they were transformed from spectators to practitioners, from receivers to givers; from mere ‘church members’ or ‘worship attenders’ to disciples, apostles, doers of God’s grace.

Same for us. We will gain everything needed for life and love as we give up everything for his life and love, as he does for us.

This disruption to our lives now is worth it. Following Jesus where he goes and going where he sends is worth it at this time, and at any time.

It is worth the difficulty, the loss of some loved thing, the effort to think differently, to pray, to take a risk and invite a conversation with a friend, to welcome a stranger, to care for a fellow saint; to take responsibility for being a church; to be more of a practitioner of the good news than a mere spectator or the ‘Jesus show”, lovely though it is and beautiful though the praying, singing and sharing be.

I am not too concerned about not gathering for large public worship in our building for at least two reasons;

  1. Jesus is with us wherever even two or three are gathered in his name for his work and will.
  2. Jesus does not just send us out he stays out with us. He gathers with us in homes and streets and other places. He always has.

I believe the Spirit is saying ‘Pick up that burden of ‘sentness’, St Petri. It is worth it’.

Find your life in what’s next. Find your mission in him again at this time.

It is only as we give up things, lose things that we find him and his life right here.

Hear the Spirit speaking to us as a church in Jesus’ mission in this Valley:

“whoever loses their life for my sake will find it”.

May it be so.

In the name of Christ. Amen.

An ‘Ordinary’ Visit

Sermon. Pentecost 2A, Sunday June 14, 2020, St Petri

Mr Stephen Radke

God visits Sarah in an ordinary way and grows trust and laughter (and a baby). 

This morning’s reading about a mysterious visit of God to Abraham and Sarah is right in the middle of the Abraham stories at the start of the Bible. Abraham and Sarah lived over 1700 years before the time of Jesus. God first spoke to Abraham when he was 75 and living in Haran. God told him to leave his family, his country and his gods and go to a country he would show him. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation and that all peoples on the earth would be blessed through him. The big stumbling block to this promise is that Sarah can’t have children. Sarah at one point arranged for Abraham to sleep with her slave girl Hagar have a child by her. At the time of our reading this surrogate child Ishmael is about 13 years old.   

Over these 25 years from God’s first visit to Abraham, God built a friendship with Abraham and Abraham prayed to God and began to trust him.  Just before this reading God made a special visit to Abraham to make it very clear that his promise would come through a child by Sarah his wife not through Hagar’s son Ishmael. Abraham laughed at God’s promise. In today’s reading it is Sarah’s turn to laugh. 

Genesis 18:1-15  

18 The Lord appeared to Abraham at the sacred trees of Mamre. As Abraham was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day, 2 he looked up and saw three men standing there. As soon as he saw them, he ran out to meet them. Bowing down with his face touching the ground, 3 he said, “Sirs, please do not pass by my home without stopping; I am here to serve you. 4 Let me bring some water for you to wash your feet; you can rest here beneath this tree. 5 I will also bring a bit of food; it will give you strength to continue your journey. You have honored me by coming to my home, so let me serve you.” 

They replied, “Thank you; we accept.” 

6 Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quick, take a sack of your best flour, and bake some bread.” 7 Then he ran to the herd and picked out a calf that was tender and fat, and gave it to a servant, who hurried to get it ready. 8 He took some yoghurt, some milk, and the meat, and set the food before the men. There under the tree he served them himself, and they ate. 

9 Then they asked him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” 

“She is there in the tent,” he answered. 

10 One of them said, “This time next year. [a] I will come back, and your wife Sarah will have a son.” 

Sarah was behind him, at the door of the tent, listening. 11 Abraham and Sarah were very old, and Sarah had stopped having her monthly periods. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself and said, “Now that I am old and worn out, can I still enjoy sex? And besides, my husband is old too.” 

13 Then the Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Can I really have a child when I am so old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? As I said, nine months from now I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” 

15 Because Sarah was afraid, she denied it. “I didn’t laugh,” she said. 

“Yes, you did,” he replied. “You laughed.” 

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father open our ears to hear your word and our hearts to receive you. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

While working on a remote aboriginal community in central Australia. I went to visit someone and an aboriginal lady was making breads for her family. She sat cross-legged on the ground with a sheet of mesh in front of her over hot charcoal. Beside her was a massive bowl of dough and she would take a handful of dough from the bowl, stretch it out in her hands then put it on the grill. It would start to puff up almost immediately and she would deftly flip it with her fingers to cook the other side then flick the flat bread onto a growing pile she had already made.   

I can see Sarah doing the same, with her bare hands and a life time of experience stretching the dough watching it cook and flicking it at the right moment and then straight onto the next one until the whole bowl of dough is used up. It is significant that Sarah cooked the bread for these three strangers because they had come to visit her. This reading is about Sarah and the God who visits her and promises a miraculous baby. This God who visits will make her a little frightened but will bring laughter and will grow trust in her heart just like the bread dough grew over the hot coals.  

Abraham and Sarah don’t know who these visitors are, they are ordinary hungry strangers who have turned up at their camp. We know who they are because the narrator tells us they are the Lord (or God). 

Abraham gives the strangers a royal welcome, he puts his face to the ground and says, ‘sirs, do not pass by my home without stopping; I am here to serve you. Let a little water be brought and wash your feet, rest under the tree while I fetch a little bread… Abraham’s hospitality is over the top, a huge pile of fresh flat breads, a freshly roasted calf and yoghurt and milk drink reminds us of when we have been shown generous hospitality. This reminds us of all the strangers we have met and shown hospitality to. Abraham is a compassionate man who lives as a stranger himself; owning no land and moving with his servants and livestock from place to place negotiating for somewhere to camp and graze his animals. It can be dangerous living as a stranger in other people’s country.  

God’s visit gets personal 

Suddenly these strangers get personal and ask, ‘where is Sarah your wife’. How did they know her name? This question digs into Abraham and Sarah’s relationship which was not a beautiful Christian marriage. Many years earlier Abraham had passed Sarah off as his sister in Egypt when they went there to survive a drought because he was frightened that Pharaoh would kill him to have his wife. Sarah is exceptionally beautiful and Pharaoh’s took her into his harem until he found out the truth and sent Abraham and Sarah out of Egypt. To this day Sarah remains childless her the surrogate son Ishmael and his mother Hagar caused jealousy and did not make for a happy family life. 

The visitor says to Sarah through Abraham, ‘I will surely return next year and Sarah your wife will have a son’. Now Sarah and Abraham know that God is here visiting them in these three strangers. God is in the flesh visiting her. 

God’s visit stirs up fear, trust and laughter. 

Some time ago I was talking to 3 students in a senior Science class and we talked about science, about where the universe came from then about faith. One student asked me if I believed in God and when I said yes, she asked questions about right and wrong, sexuality and whether there would be a day of judgment. I explained that I believed there would be a time where God would separate good from evil and end evil. That God will bring in a time where there will be no more tears and suffering. She said that this made her shudder and feel fearful inside. Then she talked about the conversion of the rapper Kanye West and the music he had written. We listened together as she played one of his Christian songs on her phone. 

When I read here that Sarah had laughed to herself about God’s promise that she would have a baby next year and was afraid because she lied to this visitor turns out to be God. I thought of the conversation with this young person and the way she felt when she realized that God was much closer and more real than she thought. In Kanye’s West’s song Jesus walks’ he raps about a very ordinary visit of God. A God who comes in the flesh and visits you and I when we lose strength and the will to live. God who visits us when we don’t have a job or a house. God who visits us when we don’t know if we will have love again or laughter. The same God visits our remote aboriginal communities where many people live off very little. He visits our nursing homes during lockdowns. God visits our daycare centres, our schools, our youth detention centres and in our prisons in very ordinary ways.  Like Abraham’s visitors, God comes as a thirsty, hungry, tired God in need of a meal and conversation. As Jesus many years later says, ‘I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink.’ 

Yet this ordinary God announces a miracle to 90 year old Sarah way past menopause that her and her 100 year old husband that they will again be intimate and be able to conceive and give birth to a child together. God did return and Sarah had a son, Isaac and Isaac means, He laughs. Sarah in this story had laughed at God’s promise as Abraham had in the previous story to this and soon they will be laughing again at the birth of son and God would be laughing with them.  

Faith 

1800 or so years after the time of Abraham and Sarah the NT tells us that Abraham is the father of all who believe in Jesus. St Paul in the NT says Abraham believed God and God considered him to be in a right relationship with him. Like the loaves of bread Sarah cooked on the hot coals God grew trust in Sarah and Abraham.  

This relationship of trust meant God was their friend they were right with him and had nothing to fear. God did NOT judge Sarah or Abraham for laughing at his promise of a child in their old age.  He accepted them with their weak and imperfect faith. He does not judge you or me with our imperfect trust in him or our poor understanding of him but accepts us as his friends. You and I know this for sure because there was another miraculous birth promised to a young girl Mary, a descendant of Abraham and Sarah, a child Jesus. He is God with us in the flesh. He is God who visits the earth. This is God who himself suffered and died in your place and mine, on the cross. It is his death and coming alive from death that sets in stone the fact that God does not judge you but forgives you and accepts you as his friend because of Jesus’ cross. All of your failures and mine have been nailed to that cross and you and I are God’s friends. This friendship with God begun when we were baptised and continues to give us life beyond this life, a life forever. Life that stretches beyond this world of suffering and unfairness, a time when God will make all things right. 

Abraham and Sarah were lucky to have those visitors but so are you, God is visiting you today and is growing this same trust in you. Like the breads Sarah cooked that trust in God is growing in your heart.  

Please pray with me. 

Lord as you visit me today, grow in me that trust you grew in Sarah and Abraham. Amen. 

 

 

What you doin’?

Sermon: Holy Trinity. Sunday June 7, 2020. St Petri

2 Corinthians 13 11-14

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings.

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 “What you doin’?”

These were the words I most remember from Terrence Floyd’s speech to the crowd in Minneapolis this week as he urged the destruction and violence to stop in the aftermath of his brother, George’s murder at the hands of the police.

“What you doin’?” Terrence asked. “’What you doin’ is not helping and not wanted” was his message to the looters and destroyers.

You might ask, “What we doin’” as we face these times.

Paul starts off strong.

“Greet one another with a holy kiss….. love and peace be with you…”

Seems so out of reach or out of touch in this moment! Some would say, so out of touch.  

Love and peace seem to have disappeared. ‘Greetings’ seem to inflicted in unholy tear gas, rubber bullets and the directive to dominate.

What a mess. Our hearts go out to the family of George Floyd and to the tens of thousands of everyday people who have peacefully protested against this injustice.

All of this may be a largely US story, but as we know, we have a similar kind of long story of injustice that has caused and still causes the same kind of pain in our country.

So, “What’ we Christians doin’?”

As far as we know there were no rubber bullets and tear gas in Corinth, but there were vicious hurtful words and excluding behaviour in the church aimed at Paul.

This church had story of discrediting Paul on several fronts, and they even got personal. Their kiss of greeting had often been more like the kiss of a betrayer.

And yet, he writes to them again. Through the smoke and conflict, Paul calls them to something new, something better, something holy and good among them and in him.

He calls them to new community, not mere old community, to divine community, not their broken one; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the One God and yet Three – totally new revelation of who God is in all the troubled history of his people and the world up to this point.

I want to call you there today.

Paul says, they and we still belong to this community despite the trouble and forced isolation. This makes them and us useful and helpful and valuable to the world and its suffering.

Paul knows this new community and what belonging to this community asks of him and them.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (1:3-5)

We are comforted to comfort. This Holy Trinity Community and those adopted into it by baptism, knows suffering and comfort and shares it. Paul knows he shares his suffering with Jesus. Jesus is in this suffering and with Paul in this suffering.

Same now; for the innocent and the guilty, the black and the white, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ in the US and here.

And this new community God is always bringing good out of bad, healing out of damage, hope out of despair:

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance. (1:6)

Paul’s distress is all for their comfortable place in this Holy Community. His life under pressure is for their peaceful home in Jesus (salvation).

Hasty blaming and condemning of others is impatient giving up on who you are and who God is.  They and we can find the new in the old, and help the world be new.

This is the Spirit’s call now friends: patient endurance. It is a call for those who have lived with the injustice of racism all their lives, and those who need to listen and learn to do better – there and here.

Paul knows the pressure. He knows what it is to feel like the end is surely near. Maybe this is what you feel at this time as you watch riots on the Whitehouse lawn?

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. (1:8)

Sounds pretty rough! Many in our community know what he is talking about: a serious diagnosis, a major conflict, a major loss…..

But, like the warm embrace of coming home, there is hope and usefulness and meaning in what has happened. Paul says;

“… this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead”.

Reliance. This time and all hard times raise the reality of reliance – on who do you rely?

Here’s what Paul relies on.

Resurrection. Death is dead. Suffering does not need to lead to it for those who learn from their suffering to rely on Father, Son and Spirit for life.

Reliance comes from Resurrection. Pauls says it;

“…we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself”. (4:14)

That is our hope at this time, friends. Resurrection. It always is. It is for all the citizens of this holy Trinity/Holy Community:  – black and white, rich and poor, slave and free, Jew and Gentile.

That is where Paul ends up. That is our text

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 So, ‘What you doin’?’

Living with three gifts from the One in Three for you today:

Grace: undeserved, unearned, divine forgiveness, healing and acceptance into a community beyond me and you and this world; a community that is right here in this world but not of this world, not distant on some other planet or universe but hidden here but spoken by words and done by actions of those who hear him speaking.

Love – self sacrificing love; love that gives itself away at great personal cost to another – for the other – like Terrence Floyd, asking looters to stop looting and destroyers to stop destroying for the sake of the family and the community.

Fellowship: belonging, safe place, safe conversations, time to listen, time to learn, space to rest, time to eat and sing and enjoy the good things with Jesus in your life and in your home.

These three gifts from the One in Three. Blessing on you no matter what you feel or what happens.

Go ahead. These gifts given require us to do some livin’.

We do these:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart….. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (4:16-17).

 

18 …..we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.(4:18). We look to the words of Father, Son and Spirit which reveal what is unseen to most but known by the eyes of faith in Jesus.

 In another way;

7 …… we live by faith, not by sight. (5:7)

 

11 Since, then, we know what it is to respect the Lord, we try to persuade others. (5:11)

We don’t lose heart. We fix our focus on the word of God and rely on his promises of new community, new now and new future for the world, and we live persuasively,

 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…. We live for him who died for them all and was raised again.

What we doin’?

Livin’ in the grace love and community of the resurrection community for the sake of our community.

14 …..the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Church has left the Building

SermonEaster 5A (Mothers’ Day), May 10, 2020.

Acts 7:55-60 

55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ 

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep. 

What a moment and what a vision in the moment given to Stephen and to us today  

Like Moses up on the mountain; Elijah in the rocks, God’s people looking up at a cloudy fiery My Sinai, Solomon and the people when the Temple was filled with the glory of God; like the Shepherds at night when angels sang at the birth of Jesus, like Peter, James and John that day on the mountain of Transfiguration: now Stephen sees the glory of God” It’s King Jesus. AStephen becomes the first of many Christians to be killed for their witness to Jesus in the presence of dying, angry, stubborn, ‘un-listening’, unjust, self-preserving people, resurrected and ruling Jesus is there  

And the Holy Spirit is filling this man and this space.  

I am sure Luke tells us of this moment to give us confidence in Jesus’ presence and his rule that is ever-present, even if hidden in the world.  

I have heard many a question asked about what God is up to in our time of testing – this pandemic threat. I have heard a few views on what the results of this COVID time will be: 

  • A ‘resetting of the environment on planet earth – 150,000 Flamingos in of all places, Mumbai! 
  • A re-evaluation of family – and how foundational family is – a time to truly ‘reconnect’.  
  • A pause for self-reflection – a forced time of self-evaluation – priorities, job, career, direction, losses, gains; what my life needs to be about…..

All good things.   

I read with interest a comment by an Aussie Journalist on Saturday. Frank Furedi said  

Most research carried out on disasters during the 19th and 20th centuries emphasise the impressive degree of social solidarity with which the community reacts.  He quotes Sigmund Freud;   

“One of the gratifying and exalting impressions which mankind can offer is when in the face of an elemental crisis, it forgets the discordancies of its civilisation and all its internal difficulties and animosities, and recalls the great common task of preserving itself against the superior power of nature,” Freud observed. 

Despite what the news services choose to tellpeople band together in times like these and become renewed in their awareness of and commitment to relationships and community.   

But the other thing about disasters is that they do change things.  

Furedi says, 

Time and again our fears of natural disaster have served as a catalyst for human ingenuity. 

 The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 encouraged the application of science to the construction of an urban infrastructure. After the floods that hit The Netherlands in 1953, the Dutch constructed an ingenious system of dykes that represents one of the technological wonders of the world.  

The sinking of the Titanic led to a review of passenger safety, leading to a significant reduction in the hazards of sea journeys.  

(The Weekend Australian, Saturday May 2, 2020) 

Might be the same for cruise ships after the Ruby Princess!  

He sums up:  

…..most important, this terrible pandemic can provide a timely reminder that belonging to a community is the most precious asset that human beings possess. 

Community becomes preciousThat is good. But there is much more, and Stephen and the others get to see it in their dark time  

They see Jesus there in this violence and injusticeThey, and now we, are allowed to see the first human raised from the dead present at the first murder of one of his followers – and Jesus’ presence transforms this death into life, this end into a beginning, this old way into a new way, this hate into forgiveness, this darkness into joy that lasts…  

And that is the thing: because of Jesus’ presence, this hard thing became a catalyst for a new thing.   

This death was pivotal for Jesus’ missionIt changed things, as any disaster does.    

From this day onward, we hear in Acts that the little first church was scattered. Under persecution, the Spirit scattered his people and their message far and wide  

The Holy Spirit used this tragic tough dark moment to revolutionise his church and move it from being a little ‘in-group’ in one measly city in the world, to fanning out into every known country in the world full of people from every nation and language in the world.   

Friends, I ask, is that what the Spirit is doing now? Transforming us into a new shape and space in his mission for this time? Our social distancing has actually re-connected us and we are more able to be together scattered and carry the gospel further?  

What is Jesus up to at this COVID time? I am not sure anyone can really answer that question fully. don’t think those first Christians would have has a clear picture of God’s big plans for his mission through them either. They just went and they took him with them wherever they went! Or rather, the Spirit took them with him wherever he went!  

Will we listen and be led into new places, new ways, new shapes of church  

I can imagine us being more connected as a community and at the same time being more scattered. We are connected people who know each other and care for each other, and we are scattered people being the gospel in our local streets and places  

Is the Spirit showing us that we are big church in small church? We gather as one and we go and gather as twos or fours or eights in groups.   

We are large worship gatherings, buildings, organisation, leadership, institution, solid, trustworthy, rightly ordered under Jesus, and we are small, closer relationships, agile, household based, on the lookout for people in our street, people at work, people at the club.  

We are a church as a network, a coop of house based gatherings around our area all connected together with the big church face-to-face, and now, like never before, able to access the larger gathering via digital means, and even in real time/live, in any given week  

Is this the lasting gift of COVID time? A big church that can be small; a network of small groups of Christians engaged in relating, caring, serving; all connected within the big group – and both where Jesus is present in his glory; forgiving, empowering, sustaining, revealing his new creation and converting people into it  

Friends, is the Spirit showing a different way to view ourselves – a big church small: Sunday worship always but people in my house in the week; conversations in my street, my club, my work, my park, connected Christians in smaller places where we can talk longer and deeper, we can eat together, we can listen to the Word, we can invite.  

Stephen is asleep with his King Jesus. Many are as they await the final great and glorious day of the final resurrection.   

We are not asleep yet. Sometimes we act like we are. So distracted, so busy, so settled with what is, as if nothing has changed and the world has not been rearranged.   

Even worse…. Sometimes we might be like those in Stephen’s time who just blocked their ears and kept on talking longer and louder than him to keep their needs and fears and vision of life.   

All the while they got angrier and angrier at the direct challenge to their comforts and expectations, and dreams and beliefs. They show that we would rather silence Jesus and his call than be challenged by him and change.   

Friends we are wise to not block your ears and keep on talking at this time as some did in Stephen’s time. We are wrong to kill the messenger who threatens our current way of living and being church. 

Better to simply hear the magnificent words of the First Martyr – the first one being killed for his witness. His words echo the Other One who has already been killed for his witness, and all to raise up dead sinners to the new life of his glory.  

“Lord, receive our spirit, today. Make us one. Scatter us and gather us as one. In it all let your rule reign so that our sins are not held against us but your good rule is proclaimed to this community”.   

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Next?

SermonPentecost Day, May 30, 2020

Numbers 11: 24-30 

28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 

Pentecost day. What a day! How must it have been in that big crowd from all over the known world were gathered in the city when the Spirit turned up in a visible way as promised by Jesus, and the first public proclamation of who Jesus really is and what he means for the world was preached by fisherman Pete!  

From this day in the epicentre of the new news of new life which would be transmitted not by the touch of a hand on some virus living surface, but from one to another by words and deeds of truth and love, the whole gospel-demic was clearly not directed by any one person or group of people’s will or skill. Like COVID 19, it has a life it’s own!   

The Spirit of God was directing this day and this new life spread. The Spirit directs the whole story of this first church in the Book of Acts. The Spirit is wild and freeHe always has been.  

Look at that account we heard in Numbers 11.   

We are out in the desert with Moses and the 70 chosen elders among God’s travelling people. The people are not happy, Jan  

They are hungrythirsty and covered in dust. They complain – not mildly, but seriously – like those long-suffering protesters in Honk Kong. The large stones are being gathered for a public stoning of God’s man, Moses.    

Moses responds. He sets up a meeting with the Lord and seventy clan leaders out around the Tabernacle. This is the PM’s National Cabinet!   

This leadership group need some credentials. They need the Lord’s approval and authority to lead. Everyone who is officially registered is there, or so it seems  

But two men, Eldad and Medad, are on the list but they are not in the meeting! They are still back in the camp. Maybe they slept in. Maybe they missed the memo. Maybe they just decided this is not for them and just pulled a sicky Who knows? But they are not in the organised, planned special Spiritfilled gathering around the Tabernacle.  

God is faithful. He comes to the meeting in support of the Moses, whom he had charged with leading this people. The glory cloud settles on the meeting  

Moses, or is it the Lord himself, put some of the Spirit that was with him (Moses) into these men.  

They began to ‘prophesy – ecstatic utterance – speaking in tongues, speaking in different languages, singing a song of faith, speaking some words of truth obviously beyond themselves 

But surprisingly we hear that Eldad and Medad also receive this special Spiritgift even though they are outside the plan, nowhere near the tabernacle – still at home where they live!    

A young kid sees this and runs out to MosesTwo guys are prophesying in the camp!”  

Joshua, Moses ever-faithful 2IC says, ‘Moses, stop these guys!’  

Why does Joshua say that? 

  • Is Joshua concerned for the right godly order of things. Right order is crucial for a community be fair and just and healthy. This is outside the plan, outside the organisation, outside the expectations, outside the group. It must be stopped lest…….lest what? We find out that we are actually not in charge and never are – God is? 
  • Is Joshua feeling a little undervalued? He has done all that has ever been asked of him since he was this lad’s age, and he never got to be given this kind of special gift in the Tabernacle or out in the camp. This is not fair. I don’t understand this ‘super-spiritual stuff’ and want it removed. 
  • Is Joshua protecting his leader and community? He does not want God, Mosesthe Tabernacle or the community disrespected or disobeyed. Maybe he is quite sensitive to this. The people have been giving Moses curry’. These guys could be getting those stones ready!

Moses nails it  

“Joshua, are you jealous for MY sake?”  

Joshua, you are faithful person. You seem worried that I am offended by this unexpected and unplanned show of God’s presence or threatened by it, because it is an assault on my organisational skills, my status among the people, my spiritual greatness with Godmy will for the people.   

I am not threatened at all by this sign of the Spirit’s presence; this speaking of God’s word, outside my organisation, planning and understanding!   

Why? Because it is God’s Spirit at work and that is enough for me and can be enough for you too, my faithful friend.  

But how can he tell? Only one way  The Word. Because these guys, like the other 68, are speaking GOD’S WORD; not words of pagan gods or just their words. They are speaking God’s word (prophesying) 

THEIR WORDS show that this is the Spirit of God at work, even when outside the human plan, outside what are used to and expect, beyond our normal and our human understanding or ability.     

Moses says to a loyal and faithful Joshua, I wish everyone in the whole camp could receive this special moment of God’s Spirit. I wish they all could have what I have been given.   

Do you remember someone else saying similar words in a similar moment?  

38 ‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ 

Jesus sounds like Moses:  

39 ‘Do not stop him,’For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,40 for whoever is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40) 

A person who confesses faith in Jesus and is doing his work is not against us.   

Friends, the Holy Spirit has always moved among unexpected people in unexpected places, and as we are learning in this COVID time, unexpected ways!   

I wonder what the wild and free Spirit of Jesus is up to in this very unique time.   

I hear today, on Pentecost Day, that wdon’t get to restrain, control, withhold or determine where and with whom the Spirit moves and works.   

We do get to listen to the words spoken which tell us that this is God’s Spirit and those words will always in one way or another say “Jesus is Lord”As Paul says;  

3 ….. I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3) 

 We can’t gather in the Temple together as one yet. But I heard Jesus proclaimed with joy in one of our house groups last Sunday.   

A group formed themselves together and invited me to come and join in and celebrate Holy Communion with them. I was with Eldad and Medad out in the camp! It was great.   

One thing is clear so far. Our goal is not to ‘return to normal’ as quickly as possible so we can return to our usual undisrupted comfy life.   

That would be like Moses shutting Eldad and Medad down; robbing them of the joy, the community of the blessing.   

I believe the Spirit is calling us like he called Moses, Joshua, the disciples, the first church leaders and millions ever since to watch and pray; to listen to his Word and share it as we are surprised at just how he is working at transforming his church to meet the current moment as he always has.   

Friends, gather small, listen to the Spirit’s Word, speak the Spirit’s Word, and pray the Spirit’s Word. We don’t need to get back to normal’ as much as we can go to what’s next.   

On Pentecost Day we hear plenty of inspiration to enter what is next for us as a mission church and for you as a Spirit-filled baptized loved person of Jesus.    

As Paul encourages us;  

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit….”  (1 Corinthians 14:1)

 Friends, love each other, eagerly seek the wild and free work of God’s Spirit in his Word, because;  

 “Whoever (and whatever) is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40) 

Unrestricted

SermonAscension Day, May 24th, 2020St Petri

 Luke 24:44-53 

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

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

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

Friends, we, as church, may have ‘left the building’ for a time, but Jesus has not ‘left the building’ of planet earth or our lives. That is the grand good news of Ascension Day.   

If there was ever a moment to listen to the man up on the hill speaking final words to his soon to be church as he shifts places from seen to unseen, from only one place and time to all places and times, it is now.   

Jesus now switches places from filling one city to filling all cities; from filling one human life to filling all human lives, from being present in one place and time in history to being present across all time and places in time, including ours.   

This is why he says to his friends before the whole crucifixion and resurrection event even happened: 

28 ‘You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. (John 14:28-29) 

He tells again that he is not seen as he once was, and that this is good for us. Because even more than this COVID virus, Jesus ‘goes viral’ as he takes up his reign high on that ascension hill, and unlike this COVID virus, his rule brings new life and heals our bodies and our world.   

Unlike us, Jesus is now unrestricted; hidden and yet heard and known by his voice to the eyes of faith – our faith.   

How can you put your faith in his presence and all his words to you? Hear how Luke tells us of the moment: Three things tell you that Jesus has not left us.    

CLOUD 

Jesus ascends and is hidden in a cloud, says Luke. This is no mere fluffy white cumulonimbus cloud or some mere foggy misty cloud. This is the ‘Glory Cloud’, the visible sign of God’s presence. Just like in the OT where God dwelt with his people in the “glory cloud” on My Sinai or on the desert journey or in the tabernacle and then the Jerusalem Temple, the cloud is a sign of God’s presence not his absence. Jesus is not alone. He is enveloped by the Father. He is not leaving but is shifting to be being present in a different way – a much more complete way.   

BLESSING 

To bring that same truth home Luke tells us that Jesus is doing something as he is moving – Jesus is blessing his people as he ascendsThe God-given gift in which Jesus ascends; the last word that he speaks that changes the human heart is blessing. Not goodbye”, or “I’ll be back”, or all the best as you figure out how to be good enough or do enough and be enough to please me, but “Bless you…”.   

And the tense of the Greek words is a never ending present. “The Lord is blessing you and will bless you forever, the Lord is making his face to shine upon you and will forever, the Lord is looking with favour upon you, and will forever….”  

JOY FILLED PEOPLE 

From gloomy fear and doubt to unrestricted hope and joy! These once fearful and disappointed people are jumping for joy. Like when you experience something good you never thought possible or even knew existed before the moment happened, their inner being is on fire.   

With all this COVID stuff and reflections on WWII it inspires, I think of that famous footage from 1945 of the guy in a suit and a hat dancing and jumping on a city street in Melbourne as the tram rolls behind him with thousands of fellow Aussies experiencing a joy they never thought would come as the announcement comes that that terrible war is finally over.   

The disciples are like that hopping, skipping man. They know his love, his peace in a Holy Spirit driven way. They are become unstoppable as they live together worshiping in the ancient worship of God at the city Temple and sharing their lives together in their homes and streets from this moment on.    

So, can you see, the Ascension is all about Jesus’ being fully present in every way in blessing which creates joy and hopeHe ascends to be fully present in every dimension – spiritual, physical, psychological, emotional…..and his presence is one of blessing for his people.   

Is this why Paul can lead us in this prayer   

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule, authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the age to come” (Ephesians 1:18-21). 

Friends, Jesus rules. How? He rules in mercy and forgiveness by his Word. By his Spirit Word he gives an everlasting inheritance to any sinner who calls on his name in repentance and faith.    

Surely this gives us confidence and hope for now in this restricted time and later when it is not., because he is unrestricted in both.   

 Our faith, our hope, and our love are never restricted because the Spirit of Christ is not restricted by anything. He reigns in peace and blessing when we are together or alone, gathered in one big church building or being little churches in our homes. 

Jesus still has church gathered small for his mission  

I believe he is rebuilding our relationships and taking them to a deeper level in this restricted time  

We might be becoming a church that is shaped like a network of smaller ‘little churches’ gathered around our area where nurture, care, fellowship, learning and witness fan out in even more ways in our streets.   

Maybe this COVID time is the Spirit making us a bit like Jesus when he ascended –  Jesus not merely in one place and time, but across all places and times. We are moving from gathering in one building at one time to gathering to in buildings at different times as Jesus continues to call us to participate with the Spirit in the same mission – to share the love and hope of Jesus.  

I wonder. ….. i wonder whether you wonder? 

Whoever you are, however you are, wherever you are, there is the Spirit calling, gathering, enlightening you today by the powerful word of this hidden yet gloriously ruling Saviour  

Jump for joy today, like they did when the War was over; like the Apostle’s did as they came down from the mountain to gather together and praise God whom they now knew as so much more than they previously knew – now a kind and loving Father, a Ruling brother and Saviour, a calling and enlightening Spirit always with them.  

Rekindle

SermonEaster 6A, Sunday May 17, 2020.

St Petri.  

John 14:15-21 (13:33- 14:31) 

13:33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come. 

34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ 

36 Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ 

Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ 

37 Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ 

38 Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times! 

14:1 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ 

Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ 

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know[b] my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ 

Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ 

Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. 

 15 ‘If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me any more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.’ 

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ 

23 Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 

25 ‘All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

28 ‘You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. 

 I have heard Christians saying that they hope this COVID threat will bring people back to Jesus.   

We hope that the many ‘happy pagans’ who may believe a bit of this and a bit of that about the world and God and themselves, or believe nothing of the sort, might be prompted by this disruption to ask serious questions about life, and as they do, somehow find Jesus’s way, truth and life.   

It is a good hope! But I suspect it might be a bit misguided. It may even be a bit like Grandma’s peaches; a bit self-preserving! We preserve our own settled life and God is the one who will somehow bring questioning sinners to faith…… They get disrupted. We stay safe. He will do all the work. We will get the benefit.   

I know that it is true that we have nothing to offer God for all his kindness in adopting us as his dearly loved sons and daughters. But think we are more a part of people coming to a loving relationship with God than we probably wish to know….  

I say this because of what I hear in this conversation with Jesus in the Upper Room  

Jesus has already spoken of an unwelcome moment comingBack in Bethany after Mary had anointed him for burial ahead of time, Jesus says:  

‘You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.’ (John 12:8) 

 This little community have been with Jesus for a fair while. They have seen many things. They have pondered many words, asked many questions. They have hoped for much.   

Now, as the annual Passover meal comes around like clockwork, Jesus disrupts their comfy expectations  

First, there is that foot washing business. It is disruptive. It is hard to be served liked that. It is a direct challenge to my illusion of self-sufficiency.  

And then, like when a dinner guest at your place starts to talk about the two subjects you never talk about at a happy dinner party: politics or religion – and keeps on speaking; the disruption continues when Jesus speaks of being betrayed by someone in the very room. Third: Jesus then speaks of Peter’s shameful betrayal that will be completed by sunrise.  

Feeling a little disrupted yet?   

Dealing with this disruption, four of them speak.  

Peter: 

37 …. ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ 

 In other words, Take me with you, Jesus. I’m a celebrity. Get me out of here!. I have earnt it! I can do it  

Jesus responds:  

38 …..,‘Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the cock crows, you will disown me three times! 

 Peter, alone, you will fail. You cant earn truth and life or live like you can. These are all given gifts, not earned payments. I will have to give you it all. It will cost me everything and be free for you, and yet you will gladly give everything for it because it is so good.     

Thomas:  

5 …., ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ 

 Jesus, show us the Future: Then I can believe’. “Jesus, we don’t know your future, so we don’t know ours. Tell us our future, that will do it.  

6 Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 

 Thomas, I am your future and your present. You don’t need to know your future because I am your future every day.   

 Philip:  

8,….. ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ 

 Jesus, show us God: Then we can believe. Lord, if we can see him up close for real, that would do it. We’d all feel better. 

Jesus responds:  

How can you say, “Show us the Father”?10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? 

 Phillip, you see me; you see the Father. You don’t need some big miraculous experience of God the Father revealing himself because he already has – in me – in full.   

Judas (the other Judas):  

22  ……. ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ 

 ‘Jesus, show them GodThen we will be able to believe you. “Jesus, if they see God in one big undeniable clear way, that would do it.   

Jesus responds: 

23 …….‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 

 Judas, I do show them God the Father – through you  

Judas, they see the Father, me and the Spirit – God in total, through you. You show them the Father every day!   

‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:19) 

 Love each other. That is enough for their seeing of God.   

Friends, we are involved in people coming to a living trust in Jesus.   

This pandemic won’t bring people to a loving relationship with their heavenly Father. It is raising good questions. But, like any hard thing, this is all it can do. This crisis time needs something else. It needs someone to say something into those good questions.  

It is us. We are the ‘super-carriers’ of the healing virus, called ‘the gospel’! We are carriers of the antidote to not just COVID 19 but life without God’s goodness and blessing and love – in other words hell on earth.   

“But we can’t do it either”, we say. True, but not true….  

If we speak just our words, our dreams, our understanding, our visions, our ways, our truths…. We cannot be God’s super-carriers of life.   

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 

 The Holy Spirit makes us super-carriers of God’s life for dead people.   

How so? The Spirit of God is now not just ‘with us’ but ‘in’ us.   

“…But you know him (the Holy Spirit), for he lives with you and will be in you. (John 14:17) 

 As we ourselves are also disrupted in all this, the Spirit is our Advocate.   

  • He transforms our lack of courage and over-dependence on our own work and skill and understandings (Peter), 
  •  he takes our demands for control over our future (Thomas),  
  • our demands for a show of strength to convince us (Phillip),  
  • our demands for a show of his strength to convince those who do not believe (Judas).  

 By Jesus’ Word, the Spirit gives us the Father’s forgiveness shot’ that kills our ‘divided wandering heart’ and makes us ‘super-spreaders of his undeserved love all our lives, and in all parts of our lives.    

This pandemic will not make them believe and neither will all the miracles in Jerusalem! In the suffering, grief, disruption to normal life and the questions it raises, the Spirit will call them to believe his words and the life through us  

So, adopted orphans of Jesus, baptised in the Spirit by the Father’s mighty hand,  

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more 

Or close the wall up with our community’s dead!  

(William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III) 

Into the call of the Spirit we go, friends. Not as disconnected, diseased and despairing orphans isolated in fear, but as community of grace gathered and scattered in little groups, together and alone; but together in him; the way truth and life for every orphan of God in this community.  

Be disrupted with real hope and no fear. The Spirit makes this disruption holy and of great purpose.   

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  

 

 

 

 

 

Suffering. Called. Saved.

Sermon, 4th Sunday of Easter, GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY

Mitchell Kitson,  Australian Lutheran College Pastoral Ministry student.

1 Peter 2:19-25

19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22 ‘He committed no sin,
    and no deceit was found in his mouth.’[a]

23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ 25 For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’[b] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Today, we are reflecting on God’s Word from the second chapter of 1 Peter. Let’s pray.

Lord, we thank you for giving us a way to hear your Word even though we can’t be together physically. Good Shepherd, show us where we have gone astray and guide us back home. In
Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Life as Christians isn’t always smooth sailing, is it? In fact, Martin Luther says that one of the marks of the church is suffering. We’re in the Easter season, when we remember Jesus’
suffering for us, which gives us a whole new perspective on suffering.

So, as Christians, how should we understand suffering? What place does it have in our lives as people of faith? In this early part of his letter, the apostle Peter addresses Christians struggling with
suffering and questions like this, and so we will listen to the text under these three headings: we are suffering, we are called, we are saved.

So, the first part: we are suffering.

Not all suffering is the same, is it? Sometimes, suffering is a result of things we do. If we don’t warm-up properly before physical activity, we can suffer injury. If we aren’t careful with our money,
we can suffer financially. If we lie to cover something up, we suffer the guilt of knowing we have done wrong.

But there is another kind of suffering which is harder to understand. Sometimes we suffer for what seems to be no good reason, or we might think it’s unfair.

I think that’s particularly clear to us right now, in lots of ways. Many are suffering terrible illness around the world, and as a result, many are also suffering great loss. You only have to watch the
first five minutes of the 6 o’clock news to know that.

But we are also suffering in less obvious ways. Life without physically gathering together is really difficult for many of us. Yes, there is technology to help us deal with that, but it’s just not the same,
is it? Not to mention having to stop physically gathering on Sunday mornings and sharing the holy meal.

We are surrounded by so much uncertainty at the moment, which causes many people to suffer stress and anxiety.

When Scott Morrison posted an Easter greeting video on Facebook on Easter Sunday, I was amazed by how many derogatory comments there were under it. I knew there were people out
there who target Christians for a whole bunch of reasons, but I didn’t expect it to be so bad.

This kind of thing is happening to many Christians on social media and even on the streets, but it’s also happening in less obvious ways. Sometimes Christians are left out of social events because
of their faith. Sometimes Christians are measured against a ridiculously high moral standard because that’s what people think our faith is all about. It happens to people of all ages, all over the
place.

These kinds of suffering aren’t a result of a wrong we’ve committed—they just happen, and we are faced with a challenge.

God says something surprising here, calling it a “gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” Enduring unjust suffering for doing good is a gracious
thing.

He’s saying to those persecuted Christians, “God hasn’t left you!” In a way that we struggle to get our heads around, God is working his grace in our lives. He as flipped suffering completely,
giving us a new way to see it.

So, the first part: we are suffering. Next: we are called.

Rather than trying to escape it, like the world tells us to, Peter says that we are called to endure it.

Enduring unjust suffering is a gracious thing, a Christ-like thing. God helps us to see suffering as an opportunity, rather than something to avoid.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his footsteps,” verse 21 says. Jesus’ suffering was completely unjust,
undeserved. He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. Yet, he went to the cross.

What would you do if you were falsely accused of something? The most natural response would be to defend yourself, wouldn’t it? After all, you have a right to do so.

Jesus didn’t respond that way, even though he had the chance. In fact, he did the opposite. He was silent before his accusers. When Peter tried to fight for him in the garden, he said, “Peter, put
the sword away.”

He knew the Scriptures back-to-front. Surely, he could have used them to defend his innocence so well that they couldn’t argue with him. No—he remained silent.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth,” it says in Isaiah 53.

Why? Why wouldn’t he defend himself? Peter learned from Jesus’ example that God does is best work for us and in us in suffering.

Jesus’ silence frustrated the high priests so much that they had him killed. I think when non- Christians target us, and we remain silent and go about our business, it frustrates them too.
Jesus entrusted himself, or “gave up himself” to the one who judges justly. Rather than listening to his accusers and letting that get to him, he trusted in who God said he is: “This is my Son, whom
I love,” he said at his baptism. Only God’s judgment matters.

We suffer, but we are called, and the third part? We are saved.

Our suffering in this world isn’t all there is. God has given us a new way to see by sending us Jesus. His suffering for us is our example, which we are called to follow. But even more, his
suffering has saved us from the eternal punishment our sin deserves.

He was completely innocent. His suffering, which was grossly unjust, has freed us from eternal punishment, which is entirely just. Your sin calls for punishment, but you don’t have to bear that
because Christ already has for you. His death gives you life. By his wounds you have been healed.

Even though we suffer, Peter shows us that we are saved people. Jesus is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.

We’ll keep on going astray—that’s what we humans are best at. That’s why we need the Good Shepherd to call us back into the flock. Just like sheep do, we’ll keep on wandering off and being turned back again until one day, Christ calls all people of faith to be with him in his kingdom forever.

How does the shepherd turn his sheep around? His Word. We might be going without Holy Communion at the moment, but we will always have his Word. So read your Bible, keep tuning in
to church and encourage each other, because that’s how God speaks and gives us the strength to endure.

He is the Overseer of our souls. He does not leave us unguarded, exposed or vulnerable, but watches over and protects us through whatever and however we are suffering. Psalm 23
captures it perfectly: he leads us in the righteous path, he is with us even in the darkness of our suffering, and he provides us with everything we need forever.

When you suffer for your faith, or whenever you suffer in body or soul, remember that you have been saved by Christ, who is the Good Shepherd who cares deeply for his sheep.
And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Promise Keeper Peace

SermonWorship Small, Sunday April 19, 2020

Easter 2A  

John 20:19-31 

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 

Again Jesus said, “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.” 

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believthat Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. 

 As I ponder this account of that first moment of resurrection for the people involved, I am struck by how our God is a promise keeper  

am struck with how many times the gospel witnesses explain who Jesus is and why he did what he did as being, “According to the Scriptures”, or “that the Scriptures might be fulfilled”, or ‘he opened their minds to understand Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”  

It strikes me that Jesus did everything to keep the Scriptures – to keep the Father’s promises already promised to a troubled creation suffering under the incurable virus called death.   

Everything Jesus does is to complete these promises of God to reset the world. Like the darkness of this COVID-19 virus is actually helping the air over the Great Wall of China and the sea water in the canals of Venice heal and reset, so this darkness of betrayal, denial, lack of belief and lack of courage; this dying alone with the eyes of his enemies gloating upon him allows the resetting of the word according to God’s promises in Jesus. Our God is a promise Keeper! At huge cost to himself he keeps his promises to you.   

Right from his birth to his resurrection, all the promises are kept.  

  • The Saviour would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1) 
  • He would be a descendent and rightful heir to King David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-13, Luke 1:32-33) 
  • He would be falsely BETRAYED (Zechariah 11:12-13, Matthew 26:14-16) 
  • He would be silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7, Mark 15:4-5) 
  • He would be given wine vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21, John 19:28-32) 
  • No bone would be broken (Exodus 12:46, John 19:33-36) 
  • He would be mocked and ridiculed (Psalm 22:7-8, Luke 23:34) 
  • He would be forsaken by his Father (Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46). 
  • His side would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10, John 20:25-27). 
  • He would rise from the grave (Psalm 16:10, Matthew 28:2-7). 
  • He would claim his rulership and victory over all evil for all people for all time (Psalm 24:7-10, Luke 24:51) 
  • He would be the means by which this dying world would receive new creation life; new air in its lungs (Isaiah 53:5-12, Romans 5:6-8)

This is just a sample of all the promises kept by our Promise Keeper, God   

Those Easter morning witnesses had trouble believing this about God at first. They had trouble trusting that all the promises of God they had grown up with were now delivered in full in this man they loved but saw die.   

But you can sense this gradual lifting of the eyes in this first community of Jesus as John tells of this first week of the new Kingdom dawning. Like being on a high hill seeing the sun slowly make its way across the plain to light up where you stand, these everyday people slowly began to understand just how faithful God is and just how completely he had delivered on his promises to reset this old world and reset my wayward heart so completely. They saw him die and now they get to see him live!  

And John wants us to be in no doubt that we who have come after him and the others are in no way disadvantaged because we did not see exactly what they saw.   

He tells us of Thomas just needing to see to truly believe so that we know we no longer have to see to believeThomas and the others did need to see to believe, but even with that their Easter faith was not quite complete.  

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

But how can we believe without seeing?  

John tells us: 

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believthat Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. 

 We don’t need to see like Thomas because we can hear like Thomas. Jesus word is enough for all the believing you will ever need. His word tells you again this morning that you don’t need to see to believe but that you now see because you believe.   

You don’t believe because you see, you see because you believe!  

You have the eyes that only repentance and faith create. Our wonderful medical technology wont do it. Our economic stimulus package won’t do it. Our reliance on our skills and resources wont do – they cant bring the gifts faith brings – gifts of lasting and deep peace and joy and hope no matter what.   

Friends, as a church we have temporarily lost our shape, our form, our structure. We feel disconnected and dispersed. We are not sure we will ever make it back to the way it was before. Some might be glad about that! Others may be heart-broken  

But hear John: We don’t need to see what we are used to seeing because we can hear what we have always heard – his words in these gospels; in his holy book of life that gives us all the life we need. 

This is the time when the Holy Spirit is drawing you in to being a person who trusts his promises by the ears and into the heart.   

Trust the Promise Keeper ow. Hear these gospel witnesses and marvel at how far God has come to get you, how detailed he gets, how extensive his love is that give us all we need to live in this isolating time.   

As Peter and John and Mary’s and others found out, faith in God’s gracious acceptance is not founded on things we see or understand or do or don’t do or can make happen.   

Our faith and its hope and joy are based on Jesus’ speaking – according to the Scriptures – according the promises of our God.   

His hope and joy come via the ears as we turn to him. call on hm. Seek him and listen to him speak in his Word.   

You want to be less anxious? You want to know peace? You want to believe that you have a future beyond this? Then repent of all the times you forget or disregard Jesus’ word and turn to him in it again.    

He will breathe new life into you as he did at the start. The wounded Saviour breathes! He breathes his real peace in his real word into them in that scared room and turns it to peace and joy. Same for you now.   

He breathes his peace into your room there and turns it into peace and joy today.    

“Peace be with you”. Says the Promise Keeper. 

In believing you can now see”   

So we breathe with Paul; Even in these strange days, 

you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:7-9) 

« Older posts