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Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd Sunday – May 12th

Vicar Shaun Manning 

John 10:22-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you hear His voice and follow Him?

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

The real key here is that He knows you!!

The Lord cares enough to know you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends, you have heard His voice today.

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

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

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

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

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

Despite how much or how little we know the Lord.

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

Our trouble is catching up this side of eternity …

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

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


Breakfast with the Risen Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was her dying and departing wish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our text today is all about Revelation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvest Thanksgiving

28th April 2019, St Petri.
Vicar Shaun Manning

Harvest Thanksgiving – John 6:25-35

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

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

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

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

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

Are you the provider of this meal or am I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My goodness me, that is challenging…

Hebrews 13 about welcoming the stranger.

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

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

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

Good Friday

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

Vicar Shaun Manning

John 19:17-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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












Less is More

Sermon, Easter Day, April 21, 2019, St Petri

Less is More (James the Lesser Drama – Skit Guys)

John 20:1–18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped round Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’

‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ 14 At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’

16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’

She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).

17 Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.


Who are you in the light of Easter? The ‘lesser’, the “greater”; somebody or nobody – and who makes you that?

James the Lesser, speaks up today. He may have had that strange name that sounds like put-down to our modern ears, but he didn’t stay “lesser” after the resurrection. The resurrection gave him new calling, new place, new name and new hope.  Same for us today.

Many believe this James wrote the letter in the bible that bears his name; James. He was probably a relative of Jesus, therefore called, James the brother of Jesus in some places. He was really important in this fledgling Easter resurrection community.

Paul tells us that James the Lesser was an eye witness of the resurrection of Jesus and a real ‘pillar’ of the early church (Acts 12:17), and a person whom Paul consulted re the preaching of the gospel at least once (Galatians 1:19; Acts 9:27).

But that was only after this day of resurrection. Before Jesus’ resurrection, things were different.

Names matter. The drama suggests that James started not only calling himself what they called him, James the Lesser, but thinking of himself that way too.

I could imagine that being possible in the troubled little community. Power plays and disputes were part of their experience. Even on the very night of the Passover, the one Jesus’ completely reconfigured into the Last Supper, just two days prior, a dispute had arisen as to who was the greatest among them (Luke 23)!

Maybe James did start naming himself, “Lesser” – less than everyone else. This is easy to do when trouble comes your way, as it did for him and this community around Jesus who were devastated at what had just happened.

All the grief and doubt act upon us…… James says he was the last one chosen by Jesus. Remember that experience at school: being the last one chosen? You know – when the teacher picked two captains who then picked their team for the game from the class?

The popular or sporty kids always got picked quickly in order of preference. Then there was the rest. That was a slower process. It came to an embarrassing halt when there was that one kid who was not sporty at all, or did not even place in the popularity race.

But whether you were that “lesser” kid who never got to be the top dog, or if you were the other person: the one who worked very hard to be top dog at the expense of all the ‘lessers”, all of that does not matter on Easter Day. It all changes today. No one is Lesser anymore! The only truly great One is Jesus. All of us just marvel together as one.

THE Top Dog became the lesser for us, so that we now stand with him and share his greatness – not in power over others, but in his free loving embrace of all the ‘lessers’ who ever lived and live now.

How are you this Easter Day? Are you the lesser who has been given the gift of forgiveness and hope by this resurrected Jesus that now makes you great; great as you stand resurrected with Jesus the Saviour in your baptism?

Or, are you still considering yourself lesser; refusing to let this good man with his good news in? Or maybe you are still believing you are actually great enough on you own terms, apart from this man’s cross shaped love?

Friends, we have to go to the scars and the food on that first resurrection day. What really turned things upside down was the wounds and the eating – the scars and the food.

Jesus appeared and they saw those scares and felt those scars and shared food with this resurrected man – more than once too.

Why does that make all the difference? Because those wounds and that eating of real food is the difference between Jesus just being a ghost of no use and the Saviour who transforms human beings by sheer love to be new love for his world.

The fact that his body was still a body and had wounds like ours and ate like we do is it the difference between us scratching around in the dark trying to find some floating spirit man by some means, and him embracing us humanly – in total.

The wounds and the food and the human words are the difference between a future in some far off unknowable eternal void, and the sure future with him living in his new earth and new heaven fully as we are – body and all.

Those wounds and that bread and fish also mean that Jesus was not just a figment of our imagination or a moment of divine trickery by which God only put on some human clothes for a while, and only ever felt those thorns, those strikes, those insulting words, that dark evil enclose him in a second-hand unreal kind of way.

Because he is still human after his resurrection, as Mary discovered near the tomb, we know for sure that he was before it.

We can trust that he went through this hell in all its hell as a human. That transforms him into not just an example to follow but the Saviour that truly transforms our minds to be new humans – new community, new love for a loveless world.

And, what about that meal – the Passover re-born where he says that a new closeness, a new relationship of grace is now given in his body and blood in the bread and wine of the meal we share?

Doesn’t the real presence of this risen Saviour with wounds and who eats make all the sense in the world now?

Doesn’t he revolutionise our faith and give us Easter joy every time we share him?

It I Easter Day. Alleluia!

I am not sure whether you have given up on this hope in the Greatest love the world has ever seen and his real presence with you always beyond his grave and yours.

I am not sure whether you have ever really been touched by this man of love and re-born as his loved woman or man.

I am not sure whether you have pretty much been living on your own manufactured hope.

Either way, we all end up “the Lesser” without this day: without him with his wounds and his meal.

James the Lesser thought of himself as forgettable before all this. You still might think of yourself that way – as if you are not as important as others, not as valued as others, not as memorable as others.

You might feel like you are standing around waiting to be picked by the captain with everyone else laughing about your lack of ability and the captain begrudgingly considering picking you for the team.

Not this captain! He is picking you not because you are good at the game but because he is and wants to help you play well in this game of life with which we love them all.

Easter is the ‘Captain’s Pick” and Jesus is the captain who does not pick people, name people or treat people as loved and accepted on the basis of their skills or status or skill or name.

The only reason James the Lesser and you whoever you name yourself at the moment are in this team is because Jesus picked you on this Resurrection day – the thief, the rich and the young, the old and the struggling, the good and the bad.

Friend, he is unforgettable because he is not dead, not just a memory, not just a dead guru or admirable leader who met an unjust end, not just a floating disconnected and unaware spirit.

He did it. He chose this cross and this empty grave and this human way. He chose you. He still does.

Funny thing is, now I don’t care if I am not picked first by others of this world.

I don’t care if I am ever picked by them.

I am just elated to hear him say, “Peace be with you” and breath his Spirit into me as he calls me to love as he loves.

Less of me and more of him is OK by me.


Famous Last Words – The Last Meal

Sermon, Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019

Seven Words from the Cross – “Today you will be with me in Paradise”

John 13:4-14, Mark 10:17-27

After viewing The Rich Young Ruler

Pastor Adrian Kitson

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel round his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped round him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’

Jesus replied, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’

‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’

Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.’

‘Then, Lord,’ Simon Peter replied, ‘not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!’

10 Jesus answered, ‘Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.’ 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. 13 ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am.

Can you feel his burning anger? Why is this young man so upset? He is looking at that thief on the next cross from Jesus, and he is white hot as he hears these words that pour out gifts of God on a person who has been trying to steel them from others! “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’, says the dying Jesus (Luke 23:43)

This has happened before…..

Remember? (Mark 10:17-27)

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

18 ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.”[a]

20 ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’

He has it all but feels like he missing it all. Why so?

This young man is wealthy in two ways.

  1. He has great moral wealth. He is an honest man who has integrity. He is a good guy: probably a loving husband, good young father, who works hard and is fair in business.
  2. He has great financial wealth. In his day and even in ours, this moral wealth goes together with financial wealth. Obviously he is rewarded by God for his moral wealth. He is obviously blessed because of his good life. Wealth is an obvious sign that he is good. This guy is the ideal person to whom any religious leader would point as The Guy we all should aspire to be.

So good is he that he is even willing to concede that he is still missing something. He asks the Rabbi, “What do I lack?  What else do I need to do to be very good and get it all, Jesus? Whatever it is I will do it. Just tell me what I need to DO”.

With a moved spirit, Jesus says he is like a camel trying to get through the eye of a tiny needle.

Like so many who meet Jesus, he is confronted with the reality that even his best is not good enough – or even more – his goodness, or the thief’s badness, is not the thing that determines getting into Paradise with The Almighty.

This is most annoying for the hard-working good people who strive so hard to be so together in life, and absolute paradise for the unravelled thieving person.

How about you? Which one are you? Annoyed at God or singing his praises?

Jesus smashes this person’s two basic beliefs about life in God. This young man is looking for this final thing HE needs to DO; this final rung to climb that will get him through to the pearly gates based on two wrong assumptions;

Christianity is something he can add. This man thinks that life in Jesus depends on adding God in to YOUR life (as if it is your life alone). The theory goes that if you add in enough God-stuff, do enough holy stuff, then you get the God-reward.

He finds out that life with Jesus has nothing to do with simply adding in something God into your life. The thief was not successful at adding in much God-stuff and was given paradise with God!

Life with Jesus is not something add into YOUR life. Christianity is His life in yours. Jesus explodes inside of you and makes you altogether new, despite your goodness or your badness; whether       you are a self-sufficient, well liked achiever or a nobody with nothing and non-one – like that thief in his dying hours.

Jesus GIVES you life as pure gift. Jesus gives this thief what he could never steal! Jesus offers what this ‘together young man’ could never earn by being ‘together’ enough. Life is Jesus’ to give, not anyone’s to take.

You cannot steal Jesus’ life by being very, very good on your own terms or the world’s terms, or by being very, very bad and shunning the world and all its terms.

You think that there is one more thing you can do to get it all, one more rung, one more sacrifice, one more step. No way. Christianity adds you! Jesus includes you. You are not in Paradise already with Jesus because you were good enough for it but because he has given it as he did to that thief.

Christianity is something he can do. “What good thing should I do?”, he asks. “There is only One who is truly good”, says Jesus.

 Jesus asks him to do something totally impossible: give away everything he has. Why? To make it clear to all that “You have not, will not and actually cannot ‘do’ Christianity”.

That is the point of the impossible request made of a person who thinks they have done it all. You cannot ‘do’ your relationship with the Son of God because it is a relationship in which he ‘does’ you; he resurrects you.

This life in Christ is not a transaction, a sale, a step to achieve for your own life on your own terms. It is total resurrection to a whole new life of forgiveness and love in him.

Friends, I am not sure where you are at this Maundy Thursday – angry at God for not rewarding you enough for all your hard work; grieved the news that you will never be good enough to get it all or standing accused of being a nobody and a nothing by others or yourself.

You might feel like you could not have bled a drop of goodness that you have not had to steel from God, so stingy has he been to you.

You may feel like God is calling you a thief as you have been trying to earn; trying to steel all his blessing for your happy life.

You may feel like a freeloader who is just not able to get it all done and earn what you need.

You may feel like you have been ripped off working for God all these years only to see all these new people; these strangers, these people with different faces, values, different names, different shapes, be let into the kingdom with you!

However you feel, you have a moment to decide as the Teacher comes close: will you be Peter who protests against this offensive foot washing, or will you welcome it fully with head hands and feet as Peter eventually did?

Will you hold your ground and continue the lie that you can make your life better; fuller; more useful and meaningful and just ‘add in’ the church stuff to keep it all in place or will you simply throw your lot in with this very bad man on the next cross and say, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”?

Whether you speak that prayer from the heart or whether you maintain your stand, there is hope.

The young wealthy man goes away grieved, and he is angry at the grace of Jesus, but he can still return at any time. You can return now.

It is so hard for a self-sufficient, “together” kind of person to receive him. It is like a camel trying to go through that tiny eye in the needle.

Who would you rather be tonight; the thief with nothing to give and everything to receive or the self-sufficient man with everything to lose?

‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

‘Jesus, wash not only my feet but my hands and my head as well!’

Famous Last Words from The Cross

Hope to see you with us at Easter sometime.

Get the Donkey

Palm Sunday, Sunday April 14, 2019, St Petri.

Luke 19:28–40

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’

34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’[a]

‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’

40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’

The disciple admitted he had ‘trust issues’ with Jesus. I get what he is saying.

Trust is hard for lots of reasons. It is hard to trust when we cannot see why something needs to happen that we don’t understand – like taking a donkey from a stranger for something we are not quite sure about.

It is hard to trust when we have been let down in the past. We did not like the feeling or where it led. We find it hard to trust because it means placing our destiny in someone else’s hands and those hands may not come through.

But what about spiritually? We find it hard to trust the freedom, faith and future of this new King of all kings, Jesus, for two reasons. 1. He is not like the kings we know or aspire to be, and 2. because we are all rule followers at heart.

Jesus is not your average king! He is different. He rules without rules dominating the ruling. What dominates in his ruling are not keeping the rules to keep the king happy but receiving the King’s gifts of love. He rules by freely forgiving, undeserved serving and lavish giving.

We find this hard to believe; hard to trust that he could mean what he says and do what he promises, to this degree and in this way.

This is because in our hearts we are rule keepers; rule makers. We actually want rules, even if we say we don’t. We need rules and we walk to their beat, whether we try and keep them all by being very good and expecting everyone else to be so too, or rebel against them as we be our own rule unto ourselves, and demand everyone else follow our own rules. We are rule shaped people.

Like going under the knife or going to an unknown place or meeting unknown people or putting ourselves into a position where we are taking on something new, we have “trust issues”, as the disciple here put it.

I would have wondered about ‘borrowing’ this donkey too! I can just imagine constable plod being quite unsatisfied with my seemingly lame excuse for stealing a donkey, saying “Because the Lord needs it”!

But other people, like professional lawyers and teachers of the rules of God (Pharisees) as well as local power brokers who had a lot to lose if they lost their grip on power also have trust issues. The more you have, the more you have to lose; the more rules you make the more rules you have to enforce; just ask any autocrat or mafia Don!

Strange people we are: In this Palm Sunday account, some people are faithful followers finding it hard to be directed by Jesus into an unsafe place (disciples). Other people; the Pharisees, who actually live in a very unsafe place when it comes to God’s acceptance of them, want to stay in that graceless place of fear, so much that they want to push the grace of Jesus out of their face.

And what about everyone else? The crowd here seem to be somewhere in the middle but very, very fickle. The crowd welcome this strange ‘king” with shouts heavy with long awaited victory hope at first, and then within a week, send up the violent unjust cry to get rid of this disappointing king as they yell, “Crucify him!”.

Easter is coming. It is coming for all three kinds of people; the faithful, the fearful and the fickle. Where are you at? Are you the faithful follower feeling unsure, or the adamant skeptic not giving an inch because of fear, or the fickle one who will trust anything that might fix your issues, until something or someone else turns up with a better offer or it looks like it just won’t work?

Whoever you are, can you see that something is happening? Something is happening that will transform our faith, our fear and our fickle following. We are here and you are here, and God’s Spirit is here, and Easter is coming.

Better still, can you see that God has been making good things happen for us a long time now? Can you see the font and the faces and the food of his Word on offer today?

Seeing what he has done and is doing helps us with any trust issue we may experience. These disciples eventually see what is happening; what this man of love; this strange new king is doing and that enables them to trust him.

Can you see something is happening as the King rolls into our lives again – albeit on a donkey?

Whether we are the follower unsure of the direction we seem to be being given by Jesus, or the cynic who is fearful of trusting this king who is upsetting our little world with his freedom and love which is undoing all the conventions, expectations and the very way we are all shaped, or whether we are the fickle crowd who just want some relief from grinding poverty of means or  body or spirit and will switch allegiance to get it, the issue is always trust.

The question always is, “Will I trust him?”, “Will we trust his direction when we don’t know why, and we cannot see where it will lead”?

This strange King will go on to earn our trust by his faithful, undying love for us. He will keep all the rules perfectly out of love (not fear) for those who could never keep them. He will willingly be wrongly accused and unjustly executed for all those who could not, would not or never knew that they could trust him.

This Servant King is speaking from the other side of his grave now. He says to you who may be faithful, fearful or fickle;

The Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,

    to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me morning by morning,

    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.

The Lord has opened my ears;

    I have not been rebellious,

    I have not turned away.                                                  (Isaiah 50: 4-5)


Whether you feel unsure as to what Jesus is asking you to do or cynical about who he is and what he is doing for you, or just needing some relief from all that is getting on top of you, he has the words that sustains you in all of it.

He is waking you up every morning and especially on Easter morning so you can trust him with your ears as you listen to his word for you.

He has not turned away from you. He has not turned away from his Father and yours.

So, who are you going to trust for faith, friendship, full love and full life?

See what’s happening this week. Go get his donkey. Without it, the rest won’t happen.

 Help him into your city; into your heart and mind; your friendships; your work.

Follow him into Easter. You will see again. You will see that he will do it all, say it all and give enough for trust to be possible for the faithful, the fearful and the fickle.

If you are going to trust anyone, it is him, right?

Leave her alone

Sermon, Lent 5C, Sunday April 7, 2019, St Petri.

John 12:1-11

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.[b] He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you,[c] but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

I love being part of celebratory meals. Birthday meals, meals celebrating the end of medical treatment or the end of Harvest or Vintage, or a milestone for someone. Good friends, good gifts from God, good life, good food and wine…..

That is what these three siblings, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were doing: Throwing a thankyou meal in honour of Jesus. He had just done the unimaginable. He had resuscitated a dead man. And here he is, Lazarus, at the table enjoying and hosting this thankyou meal.

Martha serves the way Martha serves. She gets the catering and the house under control for this fine gathering. It is her way and it is a good way. Lazarus is at the table with Jesus and the disciples and other locals. He is a living testimony to the grace and power of this man whom they are honouring this Saturday night at the end of Sabbath day.

But Mary. Where is she? What’s her part? We are going to find out…..and it will make us squirm…..or jump for joy.

It must have been the smell that first drew their attention. They know smells. They smelled death just before this. Death stunk as Lazarus came out of the four-day tomb. Now the smell is sweet – sweet precious and very expensive oil imported from far away India.

She has a flask about the size of a soft-drink can and kneels at Jesus feet while he is reclining on his side at the low table with Lazarus and all the others. Mary pours this $25,000 bottle of perfume on Jesus’ feet.

If that is not enough to stop the chit-chat, then what she does next must have created a deaf silence with unspoken questions, feelings, wonderment and even anger just bursting to break out.

Mary weeps. Are they tears of thankfulness and joy or tears of grief anticipating what’s coming?

Using the precious perfume is over-the top. The tears are arresting. But then the next part of her serving is risky and offensive. She let’s down her hair in full public view (a real no-no for the culture) and uses her own hair to dry Jesus’ feet.

Mary is serving with her very self, her whole self, at great cost to her name but little regard to what anyone thinks.

Someone has to say something about this. It will be Judas. This is too much. This is pure waste. This is irresponsible spending. This is unnecessary devotion. How much could $25,000 do for the many people in this town who have got nothing and no hope of ever having any real life. There is no Centrelink here!

I can see Judas’ logic. I suspect you can too. But he is missing something. He is missing the main thing and the main thing is beyond logic. He is missing Jesus’ value, Jesus’ place, Jesus’ grace and hope.

Judas wants what Jesus can give him (money on the side) but he does not want Jesus himself. He wants the good stuff without the relationships. He wants the blessing without the following and learning. He wants the kudos from being around the king of kings without the suffering of the king of kings and a life of unfettered devotion to him.

John says as much as he reports Judas’ fixation on money and theft that goes with it. Of course, Judas will in a few days from now make about $1,000 for selling Jesus out. Quite a contrast the ‘all-in’ devotion to Jesus shown by Mary (and maybe Martha and Lazarus). ‘Where you treasure is, there your heart will be also”, Jesus said.

“So Judas”, Jesus says, “Leave her alone”. He could have said more about what they all knew about Judas, but he doesn’t….not yet. That will come….

Judas, leave her alone for three reasons

  1. Verse 8b: Leave her alone, because you do not always have me with you.

Mary knows the preciousness of Jesus’ presence and what he has meant for her and her siblings, especially her alive brother, Lazarus. She is right to give her all in devotion to me. Leave her alone Judas. She knows my high value; my grace, my forgiveness, my love and my power and how it makes all things new and brings hope beyond human hope to living now.

       2. Verse 8a: Leave her alone, because the poor you always have with you.

Judas, care for the poor, don’t dismiss them. But something is about to happen that is unique, world-changing, world-beating and person transforming.

God is close. God is acting. God is moving. God is here and this is very special. Your heart is wrong Judas. Your heart is out of kilter with my heart and purpose and it will kill you. It always does. Leave her alone Judas. Her heart is in step with my heart and purpose and this will give her life. It always does.

       3. Verse 7: Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. That is, leave her alone and don’t hinder her from keeping her love and wonder and joy in the face of my death.

In just a week’s time, she will need to treasure me on the day of my burial. She has been overjoyed at my power at her brother’s grave, and I want her to be overjoyed at the day over my own grave coming soon. Leave her alone Judas. Don’t infect her with your fixation on easy money and false piety.

So, who are you at the moment – fixated on the many important things that keep the family, the career, the well-being on the road or ready to give your life away on Jesus?

I know what it is to get fixated on the many issues of life. I know that it is dry. I know that vintage has been very limited. I know that we need a wet winter but it seems we may not get one this year. I know that many people are wondering what next summer will bring and who will go to the wall, who will lose the job, who will struggle…… You’ve got to think about that and make adjustments. That is the responsible thing to do.

But friends, we will always have these issues with us. There will always be money issues, people issues, well-being issues, marriage issues, family issues, climate issues, government issues and etc.

I believe the Spirit is calling us to want Jesus for real and trust him in all of it. He is calling us to do our thanks to the Lord as Mary did despite the cost, despite the misunderstanding friend or family member or society; despite current circumstance.

Easter is coming. It is OUR time of the year. It is when Mary will finally experience the presence not only of the earthly Jesus, but the glorified Jesus and she will never be the same. She will know life to the full in and beyond the bills and the fights and the problems and the concerns and the dollars or lack of. That’s the gift of this kind of devotion. We receive much more then we give!

Will you stick with the concerns of the world and family and business and career and etc or get on your knees and give yourself to him again in thanks and love for his love and power already at work in you this Easter.

Will you ask him to show you his worth to you and that your life is new this Easter. Will you hear his Famous Last Words from the cross and know the joy and the hope of Jesus that will make Judas redundant in you.

Yes, be quiet, Judas, because it’s your kind of mindset that would stand by Jesus’ grave and say: So much for that Messiah. So much for that way to succeed. So much for that way to get rich.

So, you be quiet, Judas, and let Mary and us keep this same love and hope when we stand by Jesus’ grave soon or we stand at each other’s grave whenever that happens.

Friends, be lavish with your devotion to Jesus this Easter because we have all died with Jesus in the font and been raise to his life purely and only because of his grace and his power.

Leave me alone, Judas. Stay with me Jesus.


Easter is nearly here -You’re welcome @ St Petri

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