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Compassion – Audio Sermon Pastor Robert Voigt – 22 July 2018

“Compassion”  St Petri Sermon  – 22nd July, 2018  – Pastor Robert Voigt

Jesus was moved with compassion  – Matthew 9:36

Mark 6:34 (NIV)

34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

Psalm 51:1 NIV


But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.                                                                          Psalm 86:15 NIV


When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  Matthew 14:14 NIV


Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.”  Matthew 15:32 NIV


Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes,  Matthew 20:34 NIV


Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32 NIV


Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.  1 Peter 3:8 NIV


“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”


“We hear again and again, from the unchurched and from local churches who are deeply engaged with the unchurched in their communities, that loving genuine relationships are the only remaining currency readily exchanged between the churched and the churchless.”  –       George Barna.

Hope Rising

Sermon: Pentecost 8B, Sunday July 15, 2018

St Petri

Ephesians 1:3-14

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[c] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen,[d] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.


The world is a brutal place. It is now, and it was in Jesus’ time. It is brutal because people can be brutal. From the first murder recorded in Genesis, that of Abel at the hand of his own brother, Cain, to all that is happening in Syria and Turkey and in our own cities and towns, life can be very brutal. A few years back in Geneva, UN human rights expert, Ben Emmerson named human rights violations at the hands of ISIS and etc these last years as occurring on “an industrial scale”. (June 22, 2015, (

This hurts. People hurt. How telling it is that Jesus hurts too? Jesus obviously knows the pain of injustice and violence personally. We hear it today. His cousin, John the Baptiser. John was brutally killed for no noble reason. Jesus knows unjust, innocent suffering and its dark grief.

Here’s what we know. Jesus feels as we feel. He knows loss. He knows grief. He knows brutality. When he stands outside his best friend’s stinking tomb he hurts to weep. When his own blood stains his own body as he is brutally ridiculed, tortured and crucified, and his public shame complete – he drinks this violence to the last drop.

And because he knows our pain and stays the course through it with love unyielding, there is another story to tell alongside this grizzly tale. There is a grand story of light and love at work among us, even in the unfair, unjust brutality we know and fear in our day.

This other story is beautifully proclaimed by another man who knows the pain of life. he also proclaims this story of love and life from an unjust brutal prison cell to a community he loves. Paul dictates a letter to his trusted friend and co-worker Tychicus from a prison cell in Rome toward the end of his missionary work.

His beginning words to his people in Ephesus lift us out of dark damp despair of any kind. These high words lift us out of human brutality, fear and the many, many questions that feel like a prison at times.

This is two hundred Greek words strung together without a comma or full stop in 1:3-14! So much to grasp, so much to see – all compressed into these 11 verses!

Would you lift your eyes from your concerns, your questions, your pain to gaze in wonder and praise at the awesome sight of the universe moving in procession to its appointed goal of being “gathered up in Christ (1:10)

1:3: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

A brutal world blessed. A dark mind enlightened by grace. Dead person Spirit filled. Heaven here, not just at the end or far away. Heavenly spiritual life in life today, not just tomorrow.

1:4 …just as He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love, he destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ according to his good pleasure and will. .

Family. Divine family. Holy friends, we are. All his choice of you; his awareness and commitment to you. You; an adopted child; one of billions. You are fully known and fully ‘in’. You have his name; his family name. When suffering comes we call on his name and remember ours – ‘Son, Daughter”, “bride”, “beloved”, “child”, “church”, “holy, blameless, accepted”, “people of the Way”; “Christian”, “Baptised”.

1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins…

Once we were dead in self worship; unable to find the family or the Father. When suffering comes all we had was us; our skills, our pep talks, our self-help, our best guess. But now we can do better than guess. We can trust. Wan seek and we can receive that glorious gift above all gifts – forgiveness with all its hope and possibility and joy.

And as many a mate or parents has said “A man needs a plan”, and so does a woman and so does God. it is a grand plan and it is here – even if it is mysterious stuff!

1:9  God has made known the mystery of his will that he put into action in Jesus.

Our life in God, beyond our own is a mystery. Like anything a bit mysterious, this plan can only be received in good faith. This mystery into which we have been baptised and called is lived only by faith and trust. By trusting what the Lord Jesus does and says we are lifted into his story beyond our own.

1:10 Now God has put a plan in place for the fullness of time. That is, the plan will come to fulfilment in his good time. But what is the plan?

I worry about the world, and I am anxious about my place in it, and our place in it.  From a prison cell, or a community surrounded by many gods of self to families falling apart to a fight with a friend, there is this plan that will bring fulfilment of it all. Like a band or orchestra searching for that final resolving note, we will resolve. he will resolve it and us. The tune will eventually be sweet and complete.

What’s the detail of the plan?

1: 10  …to “gather up” all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.

God is a gathering God. Like a bower bird or a collector of fine things, the Lord is the God who gathers friends like shoes. God is collector of people. God welcomes strangers in and adopts them as his own kids. Jesus the Son is the gate, the door through which the Father welcomes us and adopts us into his large house. Jesus is the shepherd too who finds the sheep and brings them on home.

Friend, in your questions, your suffering, your pain and your worry about the world and your own family, the truth is that all that is alienated, disjointed, lonely, hard, unfair and doubtful will be sure. You and I and we as a church community are always being put back together, like Humpty Dumpty’s shell. That is what our God does. he is always gathering, planning, working, drawing us in, inviting us to know and love and be known and loved.

The world may be brutal, but it is still the Lord’s, and the Lord of Church has a plan to end the brutality and sadness.

No more talk of ‘the church dying’ or you ‘dying’ as if there is no plan of Jesus in you and ahead of you. Only pray, trust, thanks, words of witness to his presence and you hope as a result.

Sense hope rising again today – for whatever has squashed it lately or a long time ago. Hear the hope and give the thanks. Be free from prisons and darkness and pain in Jesus. He is hope and light and love.

Hope, mysterious hope! Hope against all hope! You can because there is a plan and a God who is working the plan.

I’ll invite again……Would you lift your eyes from your concerns, your questions, your pain to gaze in wonder and praise at the awesome sight of the universe moving in procession to its appointed goal of being “gathered up in Christ” (1:10)?

Let the Spirit give hope rising for your today and tomorrow. that is faith and that is life.


Lord Jesus, lift us up into your hope rising that we be patient, confident, loving people of yours where you have placed us.


Called to be Sent

Sermon, Sunday July 8, 2018, 7th Sunday after Pentecost.

St Petri


Mark 6:1-13 

Jesus left there and went to his home town, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.

Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.

These were his instructions: ‘Take nothing for the journey except a staff  no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’

12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed with oil many people who were ill and healed them.

One of the unspoken rules of sending a pastor out from Seminary after he is ordained is to never send him back to his own home town. The wisdom on this comes from this text about Jesus doing exactly that – going back to his home town once he has begun his public ministry. It does not go well!

These people knew Jesus when he was knee high to a grasshopper. They saw him crying in church, walking around with a snotty nose when he had a cold at aged 2. They saw him break out in pimples when he hit the teens. They saw him learn his trade skills with his Dad, Joe, whom they also have known all their lives.

He is just like them. And maybe 1st Century Jewish people were like us 21st century Aussies. If there is one thing we dislike it is someone we know big noting themselves. We tend to cut leaders down to size if we feel they are getting too big for their britches.

Here’s Jesus, now becoming a ‘big man’ in the region. Who does he think he is?!” they cry!

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him.

There it is: “They took offence at him”.

“Offence” – Guess what the original Greek word is: “Skandalizo” They took ‘scandal’ with him. He was a scandal to them. He became a challenge to their views, their expectations, their assumptions. He caused them some displeasure about their understanding of God, faith, and their reputation. He did not fit into their small world anymore and they disapproved of him for that. They would not listen to him. He made them uncomfortable and they got angry at him for that.

What’s Jesus’ response to being cut down to size by his home town relatives and friends?

Does he runaway; sit on the synagogue steps crying and saying sorry for being the Son of God sent by the Father to face off against Evil and kill death so that even these rejecting people can have forgiveness and life forever in the Father’s love? No.

Does he fight them; get into a slanging match and try and win the argument and guilt them into taking notice of him? No.

Does he call down a couple of legions of angels and give them a show they will never forget to prove to them by sign and miracle that he is who he says he is – God with them and for them in love, not wrath, come to love them not condemn them? No.

He does not retreat, ignore, cave in, fire up in anger or put on a show of power to shock and awe them into hearing him.

None of those things will get his mission done. These things would kiss salvation of billions of broken sinners goodbye.

So what does he do?

  1. He confronts them.
  2. He calls people towards him.
  3. He sends those he calls.

He confronts them. “He was amazed at their unbelief”.

He calls people towards him. He does not push them away. He continues to call them to himself – into his forgiveness and love.

He sends those he calls. He sends them into the fire of his mission with his authority to speak and do his mission of love.

And who does he call into the furnace of Kingdom work? People. Ordinary people. People who for whatever reason sense his love, his authority and know they need it. Disciples – students, learners. No big noting here. No ‘special people”; just people who know they need him, and not just what they can get from him. people who find themselves seeking his forgiveness and healing and peace.

What does he send them to? A fair chance of rejection, criticism and harsh judgement. But also, the chance to be part of people being freed; people being given a new life; people being restored to the bottom of their soul and back; new eyes to see the world and see God; new hears to hear people’s pain and hear God’s promises of peace and hope; the immense satisfaction of not living for yourself or your own ego, but for the coming of life in death, hope in despair and depression, healing in a broken marriage, freedom from being a people-pleaser, joy in knowing you are never not loved and called by the God of all creation who is the centre of your whole life and hope of this generation.

What does he send them out with? Two things, maybe three: He sends them with;

  1. his own authority and
  2. with each other and
  3. with friendly strangers to receive and help them.

He sends them out into the fray with his authority; with himself and his words in them. He speaks in them as they simply tell of what they have seen and heard of him and he makes it all work.

And they are not Lone Rangers: he sends them out with each other as support. He sends them out in pairs, never alone. They have each other to remind each other of him and what they have seen and heard from him. They have each other to help each other provide their basic needs. They have each other to correct each other, challenge each other and share the good and the bad – the rejection, the hurt, the anger the suffering and the joy, the satisfaction of one more sinner now saved, one more family now restores, one more person on the outer now in.

They are always partners with him and each other in this mission. No one person gets to do whatever they want. It is always doing and speaking together in partnership and with his word and power. And he sends them out to make relationships with those he loves.

He even sends them out with a need to depend on others, not just themselves for survival. That is so that they have to meet friendly looking strangers who can welcome the message and work with them in the mission.

Friend, this local church is hopefully your home town place of support and love. But you are called, and you are sent.

Our ongoing issue as long-term Christians is getting way too comfortable with where we are now and forgetting where we are still sent and with what and who.

We are called to him in Baptism. We are sent out with his authority to forgive and proclaim him at Baptism. We are sent into the fray with each other – never alone and always together with him and his authority, his words, his presence and his power. We are called to relate to friendly looking strangers who will welcome the message and take up the mission with us.

And the incredible gift is that we have a God who does not call us and send us from some lofty heavenly cotton wool blue sky world of bliss. He calls us from the blood and guts and rocks and sand and cold stone of the cross and the tomb.

The person who sends us out knows the cost and call us anyway. He can do that because he sends us out with him – his authority – his word of truth, his Spirit of power.

Hear the call. Come to him. Go with others and engage with a stranger. And repeat that daily.

And if they don’t listen? And if they think you are a scandal? If they take offense at the good news of him you know and love?

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

(2 Corinthians 12: 9)

Talitha koumi!’

Sermon, Pentecost 6B, Sunday July 1, 2018

 Mark 5:21-43

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered round him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed round him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned round in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’

31 ‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, “Who touched me?”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher anymore?’

36 Overhearing[a] what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.’ 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha koum!’ (which means ‘Little girl, I say to you, get up!’). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Twelve years is a long time.

  • It’s the time between beginning grade 1 and being ready to break into the world as an adult at year 12.
  • It is the time between being a team at their peak and then at their worst and then at their peak again.
  • It is the time from when your marriage began in wonderfully free bliss to coping with the challenges of life that test you both.
  • It’s the time it takes to start a business venture and know you are going to be OK, or not.
  • It’s the time between learning your craft and practicing it with skill for the life ahead.

It is a long time to bleed. Constantly bleed. Nothing can stop it. Money all spent. Pain endured by quack treatments. Isolation from family, society and church. Beyond all available help. Always alone. Always on the outside of everything and everybody…..

Can you imagine that unnamed woman?

“No one knows what it’s like to be me. No one knows what I’ve been through. No one knows the shame. It’s the blood. Not like the rest. Not every month or so. All the time. All the time! And you know what that means! Yes it means unclean, unclean. No big deal if its just once a month for a few days. That passes. But I’m different. I am the difference walking around; walking around bloody, unclean, unclean! No church, no markets, no easy family gatherings”.

Systems to constantly managing my disease every waking moment. Relentless attention to it that wears you down and takes over your whole day every day. No relationship. No love. Just self-survival.

But she has heard about him; this Jewish rabbi. He heals people. He’s the magic man, the miracle man. “Maybe this is my chance. Maybe if I get close enough and just touch the little tassels on his coat that hand low to the ground his magic will rub off on me”. Anything is worth a try.

“But no one can know. The pain of the shame would be too much. I need magic without relationship. I need what I need on my terms”. I need what he can give me not who he is for me.

“But should I touch him? The pain of stretching. Pushing my way through. Touching. Touching just his dangling tassel on his cloak. No one will know. No one needs to know”.

“I’m driven. I’m, begging. I’m desperate. I am beyond my limits and my disease is way beyond what I or anyone can achieve”.

“Touch his tassel! Touch his tassel. Push through reach out, get in close behind and touch his tassel, just lightly, just enough; no one will see. Here I go, get out of the road, yes I’ve made it, got it; no I didn’t pull it; just touched it. No one saw me. It was like I was reaching out for my life”.

“Something happened. Instant relief. I knew that my body was different. My body still shudders as I think about it. The magic worked. Healing magic came my way”.

“But, then the worst thing that I feared would happen did. He knew. And then they knew. Then everyone knew. He got mad: ‘Who touched?!’ he cried. I squirmed. I’d stirred up that angry God out of reach but now coming to get me for my sneaky behaviour.

She’s like a kid who has stolen a Mars bar from Foodland being caught in the mall for all to see.

The disciples cannot believe the question he asks. “Who touched me?” Are you kidding?! “They all touched you! They are pressing in on you like some rock star and we are the body guards fending of the swelling and desperate crowd!”

She could have melted into the sand when he stopped and turned around and started asking, who did it – who touched me?

“Yes, who touched him? Asks Jairus, the desperate dad. Who slowed us down from where we are going. We are on our way to my daughter who is facing death itself. We don’t have time for this”.

The disciples agree. “We are on the way to respond to someone who counts – a leader in this community. We just saw Jairus do the unthinkable. He of all people, got down on his knees in the sand and pleaded with the teacher to come quickly to his house because his twelve-year old girl is really touch and go”.

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 

 Why is that? Why did he stop and try and find this woman?

She could not keep the secret anymore. Now, she is the one grovelling in the sand at his feet.

33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.

She tells ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. She is like that kid in the mall just blurting out that he did indeed steal the Mars bar.

She is defenceless before this seething group of bearded men and a Jewish Rabbi. They and he can cut he down to size in a word. He could increase the shame, continue the abuse, and keep up this cursed life she has been living…..

And then something wonderful happens that completes the picture, shifts their universe, shows there is another universe at work in theirs. His next word turns the magic into a person – a real person with real intent changing the whole person and not just doing a bit of ‘faith healing’ or superstitious magic.

 34 He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’

“Daughter”. One word: new world. One name: new person. One voice: new human being. In his word she goes from unnamed, ashamed and unclean to fully known, highly esteemed and pure.

From no place: now given the keys to family home.

No love: now all loves excelling.

No community: to divine Father-daughter relationship with all the other sons and daughters of God.

From curse to forgiveness, from twelve years a suffering slave to all years and more a free-wheeling daughter of the King of kings.

This is why he had to know who it was that touched him. This is why he puts the other task on hold to find her. To change her magic view to a loving God encounter. He has to speak to do this.

 He has to name her to love her and not just fix her. He wonderfully names her in the highest. He shows it by not just healing her physically but resurrecting her whole person.

He names you then and now. He named you, “Son”, “Daughter” of the heavenly Father at the font. One word: new world. One name: new person. One voice: new human being. In his word you have been moved from unnamed to fully named by God; from having no place: now given the keys to family home. No love: now all loves excelling.

His healing is love not magic. His healing is not done by hokus pokus or achieved by our right prayer or knowing the secret formula or being squeaky clean. His healing is HIS healing FOR us and he gives it on our knees in the sand. And his healing is complete.

He will stop on another dusty road soon and be forced to give up his body of bloody scars and reach the full depth of death, disease and suffering – and all for us.

Because he stops there and goes there where we cannot, his love is personal and human and real. His forgiveness is not just legal theory but transforming healing of body, mind and soul – whether we are physically healed at any point or not. His love remains, our status as sons and daughters remains, unwell, disabled, mentally scared, emotionally broken – sons and daughters of the inheritance of hope – always.

His healing is not just about fixing my problems but loving me in total. Indeed, whether the healing is physical or not is not the greatest thing here. It is that other word he bestows on her as he moves on to raise another 12 year old female.

“Shalom”. Now there is a word. “Complete divine wellness and acceptance to you”.

Take this daughter, the young daughter and Jairus courage today. Jesus calls it faith even if it is a bit misdirected or not fully understood. He calls you to take courage to reach out to him and touch him. He calls that faith.

‘Daughter, Son, whoever you are and whoever you think you are or what they say you are, ‘Talitha koum! Arise today. Your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’


Conversation Starters

Use S.O.A.P to reflect on this text…

Scripture – hear it aloud and slowly….

Observation –  what do you observe/ what do you learn, what questions do you have…

Application – where are you in this and what is the Word giving you, calling you into..

Prayer – what prayers of thanks, asking, interceding for others do you feel prompted to pray……

Healthy Words: Hold On

Sermon, Sunday June 24th, 2018

St Petri, Augsburg Confession Day 

1Timothy 6: 11-16

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might for ever. Amen.

Here’s eight things that pastors hope to hear….but probably won’t:

  1. Hey! It’s my turn to sit in the front pew!
  2. I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went for 25 minutes extra
  3. Personally I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.
  4. I’ve decided to give our congregation $500.00 a month I used to give to TV evangelists
  5. Let’s forget about the standard pastor’s salary. Let’s pay our pastor enough so that he can holiday in the Fiji once a year.
  6. I love it when I sing songs I have never heard before.
  7. Pastor, we would like to send you to a bible seminar in the south of France.
  8. Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment to being Lutheran like Augsburg Confession Sunday!

I wonder whether the young pastor Timothy in Ephesus ever heard anything like these things said to him by the people under his care? He seemed to have his fair share of difficult things and people to deal with if Paul’s letter to him is anything to go by.

Paul writes to keep Timothy from giving up the ministry or even the faith. It must have been tough!

There are people abandoning the faith and being led by deceptive people who were proven to in it for only personal power and gain (4:1-5). They did their deceptive work by deceptive TEACHING. That is what we teach and preach ad do is so crucial and to be guarded and taken serious. It is teaching that can build up or tear down. Everything matters because everything teaches in the Christian community.

They were teaching untrue unhealthy words and doctrines that only tell people what they must do to make sure they are okay with God – they only taught the law. Added to that there are all kinds of myths and old tales of stars and magic around that people are getting sucked into.

Paul writes to help his young man get through tough things with tough people. In the process, Paul speaks of what makes any community work, grow and reach out to others.

Sounds like the kind of community we are wanting to be? a community of people work, grow and reach out to others.

I wonder what Paul is saying to us?

Maybe we would want him to say things like, “Ask God for things like protection from evil, strength to carry on, wisdom to make good decisions, love to let ‘em know we are Christians and etc”. The are all good things but Paul doesn’t really say any of that here. He is pointing to something else that seems even more foundational and important to return to work, grow and reach out together.

Paul’s remedy to Timothy for being a pastor and a local church who stays the course and continues to be gospel people is to hold on to the good confession of faith that was made at the time of Timothy’s baptism.

In tough times with huge temptation to fall for trying to either make it on your own without God, or try to keep God happy by doing all the right things, Paul says hold on to this confession of faith you have already been given.

This confession of faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit has already given to us in our baptism. We don’t need things and protection and inner peace and a comfortable life anywhere near as much as we need God himself in all his grace and kindness, proclaimed in us by the Spirit’s power.

A community of people in the middle ages had the opportunity to do before many witnesses at great risk to themselves.These people saw similar things that St Paul and Timothy saw in Ephesus. They saw unhealthy and untrue teaching damaging people’s lives. They saw that the transforming grace of Jesus being lost in all the rules and laws about how to make God happy. In our time it might be the opposite – the gospel being lost as people either turn their back on that confession of faith in which they have been baptised or people simply never finding it.

In 16th Century Europe, Emperor Charles V called a public assembly to unify Europe in face the coming onslaught of Islam. He needed the church to be unified. The church was to a large extend the institution that held society together. The church was powerful but disunified to its core.

Charles told the Roman Catholics, and those wanting to reform the Church, to present a summary of their teaching at this ‘Diet’. The Reformers, by the work of Luther (who could not be there because his life was still under threat) and Luther’s offsider, Philip Melanchthon, penned this confession of their faith now called the Augsburg Confession.

On June 25th,1530 at 3.00pm, the 28 part confession of the ‘evangelical’ faith (the gospel centred faith) was read in the German city of Augsburg by Christian Bayer. Apparently, he read it pretty loudly. People outside could hear it. Although not loud enough it seems because Emperor Charles nodded off!

The AC has become the most widely accepted and highly held confession of faith for the 65 million Lutherans all over the world.

It isn’t that for a lot of Australian Lutherans. I suspect that hardly anyone here has ever read it, and most don’t know if its existence anymore.

Maybe, if we are game enough to ask  big questions about who we really are and what our place is in the world and the church we might seek the Augsburg Confession. Maybe when we are hard pressed enough by various alternative faiths. gods and assumptions, we might eventually find some gold in the AC as many have these last 500+ years.

As far as I can tell, the AC says three things to Christians of all traditions and denominations.

  1. ONE CHURCH: Lutherans have no interest in being some sect or cutting ourselves off from all Christians, as if we are superior or special or anything but gospel centred human beings.
    • Being Lutheran is not being German or Barossan or being difficult or morbid or uncaring or averse to change.
    • Being Lutheran is being a Christian person who is part of the One holy ‘catholic’ community of the gospel of Jesus.
  2. ONE WORD: The only thing that binds us together, helps us navigate our way through complex stuff and receive the gift of God’s grace in Jesus by the power of the Spirit is the Word of God.
    • It is in the Spirit-powered living Word, and not from within ourselves or by some meditation technique or heady philosophy or experience we may have that we find God speaking to our many questions and giving us unity upon which we move together.
    • It is the word shared, sung, prayed, spoken, proclaimed and done in Baptism, Absolution and Holy Communion that the Sprit makes us new.
  3. ONE GOSPEL: The very heart and soul of me and you and us as a church and the Word itself is the man, Jesus the Messiah.
    • Our heart is not being to be a cut above the rest or being squeaky clean or being ‘super spiritual’ or getting God to make our life comfortable or meaningful or whatever, our heart is God’s heart for us – given in Jesus. Our heart is that the freely given but costly paid kindness and love of God in the face of Jesus Christ which can only ever be gratefully received as an underserved gift.

What else would you like your church to be about? What else would you pin your very life on? What else would you have courage to speak even if this confession of faith is something many might trip over, find offensive or silly or weak or misguided?

Would we want to say anything else than these things to our country; to this community; to our friends and family? Is there anything better we could say and do for the battlers, the powerful but still lonely, the oppressed, the grieving, the abused, those struggling with gender and identity, the young, the old, the loved and the unloved?

Isn’t Jesus’ body (the church), Jesus’ word and Jesus’ heart for us revealed in the Word what we need to hear this morning and what people need to hear from us tomorrow?

I am convinced they are ad this little confession and the faith it was made in is faithful and true and of great use. It will help us navigate our way through any time with the gospel in our hearts.

Let’s pray for courage and boldness to hold to the confession of faith in those Creeds we speak, this Confession of faith we live. This is how we will be a true people, a straight people, a people of love immersed in the grace of God in Jesus the Saviour for a world in need of his new word.

If that is ‘Lutheran’, then I’m in. I pray you hold on well and find yourself in too!


What do you find yourself holding on to in life? make a list and see how those things relate to the faith you have received.

People seem to relate the word “Confession” to confessing wrongdoing. here, in 1 Timotyh, ‘confession’ is not owning up to wrojg doing but speaking your faith. Saying what you believe about God, Father, Son and Spirit. If a friend were to ask you what you actually believe about who God is, what kind of things would you say and on what basis?

Woud your confession of faith be different to what you find in the Apostle’s Creed


A good version of the AC can be found ere with some good notes to help you make sense of it. it might be worthwhile to read the first 10 articles (They are very short). They sum up the faith well. The language is a little old for us, but we can still get what it is saying for the most part.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,

maker of heaven and earth.


I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

    born of the Virgin Mary,

    suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven,

and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty,

from thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.


I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.


This is the statement of belief that has come from the most ancient of times in the Christian church and arose together with the practice of baptism. it is often called the “baptismal Creed” as a result. Of course it is built on the very earliest statements of belief found in the early church (Romans 10:19 – “….if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”).

Think again about what you actually believe. How is it different, how is it the same?

What does it mean for you when Paul says to Timothy, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called….”?

Notice how Paul hold up Jesus as the first to confess faith. What did Jesus confess before Pilate – check it out in John from chapter 18, verse 28 on…

What helps you hold on to the faith that others have confessed that have enabled you to believe today? How do you help others hold on to this confession of faith?

Those who confessed the gospel-centred (evangelical) faith in Augsburg sis so at great threat to their lives. it would he been very easy for Charles V to just execute them or banish them to some godforsaken place. Would you confess the faith you have come to trust in and the One you trust in under threat?

This is always a theoretical question for us. Just ask St Peter! He said he would die for Jesus but couldn’t do it when it became real.

we pray for courage today – courage to speak and do God’s grace in Jesus where he has placed us. We cannot know the rest!



Scatter, Notice, Reap

Sermon, Sunday June 17, 2018

Pentecost 4B, St Petri

Mark 4:26-34

26 He also said, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces corn – first the stalk, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 As soon as the corn is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.’
30 Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’

Farmers, to urban people seem to talk slowly, move slowly, have a considerable less frenetic lifestyle (which is envied by some). Farmers don’t seem to be chasing fashion – especially in Western Queensland where the utes are huge, the rugby shorts short and the ten-gallon hats large!

This parable seems like one a farmer would tell. I must say, at first, I find this parable ho-hum.

The farmer sows the seed in the ground. He sleeps, he rises and he waits. It does not seem to matter what he does. He does not even tend it: No sprays; no fertiliser to maximise yield. He sees that the crop is ready to be harvested. He sends in the sickle to it and hey presto. That’s it.

This guy seems very laid back! He is not like my brother in law and his son whom I saw one year take the 200 or so tines from their 60ft seeding bar and manually weld all 200 of them the same way to achieve a 10mm change in angle – all to get the absolute maximum rip and depth on that bar for their 9000 acres of crop! It took them two weeks of hard, hard work!
Isn’t that how we do things? We are anything but ‘laid back’. We are busy. We are pushing for more. We are wanting to maximise everything we do. “If you are going to do something, do it properly”, I can hear my Dad saying.

This farmer does not seem to be like that at all. He has no idea how the seed grows. He sleeps, he wakes, he sleeps…. If this guy had a performance review on his key performance indicators there would no indicators indicating any performance!

Are we supposed to be that laid back about the gospel? Doesn’t it really matter what you do or say or how awake or asleep you are to the existence and movement of Jesus’ kingdom because he will grow it anyway.

To us ‘maximising’, busy Christians prone to being either oblivious to the kingdom’s growth, disinterested in its progress or simply misled by superficial observations of people and situations precisely because we are so stressed and busy, is Jesus really saying, “just put your feet up, switch on the Telly and let me do it all”. “Relax people! “Chill out, Christians. Take a Panadol Pastor and have a lie down. No need to do anything much because God will grow his kingdom with or without you anyway”.

I don’t like this parable! It goes against everything I have learnt about how much effort it takes to sow gospel seeds and reap them in people/kingdom terms!
It goes against how I was raised and how I have been taught in the church. It is unsettling! I don’t like being told that I can’t control growth, maximise it, plan it, strategize it, make it happen more or faster.

But here it is and here we are – a church with a mission to sow words of Jesus, who will himself be The Seed rising from the dead ground to bring new life and growth to dead sinners.
But then I found something. We do get to be involved after all. We are called to do more than be sleepy Christians, disinterested Christians, or non-watching and praying Christians.

The farmer actually gets to do three things in this seed growing/kingdom coming enterprise?
• He scatters the seeds on the ground.
• He notices when the plant that has grown
• He takes the sickle to it.

He scatters and he notices and reaps, and in between he sleeps, rises, sleeps and rises and the seed grows…..

Scatter, notice and Reap/act when the moment of harvest dawns. That is our part.

We usually work out the best plan, work the plan hard to maximise the results, and get the best results we can. But here the rhythm is different:
Scattering, noticing and reaping – and we are not in control of all three. We don’t make any of it happen. We just play our part.

Scattering seeds of the gospel must be exactly that; scattering gospel words, doing grace actions among others that can seem as insignificant as a mustard seed to them and us, but not the Lord.

Scattering gospel seeds is not an exact science either. Sowing for this farmer was a very inaccurate. No 60 ft seeding bars and agronomist to get the fertiliser and depth and GPS and moisture just right. No, just human fingers throwing seed into roughly tilled soil and pretty much hit and miss as to germination. Scatter. Sow. Plant. An inexact activity but enough for the kingdom to take root, according to the One who makes the garden grow.

And then wait and notice or “reap”. I think I know how this works…
The other Friday night at Shed Happens I was scattering Jesus’ words among the blokes gathered. Later I heard from one of the guys who puts the thing together that one of our regular non-church blokes thought my message was a bit morbid, a bit negative.

So, I scattered a gospel seed as best as I could with human words and this man heard it. He must have to make that comment. Maybe the seed is germinating in him.
And maybe the guy who was standing next to this guy was doing the noticing. And maybe the job now is for both of us to wait and notice some more and when there is some sign of a growth in trust in Jesus (usually in the form of a comment or a question), we take the sickle to the guy!

But how? What about reaping? I reckon this is where we Lutherans struggle. We scatter the gospel seeds pretty well. We notice that comment at Christmas or that word used by someone at the shops or that change of heart from someone at work or school, or wrong friends.

But what we seem to really struggle with is the confidence to get the harvest sickle going!

  • Is it because we don’t like conflict or feeling uncomfortable or the sense that we may to be liked for a bit. Probably.
  • It may be that we have somehow heard all our lives so far that we have not got much of a story to share. That’s not true.
  • It may be that we are just not that full of Jesus stories to share either. Maybe?

What do you do when you notice there is an opening for a word, an action, a short exchange of something about your faith, who you know Jesus to be, your perspective on that issue? I think we tend to put the sickle away for some reason.

Here is the really good news. Ours is only a PART of this Kingdom of God’s grace growing! The Holy Spirit is the heavy lifter with the bold plan and the mega resources to make is all happen.

Phew! I can try and get it wrong, and try again. This is not all on me. I can be quite laid back about scattering, noticing and reaping like this farmer in the parable.

I can do a couple of things to grow in confidence as a gospel farmer who can reap when necessary:

  1. I can brush up on my Jesus stories in my words. I have time to do that. I can read them again and remember them.
  2. I can ask for help in getting my own story in place so I can share it because I count and my story counts, no matter how much like a insignificant mustard seed I think it is. God doesn’t think all he has been doing in your life so far is ho-hum! Neither will another person. The Lord will make sure of it!

Yes. With stories of the faith and my own story to share, relax alright.

Friend, scatter as best as you can. It is not an exact science. It does not have to be.

Notice people and changes. Listen a lot.

Reap. Wait and then share, act, invite, welcome, comment and leave it at that. Job done today.

There will come tomorrow and another opportunity.

Scatter, Notice and Reap. That is the kingdom way.


  1. Recall two or three Jesus parables or stories you already know and imagine telling them in your words.
  2. Get your life story in order.
    If you sensed it was right, what would you say to bring glory to Jesus and his grace in your life to a person. Make it short but make it you.

Long Live the King!

Sermon, Sunday June 10, 2018
Third Sunday after Pentecost

1 Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[a] us, such as all the other nations have.’
6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.’
10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.
16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[a] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.’
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. 20 Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’

Something funny happened this week at St Petri.

We had forty five little Pre School children from Redeemer with us for part of a morning. They come every year. We go into the church building and talk about what is in here and why and respond to a million questions!

Then we came across to the hall and did a mini “Messy Church” kind of activity. The kids coloured in and cut out little pictures of all kinds of people and placed them in an envelop that looked like a little church building. One of the pictures they had to cut out was a picture of the pastor (me).

The children were cutting out these little pictures. Sharon asked one little girl who it was in one particular little square (photo of me). The little girl shouted out for all to hear, “That’s Jesus!”! Sharon said, “Well close….!”.

Little kids sometimes do this when you are a Pastor, but everyone knows that the Pastor is not Jesus. No one else can be Jesus. He is the only King of all kings and Saviour of all, no matter what we think.

Getting mixed up with who is the real king of our lives has always been a problem. Here, Israel go searching for a more tangible, more immediate King so they finally could be “just like the other nations”.

To be fair, there is need of a king. Up until this time, Israel had been a loose rabble of 12 tribes ruled by people whom the Lord would raise up from time-to-time (when things got bad enough!) to ensure the nation’s and Abraham’s covenant’s survival (‘Judges’).

The nation’s Elders concluded that something had to change.
1. Samuel’s sons are not like their Dad. Samuel’s boys are more than likely to be as corrupt as they come.
2. Samuel is old.
3. Those agro Philistines are very threatening – all the time!

So they go to the Prophet Samuel and ask him to ask the Lord to anoint Israel’s first king. Samuel is not impressed.

“……this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you……”

“….they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you”.

Only the Lord is King; not Samuel, not any other person. Asking for a political and military king shows a lack of trust in the Lord’s promises and presence.

This is blindness too. Asking for a political and military solution to their ongoing ‘heart problem’ of lack of trust and honest appraisal of themselves before the Lord is like choosing to use a straw to eat a big steak. it is the wrong tool for the job!

Their lack of peace, their despair for the future, their fears for the present, their lack of ability to deal with issues facing families, their lack of communal cohesion is not at the core, because they have not got a king, or the right government or enough weapons and cash. At the root is that they,

“forsake me and serving other gods” says the only God and King.

Same for me and you personally? Same for Australia? Same of us as a church? I believe so.

I believe I and we do indeed enthrone all kinds of ideas, people, things in our lives and therefore never get to the heart of the problems we struggle in.
We enthrone new ‘kings’. We enthrone old ‘kings’ we have enthroned before. It is our remaining human problem; this ability to deceive ourselves and each other; a certain ‘blindness’.

Remarkably, though, God lets his people have a king. Sort of, anyway. They will have a king, but he will not be like other kings and they will never be like other nations. They don’t need to be.

This king they want will never ever replace God or even be god-like, as kings were generally understood to be in the those ‘other nations. In surrounding nations, the king was ordained by the gods. In fact, the king was god, or at least semi-god.

For example, in ancient Egypt, the highest god was Amon-Ra, the Sun God. Amon-Ra made life revolve each day as he appeared and disappeared and determined the cycles of season and of course – crops and food and water and life. Pharaoh was the Son of Amon Ra –the “Son of God”; a semi-divine being chosen by the gods to rule. Pharaoh ruled by ‘divine right’ because they were ‘chosen from above’.

But here, Israel’s king is never, ever God or even semi God. There is only one King above all kings, and that is the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. The king is mere servant of the people first and foremost and he is ‘chosen from below’ – anointed by the human hands and voice of God’s prophets.

Even with this very different God ordained kind of king over them, God’s people spend a lot of the next decades and centuries getting it wrong.

They put the king above the Lord as Saviour and fixer of all their problems, and kings believed this of themselves.

They replaced kings when the king refused to be enthroned like this. When their king let them down because he could not or would not pretend to deal with the heart problem of lack of repentance and trust in the Lord (as the prophets always proclaimed), they would depose that king and try and find another one who would pretend to be that good!

But all the way through this revolving door of kings, there is this promise by the Lord. One day there will be the complete, perfect, all-powerful king that will successfully deal with it all – the outward issues of war and peace, government and wealth and also the heart problem; the root cause of all our human troubles; our brokenness, our ability to deceive ourselves, our hard-hearted pride and our endless searching for quick fixes in outward things.

God becomes this king himself. And he arrived ‘from as below’ as is humanly possible!

He does not rule by political manipulation and power or technological advancement or by fear and spin. He rules by serving, by the greatest love a human being has ever done – love for the loveless, home for the homeless, forgiveness for the unclean, baptism for the unwashed, holy meal for the unholy disconnected.

He is our king. he is Jesus. Not me or you.
We can keep enthroning other kings in our lives like many others do, but it will cost us, as it did Israel.

We can spend an awful lot of energy, heart and time trying to please people, look powerful, pretend we have got it all together only to know deep down that we are empty, shallow, out of puff and a little lost.

I say, let the kings we enthrone fall where they will. Let the gods of our own making be crazy. We need the ONLY king who can be it all, deliver on all promises and guarantee our future of loving acceptance and peace in him.

He is the King of Kings who rules in grace, not law, and the love that casts out all fear.

That little girl got it wrong about me. I am not Jesus! Neither are you. Nor is any other person to be king over our lives.

Jesus the Christ is the only king worth enthroning because only he can truly heal me, forgive me, restore us to community and send us out to where his kingdom exists to serve as he serves, love as he loves, forgive as he forgives and rules as he rules.

The King might be calling you to let go of the kings you think you need and simply throw yourself at his mercy today. Go ahead. There is plenty of it there for you.

Long live the King!



Pray “Lord, give me a listening heart. Amen”

Scripture Read the text aloud slowly noting images, imagination and questions that arise in you.

1 Samuel 8:4-11, 16-20
4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[a] us, such as all the other nations have.’
6 But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.’
10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.
16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[a] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.’
19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. ‘No!’ they said. ‘We want a king over us. 20 Then we shall be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.’


On ‘kings’ we ‘enthrone’

It is hard to identify the ‘kings’ we enthrone as masters of our activities and decisions in life. This is because of our ongoing problem of self-deception. You can attempt to identify the ‘kings’ to which you go for help more than the promises and presence of The King Jesus;

What is making me angry at the moment

What ideas, things, people, needs, that if someone threatens to take away from you makes you ‘come out swinging’?

What do you spend a lot of money on?

What do you spend a lot of time thinking about and desiring.

What do you pin your hope for a good outcome, a good life on?


What were God’s people pinning their hopes on and for what reasons in this particular text. (Note the last verse spoken by the Elders to Samuel)

Why is Samuel unimpressed by this request and what does the Lord express about this request?

Why do you think the Lord lets them have what they want?

What do you make of the warnings the Lord gives to the people about what this request will cost them.


What are the ‘kings’ I am enthroning in my life costing me at the moment?

Am I will to keep paying that cost?

If not, what will I do to dethrone them and give my life to the Only King of all Kings who can deal with all of me and my life not just the outward things? (Hint: You cannot do this alone. You need a trusted conversation about this with a trusted person of gospel faith and then you need to actually do something physical or even symbolic to dethrone that king). The way the Scriptures say this happens is only be repenting of enthroning kings and receiving the forgiveness and acceptance you already have in your baptism from The King of Kings, Jesus.


Jesus, you are my king. You are the Servant King who serves me with forgiveness, hope and love when I can neither earn it or achieve this for myself. I put myself at your feet today. In my life I enthrone you. Help me to serve and love as you serve and love me. Amen


Cracked Pots

1 Samuel 3:1-10 The Lord calls Samuel, Psalm 139:1-6,13-18,  2 Corinthians 4:5-12 Treasures in jars of clay 

Mark 2:23 – 3:6  Lord of the Sabbath

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’[a] made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

I quite like earthenware things. Maybe it is the colour and texture of clay – fired or unfired, decorated or plain. Maybe I like earthen ware pots and plates and vases because they remind me of Jesus and the people of his time.

There is a famous scene in the third Indiana Jones movie, “The Last Crusade” starring Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and the late River Phoenix. Indi finally gets to the place where the treasured Holy Grail is. That is the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper. The problem is that there is an 800 year old knight of King Arthur’s round table guarding a plethora of chalices gathered on a large stone tablet in no particular order. The challenge is to pick the holy grail. If you choose wrongly, you die. If you choose rightly you gain everlasting healing and life.

There is a bad guy who has made it to this point too. The bad guy goes for the most decorative golden treasure looking chalice from which to drink the water of healing and eternal life. He chooses wrongly and ends up as dusty bones right before your eyes. Indi, thinks about it. He chooses an earthenware clay cup. Jesus was a tradie in an ancient Middle Easter town. Indi gets it right… He picked that the treasure would be in a clay cup.

Paul says here that we are like that earthenware cup – not so attractive, not so sturdy as the golden treasured cup, but containing the water of life from which we and others may drink for eternity.

He calls Christian people, or ‘cracked pots”: people who carry a great treasure in fragile unholy looking and often fragile clay vessels to ‘not lose heart’.

1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 

We know what it is to lose heart.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 

Losing heart is feeling like you are in a rubbish compacter with the side slowly coming in at every angle upon you with inevitable suffocation and crushed bones going to happen.

Losing heart as a Christian is feeling ‘perplexed’ – in doubt about our survival or the purpose of is all; that feeling you get when you just know that you have not got what it takes to get through this experience, this decision, this task or make that goal.

Losing heart comes from being dismissed repeatedly, put down, shamed, embarrassed and unfairly criticized by others – particularly those who know you well, and who you respect or at least, normally expect their respect, at work or at home or school.

Paul knows all about this, particularly when dealing with this congregation in Corinth. Paul wrote once to defend the gospel and himself and offer guidance. It seems that this was largely rejected and the discrediting of him, his past as a persecutor of Christians and an angry man at large was ramped up another level by those who wanted the authority and power to lead this congregation. He writes again here in 2 Corinthians, and it is hard writing. You can tell by every word here.

He knows what it is to be “pressed on every side, crushed; perplexed, despair;  persecuted, abandoned; struck down, and destroyed”.

Sounds like enough to make even the great man of faith and missionary zeal ‘lose heart’ and give up! How about you?

What gets you down? What makes you give up trying? What is making it hard for you to trust the Lord, hear him speaking and pleasing him with your life? What seems like it is ‘crushing around you’ squashing the life out of you with no end in sight?

I can think of plenty of things that might make you feel “pressed on every side, crushed; perplexed, despair; persecuted, abandoned; struck down, and destroyed”.

Bad relationship

Bad disease.

Bad body.

Troubled mind.

Betrayed by a respected person

Called unfair names.

Believed to be someone you are not.



Not loved as you once were.

A world of troubles on your radio and in your TV room nightly.

Watching him or her disintegrate before your eyes …

Another question: Where do you go when you are “pressed on every side, crushed; perplexed, despair; persecuted, abandoned; struck down, and destroyed”?

That is the more important question for a Christian. It is not what happens to us that defines our future but to whom we go for our future.

Here’s where Paul goes.

We are fragile clay but we carry strong treasure. The treasure is of infinite value and we are valuable as we carry it. We ordinary cooking pots; we cracked pots are fragile, easily broken and not all that pleasing to the eye, but we carry gold, we carry life beyond the looks and the shape and the feelings. We are crack pots carrying gospel gold.

And we did not achieve this. We did not fill ourselves, become super useful ourselves or of high value ourselves. Our value is in what we carry not what carries it.

1 …. through God’s mercy we have this ministry.

An almighty King of the universe entered our clay world of cracks and fragility and was smashed on the rocks in our place so that we cracked pots shine light and life – his light and life.

We were given the load and its light that shows through us clay jars. We clay jars are now worth plenty, of great value, and great use to the potter who created us in his image and the Saviour who was broken for us.

And now we are carriers of the king.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

And what is our carrying purpose. Why do we do it? Why do we speak it? Why do we live with clear words of Jesus and actions to back it up? Why do we put ourselves in harm’s way for a little more dismissal, a little more put down, a little more risky seeking and giving of forgiveness so the relationship broken heals? So that he is revealed in our body.

10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

He is the one to be seen, not us. Like an umpire controlling the game, a coach leading the team, the artist producing the finished work, we are not the thing to see – the game is the thing to see, the team is thing to see, the art is the thing to look at.

We engage in this church life of reconciliation, witness, nurture of faith, sharing Jesus love and hope with people because we want with all our heart to be revealers of his body – his broken body, his resurrected body, his ascended body – the body of Christ, his church – who are his clay vessel of hope and forgiveness and life among people who can’t find or don’t want or desperately are seeking all three.

And here is the great reward of carrying the golden gospel –

People will have more chance of hearing God speaks not us. We will recede as we must, and he will shine like he does. And he will change people one by one.

We will be bold because we are free to be so (v12). We will not only defend ourselves but lay our lives down in joy because as we do they might see him, know him, hear him.

We cracked pots of golden gospel people will not lose heart (v1).

We will have no need to resort to tricking people or distort his words for our own appearances of “fine” or glory of self. No manipulation, no lies, no long-winded avoidance responses to people’s questions or comments.

So fellow cracked pots, speak and do without using any deception.

Carry the golden gospel in your body. It is only that golden gospel that gives cracked pots heart and purpose and joy.







Open Circle

Sermon, Trinity Sunday

May 27, 2018, St Petri,  

John 3:1-17

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.’

Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]

‘How can someone be born when they are old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!’

Jesus answered‘Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, “You[c] must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’[d]

‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked.

10 ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’[g]

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Nicodemus believed in God. He would have believed in God as or more deeply than the 52% of Aussies who say they ‘believe in God’.

He was a man of real and costly faith in the One God he confessed. He would have prayed too. He would have prayed that great prayer of Israel called the ‘Shema’, from Deuteronomy 6:

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever….”.

This prayer was his badge of honour. He was a member of the elite Jewish ruling council in the fair city of Jerusalem. Nicodemus was among the elite. He has reached the holy top in Israel. But he sensed there was more. He goes seeking Rabbi Jesus one night.

To his perplexity, Nicodemus discovers that his ‘One God’ was far too small! He, a “teacher of Israel”, is challenged to his core by The Teacher of the whole world who tells of God’s wide, deep multi-layered character and his wide, deep multi-layered intention of love for a world who has god in a little comfortable box.

God, the deep and wide, One in Three is at work. Nicodemus’ mind and heart are challenged. So is mine. Is yours?

This God can only be heard pondered and believed, not dissected and proved as some theoretical thing.

Pondering the Holy Trinity is like viewing a grand vista of mountains rolling on forever with those green and blue hues from the eucalypts, or staring into a blood orange sky held up by a grey blue ocean stretching on to what seems like eternity, or looking down from above the cotton wool clouds at the patchwork of this vast brown land. You just cannot take it all in. Logic and intellect stop. Wonder and awe take over. Then if there happens to be anyone listing – praise. Words of praise just come.

But the truth is, I am Nicodemus. I think I have made it to the holy top; that I understand enough to live right and true enough. In the presence of The Teacher, I am found sadly wanting by God the Holy Trinity.

My vision, my understanding, my interest, my longing, my searching for God is always limited, always less then Him and who he really is. My mind body and spirit are always narrow compared to his wideness and vastness; so is my love for him and others.

This is God, One in Three; One face and yet three faces, one person, and yet three persons, Father Son and Holy Spirit, in a golden circle of perfect self-giving love – all bowing in deference to each other, all serving each other, all in total and complete unity of spirit.

I long for a in like that. I long for love in that. I long to belong to a community in that – where no one wants to be better than me or make me better than anyone else. I long to know the mutual respect and self-giving love of God that makes me like that to others, and them to me.

But I struggle. I also want to be my own man; my own person. I want to win. I want to be just that little bit better than the rest. I want to determine my own life, my own goals, my own vision for my family, my marriage, my job, my property, inheritance , even my church. I tend to think I have God covered and when I believe that, I am my god. I put him in that small comfortable box.

But he will not be contained. I sense so. Like Nicodemus I go searching….

I know today as I ponder that width and depth of God the Holy Trinity as revealed by The Teacher, I am puny, I am limited, my vision is too small and often misplaced altogether. My small vision of God and what I want to see and do seems to disconnect me from this beautiful perfect community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I need a reset, I know. Do you? Jesus tells Nicodemus that Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel needs a reset.

‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again of water and the Spirit’

The love for which I long, the belonging for which I crave and the life I sense I would love to live are in this being “born again”.

But how and by what midwife and when and where and why?

Then John 3:16 comes. This magnificent God: Three in One who enjoys such love and respect and kindness in perfect proportion lives to share these; share himself, share his gifts and draw puny little punters like me into his divine circle of loving life.

This holy huddle; this ‘inner circle’ is looking outward; looking out for me and you and inviting us into the golden circle. It is an open circle and it is ‘gold’.

He chooses us, though we be small and strangers to his love. We are his welcome strangers. He gives himself to us not to condemn us, show us up, shame our smallness and lack of vision or love, but to fill us with his vision and love and re-birth us to be his community of love looking outwards.

I begin to become aware that we are chosen strangers pulled into this community of belonging and love to pull others into the circle of this church.

We are not here to be a holy huddle of self-interest or narrow vision. We are Holy Trinity people of The Holy Trinity – an outward moving circle of welcome, acceptance, calling and new life. We are an open circle; an open book.

But am I really in the circle? Am I included in the love God has? Then it clicks. Yes, yes and yes! I belong in this elite circle because he made it so, not me. And I know the moment, the day, midwives present……

The U.S. Lutheran scholar, Pastor and leader, CFW Walther puts it well….

Oh, that every one of us would let ourselves be brought to faith in the promises once given in our baptism! You who do not believe though you have been baptised, what riches of grace and salvation God has given you already, yet you do not consider or desire them! You belong in God’s kingdom yet wilfully want to remain in the kingdom of darkness.

 The dove of the Holy Spirit has brought you, like an olive branch of peace, into the ark of the Christian Church, but you would rather wither and fade. Oh, open your eyes and return to your Baptism! Then God will be your God and Father again, your sin will be drowned in the sea of his grace, and your baptism will be the door to heaven.

 Your Baptism stands fast. It happened once, and God does not go back on his Word. There God has, so to speak, made himself captive to you. So do not let Him go; do not let your hand of faith let go of his covenant of grace. He cannot leave you.

Ahh, the joy of knowing God as one in Three; kind and loving Father, brother, mentor, Saviour, Son, and wise counsel and spiritual power to live life new, Spirit. So much more than just “One God” or “me and Jesus” or “me and myself”!

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, ‘Abba,[b] Father.’ 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:12-17)

Baptised, son and daughter of the Holy Trinity of love, freely enter the circle today. Help that friendly looking stranger you know enter the golden circle too.

You belong to the circle. You are called to be an open circle. Marvel at his “Son-set”, his ocean of grace, his connection with you, like a dad with a little child on his knee – “Papa”, “Abba”, “Father”, says Paul. No fear of others or what’s ahead today – just the golden circle of baptism into this loving communal God. No shame for you, just ‘sonship’ for men and women.

Let the words come. Let the praise continue.



Listen to the gospel reading about Nicodemus noting the conversation between him and Jesus and placing yourself in the room that night. What do you hear about yourself and your beliefs? What do you feel? Where does the conversation ask you to go on your search for truth and life?

What about God are you very certain of =- the things you have come to believe are certain and immovable in you? Are they anything to do with God being Father, Son and Holy Spirit? If not or if so, how so?

It might be worth a listen to Lutheran and his Small Catechism work on the Apostle’s Creed, one of the three great ecumenical creeds of the Christian community from ancient times (along with the Athanasian Creed and the Nicene Creed). Go here for an American version….

What did you make of the comment that the Holy Trinity can only be pondered and believed, not dissected and proved? Where does your pondering lead you?

God the Holy Trinity is a person. How do you relate to him? How would you describe your relationship with him at the moment? What needs to change and how?

He long for us to be close – even to name him “Abba”, Papa”, “Father” (Romans 8 reading). Have you ever had that kind of relationship with him?

What do you think about your baptism? Do you regard it as highly as expressed here by CFW Walther? If yes/no, why?

Might be worth checking that small catechism of baptism too.

I suggest you “let the words of praise and thanks come” today…..



Pentecost conversation – Audio – Bishop John Henderson

Pentecost Sunday – St Petri Lutheran Church  20/05/2018

Sermon – Bishop John Henderson   “Pentecost Conversation”

John 15:26, 27; 16:4b-15

The Work of the Spirit of Truth

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me.  And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning

I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, “Where are you going?” Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things.  But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

 ‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’

Dear friends in Christ,

There’s a conversation going on today between the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit.

You can listen to it by tuning in to this morning’s Gospel reading.
And tune in you should, because the conversation’s about you.

God sees what’s going on in this world and in your life. God is concerned for you. God knows that, left to ourselves, we humans fall into destructive spirals that will see the end of us.

God isn’t prepared just to sit silently by to watch us suffer. God is a God of engagement, conversation and dialogue. God wants relationships. That’s why God speaks to us through the Word, because God wants to communicate with us. The conversation begins in creation: ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’ God’s image is about relatedness, connection and community. We are relational beings. God creates us to gather, use language and, by nature, build communities. The Triune God makes us in that image.

But the image is now corrupted. We see it all around in the disruption and fracturing of relationships and communities. Sin reveals itself most clearly in the ways we deal with one another. Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ We can be legends in our own living rooms, but out in the community we discover who we really are. We see the sin that fractures and breaks the relationships for which God created us.

The first broken relationship is with God. In Genesis three Adam and Eve turned their backs on the divine conversation and perfect community they enjoyed with God. They decided to go it alone. That’s what sin is. Ever since God has been working to bring us back into the loving, communal relationship between creator and created which is our fulfilment.

Jesus is the centre of God’s work for us. He’s the divine-human Son of God, a standing invitation to bring us out of the darkness to re-join God in the light of a perfect relationship, to join once more in the divine conversation. God created you for that.

The conversation recorded in the gospels goes something like this. Jesus has finished what he came for. He was born, he lived among us, taught us, shared the Word and gave us the Father’s gifts. Yet we rejected him, judged him, and crucified him. The Father didn’t stop there, however. He raised his Son from the dead. Last week, if you were in church, you would have heard the risen Jesus talking about going back to his Father. He did that to clear the way for the Spirit to come and the conversation to go on. That’s why he sends the Holy Spirit. The Spirit puts us in permanent contact with God. In the Spirit we can participate in the divine relationship, just as God always wanted. That’s why God gathers his church – it is a community of believers joined together in a Spirit-led conversation with their Creator and Saviour God. It’s a foretaste of heaven.

The words Jesus speaks in today’s gospel reading are much more than history. He spoke them millennia ago and he still speaks them today. The word of God connects past, present and future, God’s eternal now. This very morning, Pentecost Sunday 20th May 2018, Jesus is promising to send us the Advocate, the Spirit of truth.

His actual word is Paraclete, and it’s to translate it into English. It literally translates as ‘One who comes near’. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit, the God who has come near. Our eternal, conversational, relational, creator God is as close to you as the air you are breathing, as close as the sound waves reaching your ears, as close as the light striking your retinas. As close as the thoughts inside your brain. The Paraclete continues what began in creation. God is with you, in this very moment, right now.

The Paraclete is the Spirit of truth. Not truth like a courtroom where judge and jury forensically distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. Not truth like a science lab, where through hypothesis, trial and error, sorting through the data, scientists test their theories.

This is more. It’s truth of purpose, identity and relationship. Who am I? Who are you? Who is God? How do I know that? Can I trust you? God, why did you make me in the first place?

These are the truths of the Paraclete. His message from the Father is fundamentally, ‘I know you, I love you and I want to be with you, and you with me. I will wait for you as long as it takes.’

Jesus shows us what this looks like in Luke 15 in the parable of the Waiting Father. Sometimes called the Prodigal Son. The parable tells of a father and two sons. Both sons are essentially prodigals. The love of the father binds the story together. Whatever shame they cause him and however much it costs him he loves them equally and patiently waits for both of them. This is our heavenly Father waiting for humankind to come back home.

In this morning’s gospel reading Jesus gives us three key words that are central to the Paraclete’s message. They might jolt us a bit, but we must face up to them for the relationship to be real. They are sin, righteousness, and judgement.

They jolt us because they are unpopular words today. We frequently block them out of our conversations because they sound negative and out of step with the times. We prefer to speak more comforting, affirming words like spirituality, love and peace. But we can’t have those things until we have dealt with our most pressing problems: sin, righteousness and judgement.

We have already talked about sin today. We have considered how God responded to sin by sending Jesus. Faith in Jesus Christ is our number one priority. Without faith we are without hope, lost in sin.

‘About righteousness,’ Jesus says, ‘because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer.’ A few minutes ago we said just that in the Creed. When Jesus’ returned to his Father he did not leave us alone. He opened the floodgates to the full indwelling of God. Our Small Catechism teaches the same thing: ‘the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Galatians 3 affirms, ‘the righteous shall live by faith.’

And finally, ‘about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.’ This is all the forces and powers of darkness that want to smother the light of Jesus and steal the children away from the Father. We call it the devil. There’s a dark mystery in that name and it’s just too dangerous for us to go there. Only Christ can do that.

The light of Christ expels the darkness. In him darkness is condemned. In the past, it’s true, we have sided with the darkness instead of Christ and so deserve judgement. But that hasn’t stopped God loving us. Christ takes our place. He takes our death. Just when darkness thinks it has won, God raises Jesus from the dead. He just won’t let the ruler of this world have you, as God’s Word says in Romans 8, ‘there is … no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’
So these three words – sin, righteousness and judgement – are how God begins his Pentecost conversation with you. Jesus explains that knowing each of one these words assures us of God’s love and salvation.

The Paraclete brings you the message he hears from the Father. And everything the Father has also belongs to Jesus. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons in one God, working together to bring you back to life, to relationship, to community, to be the person you were created to be.
Do not doubt that God loves you, has a permanent place for you and is right here, right now, closer to you than you are to yourself. You have received the Holy Spirit who will always be with you, guiding you into all truth, and showing you what is to come.

Praise God for all his love, and for sending the Spirit so we, and all believers, may have true, saving faith in Christ our Lord.


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