Sermonshowing promise title
Lent 2C, Sunday February 21, 2016.
Genesis 15, 1-12, 17,18. Philippians 3:17 – 4:1
Luke 13:31-35

Philippians 3:17 – 4:1

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
24 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

Over the Christmas New year break I caught some glimpses of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on TV. I am not a ‘yachty’ but I like those yachts. This interest began that late night in Perth in 1983 when Alan Bond and John Bertram defeated the Americans for the first time in history to bring the Americas Cup back to Fremantle. Australia lost it there next time around but it worked out well for Leanne and me. The Kiwi’s won it and brought the Americas Cup to NZ at the time we happened to be living in the city of sailing – Auckland. I went out on a charter boat one day to see the Americas Cup race up close. Then there was that disastrous Sydney to Hobart in 2002, when 9 people lost their lives due to massive seas. What a challenging race it can be.

The thing I love about the yachts is the team work – the precision of movement involved by the crew. I like seeing all those people on deck working in tight sync to make the boat move in the right direction against many odds.

From the New Testament it seems to me that this is what the church is like and needs to be like too; team work in challenging times.

But unlike a yacht crew whose only foundation is each other and the only goal is winning, a congregation in God’s mission movement has a stronger, longer-lasting and more meaningful foundation – the promises of the Lord.

It is God’s promise of future community and unending blessing that gives us any hope of being a community of hope for people around us.

In our OT text we see that without God’s promise, Abram would have remained Abram and not become Abraham, the father of many nations of people. But with God’s promise millions of people lived and died in the promise of a blessed present and future – they still live in glory.

Without God’s promise of blessing and life flowing down from the blood of Jesus on that cross and to us via the empty tomb, we are just one of many spiritual or communal options – a club, an association of like-minded people, a community group trying to do its best to be decent and helpful, like any other group of people who care about issues we face.

But with the promise of mighty resurrection new life by faith in this Jesus, this victorious One over death, this great Wounded Healer of the world, we are hope itself. We bring new hope to this place – divine hop, long-lasting, full, true and transforming of lives.

Without trust in the Lord’s promise of place, name, community and life beyond all suffering we experience, we are faithless Jerusalem – the city over whom Jesus wept.

With no trust in God’s promises, we naturally “kill his messengers” the Spirit sends, and turn in on ourselves, scratching around trying to find the things we know we desperately need from places and people that cannot give them to us as the Lord can and does give in full measure – love, belonging, truth, wisdom, something to say, peace, drive to forgive and include, meaning in our serving and work and study, life plan, focus and purpose in who we are and what we do when alone and when we are together.

If we are the city that “kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it” (Luke 13:34), then life lived totally focussed on ourselves and all things human is as good as it gets. Our end is destruction; our god is the belly; and our only ‘glory’ is actually our shame before a gracious and just God; our minds are set on earthly things alone. (Philippians 3:19)

Friends, Jesus of the cross calls us to look up these forty days of Lent – look up off our bellies, off our accumulated things, off our relationship issues, off our sorrows, off our achievements – off the crowded world….. and fixate our ears on Jesus because our end has not yet come, destruction has been averted and all shame and guilt is easily removed.

This man of the cross who is familiar with all of our wrongs, guilt, pain, and suffering is still seeking us, offering a vast array of promises from his full shed of promises. He’s like a “hen gathering her brood under her wings”. He’s like a collector of fine cars delighting in showing his full shed of beautiful cars to a willing student of such things – only with the Lord it is not the cars he delights in but the collection of promises with which his shed is filled to the brim –– promises like
• I have called you by your nae you are mine.
• I have a plan for you to prosper you not harm you.
• I will be with you to very end of all things.
• I am the Alpha and the Omega and I am coming soon.
• I will take you to myself and give you one of the many room I am preparing for all my sheep.
• I have come that you may life; life to very full.

How many more promises shall we view?
• “I have not come to condemn you but to love you so you have life beyond your suffering and death by faith in my suffering and death in your place…”.

Jesus cries out in frustration over us today:

“How often have I desired to gather your children together as, a hen gathers her chicks, and you were not willing!”

The Spirit whispers now, are you willing today? Is it a day to truly come to the calling Jesus? As the old song says so well;

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling—
Calling for you and for me;
Patiently Jesus is waiting and watching—
Watching for you and for me!

Come home! come home!
You who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!

This is home. This body and blood; this watery font of life, these faces of the Redeemed, these symbols of our story in art and architecture, this story we sing in song and prayer, this word of the bible – all home.

Friend, our citizenship, our identity, our peace, our hope is here in the people here where Jesus meets us and his heaven meets his earth, and it is from there that we are expecting a Saviour to return to fulfil everything. (Philippians 3:20)

What do we need to be a faithful and fruitful community of the gospel in Jesus’ gospel mission here? The same thing Abraham needed – Promise. God’s promise.

From baptism to the second resurrection we are promised, we stand or fall on his promises. They are everything. He is everything. His promises make us everything he calls us to be.

And with his promises in this pivotal year where big decisions and plans might be made, we are solid – only in him.

So, friends, because of all of his promises and his call to show his promise, “my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord. (Philippians 4:1).

Stand firm together on the promises of the King.

This is plural. Everyone stand form together on his promises. Like a crew balancing on a shifting super yacht moving swiftly across heavy seas to its destination, stand together on the deck. Stand firm on the directions and promises of the Captain of the ship – Jesus. Encourage each other. Grab a hold of each other in the big swells, Help each other move together to compete the journey.

Or as St Peter says;

“…..all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing”. (1Peter 3:8-9)

Friends, in this congregation and the present and future God is calling us too – big decisions and small, we stand together on his promises. We strive for team work in his grace. We seek his Word which are his many promises because unlike ours, his promises are perfect and fully trustworthy all the time. His promises last. They are solid and they transform us into promise keepers and promise givers.

Through us Jesus’ promises of hope flows in this area of the Barossa. Through us Jerusalem kills less messengers of the Lord and commits less violence toward people Jesus sends.

In him we are the difference between a city lost and a city found, a city dying and city rising, a city in despair or a city with hope and new life.

Stand firm together, people of God in this place. Share his promises. Love his words of promise, give thanks for everything he gives. Show his promise.



Listen carefully to the Genesis 12 text and note the promises that the Lord gives to Abraham. There are seven promises if you count them
1. I will make you a great nation
2. I will bless you
3. I will make your name great
4. You will be a blessing to all
5. I will bless those who bless you
6. Whoever curses you I will curse
7. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

This promise is repeated in Genesis 15. It is a pivotal promise upon which God’s people have stood ever since. It is a renewal of God’s original blessing on human kind (see Genesis 1:28). Through this promise first give to Abraham, God’s original blessing will be restored. Through his community of faith, the whole world will be blessed by God. You can see that God’s intention to bless people has never been exclusive to one group of people!

For us who live in the forgiveness of Jesus, we are counted by God as children of Abraham too. Jesus says to the Jewish people claiming to be right with God because of their family name and nationality as the chosen race that God can make sons of Abraham out of stones in the Judean desert!

Paul spends a great deal of time pondering what this promise of Abraham now means for those who live in Christ…

7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:8-9)

And in Romans four he really unpacks this. Read through Romans 4 seeing if you can follow Paul’s teaching on this Promise of promises of GOD!

A real ‘punch line is in verse 16…

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

The bottom line is that;
 …..we have been justified through faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

Read Luke 13:31-35

It seems that people struggle to receive this very good news and stand together in this way of God’s grace!

We heard that account of Jesus weeping over the city expressing the beautiful heart of God to ‘gather all people under his protection and love as a hen does her chicks” but the city will ne be gathered. Instead, we kill the prophets God sends and stone the messengers God sends to call us back to him. This is the real gravity of sin – not just saying a bad word or doing a harmful thing to someone, but giving deep offense to the Lord as we reject his call, his protection, his love in these things.

But Jesus goes into that city and does what he does to call the city back to himself in ways never dreamed of – in crucifixion and death and then empty grave.

God’s promise to give us those seven things forever is back on track in a final way. The last great enemy, death, is now defeated by Jesus. The promises live on and we are signs of ths hope and love of God for the world now.

I made the point in the Sermon that all of this is plural. We are Children of Abraham but faith in Jesus. We are the church. We are to stand together like those crew members on those super-yachts in the Sydney to Hobart and Americas Cup races. Together we show God’s promises of blessing and life – more than alone.

What does this mean for your connection to the church?

How might you stand with others at St Petri?

What do you think about our plans to step out in faith and continue to staff the effort to re-engage families with children and young people in the gospel, to make more of our Sunday morning “prime time”, to be a teaching church where the bible is carefully and well taught at every age, to empower and encourage our Seniors to serve the Lord?

How do we be like those yacht crews – working in sync in the Lord’s plans for us?

St Peter gives us a good word on this

“…..all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing”. (1Peter 3:8-9)

PRAY (From the Lord’s Prayer)
Father in heaven, thank you that you are our Father and that your promise to Abraham is being lived out among us.
Help us keep your name holy by using it to pray, to praise and speak of Jesus among others.
Let your kingdom plans take root among us.
Give us what we need to faithfully serve you.
Forgive us for our turning away and trusting ourselves or other too much as we forgive others who wrong us.
Keep us from hard testing and strong temptation.
Save us from the Evil one and his destructive plans.
Yours is the kingdom, power and glory for all that happens in our church.