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Fishing with Jesus

Sermon, Epiphany 5C, Sunday February 10, 2019 , St Petri

Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding round him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’

Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.’ 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

 

When you think “fishing”, what image comes to mind? I suspect that you might think of rod fishing – you alone on a beach with a rod and bait on your hook set to catch a fish.

This is not the kind of fishing Jesus speaks about to call us to be fishers of people. He is talking of net fishing (no bait).  He is also talking of a group effort, because that what net fishing takes.

So, what I hear is that Jesus calls us to together engage in fishing for people, not with bait, but with his truthful words.

Bait fishing is by nature deceptive. When you cut up that bait and hide the hook in it you are tricking a fish into the taking a bight of the bait so the fish inadvertently bights the hook as well. The better the bait and the equipment, the more fish we will catch; most of the time, anyway!

So, Jesus says we are called to catch people not with rod and bait and trickery, and never alone.

Problem is, we often think of ‘lone fisher with rod good gear and bait’ when we think “people catching”; “evangelism” or “mission”. With this comes the notion that “better” words, better technology, better music, better this and better that are what we are called to do to be successful, as if Jesus is really only saying that our better human efforts and skills and technology will sort of ‘bait’ or even ‘trick’ people into coming to church or even believing in Jesus.

It does not work well. So, like a frustrated fisher ready to give up on the whole sorry effort after hours of fishing, after getting up before the crack of dawn and getting into the best possible spot, only to find that not one fish will take the bait, we Christians get frustrated with this call to catch people.

Someone one be at fault. It is not us because we gave it a shot. It must be bait or the gear of the tide or the people (the fish)!……

EG. Our music is not good enough. Our preaching is not good enough or of the right kind. Our building is not the right kind of bait to lure them in. Our theology is not the right bait. Our pastor, our leaders, our bishops, our fellow congregation are not good enough bait.

So, we say, “More lights please, more gear, more technology, better songs, more ‘relevant’ preaching, more effort on our part, more right words (don’t dare get anything wrong!)…that will do it…better bait to lure them in”.

But Jesus’ call to fish for people is not about bait at all. Not in this text. There is absolutely no trickery here. And his vision of how we catch people and how his kingdom grows among people is also a group effort – not a lone mission.

What’s the message here? Well, there is no need or room for deception in our mission to share the love and hope of Jesus where we live. There is no need to hide anything – our intentions, our story, what we have learnt and who we trust. Any technology, buildings, art, music, songs, preaching is not bait to trick people into joining us, they are there to simply speak the truth of it in the most winsome and clearest ways we can.

And we catch people together; in a common confession of gospel faith. We fish with gospel trust. That is the net – a truthful word about who we are and who we know God is and who Jesus is for us and them – that’s it. No bait, no tricks, no lures, just his words in our words, his word in our actions.

But all this is quite nice and easy to bight into as a theory. But there’s something else that needs to happen to turn this nice theory into living, breathing people actually engaging in catching people for the Kingdom….

It happens to Peter out there in the deep.

Peter is pushing out into the deep at Jesus’ command. He does not know why he should be here. Peter has no surety of the outcome of the fishing. But he does it because Jesus says so.

So, he has been very unsuccessful at fishing all night, and he is tired of trying to fish, and now Jesus directs him to fish in a place he never would (deep water) at a time he never would (day time).

And as he does what Jesus directs him to do in the wrong place at the wrong time (according to Peter) something critical to the whole Kingdom fishing enterprise happens as Jesus makes it abundantly blessed!

What happened?

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ (Luke 5:8)

Peter sees his absolute incapacity to do what he is being called to do by Jesus. So are we now.

Someone said that the day you lose yourself is the day you find that God has found you!

What happened? Martin Luther puts it well;

“It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his good works unless he/she has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he/she knows that he/she is worthless and that his/her works are not his/hers but God’s” (Martin Luther, LW 31,53)

What does this moment where a person sees their incapacity to meet the calling do? From this moment on Peter and the others and you and me will know in our bones that if anyone ever came to faith, came to church, was renewed in the gospel, was transformed in heart and mind, it would be by Jesus working in us and that person, not our brilliance or technology or tricks or anything else. Jesus would be the essential power for any “success” in this calling, not Peter or you or me.

But there is more. Peter and we are confronted with our incapacity to fulfil this calling placed on all baptised people of God and yet in heartbeat we hear those beautiful words from him: “Don’t be afraid”.

They are immediate, visionary and loving words that confirm you, affirm you, surround you and send you – not alone but together, and not with your own resources only, but the very power and promise of God in this calling to catch people and bless the effort.

So where is the deep water for you? Bad diagnosis? Tough job? Toxic relationship, deep grief, internal strife?

Have you reached your end? It is important that you do so God can continue his kingdom catching work.

If you have reached your depth out in the deep water of your life, speak Peter’s words to the Lord.

 ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ (Luke 5:8)

But as you do, hear those immediate, loving words from him more: “Don’t be afraid”.

Ego and pride melts away. Pain and suffering are transformed into things of value and great use in Jesus’ kingdom.

Look at Peter. Look at what Jesus goes on to work in him and through him! Look what happened for the rest of the Twelve. Look at what he has done in you already. There is a life time of learning and transformation and love and an eternal relationship with Jesus being worked out as we speak.

“Don’t be afraid”. He is making you a fisher of people for his Kingdom.

PRAYER

Holy Spirit, hover over this community and help us push into deep waters without fear with no tricks, just our words and actions.

The Most Excellent Way

Sunday Feb 3, 2019, Epiphany 4C, St Petri

 Pastor Adrian Kitson

1 Corinthians 12:31- 13:13

  31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

You probably last heard those words from 1 Corinthians at a wedding. That is where they often are heard. That makes sense. A newly married couple, Christian or not, want this kind of love.

But this “love poem” was first written to a local church community; a local church “unlucky in love”.

Can I ask you this: Do you find that when you hear this love song that you end up feeling guilty?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…..

 Oh dear! Fail! Just this last week too!

But can I now say that this poem not spoken to squash the love out of us by guilting us into trying to love like this! No. This poem wants to lift us into a higher love and give us real direction to do it – live love daily and so live in this “most excellent” way; this ‘beyond measure” way.

Can I also say that these words, even though poetry are not just ‘airy-fairy stuff either.

Using fourteen verbs, Paul does not attempt to merely describe what love is to this community struggling to practice love. That would be just showing a red flag to a bull – goading the bull to simply try harder to get it right. That would be crushing law, for no local church could do this “fourteen-verb” kind of love perfectly.

Instead, Paul seeks to reveal how to actually love; to show how these love-challenged people can return to and live in the love of God that has already come to them by the good news of God’s love given in Jesus.

Truth is that they are already deeply and completely loved by Paul, the Lord Jesus and their heavenly Father. This song speaks of how to live in that love they already have received by faith. It is a very practical song. Anyone of us can grasp this and try

Those fourteen verbs relate directly to this local church and the trouble it is having with love; especially the loving use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit God has given them:

The gift of speaking a spiritual language in worship is not being done in a way that is upbuilding, but is being used in such an ego centred way that it is just like some guy randomly banging a noisy gong out of time with the orchestra: discordant, annoying, destructive of the beauty of the community prayer…

They are misusing the gift of prophetic word which is meant to help people trust the Lord’s leading. The gift is being used to fuel that deadliest of all things – spiritual pride. “I have it and you don’t”.

Same for their serving in the community. They are serving, but not in order to love those whom they serve, but to look good, feel good, or be good.

In at least fourteen ways they are struggling to live in the love of Jesus they already have received:

They are struggling to be patient (makrothymeo), and so, to act kindly (chresteuomai).

They have this nasty stream of jealousy running through their community (zeloo – “to be jealous”). With that comes boasting (perpereuomai – “to brag”). Paul knows where this comes from – the proud human heart (physiomai (“to be proud”).

All this leads to destructive behaviour that destroys relationships. There has been people behaving unfaithfully in marriage and in relationships in general (aschemoneo – “to behave indecently”) which comes, as Jesus said, from within the human heart – this desire to satisfy our own needs and wishes at the expense of others (zeteo – “to desire”).

This upsets the communal relationships of this church (paroxynomai “to be upset”), not for helpful or needed reasons of God’s calling and leading (which can occur) but for human ego and pride.

They are struggling to judge things well (logizomai  –“to reckon”) and this always saps the joy out of church and life (chairo -“to rejoice”), both personally and as a group (synkairo – “to rejoice with”).

So, there is no bearing with each other’s faults or needs (stego – “to bear”), a lack of faith in each other and the Lord’s calling and provision (pisteuo – “to believe”). There is a decided lack of hope that there is a better way now and in the future (elpizo -“to hope”), and, not at all surprisingly, they are not enduring in faith, hope or love (hypomeno – “to endure”).

So, how are we going as a church, do you think? How are you going in all of this today?

And what about in marriage and other close relationships? How is your marriage going as you hear this love song?

You might hear that you are wrong in fourteen ways this morning, and so, feel driven to do more, try harder, or on the other hand, just give up on love like this, marriage like this, friendship like this, church like this.

Friend, hear this. God is not trying to pull you down or destroy your hope for a real love like this, or your faith in this love. He actually wants you to walk out of here built up so you can live more fully in this love that is already yours in Christ.

Your Lord is simply showing you how to practice his great love for you. He is giving you how to love because he loves you and wants you to love and be loved in his love community.

The Lord is giving you a vision of who you actually are; who you still are, despite your fourteen failures, just this last week!

But why the poetic style? A song, a poem lifts us up to a different space. Paul uses this poetic form to lift us up away from mere head knowledge or theoretical argument and reason.

He knows that we don’t need to hear this as some mere romantic wish list or head-knowledge argument for a better life or ethical direction to do better and get our stuff together. No, we need to hear this vision of who the Lord is calling us to be because it is His way of love for us to love each other.

So, can you hear the poem? Can you sing this song?

Can you see the vision of you and us here?

Can you let yourself be lifted beyond yourself to soar in this beautiful love and hunger for Jesus’ most excellent way again?

This is not ‘pie in the sky’ and out of reach. This is doable by you and me.

Why is this doable and why is this us already? Two reasons;

  1. I am fully known by the Lord.

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

He knows our depths; our flaws and our directions, and he has shown us enough and given us enough of himself.

Jesus is love, gives love and provides the way to receive his receive his forgiving love all the time – repentance and faith to walk on this most excellent way daily.

  1. I am his holy person already, and in him I have what it takes

Remember who Paul says these troubled people and we are?

To the church of God in Corinth, to those made holy and set apart in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people,….

….in Jesus you have been enriched in every way. ….you do not lack any spiritual gift…..

He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless…. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son…. (1 Corinthians 1:1-9)

 

Friend, he knows you and has made you everything you need to be already for today. You are now living in this, the ‘most excellent way”; or this “beyond human measure” (“huperbole“) way of Jesus.

So, because we have this love beyond all human measure, we don’t need to do any measuring!

May it be said today – we have no need to compare ourselves to each other or anyone else when it comes to living the faith around here. Full measured love of Jesus removes the need to measure each other.

We have no need to compare ourselves as a local church with any other church either. The only need is to practice this love.

This grand vision of Christ’s love at work in us is all is gift to us anyway! a gift unearned, undeserved at that!

Go ahead people, practice the art of Jesus’ love this week

He knows you.

He is always ready forgive and restore because he loves you.

You have what it takes because you have his Spirit enabling you to love beyond measure as you are loved beyond measure.

 

Grace Plus Equals Minus Grace – Vicar Shaun Manning

Vicar Shaun Manning – Message Sunday 27th January –  Grace Plus, Equals Minus Grace

St Petri Lutheran Church, Nuriootpa

3 Epiphany

Galatians 1: 11-24

Paul received the Gospel through a revelation of Jesus Christ

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie.

Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me. 

I haven’t always been a Lutheran…
My introduction to the Lutheran Church, around 7 years ago now, was the beginning of a major shift of my personal spirituality and theology. There were many things that grabbed my attention, or should I say, focused my attention in those first few services. The emphasis on Christ in both His Word and Sacrament was rather clear, though this was something that I could only articulate several months later.

(Mention the placement of the Pulpit, Altar, Band, Organ and the presence of a Cross and Crucifix). Compare to previous church experiences.

There was however one particular phrase that struck me, in those first few sermons that I heard, due not only to its wittiness but it’s truth. “Grace plus, equals minus grace” the Pastor uttered several times throughout the sermon…
This is a truth that I was very interested to unpack with the Pastor over the coming months and funny enough, I’m learning, un-learning and re-learning what this means in all sorts of areas of life and my relationship with the Lord, to this day.
In short, it simply means that anything added to the Grace of God through the Gospel of Christ, destroys it.

Intro

The Gospel, what we know and understand as the ‘Good News’ of Christ, is the most profound message all of time. I don’t think there would be many Christians either from this lifetime, the time of the New Testament or anywhere in-between, that would disagree with this statement. The Gospel of Christ is the core and foundation of the Christian Faith.
It is, however, very prone to being perverted. And the consequences of perverting the Gospel, are that other Gospels are formed and proclaimed. Gospel’s that are man-made and hence are Christ-free Gospel’s. This Gospel, is not ‘good news’ whatsoever. For what ‘good news’ is it that we must be do something in order to receive the grace of God?
This is the very issue we have here in our text this morning. In the verses preceding our text today Paul writes to the Galatians that he is “astonished” that are abandoning him and the Gospel he brought them and turning to a different gospel (v.6).
He continues in verses 7-9…

not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! [1]

Problem in the text (Law)
This is the context we find ourselves in, in our reading this morning. Paul is dealing with two things with the Church in Galatia, a perversion of the Gospel and a rejection of him as an apostle of Christ. Yet both of these are related since they reject Paul partly due to his Gospel message. Paul, an apostle of Christ movie.

The particular ‘gospel’, so to speak, that is permeating in the Church at Galatia is that of ‘Judaizer’ theology and it is therefore no Gospel at all. This thinking taught that Christ, Israel’s Messiah, and the forgiveness that He offers through His atoning death on the Cross can only be received only if the non-Jewish world first become Jews by observing the circumcision and the Law. In other words, to be a recipient of the Gospel of Christ, one must do something.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Galatians took a hold and hence why Paul begins to plead with them. He pleads that they would to turn away from this new ‘gospel’ and turn back to what he had first proclaimed to them. Hence, in the opening verses of our reading today:
11 
For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. [2]

The Galatians have both perverted and accepted this new Law filled ‘gospel’ that is of human origin and source hence is not of Christ. “Grace plus, equals minus grace”…

In the verses following, v.13 to the end of the chapter, Paul then briefly explains his life over pre and post-conversion. Explaining that he was being a devout and zealous Jew prior to Christ coming to him on the road to Damascus, Paul is hoping to repel their false idea of the need to observe Jewish law in order to become true recipients of Christ’ forgiveness. For Paul it was his devotion to Judaism that led him to persecute the church of God and Paul found out the hard way, on the road to Damascus when Christ told asked him why he was persecuting Him? “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” in Acts 9. By persecuting the Church Paul was persecuting Christ Himself.

Similarly, since the NT church, including the Church of Galatia was propagating and accepting a ‘false gospel’ that is of human origin and of human source, they are consequently rejecting the Gospel of Christ and therefore Christ Himself.

Problem in the world (Law)
Sadly, this reliance on human sources and on things that originate not with Christ but with mankind is just as prevalent. This tendency toward human rather than God derived things, is firstly due to our fallen nature.

Example #1 – God’s forgiveness vs human forgiveness

Example #2 – Attitudes to converts of the Faith, i.e. St Paul, prodigal Son, older brother etc.

But interestingly, God, Heaven and the Angel’s rejoice of one sinner who repents but yet we at times, hold our applause, like the Galatians; well at least until they begin to show the fruit of this Gospel.
This is what Paul exposes in the Galatians in verses 22-24 where he states that:
“22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.”

The rejoicing and glorifying of God by the Judean churches because of Paul’s conversion, was exactly what the Galatians should’ve been doing though weren’t doing themselves.

Surely, Paul or even any of us must do something in order to receive or maybe even start doing now to truly receive this grace and inherit eternal life…
Is what the Galatians began to think and sometimes even what we think from time to time…

Example #3 – appeal to Law rather than Gospel.
This need to do something in order to receive Christ is most certainly untrue from our text but also our existence. It therefore undermines Christ and His forgiveness. There is absolutely nothing that we can or are capable of offering that can merits God’s grace and favour.
Paul, more than anyone, knew this and hence here is pleading with the Galatians to return to the true Gospel. As we have seen, he done this by revisiting his story and in particular his conversion story.
“14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me”[3].

 

It is almost as if Paul is saying that despite his persecution and attempt to earn the favour God through law-observance was actually in opposition to the church of God and hence to God Himself.

  • Jesus’ insistence on John baptising Him

  • Jesus washing the disciples feet

  • Jesus rebuke of Peter’s comment re’ His death and resurrection, “Get behind me Satan, who have mind the things of man not the things of God”.

But despite this rebellion God was pleased to call him through his grace and reveal his Son to him, the same one he had been persecuting. To make this point even stronger, Paul mentions that all of this was set apart by God before he was even born. So we have a God who has revealed Himself to Paul despite rebellion, persecution and even despite taking his first breath.
This Son who had been revealed to Paul by God is the same One who had said he came “not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it” (Matt. 5:17). This quote of Christ is also exemplary of how one is to pervert the Gospel in it, if one is to misinterpret it. This is done when one says this quote and uses Christ’s fulfilling of the Law as an example for us to follow.
Christ’s true and primary reason for taking on flesh and to fulfill for us what the Law of God requires of us on our behalf, is as our substitute and representative.
Like Paul, we are all undeserving of this grace and cannot add anything to it. For to think that we can or should we be to undermine it entirely.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Paul writes to church in Rome (5:6).

 

Several years ago we read and unpacked this verse and theme in the newly formed Youth Group at Ferryden Park. One of the boys raised his hand and said something along the lines of “You know Shaun, knowing how much I don’t deserve God’s love and can’t do anything to make him love me more, makes me wanna love him back”…
This reception is a great indicator that the Law-free Gospel has been proclaimed in the sinners ear and heart. Although it doesn’t come naturally to us to uphold this Law-free Gospel of Christ, but we must certainly reject this human derived gospel that treats Christ as merely an example and the things of God as something to be achieved. We are only recipients who can offer back only our thanks and praise to God. The Gospel that Paul proclaimed was the true one, since it is not of human source or origin but from Christ Himself, who is both human and divine. Interceding for us as a human before the throne of God and proclaiming from the throne of God, His love for us sinful humans.

As St Paul pleaded with the Galatians, if you hear a Gospel that is contrary to the one received and given in Christ, reject it and rebuke it. Doesn’t matter who preaches it or tells you about it. Don’t let any Pastor, Priest or Christian leader pervert the Gospel and put anything in the way of Christ and His Law-free Gospel.

It is so appealing and we will always gravitate toward this Law-filled Gospel, so I announce God’s forgiveness to you this day if you have perverted the Gospel or believed a perverted Gospel, as have I. Times where we think our Baptism hasn’t been enough. Where we think that the forgiveness received at Holy Communion is not enough. This is where St Paul says we partake in death and Resurrection of Christ and all that He has achieved for us. And if you think that you don’t, recall how you may think of a person who has been baptized but doesn’t attend anymore. I hear too often that people’s Christian Faith is in contention because they come to church often etc. What really defines one as a Christian? Their obedience or God’s grace?

As the Lord Jesus’ disciples may we keep our church and teaching free from being perverted and making God’s grace achievable or retainable by our own efforts.
“Grace plus equals minus Grace.”

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ga 1:7–9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ga 1:11–12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ga 1:14–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

 

 

 

Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Pastor Robert Voigt – Audio Sermon

Sunday 20th January – Gifts of the Holy Spirit 

Pastor Robert Voigt – Audio Sermon  Ephiphany 2

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 NIV

Now about the gifts of the Spirit (pneumatikōn), brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.  4 There are different kinds of gifts (charismatōn) , but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.   11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  –  1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV

Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.  –  1 Corinthians 12:31 NIV

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.  – 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  – John 14:26 NIV

 

Baptism of Jesus – Vicar Shaun Manning – Sunday 13th January

Sunday 13th January – St Petri Lutheran Church

Baptism of Jesus Sermon – Vicar Shaun ManningBaptism of Jesus

The Gospel:  Luke 3:15-17, 21, 22     (NIVUK)

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’

This is one of very few narratives that are found in some form in all four Gospel accounts.

So here we are in the 2nd week of Epiphany, a time and season where we celebrate the revelation of God the Son to us. Last week was the visit of the Magi, where we learnt that our Lord Jesus has come to be Lord to both Jew and Gentile, all people in fact.

Today is a new revelation in which we don’t get indirect speech about some New Testament writers’ explanation of who Jesus is but a record of God the Father speaking to directly the matter… ‘This is my beloved Son’. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t have a habit of speaking so direct, but He does here, at Jesus’ baptism and also at His transfiguration that will be celebrated just before Lent.

So, just before our particular text in Luke where Jesus comes to get baptised (similarly in Matthew and Mark), John the Baptist has been preaching and calling people to repent. To turn away from themselves, turn away from their sin and turn back to God. To repent means to literally turn around and go back the other way. This is what God, through John, was calling people to do. John was preaching and offering a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This is a baptism that not only do the crowds take up but Jesus Himself.

But hang on a second… was not Jesus sinless? If Jesus was God’s Divine Son, what sins does He have to repent of? So why then does He get baptised? We will look to figure this out in today’s sermon.

And so, our text begins… after preaching repentance and baptising…

v.15 As the people were in expectation, and all of them questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he was the Christ.
John exercising and preaching with such authority the crowds begin to think that He is this expected chosen one of God, the Messiah that has come to redeem His people. But…

v.16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire…”

John clears all speculation that he is not the one, but the one they’re after is coming. John actually says a similar thing earlier, that he was called to prepare the way for the Lord. John himself is not the Lord. Here he goes even further, I am not worthy to untie even his sandals. John’s criteria of the Lord being mightier than him is that his baptism is only with water, but the Lord will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. For us to understand our Lord’s Baptism and its significance we must clear up a few things. As John says, the baptism he offers and the baptism that Jesus offers are two separate things. In other words, the Baptism that is granted to us Christians is not the same baptism that John offered and consequently Jesus received. In our text John is doing the baptising. At your baptism and the baptism offered here at St Petri, it is actually the Lord Jesus who is doing the baptising. Before we move on, I wonder how many of us can truly resonate with John in our hearts… do we really consider ourselves unworthy? Jesus later calls John the greatest in the kingdom of heaven but yet John considered himself unworthy to untie his sandals… Even St Paul considered himself the chief of sinners… I mention this because this belief is central to true Christian spirituality… unworthy sinners, in need of God’s grace and forgiveness… we must never grow old of this because it is here we God’s does He greatest work… hence John says “I must decrease so that he may increase”…
Back to our text… so John, wanting to depict who this Jesus is, goes on to say…

His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear the threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire”.
It took me some research to find out what a winnowing fork is… It is an ancient method used to separate the grain from the chaff. Grain is what is good and useful, what the farmer is looking for… and on the other hand the chaff is not used and typically serves no purpose and is thrown out. John uses this imagery to give us some insight into who this Jesus actually is. He is the Lord that has been given all authority on heaven and earth. It is He who has the keys to heaven and to hell. This has allusions to the fact that one day our Lord will one day separate the sheep from the goats. It is a scary thought to think that not everyone is saved, that not everyone is going to heaven. This is why John was so adamant on preaching repentance of the people, he is wanting them to be saved from the coming wrath.
And I mean even the ones who did come to be baptised, how are they to be sure that they really are repentant? Likewise, with us? Luther wrestled with this so deeply that he came to hate God. Never being able to please for he never trusted that he was truly sorry.
What is the solution? How are we supposed to know if we really have been repentant?
Here is our answer…

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The who One has a His winnowing fork in hand, steps into the dirty waters where everyone was bring their sins. Steps into those waters with those who are chaff and deserve to burn and stands in their place before His Father. Even the repentance that was called upon by John cannot be achieved, so Jesus repented truly, once and for all for us. Jesus wasn’t repenting of his sins at His baptism, for He had none to repent of, He was repenting our sins for us. St Paul says that He who knew no sin became sin for us. So, when thinking of your own sin, don’t look to how sincerely sorry and repentant you are… rather look to Christ. The One who repents and pleads for you always. If you need affirmation of such things come and talk to your Pastor, so that you may hear God’s love and forgiveness declared to you. That is the bread and butter of Pastoral Ministry declaring forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name, so take advantage of it.

Jesus stood in solidarity with the sinners who came to repent at the Jordan River. He also stands in solidarity with you and me, as our King and Brother who lays down His life for us. Jesus did all this so that along with Him the Father would be pleased with us also. And those of us who have been baptised have received this right, to be children of God. Our Father, for Jesus’s sake, declares that He is well pleased with us. So, may we learn what this means to live as dearly loved children of our Heavenly Father, calling upon Him through Jesus Christ. It all starts here, as baptised children who have come to receive the gifts of our Father. And through our work as a Church, Pastor’s and laity, we are called from this same One, who has authority over heaven and earth to make disciples by baptising and teaching… so that the world may become truly loved children of our Heavenly Father along with us.

By aligning Himself with us, repenting our sins for us… This Baptism of Our Lord has further significances… DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS BAPTISM MEANT FOR JESUS? Doing His Father’s will. Jesus goes to be tempted, to teach and serve His people and to ultimately lay down His life for them, for you and me.

Also with us, by being adopting into his family by Baptism… DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR BAPTISM MEANS FOR YOU? Doing your Father’s will in this life, different though similarly to Jesus. Serve and love one another here. See your job, husbands, wives and children, family and friends as gifts from your Father and not your own to do as you will with. We are called to reach out to the widowed, the orphaned, the poor and needy. As dearly loved, baptised children of the Heavenly Father through what Christ has done for us, we now, with the help of the Holy Spirit live as Christ to others. Are we going to master it this side of the grave? Most definitely not. Jesus is the only one who lived His Father’s will out truly and so we cling to Him and not to our efforts. This is why we come back Sunday after Sunday to receive forgiveness, because we’ve blown it again and to receive His help and guidance which He grants through His Word and His people. This is why it’s important to come to church and to listen to His Word preached. Not because it is the right thing to do or we are wearing fancy clothes…. but because it is needed for our daily Christian lives. It is where God looks to guide us, renew us and lead us to live as His people.

And if you’re looking for a blueprint on the Christian life, look no further than the Lord’s Prayer. It is actually Jesus’ prayer, meaning it belongs to Him. But through what Christ has done for us we now have the right to call God Father also and as dearly loved children call to their earthly fathers; asking Him to help keep His name holy, that He would bring His heavenly kingdom to earth. As children calling and relying upon Him as the provider of a daily bread, that He would forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others who sin against us. We pray that our Heavenly Father would lead us not into temptation and protect from the evil one. This is why Jesus pleaded and repented for us at the Jordan River and lived His earthly life in obedience to the Father… so that His Father may be our Father too.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus, the One who repents and pleads for you always. Amen.

Epiphany – Pastor Robert Voigt – Sunday 6th January, 2019

Sunday 6th January – Epiphany

Pastor Robert Voigt,  Audio Sermon at St Petri Lutheran Church

New Year’s Eve Message – Vicar Shaun Manning – 31 December 2018

New Year’s Eve – Audio Message

Vicar Shaun Manning at St Petri Lutheran Church, Nuriootpa

The Father’s Business for 2019

Sermon, Sunday Dec 30th, 2018  – 1st Sunday after Christmas

St Petri

Luke 2:41-52

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[a] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

 

Whose business are you about mostly these days, and what has this special boy got to do with it? That is my question to myself and you today.

Another year is coming. Business, education, farming, caring, working, saving, holiday making, planning retirement, planning school subjects, university or gap year….That is the business on the agenda of your life. Where is this special boy and his Father in all your business?

We know the boy was special. We have just remembered all that happened at his birth.

There were angles singing, Herod frightened, Wise men wondering, Shepherds gazing, John the Baptist calling, Elizabeth and Zachariah rejoicing, Mary pondering all this in her heart. He interrupted the business of their lives and made their lives centre on God’s business.

We know the boy was special. We know his Father sent him and has some serious business to do on planet earth and in my life.

Luke gives us just a glimpse of a teenage Jesus. He is still special 10 years or so on from his birth.

Jesus has real business to learn as he is in the business of growing up. He has this concern, this interest, this drive, this shape to him that is unusual among people his age. Jesus, the young lad is consumed by Someone and Something.

This shape ends up getting him trouble one day.

While he is where he wants to be dicing it with the people he finds fascinating (and they him) in the temple, his family is already on the road heading home from the city after the festival.

After assuming the teenager was somewhere among the relatives and friends heading back home to Nazareth, they finally realise that the boy is not with them.

When you find him do you hug the boy or get stuck into him about ‘growing up’ and ‘taking responsibility’!?

I can imagine a bit of both! The anger turns to relief and joy when after having to back track all the way to the city, they finally track down Jesus in the temple with all the bearded men talking theology – as if nothing has happened!

You can tell that Luke wants us to know that the young man is that same baby of promise who came to do God’s serious business, and the business for which he came is on track.

This Father’s business of being in the world to save the world, in your life to save your life, in your face to shine God’s light and love upon you is on track.

This deep need to dwell in the Word of God and be in his Father’s presence, around the holy things of God and the people of God will mark this young man’s life. Will it mark yours in 2019?

Later on, he will come back to this same temple and clear it of trading tables and money exchange booths in pure zeal for “my Father’s house”. You can hear even here when he is so young, ‘church’ is not really the building or the stuff in it so much as a Father’s home in which he, the child, is at home – really ‘at home’. He calls church, “his own Father’s house”.  Will God’s Word, done and said in his community gathered, be your heavenly Father’s house and your home in 2019?

Luke tells us what happens as the dust settles on this particular snapshot in time. Mary does her wonderful “pondering all these things in her heart” and;

52 …Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

That is what being in God’s presence around his Word and his gifts with his people does for us all. It helps us grow in on three ways.

WISDOM: As it was for the young Jesus, so for us: the Word of God grows us in the wisdom of God.

The business of our Father begins with a respectful heart for the things of God, the Word of God and the people of God.

“Fear of the Lord is the beginning point of all wisdom” (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10).

STATURE: Jesus grew in stature –“ place”, “understanding” of God and the world,  “knowledge”, “awareness”….

With a heart centred on the Word of Jesus we get changed. Why? Because the Word of God is a force, a power and spiritual reality that shapes a person and creates the very things we need to be in order to be a fuller, more complete more aware, more understanding, person.

Jesus says as much when he is beyond these young years;

“The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:10)

FAVOUR: With God and people.

Jesus grows into favour with God and with other people.

Like a young woman on the rise in business or a young student who works hard and earns good results, our respect for them grows and our encouragement flows.

This has happened before. Remember the young Samuel also in his Father’s house – centred on the Word and the holy things and the humility to hear and receive whatever the Lord had in store for him?

And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favour with the Lord and with people. (1 Samuel 2:26)

With a heart open to the Word of God, the Holy Spirit does call me, shape me, and give me a part to play in his mission community called the local church serving the world.

How will this happen for you, for me, for us in 2019? Will it be by keeping so busy with the business of my life that my business way overshadows our Father’s business in time and priority? No. I think we know that.

As we have our hearts set on the love of our heavenly Father in the shape of his Son, our Saviour Jesus, this will come out of us in everything we are and do and then we will grow God’s way – in genuine love, faithful serving, joy even in our suffering.

Our Father’s business is to draw all people into his loving embrace by repentance of all that separates us from him and the receiving of all his grace toward us. It is our business too.

How we will go about our Father’s business in 2019?

Same way God’s people have been in the family business of the Kingdom for ages…

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)

What will be your main business in 2019?

The young Jesus and the gospel-writer Luke are saying;

Let him rule in our hearts that are full of thankfulness for everything we receive from his hand.

Let his peace rule in your relationships – practice forgiveness. Say it. Do it. Mean it.

Share the word, share life in the word, share the experiences God gives with each other, including the teens and the little kids. Receive his Word said and done in song and liturgy and proclaiming

Sing. Sing your faith a lot.

Pray to your Father. Pray all the time for people – known or not.

That’s the business of a gospel man, woman, young person, child. That is our business as a church in 2019: our Father’s business. 

 

Christmas Eve Message – Vicar Shaun Manning

Monday 24th December – Christmas Eve

St Petri Lutheran Church – Message by Vicar Shaun Manning

Luke 2:1-14

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
  and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

So here we are on the Eve of Christmas, on the eve of one of the most joyful times of the year. Regardless if people celebrate the real meaning of Christmas or not, it is a time when people seek to be with the company of family and friends; get together, eat, exchange presents and even sing songs.

Not too long ago, whilst on school placement for my pastoral studies, I heard a story whose setting is also Christmas Eve. It’s family context also isn’t too unfamiliar to many of our Australian homes today. Other than the fact that we don’t typically have White Christmas’s here.
Anyhow, it’s starts off on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve, inside a warm house, the Christmas tree was cheerfully ablaze with lights and surrounded by dozens of presents.

The wife of the small family and the children were dressed and ready to leave for a Christmas Eve service at their local Church. “Come with us,” they urged their husband and father, for they loved him.

“Not me,” he snapped. “I don’t believe in all that religion garbage.”

For many years, the man’s wife had been trying to tell him about Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers. How God’s Son had become a human being in order to save us and show us who God really is and they way to heaven.

“Nonsense,” the man always replied.

The family left for church and the man was all alone in his cozy country home. He glanced out the window at the cold snowy scene outside. He turned himself by the fire. But as he turned, his eyes caught a movement in the snow outside. He looked. Cats! Three young cats walking slowly past his window.

“Silly cats,” he thought. “They’ll freeze for sure!” The man put on his hat and coat and opened door… “Come here, cats! Come inside where there’s warmth and food. You’ll die out there.”

He walked outside. “Come back! Don’t be afraid, I want to save you.”
But the cats ran away in fright, the cats were gone, it was too late.

“Well, I did everything I could for them,” the man uttered to himself. “What more could I do?”….

Now the story continues further but we’ll leave it there for a moment…

In comparison to this story, presumably in some Western first-world country, our Gospel text paints a slightly different picture.
Joseph and Mary’s Christmas Eve was in Israel, in the 1st century; hence their Christmas Eve looked much different than ours typically would also.

The Emperor of the time has issued a decree and so everyone needs to go to their home town. Hence for Mary and Joseph, being in Nazareth at the time, needed to travel back to Bethlehem. With the assistance of Google Maps I discovered that the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is 70 miles, or a 112km. This is similar distance if one is to travel from Nuri to Waikerie… a roughly 22 and a half hour walk.

This is in an age and time where modes of travel are even harder for ones of low status like Mary and Joseph, and also one must remember that Mary is heavily pregnant. (How they got there specifically, we don’t know for sure but lets just say that it wasn’t by motor vehicle, metro bus or a helicopter).

But as if things couldn’t get much harder.
When they finally arrive in Bethlehem but there is no where for them to stay, so they presumably get a small place in a close by stable. Whilst here Luke describes for us here that Mary gives birth to her firstborn son, wraps Him in swaddling cloth and lays him in a manger.
Not your ideal Christmas Eve to say the least…
nor a great time to fall into labor is it?

When one looks on the difficult, mundane and very human circumstances of Jesus’ birth, it’s easy to lose sight of Who He is and what His birth means.

But this is the whole point of Christmas and Luke presents this nativity scene in line with this truth. Luke paints the true picture of God in Christ who descended to our lowly and fallen world. Christ the eternal Son of God, who partook in the Creation of the World, has become human. John puts it this way “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… He came to which was His own but his own knew him not”. The same world He created He has now literally stepped into and become a part of but all we could offer was a manger.

It makes one wonder about the depth of our state if God is having to intervene to such great depths. Just like if the Federal Police involved or if someone is being summoned to the Supreme Court, something major has happened. So how much more serious is the issue if the One who positioned the universe, composed all matter and gave life to everything, has had to step in and do something?

We paused on our story earlier, with the man pondering on what He could do to save these cats. After opening the door and enticing them to come in and be saved, he says to himself “well I did everything I could for them? What more could I do?… He interestingly considered that the only way he could reach and save them, would be if he would become a cat himself. “Surely then I could show them who I am and what I was trying to do”. As he ponders this, he returns back to his warm fire and hears the church bells ring in the distance. He paused for a second and listened. Then he got down on his knees and wept.

Why did he weep? This is an understandable reaction of someone who experiences God’s love, especially for the very first time. The man had been encountered with the Gospel, finally understanding why his family had enticed him to come to church for Christmas, year after year.
Isn’t it true that we are lost if God doesn’t intervene?
In the state we are in, we cannot come to God on our own accord but need Him to come to us. And He did, and He does also now.

Around halfway through the Gospel narrative we hear of the shepherds.
These shepherds have encountered the glory of the Lord, God’s holiness in the field and are terrified.
None of us can stand in the Holy presence of God, for without God’s help we are totally unholy, aren’t we?
The angel of the Lord says to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, I bring Good News of great joy for all people”. The angel continues by explaining what the Good News is… “For unto you is born this day… a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you… you will find…”

How would you finish this sentence yourself? Jesus is the King and Lord, so how would you think royalty would typically make its appearance? Think of when Prince Harry and Kate came to Dubbo earlier this year. There was media everywhere, security and crowds following them everywhere they went, and dozens of roads being closed off. This is not overly surprising is it? This is how we expect earthly royalty to be greeted by the hosting nation. However, what do you think the sign would be if, not the Prince of United Kingdom, but the King of the Universe was to make his appearance? So, you’ve just heard that the Lord of the Universe and Saviour of the World has come… what sign would you look for? what would be the sign that you would think God would send? Surely something magnificent and glorious and definitely not… “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

The Wise Men who catch wind of the King who is being born and then head to where they would expect a King to be born, in a palace and hence they head up to Jerusalem. We often do the same don’t we?
How do expect God to work out His plans in the life is His people?
We look and expect a different King, don’t we?

If you’re anything like me, you would expect the Creator to come and work in some glorious and ostentatious manner, but He typically doesn’t. In particular, when we think of tonight, He goes about His work of reconciling us to Himself, through this baby lying in a manger in Bethlehem.

But this is just who God is, and who He has always been. Walking amongst Adam and Eve in garden, coming to visit Abraham his home, meeting Moses on the mountain and being present with His people in the Temple in Jerusalem. He has now come ever so closer and even took on the flesh in which He created. St. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Philippians… “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

 

This divine Son of God became human in baby Jesus; traded in His throne for an earthly manger; He exchanged robes of splendour for swaddling clothes; He left the songs of praise from a multitude of angels for the recognition of a few shepherds. He has done all this for you and for me. Not because it was nice, but because it was necessary. Necessary for us to be restored to right relationship with God. And this could not have happened if God didn’t become one of us.

 

This is who God was, has always been and is also now. By looking for Him to operate in a way other than Christ, we end up missing Him and who He truly is. Although we may celebrate, we find it difficult to accept that our Lord became a human and died a cross, don’t we? It is also tough to believe that He works through His Spirit through the Word, ink and paper, that the Holy Spirit through the proclaimed Word creates and strengthens faith or that kneeling at the alter receiving bread and wine that our Lord’s body and blood are really present. Look at me, not even wearing a fancy stole but yet God still uses this imperfect creature, right now… to bring Good News of great joy.

Just as God stepped into a dark and sinful reality at Christmas, so He comes to you and me today.

He comes and steps into our broken and hurting lives and offers us hope through His Spirit and Word, peace through the forgiveness of our sins in Absolution and joy in the Good News of the Gospel which we share together as God’s people. He does all of this magnificent work in the lives of all people everywhere even to us here in Nuri.

 

The angels knowing what a miracle has just worked in the birth of Christ, and so they exclaim “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased”. So who is God pleased with? You? Me? Pastor Adrian? The answer is no. These words of affirmation belong to Christ. They were said to Christ at His Baptism. Christ shares that same affirmation from Father with us, when he became one of us, assumed human flesh and now through our Baptism has united us with Christ. United us with His death so that we share in His resurrection. And this brings peace to earth for those with whom He is pleased. And the good news is that He is pleased with any of us who don’t have to earn the right to receive His love, but who receive His love for us by faith.

 

This Christmas may God grant once again the joy, peace and hope as we hear and meditate on the Good News of His love that He has come in lowly means, that He does come to us here and now and that He will come again to take us to be with Him in the Highest Heaven.

Though I’m sure there are presents still waiting for you to receive this Christmas,
this season is truly about the gift that you have already been given.

Amen.

The Four Gifts of Christmas

Sermon, Christmas Day, 2018

St Petri

Luke 2: 8-20

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The Shepherd says to himself, “I got to tell them!”. But in the same breath comes the other question, “But who is going to listen: Angels, wise men? We ask, “Who is going to listen in Nuriootpa, in South Australia, in Australia in all the communities of planet earth in 2018?

The Shepherd thinks that if he looks impressive, they will listen. But then he knows that the telling of this news does not depend on how clean or dirty your fingernails, how tidy or untidy your hair, how much or little respect you may have; there is Something bigger telling this story.

The Shepherd’s questions still stands today: Who will listen?

Who is going to believe that the saving of this world, with all of its war and hate and injustice and powerful evil forces at work, comes to an end in a baby in a shed in a nowhere town a long time ago?

It is a miracle that any of us believe this magnificent but beyond human logic news – that Jesus the Saviour of the world is just that – the Saviour of this troubled world. He is indeed the end of injustice, war, hatred and fear. That is what he claims at Christmas.

But how?

Well, Christmas is not really primarily about Shepherds and angels and stables and straw. These things and people were there when something ‘Other’ happened. What Luke and the many other first witnesses are telling is not so much what happened as what it actually means for those who come after them – you and me.

So, let the Christmas nostalgia sit with you. You feel warm. You enjoy the memories and the moment, and so it should be. But hear the Sprit whispering to you to then move beyond it just for now.

Yes, you’ve got some time off. We give and receive gifts and eat nice food and catch up with loved people and this is good. But can we let the meaning the bible drives at underneath it all; meaning that crosses history and cultures and outlasts our best Christmas gift?

What does Christmas actually mean? Four things:

GRACE: Christmas means grace: God’s grace.

This world’s freedom, future, life and peace is complete gift from a God of gifts – the God of grace. Angels, shepherds, eastern stargazers, young women, old men, confused fiancés do not choose any of it. It is all given to them.

Christmas is done for them and to them. They don’t ask for Christmas, control Christmas or even know the Christ-child. Grace arrives in a person. He is grace. Jesus just arrives. The angels just sing. The shepherds just turn up, along with Eastern travellers. It is all gift and it is all grace.

Christmas means grace – God is grace. God gives gifts because he gives gifts to human beings who don’t know, can’t know, can’t earn, can’t be good enough, can’t be perfect, can’t be in control enough.

 Of course, we do our very best to avoid this meaning and defend our own goodness at Christmas. We try and live a very good life at Christmas. We give, we share, we try hard to avoid trouble at Christmas dinner.

But if that is all we believe Christmas to be – a moment of us being good, then we have missed it. Why? Because we have missed him. That is acting like Jesus is just a kids story or legend or fable, like Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.

Christmas in God’s words announces that Jesus is goodness itself, grace itself. Jesus is life beyond our efforts and control and mistakes and fears. He is grace now and for us and for always. God has actually come in grace to you. You are not on your own or dependent on keeping yourself good. He is every good thing you will even need.

FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD: These Shepherds and angels and travellers, and Mary and Joe were invited into a whole new depth of fellowship with the God of Christmas. God comes close and invites them into himself and his great good news for them and their world.

God becomes human so we can be close to him. He lives the perfect human life we could not. He dies the perfect human death that we no longer need to, because he has and because he lives.

God becomes knowable and able to be experienced in a whole new personal and communal way they could never really know before this event of God.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see

Hail the in the flesh deity.

God has hidden his overpowering holy light, so we can know him and be loved by him, made new by his love in the baby boy.

Now we can see him, hear him, taste him, see him, touch him, know him personally because the huge lengths God has come to get close to us.

God wants to be near you. He calls you to turn away from your self and your vision of life and wants and needs and desires and any sense of justifying yourself before people and before God.

The boy calls out, “Turn to me with all your heart in the shed in this trough so your heart is melted and you know that you are loved into this divine close love and acceptance”.

Jesus ain’t no concept or intellectual truth. He is a person. He is blood, bones, words, hands, breath. He is love and he seeks fellowship with you.

MAKES YOU WHOLE: Love is a person with a body and mind and a spirit that draws close to you in everything about you. Christmas means that your body and your mind and your spirit are included in the saving grace of a God who has all three, just like you.

Jesus is not a force of love or just a spirit of love or a universal being that created love. Jesus is a baby; a human baby like you and I have been once.

So, Christmas says that God is love in all forms and all ways.

God is three persons acting in concert to get those angels singing, those shepherd and wise people believing so you can sing and be invited into that Trinity of Love, that community of love who has a body like yours, a mind like yours, a spirit like yours.

JOY: This Shepherd just explodes in joy. It is the right response! It is the only response – like a Grand Slam winner lying on the court with racquet raised and tears flowing – joy unfettered and free.

Our songs express it. The biblical texts express it. This pastor, this Vicar, this people love it.

Joy to the whole world for the Lord of it has finally come to save it!

  • If Christmas means grace fully given when not deserved or known or controlled by us;
  • If Christmas is deep fellowship with a new person who is God;
  • if Christmas is for my whole body, my troubled mind, me spirit – all of me, then it is joy.

Not just feeling happy, but joy that is an anchor to our lives as we love like we have been loved, give like we have been given to, share the way we have been included and given everything in his love.

Yes, the wonders of his love. The wonders of his love.

Glory in the highest.

Joy in the fullest.

Love in the largest.

Peace in the harshest.

Meaning in the madness.

Heart in the hatred.

Justice in the wrongness.

 

Hear it, friend. Unwrap him and his four gifts.

Grace

Fellowship with the Divine

Wholeness – all of you

Joy

He may be more like me than I ever thought possible.

The angels got it wrong. This I not just good news. It is the best news ever!

 

 

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