Category: resurrection

Bread of Life

Sermon

Lent 5A
Sunday April 10th, 2011

John 11:1-42
Bread of Life
Friends, I feel as though God has done some resurrecting around our community this week. Those 5 young adults from the US who have been living with some of us and ministering to kids in our congregation and in our college sort of breathed a breath of God’s fresh air into me and some others too.

There are still young “20 Somethings” in the world who trust in the Word of Jesus enough to give up money, status, home and family to go on the road and put themselves in all kinds of challenging places for the sake of the gospel.

There are Christians in the world and in our Lutheran global community who live in close community, intentionally practicing Christian fellowship at close quarters for the sake of seeking the Lord and speaking of the Lord to a generation needing a living relationship with the God who created them and gave himself for their forgiveness and new life in Jesus’ cross.

God arranged for this last week and he again delivered on his promise of breathing life into his people in various ways.

Can you believe again today that God is in the business of restoring hope and life into tired or doubting or distracted “old bones”?

That vision of that valley of dead, dry lifeless human beings rattling to life at the sound of God’s sweeping breath of life says that God is into renewing and resurrecting battered and tested faith. “Can I put life in these old dry dead people? asks God of the Prophet. “Only you know, Lord”, responds the Prophet. Then the Prophet sees God answer his own question as the bones rise, the flesh gathers and the bones rattle with God’s breath of life. What a vision to see! Yes, God can and does put life into lifeless people.

And what about this detailed and heavily laden account of Jesus resurrecting his close friend Lazarus we hear of today. This is Jesus’ last and sign of his new life coming into the world. It is just before his final and greatest sign – his own resurrection from the dead.

This smelly resurrection is a sign; a sign of what Jesus’ cross and his own resurrection do for people he loves. Jesus has the power, the authority, the love, the commitment to raise us up to new life in dead sinners. Jesus raises us up. Jesus gives us a hope that no one or no thing can give us – a hope of resurrection; now and at the last. This hope and this power and authority which comes to us in the Word of Jesus is life – life that only God can give and does give.

Paul knows God’s breath of life – he knows the power of the Spirit working faith and love into his own soul when he says…..

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies
also through his Spirit that dwells in you.   
Romans 8:11
The Spirit lives in you and me. He is at work always. Sometimes he presents a particular way of renewing and bringing hope back to a place.

I think God has been sending a message of hope and challenge to us who have experienced things this last week. This is not only through the encouraging ministry of those 5 young adults from the US (and Denmark), but also in the work of John, our Principal, as he carefully navigated his way through two very positive meetings with parents across the school this week. Hope is in the air, I reckon. Why shouldn’t it be? Hope is the Easter Lord coming to us again.

The hope is that God is here and God knows me and wants the very best for me – in all circumstances.

The Challenge is that I need to seek that hope – not just in my mind but by real risk. Here’s an example from our own community this week.

Leanne, Mike, Ben/Cecilia and Carrie and Phil were all probably unsure as to what having a young American in their home for week would be like. This stranger would get to see us up close and personal because we were going to let this person into our home for a whole week. What if this stranger did not like us?


What if we did not like them? What if they misunderstood us and judged us harshly? It was a risk to let these young Americans into our homes and our community.


Same for me as a Pastor. What if they say things I don’t agree with? What if they tell our college kids things about the faith in ways our church would disagree with? What of they got it wrong when dealing with staff. What if they let staff down and so made it that little bot harder for staff who are way out on the edge of faith and the church to draw nearer? Should I let them lead the whole service last Sunday and preach the sermon?

God asked us to let them in, and I believe, Him, into our lives this week in a way that we all found challenging. We had many questions and we felt there were risks associated with letting God into our homes and our community in this different way than normally happens.

With faith in his goodness and trust in what we have learnt so far about Jesus’ way of doing things, we did it. We took the risks, left the many questions unanswered, left things a little loose, let things be a little uncontrolled and messy. By God’s Spirit, we put faith in God’s ability to draw it all together for the good of those who love him.

You can hear how God responds to our little actions of putting our hand up and letting him into out lives or letting him take us into a zone than is a little uncomfortable. He blesses that risk-taking faith!

Mary, Martha, Lazarus, a whole community of mourners, a community of scoffers and a whole world of sinners saw the risk that God took in taking on the darkness, evil and sin of humanity on that cross. We have seen the risk he took in becoming human and enduring all that he let happen for the sake of love – for yours and my sake.

In our baptism we are living, breathing bones made flesh and breathed on by the breath of God – the Word of God seeping deep into our souls.

Easter is coming. Palm Sunday songs will turn to dark silence and sleep on Maundy Thursday. We will gather with fellow Christians from the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions on Good Friday to reflect on our own death and resurrection and we look into face of Jesus in his suffering. Easter Sunday we will know the light and the hope of God in Jesus empty tomb.

But will we “go with it”, friends? Will we let God speak to us this time around? Will we put our hand up, put away our fears, get rid of our distractions and let the Spirit of God take us into uncomfortable places or comforting places – usually both?

Breathing bones we are. We are God’s framework of real life in Him. By our baptism we have been revived to life and by our baptism we are called to follow his lead.


We thank the Spirit of Christ for the renewing work he has done through the New Vision Team and our college leadership and for the work he promises to do as we open ourselves up to his word and his call this holy week coming soon.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
fiII me with life anew;
that I may love all that you love
and do what you would do.
Public Domain, Original form of melody
from Aaron Williams ‘Psalmody in Miniature’, London, 1778.
TiS 407, LHS 129




Thanks for Life

Sermon

Pentecost 24C
Sunday November 7, 2010.
Ocean Forest


Thank you for life, God.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 16-17


16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.


There is a lot to worry about when thinking about the future. I think even as Christians who know how things will end we struggle at times to view a hope-filled, God-filled future.

Nowhere does this struggle come upon us than when our future is personally threatened – be it in a financial threat, a status/employment threat, a threat to our children or grandchildren, a tragic death of a friend, and most of all, a threat to our own bodies through serious health issues or an injury by accident or the like…


But, most potent a challenge to faith in God’s promise of life forever in him is the threat of death – to another or ourselves.


We have had such a tragic brush with death these last two weeks. A beautiful little baby boy named Tyrone died – probably a cot death. I went into the Primary school class of which the little baby’s older sister is a member. She bravely told the class what had happened over the weekend. There were tears and there was such sadness.

We lit a candle and we read the word – “Let the children come to me and don’t stop them for there is the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them. How precious are these little ones – precious in God’s sight, says Jesus.


The little grade one girl is being so brave. She is trusting that her little brother is indeed in Jesus’ arms.


Then many of our community have been shocked by the tragic loss of Darren Strudwick, a fit, positive colleague and family and well known and loved by many in the cycling and mining community and here in our school/church community. If only we could this child-like grade 1 faith more often; that simple but profound trust in God’s word for now and the future.


Paul urges this simple faith as he writes to a community of people who have obviously been shaken up by trouble and those who have played on their anxieties about the resurrection to life on the final day.


He keeps it very simple. We might think simplistic?


1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way….


Somehow, someone has been telling people in church in Thessalonica that they have missed the boat on God’s promised future of life. Part of the community have been duped into believing that this great promised resurrection Jesus spoke of has already happened and they did not make the cut!


It sounds a bit naïve to us. How could anyone believe this?” we ask. Well, how can anyone believe any “out there” message like this?


I might be easier than we think. There are plenty of “out there” messengers in our day too. How about the Mormons? How about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the many Eastern/New age strands of spirituality – particularly Scientology? How about some who speak of the future in the name of Jesus? Of course, God gifts some of his people to see future things and hopefully their message encourages and strengthens faith in God’s promises to never leave or forsake us and be there now and at the end.


But so many have very “out-there” messages of gloom and doom and strange belief for the future. Planets, prejudice, even hatred, space-ships, stars, thousands of wives…..these are all mentioned in the many “out-there” messages…


We can and sometimes do fall for them. Given the right conditions, we can fall for anything, it seems. The right amount of anxiety and fear of unknown cultures and people, an appealing message of self-improvement and victory over our fears, the right mix of prejudice and even hatred at times, a dob of moralism and elitism, and hey presto: out goes the simple trust in Jesus’ word on living, dying and rising again, and in comes a huge variety of warped but appealing beliefs about the same.

Paul knows this. All he can do is appeal to what he has already shared with this community and exhort them to hang on to that which they originally trusted to be good and truthful and real.

….God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.


Friends, this message is for us as we ponder the future and the world as we hear and see it now. The fundamental truth is that we have already been called by God through the death and rising of Jesus of Nazareth for a purpose that he will bring to completion in his time. Paul declares this…..

14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.


God has given you your future in your past and you live in the present in this gift of life. In baptism the Spirit of Jesus resurrected you in power and set you on a course for a known future – a future that we can trust.

Our life in Christ is linear. We are heading somewhere, not just going around in an endless meaningless circle of life. We have a beginning and an end and He is in this – the “Alpha and the Omega”, as St John hears Jesus being named.


It is clear from the Word that God will bring this world to its end in his time and will. Christian faith says that the end is in God’s hands. No one knows the hour or the day. So, even though the church has sometimes got very sidetracked trying to “do a Nostradamus” and declare an end date for the world, this is far beyond any human being’s authority and quite foolish.


So, whether or not there are dangerous conspiracies going on in the world, or great natural forces at play or UFO’s or other life-forms on other planets in this massive universe or not, God began this and he will bring it to its completion in his way and time and his will is one of grace and love for human beings. He has proven this in the giving of his Son for the world – the “sacrificial Lamb of God who now takes away the sin of the world” so that it shares in the promised new Jerusalem and new heaven and new earth when this old one passes away.


Paul is urging us to stick to this and leave these things in the good and trustworthy hands of the Lord. There is good reason for this. If we delve into things that we cannot know and certainly cannot control, we get sidetracked from what we are being called to be and do – work with the Spirit of Christ to make God’s kingdom come on this earth – to participate in God’s mission to “bring all things under Christ” so that “none may be lost” – in other words, to love the stranger, the oppressed, the different, the needy, the lost, the loved in the name of Jesus and in his mighty love.


The Faith of Job (Job 19:26-27)……


And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!


Amen.

Alive!

Easter Day 2010 Ocean Forest after viewing media clip, “Alive” Alive! John 20 How do you know? Do you know? Can you believe? Can you trust? Can you bear witness today? Like the people we have just seen, each of us has our story. We have a beginning. We are living a childhood, a teenage season, an adult life. We are involved in looking to our future. Are we restless about our world? Restless about the world and its future, with all its issues of global warming, climate change, degradation and the fear these new realities bring? Are we restless about people: with all their terrorism, tribal and religious division, political imbalance of power, cultural and language difference, poverty, propensity to fight on a national scale and in the living room at home; our propensity for violence and racism and hatred we hear in the news? Are we restless about our relationships: will my partner and I make it? Will I ever find a soul mate? Will I do a good job of parenting? Will I enjoy my life with others around me? Will my life count and will I be surrounded by a loving family and community at the end? Are we restless about ourselves: Is my life going to count with God? Am I going to make a contribution for the world and for my local community? Can I rise above the petty issues of others and find a vision for my work and my family that brings out the best in the people around me and is immensely satisfying and fulfilling? On this Easter Day, are we wild and feeling out of control? Are we addicted? Are we feeling lost and alone most of the time? Does is feel empty on the inside these days? Have I got a big mask, or several masks on to hide the real me for fear of being seen and misunderstood or hurt? These are the real things we face. It is just that we can’t or won’t tell anyone – including God. Maybe we have tried. Maybe we feel it was not worth it and have decided to leave it alone and get on with all of the above. Enter Easter. Enter the crucified, dead and buried man of sorrow now striding out of the tomb and leading us out of our restlessness and worry in one decisive move! The apostles bear witness to the reality that he did what no other human being could do. He beat down evil and death. He even beat down out fatally flawed human condition of brokenness and sin. He took the consequences of all this evil within and around us. He drained the cup of human aggression, violence, deceit and pain to its end. He sucked up the just judgement of a holy God on these things in his own godly body. No one else could do it. No one else had the bare love and courage to do this love for people who did not understand it, value it or want it. Though no one understands, he still loves. “Father, forgive them”, the Crucified God says to those crucifying him. Has there been a greater, deeper, more courageous and complete love? “Greater love has no one than to lay down his own life for his friends” says the crucified One. What about laying down you own life for your enemies? How deep the Saviour’s love for us, rich beyond all human measure! Friends the time for fear of God and avoidance of his call is past. Perfect love in this triumphant divine man drives out all of our worries and fears on this Day of all days. God’s fair and righteous judgement on all that is unclean, unholy and unhealthy is passed. Because of this Easter Jesus, the war between us is over. God is no longer a lawgiver and keeper. He never really was, but in our limited understanding and self-centred view, that is how we saw him. He has thrown caution to the wind and run down the driveway to embrace us in our pain and self-righteousness. A billion people over thousands of years have experienced his rampant grace and love and still are. Like the people in the media scene, we have a date…or maybe several dates of encounter with the Divine Love. The date to call upon is the date of baptism, where all that he accomplished and fulfilled for us was handed to us as pure gift. Ever since we have had ongoing markers of renewal, moments of experience of his love, glimpses of his peace which is beyond all human peace. No troubles today – just for a day – just the deep joy of being in the love of God and the power of his resurrection. His resurrection power is still here and he is still with. My future is not known or predictable. With this resurrected Saviour and guide, my life can be extraordinary and of huge value to him and his mission to draw all things into his grace. Let him crack the exterior today. Let him see behind the masks and rest in him. It’s Easter. It’s a day for resting in the peace of the Messiah and celebrating our life together in him. It’s a day to give him all the glory and praise for all that he has accomplished and all that he is still to do with us and through us. We have seen the Lord. We have heard him speak this Easter. We will hear him again as we live in his resurrection power and his unending love and grace. Bless the Lord, my soul and praise his holy name! Amen
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