Tag: All Saints Day

7 God Things

Sermon, All Saints Day, November 1, 2020, St Petri

Revelation 7:9-17

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

 And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the centre of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Matthew 5:1-12

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

These bible texts show you hope today. They show you why it is worth living in God’s grace, no matter what and above all else in life. They show you what we all have and will all get, now in part, one day in full.

Those who have finished their earthly time and moved into God’s timeless space are now here; fully blessed, fully complete. It is why these words are chosen to remember those who have died in faith in Jesus – All Saints Day.

And we need these words.

We are still living in a tough world.

Even for us, the people of God’s new kingdom, new city, new creation where God rules and God speaks and does and moves and shapes everything, there will be tough days and tough times.

  • We will know deep poverty of spirit.
  • We will grieve as dark death takes a bright loved one from us.
  • We will have no guarantee that we always have everything we need or want in life, or that we will automatically and always look great or be great in the eyes of others.
  • We will search and search. As U2 once sung, we will not always find what we are looking for. There will periods of time when we won’t find the meaning and purpose and joy for which we long.
  • We will not always be shown mercy by friends or enemies. We do and will get hurt and we will suffer the pain of unresolved conflict and harmful words and ways.
  • We will not always be enlightened, shining, clear and clean and holy people. We will know the dark night of the soul and know our uncleanness and unholy words and ways.
  • We will choose to run away, dismiss, ignore or avoid others who disagree with us, challenge us, hurt us, fight with us, and this will be hard and confusing and long lasting sometimes.
  • We will not be received well, understood fully, given the benefit of the doubt by many who do not share our experience of Jesus Christ and they will hate us for that experience we know and love.

Still want to call yourself a Christian? Or more pointedly, still want to worship Jesus and live in his mission kingdom of grace?

That was the question for those hearing that magnificent set of four ‘reveals’ given to the Apostle John by the raised and ruling Jesus.

Like a showing us through the totally renovated building in their big ‘reveal’, Jesus is leading John through his new house, new city, new creation.

The particular ‘room’ we are in the text chosen from Revelation is a procession into the great throne room of the “Lamb who was slain”. It is epic in scale.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

The resurrected people of God speak:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Angels and creatures and people ‘worship’ – (prostrate) fall flat on the ground with arms outstretched speaking words of praise

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

Amen indeed. “It is so”. “Lord Jesus, may it all still be so – forever”. That is what “Amen” is.

Dead people are now constantly standing in God’s presence. This is not what they could do before being raised.

Raised people are freely standing in the presence of Almighty God. This is not what those who are trying to flee the wrath of God choose to do.

This is all God’s work. It is all grace.

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

How can robes be white when they have been dipped in blood? They have the robe of forgiveness and peace with God on them. So do we. Like when you put on that brand new top or shirt, they and we wear a robe of righteousness and purity put on them by Jesus.

They speak more. They speak of seven things true of God.

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honour
and power and strength.

The praise, the glory, the wisdom, the thanks, the honour, the power and the strength are God’s. If there is any praise, any glory, and wisdom, any thanks, any honour, any power and any strength to be known, received, given, experienced, known by a human being, it comes from the Lord, the Lamb.

Friends, this is our hope being given full voice.

  • In any deep poverty of spirit we are rich in hope.
  • In grief there is this light that remains bright and true.
  • When we do not look, feel, do or be good, we are guaranteed this heavenly reality of love and acceptance already now, and one day in full.
  • When we search but cannot find what we are looking for, The Lamb is looking at us and calling us to look to him and this future with him.
  • When we are short on mercy, given or received, it will end with us standing in God’s glorious presence in his glorious and vast community.
  • When we are unenlightened, dimly existing, unclear and unclean experiencing the dark night of the soul, there will be the wisdom of God that will draw us back to his beauty and his holiness which he lights us up again.
  • When we choose to run away, dismiss, ignore or avoid God’s challenge, God’s truth, God’s calling, it will end in a heart of thanks as he does not run away from us, dismiss us, avoid us but instead restores us, chases us, loves us, greets us with ab holy kiss in the voice of his holy Son.
  • When we are not received well, understood at all, doubted much by many, there will be power to stay, love, move through, live on, stay in the community of the Lamb with his present and future light and life.
  • When we feel weak, frail and incapable to do or say or achieve anything much, there will be strength given that comes from this vision of our present place and our future space.

Friends, these words tell you how things really are from the Lord’s point of view today. His grace kingdom is way beyond you and yet real and present safety and love now.

Make no mistake, the tribulation; the trouble and its suffering is real. It will remain an ever-present unwelcome guest in our lives.

Even for us who have been dipped in the blood of the Lamb and had his royal white robe of purity and holiness placed on us in the water and words of the baptismal font, there is no hint of easy street here. There is no sugar-coated fake comfortability offered.

But John doesn’t need or want fake comfortability. He does not see hope in any human striving or achievement. He sees so much more.

John and Jesus want to help you trust that you don’t need sugar coating or fake promises.

You need Jesus. You need his vision and power and wisdom and strength and everything else.

He is the full measure of what you really need to live this life to the full according to the one who created and ordained you for your life. You have these seven things of God.

Still want to call yourself a ‘Christian”?

Still want to worship Jesus and live in his mission kingdom of grace?

Yep.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

The Lord will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned. (Psalm 34)

 

 

 

Speak well of him

Sermon, All Saints Day, Sunday November 4, 2018, St Petri

John 11:32-44

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

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked.

‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’

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

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.

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

40 Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth round his face.

Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’

Dear saints of God, on this All Saints day, again we gather with Jesus in the Spirit’s power to remember and give thanks for those who have left us for the glory that awaits all who put their trust in Jesus.

It seems that we have been in a bit of season of sending off the saints this last few weeks with several funerals requiring our attention. With funerals comes grief and loss. All Saints Day aims to help us in our grief and loss. So it is timely today.

We remember those who have departed in faith and their witness to what it is to live this life in the undeserved, unearned favour and acceptance of the God of life and death.

We know that none of those we remember today are saints or “holy ones” because they were particularly well behaved or super intelligent or hard working or anything else. They were holy ones because the Holy One chose them, loved them, gave his life for them and empowered them by his Sprit in baptism. Saints are saints because they are made that way by Jesus, not because they earnt the title.

They act like “saints’ because they were made saints by Jesus’ strong word – the word that called dead man Lazarus out of the darkness into light and life.

We remember them all because they are worth remembering. And this is because they are witnesses. Their lives were a witness to God’s grace. They, in their own way showed us what it looks and feels like to actually live as human beings within the love and acceptance of God. Their lives were a living witness to grace and how He shapes and changes us all the time.

In one way those we remember today are “martyrs”. Not in the sense that they were thrown to the lions in the Colosseum or killed in a mass shooting in Arica because they were Christians, but because in their lives they did the same things as any martyr– they ‘bore witness” to Jesus. That is what the word “martyr” (marturew) means – to bear witness to someone or thing. We remember the holy ones of God in glory who bore witness to Jesus’ grace in real human life and we were privileged to see and hear that grace in their life.

The people we loved and remember today probably did not have that ‘high calling”, of ‘martyrdom’; of giving up their life in extreme circumstances for their confession of Jesus as Lord.

There have probably been millions of baptised Christian people who have given that kind of ultimate witness. We know of some of them. A very famous martyr is a guy named Polycarp. The account of Polycarp gets me every time….

Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John and an early church leader whose life ended when he refused to betray his Lord. Asked one last time to disavow his Christ, the old man replied, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I speak evil of my King who saved me?”

Here is his martyr’s prayer, as recorded by the ancient historian Eusebius.

“Father of Your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the knowledge of You, I bless You that You have counted me worthy of this day and hour, that I might be in the number of the martyrs. Among these may I be received before You today in a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as You have beforehand prepared and revealed. Wherefore I also praise You also for everything; I bless You; I glorify You, through the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, through whom, with Him, in the Holy Spirit, be glory unto You both now and for the ages to come. Amen.” Eusebius adds: “When he had offered up his amen and had finished his prayer, the firemen lit the fire.”

Polycarp knew the Apostle John personally. John witnessed what Jesus could do for people personally. He says,

“We declare to you what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our own hands, concerning the word of life – this life was revealed, and we have seen it and bear witness to it….so that you may have fellowship with us…our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ  (1John 1:1-3).

 John witnessed the raising of Lazarus, of which we hear today. Surely John would have told and retold the account of that incredible day when Jesus raised a man who had been dead for four days.

Without any magic words or hokus pokus of a Halloween spell, the simple but deafeningly powerful word is spoken by the King of kings – “Come out! Come out of your death you dead person. Arise, O sleeper, from the dead!”

A man in a mummy cloth shuffles out unable to see through the cloths wrapped around his head! No more smell of death here – just the sweet taste of life!

It is not so difficult now to see how an old Christian man named Polycarp, at the age of at least 86, just one generation after this event, could resist the call from the world to give up his faith in the resurrection of Jesus at threat of death and instead, respond to the call of Jesus and give up his life, when the “firemen lit the fire”.

We feel the flames of cultural change firing up and we feel the threat to our life in God’s grace more pointedly even here in the Barossa. We wonder about injustice or violence that occurs in other places and may come our way in some shape or form in days to come. But as we hear Jesus weep and then call a name and by that power raise that dead man, we trust that in the threats and the flame there is faith and life and hope beyond any threat, any death, any injustice.

Bearing witness to the grace of Jesus is simply put really. In the pressured moment of threat from all that threatens the good news of Jesus present with you, you could say what Polycarp said; “With my life have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I speak evil of my King who saved me?”

“How can I speak evil of the King who saved me?”. “How can I stay silent or not respond in the same love as the King who saved me?”. “How can we as a church ever be comfortable with ourselves in apathy or indifference, and not ‘press on toward the goal’ of our faith in Jesus?”.

Remember these holy ones made holy by the blood of the Lamb. Remember the martyrs like Polycarp. In the face of your own death, your own trouble, your own weaknesses, speak along with them about the Lord Jesus: “The Lord has done me no wrong so far, how could I deny him?”

Actually, Jesus has been martyred for you. The One who raises the dead man became a dead mean and then was raised to life to triumphed over death for all of us. He now lives to tell the world this story. So do you.

Until our second death and resurrection to life with Jesus, we speak well of him for how he speaks well to us and keeps raising us from the dead; already once in Baptism and one day again forever at the final resurrection.

In the fire, the fear or the threat, speak well of him.

There is a song of the saints of God,
They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes or at sea,
In church, or in trains or in shops or at tea,
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I am made one too.
Lyrics: Lesbia Scott, Melody: J.H. Hopkins., The 1940’s Hymnal #243

 Amen

Living the Story

Sermon, All Saints Day, 3 November 2013.All Saints Sunday

St Petri

 Daniel 7:18

But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever–forever and ever.”

I remember the first time I came across Lutherans en masse. My sister had married a Lutheran farmer and I used to go and stay on their famer on school holidays. So, I was in their home and this meant that I would go to worship with them at the local Lutheran congregation in Geraldton, WA. I was about 12 and the drive was 80km each way. We never missed worship in Geraldton.

Pastor Ken Schmidt was the first Lutheran pastor I ever met. He would lead the Service in the black cassock and white alb from the Hymnal page 6 service order. The local farmers, teachers, medical people, homemakers and all the rest, with their various kids, would sing along as best they could as dear old Mrs Kowald played the electric organ as best as she could.

After the Service I would eagerly listen to the cockies bang on about the weather and the fencing and cropping and etc until we eventually would head into town to have a BBQ with another family or go to the beach or buy fish and chips or just head back out to the farm.

Whatever happened in that little Lutheran congregation must have been significant for me because it stuck and I stuck and I am still sticking!

I don’t think it was the quality or lack of quality of old Mrs Kowald’s organ playing. I don’t think it was the grandeur of the building that helped me stick to the community. It was not grand. It wasn’t Pastor Ken’s sermons. I can’t remember one moment in one of them! What was it?

I reckon it was the Story. It was the people and the story they were living that made me stick to the church. My brother-in-law, my sister, old Mr Nitschke, a great bloke named Andrew and his wife, Joanne and etc…..all living the story of Jesus out in their daily lives at worship, at home at work – living story boards of the good news and God’s community, the church.

Before that, I didn’t have much of story to belong to. My family was mostly non-churched, so there was not much or at least not a personally connected God’s story for me to know or tell. My family was disconnected, so there was not much family story to be proud of and learn about. My school story was disjointed and pretty unspectacular. We lived all over the place, so there was no home story or place story to sing about. Part of my story was painful. So some of it was not something you would want to speak about anyway.

These days I wonder we are in the company of more and more “storyless” people (like I used to be). There are kids and adults just like I used to be right here in our town. They don’t have much of a story to tell – so they think. They have hardly any connection to anyone else or a larger community’s story. They have no connection to the gospel story and gospel people story; no community to which they can belong. They are alone most of the time – the company they find is mostly digital, not human, several steps removed from reality.

If there is a disease of our day it is storylessness. People are so disconnected, sometimes by choice, other times by circumstances.

Plenty of people ignore God’s story – often with great pride in their intentional deafness. Others just have never heard the story. Still others are only concerned about their own little story believing that that is all that matters …. until tough things happen, grief and loss visit or tragedy strikes..then the search is on for the bigger story to try and make sense of what has happened and why.

I think those 40 people at Hope Lutheran Church in Geraldton WA gave me a story to be part of. They in their ordinary and faithful way gave me The Story to which I belong. I became one of the “All Saints” then and there and here and now.

All Saints day is all about belonging to this mysterious and yet very human story of God’s people. All Saints Day is celebrating the actual living out of and the speaking of that little line in the 3rd part of the Creed, I believe in…. the ‘communion of saints”. Luther suggests it should be translated “community of saints or “community of holy people”.

What’s your story? I wonder whether you have ever felt what is like to have no story bigger than yourself to belong to and share? I wonder whether you have ever felt cut off from community; cut off from a bigger story – alone in the world with nothing much to say and no particular place to head?

All Saints Day is for you. It is an invitation into God’s domain, God’s community – visible, and on the journey with you; invisible but heard with the ear and received by trusting his Word for your life here.

If on the other hand you have deep roots, big family and big story to enjoy and tell, then All Saints Day is a day of praise to the Lord for all of it. All Saints Day is a day to thank God for dear old Mrs Kowald, faithful pastor Schmidt, imperfect mum and dad, boring Mrs Smith who was the Christian lady who taught you in grade 3….

Thank God that you have his Story intertwined with yours and that you can hand over those you love to a gracious God who he is the One making this story happen all the time.

By God’s design, we all belong to our story here; whether you have been here 5 minutes or 50 years.  You belong to the story of God creating, Jesus saving, the Holy Spirit gathering, lighting up our minds and making us holy; the story of those who have died for faith in Jesus – the martyrs, the story of the  pastors, theologians, preachers, doers of God’s grace in God’s world.

How will we include each other and the many strangers into The Story? How will we welcome people you know into the greatest story ever known or told – the story of God loving, seeking, caring for, providing for, gathering people together in love?

Friends we have been given a massive gift – a life-long story in which to live and work and relate and be ourselves.

With the story goes the telling of the story. We are called to tell His story and ours often and let the Lord of the gathering of holy people do his work.

We remember those who are now living the story of the resurrected life ad we thank Jesus for giving us this big story to live in and die in and live in and die in and live in and die in and live in.

Live God’s story as you love him and tell it. As you do…

“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power”. (Ephesians 1:17-21)

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What’s your story? Take a moment to think about your life’s story in very broad brush strokes. When every one has had a few minutes to think about this, share your story (very briefly in very general terms!)

Reflect on God’s story in your story. Where is God, the gospel of Jesus and the church in your whole life’s story? Very present, or only later or only in your early years or all of your years?

What has All Saints Day meant to you in your church experience?

Have some fun by trying to outline God’s BIG story in the bible in the very broadest of terms in order. So start with Creation and Fall and then go from there – again only in the very largest chunks or very important events in the biblical story. It will surprise you because you know more than you think – especially when you pool your biblical knowledge. (Spend no more that 10 minutes on this!)

How has belonging to God’s big story of salvation in Jesus helped you in living our own life – particularly when you have experienced loss or tragedy?

Read Ephesians 1:11-23 (particularly verses 17-23) noting the actions of God in the text. What has God already done? Who did he do all this for? Where does all the fullness of God’s presence in the world dwell?

Have you met a “storyless” person – someone who just has very little to tell about their life, very little connection to anyone else or their local community; people who spend most of their time alone and fully occupied with their own needs and concerns?  How would you help that person find God’s big story of forgiveness and belonging in Jesus?

 PRAY Ephesians 1:17-19 together and for each other.

BLESSING:

You end by speaking this blessing to each other in pairs – each person speaking it to the other in their pair.

“Child of God (person’s name),Jesus give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him and his story”  

Lavished

Sermon, All Saints, 11th November 2012.

Remembrance Day and Memorial Rite, St Petri

 Lavished

1John 3:1-3

 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

I remember being in absolute awe of all the saints as a kid. When we little grade ones and twos at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic primary school in extreme NE of the WA Wheat belt (about 450km’s NE of Perth) went into the big (it seemed big then!) dark dome- topped church next to the school in the town of Mullewa (population – about 1200) for Mass I could feel the eyes of the saints looking at me in those statues and icons – and I was worried!

I felt a great distance between me and the saints. They were holy and eternal and I was not. They were wise and great achievers – obviously – to be named “saint”! I was not those things in my opinion.

Monsignor O’Brien, a great old priest, led Mass in full vestments and he and the other priests lived in the cloisters attached to the church and that was mysterious too. What did they eat? “What did they do? They probably prayed all day and tried to get close to God….” They were on their way to being a “saint”, I thought. I wasn’t on my way to sainthood. Maybe I was on my way the other way!

So, for me, and I suspect for most people these days, especially those not too connected to a church, the saints were “other people”, dead people, but people that really had “made it” in religion. They had not sinned – not much at least – not as much as us!

In their life-time, they were obviously really close to God. As a result they had done amazing things – including miracles. And this just proved that they were the very “special people” way beyond the average Joe and Josephine. I reckon I felt that there was no way that I could ever be a saint. I reckon most average Australians would feel the same – and many would not even bother to care about saints and all of that stuff.

But I then, like lots of people now didn’t mind not being a saint. Especially if it mean i had to pray all day and not eat a Rump steak or drink a red wine! I liked my family and our house, and school and if I couldn’t be one of God’s very special people, then I would just do the best I could and hope that this would be good enough to avoid that “other place” sometimes mentioned by adults in the school…..”Hell”!

Looking back, I am amazed at how off the mark my young belief was. Looking back I also feel some disappointment at what I was taught about being a Christian as a kid. I have to say that I really did not hear that I was a saint because God had already made me one. I had no certainty of God’s approval. And as we know, when this approval is not given, it makes you either want to give up and resign yourself to the fact that you’re no good or fire up – developing a rebellious kind of stance against God and all his so called “saints”. “No thanks God. No thanks Church. I’ll live it my way and hope that’s good enough” is where you can end up when you are not sure of your status and a saint.

But on a day like today, All Saints day, I hear much more about saints and whether or not I am close enough to God and whether or not God approves of me enough to let me live beyond my grave like “all the saints”. I hear that I am a saint in God’s books. I hear that the only reason I am one of God’s “holy ones”, one his “specially called and chosen people” is because of his lavish love in making me a saint. I am not a saint because I achieved the status. I have been given the status when Ii was not holy, not good enough.

 “See what love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God; and that is exactly what we are, says the Apostle John.

“Lavished”. Not just given but “lavished” upon us. When do you “lavish” someone with self-giving friendship, care, protection, love?

• When it is your wedding anniversary.

• When it is your child’s first birthday or their 21st birthday?

• When your child is confirmed or graduated from School or uni or gets their ticket for their trade…..

• When your best friend gets very sick.

• When your friend or your partner is suffering

• When someone you highly value and love is dying…….

This is when you lavished love on another and/or are lavished love upon! This is the kind of self-sacrificing love the Creator has lavished on us by adopting us suffering, weak, idol chasing, idol making sinners into his own family and giving us his own name – “child of God”, “Holy Ones of God”, “Saints”, chosen, called, appointed, loved….

Surely one of the great longings of our time is for belonging. Surely so many people, even in the prosperous Barossa are lonely and feeling un-adopted, disconnected from their families, the church, all the other people around town that seem to be doing so much better than them. And this is not just the people we might expect – the “needy” or the “poor”, but the wealthy, the people of means – any kind of people….

We talked about this Friday night with a group of parents of our children and young people – While the pressure, temptation, overwhelming choices, high expectations in body image, academic success, earning power and etc are increasing among our young, the structures around them of extended family and ongoing relationships with adult mentors is decreasing.

Kids are feeling isolated. Parents are feeling isolated. Grandparents can feel isolated.

Jackson Browne, the great singer-songwriter of the 70’s and 80’s said it well, “There is a God-sized hole in all of us”.

Into the breach comes us – the local church – not just a community of everyday people like everyone else – but a holy community of every day holy, chosen, set a part people, lavished by God’s love and named by him as his very own people; A community with divine connection. A local community with eternal links to the heavenly – the God-like.

So, you see, now I know that the distance between those holy saints represented in statues and paintings and spoken of with great respect is not very big. Now I know, by God’s choosing and his great love for me that I am a saint.

Now I know that my baptism day was my adoption day into the great hall of saints – the long room in God’s MCG – my name is up on the mahogany boards. I have my place in the annuls of God’s community achievements – beforeIi even knew my own name he did this for me through my parents…..

 Now I know that the reason I am a saint is not because I am good, but because I am new.

 Now I know that being a saint is being good, but it is dying to sin and rising to life with Jesus everyday – and that is new enough.

His love is enough. As we sometimes sing, “His grace is enough for me” or ‘Amazing Grace that saved a wretch like me”.

Break out the chisel and get to work on the statue. Pick up the paint brush and start painting! Not me, but yourself! We are lavished loves of the Lord of love – Jesus.

Even better, lets paint a picture of God as we love others in the way we have been lavishly loved. That will be a picture worth seeing one day when all the saints come marching in. We will be in the long line of joy with that old lady we heard about today too, who gave her very self into the hands of her Lord at the temple that day when Jesus was watching and approved of her for her true giving.

John was famous for many things. This letter, the great letter called the Bok of Revelation, for being one so close to Jesus and naming himself, “the one whom Jesus loved”; Quite a title to name yourself, “the one whom Jesus loved”.

But he is famous for something else…..

The story goes that in his old age (he was the only one of the twelve to see old age), he would preach in his little Mediterranean church community. He would rise slowly and shuffle his way to the little pulpit. People would be waiting with baited breath for the great loved one of Jesus t speak in long words about what he had seen and heard.

You could imagine all the “heaven seekers’ there; people wanting to touch the supernatural and experience “the third heaven”. People itching to experience the immediate and powerful presence of God and see the crystal sea and the cherubim and etc….

And the great man of heaven would get up and say, ‘Little children. Love each other”. And sit down.