Away in a Manger – Wide Eyed and All Ears

Sermon, Sunday December 8, 2019Away in a manger

Advent 2A

 Matthew 3:1-12 

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

‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

“Prepare the way for the Lord,

    make straight paths for him.”’[a]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out comes the axe!

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

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

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

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him –

    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

    the Spirit of counsel and of might,

    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord –

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

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

    or decide by what he hears with his ears;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O come all you faithful,

Joyful and triumphant

O come all you citizens of heaven above

Come and adore

Come let us adore him.

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


Away in Manger – Light and Hope

Sermon, Advent 1A, Sunday December 1, 2019, St PetriAway in a manger

After viewing Video – Skit Guys – Away in a Manger – Isaiah

Isaiah 40:2,8, Isaiah 2:4.

    The grass withers, the flower fades;

    but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

    They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

    and their spears into pruning hooks; (Isaiah 2:4b)

   He shall judge between the nations,

   and shall arbitrate for many peoples; (Isaiah 2:4a)

How many times have you been wide awake at 3am just waiting for the light?

We have had a few restless nights feeling a bit scared as a family. One night we were way out east of Alice Springs. Unusually, it was a bit wet. We were travelling light, sleeping in two dome tents; one for two of the boys with us and one for Leanne and I. Normally this was fine. But this night was a bit strange.

The rain closes things in on you a bit. Then the dingos; they were howling. They howled a lot of the night. Of course, whenever I think of dingos and Alice Springs or The Centre in general, I, like most Australians, think of that tragic death of that little baby girl, Azaria Chamberlain.

Then all the B grade movies you have ever seen about wild dogs or bears ripping tents open and attacking defenceless humans are added into the night, and there you are. You can’t wait for the light to come!

But that is not typical. More typical for more people restlessly waiting for the light to come might be these:

  • You find that you are going around in circles trying to figure out what to do in a relationship that has got damaged.
  • You are churning over your self-defence in a conflicted situation.
  • You are whirling around like one of those Whirling Dervishes trying to figure out how you are going to cope with that bad news.
  • Or, you are just scared of something. You are crook and you know it. You have a huge decision to make and you feel it. You just can’t wait for the light to dawn.

Strange how the darkness seems to close you in when nothing physical is doing that to you. You feel pressed on all sides, unable to move, unable to do much about your fears, your worries, yourself. Things might not be better straight away when the light dawns, but at least you will be able to see more.

And that first pre-dawn light just arrives and there is hope. The long night of discontent vanishes. The day will come, and you will live it. You are still alive. You still have opportunity to do things, say things, try and work your way through things.

That is how the Prophet pictures God’s promise of a Saviour; he is like that early light who brings hope.

He speaks of this light as hope to people who are living without the hope they once had; a real darkness.

Isaiah speaks in the Exile – the generation transported away from Israel by the mighty Babylonians. They are ruled by a foreign people who have many gods and a god-king. They have lost their centre, their rhythm, their sense of direction, their hope for what they heard was their future as God’s people in God’s world. The oil in their lamp had run out: no light anymore; stumbling around without a torch in the oppressive darkness; unsure, unclear, unable to do anything about this long night. The road to home and hope is closed because it is now dangerous to human life.

The prophet announces that he is praying; he is “talking to God”. His wife askes a crucial and insightful question (wives often do that) from over his shoulder, “Are you listening to him?”.

And that is the question this morning, in whatever night you may be in, “Are you listening?”.

Maybe you are praying. You may have finally decided to pray like you mean it. You may have even decided to clean up your act a bit. You know, as part of a bargain with God: “If you get me through this night, I will give myself to you in the new day”. Problem is you know that you cannot be that good for as many days as it will take to buy God off.

Isaiah does listen as well as speak when he prays, it seems. He gets the strange news that the night will lift, and the day of God’s hope will come for the people and for him.

It will not come like they think it should and like it normally would in the ways of human beings. But it will be human light to end the long night. In fact, the new day will be ushered in by a new human who will make people more human.

A young women, a baby, a life, a message, human suffering, human weakness will be known to this new person. No plague carrying Moses or sword carrying King David. He will not be like the Babylonians or any other people of power with no gods or many gods who don’t care about or know who the only true and living God is. He will be God who is; God with us like God has never been before.

I don’t know what your long night is or what it feels like for you at the moment. I do know darkness and I see it everywhere in the world. I know it resides still in me too. I too “am a man of unclean lips” who often speak to God for all kinds of reasons (which is better that not speaking to him at all!) but does not listen to him speaking to me in his Word.

Friend, hear this or the long darkness:

The grass withers, the flower fades;

but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

This Word is a man, not a mere concept or theory or ideology or philosophy. This Word is Jesus of Nazareth with us, with you; Messiah, Saviour, Shepherd, High Point, land mark to guide you home to hope, new way free of danger, free of threat; breaking light for the long night bringing hope back to your day.

These are the pictures the Prophet can’t stop painting to help you trust again; to help you listen to understand not just to fix the problem.

Trusting this Man of Light means laying down your guns; for good.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks; (Isaiah 2:4b)

 He knows; he understands the fear, the guilt, the shame, the worry the pain, and because he does, you don’t just put you guns back in the cupboard just in case, you beat them into gardening tools for good. You don’t need the anger, the worry, the fear to flee or to fight or to freeze to fix it, as much as you need him and his light to be your sure hope.

And trust is all you need because the Light just helps you see. He does not come to you like a bullet or a spear or a knife but as light surrounding, light lighting up your spirit and your relationships. Light by which you finally see yourself how he sees you – “a child of his light” as was first spoken to you when you were baptised into his Light by God the Light

How is trust in this light possible? Because;

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples; (Isaiah 2:4a)

Like Isaiah and all the prophets, Like Paul and all the apostles, like any person of Christ who has ever lived through dark times, the only thing to do with the coming light is trust it; like you simply receive the dawn, so receive him as a gift – and then live the gift in the day.

Trust him in your dark night as you listening to his word of light.

He is the light for your dark night and you already live in light.

Plenty of others are not. They are still scratching around in the dark trying to find some good oil.

“It is where it usually is”, the wife calls.

Yes. It is where it usually is. It is in Him.

O come, You Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Your advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! God with Us.

Risky Business

Sermon , Day of Fulfillment, November 24, 2019.


Luke 19:11-27 

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.” 

14 ‘But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We don’t want this man to be our king.” 

15 ‘He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. 

16 ‘The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” 

17 ‘“Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.” 

18 ‘The second came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned five more.” 

19 ‘His master answered, “You take charge of five cities.” 

20 ‘Then another servant came and said, “Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.” 

22 ‘His master replied, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?” 

24 ‘Then he said to those standing by, “Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.” 

25 ‘“Sir,” they said, “he already has ten!” 

26 ‘He replied, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.”’ 


It sounds like they thought this was it. They thought that Jesus would stroll into the city and take over the place without any struggle and simply be crowned king forever and all their troubles would be over. That is what Luke tells us here.  

Jesus went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 

 Obviously, there was much more to the kingdom appearing than they wanted to hear. There was going to be struggle. There were going to be risk. They would have to work hard with him. His kingdom would not come easy.  

I am not sure we really want to hear him say the same thing to us at the moment, or ever! It would be so much easier being a church and being a Christian if it was easy!  

But, like last week, we hear that a life of faith is not easy and God’s kingdom, even though wonderful and life-giving, is not always received that way. In fact it is resisted most of the way.  

So, what are we to do? What are we supposed to be doing as God’s people as the coming of his kingdom slowly occurs?  

He tells us in a parable….   

A rich — and soon to be powerful — nobleman goes on an extended trip to be crowned king. This often happened in societies before ours. It happened in this society. Before Jesus, both Herod the Great and one of his sons, Archelaus, travelled all the way to Rome to get the nod of approval to be rulers over this community. It is what a soon-to-be king nobleman must do.   

In the parable, most of his people hate this soon to be king. They even send word ahead to his entourage that they oppose this coronation (his becoming king) (Luke 19:14).   

But the King keeps on coming! In his absence, this nobleman assigns three of his servants the task of investing his money in the community he will soon rule.  

This would be tough; a bit of a test of their faith in him, for sure. Will they take the calling of their king to get their community ready for him and his new rule? Will they invest wisely in things and people to make his rule effective and the community more ready to receive him?   

Two of them take the risk of investing their master’s money. They do so wisely. They earn handsome returns. They earn different returns. This seems totally fine with the soon to be king. The test is not really about the amount of return for effort but about the effort before he returns.   

Despite a hostile community and any personal cost, they took the personal and financial risk to do the king’s work. They display the willingness to follow his instructions, use their heads and keep the vision of this king’s rule at the forefront of their activities in the community.   

A third worker does none of this. He says he was afraid to take the risk  

I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. 

 He does not know the king. He is scared of the king. So he puts the money in a safe place. It earned no return.   

Finally, the nobleman returns. He is already crowned king of the whole territory. He comes to the capital city for his coronation  

He rewards the two servants who invested in the community for his purposes. He gives them even more responsibility. He chastises the servant who kept the money safe but unproductive. Then he commands that all who opposed him be killed in his presence. They have made their choices about him. Their choices obviously have consequences.   

So, here’s Jesus, the “nobleman who is already King, now about to go into his city, Jerusalem, where he is to be crowned king. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord,” they will shout very soon (Luke 19:38). But then the rejection of his kingdom rule will be present too: “Crucify him!” they will cry (Luke 23:21).   

So, there it is; the kingdom welcome and the kingdom rejection; the risk of investing for the king and the inevitable risk of being rejected as king.   

One thing is clear, it will not be easy even for the King of all kings to establish his kingly rule among these stiff-necked human beings! Many will receive him with open hearts and find joy and life. Many will reject him, be scared of him, see his rule as a threat. Like the unfruitful manager, many will play it both ways; receiving the what the king gives, but not the king himself; the safe option; the unproductive option.   

Makes me ask myself; “Which one am I? Who are we more like?     

What gives us courage? What enables us to be like the first two workers who take the risk of investing in the King’s kingdom, despite the reality of risky rejection?  

What makes us gladly and freely be fruitful, wise and faithfilled managers of the king’s provisions?  

Surely only one thing. Surely only one person; This King! This King of love; the shepherding king, this risen and victorious king. Jesus is what turns our fears to hope, our doubts to joy; our anxiety about the future to opportunity for him to be present and his kingly rule to transform people; his kingdom to appear.   

 This king is about to show us his character in full, in blood on wood. He will do so for the scared, the prideful, the worried, the oblivious; those rejecting him still, those scared of him still, those who have never received his undeserved acceptance for all their pride and arrogance and wayward chasing after the wind.   

We know this king. He is a servant king; a king of love our shepherd is whose goodness never fails.   

He is calling us to invest, take the risk, freely give and trust him for the outcome. He always is. He is calling us to take up the responsibilities of kingdom citizenship, like the first two investors. He is calling us from spectator to team member.   

Two things are true today: 

  1. Having Jesus as our crowned king requires working toward his purposes in whatever field of work we do and whatever relationships we have. 
  1. If we trust Jesus as king, we must expect to lead risky lives. The servants who invested the master’s money faced the risk of being attacked by those around them who rejected the master’s authority. And they faced the risk of disappointing their master by making investments that might lose money.  

 Ducking for cover is the one action Jesus condemns in the parable. The servant who tries to avoid risk is singled out as unfaithful.   

So, here we are at the end of a year and the beginning of a new one in God’s kingdom grace.   

We believe the Lord is calling us make a major investment in two parts in 2020: 

  1. Being a sending church – a community invested in the business of sending and supporting people to plant new communities within our own community and beyond; communities open to and connected with non-church or de-churched people; the ‘Orphans of God’ 
  2. Significantly redeveloping our facilities to make them more able to help us work toward the goal of relating to more people in more ways, more often.  

 This king takes the risk with and for us. He risked everything for us on that deathly cross. He still does.   

Will respond the same as we be faithful like the two investors who invested what they had been given despite an un-guaranteed reception or certain results, because we trust him to provide?  

And this is what am wondering the most: are we like the first and second servants in that the King is now calling us to take greater responsibility; to manage ten cities or five cities because he has noticed that in the past, with faith in his provision and commitment to his kingdom coming, we took the risks in an unknown environment with unknown outcomes? He sees that we have been doing this in the past and now rewards us with greater responsibility?  

This new year and these new challenges we face will always require two things 

  1. Hard work together, and 
  1. Some risk together.

That is what faith is – trust and commitment in real time.  Faith in this King of kings always is these things.  

“I tell you, says Jesus to his church, “to everyone who has faith in me, more will faith be given”.  



Grace Opportunity

Sermon, Pentecost 23rd C, Sunday November 17, 2019.

Luke 21: 5-19

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’

‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’

He replied: ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’

10 Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 ‘But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

In this word from Jesus today, I hear the call to trust him no matter what happens to us as a church or me as a person. He promises to sustain us through everything. This allows us to live through anything with him. This allows us to not turn to blame and shame or doubt and fear but to take the hard things as opportunity to share him with others and see him at work. This is easier said than done!

The first thing to say is that Jesus is no pretender or liar; no false teacher. Faith in Jesus is tough and very realistic. Jesus says here that bad things have, can and will happen to us, even though we are accepted and loved by God.

Things like betrayal, persecution, conflict, insult, dismissal, unfair criticism, unjust words, tragic loss or persecution of people of Christ will occur. But Jesus says he is present with us in these things too. He is here with us in the tough things. His presence enables us to respond to tough things without the need to be the tough guy or girl.

But we naturally have two basic ready-to-go responses to these hard things we come across: run away or come out swinging. Both do more damage and keep us from the joy that is already ours in Jesus.

We tend to respond in fear, not faith. We either tend to deny pain and hurt; pretend that nothing has happened, and nothing has hurt, deny we had anything to do with it to try and escape it. “She’ll be right, mate”, we say.

Either that, or, “It’s all your fault!”. We come out swinging. When our aspirations are dashed, our goals end up rubble, our good name under attack, we tend to blame others for everything bad that has happened. It is everyone else’s fault, not mine; not ours.

In your efforts to either escape or fight, there is no possibility of the grace of the Lord Jesus rising in it to transform it all. Why?

Because there is no room for asking that critical question Jesus directs us to ask elsewhere in his word – to ‘take the log out of our eye’. In other words, to ask ourselves, “What is my part in this, if any?”. Jesus calls us Christians to own our own contribution to the difficulty, however small, so that we learn, and so that genuine reconciliation can occur, and life can still be lived in Jesus joy in and beyond this hard thing.

If anyone had a reason to blame someone for something really bad, it was the people around Jesus in the city temple area the day he said this magnificent building would all fall down! Right in the heart of their personal, family and national life, in the place of ‘blessed assurance’ that God was still theirs, Jesus says this whole place will be rubble one day soon.

That is really saying that all they knew to be solid and true, all that gave them aspirations for their life; all that held them together as a people and as families would be gone. THE place of blessing, prosperity, family, community, place in the world… your life as person of God in a nation God has made will be rudderless, placeless, like Adelaide without the Torrens or the Oval; like Australia without Uluru or Sydney Harbour or Melbourne without the MCG; Perth without the Swan River.

The Jerusalem temple was begun in 19BC by Herod the Great. As this grand design is still being built fifty two years on, with its giant gem encrusted columns and gold-plated capitals, Jesus shockingly declares that this whole place and all it represents will end. Not one stone will be left on another.

That happened just thirty or so years after he said it would. The Roman military finally did what they had been threatening to do for years. Five years after this temple’s 65 year building program was finally completed, they razed this magnificent building to the ground in 70AD. Now there is a horrible thing that someone needs to be blamed for!

But I notice in Jesus’ words or Luke’s reporting of them that there is no hint of blame. This is remarkable since Luke is probably writing this account of Jesus’ words after AD70. The temple is already destroyed. But even then, still no blame!

So, what is here instead? Opportunity. Jesus says that even this catastrophe is an opportunity for his grace.

He goes on to say a whole list of other hard things are opportunity for his grace; an opportunity for him to reveal his undeserved love; his grace; his kingdom transformation to do its transforming work on people.

Friends, hard things; unfair things, hurtful things that happen to us are not to be ignored, denied or filled with blame. Jesus says here that tough things are to be received as moments of witness to him and his promise of life in us. No blame; but opportunity to tell of his grace; opportunity to bear witness to Jesus’ grace and love for sinners. No hiding away in fear. No coming out swinging with angry blaming words and retaliation, just receiving of an opportunity to speak of him and his forgiveness.

But how?! It is hard to resist the blame game!

Well, we often can’t but he always does. Jesus took all the blame for my mistrust and ignorance of him. He took the pain and the tragedy about to befall him, which was worse than a building being torn down. It was his body that was torn down.

It was the full darkness of human hatred and blame shifting weakness he took to the grave. And when he rose from that dead building, he became the new living building; the new place of divine presence; the new person of divine peace and life who hears our praying and responds to our seeking.

He has made us his building, his living stones making up his vast moving, breathing body powered by his grace to be grace in all the suffering and loss.

Friend, the only way we can move away from pretending, denying, sweeping the damage under the carpet in fear or fighting and damaging and hurting each other is him. He shifts blaming and shaming to opportunity to the possibility of grace; undeserved love.

His undeserved acceptance and love are the way through tough things, tough times and tough people.

And there is final justice for all wrong. He promises that nothing goes unnoticed and not one part of you will be lost. Every hair on your head will be intact in him. You will be with him and remain in him no matter what because he is aware of you, understands you. He has been where you have not been yet, and he lives where you live now.

This whole word is about trust. The only way you and I can receive conflict, hurt, unfair criticism, betrayal, ill-health and all other hard things mentioned here and experienced daily by human beings is him. The only way we receive these things as opportunity rather than threat is trust in him and his peace; his wounds for us; his blood for us; his love for us.

With his promises and the hope it brings us, we can do something again this morning that takes us away from blame and shame and hiding and running:

14 … make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves

We don’t even need to plan to avoid tough things (as if we could). Our calling is to make up our minds to not even bother about avoiding bad things, being ahead of bad things, having a strategy to deal with bad things – not in our own human way anyway.

Friends, “If he calls you to it, he will get you through it”, they say. Jesus will get you through it.

Bad things will happen. We will hurt each other at times. Others will betray us, criticize us, dismiss is for our faith in Jesus.

The world will experience disasters, bushfires, tsunamis, earthquakes, loss, death, evil.

But Jesus says to you that there is opportunity here. His opportunity. There is opportunity for the harvest – for the good news of God’s long and wide and high grace to be experienced by you and the other person.

Praise the Lord that no matter what, you remain in him and he in you. Nothing is lost or unnoticed by him. Even every hair on your head is known, no matter what comes to you or us as a church.

Stand firm, friend. These hard things are not fear-filled things, but his things; they are an opportunity for God’s grace to rise from the dust and transform the situation back to grace and joy in Jesus, in you and hopefully others.

So, stand firm in making for his peace in as much as it is up to you without defending yourself or fighting back or running away or pretending. In his truth and his present love and power you will win life, today and tomorrow.

Life to Stand In

Sermon. Pentecost 23rd C, Sunday November 10, 2019. St Petri 

 Luke 20:27–38 The question about rising from death 

Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” 

Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 

It was hard hearing all those names read out last week at All Saints Day. We remembered those whom we have lost by name and thanked God for them. There were a lot of names.  

I wonder what that does to you – whether you did not really know many of them or most were life-long acquaintances or friends or actual loved close family members.  

Today’s words from the Lord will help us.  

We have this strange little conversation between Jesus and a particular group of people in this “heated up” final part of Jesus’ journey to death in the city of Jerusalem.   

Jesus is asked about his belief regarding what happens when we die – whether there is nothing at all after death or whether there is something truly different, totally unlike anything we have ever known this side of death.   

One thing he makes clear in his response: God is God of the living whether they are living or have died!  

“God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 

But our natural questions about death and life beyond it are with us always. They might be; 

  • Where are our brothers and sister in Christ who have died and what will the resurrection be like? 
  • Is Jesus saying we won’t know our friends and families, or even our partner in life? 
  • Is Jesus’ resurrection the same thing as this belief that we all have an immortal soul that flies off to some place when we die? 

Various groups with different beliefs about death and life are all there in the city around Jesus: Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots and etc . Things are getting to the pointy end. All these groups are very aware of Jesus. They are all trying to figure out if he is friend or foe. Is he good news for the nation or really dangerous! So, the Sadducees group ask their thorny question….  

If seven brothers were all married to the same wife in succession because they were keeping the law saying their duty is to marry/take in the wife of a brother who dies to protect her and give her a safer future, and none of these seven brothers have any children with this one wife, at the so called ‘resurrection’ (which we think is just fantasy) whose wife will she be? Won’t this be terribly awkward in this so called ‘heaven’?   

Now the big issue that divides the two major groups; Pharisees and Sadducees, is different belief about whether or not there is anything after death for human beings  

It is not actually a question much to do with marriage. It is all about resurrection. This is not even an honest question seeking new understanding. It is ‘set up’ question aimed to get Jesus to trap himself in words. They need some ammo to get rid of Jesus from their lives.  

Sadducees say there is no resurrection from death. For them, only the first five books of the Old Testament are authoritative, and they reckon those books do not mention anything about humans living on after death. Pharisees take the whole Old Testament and believe there to be much about life after death spoken. There is resurrection from death.   

Whose side are you on Jesus? Jesus has already humiliated the Pharisees just prior to this conversation. They tried to trap him with that other tricky question about paying taxes to the hated Romans and their fake god, Caesar. That was good viewing for the Sadducee’s!   

Jesus replies mysteriously; 

“The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.” 

So, plain and simple: There is life beyond death. The Sadducee’s are wrong. A lot of people today are still wrong about that.   

Jesus gives no specific details about this life beyond death. He does make it clear that is different to life now.  

It is different in the sense that the ordinary events that shape our lives now and track our journey through life – birth, childhood, teenager time, young adult time, work, marriage, etc, do not characterise the life beyond the resurrection.   

Somehow, we will be us, but we will be different, as Jesus was different but still himself after his death when he was raised from death.   

But what about knowing your marriage partner, or anyone else? Will we know each other? Will we know our spouse, see our family, be reunited with them?   

Seems a bit like we won’t. 

“The people of this age marry and are given in marriage…” [but not so in the next] 

But Jesus is not really saying anything about not knowing each other. He does not say we will not know those who have been dear to us, only that resurrection life will not be marked by the same features as this one.   

He goes on to say;  

“Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” 

 So, it seems that the relationships defining our current life remain in the resurrection life we will share; definitely with the Lord himself, and very likely with each other.  

And one very important thing Jesus says is that we humans do not have some ‘immortal soul that will leave the body and fly off to some other spiritual place we might call “heaven” when we die.  

I know, a lot of people I know have that belief and it does bring some comfort to them, particularly if they are unsure about Jesus and his resurrection and his promises.   

If you have little or no faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection for you and his definite word that there is indeed life with him forever beyond our death with all others who have believed what he says, then the next best thing is to believe that there is this eternal non-visible essence of us that somehow lives on.   

The problem is, this text and the whole New Testament dont say that. They say a whole lot more that is a whole lot better!  

Jesus says that there is life after death. His life for you.   

He says it is different to life before deathand marvelously so – no more tears, suffering, dying.  

But it is ‘the same’; it is human and communal – we will know him. It seems that we will know people – even Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.   

Friend, this message is for you, no matter what or who you have lost. This is hope for you for today  

Why? Well, this resurrection life is not mere theory for Jesus. He is living it in this city. He is about to pay the ultimate price for this new hope for us all. It will cost him dearly. It will cost him real pain and violence and dark struggle to make this resurrection life possible for all of us humans.   

So whatever he says about death and life after death, it is personal, it is hard won and it is human and real.  

And this is all ours now. You died and rose to this life already when the Spirit sealed you with this life in your baptism. You are raised and one day will arise with all the living and the dead to receive the final and full reward Jesus is and has.   

Resurrection gives you a place and reason to stand. You can stand firm in anything because Jesus is standing beyond the grave in glorious light.   

Resurrection gives you an anchor point. Like a little toddler holding to Dad’s leg to stay upright, you can hold on to him as you “hold fast” to what you have been given, what you have been taught, what you still receive all the time from Jesus through his people.  

Resurrection gives you guaranteed victory and strength to overcome. As you hold on you keep walking, even with the flaming arrows of the “Lawless One’ (as Paul calls him) who tries to set himself up as God in your life. (1 Thessalonians 2:13-17).  

Resurrection gives you meaning and purpose in your life. You are going somewhere good with God. You can trust that you are always God’s called one – no matter what your job, what your age, what your health, what your losses and scars. (1 Thessalonians 2:13-17).  

Can you as a ‘Living one’ with all the other ‘living ones’ who have died, sing that song now? 

Every day I will praise you, Lord 

The Lord is near to all who call on him, 

    to all who call on him in truth. 

He fulfils the desires of those who fear him; 

    he hears their cry and saves them. 

The Lord watches over all who love him. 

 In Paul’s words:

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


Bad Dreams, Big Ideas and Butterflies

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

Transcript of Message by Pastor Noel Due

Bad Dreams, Big Ideas and Butterflies

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Re-Form Me

Sermon, Reformation Day, 27-10-2019, St Petri

John 8:31-36   

31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

33They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 

34Jesus replied, Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 

God did something big five hundred years ago that got his people back to himself. He re-formed his whole church. It was a radical re-awakening inspired by people like Martin Luther, a Catholic monk. Luther was blessed to hear anew that God’s underserved love is good news that is delivered to us by the resurrected Jesus.

Luther and others did not only know this intellectually or theoretically but personally, in the heart. Luther himself was set free from a heavy burdened life of slavish serving an angry God which was slowly killing him. He was set free by God’s gracious acceptance to a life freely lived in love and forgiveness. Is this your story too?

This re-forming was painful for everyone. It did not appear to be very freeing at times. It seems that we Church folks don’t like being ‘re-formed’, even if it is by good news of new freedom!

Maybe we are like a prisoner who has become so used to the confines of prison that the thought of being set free in open society is too scary to know!

Today we hear how the Jewish people who had begun to believe Jesus’ words objected to being re-formed by his truth and its freedom.

Jesus goes beyond their religious observance. He goes much deeper. They don’t like it.

They believe they are ‘all good’ when it comes to God. He says, “only the truth will set you free”. That implies they are not free; they are still slaves to someone or something.

When Jesus says that they “slaves”; that they are under the control of another master that is not the God of Abraham, they are upset. They don’t like where this is going.

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 

They believe they are free already. They are children of Father Abraham and therefore God’s children. They are this because of their family heritage and their good behaviour. That assures them that they are “free”; that they are accepted by a holy God.

They have the right name, the right story, the right traditions, the right temple, the right Law and they keep it. That is what assures them of their acceptance by their ultimate Father – the One God.

Jesus says different. True freedom from the Father is not based on political or ethnic family lines or on people keeping God’s rules. His freedom is not based on mere right belief to a set of words or moral behaviours.

Jesus says that their trust in their family name, ethnicity and good behaviour shows they are still slaves: slaves relying on, trusting in and seeking their own version of truth according to those things.

Their version of the truth about themselves and the world does not set them free into a living relationship of love and kindness with God their Heavenly Father but keeps them at a distance from him; not really experiencing his kindness in the heart.

They are like a dutiful daughter who is working hard in the business to one day get what her Father has, not for any love of her Father or free relationship with him.

Their trust in their ethnicity and good behaviour as what makes them free shows that their real father is not the God of Abraham but the father of lies, Satan. Tough words to hear! No wonder they don’t like it.

But this is the truth.

“…everyone who sins is a slave to sin”, Jesus says.

“Sins come from sin”. We do good and bad things because we trust other things way more than the good forgiveness Jesus brings in the human heart; in my heart.

Simply put, we have a heart that believes “I obey, therefore I am loved”. “I perform the right way, have the right name, do the right things, be the right person, and therefore, I am accepted and loved by God.”.

Jesus’ says the truth is actually the very opposite. Jesus’ truth is, “I am loved, therefore I obey”. I live and do and serve and give, not to earn God’s gracious favour and blessing but BECAUSE I already have them, or more accurately, I have him. He is all of this in human form for me.

This is bad news for the Jews who had begun to believe it seems. They are not free at all. The form of their faith needs to be re-formed.

It is very good news for those with the wrong form; those without family name, right behaviour, right nationality and unholy standing around Jesus. They welcome the re-forming of their heart and life. They could not get enough of this truth. Which is it for you today?

They needed and we need the real truth and nothing but the truth, please help us God. The trust was with them in a person. He is with us now.

The only truth that is actually the truth is him. The only truth that truly sets you free to be at peace with a holy God and his free witness in his world is Jesus and his teaching; his words.

Freedom not only comes via Christ alone, as we Lutherans are big on saying. Freedom comes by Christ himself.

It is not only Christ alone –to the exclusion of all others—who brings true freedom from this chasing after other words and people and promises; it is not only Christ alone that can deliver true and lasting belonging in divine peace, belonging to a community, self-giving love and lasting good future even beyond suffering and even after death, It is also that Christ himself does this for us.

How do you get it? Experience of him in his word.

This freedom is deeper than mere behaviour or right thinking or human vision. Freedom does not come from a strong will to do more or to resist more bad things or be very, very good. It does not come from or rest on your church membership or family name. Freedom does not come through mere overflowing emotions or intellectual agreement. Freedom only comes to the heart by experience of him and his words – by “abiding”, staying with, living with Jesus and his words.

If you hold/abide to my teaching, you are really my disciples”. 

Friend, Jesus is abiding with you, holding you, staying with you and he calls you to return, to stay, the live, the listen and know true freedom from all that binds us.

With his holding and staying and abiding you don’t need to be squeaky clean, keep up appearances, never make a mistake, be really smart, win the argument, find emotional highs to be happy in life.

He is not saying that you simply subscribe to a news service, sign up for a Facebook account, join a club or fall into line with a set of intellectual propositions to be free. He is calling you to one thing: Himself. He demands and offers nothing less than an encounter with himself. His abiding, holding, living resurrection power to re-form you is what sets me free.

That is his “teaching”. His teaching proclaims that “I am loved; now I can do and be; now I can freely obey from love not from fear.

It is Reformation Day. Jesus is re-forming you. Jesus is always re-forming you. He always reforming his people; his church.

It can be painful. We tend to default to the “I obey, therefore I am loved” way. So, we might not like his truth. But it is worth it to get that freedom of his.

Ask a little German monk! Ask a whole global community of faith in this Jesus! Ask a friend who knows him in the heart.

And when you who know him and love him are asked about his truth and his freedom, tell them.

You are loved today. Now you can go and live in him as he abides with you.


Lord, re-form me! Re-form us in your truth, for your Word is truth and sets us free.

A Name for the Struggle

Sermon, 19th Sunday after Pentecost, Sunday October 20, 2019. St Petri.

Pastor Adrian Kitson

Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 4:5, Luke 18:1-8 

Genesis 32:22-31

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’

But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’

27 The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’

‘Jacob,’ he answered.

28 Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’

29 Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’

But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip.


I thank the Lord for these three words about being persistent in praying and not losing heart; not giving up on him or each other. Just by speaking them our God shows that he knows it is easy to do them – easy to give up and stop praying to him, trusting him.

Truth is that we can be worn down enough to give up on him, each other, and our future hope he has given us in Jesus. Truth is, we can be the cause of wearing down each other.

I wonder what would help you keep on praying and not give up on each other and God’s presence and promises for us all? Maybe what will help begins with a question I will ask of you: “Who are you”. “What is your name”?

This scene from Jacob’s life is about persistence in the struggle. Jacob persisted in this wresting with this strange “man” in the Jabbok at night, and eventually got the man’s blessing. But I reckon it also about another major gift – a new name.

Names matter – for Jacob’s time and ours, but more in his time. For Jacob your name was given to you by others to describe your character and tell others your founding story. So, speaking your name to another person was risky. Your name gave that person access to your story and insight into your character, wanted or not – like a photo of you on Facebook.

For Jacob, his name showed that he was a tricky man, a deceptive character, a ‘heal-grabber’, literally. He was the second boy grabbing the heal of his twin brother as he came into the world. Jacob was not only the younger son he was slighter in stature than his hunter, strong man brother, Esau. Jacob learns to live by his wits rather than his strength. Of course, as the eldest, Esau is heir to his father’s blessing and fortune.

There is sibling rivalry from the start. Jacob’s cheating ways erupt most fiercely on two occasions. Jacob tricks Esau out of his ‘oldest son’ status; dad’s family blessing (inheritance – wealth, future security and status).

A few years later, Jacob deceives his Dad. Dad is old and half-blind and dying. At the crucial moment of the giving of the final blessing Jacob is right there to get it instead by pretending to be Esau. He falsely gets the blessing.  Esau is rightly distraught and enraged. Damage done; relationship broken.

Jacob flees to his uncle Laban’s place. Eventually, by his usual trickery, over a decade or more, Jacob manages to rip off Laban and acquire most of his wealth.

Jacob is fleeing again. We hear that he is en route back to his homeland. He hears that his brother Esau is coming to meet him – but with an army of four hundred men! Oh boy. This blessing could be a curse!

Jacob hides away half of his wealth. He sends three caravans of gifts ahead to Esau. He hopes this gets him some way back into his brother’s good graces.

Jacob even sends the rest of his servants and immediate family across the Jabbok river, hoping that even if Esau refuses the caravan of gifts he may, at least, take pity on Jacob at the sight of his defenseless wives and children. Worse comes to worse, he would get a head start on doing a runner!

And then it happens….  Pacing around by the dark and troubled river, Jacob is attacked by what can only seem like a demon. They wrestle all night long. As day is about to break Jacob seems to be on the verge of surviving. This mysterious “man” who is obviously more than a mere man dislocates Jacob’s hip and demands Jacob release him.

“Not until you bless me,” Jacob cries. This man is special; divine. The man says, “Tell me your name.”

Jacob knows the risk. He knows his name is not good. It means “cheat, liar, manipulator”.

Jacob knows by giving his name, especially to an enemy, he is giving away too much. He is ‘fessing up’ to his many flaws and sins.

The sinner is getting his just judgement! We all cheer! So would Laban and Esau if they were there!

But there is not judgement.

28 Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.’

This special man; the Lord in human form, we trust, does not punish the pretender but re-names him instead. In so doing, for his own reasons and plans, the Lord reshapes this sinner’s character, his present and his future.

The name? “Israel”, the one who has wrestled with God and with human beings and has prevailed.

The struggle has its price – Jacob limps away at dawn with a hip problem. But he limps into a promising new day; into a new future. Sound familiar to you? I hope so.

This new name from the Lord creates new present and future. Jacob and Esau will be reconciled in the chapters to come. From Jacob will spring a new nation by his twelve sons. They and their descendants proudly bear his name even to this day.

Who are you? What is your name?

Now a descendant of Jacob came later. In a river of tears at night, and with blood on the wood as his body is put out of joint, Jesus, the Man of God, the Son of God, wrestles with all evil and dark death and seems defeated by them.

With those wounds that show the visible price of his struggle, he marches out of the dark at dawn in victory over not just a cheesed-off brother, but a dark, hell-bent, dangerous and deceiving Satan, a wayward self-orientated heart in each of us and a black future without hope that used to be ours.

But that death, that Deceiver and that deceiving heart are no longer what shapes us now or God’s future for us.

And all of this flooded into you when he poured out his life into you in that cleansing stream in that font on that day. It still floods into you when you gather with others and listen and pray and sing and receive him. It is poured into your body in the blood and in the bread of this Man of God.

Who are you? What is your name? Will you trust his new names for you and refuse to live in the old ones? This will help you pray.

Get those old names and bin them today – or let him bin them for you:

Names people try to give you (loser, ego-head, weakling, no good for anything, dumb, too old, too young, divorced, defeated), those names society lays on you (consumer, user, taker, buyer, weakling in need of a spiritual crutch, hypocrite, unintelligent) and names you take on yourself (unworthy, irresponsible, unfaithful, incompetent, worthless) that still rage within.

You have been ‘Christ’-ened” (Christened; Baptised), and given his names for you: “Son of mine, Daughter of mine, Child of mine, Co-heir with me, priest of mine, witness to my grace, person of hope, faith and love; follower, student, teacher of mine. Worthy, forgiven, graced, purposed, hopeful, lively, useful no matter the strength of the opponent or the length of the struggle or the place of the wrestling.

Your Father says, “You are Christ! To me you are Christ! He gives you his Son’s name to live in and pray in – “In Jesus’ name”, we pray.

Can you pray again now? Can you walk out of here with that limp and a few left-over scares (like Jesus from the tomb) but full of trust in his name and his names for you that define you now, not those old names?

Please do. You can because he has made it so.

Proudly limp out of here with your various wounds and weakness with head held high and a caravan full of this forgiveness to be shared, given and done as much as it is up to you. Anything less is just going back to that old sibling rivalry, that old anger, that old broken relationship, that old ego and that old future.

Limp with joy in your bones to live another day of his blessing; to live in Jesus’ new day of grace; to pray and listen and live with persistence in the struggles.

In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Give Thanks – Pastor Steen Olsen Sermon Notes

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

Sermon Notes:  Pastor Steen Olsen

Luke 17:11-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Steen Olsen
Blog: bring Jesus (subscribe at – You find it under ‘LCA Districts’)
Assisting the Church to become more missional in its culture, theology and practice.

Gift – Pastor James Winderlich

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


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

2 Timothy 1: 3-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What matters? What is of critical importance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know where I’m headed.

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

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

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

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