Will We Miss Him?

Sermon, Palm Sunday (A), April 5, 2020.

Worship Small 

Philippians 2:5–11

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death –
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

 Matthew 21:1-11 

 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’

This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet:

‘Say to Daughter Zion,
    “See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
    and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’[a]

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

‘Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’[c]

‘Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!’

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’

We went for a walk during the week. It was late in the day. The place looked deserted. If Jesus came into town today, riding a donkey, no one would be in the streets to greet him with cloaks and branches!

However, as we walked, we heard signs of life. Everyone was at home. There was noise behind fences and windows, especially kiddy noises. There was also TV noises; music, human conversation….. Homes are full even if streets are empty.

So, we are still at home even if we are not in our streets. Here is my question. Will we miss him again? As we live through this very different Palm Sunday and Easter, will we miss him coming to us again?

In these unique days when there is plenty of fear and a lack of friends to go around, will we miss the coming Saviour again? They missed him this first time.

The crowd on that Palm Sunday sensed something BIG was happening. They knew it might be to do with this donkey riding Teacher. Old hopes might be coming to life…..Hosanna!  to the Son of David!’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

 These are words for the conquering King coming to his capital city to take up his rule.

So, they say, “Yes. King, save us. King, you can save us. King, you will save us from this oppressive threat”. Hooray!!

It is one thing to welcome a winner and pray for escape from a threat, it is another to know and trust the winner, especially when the threat is over.

In the end, both the crowds gathered around the donkey riding Teacher and the general public of the city don’t really get far.

Sure, they join in with those words adoring a king after he has saved the nation’s bacon (2 Kings 9:13). The palms and cloaks show that the crowd around Jesus start out welcoming the possible new hope. But it isn’t long before they miss him. Indeed, they turn on him within a week when he fails their expectations of what they believe a king should really be and do.

There is no indication that the average Jerusalemite had much idea who this ‘Hosanna Man’ is, even if his coming causes a real stir across the whole city (Matthew 9-10).

The best those near the action can say is that this teacher is another prophet. When asked, all they can say is,

“This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”       (Matthew 21:11)

Will this be our summation of the Easter King again? Will we miss him again? Will you miss him again? I hope we don’t as a community and as a nation. I hope you don’t personally.

I am hoping that because we are locked down; because we are finally stilled with our personal freedom now stripped away, because apparently, the word is being ‘reset’, that this King can finally speak and be heard for who he actually is – the one who resets the human heart, not merely a possible source of saving our bacon.

It might happen for some. We sense this threat. We share this feeling of foreboding, this concern about not just a virus, but the unraveling of our Western way of life in loss of our jobs, loss of money, loss of budget surplus, the end of our financial security, the massing of debt, and all that may mean for our future. It could be that the people behind those fences watching those screen, playing that music could be more ready and able to receive this King of freedom; this King of love; this ‘re-setter’ of our human life.

This King is coming to town again. He will tell them again by palms. wounds, blood, cross, total isolation from his beloved Father, by his words of truth and love, and by his defeat of the greatest threat life as we know it – death, that he is here for everyone in the greatest love.

Most might miss him again. The focus of our relief and celebration when this threat diminishes and this ‘war on the Virus’ has been won, might not be this Crucified Saviour of the world.

We will celebrate someone though. We always find something positive and some heroes to adore.

We are already rightly celebrating the frontline medical workers by lighting up our homes and towns in blue as they are in Paris and London. Fair enough. I am glad they are doing their selfless work!

We might celebrate the economic power the West was able to throw at this threat as it saved our nation’s bacon with massive economic rescue packages.

But we will have missed him again if that is all we can say.

Like those city dwellers and followers on that Palm Sunday, they had much to learn about who he is and what he gives.

Like our last few weeks of rapid change, they would have another interesting week after this grand entrance. This Hosanna Man will intentionally and innocently suffer in blood through the violence, hatred and venom of the human heart to usher in a completely new era of life.

He will show them he is a King who serves both the proud and the humble. He serves through more than just one threat. He serves the sick and the well, the powerful and the powerless in sheer love.

They will see that his kingdom lives by faith not sword and that all are equally lost to God and all are found by God, only in him and his words, not their words or their power or family name or excellent moral fortitude.

Many will not like their expectations and view of self and world being disarmed in this way. They will move to get rid of this Hosanna Man.

Please don’t!

Friend, we need to learn that this king is no Jeanie to rub to ‘get out of jail’.

This King is no mere manufacturer of needed hand sanitizer or face masks or holder of vast economic means, he is love; he is THE Servant King who acts beyond and below all the cash and the goods and the professionals.

Even more, he does not only heal sickness caused by a temporary virus but THE enduring sickness of the wayward disordered human heart, and disordered world we have been living in to this point. Only he can truly ‘reset’ this world. Only by his gracious love can a person be truly transformed by love to love.

Oh, the love. When we cannot understand who he is and what he is doing, he loved us. When all we can do is treat him like a magic Jeanie to fix our problems and save our bacon, or expect him to overpower the problems with economic, political or spiritual power, he stays  true to his loving mission to the cross that transform us into people who know love and can love in any threat, disease or weakness.

Friend, in our locked down streets and homes, enter this holy week with this serving king of love like none before. Let him enter your city, your castle, your home. Let him do the true resetting. As you attend to his words you won’t miss him. He will find you.

I pray that the Easter we can join in the vast community of faith to which we belong and celebrate that because this Jesus,

8 humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!

That God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the title that is above every hero,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
11 and every human voice acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God our Father.                                           (Philippians 2:8-11)

Take off the Grave Clothes

Sermon Lent 5ASunday March 29, 2020

Ezekiel 37:1-14  

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” 

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”  

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” 

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.  

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.  

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”  

John 11:1-45  

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”  

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”  

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”  

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.  

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”  

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.  

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.  

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  

Jesus wept.  

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”  

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.  

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.”  

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.  

 

‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Sounds like how we are feeling in this Valley under the dark shadow of COVID-19.  

‘Bones’ here means your structure, your form as a human being. Bones are the last part of you to turn to dustthe essential lasting you.   

 The prophet hears the cry of the people – our very self feels dried up, our form as Jesus’ church seems gone. We have no structure; seemingly, no life; we are a Valley of dead, dry broken bones head for the dust.  

We cannot rattle ourselves into shape and grow some new flesh and blood. We cannot return ourselves to life in this Valley  

But then the Prophet hears those rattling bones….   

“Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army”. 

 God breathes life into the slain’. But how and how now?  

There was a woman named Mary who anointed the Teacher’s body for impending death.  One night, Mary wept over him – washing his dirty feet with her hair.   

Then her brother caught the disease. Lazarus has got more than a bad cold. If they had an ICU, he would in it.    

We are seeing this now. We are feeling this; enough to even pray like we mean it.  

We say, with Martha and Mary, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  

Jesus, this world and our country and community is sick. We are under the darkness of threatening illness, financial ruin and even death”.   

Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in death”.   

Thy could not see this. We struggle to see this now. It is hard to hear this promise, hard to trust the one who says it, hard to rest in his words.    

As they did, we panic. Why don’t you DO something, Jesus!  

Jesus hears of his friend’s serious illness, but chooses to “self-isolate” with his mates for two whole very long days.   

We panic a bit more: “If you are not going to do something, then I will. I am going to the shops to buy not just two trolleys of supplies, but two new freezers to put it all in! And blow everyone else. Each man for himself’, I say!  

In the panic and the need, he finally speaks:  

“Lazarus is dead”.   

No one had to tell him of this death. He knows things about sickness and death they don’t  

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 

 ‘Fallen asleep”? Death is just sleep? Death is temporary? Death still has hope of living? This Barossa Valley of the Shadow of Death is still the Barossa Valley of an army of new people raised to life?  

Yes. The one who has been prepared for his own death (by Mary) now arrives at his friend’s death to deal with this one death and point to the end of all death  

He feels this with us. Jesus weeps. I hear him weeping with us now  

This is not enough for some. They are ‘crocodile tears’, they say. He healed easier things – blindness, speech, legs, arms….. Why didn’t he do something straight away and fix this disease? If he can’t deal with this, he is not the real deal!  

And then it happens.   

When they can’t see. When they cannot trust. When they feel their bones are dried up and formless, when they are isolated and socially distant, all they can do is weep in pain and doubt, Jesus breathes the promise  

 “Take away the stone,” Jesus commands.  

He knows what they don’t. He does what they can’t. He loves like they need.   

Despite the stink, the defilement, the doubt and angry grief of those he loves, he loves 

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 

 “Lazarus, come out!” 

 Can you hear those dead bones rattle and feel the Spirit breathe? The Valley of the Shadow of death springs to a Valley of Jesus’ resurrection lifeAnd it starts with you now.   

Death IS sleep. Death IS temporary. Death IS still hope of living. This shadow will lift. It might be lifting for you now.  

Yes. Yes! It is all of that. It still hurts. But that is all it does. Death hurts but does not kill.  

How can this possibly be? Because of him: 

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.  

Do you believe this?” 

 Friend, the stench of dark disease and death is upon us like those ugly little spiky floating balls representing this virus with which the news people keep overlaying all their news stories!   

Into our Valley of the shadow of death comes this weeping man of love who wilgo on to disarm sickness and death for all God’s creation once and for all.   

He can deal with this because he is the real deal. He has dealt death the killer blow so that it does not have that killer blow for you and me anymore.   

So, in your forced isolation when you say‘Our bones as people and as church are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off’;   

When all you can see and hear are people grasping to escape the threat without him and his resurrection from death as they hoard and worry and give in to panicky anxiousness or play it all down and declare themselves to be immune from this for whatever reason;   

When you are weeping; when you are worried; when you feel dead as a door knob as you lock the doors of your house and wonder what on earth will become of you and all that you know; he does it.   

He breathes his breath of peace into you by his Word, as he did in that baptismal waterAs he did then, he speaks your bones back to life today. He shows us we still have form, his form, his shape, his life, his hope.   

He asks a simple question of you today:  

“Do you believe this?”   

“I am the resurrection and the life”. 

 “I am YOUR resurrection and life” 

“I am this community’s resurrection and life” 

I am this country and this world’s resurrection and life”  

Friend, wait on him…. 

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning. 

People of God, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
He himself will save his people. (Psalm 130) 

 Jesus says to you now, “Take off the deathly grave clothes and breathe new again.” 

A Communal Love

Sermon: RENEW Mission Life: Where Love Comes to Life

Sermon Four: …COMES TO LIFE

Small Worship, Sunday March 22, 2020. 

Colossians 3.1-11

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

I was glad to hear the Prime Minister name the selfishness apparent in the hoarding at supermarkets across the country in his speech during this week. I hope people stop that. It reminded me of that self-orientation living inside all of us, even those of us already made new by the Spirit by water and Word.

We too struggle daily with this self-orientation. As Luther rightly put it, we tend to ‘curve in on ourselves’ and that causes no end of relationship breakdown, unfairness and pain.

Even our longing for love and belonging can be very self-centred. “All I need is for someone to love me!” is a selfish cry too! It’s still “all about me”; very individually centred.

We in the West have been steeped in this individualistic kind of way of life. We tend to transfer this individualism into our hearing of God’s Word. We often hear that being a Christian person is all about “Jesus and Me” way more than “Jesus and US”.

But even in our self-orientated individualistic world, we recognise that love still counts. We somehow know that love is more valuable than anything else. We look for love. We long for that sense of belonging that makes us matter. We ache for true, faithful, irreversible affection. Just put your attention on the world of the Arts!

God says that he IS love; agape; self-giving, self-sacrificing love. It is the fullest love and it is communal by nature. God’s love is never just for him and never all about me. Only. It is always for me and others around me. God’s love is communal because God is communal in nature.

The great jewel at the centre of Christian faith is this: God is Community; perfect community; Three Persons in One Person.

God’s Communal Love

The Father loves the Son, the Spirit loves the Father; the Father gives honour to the Son, the Son glorifies the Father; the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son…and so on. You get the picture and can see that that’s the way it is.

In other words, the love of God is not an abstract idea. It is personal, divine communal self-giving, self-sacrificing love.

But how do we know this communal love? How do we experience it? How does it comes to us and make love a reality among us and in God’s world?

Gods Open Circle

God loves in every possible way. He creates (he enters into relationships outside of himself), he sustains (he commits himself to that set of relationships eternally), in his Son, Jesus, he redeems (he opens himself to the pain of rejection, entering into death itself to redeem the creation he’s brought into being).

And he glorifies. Not just redeems us then leaves us to our own social distancing and self isolation! He glorifies. He brings us into the divine family. He adopts us his own kids in baptism and places us in his holy community of self-giving, self-sacrificing love. He makes us his family. He unites us with Jesus.

He gives his life for living today, no matter the virus, the threat the size of the group. He bestows his Spirit on us, and in us, to call him “Abba, Father”. He spreads his table before us in the presence of all enemies of love in love (Psalm 23).

Look at that set place and know it is your place in the church with Jesus!

God’s love comes to life in communities

God’s love comes to life in communities. God’s love produces new expressions of human fellowship. It breaks down dividing walls, drowning old hostilities under the flood of his grace.

This is not just some future ‘heavenly’ thing. This is for now. What I’m describing is the very thing that marked the New Testament churches. They needed a new vocabulary to describe the love they experienced (agape) and a new way of expressing their self-emptied devotion to one another (koinonia).

That’s why the gospel was—and is—so radical. It made previously divided and often hostile groups into one. Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, male and female; “here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11).

When Paul speaks like this he’s not describing what might be one day. He’s giving voice to what the gospel actually did. It created a community that had never existed before. Christians had a new citizenship, a new family. And the whole of the New Testament is devoted to proclaiming and sharing this this miracle of love. That’s what Paul is so red-hot in his opposition to any form of so-called ‘gospel’ which would undermine it. Just read Galatians, for example!

Because that community had God’s communal love coming to life in people, it was very open to the outsider. No closed club, but a flowing embrace of grace.

Yes. To be like this is risky. As we said, to love it to risk. But would we rather be totally alone, totally disconnected without any love? That would kill us. That would be ‘hell’.

Better to be involved in God’s love coming to life in our deadness, God’s belonging creating new community in our social distancing, God’s mission to love our enemies that breaks down our hoarding. That is what the world needs. It is what I need. It is what you need.

Friends, as you spend time alone or in smaller groups in these days, trust that the loving Spirit is at work among us. His ways are not our ways. This testing time is also his growing time.

The love of God never leaves you where you were, or where you are! He is moving you along the journey into his communal life. Hed is opening us to life you or we never imagined.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

Worshiping Small Now

Hello Everyone.

We are now ‘Worshiping Small’ to join with our community in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

This is how it will work:

You can worship at home alone or with your household, or with your small groups or with a few other friends and neighbours in a group no larger than 10 people on Sunday mornings

 SUNDAY WORSHIP VIDEO

We provide a video ‘worship service’ led by Pastor for you to use at home. You can access either via You Tube here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzjN0C0RDlI&list=PLdQ7kCgDfjYyhbXi_aB5mT_HgxtcP32Dq

Or via DVD that you can pick up from the Office or have delivered to your letterbox before Sunday.

Please tell us which way you would prefer to access this resource for each Sunday.

It will be good to know that we are still ‘gathering’ in worshiping the Lord at the same time (Sunday morning when you like) and praying ‘together’, just not physically together (but still together in the Lord).

KEEPING YOU UPDATED:

We will continue to provide a Sunday Bulletin which you can pick up from the Office on Fridays or access on the St Petri Website.

Pastor will be doing short updates/devotions/news via St Petri Facebook page and web page every few days.

WHAT ABOUT MY OFFERING TO THE LORD?

You can keep your REG (Regular Electronic Giving) going as normal or sign up for REG now and keep giving that way.

You can also now use the ‘Giving” button on the St Petri website to give your offering.

You can also drop off your cash offering at the Office on Friday morning.

HOLY COMMUNION?

Pastor intends to visit various Sunday morning home gatherings where and when possible to give Holy Communion. Please let us know when and where your home worship gathering will be from week to week so he can move around our community. 

PRAYING:

You can send Pastor Adrian your prayer requests via email (pastor@stpetri.org.au) or telephone or let Rosie know of them in the Office. They might be included in the Sunday Prayers from week to week.

OFFICE OPEN

The St Petri Office will be open in a limited way – Monday to Thursday 9.00am –12.00pm and ALL DAY Friday. 

This is an opportunity to trust the Lord, pray for each other and God’s world in this testing time and support each other and others, as we still continue to gather in Jesus’ presence even ‘where two or three are gathered’. 

 

 

Your Story Counts

Sermon Lent 3A, Sunday March 15, 2020

RENEW Mission Life: Where Love Comes to Life 

Sermon Three: LOVE COMES TO…  

Ephesians 2:1-7 

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 

I am not sure what music, theatre, cinema and artistic expression would be without love – all four kinds of love – family, friend, romantic and agape; God’s self-giving love? 

 Without love, we would not have Rembrandt’s, Prodigal Son, Michael Angelo’s Creation of Adam in the Sistine chapel, songs like, We are Family, by Sister Sledge and Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers or Slim Dusty’s, I love to have a beer with Duncan  

What do they have in common?  One thing: they expect love to transform you, even to transform the world (well, maybe not ‘I love to have a beer with Duncan”!).  But the rest say that when love comes, your world changes.    

And aren’t we disappointed when love is lost and does not transform us? Probably the best art and song is about our pain when love is lost and hope for transformation dashed. Just listen to a decent blues song!   

The pain is there because we trust that love will do something. We believe it will overcome obstacles and solve problems. But our love fails so often.  We change and can’t adjust, we hrt and can’t say sorry, we do wrong or say wrong and forgiveness is withheld…….Pat Benatar sang, “Love is battlefield”.   

But even though our love often fails, we somehow know or at least hope there is a love beyond us. Humans always seems to want to trust that “love is all you need”. And so, we sing along, hoping against hope it’s all true.   

  1. God’s Love Transforms You 

Jillian grew up in a home of broken expectations. Her father abandoned her mother and the family in favour of a young assistant at work. The consequent emotional, financial and relational instability had terrible consequences. Her mother wobbled from relationship to relationship; with Jillian’s eventual step-father showing his ‘love’ for her in all the wrong ways. From the age of 10 he abused her regularly.   

As soon as she could, she ran away from home and tried to leave the pain behind. But the pain followed her, even through the haze of alcohol and drugs she used to take it away.   

Hungry for love she lurched from one relationship to the next, hoping that ‘this time’ love would set her free. But it didn’t. She spiralled ever downward, eventually falling into the sex industry. She was little more than a tradable commodity. This wasn’t a feminist statement of her liberation; she was a captive—virtually a slave—to the pimp master who was also her drug dealer.   

She was desperate to get away, but every avenue seemed blocked. One day she made a run for it, literally. She escaped through a window and ended up looking for refuge in the nearest safe place she could find.   

She didn’t know it at the time, but the place in which she found shelter was linked to a wider network of Christian ministries. They were able to give her a safe environment to get proper medical and other care. After about a year she found herself sharing a sort of halfway house with three other women from similar backgrounds.   

Geographically and in every other way it was a world away from the pimp and his connections.   

The group of women shared similar issues. Shame, poor self-image, guilt, fear, distrust of men, anger, withdrawal issues. These were their world.   

But love breaks through in the most unexpected ways. Jillian found herself transformed by the love of God.   

One day, in a church service in a small country town, the preacher spoke of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The floodgates broke open. Years of pain, heartache, and rejection tumbled out. She was the woman. Jesus was speaking to her. She felt like she was the only one in the building. To her alone, it seemed, the words “your sins are forgiven” made their mark. She was washed, cleansed, renewed, clothed and healed.   

To this day she looks back to that night as the most significant turning point in her life. It’s as though she hadn’t even been alive before. Which in a way, is true. It is a human experience to be “dead in our sins” (Ephesians 2:1).  

I know that lots of people in our church community almost feel guilty that they have no BIG story like Jillian’s story. If you were washed, cleansed, renewed, clothed and healed in baptism into Christ and you have grown up in that gift, and in a healthy loving family of living faith in Jesus all your life, you can’t tell this dramatic kind of story. Maybe you feel a bit ‘second class’, or that you have missed out on something when it comes to the value of your story.   

You are not second class! You have missed out on something – pain! What a wonderful gift you have received from God! You are the person who can be of immense help to people like Jillian! People like her need people like you! We all count in God’s economy of love.   

And you are not that unlike her anyway. None of us are…. The love of God isn’t for healthy but for the sick. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous, but for the lost. And if we think we’re not sick or lost, we’re more sick and lost than we know.   

Why share stories like these? Why does the Bible itself make so much of people like Moses, David and Paul (all murderers)?Why does Paul write to the Ephesians “you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8)   

And why does he say to the Corinthians, “some of you were fornicators, thieves, adulterers, idolaters, drunkards, ….., but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1Cor 6:9-11).   

Why? Because all of us in the same boat. In Jesus, God plunges into the deepest darkness to find us. He saves by raising us from spiritual death:  

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, …… But Godbeing rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:1-6)   

 The BUT GOD makes all the difference. The “but God” is where love comes to life. It’s where love comes to us, transforming us to be part of a new humanity in Jesus.  

 God’s Love Transforms Us  

We, as a church in Australia and New Zealand have a unique history. We Lutherans share a wonderful theological inheritance.  But for lots of reason, we struggle to share it.   

Lutherans in Australia and New Zealand were the minority and for the most part have stayed the minority (except in the Hills and Barossa!).   

We began as an immigrant community and we settled largely out of the big cities. The story of God’s grace among Lutherans has stayed locked away.   

Two world wars against Germany didn’t help. It was hard for us to have any confidence in sharing who we are Christ.  We often circle the wagons, keep low to avoid detection and stave off any attacks.   

For 150 years Lutheran local church ministry essentially focussed on pastoring a number of interconnected families. The pastor was always there: baptising their infants, confirming their young people, presiding over their marriages and officiating at their funerals. It was believed that the Pastor was the only person doing ‘real’ ministry and without him, there was ‘no ministry’!   

We were good at looking after our own. We provided cradle to grave care. Our own knew us and we knew them. We could almost accept someone who married into us! But we had very little real expectation of people actually experiencing a conversion – actually coming to a living faith as a result of experiencing God’s transforming love (like Jillian).   

Now we live in a very different Australia. We live in an urban Australia; a secularising Australia, a post-Christian Australia, a media driven news Australia, a seemingly nastier Australia, a rapidly changing Australia that is really hard for anyone of any age to understand let alone keep up with!  

But still, the good news of Jesus’ undeserved love; self-giving, self-sacrificing love for us while we were “dead in our sins”, breaks through. He has for you! Jesus opens up a different world in our world and calls us to open up to his world.   

In his vision and power for us, we are church in his world where we can expect to baptise more believing adults than children of believing parents. It’s a place where the love of God reveals the name, Jesus Christ, to be the most beautiful and powerful of all the names under heaven; much more than a swear word!   

 More and more people in our community know nothing of the Bible, church or anything to do with our unique story. Sounds a lot like the time in which the first church grew! Many say we are right in a New Testament world.  We have great opportunity!  

Friends, the good news spread like coronavirus back then and still does now! Unlike that spread, the good news is not threat but life, and life to the full, according to Jesus (John 10:10).  

Yes, we live in what is probably the most difficult mission culture that there has ever been. We live in a community that believes that the Christian story is something they have understood and moved on from – to better stories, better faiths or no faith. There are layers of resistance to the gospel in our Western 21st century community. People have become resistant to the gospel virus, if you like.   

But the Spirit of God is creative. He is the true artist. Like a beautiful song or work of art or play, His word can and does cut through the layers or resistance. I see that occur around here. The love of Jesus the Spirit breathes gets through to some. He got through to me. He got through to you. You breathe Jesus’ love now.  

I know this is true because Godbeing rich in mercy and because of His great love with which He loved us all and all of them, even when they are dead in their transgressions, can make them alive together with Christ (by grace they are saved). They like us, can be raised up with Jesus in baptism, and seated with us, with Him in the heavenly places (Eph 2:1-6)   

Jesus is working with his church to transform people by love. We are that church for this time….. 

 

 

Renew Mission Life – WHERE LOVE COMES

Sermon, RENEW Mission Life: Where Love Comes to Life

Sermon Two: WHERE LOVE COMES 

Reading: 1 John 4:7-10 

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 

We are talking about the love that renews us this Lent. Last Sunday we heard the Apostle John say, ‘God is Love”. We heard that because God is love, God is Life. We heard that God is on a mission from God! He is on a mission to love people out of death to life.  

That’s what we want to see. This is what we are part of. We do want to see all kinds of people in all kinds of ways coming to life in God’s love.   

But we didn’t really get too specific about what love actually is. I know that Forest Gump famously said to his beloved “Jenny”; “I know what love is”. But did he, and do we?   

  1. What is Love? 

Our New Testament wasn’t written in English. When John uses this big word so much, he is speaking common Greek of his day. Unlike our English word ‘love’, the Greek language had more words for ‘love’.   

Some of you have would know these words. Plenty of people may not yet. When I first came across the different types of love expressed in the Bible it really helped me understand more about my relationships and how I can love others, and how widely God really does love people and me.   

John could speak about friend love; love for a friend or a fellow brother or sister in Christ, or erotic love; romantic love for a couple, or family love; love and respect for parents and family. He could use a different word each time in his language. But when translated into English, we are stuck with one word – ‘love’.  

In our culture, we seem to hear that word, ‘love’ in a particular way 

  1. Individual and 
  2. Emotional 

 When people use the word ‘love’ they seem to mainly mean it in the romantic or emotional sense – love means affection, feeling, and is linked to sexuality.   

 We hear it when we speak of family love and friend love too, but it seems to me that we mainly hear it as the stuff on Married at First Sight or Farmer wants a Wife kind of love.   

And we hear it as an individual experience of this emotion. Love tends to be about getting my needs met emotionally by another or by things.  Either way, it is very emotion based and individual, not communal or action beyond emotions, so much.   

The problem with hearing it mainly these ways is that we transfer that feeling/romantic/individual kind of understanding of ‘love’ to our relationship with God and church – as if God’s love is much more a feeling and emotion for me individually than about action, doing regardless of feelings, community, responsibility…  

If God is love, then he is more a way to get to feel good than do some good when we may or may not feel good about it. Things like friendship, loyalty, commitment, duty, public serving without any accompanying good feeling, real actions of kindness despite what I am or may not feel tend to be put on the bench, and we chase this emotional satisfaction kind of love only; as if God is here to make us feel ‘loved’, ‘feel happy’; be our personal waiter meeting our every waking need.   

John sees so much more! God’s love is as communal as it is individual. It is deeply personal and surely does include emotions but is not dependent on them, and is a verb – a doing thing, not just for the individual in the personal sphere of life but the actions in the community sphere of our lives.   

“Love is not only a feeling. It is primarily an act of your will despite feelings”.   

How do I know? John has another word for love. It is the one most used and the one used repeatedly here in this teat and throughout this letter.   

The word he finds in his language shows the expansive, complete action orientated love, and it is all God.    

“Agape”: That is the word ‘love’ here. “Agape, agape, agape…..” says John to his community.  

What is this? 

Agape is unique. It has no human parallel and comes from no human source.  

Where does agape come from? 

For John, Agape is from God. “Agape (love) is from God” (1 John 4:7). God is “agape” (1 John 4:8). It is divine self-giving, self-sacrificing love – the love for us broken people and this broken creation that drove the Father to give up his only Son for the life of the world (John 3:16).  

This love is our life as church. This love is how we love in every area of our lives. It is not dependent on how we feel or what we get from loving. It comes not from inner feelings, but God’s promises and makes us unstoppable. We love because are loved like this.  

This love drove that first church to change the known world.   

The New Testament churches had no large impressive buildings and few resources to speak of. They had very little by way of earthly power. Many of the people in their small local communities were battlers. Lots of them were slaves too.  

Often they were persecuted. Suffering was often a daily occurrence. It was often the case that because they were followers of Jesus, they lost the family farm, the family property, the inheritance and the sure future they once had. Paul and the Writer to the Hebrews give us a glimpse of this They tell us that early Christians in these communities were mostly misunderstood, misrepresented and often ridiculed (Hebrews 11, 1 Corinthians 4).   

But one thing they had was love. Agape. Love that crossed cultural boundaries, broke down dividing walls, and which transformed cultures and communities, one person at a time; one family at a time. This is the love which enabled them to stand in huge upheavals.   

God is still love and still loving with this love and it is this love that brings people and churches and families to life. Maybe Christians living in other situations often know this better than we do.   

A Muslim man becomes a Christian and loses his family, his inheritance, and possibly his life. The daughter of a spiritualist medium is cut off by her family and experiences dreadful demonic opposition in her daily life. A prominent Hindu, named after one of the most powerful of the gods, becomes a Christian; he’s ostracised by his family, rejected by his village is ridiculed in public. His barn is burnt down. The son of a village witch doctor believes the gospel. The village cattle get sick and the villagers take revenge for the curse they think he’s brought on them by burning his house down.  

But n hint of guilt here, friend. Just love – agape love – God sacrificing himself for you today again right where we live in this Valley and at this time….  

In any tough place or situation, this is THE love that will enable you to love the unlovely, do kindness at cost to yourself, to be Jesus’ love and life loving people to life; your partner, your kids, your staff, your boss, your teacher, your lecturer, your parents……   

It is why we are church and how we keep going. Agape – the self-giving; self-sacrificing action of a God who wants dead sinners and enemies to be alive friends making friends of dead sinners and enemies.   

Question: Do you know this love of God? Have you been ‘agaped’ by his self-giving, self-sacrificing Son; his forgiveness and acceptance for you?  

If so, how did he come to you? If not, how does he still?     

Agape isn’t a good feeling, or a warm fuzzy emotion. Its “red hands, clotted with blood, thrusting us up to God”!1   

Friend, God is still love. God is still agape love – self-sacrificing, self-giving acceptance for you and those around you. Like a couple ‘in love’ his love brings new life into your life. We strain into an unknown future with anticipation and joy, not fear and timidity, because we are loved with this agape love.   

God has breathed his agape into us in baptism and sustained us all in his love to this point.   

That’s where love comes – Jesus immersing me in his love in baptism. All the Son did to love me when all I could love was myself and my idols has been freely gifted to me and freely sustained in me all this time.   

Is this you, friend? Have you known this agape divine love in yourself and are you living by this in all your sins, all your shortcomings, all your concerns and needs and fears? You can. We can. God is love and God is here in all his self-giving acceptance and love.   

Did this happen to you at some point but somehow seems far away now? It isn’t. He isn’t. Where even a couple of people gather to listen and pray with Jesus, he is here. Divine love is here now.   

Is this strange to you – something you are still trying to get your head around? Can you believe that God is self-sacrificing love for you – that he really has done the unthinkable and the impossible – healed you, restored you, loved you with a love beyond you? No need to get your head around it. You need to open your heart to him first.  

God is agape and because he is, these things are happening here…. 

 

Get into some Renewed Conversation with others around Jesus’ Mission

You can download the RENEW MISSION LIFE resource at stpetri.com.au for personal reflection or conversation with a friend or a group at you place or theirs.

“Holy Spirit, renew us in our conviction and freedom to be your people serving and speaking the good news where you have placed us”.

Dropping the Nets- Following his Call

Sermon YOUNG LIFE, Barossa, Infusion Service, March 1, 2020

Mark 1:16-20

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

I want to encourage you tonight to trust that God does have great purpose for you and call you to keep on seeking him for it.   

Even if you are in year 7 or 8, it won’t be that long until you have to make those decisions about what you think you might head into after school. If you are in year 9, subject choices have begun. If you are in the last few years of your school journey, you are right in the middle of working at the choices you have made.

I remember all this being pretty overwhelming. I really had little idea of what I was heading for after school. Whenever someone asked that question that you get asked all the way along; from grade 2 to year 12; ‘What are you going to be when you grow up?”, I never had a clue.

How about you?  

Who would say that they have a pretty clear picture of career/ job after school?  

Who would say they have got a few choices of which one will probably come off?  

Who would say they really don’t know at all?  

I found it all pretty hard. Maybe it is because the school journey for me was hard – not because of the school or the teachers, but because of what was going on for me outside of school.  

I went to 8 schools in my 12 years of school. This was because of poverty and divorce and all the trouble that goes with them.  

We were constantly moving. Dad chased work. Mum and Dad never had what you would call a loving relationship.  

They split when I was in grade 2. Dad re-married. My step mum and I never got on. Mum had relationships and got married a few times – two those times where in my high school years.   

So, the grief of parents not getting on and divorcing, the constant moving, the lack of resources to do stuff, the lack of connection to other people, the lack of mentors and trusted adults at home made trying to learn anything and achieve anything much at school pretty hard.   

I spent most of the time at school feeling scared in one way or another. I was often ‘the new kid’. If you have ever been a new kid, you know it is hard. You want to fit in and find friends, but they may not accept you and you may end up being alone most of the time and that feel yuck.   

Then, there is always this thing about a bunch of kids together. Someone always seems to want to be top dog and sometimes they will do anything to get that title and do anything to keep it. In some of state schools I went to, the top dog battle was full on and it included violence.   

My worst ever new school was a huge working class suburban school For the first week there was a fight every lunch time: hundreds of kids swarming around the two people doing battle with teachers breaking their way in to break it up. Pretty scary for a new little year 8 country kid in a school of 1500 city kids who were used to this! I lasted a term. 

I got hammered by a big year 10 kid and his mates one Saturday for no good reason. That was it. I said to mum that I wanted out. I went back to the country to live with my Dad and my troublesome step mum. It was better than getting smashed around and living in fear all the time!  

Something happened though – later in the school journey that changed everything.   

About the end of year 9 my sister, who was now married to a Lutheran farmer who had a living faith in Jesus, made me go to youth camp in the summer holidays.   

I did not want to go. I only knew two guys who were going, and they were older than me. I did not want to walk into another new group and have to be the new guy again.   

But, somehow, my sister made it happen and I went.   

I couldn’t believe it. I was the new guy, but I was totally welcomed. I was not the last guys waiting to picked in the team for stuff. They wanted me to be on their team for stuff. They had fun and lots of it, and it was free of any sexual jokes and off stuff – just good clean fun with a big welcoming spirit. I was included and I was totally wrapped! 

Now, when I think about this, I think about a story the gospel writers tell of Jesus.  

Jesus has just been baptised by John in the Jordan and everyone heard this amazing voice say, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him”. In other words, “Go”, Jesus. Your work has begun. Then he finds himself out in the harsh Israeli desert struggling with huge temptation to give up his mission. He doesn’t.   

Then he is back in his home region down on the beach and he comes across two brothers….  

Mark 1:16-20 

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

They just left it all and followed him! What was it about him that enabled them to just go with him?  

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him. 

 These guys did the same. Professional fishermen in a family business and a stable future (which easy not was not easy to have in their time).   

That happened to me as year 10 started in those summer holidays. Or at least it began to happen for me – not in one moment but over the last three years of school, which were my best.   

Best because I was at a really good school with fantastic teachers – a Catholic boys’ school. None of that stuff the media love to tell about happened for anyone I know of in this school.   

Those teachers, some of whom were part of an order or brotherhood, were fantastic men of discipline and compassion that were great to be around.   

But that was not the most telling thing that made school different now. It was this Jesus and his calling.   

After camp I just had to keep hanging out with my new friends and mentors. A big chunk of them happened to be a part of a local Lutheran Church only a few km’s away from where I was living. Mum was OK with me going to stuff. So I went to Sunday worship and youth group and anything else I could.   

I started to get to know real people who were not pretending to be perfect or squeaky clean or better than anyone. In fact, they were the first to admit their mistakes and their weaknesses. I learnt some of them for myself – my weaknesses and my mistakes.   

But they also told the stories of Jesus and constantly talked about him and sung songs about him and to him. I found myself loving bible study and worship and conversations and new relationships.   

It was only then that I first got any sense of what I might do after school. I still did not rally know for sure. I could have gone down the whole agribusiness kind of road – maybe get an apprenticeship in Elders or Landmark, or study at Ag college to one day be a Farm Manager.   

But I loved being with people and being in conversation about God and especially learning more of Jesus and who he is and who I am as a result.   

So, there happened to be the first ever degree level course in Youth Work being run by one of the Uni’s. So I signed up and that was what I ended up doing after school. Youth work. That eventually led to being a Pastor.   

I want to tell you some things to encourage you now  

The Lord knows you. He knows you more than you know yourself. He knows you weaknesses, your fears, your worries, your pride, your ability to chase after lots of things that you think will be great but end up just being really bad for you.   

He knows that inside you is a wayward heart that will trust in just about anyone or anything more than the words of Jesus – his promises to make plenty of you and give you the gift of faith in God’s goodness, hope for your today and your tomorrow in Jesus, and enable you to love like I was loved by those young people at that camp and ever since.   

God knows your ability to trick yourself into pretending that you have it all together and don’t need anyone – including God. But he comes to you along that beach and says, “Come with me. See me, watch me, do as you see me doing and I will make more of you than you could ever make of yourself. 

Will you drop your net of self-focus, pretending to be what you are not, trying to be ‘In” so you don’t have to suffer being “out” with your peers?   

Will you drop the false belief that your job, your study, your career is all about you, and instead begin to let him show you that your work, your schooling, your study your life is actually a calling – a vocation; a calling from Jesus not to live for yourself but for his world?  

It was not easy for those four men and their eight other journeymen as they went with Jesus. You can tell from the stories that a couple of them tell that these guys were still confused about many things most of the time.   

They may have wondered what on earth Jesus was doing most of the time, but they were also exhilarated and challenged and fired up by what they saw and heard and were a part of. They saw him heal and love and pray and challenge the powerful.   

They eventually saw him die and they thought that that was it – it was all just a dream; another human lie; another misplaced faith of little value. They locked themselves away; scared deflated and unsure of what to do after life in Jesus’ school.  

Until they saw him alive and saying “Peace be with you” as he breathed a new life into them.   

Those men changed the world – not be power or politics or science or intelligence or great wisdom, but by speaking and doing Jesus’ word – often at great cost to themselves. They all died for their faith except one – the Apostle John.   

Kids, he is always calling you. He is on your beach and he is always calling you and as you follow cool things happen.  

School becomes something new – not something to be suffered so you can get to what you really want to do on the weekend, School becomes a place of your calling; your following of Jesus and learning from him as you learn to love others.   

Work is not something to be angry about, to curse and swear about, to worry about and stress out about, work becomes a gift, a freeing activity that teaches you much and gets you further along the growing up journey in Gods preferred future for you.   

Work and school become not all about you but all about you giving, serving, contributing to the lives of others. It becomes Jesus working through your words and your actions to draw others into his calling to drop their nets and come and follow him with you.   

It was a  Thursday night when I ended up running out of the house in fear at night with nowhere to go wondering what on earth would become of me, if you had of told me that I would be married and have fur children and two daughters-in-law and know thousands of people across the country and across the world and have a job I love and people who love me, and a contribution to make to the world…. I would have kept running!  

None of Jesus calling happens all at once. He calls you day by day to simply follow him for today. He takes care of the longer stuff, the bigger picture.   

He does not call you because you are good, or smart, or religious, or gifted. He just calls you and makes of you what he wants and that will be best for you because his acceptance and forgiveness are best for everyone.   

You can drop your net of fears. You can leave your own vision of you and plan for your life.   

No need to be scared all the time.   

No need to be worried about feeling like the stranger, feeling alone all the time.   

Trust that God does have great purpose for you and call you to keep on seeking him for it.  

“Come, follow me and I will make you catchers of people with me”.  

  

 

It can happen here

Sermon, Series: Renew Mission Life, Week 1

Lent 1A, March 1, 2020

 

Welcome to our first RENEW Mission Life in Lent season.

For some time, we as a local mission community have shared this vision from the Lord about seeing his great love come to life more and more in people in this community.

We believe that the Spirit of Jesus is working in the lives of all kinds of people. We trust that He is always calling us his baptised loved people to serve and share the good news of his love for all people.

We long to see and hear of real people being truly transformed by this grace of God in Jesus – we long to see God’s love springing to life in everyday people in big and small, noisy and quiet, obvious and not so obvious ways.

We want to be part of what the Holy Spirit is doing because God is Love, God is life and God is on a mission because he is love and life.

1 John 4:7-21

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

 Have you noticed that when people fall in love they just seem to ‘come to life”? Their eyes sparkle. They are totally focussed on the ‘love of their life’. They just seem to find a whole other side of their character. They find a joy they did not know they had. It may have happened to you…..

With love, life takes on a different dimension. People in love seem to be straining forward to meet life head on with commitment and joy.

Like the young guy who announced to his father at breakfast one morning, “Dad, I’m going to get married.” 

“How do you know you’re ready to get married?” Dad asked. “Are you in love?” 

“I sure am,” said the son. 

“How do you know you’re in love?” asked the father. 

“Last night as I was kissing my girlfriend good-night, her dog bit me and I didn’t feel the pain until I got home.”

The Apostle John is famous for his deep words about love. You can tell from this portion of his first letter about God’s love in our life that John is sure that God’s love does change people. It changed him.

The experience of being loved by God, just as the experience of being truly loved by another person, brings with it a kind of newness that brings out the best in us. He wants us to see that love bringing life. He trusts that God’s love brings God’s life.

He even says;

  1. God is Love

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. John 4:16b

God loves and God gives life. God’s love life is big!!

In the very beginning God brought life to the world. By his hovering Spirit he created and shaped this planet to be our home (Genesis 1).

Then God breathed life. God breathed his own holy life into our human bodies and brought us to life (Genesis 2).

  1. God is Life

But then, when the time was right, God did the unthinkable. He even entered our limited, broken human life at a depth which no-one could have anticipated.

Our holy powerful God became a human being. He filled our humanity with his own life. Remember John’s famous opening words about this new creation in Jesus?

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood

(John 1.14 Message)

Why did he do this? John says, it was for love. This flesh-taking (incarnation) was not an interesting physics experiment but God’s own project to rescue us from loveless death and futility. In spite of our worst efforts, even when we killed him, God succeeded in bringing love back to life (John 1).

  1. God is on Mission because he Loves

So, this God of life and love is here, and he is active.

I know so many of your family and friends don’t believe this at all. Sometimes you might struggle to trust this because of all the trouble you see and the loss you feel.

I see people of all ages and stages searching for love; seeking life. I see this longing for love in myself. As St Augustine said, it is not that we human beings don’t love enough. It is that we love too much.

We love the things created more than the Creator of the things. We want what this God of love can give us more than this God of love himself. We will love just about anything above the promises and presence of this God of love.

Hear John, this closest disciple of Jesus who names himself “the one Jesus loved”, speak now.

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

In our search for real love and for full life, John announced both are here in Jesus.

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 

When you could only ever be God’s enemy, God friended you. He has loved you with a love you cannot and did not manufacture.

God is love and God is Life and God is on a mission. It is a mission of love, not merely good morals, right behaviour, squeaky clean reputation, successful life in world terms. His mission is to bring love and life to lifeless, loveless people.

His love drives him on in his mission and we are involved. Remember what we have been saying for some time now?

“The church has not got a mission for God, but God has a church for his mission”.

“We don’t do mission FOR God. God does HIS mission through us”.

John says it so simply:

19 We love because he first loved us. 

“We love”. That is why we do what we do.

Every group, every gathering, every activity, in its beginning and its end is done for love of people. We join Jesus in his mission to love people, not to get more numbers, not for more money, not for good looks, not for anything less than self-giving, gospel love of Jesus.

We reach out to love. We serve to love. We give to love.

But it seems so hard! It seems these days that church is on the way out. Lots of our fellow Lutherans seem to believe this; that church is mostly about Sunday worship and less people are coming. So, one day we will not be able to hold church services and we will therefore no longer be church.

Does that sound like the Apostle John’s vision of church? Not to me. We, God’s church, live on by the gifts of love he still supplies, no matter the culture, the pressure and the testing.

We live on his gits of forgiveness, healing, peace, powerful Word and Holy Spirit transforming people, raising people, making a holy community of love and life to be a holy community of life givers and lovers of others.

This is being church and is not only about ‘going to church’. We don’t ‘go to church’. HE gathers us AS church; God’s church, big or small, limping or leaping.

We gather, we hear, we eat and drink, and we are sent. That is our shape.

And what does he do all this for? To love. And so we love in his love and see his life coming to life.

What God does with you and in you here is always preparation. He gets us ready here and everywhere we meet.

We are never here or anywhere else only for ourselves, although we surely receive from Jesus what we need for ourselves. You can hear it in John’s words, over and over again: 

Dear friends, let us love one another,

11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 

12 …..if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

19 We love because he first loved us

21 And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

 Life in the church is really a preparation and empowerment for a life of love in the world.

 The world needs this love.

The paradox of our time in history is that

we spend more, but have less;

we buy more, but enjoy it less.

We have bigger houses, and smaller families;

more conveniences, but less time;

more medicine, but less wellness.

We read too little, watch screens too much,

and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions,

but reduced our values.

These are the times of tall people, and short character;

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce;

of fancier houses, but broken homes.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life;

we’ve added years to life, not life to years;

we’ve worked at cleaning up the air, but polluted the soul.[1]

 

The good news is Jesus Christ loves people searching for love in the wrong places. He is the place of real lasting love. He is love and life for you. He is our love and life here.

Don’t you want to be part of what he is doing? Don’t you too want to see his love giving new life to people?

Don’t you feel compelled to receive his love and then give it and see new life where you thought there was none? Paul is: 

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

 For us it is more like: 

“For when I love you in word and deed, I cannot take the credit, because I am compelled to love in Jesus’ name. I can do but no other”

Will you think more on this these 40 days in Lent? Will you invite the Holy Spirit to renew you in this loving life? 

As you do, you will be loved, and you will live, and you will be his love and his life. It can happen here. 

Play video – MISSIONAL COMMUNITIES 1

 

[1] Adapted from Bob Moorehead – http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/22242-the-paradox-of-our-time-in-history-is-that-we

Down from the Mountain – Jonathan Krause Audio Sermon

Transfiguration Sunday

Sunday 23rd February, 2020

Jonathan Krause – Australian Lutheran World Service presented the message titled “Down from the Mountain”

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