Clothed Right

Sermon, Pentecost 2C, June 23, 2019

Luke 8:26-39

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,[a] which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

I can’t help but think of people I have come across or heard about with huge mental illness challenges when I hear of this Geresene man living outside of town in the graveyard without a thread of clothing, in a constant state of fear and alert, and scars all over his self-harmed body.

What has happened to this man? How did he get like this? What went so wrong and where are his family, his friends?

And what on earth is Jesus doing out here in this danger zone of death. He is a Jew in unclean, unknown Gentile territory on the far side of the sea.

We are watching this happen with the silent disciples. They say and do nothing in this whole account. Maybe they are still shell-shocked after that scary night on the sea they have just experienced – when even the wind and sea obeyed Jesus’ command to be silent. They are silent now…

We don’t even go into town. Instead, we head out to the fringe of this fringy place. We meet this dangerous man who cannot be chained by chains but is totally chained by the dark side, the demonic, the pain the isolation, the self-harm, the lostness.

“Legion”. His own name does not count anymore. He is ‘Legion”

 For people in the ancient Roman world, “Legion” had only one meaning: a unit of approximately six thousand occupying, seemingly all-powerful Roman soldiers. Romans rule. Roman control. Roman take your freedom and use it for their gain. Same for demons. They are pretenders and parasites.

This man is controlled. There is nothing of himself left it seems.

I have to ask: Is this account anything to do with me? What is Luke saying. Is he asking hard questions: “Am I controlled? Are you?

“No”, you might quickly say. “Not like this guy, anyway!”. He is crazy. I am not crazy…….am I?”

I heard this poem…..

I AM LEGION
I am the lost one trapped in depression;
I am the broken one trapped in my rage;
I am the hurting soul chained to addiction;
I am self-harmer abused at young age –

I am the many-name victim of madness,
my humanness naked, nowhere to hide;
drowning like flotsam in cold seas of sadness,
wracked by despair until bits of me die;

haunted by fear, or strange inner voices;
tortured by dark thoughts in pitiless tide . . .
Blame me? Shame me? And what other choices –
fear me? Ignore me and let my needs slide?

Gerasene brother, when you met the Christ
who banished the illness into the swine,
your healing came without judgment or price;
mercy itself helped bring rightness of mind.

But note still the fear of those who kept score,
finding you clothed, sitting calm and at peace.
Madness is feared, but is mercy feared more?
It’s Christ, not Legion, who’s asked there to leave.

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King

Still sure you are nothing like this “Legion” man? Maybe I am controlled by things or people like this man as his people were controlled by Rome and by evil.

Remember the Commandments? Remember the First Commandment?

Love the Lord your God with all of your strength, soul and will…..

Luther saw that this first commandment is the ONLY commandment. The rest are how you break this one. To steal is not trust God for your wealth. To sleep around is not to trust the Lord for his unconditional faithfulness to you. To gossip is to mistrust the Lord’s words about you – that you are his loved child and etc….

We all battle with trust issues – we will desire just about anyone or anything more immediate than the promises of God. And as we do this, we are as controlled by them as this man was.

CS Lewis named himself “Legion” as he describes his particular journey to faith in Jesus….

“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. …..[I found that] ” All my acts, desires, and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit (Christ]. For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.” (CS Lewis, Surprised by Joy)

“I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”

Now we are getting to it.

Let’s say you are Legion. Let’s say that Jesus is here in our darkness and death and doubt.

Will you allow him to cast these things out or will you do what the pig-herders and townsfolk did and ask him to leave you alone. They asked Jesus to leave them alone. And he did.

They were not willing to let this Legion of trouble be healed. They were not willing to allow Jesus to make them anything different, anything new. They could not see the new story, the new thing, the new creation of Jesus’ kingdom in their midst.

All they could see was the loss of money and the loss of the story they always told the tourist about the guy out in the tombs.

But now Jesus has gone and removed the legion of pain and suffering. Now this Legion man has a new name or two – Son, Child, Brother, Friend, Called….

Friends, that is you. That is me too.

By Jesus power and grace our self-harm is replaced with healed skin, our naked exposure to demonic elements is draped with beautiful new protective clothes of calm and forgiveness and peace down to our boots.

Our scrambling around for happiness, staying ahead, satisfaction and the self-interest, isolation and fear this causes us is cast out. With Jesus there is new calling for isolated, mentally suffering, controlled people.

My “zoo of over-driven desires, bedlam of ambitions, nursery of fears, and harem of fondled hatreds” are disarmed, cast out, kept in check only by this Saviour.

It seems that mental illness and Jesus are not mutually exclusive.

He is the one who comes to your gentile, unclean places when he does not have to and when few other can or will. He is the one chained for you by the Legion of Rome. He became fettered in chains, under brutal unjust rule for you; he is the one whose body was cut, not by his own hand, but by others, and yet at his permission, for you; he is the one who was lost from the community; was dead among the tombs, cast into the unclean gentile pit of hell in your place.

He enters into my zoo, my controlling desires, my bedlam, my nursery of fears and hatreds and kills them in me to raise me – daily.

He did it once for all in my baptism and still does everyday.

Reclaim that baptism day. It was the day this Legion of death was put to death in you in the tomb of the font and the resurrection to life of the font. It was a day like this day for this man. In your new right mind with his robes of righteousness on, trust that your baptism day is still active everyday.

Enjoy the healed wounds and the new clothes of his righteousness – his forgiveness with which to forgive, his kindness by which we be kind, his peace by which we face our issues and help others do the same, his compassion to give away any day. Enjoy being back in the village among friends with good food and a holy meal.

And tell them. Tell them all. We live here. This is our village. Like this new man we are called by Jesus to simply tell them about all that he has done for us.

Friend, you are no longer legion and no longer dead. Now you are the one with mastery over death. Your desires have been re-ordered and your life has been given purpose and really counts. You count because he counts you in.

To tell all over town how much Jesus does for you. (v 39)

The Trinity of Love – Dean Eaton

Trinity Sunday  –  Dean Eaton

St Petri Lutheran Church Nuriootpatrinity dance
Reading – Luke 16.12-15 (NRSV)

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

As we gather for the Worship of God on this Trinity Sunday, we recall that the coming of Jesus revealed that what we are dealing with is not have a God who casually meanders around the Universe giving men and women the option of eternal life in Heaven or Hell.

This is no passive benevolent deity. No, here is the Hunter after the hunted, the hound of heaven, the Olympic sprinter in pursuit of the finish line, the Loin of the tribe of Judah pursuing his prey. The youthful romantic in the Song of Songs wooing His lover.  God calls the Church into existence through His Word.
He gathers us around Himself to proclaim to us his saving acts in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. He commands us as His redeemed people to daily wait in the upper room and in a mighty rushing wind, with Pentecostal flames of fire we are set upon by the God who has chosen us;

  • To adopt us into His family – calling us His sons and daughters.
  • To redeem us by His own blood – giving us victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  • To grant us an eternal inheritance – being coheirs with Christ.
  • To fill us with His Holy Spirit of Love having “appointed us to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.”
  • We are chosen to be glorified.

Our experience of God is in stark contrast to a world without God. Such a universe was well imagined by novelist John Paul Richter who has portrayed this sense of forsakeness and desolation in his novel ‘Siebenkas.’

Falling asleep on a quiet hillside, he has a ghastly dream vision of a Christ who has lost his heavenly Father and who confesses that he has been wrong, that he has misled men into a false faith and lulled them into false security. “We are the orphans all, both I and ye. We have no Father.” Tearfully this Christ confesses that he has journeyed through the infinite cosmos, and nowhere has he found a Father. He has met with nothing but the dreadful emptiness of the universe.

Shattered and shaken, this disillusioned Christ sums up his vain passage through the cosmos:
“Oh, dead, dumb nothingness!” necessity endless and chill! Oh, mad, unreasoning Chance!… Every soul in this great corpse-trench of a universe is utterly alone! I am alone-none by me. O Father! Father! where is that boundless breast of thine, that I may rest upon it?

Jean Paul’s terrible vision ends with the sleeper’s wakening
from his nightmare.

He hears the evening church bells ringing and finds that he is back in a comforting world which rests in the hands of the Father of Jesus Christ. And so he finds again his faith in that “boundless breast’ in which beats a heart that cares for us all.
This one divine being is tri-personal, and these three are joint partakers of the same nature and majesty of God. In other words they are ‘one’ in the sense that they possess,a) The same nature – Holy love.
b) The same power – Knowledge & authority.
c) The same purpose – To have an eternal family.
d) The same intention – To love their creation.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the time giving and receiving from one another.

Before anything was created God was love. The society of the Godhead (trinity) has always been together in love. Allah — the God of Islam is one God, however, Muslims do not believe in a trinity. But if God is not a trinity how could God’s nature be love before the creation if there was no-one to love? Plus, if Jesus and the Spirit are not co-equal with God the Father then we are dealing with a remote God who has only ever sent agents of himself.

Jonathan Edwards said;
“It seems to be God’s design to admit the church into the divine family as his son’s wife. The end of the creation of God was to provide a spouse for His Son Jesus Christ, that might enjoy him and on whom he might pour forth his love…Heaven and earth were created that the Son of God might be complete in a spouse. The spiritual marriage of the spouse to him, is what the whole creation labours…..to bring to pass.”
This continuous action of the Godhead in mutual glorification, giving and serving spilled over in the creation of the universe, humanity, and all livings creatures.
God did not create because He was lacking in something but rather because He had everything.  The Divine family, therefore, has always intended to have a family. Even before the creation.

The end goal of all the work of the Spirit is to bring us as the bride into the divine family.

The three persons inter-dwell (cf John 17:20ff), that is they find their fulfilment in one another not within themselves. Therefore they naturally do three things which mark all divine relationships, and should be part of human relationships;
1. They SERVE one another.
2. They GLORIFY one another, and,
3. The GIVE to one another.

Jesus said in John 15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”  How exactly has the Father loved the Son?

John 13:3 – “…the Father had put all things under his power.”
John 3:35 – The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. (Heb.1:2)
John 5:17-26 contains almost a summary of most of the things that the Son has received from the Father.
John 5:17-20 – The Gift of Work.
John 5:21 – Authority to raise the dead.
John 5:22 – Authority to judge the world. (Jn. 17:2; Matt.
John 28;18; 1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 2:8).
John 5:23 – Honour. (Acts. 2:36)
John 5:26 – Authority to give life.

Then between chapters 6 -13 in John we see some further ways that the Father has given to his Son.
John 6:27 – The Seal of Approval.
John 6:37-39 – Assurance of his inheritance – us.
John 8:54 – Glory – The Father manifested or revealed himself through Jesus. (Heb. 2:9; John 1:8;3:13;8:42;17:5,24).
John 10:30 – Oneness. (John 17:18-24).
John 12:50 – The Truth to speak.
John 13:3 – All Things Under His Power.

All of these gifts of the Father to the Son are done by the witness and the power of the Spirit. The Father having given the Kingdom to His Son we then see the Son giving it back to the Father – 1 Cor. 15:24;
“Then [comes] the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father…”

Here we see the Son completing the work of being the first fruits of many sons and daughters. Bringing them into the circle of eternal love – the true family of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This happens by the will of the Father, through the sacrifice of the Son, by the drawing power of the Holy Spirit.

The Father loves Jesus His Son, Jesus in turn calls, redeems, sanctifies, and glorifies us, then we see the Son giving us to the Father at the end of the age.

John 15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”

Can we now begin to understand something of the height, depth, and scale of Jesus love for us as his bride?  Can we now see that the end goal of all the work of the Spirit is to bring us as the bride into the divine family?  Can we now see that the God our Father calls us all into the life of the Trinity now and forever.

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

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

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

“I will Pour Out My Spirit”

Acts 2:1-21

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’ 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’

Peter addresses the crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[c]

‘All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them’ (Acts 2:4).

Faith is a very personal thing for us: which is a good thing – you want it to be personal. But in Australia, more than most other countries, faith would also seem to be a very private thing.

I have taken plenty of couples through pre-marriage counselling and it surprises me how few of them have had faith conversations with each other. They are going to spend the rest of their lives together and haven’t even discussed the subject of their faith.

Nearly 11,000 Lutherans filled out the national church life survey a few years ago, your congregation included. Only 14% (1 in 7) feel at ease talking about their faith and look for an opportunity to do so (you were a bit better than that at 16%). A further 55% mostly feel at ease and will do so if it comes up – though we have already established that in Australia it doesn’t seem to come up.

In the surveys for children, they were asked what they were good at doing when it came to faith activities. Their lowest response (36%) was ‘talking to others about God’. They were also asked what faith activities they engaged in frequently. The lowest response (10%) was ‘talking to their friends about God’.

This is not surprising, given that only 28% of the children surveyed had frequent discussions about God and faith in the home. Only 16% had conversations in the home about faith doubts/worries.

I’d suggest that keeping our faith in Jesus private is not such a good thing. It acts in direct contradiction to the work of the Holy Spirit, something we celebrate on this day of Pentecost.

Faith is a very personal matter to each of us. We are all on our own faith journeys and have our own faith stories to tell. And there are plenty of reasons as to why we might not want to tell these stories; why we might want to keep our faith private.

Maybe we don’t know what to say and how to say it. Maybe we don’t want to be seen as a religious fruitcake by those close to us; afraid of being misinterpreted or misunderstood. Perhaps we don’t want to be seen as pushy or judgmental or as undermining the right of others to believe what they want to believe. There are lots of reasons why we might want to keep our faith private.

I reckon the first disciples had their own reasons for wanting to keep their faith private. It was certainly very personal to them. They had been through an extraordinary roller coaster with the events of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

You get the distinct impression they were sticking pretty close together in those early days. At the end of Luke’s Gospel account we hear that they returned from the ascension to Jerusalem and ‘stayed continually at the temple, praising God’ (Luke 24:53).

The temple was the most public place in Jerusalem, which seems to contradict the whole privacy thing, but they could blend in with the other worshippers as they carried out their praise of God.

Likewise, our worship as Christians on a Sunday blends in easily enough with our current society. You don’t have to stick out too much simply by going to church. You can do what you want here, as long as it happens within the confines of these walls.

The first disciples also gathered together privately, away from the public eye. In Acts 1 we read: ‘they went upstairs to the room where they were staying…they all joined together constantly in prayer’ (v13-14). And in today’s reading we heard: ‘when the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place’ (Acts 2:1).

We too gather in small groups in our homes to discuss faith matters in private amongst kindred spirits. And that’s great – we should not give up meeting together to encourage one another in our faith, as the writer to the Hebrews urges us to do (10:24-25).

But the day of Pentecost shook things up a little when it came to the privacy of a Christian. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit altered the landscape for Jesus’ disciples in a very significant way.

If I was in their shoes (sandals) I’d be wanting to stay under the radar, to keep a low profile. The Jewish authorities were still a bit antsy, looking for signs of trouble. It would be best to keep blending in and to keep those uncomfortable faith conversations about a risen and living Lord private, out of the public spotlight.

The Holy Spirit obviously missed that memo! They were gathered together in a house when the Spirit came upon them. And look at how the Spirit chose to manifest himself at that time. There was:

“A sound like the blowing of a violent wind’, they ‘saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them’ and ‘all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them’.

Real discrete! And even all of that melodrama would have been fine if it could have been contained in the house where they were gathered. But, without any explanation as to how it happened, they are suddenly not in the house anymore.

They are now out in a space where a crowd of however many thousands can bear witness to this phenomena. So much for blending in, keeping things private and staying under the radar.

The only place I can think of in 1st century Jerusalem where you can have such an assembly of thousands from a range of cultures in the one place at the one time is at the Temple complex.

Pentecost was a high festival where the population of Jerusalem would have swelled in number with religious pilgrims from throughout the ancient world. It is at the Temple complex where they would have gathered for their religious festivities, especially at 9am in the morning, as we know it to be.

And here was this group of 120 disciples of an as yet unnamed sect, who were suddenly declaring the wonders of God in a whole range of different tongues, languages. They were now firmly in the spotlight. They had attracted a great deal of attention and it was not all complimentary – ‘they have had too much wine’.

But it’s not wine they had their fill of – it was the Spirit – a far more potent, intoxicating force that was unloosing their tongues in the public domain. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them!

Historically the Holy Spirit had empowered certain individuals to play a role in God’s unfolding plan of salvation. But on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit opened the mouths of all of them. It was precisely what had been foretold by the prophet Joel:

‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days’ (Joel 2:28-29).

The good news of Jesus is to be proclaimed in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

You better believe that your faith is personal – it is intensely personal because it relates directly to your eternal salvation. That’s how much your relationship with Jesus means to you.

But you also better believe that it is not private. The Holy Spirit was not content to allow the first group of disciples to keep it private and his opinion hasn’t changed when it comes to every generation of disciples since then, our generation included.

There are times throughout history when our lips seem to have been silenced, times when it has been easier to keep our faith to ourselves and only speak about it if it happens to come up.

But the Spirit of God continues to loosen the tongues of Jesus’ disciples so they can bear witness to the good news he is to us.

And this is not the task of a select few. It is not just the task of a pastor or a lay worker or a handful of leaders in a church community. It is the task of all of God’s people because that is who the Holy Spirit empowers – no exceptions.

That’s what happened on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured out on all of the disciples and then poured them out into the community to share the good news.

The Holy Spirit has been poured out on us through the waters of baptism and is poured out on us whenever we gather to hear his word and receive the Supper of our Lord. But we don’t remain contained within the walls and privacy of a church.

The Holy Spirit releases us into the public domain where he can communicate the Good News of Jesus through us! The world still needs to hear that they have a Lord and Saviour in Jesus.

You may try and tell me you are not equipped for this task. You do not have years of seminary training under your belt like a pastor does. Nor had those first disciples, by the way – the crowd even recognised that they were just ‘Galileans’.

Even so, you can insist you have not received the gift of communicating in other languages like they had – your Phrygian and Pamphylian is a little rusty. You’d have a point – if you happen to mix a bit with Phrygians and Pamphylians.

But I’m guessing that the people you mix with are family and friends, work colleagues, people with shared interests, people who you live with in community, people like you. I’m guessing that you do speak their language (Barossan English).

They need to hear the wonders of God in a familiar tongue not a foreign tongue. As the crowd at Pentecost said: ‘we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’

You might not know exactly what to say at all times and when to say it. But that is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still bursting to get this good news of Jesus out to the world and he will empower you to do that in your corner of the world. The Spirit is poured out on all disciples – no exception, you included.

So may God empower you with his Holy Spirit as you declare the wonders of God to the world in which you live. May God’s Spirit open your lips and loosen your tongue, so you can speak the good news of Jesus. This news is very personal to you and the people who are also personal to you need to hear it. Amen.

Long Live The King!

Sermon, Ascension Day, June 2, 2019, St Petri

Acts 1:1–11 

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptised with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptised with[b] the Holy Spirit.’

6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’

I am not sure we know what to do with Jesus’ ascension. Jesus’ birth, miracles, teaching and his death and resurrection get big coverage, and rightly so. But not his ascension. Ever tried finding an Ascension Day Card? You won’t find one among the crowded shelves of Easter Cards and Christmas Cards.

Why does this final moment get left off our calendar and left out of our hearts?

Maybe we just believe that the Resurrection is the final triumph and is all we really need. Death is dead. Jesus is alive. Our future is secure in him by faith. Why bother with this last little bit that kind of serves as an ‘ending for the Resurrection story’?

Question: If that is all the Ascension is – the bit that ends the Resurrection story, then why does Luke begin his next Book of Acts with it?

Maybe we think that the Ascension just spells the end of Jesus actually being with us? We think that maybe he is like one of those helium balloons. He just floats off up into the clouds never to be seen or heard from again until the end.

For now, it seems best to stay with those first things we know of Jesus, not this strange final bit. We resign ourselves to hanging on until we all “go to heaven with him when we die”.

And what about that ‘heaven’? So many of us believe that ‘heaven’ is this whole other place where only spirits go. So, the Ascension is Jesus’ spirit going to this other spirit place. Our eternal soul will go there too. So, Luke’s accounts of Jesus, seeming to go to this other place somewhere as a spirit does not really seem too helpful for living life on this human and earthy planet earth now.

Maybe we are not quite convinced about how Jesus was resurrected either.

There is a well known song by Keith Green we have often sung here: ‘There is a Redeemer’. The chorus gives it away.

“Thank you, O my Father, for giving us your Son,

AND LEAVING YOUR SPIRIT ‘TIL YOUR WORK ON EARTH IS DONE.

So, Jesus has gone to some other place. Only the Holy Spirit is left here. One day Spirit Jesus will come back again and take us eternal spirits to this other spirit place called ‘heaven’?

This flies in the face of the New Testament witness and this Ascension moment. Jesus was not just a divine spirit who entered a human body to get the job done and flew the coop back to his heavenly spirit place. Once resurrected, he spoke, he ate, he let them touch his wounds. Remember the wise guys in white?

This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’.

Jesus is still Jesus after his defeat of death. Jesus was not a floaty non-human eternal spirit. Luke, John and Paul especially, speak much about this. Jesus was resurrected still human. He is still the one they know. He will be the same Jesus we know.

Friend, what if Ascension is the BEST thing, the fullest thing, the most complete thing in the whole account of Jesus? What if it wraps up Christmas and Easter and everything else Jesus achieved for us and puts it to work – here and now?

This Ascension moment is like a detonator. The birth, the life, the teaching, the miracles, the cross, the resurrection are the TNT waiting to be set offafter the resurrection; waiting to be set in perpetual motion, and the Ascension is the detonator that set them off; the thing that sets them off into explosive action (eg, Book of Acts).

Luke tells of the Ascension twice – once to end the telling of the gospel: the beginning of Jesus’ work, and once to tell of the beginning of the future of Jesus’ work in the Acts.

The ascension is both the crescendo of the whole symphony of grace already played, and the first note that sets off ongoing grace playing in a thousand places in the world; playing at a theatre near you!

The Ascension triggers everything that Jesus “did and taught from the beginning” into this now new era when he ‘continued to do and teach’ as his new creation; new kingdom; new sky and ground; new city and garden; new community come into existence, right in the middle of the old dying creation?

Can we give each other Ascension Day cards now?!

Why? To share the good news that Jesus never left and is always human as he is divine – with us that way now, and that he is available to all humans as the new way to be human now.

And even more: Because Jesus is doing something: he ascended to rule. Jesus does not ascend to the glory cloud to hang around in the clouds for ages doing nothing in particular. He has ascended to do something – to RULE this world, and to do so with us, who are named “co-heirs in Christ” (Romans 8:16-18).

The Ascension reveals that Jesus is active: active through us; not just hanging around doing a few odd jobs, waiting for the guests to arrive, but ruling this new creation, seeking his guests, tending his new creation right in the middle of the old one.

And by ruling, he does not mean by power or politics or war (as the disciples wish he would) but by grace and with suffering

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Friend, the Jesus you know is the Jesus available to you everywhere always. He is all in all (Col 1:17, 3:11). His glorious cross fills your sky and all of his gifts of presence, wisdom, direction, healing, love and victory are yours today.

How do you know? How can you trust that this is you, and this future is you now? Baptism. You have died and risen with him.

“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him”. (2 Timothy 2:11–13)

You are not just hanging around doing nothing in particular either! You, as a baptised person in Christ are involved in what he is doing. You fulfill the prophetic, priestly, and kingly roles for which Jesus has been sent and ascended and now rules through us his body on earth (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 4:1–7).

We are all prophets called to proclaim God’s Word, priests ordained to offer ourselves as sacrifices, and heirs resisting the Lord’s enemies as he expands his gracious rule (Matt. 28:18–20; Rom. 12:1–2; Rev. 17:1–14).

Let him set you off this morning! “Lord, light us up, set us off!”, we pray.

Pledge yourself to your King not from fear but pure joy. This life you have and this life we share as his body is not about us but about him. We are called into His Majesty’s Service to be his prophets proclaiming, priests praying, and co-hears resisting enemies of Jesus within us and in the world as the King expands his gracious rule.

Long live the King!

 

 

Unpredictable, Surprising, Unexpected

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

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

Acts 16:6-15

Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia
6 Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Lydia’s conversion in Philippi
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district[a] of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us

 

FUTURE HOPE NOW

Sermon, Easter 5C, Sunday May 19, 2019hope, tshirt, holding on to hope

Revelation 21:1–6

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death”[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’

He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

 

 

There are two guys given a job. The job is to put the widget on the wadget, the whole day long. They have this mind numbing, tedious job to do for one year.

One guy is told that he will be paid $20,000 for his year’s work. The other guy is told that he will be paid $20, 000,000 for the same job. How do you think the two guys will go about their work?!

One guy will be bored and lifeless. He will take as long as he can to get to work. He will spend most of his time telling his friends that his life sucks, his job sucks, and that he has got little to live for. He will display little hope.

The other guy on $20 million will be whistling to work every morning, offering to get the other guy a coffee every day, telling his friends that he loves his work, that he can’t wait for the future because it is so bright and his life and work make sense and mean something to him. He will be displaying overflowing (and annoying!) hope.

Your future shapes your present. What you know is going to happen in your future determines your now. What you hope in for your future directly shapes your living.

Did you hear your future this morning? I did.

Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’[a]for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband …..

Hang on. That is here – ‘a new heaven(sky) and a new earth,’. We are not floating off to it, but it is coming to us and it what we already know – in part: earth, sky, city, garden, river….

See how God’s heaven has nothing to do with this idea that our spirit gets to fly off to some cloud and play the harp all day long forever?!

How can this be?

Resurrection: Easter Resurrection: Jesus’ resurrection was not just a happy ending to the sad story of his life and death. Jesus’ resurrection was God doing this: bringing about his totally new creation right in the middle of the old one (Ephesians 1:7-10, 2 Corinthians 5:16-18, Galatians 6:11-15).

As you hear those post-Easter accounts and ponder this grand vision, you will hear the first Christians grasping for words to tell you the full magnitude of what happened.

They say things like;

Jesus is raised, so now you can believe that he is the long-promised Saviour of whom the prophets always spoke.

Jesus is raised, God’s promised new creation spoken right from the beginning and throughout the story of God’s people so far has begun.

All those promises about new garden, killing the serpent, the new temple of worship, the new people of worship – the Israelites in the desert and promised land, the stunning words of the prophets about a new creation, a new saviour, a new human, a new heaven and earth, David’s words about a new king and a new nation, Ezekiel’s words about a new heart in new humans in sync with God’s heart – all have landed here in Jesus in full.

Even more stunning: Jesus is raised not to be a floating soul but a human body still. Jesus eats and drinks and speaks as he always did. Jesus is called the ‘first fruits” of the tree. We are the fruit that has come after him. We can trust that we will also be raised in total – body, mind spirit – all of me, all of you and you will be still you and me still me but “glorified” whatever that looks like.

Friends, can you hear it: Your life is not centred on “going to heaven when you die”, but living in God’s new sky and earth now, and doing so humanly, bodily as all of you and every part of you and your life.

You might find this challenging because it challenges a very well accepted long held belief….

We do say we believe in the “(bodily) resurrection of the dead”, but I suspect that hardy any of us actually believe it. I suspect most of us actually believe some good old fashioned ancient Greek philosophy first spoken by Plato.

His idea was that we humans have an eternal soul that is imprisoned in the physical body and that when we die, that eternal spirit flies off to the great beyond. He separated the human being into parts – spirit and physical matter (body).

The two parts of different value – the spirit is our essence, the real you, the bit that really counts because it lives forever. The body then is nothing – just a shell, just something to leave, because it is temporary. Flight from it is the goal – like a moth leaving its cocoon.

But how?

In the East, the Hindu believes in an eternal soul: karma outworks itself in your life and you will come back after death, and depending on how you did, you would hopefully live on as a higher being. The Buddhist hopes that after death she will lose all identity and individuality and simply disappear like a drop in the ocean.

In our West, Renee Descartes was the one who said, “I think, therefore I am”. So, my eternal core identity; my spirit, the real centre of me as a parson is capacity to think, not my physical body. That means nothing.

Friends, this is not the biblical truth of who we actually are. You can see it here. God’s new creation is a new earth, new sky, new animals, rocks, trees, streams of living water; even a new city to live in.

And live we shall. Jesus was bodily resurrected. He ate, he drank, he spoke, he breathed, he cooked fish on the beach, and he had those wounds that death inflicted. As he is raised in the new creation, so we live now in the new creation – body, mind, spirit – all of you, all of me and not just in the future but now.

But how?

Baptism: When you were baptised you were buried with Christ and raised with Christ. You were what? “Born again”, as Nicodemus found out. New creation; that’s you. “All things made new”. Born again into this new creation right in the middle of the old dying one.

Can you trust that you are not just waiting to go to some far off spirit place when you die? We are being called to live now in God’s already begun new creation here – new earth, new sky; or shorthand – his ‘Kingdom”.

FUTURE HOPE NOW. This wonderful future already now is the $20 million plus!

And even more, if there could be more hope: There is no sea. There is earth and sky, but no sea.

Why?

For John as a non-sea faring Jewish person, the sea is always the place of evil, chaos, dark forces, murderous creatures that bring destruction and death into the world. There is no sea – no death, no destructive evil, no chaotic violence and terror, no tears.

There is water – “water without cost from the spring of the water of life”.

Jesus is the ‘living water’, you remember. The Samaritan woman at the well heard that. Jesus also thirsted on that cross of death. He thirsted for the water so we could have the Living Water for life.

We have tasted death this week and we will again. I don’t like it. None of us do. But God does not like it either. God has killed death. Death is actually dead as far as God is concerned.

We are not “going to heaven when we die” but heaven in coming to us so we can live.

Friends, Jesus is raised, death is dead. You were dead in your sin and now you alive in Christ.

And the dead? His beloved ones rest in him until that great final resurrection when all evil will be reckoned rightly, and all the living and the dead will be raised – some for this final complete new creation garden-city of living water without chaos or fear and evil or a tear of grief or pain, and hopefully hardly anyone for this old dying creation.

And that is where we are in this. We have work to do while it is still day!

We have hope to give sinners.

We have an earth to fight for and tend.

We have bodies to tend – our own and others’.

We have everything to give because we have future hope now. We will not miss out on a thing. The $20 million is a drop in the ocean!

Your future determines your now. It’s a good future. It’s a good now.

So, live and pray with Jesus everyday –

“Your new creation come, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

Amen

Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd Sunday – May 12th

Vicar Shaun Manning 

John 10:22-30

Here at the feast of Dedication, the Jewish people have come to celebrate the successful triumph over the Syrians where they drove them out of the Temple they had profaned. A king of the surrounding empire had invaded, forced Greek culture on the Holy Land and even erected statues to Greek gods in the Temple.

In the midst of all this, winter is among them and probably the reason why Jesus is walking in the portico of Solomon for it was an enclosed area of the Temple. But the Jews who are gathering around Jesus here are about to be hit with something more than the winter breeze. They are about to be hit with truth that cannot be hidden from, a truth that they cannot be protected from by a portico or any other form of protection.

This is the truth, that they are not a part of Jesus’ sheep-fold. Well what’s the big deal? Isn’t this just some first century rebellious Jew? Isn’t he just some good man that taught and exemplified love?
Who then cares if one is a follower of him or not, as long as you just respect his message to stick it up to authorities and love people that’s all that really matters …  ?
Well this would be true if He didn’t claim to be divine … It wouldn’t matter that you didn’t believe in Him, don’t belong to Him, don’t listen to Him and are not within His safe and secure hands, if He wasn’t God.

So we have two alternatives when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth … it’s either that he is a mad-man who fooled everyone and Christianity is the biggest hoax or it is the best news because Jesus is who He says He is, the Christ, the Chosen One of God, the One who holds death and life in His hands, the Good Shepherd.

So let’s have a look at how this all unfolds…

22 It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

They encircle or gather around Jesus.
The original text here seems to insinuate not just a desperate request but perhaps even something more sinister. The literal translation of this would read “until or for how long will you hold our life or take away our life?” Jesus not only has the power to lay down His own life and pick it up but also has the power to hold our life and even take it away. Jesus lays down His life for His sheep, for those who hear His voice but he also brings judgment on those do not believe and reject Him. Jesus interprets their rejection as a sign that they do not belong to His sheep-fold, as ones who the Father has not granted (drawn by the Father) and put in the Son’s hand.

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

When did Jesus say this? He told them in the opening parts of this chapter; 10: 1-21.

In comparison to their disbelief, Jesus now goes on to state who He sheep are …

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;

Shepherds in the time of Jesus used very different methods than we use for sheep farming today. No four wheelers to round them up, of course ― they simply led them out of their enclosures or brought them back in by calling them. The sheep would become familiar with their shepherd’s voice and follow them.

My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me … fair enough He may be speaking about Peter, John and James etc. who are following Him … but no … He takes it a step further and turns up the heat…

28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.

Okay, now it’s starting to escalate … now He’s claiming to not just have followers but the key to heaven and eternity … but wait there’s more …

29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

But what is so significant about what Jesus says, is that he applies it to people in the context of faith ― something that has already been done in Ezekiel 34 where God brings judgment on the religious leaders of Israel for failing to care for his people and He promises his people that he will care for them:

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34 vv11-12, 31).

And what does Jesus say to the Jews in our text? “You do not believe because you are not of my sheep.” The connection Jesus makes to Ezekiel 34 would be inescapable to the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus is claiming to be the God who speaks in Ezekiel 34! The Jewish leaders would have been fuming!

And even though they would not have missed the connection, Jesus takes it a step further ― after all they did ask for a plain answer! He says in verse 30: “I and the Father are one”. Jesus has existed for all eternity, just like his Father. Jesus has the same divine nature as his Father. Jesus is true God, just like his Father.

This is exactly what Jesus means, for in the very next verse after today’s text, John tells us that again the Jews picked up stones to stone him ― stoning by death was the penalty the Old Testament prescribed for blasphemy. They think Jesus is guilty of blasphemy ― making fun of God ― by claiming to be God. To them, Jesus is just a “crazy man” in the Temple but really He is God Incarnate, God in the flesh.

Just as quick as children fill up their buckets with pebbles at the beach they have not recognised the voice of God, so they pick up stones to haul at him ― that the one who spoke these words in Ezekiel 34 is speaking to them right there in Solomon’s Colonnade.

If they were His sheep they would’ve recognised His voice and believed but instead they gather rocks to stone Him for blasphemy.

Jesus is saying that He and the Father are one. In other words the ‘temple’ in which God dwells is now standing in front of them, Jesus is the Christ.

He holds your life in His hands my brothers and sisters. The safest hands there are.

My question to you today  is … how well do you know this Good Shepherd?

Do you hear His voice and follow Him?

If you look around this place, your brothers and sisters in the pew next to you, the amount we know the Lord may vary. Some very much and some very little. And as important as getting to know the Lord Jesus is, to know who He is as your Good Shepherd; it is not half as important as the fact that He knows you.

The real key here is that He knows you!!

The Lord cares enough to know you.

Our knowing of Him may vary in this place and even be inconsistent in our own lives. But one thing is consistent, that is He knows you as much as He knows your brother and sister in the pew next to you. Very intimately.

“my sheep hear my voice…” – that is they hear and listen to Him speak. So you are a sheep if you’ve heard Him. His Word, Baptism, HC, Absolution…

“…I know them…” you are known by Him if you are His sheep, He knows you intimately. He knows your failures and tendencies to go astray and yet calls you, gathers you and embraces you.

“… they follow me…” we follow Him not to become His sheep not to remain as His sheep but because we are His sheep. Having our life in His hands, He sustains us our Good Shepherd by…

David once broke a lambs leg to keep it from wondering off… I’m pretty sure that isn’t a biblical quote, however, just as the Father disciplines children and those that He loves… and Jesus and the Father are one… and Jesus is our Good Shepherd, so it may not be stretching it too much to say that the Lord Jesus does have an intimate relationship with His sheep that incorporates loving fatherly discipline. (Heb 12:9-11).

Friends, may we not be like those who are not apart of the Lord Jesus’ sheep by not hearing His voice, by not recognising our need to be known by the Lord, not following Him.

Luther at the end of his life uttered … “we are beggars, this is true”.

After all his discovery and re-discovery of God’s character in light of the Gospel, many theological writings and hundreds of sermon and pastoring of people. He concludes it all with those words. Beggars aren’t too different to sheep, fairly silly in constant need of tending to and feeding.

That’s me and you. And it’s who we would stay without the Good Shepherd knowing and taking care of us.

Friends, you have heard His voice today.

You have heard His voice because He has gathered you into His sheep-fold again to be tended to and fed. Through His word and words being spoken this day.

So wherever you’re at this day… feeling disciplined, feeling like a lost sheep in need of rescuing once again.

He has you friends, and always has. And your presence here this morning testifies to the fact that He still has you in His safe hands.

Despite our rebellion, our straying, and even our discipline, no one snatches us from His hand. And He grabbed and claimed you at your Baptism and has never looked back since…

This is not a crazy man who says all these things, this is the Lord, so let’s not treat Him and His words as if He is. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.

Despite how much or how little we know the Lord.

The Good News is that He knows you, you are known to Him.

Our trouble is catching up this side of eternity …

We get glimpses but still struggle to see who He really is, what He has done and who we are as a result.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Amen

 

Breakfast with the Risen Lord

Easter 3 – May 5th
John 21: 1-19
Vicar Shaun Manning

21 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the
Sea of Tibe′ri-as; and he revealed himself in this way. 3 Simon Peter
said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go
with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.

As I mentioned the other week, when we read the Gospel narratives it is always important to know who Jesus is speaking to, so we can better understand what He is saying.

Jesus doesn’t speak to all people the same way.

He doesn’t speak to the crowds the same way He speaks to His disciples, neither does He speak to His disciples the same way He speaks to certain individuals.

And I don’t believe this is by mere coincidence.

The Great Commission to baptise and teach, is not given to the crowds but to His chosen eleven. Likewise with the keys of the kingdom, that is the authority to forgive sins, He doesn’t give this authority to His followers in the crowd but to His close disciples and also here, He commissions Peter to tend and feed His sheep, not just any random person He interacted with. And He does so by premising that “if you love me”… then tend, feed and look after My flock. This could mean that loving Him cannot be separated from the calling He is giving them.

Does this mean that the crowds and Jesus’ followers have no role in tending and feeding the sheep, since they are just a part of the flock? Of course not.

I remember a few years before my Nan died, she had a health scare in which she thought she would probably die. She spent moments with us a group, as a family and then she asked to speak to a few of us on our own and I was one of them.

Me being around 16 at the time, Nan had witnessed me date or at least speak about a handful of girls that I was interested in, you know high school relationships some last like weeks or even days sometimes. So Nan, having a few moments alone with me, reassured me of her love for me etc. but then hit me with me “I want you to settle down and be with just one girl… please”.

This was her dying and departing wish.

And this is Jesus’ departing wish, to tend and feed His flock.

Her saying this to me didn’t mean that it doesn’t extrapolate out to the other members of my family but this was specifically intended for me, first and foremost.

Likewise with Scripture as a whole but especially when Jesus speaks. We have to know who He is speaking to, to find out what He is actually saying.

He tells one man to sell all He has and give to the poor… how many of us take that literally for us and our context. The church, other than certain monks throughout history, have taken this to be applicable to them.

This is not the blueprint for Christian giving but was specific to that man and His idolatry.

So today, I believe that Jesus is speaking to His disciples which He was going to put in charge to oversee the tending and feeding of the flock, in His stead. But of course, like with my family, the principle being conveyed is not irrelevant to the rest of the flock. My Nan also wouldn’t want her other children and grandchildren living frivolously.

Our text today is all about Revelation.

And what is that the Lord Jesus is revealing about Himself this time?
Well primarily that He is Risen.

  • He is their intimate authority. (4-8)… He is their Good Shepherd (15-17)
  • And so calls Peter and the others to do the same (18-19).

Nothing on their own… (literally and symbolically), they need the Lord.

It calls to mind the vine and the branches, for without Him, Jesus, we can do nothing.
Why do they and we need the Lord?

Because the answer to that question is the same answer of why you have Him.
Someone has preached Him to you. Someone has administered Him to you by baptising you, by giving you Holy Communion.

Someone has taught you His Word and witnessed Him to you, encouraged you or even dragged you along to the places where His people gather.

My point is that we have Him because He gave Himself up for you and to you. He did through His life, death and Resurrection, of course. But then He gave Himself to you through His Church and through His shepherds.

His shepherds have been called to bring, not themselves and their teaching but Christ, the true and Good Shepherd, and His teaching.

And so the reason why any of us have Him is because we were given Him, through His shepherds and through His Church.

Here, the Risen Lord Jesus calls the initial ones to tend and care for His sheep in His stead, so that even we 2000 years after the Resurrection and thousands of miles away from the Sea they gathered, can partake in Him and all that He has won.

The day was breaking when the Risen Lord appeared to His disciples on Easter Sunday, now also the day is breaking as He reveals Himself by sea here.

He calls out to them as His ‘children’? A word which calls to mind a ‘calf’, or a young lamb of His. For He is their intimate authority, their Good Shepherd.

Typical Jesus, asking questions He already knows the answer to. “Children, have you any fish?”
Annoying as it is… He is again, calling to reflection of their state and need for Him, then providing for and comforting them.

Similar to that in St Luke’s Gospel… where Jesus tells them to cast their nets again… “we have toiled all night but at your word, I will let down the nets”… a miraculous catch happens and Peter says “depart from me, I am a sinful man”.
Now at the end of His ministry He is calling them to cast their nets again, a reminder for they will be catching people in His people in His departure. They will do so by tending and feeding the sheep, His sheep.

Beloved Disciple and Peter are the ones to respond, as in the Resurrection account.
Peter jumps into the sea, just like he jumped into the tomb to find it empty.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore… 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

He feed the crowds, now it’s time to have breakfast with the disciples before His ascension for they are to continue this mission. This mission of tending and feeding the Lord’s sheep, standing in the place of the Good Shepherd.

Does it get more human than “come and have brekky”?… “It is the Lord” do we understand how profound this is? This is God, the creator of the universe, taken on human flesh sitting on the beach with a fire, waiting for and then calling His disciples to come have brekky with Him.

This is who your God is! This is the God we have… it is so different to the God people think we have. Ones that don’t know Him, ones that He hasn’t revealed Himself to. Even One that we don’t expect.

This calls to mind that which so outraged the Pharisees: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” Yes—he does! It’s true! These disciples are not especially worthy of Jesus’ presence, fellowship and favour. They haven’t done anything to deserve it. They haven’t lived perfectly holy lives. They don’t have exceptional faith. Remember they rebuked Jesus for welcoming little children. Now they are called children by Jesus.

They sought to correct what Jesus meant when he had spoken of his coming death, trusting in their own wisdom instead of his words—“surely Lord, this will never happen to you!” They selfishly squabbled about who should be considered the greatest. They couldn’t stay awake and keep watch and pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. They’re actually just like us. And Peter even denied who Jesus was, not just once, but three times.

Peter is about to reinstated by the reversal of his three-fold denial. Again it is by a charcoal fire, as it was that night of Jesus’ arrest.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

From the seven disciples present this day, He pulls Peter aside and speaks with him. Perhaps re-emphasising Peter’s leadership as well as to reinstate and reverse his denial.
Compare this integration to Confession/Absolution questions.
” … do you love me?”

Love integration:
“Feed my lambs”
“Tend my sheep”
“Feed my sheep”

Peter is not the Shepherd but has been called to stand in His place, to tend and feed the true Shepherd’s sheep. How so? What does feeding and tending look like? (1 Peter 2:18-25).

Pastors & Priests for centuries have been called to stand in the Shepherd’s place to be a shepherd to God’s people by feeding and tending them. It might seem like they are drumming on about the same things all the time, but that is what they are called to. Because we are all like sheep who have gone astray and keep going astray. Hence we have to be constantly called by the Good Shepherd, by His Gospel, through the shepherds He has appointed and called to do so.

This is a life and calling that is intended to a laying down of their lives for the sake of the sheep. (v18-19) He lets Peter know of the type of death he was going to experience as a result of this calling.

19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Just before today’s text Jesus had said to His apostles: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23). At the end of Matthew’s Gospel He had told them to make disciples of all nations by baptising and teaching everything He had commanded them. What Jesus is speaking of in today’s text is not a literal feeding of the poor. He is speaking to Peter, an apostle to whom He had commissioned and given the authority to publicly forgive and retain sins in His stead.

The Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is so concerned about you that after laying down His own life for you He appeared to his apostles and charged them to feed His sheep with His teaching, which is really just Him. He and His word cannot be separated, He and His gifts cannot be separated.

This has been handed on to you―through which the Lord Jesus himself declares to you that your sins are forgiven and that you are His lamb which He has bought with His shed blood.

Our text from the book of Revelation said that:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12), who by His cross has conquered sin and death. With His blood, He has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

This same Lord Jesus visits people of all nations and calls them to Himself by the Gospel, even as He “was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:14).

And so this started here in the Holy Land, and now has made its way to the Barossa. And this is not by any accident. It has been the result of hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries of tending the flock and feeding the sheep.

Shepherds of His Word and Sacraments have been supported by the sheep to enable them to preach, teach and administer. But this does not mean that the those of us who don’t have leadership in the church have no place for God’s mission, of course not.

We all have our role in Shepherd’s work. Pastors, shepherds of the flock, can’t be at all of our work places, family’s houses, friends birthdays and the like to try and exemplify the faith to them all. But he is called to tend and feed you as part of his flock. He is called to love the Lord by loving and caring for you. He is called to equip you as sheep so that other sheep may see you and your relationship with the Shepherd and their need for Him too.

So I encourage this day to think about those who have left the sheep-fold. Those who have taken for granted their status as a sheep of the Shepherd. Those who have forgotten their Shepherd and traded Him in for something else.

So we come to be fed and tended to, so we can witness to why we need to be and why they, whoever they may be, need to be also constantly feed and tended to by the Lord also.

The more you realize who you are the Lord’s sheep and who He is as your Shepherd, the more you know what a sheep of the Shepherd look, smell and talk like.
Just like sheep, we cannot grow old of being tended to and feed.
Be tended to and fed this day.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Amen

Harvest Thanksgiving

28th April 2019, St Petri.
Vicar Shaun Manning

Harvest Thanksgiving – John 6:25-35

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let this food to us
be blessed.”
I want us to think about what we mean when we say
this…
Reason being is that it can be easily misunderstood.

What do we mean when we are inviting the Lord to
come and be with us in this meal?
Come for a meal we have prepared for you to join?

This understanding alone would be similar to saying to our car manufacturer to come for a drive with us, when they are the ones responsible for the car.

Or even more so a child saying to His mum and dad, come and join me for a meal which they have purchased, prepared and provided.

Hang on a second, am I your guest or are you mine?

Are you the provider of this meal or am I?

There is nothing wrong with saying this prayer of grace but I am just challenging us to think about what it means.

Don’t get me wrong I think this prayer assumes the fact the Lord does give, has given and continues to give everything we have but there is no harm is rehashing this from time to time.
He is not the Lord just because we recognise Him to be, He is regardless if we recognise it or not.
It doesn’t change Him or His reality when we recognise Him as Lord, but it definitely changes ours.

It is a prayer that calls upon the Lord to be present our table, in our family as we give thanks to you for all you have provided for us.

The Catechism’s pre-meal grace touches on this more succinctly.
Do you know it? We started with it at the beginning of our service today.
“Bless us and these thy gifts which we receive from your bountiful goodness.”
Giving is good but we/you are not the Lord. We are used by the Lord so let us never forget all that we have comes from Him.

By saying… “Come Lord Jesus” we may be treating Him as some addition…
The Lord isn’t some addition to your life but is your life, sustains your life and has granted you eternal life.

We are called to use these gifts for Him and His kingdom … not to simply fill stomachs and make money.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”

Seeking… what does it mean to seek the Lord Jesus, and can we do it and do we?

And if we can, what is our motivation for seeking the Lord?

The Lord can truly search the heart and know our motivations.

And here He sees that their motivation is not to see Him as Lord but as provider, a somewhat divine bellboy who we give us what we want and need.

Do some of us do this? Most definitely. Our motivations are almost always flawed, we very much prone to think of human concerns of our stomach, bank accounts, sexual desires and social pleasures than we are the things of God and His kingdom.

We also have a habit of deciphering who is genuine in their seeking of the Lord or not.
This is not in and of itself but it is if we think we are infallible in our labelling of who is genuine and who is not in Worship especially.

Jesus knew this about the crowds but didn’t turn them away. He also knows this about us but doesn’t turn us away. Rather He looks to remind us of our tendency to strive after what is temporary rather than what is eternal.

What does it mean to ‘labour’ for that which endures to eternal life in comparison to food that perishes. (Stomach vs is God’s Word “man shall not live on bread alone”. “do not worry about what you will eat…” “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth but rather…”)
Jesus says that the Heavenly Father knows that you need such things, He knows that you need company, need your stomach full but seek first His kingdom, Jesus says, and all these things will be added.

Trinitarian aspect: Christ has been sealed by the Father so what Christ gives is divine and endures to eternal life. Examples?…

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
They’re looking for a ‘work’ to do and so Jesus gives them a work of God, which is just that a work of God… God works faith, so that we are able to believe in the One He has sent.

God commands faith, provides a faithful One and also works faith in us, as a gift.
Just as He commands prayer, provides a prayer and prays with us in Christ, by His Spirit.

‘Signs’… big in John’s Gospel. He had already performed a sign at Cana as well as His dealings with them til this point. However they still request something to show them why they should believe. This is a prime example of why they need a faithful One and one to work faith. Their own faith is fleeting and inconsistent even though they had already seen and heard Him do miraculous works already. Much like the Israelites, with Moses and others, still complained and lacked faith despite the waters parting in the Red Sea for them.

God imparts the waters of Baptism but that is still not enough for us.

Offers His body and blood but we are still ungrateful and look to do things for Him rather than receive from Him.

The crowds wanted to know how to do the works of God and Jesus gives them a long list of things to do on the synagogue roster… no… He calls them to believe more in Him, recognise Him as the Divine Lord, provider and call them away from confidence in-self, which comes from a sinful attitude of self-sufficiency.

You want something to do? Believe more deeply in the Lord, the Lord of your life who has granted you life with at the font. Grow in reliance and trust in the Lord of your Baptism, discover and re-discover what He has done for you in your Baptism and what it means for you now and eternally. Kneel at the altar, receive His forgiveness and the power it gives to live out your life as a child of His in your vocation.

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

Not only is this periscope reminiscent of the Israelites but the woman at the well (John 4). As well as the whole biblical narrative in fact.

Reminds me of the woman at the well, “show me so that I may drink of it always”…
Jesus reminds them of the obvious, that God the Father was and is the true source of the manna not Moses or anyone else.

The Father has raised the stakes… not just sending bread/manna from Heaven but Bread of Life.
This bread never runs out, for it is eternal and encompasses truth. For He is eternal, He is truth and He is the Way.

“we don’t know the way…” is similar to the above statement “Lord, give us this bread always”
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”… He says to Phillip… “The One standing with you, I am He” He says to the woman at the well (John 4).

And here Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” He says here… it is me not something He will give, I am the Gift.

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”

What the Father is giving is not something to fill the stomach, load the bank accounts and comfort the body. But to give you His Son, the bread of life. This is the Son who gives life eternal because we don’t have it apart from Him. This premises that what we have apart from Him is perishable.

We should ask the Lord to be amongst us, as we eat and do anything as the epistle reminded us. But the true and divine invitation is “Come to me” (show pic of trinity with mirror).
“Come and dine with us”.

This what we get when we consume the bread of life in faith.

This is what occurs in Holy Communion… we are invited to dine with the divine and consume the bread of life literally. Jesus later in this chapter goes on to say that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life and He will raise them up on the Last day.

This is why God Almighty, invites us for the sake of His Son, the One who has made us worthy to dine with them.

We invited to this divine meal so that we can witness to this Divine love to others by hosting others as Christ hosts us here.

By having strangers in your home, serving and feeding them is partaking in what God in Christ has done and does for you. Strangers to God but now made dear children of the Heavenly Father by Christ sharing His inheritance with us.

A famous Christian once reflected on his faith, exclaiming “I’m just a beggar, who founds living bread.” You and I can now be beggars, who tell other beggars where to find bread, the living bread of life who satisfies all hunger of the human soul.

When we have fellow beggars who are strangers in our home or life, it starts to challenge what we think of our time, our possessions and the fruits of our labour. Is it for us to live on and be comfy or is to be in service to God and neighbour??

Think about it for a moment… using up petrol, money or time on some random in comparison to your wife, kids or family members.
Of course we are suppose to prioritise our vocations as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives etc. But is that it? Is that our only call?

We also have a call to love our enemy: If you love those who love you back, what gain is that?
Welcome the stranger: Jesus’ quote about banquets… Luke 14

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

My goodness me, that is challenging…

Hebrews 13 about welcoming the stranger.

13 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

May God grant us the wisdom and awareness our who is the true source of our belongings, gifts, time and resources so that we are better able to give Him thanks for all we have and use them for His kingdom and His mission.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus, the bread of life. Amen

Good Friday

Good Friday – April 19th    So that we may dwell in the Father’s Place

Vicar Shaun Manning

John 19:17-30

17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol′gotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 

God who creates, gives life and is life, is now being lead to a place which represents death and where he will suffer death. The One who built with wood and nails as a carpenter’s son, was about to be crucified with these same tools – wood and nails.

It is of comfort when we know someone who has experienced sufferings as we have. If a sinful human being and their experience can bring us comfort, what about the Divine? In Christ, the God of the universe has experienced human devastation and the tragedy of the fallen world we live in.

What did He do to be crucified? What crime did He commit to suffer such a death?
If he was guilty of anything it was unfathomable love. Love that fulfilled the Lord’s promises of old and becoming sin, experiencing death and despair. Despair that led him to feel abandoned by His Heavenly Father.

It is easy to read this account and forget that the man who is bearing this cross and is crucified with criminals is the Divine Son of God.

Jesus is in the centre of the three, and symbolically this makes sense, for His death is the most significant death of all time. Having a mocking sinner on one side and a repentant one on the other.

19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Did Pilate know and believe Jesus’ claim? We can’t be exactly sure but it does appear so, or at least that He was used by God to inscribe this.

It was inscribed in all spoken languages of the time and place. Perhaps symbolic to the fact that He is king to all and Lord of all.

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also, his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the scripture,

“They parted my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene. 

26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so, they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Overview of fulfilment:
Crucified on Golgotha with inscription
In all spoken languages of the time and place. Perhaps symbolic to the fact that He is king to all and Lord of all. And through the Great Commission this would be actualized by “making disciples of all nations”.

Garments and tunic is distributed (to fulfil scripture)
Four parts. Imagine how you would feel as His mother or His friend that they in the last hour they are dividing His clothing. It’ll be like arguing over inheritance in the hospital room whilst the person is dying, but even worse it is strangers doing so.

 

Mention of all three Mary’s, and His command to mother and beloved disciple.
Fulfilling and giving commands in the midst of agony. Even in the midst of His crucifixion He is concerned for the welfare of His mother … the fourth commandment, a commandment in which I struggle with personally, was fulfilled by Christ in His earthly life where He honoured His earthly parents as well as His Heavenly Father … He was also concerned for His beloved disciple. Fulfilling another commandment which He gave in His earthly to love the Lord your God with everything and your neighbour as yourself …  even the night before, love another as I have loved you.

“Mother behold your son”… Some have interpreted this as calling His mother to take care of all disciples for Mary would’ve played a motherly role to the early disciples (think of Luke’s Gospel).

 

And finally …
“I thirst” (to fulfil scripture), vinegar (also scripture Psalm 69:21); “it is finished” and bows His head and gives up His spirit.

Fulfilling Scripture? Commitment to His promises at all costs.
The Lawgiver Himself is fulfilling the Law and all the prophets. “I will be your God and you will be my people”. How? Through Christ … He is the One who not only is Divine but represents you to the Divine, the very mortal one sitting in the pew this morning.

The Law, Prophets and the Psalter anticipated this man … who comes because He needs to come. There is no other way to buy you back but to fulfil the promises and scripture He has given since the beginning of time.

The ramifications of “it is finished” and the salvation it has achieved spills on into your devastation and despair of life. Despair, depression, devastation, darkness and the devil’s use of such things has been entered into and crushed. Crushed by Christ’s fulfilment of Scripture. The fulfilment to bring you to a place where there will be no fears, tears or heartache. And He brought you into this life with His Father both now and for eternity by experiencing fears, tears and heartache and more.

This is who God is, this is who your Saviour is. He is a promise keeping God and nothing can stop Him from keeping them. Even death. In fact, it may even cost bloodshed for Him to fulfil His promises, and it did.

I finish with the words of a beautiful song which reflects on the Lord’s death…

O humble carpenter, down on your hands and knees, 
look on your handiwork and build a house so you may dwell in Me.

The work was done with nothing but wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands
O show me how to work and praise trusting that I am Your instrument.

O loving labourer with the sweat upon your face,
oh, build a table that I too may join you in the Father’s place
oh, in the Father’s place!

 

So may this Carpenter bring you peace this Good Friday in His death, dying the death we deserved on the wooden cross. He did this so that you may dwell in the Father’s place with Him.

May He keep your hearts and minds safe in Him this Holy weekend and evermore until you meet Him in Paradise.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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