Author: Adrian Kitson (page 1 of 26)

The Challenge of “I DO”. Jesus on marriage, adultery, divorce and re-marriage

Sermon, Epiphany 6A, Sunday February 16, 2020

Matthew 5:25-37  

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. 

31 You have been taught that a man who divorces his wife must write out divorce papers for her.[g] 32 But I tell you not to divorce your wife unless she has committed some terrible sexual sin.[h] If you divorce her, you will cause her to be unfaithful, just as any man who marries her is guilty of taking another man’s wife. 

 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfil to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. 

Jesus’ words here in the Sermon on the Mount, have a particular targetHe is challenging a flagrant disregard for marriage 

 Mostly men, in his community, are twisting the original Old Testament law around marriage and divorce to make things easier for themselves.  

 In Deuteronomy 24:1-14, Moses acknowledges that divorce does happen. He gives a way in which a marriage, if it absolutely must, can end with some semblance of dignity, and less pain, particularly for the woman. 

 Moses says; 

  1. If the husband wants to end the relationship for whatever reason, he must at least provide his wife with an official certificate of divorce. This tells everyone in town that this woman has not been unfaithful or done anything wrong. 
  2. The certificate also acknowledges the seriousness of the break. Once that break is made, Moses says there is no coming back to the relationship. Marriage is a gift. Breaking it is a big deal. You can’t simply pretend nothing has happened and no damage has been done.   

‘Divorce’ in Jesus’ community is done by ‘abandonment’. Married men are simply abandoning their spouse in the pursuit of a bit of ‘fun’ on the side, and then turning up back home pretending that was OK and wanting the so called ‘marriage’ to continue! Either that, or they are simply shooing their wife away quietly so they can carry on with another woman and attract no blame 

 Same in Luther’s day. In a sermon on this text in 1530, Luther describes this total disregard for marriage. Men (mainly) ended their marriage as quietly as possible. You just abandon your wife and kids for another womanIf the woman was married, it was just a matter of getting that other husband to give her up to you without it being said that the he had made her do that  

Basically, Luther says, “in matters of marriage and divorce everyone acted pretty much as he pleased, without being ashamed or having a bad conscience about it.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 21, pp. 92–93). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 

 What’s the issue? Luther puts it well; 

We have no right to make marriage a free thing, as though it were in our power to do with as we pleased, changing and exchanging. But the rule is the one Christ pronounces (Matt. 19:6): “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” 

 Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 21: The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 21, p. 94). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 

 So, Jesus speaks into this total disregard of God’s gift of marriage. He calls people back to God’s life-filled intention for marriage; a life-long relationship of partnership with intimacy, and with trust, joy and blessing. Jesus affirms the truth that; 

  1. God is the creator and giver of this fundamental human gift. Life-long faithful loving union of male and female is part of the fabric of this life on planet earth – from tribes in the PNG highlands to the wedding celebrant in the Barossa winery. (Genesis 1:27,28; 2:18–24; Matthew 19:3–9; Augsburg Confession 16 and 28; Apology 23.9).  
  2.  Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. I know Australia has decided otherwise, and there is a huge issue to talk about there, but not now. This union excludes all other people. It is publicly and voluntarily entered into for the whole of life (Matthew 19:6; 1 Corinthians 7:39).  

 The purpose of marriage is;  

  • to unite one man and one woman so that they become ‘one flesh’; partners in life, best friends to face the world together. In this relationship the each one is the complement of the other (Matthew 19:5)  
  • for those couples called to parenting (not all couples are), marriage is the place to produce children and to nurture them within the framework of a family (Ephesians 6:1–4)  
  • to provide a safe place for a man and a woman to have the closest trust and intimacy possible between two people (including sexual but not only sexual) (1 Corinthians 7:2,3).  

 God wants this gift to bring life. He protects the gift by forbidding unfaithfulness (10 Commandments, Ex 20:14). Most challenging for the people hearing this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that unfaithfulness can be in the twinkling eye across the room, not just actual sex. It is a heart matter.  

 Oh, but don’t we know that marriages break. Christians get divorced too.  I know plenty of people to whom this terrible pain has happened, including people I love in my own family. The pain is so deep and damage so extensive.   

Marriage is a beautiful gift for all people. Any cheapening of it; any easy selfish or trivial use of it where we act like we get to use this gift any way WE decide is not how it is at its best  

Jesus calls to hang on to it at all costsIf this relationship if troubled can be saved by any means, then do it. It all needs to come to genuine repentance and forgiveness. That is God’s Plan A for all of life, not just marriage.    

But as we know, couples cannot always find the way to true reconciliation.   

Jesus obviously knows this. He concedes divorce as a last resort on two grounds; unfaithfulness/abandonment, and an unworkable differences because of faith in him. 

  • Matthew 5:32unless a partner has committed some terrible sexual sin.  
  • Matthew 19:9; unless he/she has committed some terrible sexual sin. 
  • Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:15, “But if the unbelieving partner separates/leaves, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you”.  

Why is marriage hard? 

 When his friends asked him, “If God said that what he puts together no one should ever separate then; 

 “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” 

 Jesus responds: 

 “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so”. (Matthew 19:7-8) 

 That is the heart of the problem – the human heart.  

 But what grace. Even though this beautiful life-long relationship of repentance and forgiveness, of intimacy and meaning is God’s Plan A for those called to be married (not all are), he is aware that it can and does break. It breaks because we have a heart problem 

There is hope today for anyone who has ever failed at marriage or failed at anything! There is hope when you have been wronged and damaged and when you have done the wrong and caused the damage.  

 Our heart problem of loving things and people more than God, seeking life in everything but his promises and power, doubting his forgiveness and not living in it has been healed and can be healed by the forgiveness won for us by Jesus.   

Forgiveness for the married, the adulterer and the divorced that has been hard won for you is here.   

And what about being married again? Is it OK in God’s eyes? It seems not, or at least not easily or automatically, as if nothing has happened.   

There is no automatic approval given for the re-marriage of divorced people (Matthew 5:32, 19:9 and 1 Corinthians 7:15). Divorce always brings the possibility of unfaithfulness into play. No one is squeaky clean when divorce happens.   

“If you divorce your wife, you will cause her to be unfaithful, just as any man who marries her is guilty of taking another man’s wife. (Matthew 5:32) 

 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery”. (Matthew 19:9) 

 Many divorced Christians, take this word at face value. They will never marry again. They believe that it is wrong for Christians who have had their chance at marriage and failed, to marry again. They say that Christian leaders/pastors should not re-marry people. I can see why they would hold this firm line – to obey the Lord, protect the gift of marriage from more abuse and avoid more pain!   

But this is not just any person speaking about marriage. This is Jesus, God himself, The Bridegroom of his Bride, the church.   

In his sermon by the sea, Jesus is upholding the Old Law. He says it is not to be discarded. But he also says, “You have heard it said……but I now say……”. He is doing something new with that old Law, and it is NOT making a whole new LawHe knows that would lead to the same dead end it did before he came.   

He says he came to FULFILL the old Law, not make us live by a new set of laws.   

How? He himself is keeping God’s Law perfectly. He will, live the perfect life we heart patients could not live, and die a perfect death that we could never die. He will do this by his heart of love for us.  

Like a couple on their wedding day, Jesus on that cross publicly and voluntarily commits to a life-long relationship of love with us; in blood. He does call us his Bride!  

There are Christians who have been through the deep pain of divorce who have fully acknowledged their fault before the other and before the Lord, done all they could to reach some kind of true reconciliation with their estranged partner, who never expected to or wanted to marry again.   

And then to their great surprise they have met someone they love and who loves them. They have sat with me and given all thanks to Jesus for this unexpected new gift of partnership. They cannot believe that Jesus would be so good to them after they have been so bad at marriage! They cannot stop thanking him for this second chance.  want to honour him and each other by getting married.    

Would Jesus say, ‘No. Too late. You had your chance and you blew it”. If he treated me this way in any of my many wrongs, I would have no life, no chance, no joy and no hope for my many failures and their pain  

hear him say, “Repent and believe the good news of my Father’s grace. Take marriage deadly seriously. If you want to re-enter relationship covenant of marriage, then do it my way.   

Re-marriage is no easy thing, and it is not automaticBut it is possible in Jesus’ grace.   

No divorced person I know got married to get divorced. People make mistakes. They hurt each other. Sometimes they own their part in it and sometimes they just keep on blaming. Either way, divorce, unfaithfulness, the loss of partner through death…. all just hurt.  

Jesus takes our hurt to his cross and removes it. He affirms marriage as his beautiful gift of life and love for us. He hates it when marriage is broken  

He lays down his life for broken people and their broken marriages. He offers new beginnings.   

He calls us to live in his forgiveness in marriage and out of marriage. Sometimes he allows a new marriage for a divorced person. Sometimes he does not.   

Either way, he loves his Bride, his church of broken and yet new people. Either way, he loves you, no matter the pain, the loss, the wrong, the damage.   

Begin again in the grace of the Groom today. As he says, with him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).   



It is our responsibility as Pastors and friends to ask many questions of divorced people seeking to marry again; not to judge them but to help them find the truth and be healthy and aware in any new relationship.   

For divorced people seeking to enter marriage again we ask questions like: 

  • Does the divorced person know and want to live in God’s good will for marriage? Have they heeded the warnings Jesus gives about cheapening marriage, making adultery and divorce easy? Do they fully appreciate the destruction this brings upon people – especially children? ( I think most people do actually innately know this) 
  • Is the attitude of the divorced person to their former spouse one of respect, and genuine concern for the wellbeing of that person?   
  • Has the divorced person shown genuine repentance for their part in the failure of the previous marriage and do they enter this new possibility with a deep commitment to repentance and forgiveness in Christ as the only way to live faithfully in marriage for Christians?  
  • Has the person done the right things in making sure their ex-spouse is OK financially, legally and socially? 
  • Has the divorced person seriously considered remaining unmarried as a way of serving the Lord?  
  • Is the person having a good go at removing and correcting those factors which contributed to the divorce.  
  • Does the person’s prospective partner have some grasp of all this and some commitment to learn God’s will for marriage and how great a gift it is? 




Spicy Light

Sermon, Epiphany 5A, Sunday February 9, 2020.

Spicy Light 

Matthew 5:13-16 

13 ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 

14 ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 

 I like salt. I like it too much. Potato chips, fish and chips, salt on a ham and tomato sandwich, mettwurst….The list goes on. Unfortunately, I grew up in a salty food home.  Anything cooked, whether boiled, fried or baked had salt added to it. Needless to say, I watch the salt now! I use it sparingly when I cook. But I do use it. It just brings out the taste in things.   

And that is the thing about salt; you never use it by itself. Ever been at the beach and inadvertently gulped in a mouth full of seawater? Yuck! Salt is only ever used with other things. Salt is only useful, only reaches it fulfilment when it is used with and for other things, like a beautiful pasta or those yummy potato chips that we shouldn’t eat!  

Same for light. Light does not exist for itself. Light exists for everything else around. Light makes living possible. This is a bit hard for us to really get. We live after 1879 when Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb. Light in darkness is pretty easy for us.    

But remember that camping trip? Remember those days when night was lit by gas or kerosene lamps right here in the Barossa. Some can! Remember that blackout when you had to scurry around trying to find the torch with which to cook tea? That is how it was for the people hearing this word about light. Every evening they had to find the wood, the oil and the spark to light their fire and lamps to live after dark.   

Whether easy or hard, light and salt don’t exist just for themselves. They are things that exist to make life happen for other things. And of all things Jesus could have used to name the people with him, he used these things; salt and light. Was it to help them see who they really were in his eyes; in his kingdom mission?   

I think is was. I think it still is. He is saying to us again, that we do not exist for ourselves. We exist to give zest and function and ability to enjoy and live life to other people. We are at our best when we are living with and for others.  

Interesting that he names the people on the seaside slope ‘salt’ and ‘light’. In this Sermon on the Mount scene, Jesus says they are already salt and light. The people did not seem to do much to be these things. He just says they just are. What makes them salt and light?  

It must be hearing Jesus’ word that makes them people of use and value to others in Jesus’ missions. As people hear him speaking, he makes them salt and light. They certainly don’t make themselves spicy and bright. His words in their ears makes them light and spice.  

This is good news. This means that you and I don’t have to know a lot, be especially gifted at anything, be of a certain good moral fibre or family stock, or even be particular religious to be salt and light among others.   

What a relief! You don’t have to be particularly smart or good with words, or clever in argument to be a person who exists for the spice and lighting up of others. The only thing you need to be a person who brings good taste and great light to another person is Jesus; his words; listening to Jesus; hearing his words about you and what he is doing in and through you.   

But it is obviously possible to NOT be salt and light for others. Jesus gives that warning to stay salty and bright. We can limit our seasoning, lighting up gits to others.   

We can somehow lose our ‘saltiness, he says. When that happens, salt is just a powder on the ground that has no particular use. We can stick a big cover over ourselves that hides the light from others. 

Why would we do that? How do we do that? I can think of some reasons: 

Maybe you think you are not good enough to be of use in Jesus’ mission to others? Maybe in these changing times, we Christians have developed a thorough going inferiority complex.   

We seem to at times suffer from a complete lack of confidence in bringing Jesus into the conversation and telling his story and sharing his promises to people.   

I hear this lack of spice and cover over our light as we would rather talk about anything other than our relationship with Jesus and each other – all those promises, those stories of real people in real situations wit Jesus that give us light and spice up our life.   

I see this cover over our light as we for some reasons compare ourselves to the other so called, ‘good Christians’ or ‘successful’ churches, concluding that if only we could have their light, their spice, then we would be a ‘better Christian or ‘successful church’.  Rather than seeking to follow the light Jesus has already made us; seeking to discern and do what the Holy Spirit is doing right here in and through us in our place, we hide that away or leave it outside in the weather to be hidden; to be lost.   

I hear stories of the past as sometime covering up the salt and light now. As we sometimes tell the stories of salt and light in the past when we were the centre of town and we built things, had big programs and ministries we get dim and bland on thanking God for every good salty light thing that happened then, but now trust that his salt and light are still active in us now for our day, we use the past as a cover over the light that the Holy Spirit is beaming now.    

But despite this, Jesus tells you here that you still are salt and light! You just are. We just are. You are his spice for others; his light for others, his seasoning for this season. You are these precious and useful gifts because you are his precious and useful gift. He gifted you his light, his spice, his words, his hope, his future in his living and dying and rising. He poured his oil of grace into you at your baptism and lit you up to be his light.   

It is still true. You and I just do not exist for ourselves. We never have. We can’t now. Light just needs to shine and salt needs to season something.  We bring spice and we shine because we carry Jesus word in our bodies. We are here to spice up others’ lives with his good news; the good news of his undeserved acceptance and love.  

No guilt here! Our usefulness and effectiveness are not at all dependent on how moral we are, how knowledgeable we are, how courageous we are, although these are very important part of being salt and light. Our usefulness in God’s economy of grace is totally dependent on his grace; his acceptance of us and his calling to share, give, serve, love others with this good news Jesus in our words. Being salt and light is a gift, not a sack load of guilt!  

That means that we are not here to ‘fix the church’ or ‘fix ourselves’. We are here to speak and do his promising words with others – to let that taste of forgiveness and hope mix into our relationships and be that light in any shade of darkness. It is how those things ‘not seen or perceived by human beings’ are revealed in the Spirit.   

That is Jesus mission: to show people what he has prepared for those who love him by loving them. We as a church exist in Jesus for others; to bring Jesus spicy good news to them like salt to stew and light to a dark space.   

We are ‘cover-free’, and tasty with grace.  

Salty Light people, as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message translation of this text: “Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”   

Friend, let them see him in you so they know they are seen and loved by him. That is what lifts the darkness and brings new taste and meaning to everything.   

Centred and Clear for 2020

Sermon, February 2nd, 2020, St Petri.  Epiphany 4A

Micah 6:1-8 

Listen to what the Lord says: 

‘Stand up, plead my case before the mountains; 

    let the hills hear what you have to say. 

2 ‘Hear, you mountains, the Lord’s accusation; 

    listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. 

For the Lord has a case against his people; 

    he is lodging a charge against Israel. 

3 ‘My people, what have I done to you? 

    How have I burdened you? Answer me. 

4 I brought you up out of Egypt 

    and redeemed you from the land of slavery. 

I sent Moses to lead you, 

    also Aaron and Miriam. 

5 My people, remember 

    what Balak king of Moab plotted 

    and what Balaam son of Beor answered. 

Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, 

    that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.’ 


6 With what shall I come before the Lord 

    and bow down before the exalted God? 

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, 

    with calves a year old? 

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, 

    with ten thousand rivers of oil? 

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, 

    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 


8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. 

    And what does the Lord require of you? 

To act justly and to love mercy 

    and to walk humbly[a] with your God. 


 I am liking 2020 so far.  

Sharing wedding celebration of one of our kids with family and friends was good.  Riding my motorbike for a few days was good.   Being the surprise guest preacher at one of best mate’s 20th anniversary of being the pastor at the same church was fun.  Playing music with me friends last week at a local venue was good fun.   Being in Naracoorte last Sunday to give greetings from you all to the Lutheran community there on the occasion of Pastor Shaun Manning’s Installation was a pleasure.   

 But there is another reason why 2020 is looking good. It’s because of you all, and the Holy Spirit’s working among us.   

The Spirit is calling us into what he is doing again. I love the fact that we are a local church who are listening for that call. We are becoming a local church who are more willing to follow his call rather than settle for simply doing things the same way because that is ‘always the way we have done it’.  

As we press ‘go’ for this year, we get a great gift from Micah. It is a gift that centres us and helps us keep things simple and clear in our hearts.   

In a courtroom drama setting, Micah shows the simple truth of who we are and what we are all to be about.  

God is the accuser in this court. His creation (mountains and hills) are the witnesses. We are on trial.   

Hear what the LORD says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. 

for the LORD has a controversy with his people….. (verses 1 and 2) 

What the issue?  

6:3 “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! 

We have “become wearied with God”. We have become inattentive, distracted, even unaware of his working.   

How do we know we have, and how did it happen? Micah tells us….  

We use ‘dishonest scales’ and ‘false weights’ when dealing with others and making decisions about what is fair and right. We tip the scales in our favour. We feather our own nests more than help others keep and improve what they have (7th Commandment).  

We fight when wronged or offended, rather than do justice; which is to work to forgive and restore. Words of violence come from our lips as we speak untruths or half truths about others, in an effort to keep our reputation intact and avoid self-reflection and truth (8th Commandment).   

These things come from the same place: our wayward, wondering heart that is always on the hunt for self-satisfaction at the expense of others and self-justification before God. Micah says we tend to;

“observe the statutes of Omri (King Ahab’s father)
    and all the practices of Ahab’s house…..” (Micah 6:15)  

In other words, we replace God’s promises and presence with our own, as king Ahab did more than any other leader among God’s people (1 Kings 16:30). As we search for hope, trust in and give our love to just about anything more than the promises and presence of the Lord we get tired of God’s presence and his promises.   

 God asks.    

“What have I done to you that you treat me this way?”, asks the Lord. 

 Answer? Nothing!  God proves his innocence.  

I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to you. 

 O my people, remember now……, Remember that you may know the saving acts of the LORD.” (verses 5 and 5) 

 O, the longing in God’s voice! “O my people…” he cries. The Father weeps for his wayward and foolish kids…..  

O, his grace! “I want you to know what? My wrath? My anger? My rights? My authority and power to condemn? No. I want you to know the;  

“… SAVING acts of the LORD”. 

 Friend, he longs that you know his SAVING acts above everything else.  Like a loving parent, God longs for your SAVING not your destruction.   

This is God in person calling you, not to religious code but a relationship of love.   

This is forgiveness on offer when you don’t deserve it and cannot earn it.   

Jesus even quotes Micah. As he calls a corrupt, thieving traitor, Matthew, the tax collector, to be his friend and apostle, Jesus tells everyone that God desires mercy in the heart than money in the bank or condemnation in the community.   

God is after fairness with kindness much more than punishment without mercy. (Matthew 9:13). God is a parent searching for your whole heart by giving you his. Mercy is king with this King of kings.   

So, our 2020 centres around the mercy. Mercy is our centre because Jesus is our centre and he is Mercy.    

But how?  

        “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before   

        God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 

       Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?      

      Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (verse 6-7) 

 We will not need to hold up the story of how much we have suffered, how much we have given, how much we have offered to others to win God’s forgiveness. God has given his forgiveness by doing the giving up of his firstborn Son!  

We don’t need to bring a hundred stories of our greatness here, telling God, and his mountains and rivers, how we have loved people, how much we have served others, how great our sacrifice for others has been. In Jesus, his love is wider and deeper than ten thousand rivers of the best Oil.  

We don’t need to tell them or him how religious we have been—always attending worship, always being good, always given to charity, always doing this or that. The Offering to pay for a broken creation has been made once and for all.  

God is not demanding these things you can do to pay him off. You can’t. But he does ‘require’ you. “Require” sounds pretty heavy, but it is not. God is not ‘demanding’ these things from you. But he is ‘desiring’ or ‘longing’ for mercy to be your heart, to be our heart; our centre in all that happens in 2020.   

How do we be his mercy? 

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; 

 and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice,  

and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (verse 8) 

 Do justice. We are not merely on about rewarding good and punishing bad. We are about insuring everyone has what they need. We use fair scales when we make decisions and conclusions about others. We put ‘the best construction we can (truthfully) on everything’ (8th Commandment). We be generous with our fairness.  

Love kindness. Do kindness more than withhold it because you love its affect. Do kindness when it is not really deserved; so much that your left hand does not know what your right hand has given in word, deed or money.  

Walk humbly. This life together is no sprint. It is a long walk in the same direction. We know our weaknesses and failings. We know our battle with the wayward old ways within. We know that this life in Jesus is a daily rhythm of repenting and receiving kindness from him. That’s how we ‘walk’.   

To live in his mercy like this comes from one place; from one activity; from one skill: Listening; listening; 

  1. Listing to God in his Word,  
  1. Listening to each other and 
  1. Listening to those to whom we are sent. 

 2020 is looking good.   

God’s restoring justice is ours in Jesus. Kindness is king in all we do at St Petri.  

As we listen to Jesus, to each other and to those to whom we are sent, we do kind justice, we love kindness and we walk together into God’s year.  It’s a good year!  


A fiery start

Sermon , Sunday January 5th, 2020, Christmas 2A Away in a manger

John 1: 10-18  

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 

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

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. 


Christmas and New Year has been burnt off, over shadowed, by so many bushfires raging. Can you imagine being in Mallacoota in SE Victoria and plunging into the sea to escape the oncoming blaze. We were over that way a couple of years ago. Beautiful forest and beach part of Australia – but hardly any roads – one way in and one way out. That would have been scary.  

  I ask myself, what does the arrival of God in the flesh mean as we begin this fiery 2020?  

 St John will help us. I am not sure you could plunge yourself into deeper water when pondering who Jesus is and what his arrival means than diving into the deep end of the pool in John’s gospel beginning.  

 We know it well. “In the beginning was the Word….” 

 “In the beginning…”. We are right back at that other mysterious place – pre-history – ‘Beginnings’; the “Book of Beginnings”; the Book of Genesis, John has seen and heard a new beginning, a new creation coming out of the old one; breaking into the existing one.   

John has seen Light. Not a heated blazing destructive fire but light by which to walk and see and live through the devastation of fire.  

Jesus is the light of all light, he saysJesus is like sun is to planet earth. Every other star and the moon and all other plants, animals, trees and rocks exist under that sun’s light 

John says we need this Light.   

“If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles.” (John 11:9-10).  

So, it seems that this Light, even though it is THE Light for living this life, is actually hard to see – like the sun blocked out by that terrible dark thick smoke. 

How do you know this Light of life? Luther is wise here: 

“This is the criterion by which to judge true and false teachers. Pious, Christian teachers direct the people away from themselves and to Christ, as St. John does here with his testimony, and as we (God be praised) and others also do.  

For all our sermons tend toward this one goal, that you and we know and believe that Christ is the only Saviour and Consolation of the world and the Bishop and Shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).  

The Gospel points to Christ exclusively; and this is in complete agreement with the testimony of St. John. For this reason, we do not attract the people to ourselves; we lead them to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)”. 

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4.
(J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, pp. 60–61). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 

Isn’t this our goal as this fiery year begins? Isn’t this our hearts desire for all those suffering loss or mourning death, and dealing with danger across this country? Isn’t this always our goal no matter the weather, or the threat or the ease?   

Our goal is John’s goal and Luther’s goal, to point people to Jesus so they receive him as their Shepherd, Bishop Saviour, Pastor, Lover of the broken and the suffering  

 Why so? Because of what this Light gives.  

The Light has arrived in time and space; in our human history. Like those people stuck in make-shift camping areas and town camp sites as we speak, God turned up, and back in the camper or the caravan or pitch the tent with all the other travellers on planet earth, and stayed with us. 

Receiving and believing this man and his words of promise of life beyond any fire, flood, disaster or death affords any Aussie a new place, a new name, a new status, a new light that shapes our life like the sun.   

Because he came to us, sought us out, chose us, loved us, stays with us we are now children of God. You are a child of a loving Father, a brother to this Saviour, a member of his family. 

This is his glory. We have seen his glory….  

“The evangelist wants to say that Christ not only demonstrated His humanity with His actions, by dwelling among the people so that they could see Him, hear Him, speak with Him, and live near Him until His thirty-fourth year, by suffering cold, hunger, and thirst in this feeble and wretched human form and nature, but that He also displayed His glory and power in proof of His divinity. 

Of this He gave proof with His teaching, His preaching, His signs and wonders, convincing anyone of His Godhead who was not blinded and hardened by the devil, as the high priests and scribes were.  

By word and deed He proved that He was God by nature: He healed the sick and raised the dead; in short, He wrought more and greater miracles than any prophet before Him, in fact, than any other human being ever was able to do”. 

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, p. 114). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.  

I am hearing the stories of these people in everyday Australian towns in this tragedy and I see his glory at work in and among them.  

  • “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41); and: 
  • “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14); and:  
  • “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43);  
  • “Rise, take up your bed and go home, be delivered of your sickness” (Matt. 9:6);  
  •  “Be clean!” (Matt. 8:3; Luke 17:14). 
  • And for those 5000 people camped near Capernaum on Lake Galileewho ate their fill that day by the sea: “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).  
  • Or, when that storm came up when they were in that small boat at night with him and He silenced that chaos, and they were amazed and asked that crucial question: “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?” (Matt. 8:27). 
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, p. 114). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.  

Child of God, you have been given that precious right. Use it well as 2020 begins with such a challenge.  

Pray that the Lord of all creation would silence this chaos.  

Love as he loves.  

Be with people as he is with them and with you. 

Do what you can, as he does his healing work through you, his child. 

Be his Light: 

a cold drink to a thirsty man,  

a visit via phone or letter or in the flesh;  

some money to help the rebuilding,  

a simple word telling of God in the flesh, in this land of sweeping plains and mountain ranges, flames and floods. 


O Lord, when fires rage and consume the land, 
Stir up in us the fire of your love. 

Jesus: Four Ways

Sermon, Christmas 2A, Sunday December 29, 2019 Away in a manger

 Hebrews 2:10-18 

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[a] 12 He says, 

‘I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; 

    in the assembly I will sing your praises.’[b] 

13 And again, 

‘I will put my trust in him.’[c] 

And again he says, 

‘Here am I, and the children God has given me.’[d] 

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[e] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. 

So, it has all happened again. The big event has come and gone and here we are, with a moment to ponder what has happened. Let’s de-brief 

How did it go? Was the food good? How were the guests? Would you invite them back?! If Juan Antonio Sanchez, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee at the Sydney Olympics, was standing at a podium making an announcement to the word about your Christmas, would he say, “It was the best Games ever……or not!?”  

Whether or not Christmas was the best or the worst ever, the writer to the Hebrews will help us catch the magnitude and meaning of Jesus.  

He says Jesus is four ways. He is like that pork or ham or turkey that came roasted or fried or pulled or steamed at Christmas. Jesus is good news four ways; 

  1. Jesus is King 
  1. Jesus is blood brother 
  1. Jesus is the Band Leader/Choir master 
  1. Jesus is a merciful and faithful High Priest 

Jesus is King (2:14–15). The writer wants us to trust that Jesus is the only one who delivers us from the worse tyrant who has ever lived. Not Herod, and not even our own sins, but pure evil – the Evil One. Jesus reigns over Satan’s terrorism. Jesus is King of death. 

 Satan is worse than Herod killing all the boys under two and forcing the holy family to escape down to Egypt for a while. He is worse than Pharaoh in Egypt who did the same so long ago. He is worse than the worst we have seen, and we have seen some bad ones, even in our lifetime.   

He is worse than all the rest because we hear that he actually has limited power. He holds the last and greatest enemy we all face – death. The writer says of this tyrant:  

“him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil”. 

Satan is the great deceiver who is always trying to con you into believing that he has total power over you. He wants to produce fear, and plenty of it because fear isolates you, depletes you, robs you.   

But he doesn’t have anything like complete control over you, even though we will indeed all have to face death. Everything has changed in that baby boy and what he did. Satan could just not kill that boy even though he had a good go at him a few times (When an infant, when on the top of temple in direct conflict with Satan who urged Jesus to give up and choose suicide from the top of the temple. Even the Good Friday cross and death!)  

That boy eventually even lived through the death that he ALLOWED to come to himself. And this boy in the box ended up jumping out of the box to change everything. Death was killed and Satan’s power in it limited.    

Now death no longer holds you down, no matter how deathly you may feel. human person has lived through it. He shared his victory with you in that font of life. You have lived through death in your baptism resurrection.   

Now you live in this post-death resurrected life. You’ll live through death when it comes. You live under king Jesus until then and after then.  

The night in the shed tells us that Jesus is our blood brother (2:10–18). He has enabled you and I to become “sons of God” like him (‘sons’ as status, not gender)  

We long for belonging and we have it. We need human connection and it is ours. We thirst for freedom to live well, and in his underserved acceptance and forgiveness, all guilt and shame just falls away every day.    

Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother/sisters.  

Can you hear that?  

Jesus is not ashamed of you.   

That, for me, is THE best ever gift in Christmas. That birth in that shed was the beginning of the end of all my shame and still is. This boy is the truth that just because you do a bad thing does not mean at all that you are bad person! Not as far as your older brother Jesus is concerned.  He is not shamed to stand with you even if you are having trouble standing with yourself.  

Unlike the older brother in the parable of the lost sons who did not lift a finger to go and search for his wayward and guilty brother but instead, judged him, got angry at him and at called he and his father foolsJesus your true older brother lifts his arms in blood on the tree, rises from the dark tomb to find you and lead you home to the Father and a loved child’s welcome.   

So, Jesus is your King and Your blood brother. In the shed we hear the new song, that Jesus is the Band Leader/Choir master (2:12–13). He is teaching his brothers and sisters to praise God together with him. He presents them as praise singers to God and the world.   

Now there are a lot of Christmas songs, many about which I am unsure. But this is the one I am sure about; the one we really need to sing! Jesus sings;  

‘I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; 

    in the assembly I will sing your praises.’ 

 Can you picture him? Like that wildly popular Andrea Rieu directing the epic music with its epic set and the people singing along in joy. Either that or an intense Bono with his three U2 mates drawing out the song from the thirty thousand strong crowd on Adelaide Oval recently.   

But here the song is not to Andre or Bono or to any mere human glory – it is the song of the angels  “Glory be to the Father, and to Jesus and to the SpiritOur spirit’s sore as Jesus leads the community song   

Jesus is King, Brother, Band leader and then, what about this? Jesus is our merciful and faithful High Priest (2:10–11). Jesus is High pastor; our Pastor of all pastors better than any of them. After his ordination to King of kings, which came via his sacrificial death that cost hi everything but is marvellously free for you and me, Jesus, in true priestly fashion, now provides God’s pardon to his people and shares his own holiness with them.   

Unlike any other of the world’s religious gods who demand that you do it right to get lifeJesus, the Great High Priest simply gives the gifts of life to those who could never earn it, do it, achieve or give enough.  He even sacrifices himself to make this possible. He rises to simply dish out his lavish gifts of love on any everyday person who ever asks. Stunning!   

So now he takes our prayers and our heart and our loves and represents us, prays with us, prays for us before our Father – like a true pastor/priest should, like a true spouse does, like parents do for their kids and kids can do for their parents.   

So, there it is; Jesus, four ways.   

  • This boy is your Ruler in grace 
  • He is your brother not ashamed to name you his sister or brother. That makes you and I sister and brother too.  
  • This boy is your song teacher and leader in the song of your faith-filled heart, and most of all,  
  • This boy is your pastor. 

 So, let him rule so you be grace where you need to be. Grace is the way we choose before judgement, criticism and gossip.   

Because he is not shamed of youspeak of him when the moments arise and stand with anyone, anywhere, anytime in the hope that his grace wins them.   

Sing with songmeister, JesusWhether you sound any good or not. There is life and joy in his band called the church.   

Tell your Chief Pastor what’s on our mind and listen to what’s on his. In the process you will live day by day with a loving Father and his holy community supporting you through anything.   

Christmas is complete. 2020 is ready to go for Christians living four ways with no shame  

Jesus makes you holy and pleasing to the Father and he and we are family.  

He is not ashamed of you.  


You be His Sign

SermonChristmas Day, 2019, St Petri. Away in a manger

Isaiah 62:6-12 

6 I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; 

    they will never be silent day or night. 

You who call on the Lord, 

    give yourselves no rest, 

7 and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem 

    and makes her the praise of the earth. 

8 The Lord has sworn by his right hand 

    and by his mighty arm: 

‘Never again will I give your grain 

    as food for your enemies, 

and never again will foreigners drink the new wine 

    for which you have toiled; 


12 They will be called the Holy People, 

    the Redeemed of the Lord; 

and you will be called Sought After, 

    the City No Longer Deserted. 


Titus 3:4-7 Saved by God’s love 

4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 

I have often noted those signs lots of church folks make calling for our community to ‘put Christ back in Christmas’. I resonate with that sentiment, but I am unsure about the effectiveness of making signs like this.  

I hear the songs and the messages of Christmas everywhere you go, and I try and try to understand what the core message  is in what Christmas has now become in 21st Century Australia.  

I think it is something like this: “If we get together and work really hard, we can make the world a better place”. It almost sounds a bit of carryover from that old song “We are the World” sung at the Live Aid concert back in the 80’s.  “We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones who can make a brighter day, so let’s start giving….”  

It seems that we want to believe that we can be and should be all we need on planet earth  

It is an attractive message. The thought of us all banding together, putting away our differences and working together to save the planet or end poverty or bring fairness back to our community, end racism, give people a fair go is attractive. We know we really do need these things – less harm, less injustice, less poverty, less carbon emissions, less hatred, less terrorism, less violence, less greed, less inequality.   

Even though we have a good sense about what we need, I wonder something. I wonder if as we sing those songs everywhere at Christmas and speak that popular message, often without even being aware of it, we sort of ‘sing over’ and ‘pass over’ the very seeds of hope that give us THE hope for lasting change we know we need  

“Peace on earth. Goodwill toward all people. A Saviour is here.  

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells…….”  

“Silent night, Holy Night, love’s pure light. Glory streams from his holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace….”.  

“Deck the Halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la….”  

Sometimes I reckon we Aussies are like a puppy frantically ripping up the back yard looking for a yummy bone that is not there while our yummy bowl of Pal sits waiting for us on the patio.   

So sure are we that we can find the bone, we miss the better food. So convinced are we that getting the food is within our control that we miss the gift of our owner giving us real food that will truly sustain us.   

And along he comes again this Christmas, offering us everything we actually need for life and love and peace in all we facePeace refuses to be sung over altogether! Jesus pops out of the music in the shops if you have ears to hear. Those seeds of hope and grace for our worrying future germinate again.  

Jesus, THE hope, arrives on our doorstep in a way we can really get – a baby born in real time to real people in real history. And this baby promises an end to all that we long for to be ended and to give all we long for to be in us.   

But will we receive him? Will we give up our frantic searching in the dirt and let him feed us the good stuff that only he provides; the stuff that makes for lasting and complete change for the good?  

You’d think it would be easy. But I think we know the problem. The problem is we are not the world, even if we have been given the whole world as a gift. Our fullest hope is not what we give but what we receive from Him who gives us this boy and his story.   

Like the people of the ancient city, Jerusalem, to whom Isaiah speaks, we need some intervention by Another to save the day and save us.   

Oh, but that takes humility. But, when the crisis gets deep enough, the humility gets real enough! Is it real enough for you this morning?  

In Isaiah’s time, God’s community had finally gotten close to stopping searching for that bone of self-help when Isaiah announced the Lord’s hope.  

They were beginning to see that there was no bone to be found that was going to save them from starvation and death. They had finally started to see the futility of making deals with other countries, making deals with themselves, making deals with God: trying to be holy to get him to help.   

They were under siege and running out of options. I wonder if we feel like that in the face of our shaky ecological future and our repeated bad behaviour as human beings?   

If we do, will we continue to make deals or will we let this Intervention in a shed deal with us?  

To people feeling the siege, Isaiah announces God’s intervention.  

6 I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; 

    they will never be silent day or night. 

 give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem 

    and makes her the praise of the earth. 

And even more now; now a fuller and complete intervention than Isaiah could even know comes in this Christmas child  

4 But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. 

 God is intervening again today. His intervention is driven by mercy and kindness. This is no mere outward help. This boy is God’s loving and kind presence in a way we can carry it, know it, feel it, touch it, smell it, hear it, and it is an act of love – the best love; self-sacrificing love.   

This baby boy is God’s intervention not just in a mighty army or a better technology or a more stable climate or favourable political fortune.   

This intervention into our searching is of the heart – personal transformation from inside out. Resurrection from self-focus and all our fears to facing the world with others in his freedom and joy.   

It is so full and so effective because it is being re-born; starting from a new place, a new heart, and bringing a new future.   

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 

 All the frantic searching, the missing the real food, the singing over the truth, the denial of what is actually really good for us is washed away like dirt on our hands under a tap.   

Those seeds of his truth passed over as we shop spring up to become THE song, THE story, THE hope for peace again  

We are made clean and new and we live new. Like the shepherds, the easterners, the parents, we are just with him in the moment marvelling at how he loves us and how he loves his broken world.  

And what about those signs to put Christ back in Christmas?  

We don’t need them.   

We don’t need to put the Christ back into Christmas. He is already there.  

And we need more than signs on a wall or a website. We are the signs. By this total washing of rebirth, we are the sign that makes us his living sign of Jesus in Christmas.  

 Friend, you are his sign.    

You are the Christ in Christmas because; 

in his kindness he saved you by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on you generouslyso that, having been made holy and pleasing by his grace, you are an heir of all his promises of hope. 

Friend, watch out for others on these city walls. He has posted you here.  

Be part of his new community which he is establishing to make him the praise of planet earth.  

Be his living sign of hope as you sing his song, speak his words, love his people.  

Sing his song. Stand your post with joy.  

He will not rest until his kingdom is established.  



Looking for Royalty

Christmas Eve Homily2019, St Petri Away in a manger

After viewing Come Away in a Manger – Wise Man

Matthew 2:1-22 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ 

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: 

6 ‘“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, 

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; 

for out of you will come a ruler 

    who will shepherd my people Israel.”[b]’ 

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ 

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 


They came looking for royalty, looking for beauty, for answers, for truth.  What have you come here for? 

They went where royalty is usually found – a palace, a king with fine robes and much political power….They went to Herod. They did not know that they were looking in the wrong place for the wrong royalty.   

And yet, it was not just them. It wasn’t that they themselves were searching for beauty and truth and royalty, they were also being led to find THE royal one.   

Finally, they were led to the real royalty with the real truth, real answers, real beauty. They instinctively knew he was worthy of their highest honour.   

You may be searching this holy night, but you are also being led this holy night.   


Silent night, holy night! 

Son of God, you are love’s pure light 

Radiant beams from your holy face, 

Brings the dawn of redeeming grace, 

Jesus Lord, at thy birth, 

By your Spirit make us alert 


 We hear from these witnesses that the first night of joy eventually gave way to another night sometime later that was to be a night of terror. Herod had all the boys under the age of two murdered as a result of hearing of these eastern astrologers were in town looking to pay their tribute to this rival king.  

So, Matthew tells us of two kings; one a trickster and one the Truth: one the real deal, the other a temporary impostor: one operating in the darkness of secrecy, and the other just put right out there in the light; clear and true: one paranoid and fearful, the other innocent and new.   

Friend, there is an opportunity to let your heart be filled with wonder for one as you find yourself rejecting the other.   

You’d think this would be an easy choice. No one wants to be lied to, imposed upon, tricked or misled as those Magi were. Everyone wants to find the truth, the joy, the light the freedom.   

But the reality is that often, the two kings are not so easy to choose between. Finding joy and wonder in the Promised One is often elusive.     

That is not so much because of the kings, but because of us. Within us there is this tendency to not be able to see the light and the shade clearly. We are not perfect people. Sometimes we even chase the darkness believing it to be the light we think we need. Sometimes we trick ourselves as we follow the trickster, believing he is the truth-teller.   

The wise man said that he had been searching for the star, the sign of the Divine, the light in the dark, the humility, the honest to God truth of things. He and the others must have wanted the truth badly. Why else would you search the stars, plumb the depths of known science theory, travel so far and so long?   

Is this us still? Is this you now? Are you wanting the truth here? Have you been searching? Are you still searching? What if you found the truth, and the truth was a person? Would you receive him?  

People search for truth and hope in their own way. We all want to make sense of the pain, the fear, the confusion, the injustice, the loneliness, the threats to our life on planet earth we feel. We all need to know that what we are doing counts for something bigger than just ourselves  

But it seems that we in the West, at least for time being, will search for hope and light anywhere but in this shed with a baby under a star. He’s ‘old hat’ now.   

We seem to have mostly thrown this baby out with the bathwater. We are now searching for a replacement hope and future, be it in Eastern many gods, Western no gods; in our technology, the science, taking action on every cause to prove to ourselves that we really can be everything we need to be now WITHOUT this baby.   

But here we are still: griefs, sorrow, injustice, damaged planet, shaky environmental future, living in the land of fire and flood, drought and plenty, still dying, still arguing, still fighting, still searching, still needing that star…..   

And here he is again. A baby just being a baby. But a baby with a long-told back story. This boy is the long-awaited culmination of a nation, a planet, a human race. He is the delivery of the stories of promise for generations looking forward to this moment that is foretold in such detail across a thousand years, with such beautiful images of hope.   

In the end any searching person has to draw near to this silent night scene in some way. No one wants Herod kingship, so what about the other king and his kingship  

Here he is named “Shepherd” king. This King will not lead you down the garden path to destruction but will shepherd to good water, good grass. He will protect, serve, lead you to replenish you; tend you.   

How can you trust this good news? He has a forward story too. He will go on to serve you and tend you at the cost of his life. He will rule by giving everything. He will rule by serving those who do not deserve to be served by a king. He will serve by losing himself to find you. He will use his divine power for healing and life, not murder and power. He will bless the children, heal the broken hearted and win back the prisoners from their self-made Herod type cages.   

So which king is it this holy night? More of the same or quiet and full wonder at the good news love in this boy of promise?    

I don’t believe I got myself here or that you just got yourself here to the king’s shed tonight. I was led. Same for you.   

I have been led to discover that this Jesus is the One; He is light, not dark. He is truth not trickery. He is joy, not fear. He is freedom to be open and honest in the light, not scratching around in the dark trying to hide everything. He is open invitation and welcome, not manipulation and power preservation.   

As he enters your space and lays down his life for you; as he gives you everything he has so you can receive everything he gives, surely the only response to that in your heart is give your heart to him; just like those Easterners – marvelling at the beauty, truth and promise of this baby King and the rejection of the other one.    

Open your treasures – not the cash or the card or the credit; the gold, frankincense and myrrh. No, open the heart to the boy in the box; He has given you a new life to be every day not by silver or gold, but by his precious blood.   

He is God in the flesh. He will receive your gifts and give you much more. He will give you, you; a new you for a new life.  

Jesus recreate you this holy night in his holy light.  

Come Away in a Manger for Peace

SermonAdvent 4A, Sunday December 22, 2019St Petri Away in a manger

Isaiah 7:10-16 

When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. 

 2Now the house of David was told, ‘Aram has allied itself with[a] Ephraim’; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. 

  5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 ‘Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.’ 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: 

‘“It will not take place, 

    it will not happen, 

8 for the head of Aram is Damascus, 

    and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. 

Within sixty-five years 

    Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. 

9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, 

    and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. 

If you do not stand firm in your faith, 

    you will not stand at all.”’ 

 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’ 

12 But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’ 

13 Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign: the virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[e] will call him Immanuel.[f] 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.  

King Ahaz of Jerusalem was a lot like that Shepherd – a man shaken by life and searching for peace.  

 And like that Shepherd, Ahaz heard that God’s way of finally bringing peace to him and his people, was very different to what he thought would do the trick. It would involve pregnancy and birth, more than weapons and military might.   

God’s peace would be different too. The peace promised by God would not be just safety, security and survival in political terms, but would be peace in the inner person, in full; God’s “highest and complete good for a person and a nation”. That’s quite a peace and quite a promise!   

Ahaz was under the pump as the leader of the southern kingdom, Judah. He is in the capital city, Jerusalem, and the northerners have come to fight. His counterpart in the northern kingdom, Aram, and his offsiders, Ephraim and Pekah, have done a deal, formed an alliance against little Judah and Jerusalem, put their armies together and let their murderous intentions be known; 

6 ‘Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves…. 

Things are not looking good for this House of David. Isaiah tells us that Ahaz and those town dwellers are rattled. They are shaken like ‘wind shakes the trees of the forest’ (Isaiah 7:2).   

I have never been in a community that is about to attacked and certainly defeated by a superior force. I struggle to know that fear. But I do know fear of being attacked physically by another person with mates in support. I do know the fear of being attacked verbally by someone more powerful than I – a very angry person in rage. I know what it is to be in that scary moment of fight, take flight or just freeze. I am pretty sure you might know this fear given that life just brings these things into our path. It is not fun.   

The Lord says to Ahaz, in his moment of shakiness, “Pray to me. Ask me for a sign of hope: any sign, big or small, known or strange”.   

Ahaz says, “No. I will not test you, Lord”. Ahaz seems to believe that asking God for a sign of hope is somehow asking too much or asking with the wrong motive (too selfish) is doing something wrong. He thinks that would make him guilty of putting God to the test. Maybe he is just too proud to ask but won’t admit his need to ask.    

Isaiah disagrees with Ahaz’ refusal to seek a sign of hope that there will be lasting peace. Isaiah says NOT asking the Lord for a sign of hope is testing the Lord! NOT asking him for hope and peace in the shaky situation is asking too much of the Lord. He wants to give you a sign of hope! Not asking is putting his patience to the test! In others’ words, “Pray, ask, seek” when all you want to do is fight, take flight or freeze.   

The Lord loses patience with Ahaz. He just takes over the conversation and the situation for him. Like a learner driver instructor just taking over control of the car when the student can’t make a decision or does not ask for help, the Lord just goes right on ahead and gives a sign of hope right there in the shaky, scary moment.”  

…the virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[e] will call him Immanuel.[f] 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste”.  

 Ahaz, in his fear is probably looking for a more immediate solution and a solution that would have more immediate affect – like a thousand super-duper cross bows, some very large fire balls to throw down on the coming attackers, a few thousand crack soldiers; better still, maybe a legion of angels to take up their post around the city walls…..  

Instead he gets a longer term promise that involves a young woman and pregnancy and birth and a special boy who will eventually defeat this attack and these people who are his enemies.   

That is the boy those shepherds met> They met this boy of promise. The young girl became pregnant and gave birth and the boy is the promised Saviour of the city and like the Lord’s promise to Ahaz, the boy and his story and his victory that brings peace has little to do with military might or political power.   

Why so? Because those ways of victory are temporary and usually involve violence and suffering. Those human ways of getting to peace are fleeting and always involve fighting and fear. Those human ways of peace are so very limited. Like a government department trying to fix society’s many ills, it is so very limited. It is only when real people get involved with real people for the long haul that real problem can be dealt with in any fuller sense.   

This little boy is that real person giving himself to real people to give real peace in real shaky situations. He is the Prince of Peace and God’s government of peace rests on his shoulders. He is love beyond fear, hope beyond despair, life beyond death, light in darkness. He is that very special gift of which the Shepherd speaks – Shalom – highest and fullest good for you. He is God cupping your face in his hands and breathing this Shalom into you.  

Whatever is surrounding you, pressing in on you, prodding you to abandon the city of God, the church; whatever or whoever is overpowering you, attacking you, inflicting you with pain and causing you great suffering,; whatever or whoever is threatening to do you bad, can be dealt with the highest and most complete peace this One gives.  

God has held you face in his wounded hands and said to you, “Shalom. My highest good in this lowly shed in the human boy who is your deepest, highest, longest and fullest good”.   

Have you got it? Can you breathe it in? Will you ask?  

Friend, no need to test God’s patience by refusing to or forgetting to ask for a sign of hope. You have reason and every permission to welcome his wounded hands around you. He is your highest and fullest good.   

This child of promise is still the one who says he can and he is ready to lay to waist those things that you dread so that you live on, the city lives on, your family lives on in his deep peace and the joy it brings.   

That is what they brought to this man searching for peace under fire. Those angels brought a joy that the whole world is waiting to breath in.   

Will you breath that joy in and grab your people’s faces in your hand and breath his Shalom; be his shalom for them this Christmas? Will you allow the Spirit to make you a breath of joy in your places this Christmas?   

Without threat or fear or control or a fighting for a win for the argument, will you simple breath the boy’s joy in your family, among your friends. Simply announce it with all the joy in the world and all his peace in your heart?  

The word needs this shalom. You need this peace child. Your family needs that shalom. Your enemies need his shalom. Will you take their faces in your hands and breath the angle’s joy into them in love?  

Let the wind blow. Let joy come. Strengthen feeble hands and steady knocking knees, calls the prophet. Your joy has come. The boy has come. The city has paid her dues in full. Life beyond your suffering is here. You are living in the year of the Lord’s favour.   

Breath on me Breath of God. Fill me with love anew.  


Away in a Manger – Good News Boy

Sermon, Advent 3A, Sunday December 15, 2019, St PetriAway in a manger

After viewing ‘Away in a Manger’ – Joseph

Matthew 11:2-11 

 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’

Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:

‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you,

    who will prepare your way before you.”[b]

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.


I have to admit, that about this time of year, in Advent, just before Christmas, I struggle to find joy in what Christmas has become. I hear the alternative story that has grown in dimensions to become THE story for most in my lifetime and I get mildly angry. I seem to be on the edge of being cynical about the whole thing right about now. Maybe I’m becoming a ‘grumpy old man’!

I think I needed to be reminded this Advent that Christmas is about joy – the joy of a newborn baby and a proud Dad. I had to be reminded that Christmas and indeed the whole Christian movement is news – good news.

It’s good news and human news I can relate to. I remember holding my own babies. I remember Leanne and I marvelling at the gifts we had been given. Same for those around that shed at night. They soaked up this good news boy.

The whole of our Christmas story is essentially news – good news.

That is what Matthew and the other New Testament witnesses choose to name the Jesus event – news: good news’ ‘gospel’.

It is good news not just good advice. Advice is given to help you do something. Good news just is – good news that makes the soul soar.

Is Christmas, still good news for you? Is the whole Jesus event good news for you? Or, are you verging on cynicism when it comes to faith, church, God, Christmas? Is Jesus more just good advice’ for you rather than truly good news for you?

You know, three things happen when a thing is news.

  1. News is news that has not just happened out of the blue.
  2. News is news because something has actually happened, and the story is now changed forever.
  3. News introduces an intermediate time of waiting.


  1. News is news because it does not come out of the blue. It is unexpected but it is part of a back story. EG. That terrible volcano eruption on White Island in the Bay of Plenty on the North Island of NZ this week is bad news. We feel for those who have lost their lives and those left behind and those injured. That island is a known volcano. It has a whole story behind it. The bad news came as part of that long back story of that island. News is news because it is unexpected but comes from somewhere already partly known.
  2. News is news because something has actually happened. The thing that happened has consequences; has impact on people’s lives. The consequences of that volcano erupting has reshaped thousands of people’s lives; even a whole nations’ life forever. Things are not the same and the story is now different. Everything has changed as a result of that event. News is news because it changes things and cannot be undone.
  3. News introduces an new time of waiting. The event has occurred and had its significant consequence and now we wait. We wait for people to recover. We wait for the time of mourning for many families. We wait to a return to less chaos and heartache. News is news because it begins something – recovery, survival, new learning that gives us some hope of avoiding the bad event and finding the new things for the future.

Can you see how Christmas is news; good news?

1 Christmas is good news because it did not come from nowhere. It was foretold in a hundred ways over thousands of years – and in the most beautiful way – a new highway, water in the desert, singing in the land, a new king to rule in justice for all, a new good shepherd unlike the blind guides leading people into fake news. John is the go-between. The last great prophet and yet the great announcer of the final prophet – Jesus.

John, quite understandably, had his doubts. He is rotting in a prison for no good reason and Jesus is not quite what they expected in terms of a new king! No swords, white stallions, army…. John sends his friends to ask this supposed promised king, “Are you the One?”

The new good news king replies;

‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

 “OK. I won’t stumble. I won’t take offense, Jesus”.

Yes, Jesus is the good news that comes from that whole back story of promise. Jesus is news: good news because he comes from promise – promise of new life, new hope, new people, new heaven and new earth coming right here in the old one.

2. Christianity is essentially news; good news, because something good actually happened in real space and time – in our human story and in a real human way.

That is THE news of Christmas in particular. We call it the “Incarnation” – God taking on our bones and breath. Our flesh; being ‘carnalis’, ‘caro’, ‘meat, flesh’. God in the flesh, in the physical body; our body, our story, our ways….

The thing that happened has consequences; has impact on people’s lives. Jesus calls it the new ‘covenant’; the new relationship closer than ever before and not based on you earning it or achieving it or being good to get it, but all based on God’s will to give himself to you; to give all his gifts; all his love, all his acceptance, all his peace; forgiveness after forgiveness. Now there is ongoing teaching, learning, shaping in this undeserved gift of kindness and new hope; a whole new life to be lived!

We are like Joseph with his new baby boy, Joseph is a changed man. His whole life now includes someone else, something else, a future hope that shaped him from day one.

Same for you and me. The good news boy has called us into his community and enlisted us in his kingdom mission. Our whole lives are now different than they would ever be without that call, that love, that good news event still going on day by day in us.

3. And now the news that is very good puts us that time of hopeful, expectant waiting. We wait for good news boy to slowly fulfill his destiny; his rule of grace in one person at a time, one day at a time until what he promises comes to be  complete makeover, complete fulfilment of all promises to the letter; promises of life even through dying, hope even in any suffering, great reward for the life lived in service of this good news king.

Promises of healing for my body, healing for my relationships, end to my suffering, love for my lack of love, faith for my doubt, trust for my fears, calm for my worries, hope even for this dangerous world of volcanoes, wars, injustice, corruption, and all the bad news.

So, John heard right in prison, and Joseph felt it right in the shed. Jesus is the news – the good news boy.

  1. He is the ONE of promise from that back story of promise who brings future promise.
  2. He has arrived and has done all that was necessary for the new relationship to be possible between us and he has placed us in this expectant, hopeful wait for the good news to get better.
  3. He sets us on an expectant and hopeful way of living in his kingly mission where he has placed us.

I am back again now. I am no longer a grumpy old man about Christmas. I am a new man because of Christmas.

I see the blue and hear the faith songs we sing and marvel at the good news boy, and somehow, I am good news again. So are we. So are you.



Away in a Manger – Wide Eyed and All Ears

Sermon, Sunday December 8, 2019Away in a manger

Advent 2A

 Matthew 3:1-12 

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

“Prepare the way for the Lord,

    make straight paths for him.”’[a]

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt round his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them

: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 ‘I baptise you with[bwater for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with[cthe Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

The young boy standing in that stable is wide-eyed and all ears. He stands with wide eyes and open ears just taking in the scene and listening to the words. He takes in words of the Mother of this baby as she reflects on the magnitude of what God has given to her for the world.

Wide-eyed and all ears. That is the advent call. Wide-eyed and all ears.

The problem is that we long term Christians are often bleary-eyed and plugged ears when it comes to taking in the scene and listening to the Word speak. Like a shop owner so used to her shop and so focused on sweeping the floor that she does not even notice the cheers of the crowd as the Queen’s cavalcade drives past her shop!

But every year the Spirit sends out a breaking news bulletin across the bottom of our screens. The ABC radio fire announcement siren goes off for a moment in time. We may or may not be wide eyed and all ears…..

He comes in from the wild. He is trying to get us to be wide-eyed and all ears to the things of the Spirit again. His name is John. He is that wild man with a wild heart trying to arrest out attention back to this wild gift of God named Jesus.

If you choose to ignore this call to notice and receive this Gift; if you choose to lessen this gift by claiming yourself or your past or your family name or your nationality or your money or achievements in life a better thing; a gift you have earned or achieved for yourself, then he cuts you down to size.

John is sent to cut us down to size to make sure we are wide-eyed and all ears to the truth that we are not as good as we believe ourselves to be; I am not God’s gift to the world by myself, but this boy is God’s gift to me and only he makes us truly God’s gift to the world.

Some around John choose to dismiss this gift or be their own gift. They say; “We have Abraham as our father.”

Out comes the axe!

“I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”  (Matthew 3: 9-10)

Why? To get you back to being that young kid, wide-eyed and all ears taking in the scene and hearing the words spoken; receiving him in the heart.

John knows that this gift brings life after his axe. There is hope from despair, forgiveness for a wayward heart in this baby boy.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him –

    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

    the Spirit of counsel and of might,

    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord –

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,

    or decide by what he hears with his ears;

but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
 with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.  (Isaiah 11: 1-3)

This boy will see beyond our human eyes and listen beyond our ears into the heart. He goes deeper, into the heart and does his work there in us.

But the way we receive him and his great gifts are by our eyes and ears. They are the windows to our very souls.

Just like Mary wants this wide-eyed boy with listening ears to hear the true magnitude of the gift Jesus is, so John is the same. John wants us to be wide-eyed and all ears to receive him in the heart because only there will we be transformed by all his gifts into who he has created us to be. From the inside out with his deeper seeing and hearing he will revolutionise who we are and how we live for the better – quite a promise! What a gift!

Is it working? Are your eyes wide open and ears attentive yet? Are you open to receive him, know him, hear him again despite all the distraction and self-focus and personal bubble of busyness or illness or pain or pride or fear?

Mary asked, “Will they come?”. She hopes you do and they too. Why so?

Mary tells the young boy not to be put off by the lack of power or wealth or royal show. She impresses upon the boy taking in this scene: it is all for love.

“Whatever you tell them about this shed, this humble place and my humble offering to this scene, tell them this boy is above all, a gift of love. Be sure to tell them that above all he is a gift of love”.

Love. To know love. To know this is all for love. This is divine love beyond all loves to rule over our wayward loves. This is the power of love displayed in humanness; in things not powerful or emotionally attractive or intellectually satisfying or visually amazing or politically correct. This is pure self-giving love given in a way any of us can really get – a everyday human way.

This is costly love; risky love. He has no guarantee that you will open your eyes and your ears to his words of love in action, but he does them anyway. You might even drive in a nail or two at times, but he still ‘does love’ for you. You might withhold love from him out of anger or doubt or distraction or unbelief. You might simply love other things, other people and your cherished dreams and visions for your life way more than his dream and vision for your life, but he still ‘does love’ for you.

His baptism of you still counts. His word of love still speaks. His community of loved people still exist and still live out his love in their everyday weaknesses.

Here comes the King of love with the true love, the right love, the largest and highest and widest perfect gracious love in real action (not just theory or idea or angelic distance); here comes human love divine in human action – God in the straw, bloodied arms spread on the wood, body risen with wounds, “Peace be with you, friend”.

Are you wide-eyed and all ears yet? Is John’s call working? Are Mary’s words speaking?

No need to come to this gift of a real love in a baby boy claiming your own goodness or rightness; your family privilege or place, your own deeds of grace.

John says, “just come”. “Repent and believe. Just come. Receive the one who gives a whole lot more than me”.

Why? Because he’s loved you the most when you have not loved him first. He loves you to make you a person of real love for your spouse, your kids, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbours and even strangers.

Mary says, John says, just come. Come with eyes wide open and all ears taking in the Christmas scene of life-changing love.

Come in faith to this boy this Advent. He is full love for your empty soul, complete forgiveness for your uncompleted faith, pure gift of grace for your impure self-reliance on your own graces; inclusive truth for your indifference.

O come all you faithful,

Joyful and triumphant

O come all you citizens of heaven above

Come and adore

Come let us adore him.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. (Romans 4:13)


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