On Track

Sermon, 10th Pentecost, Sunday August 18, 2019

St Petri

Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I would like to meet a few pioneers. I would like to meet Robert O’Hara Burke of ‘Burke and Wills’ fame, or infamy. I would like to know what the man was really like.

I would like to meet Edward John Eyre, the first person to cross this vast continent from East to West.

I would like to meet John McDouall Stuart who pioneered the centre of this country and all his long dangerous pioneering journeys, never lost a man.

I would like to meet Vincent Lingiari of the Gurinji nation who became the leader of the birth of the Aboriginal rights movement in 1966 at Wave Hill Station – “From little things big things grow”.

I would like to meet Mary Helen MacKillop, first Australian to be sainted by Rome. Not that I am into that whole ‘sainting’ process, since all who are baptised into Christ are God’s holy people. But with faith in Jesus, she did significant things when it was hard to do so.

What if one day you did meet a pioneer. Not one like these but someone who had pioneered your life. Unbeknown to you, this person had already seen your life; lived your life, been where you are going, and was here ready to share with you what is to come to you – the good and the bad.

Maybe you’d like to know what your career, your contribution, your family’s future would be. You probably would not want to know about the hard things, the suffering things – illness, dying, failures, hurts, regrets, mistakes….. Maybe you would say to this pioneer: “Ignorance is actually bliss. Don’t tell me anything!”

The writer to the Hebrews speaks of a Pioneer of life and your life, and will not let you be blissfully ignorant! He talks at length about THE pioneer of your faith and life and shares this catalogue of those who have lived life in faith in The Pioneer.

This is like looking at the faces of your family in the photos along the hallway or on the mantel piece or on your computer.

There are seventeen photos that tell the story of faith. Faith is mentioned twenty times in this one chapter.

Why does this writer show us the hall of faith photos?

Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

He shows you the photos of your life to urge you to ‘throw off” things that hinder you and hold you back from receiving the life Jesus pioneered for these people of the past and has pioneered for you.

These stories point you to, remind you of, and inspire you on toward the goal of your life so you can truly live the life he has blazed for you now.

These people and their stories sustain you in your suffering, your pain, your questions, your fears and doubts and struggles to stay on the trail already blazed through all these.

What are these things we need to throw off? They are essentially one thing: a lack of trust in Jesus’ grace and power for living a (Hebrews 12:1). “Get rid of them!” he calls.

Throw off:

  • Lack of love for each other in the church (13:1)
  • Lack of hospitality and welcome of strangers among us (13:2).
  • Over-reliance and over-attraction to glitter of money and wealth and things, the result of which is a lack of compassion and care for people in need (13:3, 5)
  • Lack of respect and faithfulness between marriage partners, the result of which is sexual promiscuity and a lot of pain (13:4).
  • Lack of care and respect for those called into leadership in the Body of Christ, the result of which is disunity and lack of love in the Body (13:7).
  • Being carried off course by teaching that is not Christ-centred; gospel founded, grace hearted; the result of which is a lot of unnecessary rules and a judgemental spirit among people (eg. food laws) (13:9-10).
  • And just plain hardship and suffering, even injustice as outlined in this hall of faith and what happened to God’s people (11).

What are your hindrances and how can you ‘throw them off”? Sounds like hard work!

Here’s the good news. It is not all on you to do the hard work of de-tangling, throwing off and getting rid of stuff that keeps you from living in the joy of Jesus’ freedom in your life.

Jesus is not only the pioneer of your life of faith, he is the creator, sustainer, ‘perfector’ of your life of faith (Hebrews 12:2). He is the one who throws these things off you to give you clear air and clear pathway. He wants you to get there with him.

How do you know? “Look at all these photos of faith!”, says the writer. “Look at those who have gone before you to see that Jesus is everything you need and everything good you will receive.

The writer has already spoken long and strong on just how BIG Jesus really is. He is the ultimate prophet, greater than Moses; the ultimate ruler, greater than David, the heavenly place of worship, the ultimate high priest and pastor. Jesus sacrifice of blood in our place is the ultimate sacrifice that achieves full life, once and for all people and all time.

But we are still on the journey with Jesus to our complete joy with him. So, this Christian life is not tourist travel. It is ‘a long obedience in the same direction’, as the author Eugene Peterson once named it in a book of that title.

It is not as if we can just cruise through this life saying we are “Christians” without throwing off anything or struggling to get free of entangling things. Saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus automatically means saying “No” to a lot of other people and things.

There are real inward desires that hinder us. There are real outward pressures that scream for our attention. There are real dangers from false teaching to fake news to flawed hearts and minds that rob us of the joy Jesus longs to share now and later on.

I need help. I need you to help me throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles me. I need your help to run with perseverance the race marked out for us all, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Friend, meet Jesus, that pioneer here for you today. He has seen your life and your death and your new life forever. He knows the trail and he is the water that keeps you alive. He has been where you are going.

Look at the photo of the family of faith. Hear these people of old who longed to know Jesus the promised Saviour, whisper their encouraging words for all you currently face.

Better still, have laser focus.  “Fix” them; fix your eyes on the Pioneer and Perfector of you. Help me do the same as I help you do the same.

Hear him in his Word most days in your home or at work or walking along the oath. Seek his counsel from a fellow traveller about that thing hindering you. Receive forgiveness for that troubling sin, here or one on one. Try some prayer practices again. Give generously and welcome fully. Be here. Receive him in the meal and in all the words done and said. See him in the faces of your fellow travellers here and everywhere.

He meets you on the trail today to let you experience the joy set before him. It is your joy too – today and tomorrow.

“O soul, are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior,

And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in his wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”

 

 

confidence and conviction

SermonPentecost 9th C, Sunday August 11, 2019.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16  

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. 

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.  

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 

 

 

How are you going in the confidence stakes at the moment; bit shaky, or rock solid? And what about conviction; what are you very convicted of when it comes to living life? What would you never compromise; Your support of your elderly parents; your unwell partner; your study program, your search for a partner in life, your continued relationship with someone you love, your hard work to continue your career, your commitment to serve in God’s mission here….  

From where do confidence and conviction come? Faith: that is the source of confidence and conviction, says the Hebrew’s writer.  

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and conviction about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. 

Faith in what? Faith in things we are already confident in ((because we already have them) even though they are unseen. What are these ‘unseen things” we already have?  

This writer tells us to look at people who have lived in these unseen things with unshakable faith for the confidence and conviction we need to live as God’s loved people in the here and now.  

I reckon these words in Hebrews 11 are like a Co-Op catalogue. It is a list of goodies on offer at very good value that will bring great benefits to you.   

But here, the goodies are free and there is really only one ‘goody”, and that is faith in Jesus and all his gifts of grace already yours.   

This catalogue tells you that faith in Jesus’ forgiveness, his rule, his grace, his power for living is the only commodity that will get you through not just a cold night (new heater), or a cooking session (new fry pan), or a night watching the telly (couch, TV), but Jesus in all his fullness and with all his gifts will get you through suffering, pressure, darkness and even death itself.   

This catalogue has seventeen examples of faith from five stages in the story of God’s people  

There are three stories from three very early people (Abel, Enoch and Noah) who are shown to be like Jesus; four stories from the life of Abraham as a picture of what it is to be a faithful person/community of God, three stories from three later patriarchs (Jacob and etc) as what it is to be heirs of God’s blessing, four stories from the life of Moses again, as being like Jesus, and three stories from the Exodus and later journey into the land as examples of how God saved people from slavery and evil. It is the best catalogue you would ever get in your mailbox! You’ve got mail now!  

All those people and their stories hinge around that gift called “Faith”; mentioned about twenty times in the chapter.   

It would be easy to believe that we are being told to simply try harder at having faith in Jesus. All these people of old lived in faith. So should you. So, try harder to believe!  

But that is actually NOT what this catalogue of faith says (what a relief!). Just the opposite. This catalogue does not ask you to do more or try more or buy in more to Christianity. It is a catalogue that shows you what God GIVES YOU in good faith so you can live by faith in him. And this catalogue is also like an instruction manual. It tells us how to receive this gift of faith.    

Faith here is a GIFT to be received, a future already begun, a city already under construction, a new country already here – all by Jesus’ death and resurrection for us.   

Faith is to be received, as these people of old received it, not achieved by their own or our own magnificence!     

The writer is convinced that God makes your faith, not you. You don’t have to try harder to have more faith. We only need to receive the stories of faith and trust these ‘things unseen’.   

But how? By HEARING the Word of God – words like these;    

  • By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command  
  • Abraham, when called (by the Lord) to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went. God creates and calls by his Words.   
  • Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. God shapes the rise and fall of us all by words.    
  • For he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. God’s words design and construct us.    
  • Sarah, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. Families and futures exist and continue by God’s words of promise.  

But it is so easy to look elsewhere than God’s word for confidence and conviction to live life.   

It would have been the easier option for the people to whom this Hebrews writer writes. They live in small communities living in mildly or maybe hostile communities where their faith in Jesus brings them isolation and alienation.  

I think we can relate to this. We tend to search our own past and our own inner strength more than Jesus’ words of promise.  

We would rather stay in the dodgy country we already know because at least we know it and can control it a bit more than this future promised country we can’t fully see. At least we know our way around our town. Who knows what would happen to us if we went to another city like Sydney or London or New York?!  

Maybe we tend to look backwards too. Not at what God has done (as this writer does) but at what we have done or where our family has come from and the like.   

As you hear these stories of faithful people of long ago you notice that they deliberately chose to live with their heart in a home not here. They saw themselves as lifelong resident aliens in the world 

Their confidence and conviction did not stem from any nostalgic ‘looking back to the good old days’, or ‘the good old country’ for which they longed to return one day.  

They did not even cling nostalgically to their family or national or immigrant heritage, they longed for something far better than that.  

Friends, we are being urged to trust Jesus for our heart and our home that is in the unseen things and the unseen person from which they come; thing and a person who is largely misunderstood or dismissed most.    

We are being called to actually trust these unseen things of God because Jesus has said them, done them and promised them.   

Things like forgiveness, hope, the Spirit’s power, and the grace of our heavenly Father (Hebrews 11:1). These are already now available to us (Hebrews 6:18). They are things that will be fully inherited by us at the close of the age (Hebrews 6:11). 

They are the very good things (Hebrews 9:11), which are also the better things than we can manufacture within and in this old country (Hebrews 6:9)  

They are heavenly realities or spiritual powers (Hebrews 9:23), such as the world to come (2:5) and the age to come (6:5), complete salvation from our idolatry, weakness, sin, guilt, shame, dying, suffering…. (2:3; 6:9; 9:28).   

They are the everlasting eternal inheritance given in Baptism and sustained by His Word (9:15). They are our true heavenly homeland (11:14, 16), the heavenly city (11:10, 16; 12:22; 13:14), the unshakable kingdom (12:26), the holy things in the heavenly sanctuary (8:2; 9:8, 12; 10:19), and the heavenly place of rest (4:1–11).  

Where are you looking to find some confidence and some conviction to deal with whatever you need to deal with? Are you putting real trust in things you can see (and control) or the one whom you cannot see, and his marvelous but unseen gifts only received by faith and no other way  

Are you even looking anymore? Are you unsure where to look? Are you simply tied to your own story, your own family story, of the past in general?   

Maybe you have stopped looking some time ago and are just going through the outward motions for lack of better ideas?  

Friend, no need to be ‘past bound’ so much. No need to look only within yourself to find the confidence and conviction you need to climb the mountain before you.   

No need to be so tied to your ow story or your family story to not be captured and made alive by Jesus’ story and Jesus’ gifts that bring you into his present and give you a solid future.   

No need to try harder to believe. Simply receive more of God’s Word and let him give you faith by which to live by faith and its gifts of confidence and conviction.   

Unlike it was for them the new country is close. Jesus is here. Our future in his love and acceptance is here now in part, one day in full.   

Seek the confidence and conviction you long for and need that comes from faith by hearing these stories of faithful people and receiving the gift of faith from the word of this Saviour. He is your confidence and conviction to live now as you journey on to the better country already real and ready.   

And one more thing: God is not ashamed of you?   

 God says to them and us that “I am not ashamed” to associate with you.   

God is proud of any person of faith (even mustard seed sized faith!) in Jesus. God is proud “to be called your God” (Heb 11:16). 

Big Barn or Big Life?

SermonSunday August 4, 2019. 8th Pentecost C

Confirmation Day (10.30) 

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”  

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” 

 

It was really disappointing. I was walking through the school one recess time and I said hello to one of the little grade 4 kids who happened to say hello to me.  

A couple of days before we had talked about his bible text in chapel. He was now going to give me his ‘feedback’.   

Pastor, I want to be rich”. He said that when he grows up, he wants to have lots of cool things and lots of money so he can do whatever he wants.   

At least he was being honest! He was not trying to hide his complete belief that acquiring things and doing whatever he wanted with those things is the goal of his young life! He was obviously was sold on it, no matter what anyone (including the pastor/chaplain) said!   

I left the conversation worrying for this young man and his family, and young people in general. I left checking myself and my own motivation and direction in life.   

I know this nine year old lad is not alone. He never has been. Jesus came across this attitude this day among the crowd.     

This random man whose name we do not know just wants easy money. He wants his independence from his family, and he wants it now. He wants to ‘live his life his way’.   

We are not sure if his father has already died. If so, this son is obviously having trouble negotiating the will with his brother. If his Dad is still alive, then this is a really bad request. He wishes his Dad dead!  

Jesus zeros in on what his request really all about: greed. Jesus will have none of this demand of making easy money for the man.  

Why? Because Greed is not good for you and Jesus is.   

Greed is not good for you because it is deeply unfulfilling. It can’t fill you, and so it eventually kills you.   

Why is greed self-destructive? Because the goal of it (money, power, looks, health, etc, etc, etc) can’t take the weight of your soul. You have to keep chasing these things more and more, so, the chase becomes more and more allconsuming.   

For example: For people searching for approval from others, there is never enough approval. For foody people, there is never enough food. For gym junkies, there is never enough gym time. For the alcoholic, there is never enough alcohol. For the sex hungry, there is never enough sex. For the fashionista, there is never enough fashionable look and etc…..   

You keep chasing and consuming and buying but somehow it never fills you, makes you or gets you the end point of rest and bliss Jesus mentions in his little parable.   

Jesus is saying, I think, that sitting around eating, drinking and being merry, is not all it is cracked up to be. We are made for community. We are made to contribute. We are made for relationship with our Creator and Saviour. Work is actually a gift not only a chore. There is more value in in our work than we thinkJust ask someone who has no work and desperately wants a job.   

But somehow, we struggle to be content with what he delivers; the deeper thing, the pure things, the timeless things a person really needsSo we keep chasing those things that can’t deliver what we really need to be fully human and fully alive.    

For some of us, greed left to run free in your soul will make you like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You will do anything for “The Precious”. For others, it is a dangerous enemy, like it is for Frodo as he battles to resist the same pull of “The Precious” – the gold ring to eternal power.   

And the real kicker is that when you ‘barns happen to be full” and you settle in to eating, drinking and being merry time, it only encourages you to keep going. That is why gambling is so insidious. Not because it is simply a ‘wrong thing to do’ but because it will take over your life and burn up your relationships as every now and then you actually reach the goal – you make some easy money. And then what do you do? You chase it more. It is never enough.  

And besides that, it is just plain foolish, says the wise man in Ecclesiastes and THE wise man, Jesus. Why? Because “All the kingdoms in the world end up in wills”, sung the band, Switchfoot. You work hard and build bigger barns. You save, you achieve and then someone else gets it all!   

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 

 Answer? Not you!   

So, what’s the better way? What’s the way live this life and even enjoy money and houses and cars and technology and rewards for hard work?  

Well it is not a matter of being smart but of being loved. It is not about achieving more but receiving everything as gift. It is not about working for the weekend or some amazing retirement, but about finding the gift of God in your daily work, study, activity and relationships.   

Jesus says that in his new way greed is not needed. It is redundant in his way of being human. “Being rich toward God”; or living in relationship to your heavenly Father, your brother Jesus, your wise counsellor, the Holy Spirit and in Jesus’ human body on earth – the Christian community is so much more fulfilling, satisfying and long lasting.  

In Jesus’ new creation – the one into which you have been baptised, called, gathered and enlightened, you don’t need to even chase him or his people. You enjoy receiving all he gives, and they give. Greed goes out the door of your soul and what God gives enters in and everything looks different.   

We can see that still choosing to chase the stuff and the approval and well-being in anyone of anything more than Jesus is simply mistrust.   

Hfreely gives you everything he has, including his own life for you; and all for you, who can’t make it rain, can’t make the crops grow, can’t make the seasons turnEverything he has is yours. Everything he has cannot be achieved or earned because he freely gives it as needed. Greed is not needed in this new creation with Jesus.  

How do I know? Well, what did this Jesus go and do for this greedy man? It would not be long until this same Jesus who calls him out on his greed gives up everything he is and has for this same greedy man! Jesus obviously wants to fulfill and satisfy greedy people with very thing they chase – acceptance, status, ease, rest, less suffering, more joy, more blessingThey and we just need to trust him – that he really does.     

Friends, Jesus’ acceptance, his love, his power, his promises that never fail because they are made by him, not me, is “THE Precious’.   

We don’t need a generation of young people who want to be rich. We need a generation of young people who know that already are by faith in Jesus no matter if they have money, status, fashion, food or anything else – or not.   

When I turn away from my chasing after the illusive dream of easy money, fame, fortune and power and all that goes with it and I come to my Saviour in all humility and RECEIVE him and all he has for me on a daily basis I am re-defined back again.   

Then I wont be a user, I will be an encourager as I work and study and live.  

Then I won’t be a consumer. I will be a giver as I share my house, my car, my money. 

Then I won’t be a taker, I will be a lover who has quality relationships in which I know love and joy. 

Then I won’t be chasing after the wind but be renewed by the Wind of your Spirit every day, teaching me, helping me, guiding me. 

Friend, your life does not consist in the amount or value of what you own, but the high value that is GIVEN to you by Jesus’.   

Big barns or Big Life? Jesus enables me to have the second one.   

Don’t get rich. Use your richness in Jesus to make others the same.  

It Takes Time

Sermon7th Sunday after Pentecost, July 28, 2019

Mark 10:35-45 

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’ 

36 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. 

37 They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’ 

38 ‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with?’ 

39 ‘We can,’ they answered. 

Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptised with the baptism I am baptised with,40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’ 

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ 

 “James the Elder” or “James the Greater” was given this name by the first Christians for a couple of reasons 

  1. It distinguished him from the other James among the Twelve, “James, son of Alphaeus”.   
  2. It showed his importance among the Twelve.
    1. James was called by Jesus before the other James. 
    2. It could also be that our James and his brother, John, were first cousins of Jesus. We hear that their mum, Salome, was a sister of Mary, Jesus’ mum (see John 19:25, Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40).
    3. It may be that James was the older of the two boys. When the two are mentioned in the New Testament, James’ name always appears first.   

James’ and John’s family business was fishing. They worked with their dad, Zebedee, up North around the Sea of Galilee. They probably lived in or near Bethsaida (John 1:44). They employed some staff (Mark 1:20).  

James’ mum, Salome, was one of the women who supported Jesus’ ministry with her money and time (Matthew 27:55Mark 15:40; 16:1; Luke 8:2; 23:5524:1).  

James, like his brother, John, probably never went to TAFE or Uni. He probably had little status in the Jewish pecking order of their community. But, they probably had plenty of contact with more than hometown Jewish understanding and culture. They would have known Greek life and language.   

Everything changed for James when Jesus came and called him and his brother to switch their work from fishing for fish to fishing for people. They took up that call.   

As they did, James got a new name; a nick name. Jesus named James and his brother, “Sons of Thunder”. I wonder why? Why would you name a bloke a “Son of Thunder”? Did they have loud voices? Did they make other loud sounds?! The general belief is that they received this name because they were ‘hot-heads”! They were Galileans, and Galileans did things their own way up north and were not keen on people trying to tell them what to do. Sounds a lot like us Aussies!   

James and John, the hot-headed men, were with Peter (another hot-head) in the very inner circle of Jesus. They got to see and hear things the others didn’t.   

  • They were present at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51).  
  • They saw that sight of Jesus transfigured in shiny white with Moses and Elijah up on the hill (Mark 9:1; Matthew 17:1; Luke 9:28).  
  • They saw and heard a struggling Saviour in agony in Gethsemanee (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33).  

 And all the way along they had to learn lots of lessons  

Sometimes their hot-headedness came out. On one occasion they rolled out some thunder against “a certain man casting out demons” in the name of the Jesus. John told this stranger to back off.  He obviously thought this guy was just pretending to be one of the chosen few. John was actually one of the chosen few! Jesus brings John down a peg:   

Do not stop him. Whoever is not against you is for you.(Luke 9: 50) 

And we heard just a couple of week’s ago, James and John got most upset when a village of lowly Samaritans refused to welcome them and their Teacher into their lives. Both boys asked Jesus, “Should we command God’s holy fire down on these rude, ignorant low-life’s”?!” (Luke 9:54, 59). Jesus called them out again on this judgmental impatience. 

That stewing argument about who would be the greatest when Jesus began his new reign reared up. We hear it in our gospel text today. In Matthew’s account James and John raised the issue with Jesus through their mumSalome comes to Jesus as humble as pie, on her knees in front of him (with the consent of her two boys) and asks Jesus,

“Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” 

Jesus replies to her, her boys and the rest, ‘You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’  

He knows they can’tBut mum and the boys reckon they are up to it. They say, ‘We can’.  

And then Jesus, with great patience and with a whole other longterm vision for these hot-headed men, their mum and their others shares with them what his calling will really mean for them. 

‘You will indeed drink from my cup (of suffering), but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.’ 

The others are cranky at these hot-headed, self-centred brothers and their mum for trying to feather their own nest for the future.   

Again, Jesus shares his future for them all and what their calling will mean as they continue walking with him into his future. His new creation will not be based on power and self and controlling people by manipulation or force.   

…Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ 

Friends, Jesus deals with the lack of understanding, ignorance and self-centredness within them and us by dying for them and us and nailing those destructive things to the tree so those things no longer rule them or us    

He rules in great patience; great careful teaching, challenge, comfort, understanding. He rules in calming love for us hot-headed sinners.   

Jesus does not shame them or manipulate these fellows or you into being like him. He dies for it all and takes the right justice of God for us all our place, giving us a long-term opportunity to know him and his grace and his calling.   

 James, like the others, and like me obviously needed time to live in the glory and the gore, the victory and the loss, the hot-headedness and the longsuffering humility of faith in Jesus – AND JESUS GAVE THEM TIME.   

They needed time to learn. He gave them time. They GRADUALLY discovered who he really is and what he has really done and what he is promising to do with their lives.   

Friend, Jesus gives you time too. This life in his new baptised kingdom is a long learning journey for the hot-heads, the cool-heads and the clueless heads!    

He is the head of all these heads. His voice is the thunder we need to hear and seek and love above all other noise. Let his still small voice roll on like thunder in your heart today!  

Jesus stuck with James and the rest of them. He will stick with you. He will get you through the glory and the ecstasy; the pleasure and the pain, the sins and the wins  and you will be transformed more and more into his mind, his heart; his preferred future for you and all of us as church.   

James must have listened a lot. After that incredible resurrection and ascension, James became one of the prominent leaders in the Jerusalem community of Jesus. Tradition says that James went to Spain to evangelise that country, as Paul has wanted to do (Romans 15:24).   

Jesus did say to James that he would indeed drink Jesus’ cup of suffering in his life time. James did just that. Fourteen years after that first martyr of Christianity, Stephen, was stoned to death outside the city walls, Herod Agrippa had James killed by the sword in Jerusalem (Acts 12:1-3). James is forever remembered as the first of The Twelve to die for the gospel of Jesus.  

Herod, was an old worldly creation man doing what the world does – manipulating, controlling, feathering its nest, feathering his nest, burning up people, relationships, life at any cost to stay in charge.   

James and John USED TO BE like that before their lives were resurrected in Jesus’ grace. Grace had to dawn on them day after day in the GRADUAL process of being more Christ-like. Same for you and me.   

But you need to receive it. James did not make his life happen. Jesus did.   

Which life do you want, friend? Herod or James: control, glory, pleasure or joy beyond it all and in it all with Jesus?  

I know which one you and I have been given. I know who has called me and you in our weakness  

Follow him, relying on what he says and what he does and what he promises you for now and the future.  

Listening to Mercy

Sermon, Sunday July 21, 2019, 7th Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 10:38–42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

41 ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

We are still on the road with Jesus and his friends toward Jerusalem. We come across Martha and Mary today. We are prompted to listen to something very important.

Much has happened since Jesus ‘set his face’ toward the looming darkness and triumph of Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

The Twelve have been sent out ahead in pairs once. The Seventy Two have been sent out the same. They returned with big joy.

We heard of this crucial ‘person of peace’.

5 ‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. 7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you….. Do not move around from house to house. (Luke 10:5)

And here she is:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.

Martha is this person open to Jesus’ presence and teaching. Jesus practices what he preaches. He “stays there” with this person of peace who has appeared. Jesus enters her world, her house and her hospitality.

But something happens to Martha. She is not so peaceful! Martha gets “distracted”. The word means “weighed down and anxious about a thing”. Martha gets troubled, overwhelmed with her many tasks.

You can see why. Thirteen men have turned up and the local custom is that they need to be fed well and housed. There does not seem to be a father or a husband in the house. So, it is all on Martha and her sister, Mary.

We find out that the one supposed to be helping get everything ready is not lifting a finger to help. Mary is “sitting at Jesus’ feet”.

Martha blows a gasket: “Teacher. Can’t you see my good work? Don’t you notice me? Can’t you get this lazy sister of mine to help me?!”

This feeling of being overwhelmed by her own expectations and others’ expectations is what Jesus sees in Martha. It is what, I believe Luke wants us to ponder in ourselves.

For Martha, the weight of her own expectations of herself and others is crushing her and making her deaf to the good news of joy and fulfilment in Jesus’ word. It seems that this moment reveals that Martha may be basing her worth and that of others on doing; on achieving; on contributing; of meeting expectations of self and others.

We see here that basing your worth on what you do or don’t do or can’t do is lethal for joy, peace, listening and for relationships.
Self-worth built on achieving will always crush you in the end. Why?  Because none of us are that good!

I think we are meant to ask: Is this me?  Are my expectations of myself and those of others crushing me to the point that I cannot sit as Jesus’ feet, I can’t listen, I can’t hear?

How do you tell if you are basing your worth and identity on achieving and doing and being seen to do? Some questions:

Do you always have to be the one who is doing the most, achieving the most, being the best? If so, why?

Do you hate ‘lazy people’, or judge a person who seems to be so at ease and at peace in life as being lazy because they don’t do as much or as well as you? Do you get mad at people when they say no to you or to doing a task you want them to do? If so, why?

Why do you want to be the best, the busiest, the most active all the time? Why do you find yourself being critical of others for their ‘lack of progress’ or achievement of work? What drives these things within Martha and within you?

Martha is not a bad person, she is just a ‘distracted’ person. She is performing her way away from the real centre, the real joy, the real purpose of life. He is right there speaking but she can’t hear him.

Of course, if we are overly critical of Martha, we may end up with an image of faith that never actually does anything for anyone else. Someone has to cook, clean, welcome, organise, plan, think ahead, have a clear vision for where we need to go and etc…..

The tasks are not the issue here. The identity built on the tasks is the issue. An identity built on doing, achieving, being seen, being noticed, ability to serve others will make you deaf to the One who is your identity and gives you a new identity every day; a baptised identity, an adopted son and daughter of the Father identity; and identity that just is no matter what is done or not done.

So, what is the centre? What is the goal? What is most important to live a full life free from constant performance to please self or others or God? What moves us to the place where we truly rest, truly know peace; truly know joy and can drop all the busyness and comparison and drivenness? What enables us to serve with an open heartedness, a listening ear, a joyful spirit – without this massive weight?

For the lawyer who asked Jesus about what is the centre of it all, Jesus said – the Samaritan and his compassion in that famous parable we heard last week.

It is the mercy of the unexpected and impossible Samaritan that is to be received for we are all incapable, lying in the ditch of idolatry and self-importance and deafness. It is the mercy of Jesus that makes us, us; gives us the peace for which we long and the place for which we give thanks.

And now, to a weighed down busy, overwhelmed Martha, he points her to one place; listening to that mercy in a man. Taking up the one posture of a learner in the one presence of the One who is master of life and Saviour of distracted performers.

“Sit at my feet, Martha. Listen to me”. That’s the place to be to enjoy a robust, solid, immovable identity in Jesus with your kind and loving heavenly Father no matter your wins or losses, your tragedies or triumphs.

Your achievements don’t make you. His mercy and kindness does.

Seems easy for us to hear today, but I am not so sure. It was not easy to hear for the lawyer or for Martha.

Jewish women are not supposed to take the posture of a disciple by sitting at the Rabbi’s feet (as Mary does) and Samaritans are not supposed to be the model of God’s grace over Jewish people (as in the parable). Very tough to hear if you are performing your way into heaven but amazing grace if you know you can’t do that.

Pause now. Hear him.

You don’t need your achievements to be at peace and to know true joy in life. You need Jesus’ achievements for you; his Jerusalem pain for you; his Jerusalem resurrection for you.

The lawyer and the busy lady were given a challenge by the King of Love because of love. We know Martha received that challenging love and trusted Jesus. Not sure about the lawyer. What about you?

You don’t need to compare, judge, win, stay on top of things, be positive lest that house of cards falls.

You have already fallen, and completely, in the font: just as completely you have been raised to new heights of his mercy. For love, the Samaritan and Mary have shown you up.

The Teacher has named your distraction today and the journey to the new Jerusalem continues for you.

Live in this house of mercy with big ears and plenty of time. It is what makes you, you and makes you a person of peace and of good news about what Jesus is doing.

Sit at the teacher’s feet – Samaritans, women, men, Christians, old, young, lazy, busy, joyless and joyful. His mercy is the place to be so we can then go and do.

That is the kind of activity that won’t crush you or kill your relationships. There will be joy in your house and in your soul. You will be a person who brings peace and its joy to those around you.

Listening to Mercy. That’s your centre. That’s his gentle prod in your spirit today – and it all for mercy’s sake.

The Good Samaritan – Pastor Trevor Reu

Sermon – The Good Samaritan

Sunday 14th July – Pastor Trevor Reu

Amos 7:7-8

This what he showed me: the Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb,[a] with a plumb-line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’

‘A plumb-line,’ I replied.

Then the Lord said, ‘Look, I am setting a plumb-line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

 

Luke 10:25-37 

The parable of the good Samaritan

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

26 ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

27 He answered, ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”[a]; and, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”[b]’

28 ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

30 In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

36 ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

 

 

Mission Joy

Sermon, Pentecost 4C Sunday July 7, 2019.

St Petri

Luke 10:1-11,16-20

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

 

What a day to be together! This day when they all got back to tell of what they saw and heard and did. This is like being in the changerooms after that Grand Final win – swapping stories, asking questions in disbelief at what was able to be seen and done in Jesus’ authority. Mission brings joy!

Mission is planned too. Jesus has the plan. He has already sent out his twelve with very specific instructions (Luke 9: 1-6). Now seventy two ‘others’ (v1) with similar instruction. No bags, no money, even no sandals; and “Don’t greet anyone on the road” – in other words, “Don’t get distracted. Don’t muck about”, I think.

Greet the people at the destination with God’s peace; that’s what you bring, more than right words or a salesperson’s formula. If there is someone there who is open to receive that peace from God through you (a “person of peace”), you have found your mission base. Stay there. Don’t roam about. Work from this person of peace.

Proclaim Jesus in words and deeds on their turf.  Live in their food, drinks, house, rooms, relationships, community, region, culture – and for a long time.  Depend on them for this mission, not yourself. Trust that the Spi rit is doing his work in them.

And if, as is often the case even for Jesus, no person of peace comes to the fore? Don’t take it personally. Simply put the hand to the plough again and move to the next house, circle, town, club, work-place. Wait for the person of peace to appear. Then off you go again.

But as you go, show them that God has come near. The new creation of Jesus has been close to them and it would be whole lot better for them if they could receive this very good thing (shake dust off your feet…).

Friends, this way of mission is so against our grain. For so long now, our first impulse has been to provide the hospitality for mission on our terms and in our places, not reliant at all on THEIR hospitality or always that interested in their home, their words, their turf.

We put on the program in our way depending on our resources and skills. They turn up. We hope someone gets the gospel seeds we speak and do.

As for this crucial ‘person of peace’? We are not even looking! “We have a program to run, don’t you know!” We have so many volunteers to organise and so much effort to put into the presentation and everything else!

But deeper: I don’t think we want to rely on the hospitality of the non-church person we are reaching. We believe we have got the goods and they haven’t. They just need to be quiet and receive it – and with thanks!

Deeper still – I am not sure we actually trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in each person’s life before we join in. I think we believe mission is dependent not on the Holy Spirit but on our knowledge, resources, skills, experience and etc.

I reckon we Christians have fallen for two big pitfalls in our mission efforts.

We fall for the old trick of believing that fruitfulness (people responding the gospel) PROVES our calling and our faithfulness to it.

If people do respond actually repent and receive the wonderful forgiveness and renewal of Jesus, it means that I/we did it right and must be called by God to do this.

Conversely, if they are not turning up and no one is being converted, then we obviously are not called to this and/or I/we are not being faithful to God in this.

Tell that to Jeremiah or any of the other proclaimers. Their words were so often rejected. Jesus himself was rejected by most. Let’s face it, there was only 120 people in that upper room – 120 out      of a nation!

What’s the point? Numbers, people responding or not responding do not PROVE we are called to mission, Jesus does. We don’t need success to prove we are called to share Jesus. We have Jesus’ call sending us to share him. Every baptised believer is called. Success or lack of does not change his call. He sends. We go with him and that’s it.

The other pitfall is believing that responsiveness of people dictates how we go about things. In other words, we go only to whom and to where WE think people will visibly respond or do things in ways that will have a high chance of a VISIBLE response to our message.

But who is in charge here? Jesus told them to go everywhere they could together. They will be rejected in places – maybe even most places, but they should keep going to people – all people and places.

The point? People’s responses are not to determine our faithful care of them and speaking of Jesus to them – Jesus’ love, Jesus cross’, Jesus’ authority and direction does.

We don’t engage in sharing the story only if people turn up or like it or someone responds in the way we want. We just live and share the story.

But how? Well, the Holy Spirit works the whole thing.

Did you notice that we are not even sent to ‘find’ the person of peace to kick things off? God actually provides this person for us. We just don’t know where and when. If we did, we would program it, theorise it and try and control it, like we do with everything! He keeps us guessing to keep us trusting.

This ‘person of peace’ fascinates me. Do you know any? Have you ever met any?

I have come across this person often. When singing and playing music in High Schools back in the day, sometimes there was an openness to the message and to me that I did not expect. There was a couple of kids really listening. Other times the group was tough, unyielding, very unreceptive.

In conversations at work or school or wherever, some people warm to the message and start to ask questions and some never do.

But Jesus says, these people of peace will be there as you go. But you have to GO to know them.

Friends, when did we get sucked in to believing that the MAIN way we do mission is to get them to COME to us?

We are being challenged to adopt this SENT way as THE MAIN way of harvesting. As Jesus has come and lived with us in the flesh (John 1), so we are to live with others, in the flesh where they are, on their terms.

Sure, there is a place to gather and help people gather around the gospel of Jesus. We do plenty of that – maybe too much of that.

Are we are so tied up running the event that we have no space to notice the person of peace at work, at the club, in the team? Are we missing the crucial gift of the person of peace around which to base our telling of the good news of Jesus?

Sometimes I wonder whether we should have about 5 things only going on at St Petri so that the lights are hardly ever on and the power bill is small because we are all engaged together in conversations and relationship making in homes, pubs, Aged Care places, schools, restaurants, parks, and the like.

Sometimes I wonder whether we should have a rule around here – one person: one ministry only. You do one thing and one thing only. Then we would have the eyes and ears to notice that person of peace and the ability to live with them for a while.

What might this lead to? Jesus shows us…..

Joy!

‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do”, sings Jesus in a psalm like expression of joy.

Jesus really wants this kind of harvesting to happen; this kind of sending and hearing and receiving and transformation of people. It is what gives him joy.

It drives him to go to that cross and that pain and pay that price to usher in his church working in his mission in his world.

His joy enables us to keep on being his good news no matter what.

There is joy around here. There are people working with people of peace in all kinds of places. The Holy Spirit is giving us all we need to participate in his mission work here.

Yes. That is our joy. He is our joy. There is joy in mission. Mission brings joy.

Yes.

‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you revealed these things to us. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Determined

Sermon, Pentecost 3C, Sunday June 30, 2019.

St Petri

Luke 9:51–62

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them[a]?’ 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’

58 Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

59 He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’

But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’

60 Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’

61 Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’

62 Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’

 

It’s sunrise on a cold clear, still winters morning. You are all kitted up for the next row of pruning. You are determined to get to the end of the row today. You “set your face” toward the end of that long row. It takes determination.

Maybe not at first. It is clear and calm, and the sun hits your face. You have had a good night’s sleep. It starts well. But by 1pm, when the cold clouds cover the sun and the wind chill factor increases, and the wet stuff begins to fall just a little bit sideways, and you are beginning to feel the effects of 5-6 hours work already, you will need that determination.

This is a picture of life. Determination is needed for this job, any job, any relationship; for life itself.

Jesus knows this. “Follow me”, he calls. “Put your hand to that plough. Don’t look back or away”.

Jesus uses ploughing to describe what it is to follow him.

Like pruning, ploughing needs determination. Those furrows have to be straight, together and deep. Determination and concentration are required – especially if you are not sitting high up in your heated cab with the GPS taking care of the business as you enjoy the sounds of the footy coming out of your stereo!

This is ploughing with one disk or prong and a horse or donkey. If you take your eyes off the ground ahead or the horse or the plough for a second, the furrow will not be straight enough or deep enough. Every shallow, crooked furrow is less productive. If you let go of the plough, there is zero productivity.

There is no room for looking back or away. You either follow or you don’t, Jesus says. Looking back or away will undo everything; limit the productivity of good fruit.

So, how do you follow him like you might prune or plough? How are you following at the moment?

I don’t do so well. My mind wonders. I am distracted by many things. I have pressing concerns of body, family, work, inner need. I am so human!

I can be two faced. I look to Jesus, I seek his Word and his community but then I look away for direction and guidance; what feels good, what is socially acceptable, what pleases my parents or mentors – living or dead, what pleases my friends or those I want to have as fiends.

And this is true both when the day is going swimmingly well (I take the credit for that) and when the day is not going well at all (I blame God for that).

I try. I fail, I make my excuses, I justify my needs and my sin and my chasing after the wind and he tells me square: “No one who does not give themselves and their all with singular focus to my direction and purpose is not fit for my purposes, my calling, my work of making my new creation dawn here in this old one.

So, I am not fit.

Maybe this is you too?

Maybe this is not you. Maybe you’re the Samaritan who doesn’t want a bar of this Jesus calling; this Jewish or Christian story. Like that Samaritan community Jesus and his followers came across on their way to Jerusalem who rejected Jesus outright because of all their baggage about Jerusalem and history and war and politics and ethnic hatred etc. You just don’t want to be associated with all of that.

Maybe you are James and John who respond to this disrespect to Jesus by doing an Elijah (2 Kings 1:9-12); calling down fire on these disrespectful ignorant half-breeds! Some Church folks wouldn’t mind that approach to unbelievers. We hear it today. We might even sometimes wish this was how the Lord would act.

No way here, though. Jesus gets stuck into James and John and simply tells them to grab the plough again and keep moving along the furrow with him to the next town. This is the way people of the gospel approach those who are rejecting Jesus: keep going to them…… Leave the fiery flames to God!

What is our hope for following faithfully, if you want to still do that?

I say “If”, because that is what Jesus is asking of us today.

Following costs you. It requires a willing detachment from housing, cars, stuff – a determination inside, to not place my trust for stability and purpose in these things or in only my family, or myself.

It costs you family commitments and connection (Let the dead bury their own dead; don’t go and say goodbye to family) and requires even a certain disregard for social responsibilities and expectations.

Sounds hard.

Why follow him? Why pay the price and be so determined?

For me, it is all in that first sentence.

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (9:51)

  1. All this following leads somewhere good – good for me and good for this troubled world (Ascension).
  2. Jesus was determined more than I ever could be to find me and call me.

All my worries about feeling “unfit’ for the job; not being determined enough, successful enough, focussed enough, and not being able to pay the price of following Jesus fade into the distance as I ponder him paying the considerably higher price to ascend to rule over this world and rule over me – not in fiery anger, but in pure gracious acceptance of me – Yes, me, and all the “Samaritans”, the sinners, the “lost”, the “undetermined” and “unfit”.

He was so determined for me! This sentence in Luke’s account is often called the turning point. From here on those first days of mass support and miracles and grassy slopes for bread and fish are over. The journey has taken a darker direction.

Jesus ‘sets his face” to “Jerusalem” – “the city who kills the prophets and rejects those whom the Lord sends” (Luke 13:34). He ‘sets his face’ to this place of all places like the person pruning or ploughing into the wind and rain. He is immovable, unshakable.

A whole town or people rejecting his call will not stop him (Samaritans).

His own followers bent on power and influence by power, and even destruction or people and property in mad payback, to “teach them a lesson” will not stop him.

The waiting darkness, dying, misunderstanding, and all those politics of powerful men plotting in the shadows will not stop him.

Even one of his own sealing his fate in betrayal will not stop his journey to Jerusalem and its death, but then that magnificent ascension to rule his new creation in grace.

Why was he so determined?

It has to be love, doesn’t it?

This is Jesus. His love is pure. His love is long. His love is determined, and it will drive him through all the suffering and high cost to ensure that you and I got to hear his call and “be his own” and “live under him in holiness, innocence and blessedness” (Small Catechism).

So, why do I follow.

Because he is love and he is life. He does not just call us to follow him to a place where we get these things one day. He is the thing today! He does not just point us to life or bread or hope or forgiveness or renewal, he IS all of these now.

So, following him is not slavery, it is life because he is life. It is begun in your baptismal life and will end there in Christ. Following is life.

Following him is not earning love it is him loving you.

Following is not founded on what you are doing to win God’s favour, it is God favouring you, loving you and including you in his rule, his work, his future of grace to win others. “Follow me” is a gift more than a command with Jesus.

Friend, Jesus is determined to love you, whether you view yourself as ‘unfit’ or too fit. He is determined to love all the others through you – the rejecting Samaritans, the power hungry Christians, the indifferent, the weak, the mighty.

He calls you to the end of the row, the end of the furrow, to take that plough and keep moving toward his big end game; his big wide, wonderful kingdom of grace that truly transforms the world one person at a time.

Why else do you plough? Why else would you prune? Why else would you love, serve, give and truly live?

Follow him. He is life. He is love.

Clothed Right

Sermon, Pentecost 2C, June 23, 2019

Luke 8:26-39

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I heard this poem…..

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King

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

Remember the Commandments? Remember the First Commandment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now we are getting to it.

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

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

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

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

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

Friends, that is you. That is me too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trinity of Love – Dean Eaton

Trinity Sunday  –  Dean Eaton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

« Older posts