Tag: change

The Spirit of Change

SermonPentecost 7th A, Sunday July 19, 2020 

St Petri 

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 

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. 

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[c] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 

 The changes are coming thick and fast, aren’t they? How are you going with this time of significant change at every level; world, nation, community, family….? 

One thing is true. We are God’s people right in the middle of all this change, and we need to respond as best as we can 

Adapting to change is always challenging. Sometimes we just want to run away. Sometimes we try to pretend nothing has changed so we can just be how we have been and do what we have been doing. Sometimes we can over-react and change too much and lose ourselves 

I know it is a lot easier to just stay with what we know. Sometimes we need to do that for our own well-being. But then there are times when we need to adapt. We have adapted quite well so far. We need to keep adapting.  

In this COVID time adapting has been easy in a way. It has been forced upon us. We just have had to change things. But adapting is harder when it is not forced- when we don’t actually have to change.  

COVID is still here and may be for some time. And yet, at least here in SA, for nowthings are lifting. It is now that our trust in God’s grace and responsiveness to his calling will be tested. Are we up for it? 

Change is hard. Change is messy. Change can make us feel like you are losing precious things and that you are all at sea. You might feel this way at the moment 

Someone said that change is hard not because of the change itself but because of what you feel you lose in the change. Change is in large part about grief, not so much change.  

Maybe we are all grieving loss of various things – easy lifestyle, freedom to do what we want when we wantability to be with whoever we want, where and when we want, connection to your fellow disciples of Jesus  

Maybe we are grieving what church used to be. Not just in this COVID time, but in this last 20 years when our culture has been changing rapidly, but in ways that are harder to see and understand or accept, than in these restricted times 

But we are here now. We believe we need to adapt to the changes that are upon us as a church. We believe we need to honour what we all have learnt these last months 

Strange, isn’t it? On the one hand, it is hard to adjust to changes in precious things. On the other, there is also a hint of exhilaration that the Lord is moving us into his precious plans in his future for us here.  

So, whether your quietly disturbed by all this or quietly exhilarated by this moment, why change? Why adapt? Why take this harder road? 

Well, if I hear anything in this word of Paul’s it is that we people of Christ’s kingdom adapt and change for the sake of him, and for the ones he has sent us to love. That is why we accept the challenges and adapt – for the Lord and those to whom he sends us.  

And that is the spirit of any changes we make now: in our church building and in our church communityWe change things in response to God changing us. We are straining to hear God; his voice, his Scriptures, his Spirit nudging us all on into his future for his world 

We are always serving, loving; always focused on people, so that they may know the love of God in Jesus and the hope he brings to life and to this world. That is why we adapt and change.  

We hear this call to adapt everywhere in this letter of Paul to the Christians in Rome.  

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law (or powers) of sin and death. (Romans 8:1) 

We ourselves have been changed – by God! We always are! 

9 You, [now] however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if [or as] indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. (Romans 8:9) 

This is THE change we have experienced – transformed from ‘flesh’ to ‘Holy Spirit’. 

What does that mean? 

Paul is describing our new freedom despite our old flesh.  

“Flesh’ here is more than just the muscle on your bones, but a spiritual power at work in you. It is your broken desires; your basic self-serving; self-interest at the expense of God and others. It is the spiritual power that drives you look after number one at the expense of all other numbers. As we hear Paul say last week,  

I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I know I should…. (Romans 7).  

My flesh is all in me that pulls me away from who I am and what I have been created to be in Jesus. 

But there is another spiritual power greater than my flesh. This power is at work in you. It is the realm or the influence or place of the Holy Spirit in you, says Paul.  

As a fleshy person baptised into Jesus and sealed with the Holy Spirit, I live in the Spirit’s gifts, because he has made it so.  

He has changed you from fleshy selffocussed, dying, prisoner to searching for love you to ‘loved, alive, free and sent to serve and love, you.  

You now live in a relationship of love and grace with the Creator of all things.  

This relationship is one that God achieved for you. You could earn it, make it, do, it or find it on your own. God created it, earnt it, did it, found you and gifted you himself in his Son 

We are in God’s last will and testament. He has written us into his family will in a blood signature. We have a sure inheritance that cannot rust or fade. We are ‘Co-heirs with Jesus’, says Paul, no matter what changes and challenges come 

No, we no longer live under that spiritual power called ‘flesh’. We dont have to cave in or bow down to things of merely physical need or pleasure or desire.  

We now live in another place, another power, another kingdom’s rule – the Spirit; the Holy Spirit’s holy will, powerful word and divine calling 

Friends, can you see why I as pastor and we as leaders and fellow servants want to go accept the challenge of change and adapt? 

It is the harder road. Can you see why we take it though? Can you see why we want to spend time talking, listening, praying, asking and doing to adapt well to these changing times 

Can you see why we willingly go into the topsy turvy waters of change when it would be easier to just keep paddling along quietly and safely? 

It is because we want to live with our heavenly Father and love the Saviour Son.  

It is what living in the new realm; the new relationship; the greater power of God’s Spirit produces in us and you.  

We want to follow the Spirit’s lead in the Saviour’s love more than we want to keep things the same.   

Why? Because, as Paul says here, 

….we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:23-24) 

In this hope we are safe for this change and any change. Change changes but hope stay unchanged.  

Change is upon us. Let’s not run. Let’s not pretend. Let’s not dismiss. Let’s not search for safety in anyone more than Jesus and his presence and promises 

Let’s live in the Spirit, not the flesh.  

Let’s listen, pray, speak, and do – together 

Friends, I truly “…consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.(Romans 8:18) 

This is Spirit of change that does not change.  

Holy Spirit, reveal the glory of the Father’s grace in this place through us in these changing times. Amen.  

Which Way?

Sermon, Palm Sunday

Sunday April 1, 2012.

John 12:12-16

Which way?

12:12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.
12:13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord– the King of Israel!”
12:14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
12:15 “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him.

There are definitely two distinct ways of approaching life on display for us to ponder on this Palm Sunday. The way of Jesus and the way of those around him, including his own followers. These ways are in direct collision as this unlikely, and yet much wanted new king strides into the holy city of David with huge commotion.

You can imagine the frenetic chit chat Only 6 days prior Jesus raised his good friend Lazarus from a four day tomb! And now, with a packed city, rife rumours, a city on the verge of its biggest time of year, their Vintage Festival – the Passover, comes this Rabbi from the north. He comes into the city from the East, over the Mount of Olives, down into the Kidron Valley, and back up into the Eastern Gate. This is all according to the ancient script. This is how it is meant to look and feel. This is Messiah stuff. This is the exact route of the Messiah and this Rabbi, who seems to have the power of life and death in his hands is doing what Messiah’s should do.

Of course the people throw down their jumpers and t-shirts on the ground, along with the branches they have already got for the Passover rituals. Of course they shout out those words of welcome to a king. “Hosanna!” God save us! Hail, O king – David’s son – Messiah”!

Sounds good for people living under military and religious oppression and fear. They are copping it from the Romans who rule with an iron fist and from the law makers who cover life in a shroud of guilt and unworthiness and endless rule keeping to appease God. This is the end of all that fear and control on both counts, they think.

Sounds good – not just for them but for us modern day members of the Christian Church who feel similar things they did. Our country is not getting more Roman, it is getting more non-Christian, more secularised, less sacred. The Christian Faith and all of its major teachings and central values and relationship expectations are less respected, listened to or at the very least, heard clearly.

Our nation and our church are aging.  We are having a hard time stemming the loss of the young and we are worried. It would be good to have a Messiah who would come in and turn the tables back in our favour – just make them all come to church, make them all believe the way we do and love the thing we love about being Christians and being St Petri.

We want him to fix things. They wanted him to fix things. His way of fixing things is different than we want or expect. He “fixes things” by calling us to follow and join him in his mission, not to make everything OK according to us!

John speaks an ominous word that betrays Jesus’ different way of fixing things, as he shares this happy scene with us.

‘“So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

The Pharisees are in a bind. If they take a heavy handed approach to this threat to their control over people and take him out, they would then be on the receiving end of more than just a few boos from people a little more steamed up than disgruntled football fans.  They would be dodging rocks and fire bombs – not unlike what we are seeing in Syria and Palestine.

Before we modern day Christians join the booing and stone throwing at these Pharisees, we might examine our own response to Jesus call and the change he brings. The Pharisees were not “unchurched”! They were lovers of their people, the culture, their heritage and they gave their lives to the betterment of the nation under God. They were trying to fix things!

But with a great belief and shared mission to fix things can come the love of self; self-importance and very narrow, self-orientated vision – not to mention a heavy hand that creates fear and oppressive control.

Could it be so with us? We like our life. We are familiar with it. We love our church. We are familiar with it. When Jesus comes along and says, hear me and follow me wherever I lead, we might struggle because this will mean giving up control to him and others at times.

When Jesus comes and says to us who have so much, give away things and time to those who don’t deserve it, we buck.

When Jesus says, “talk to me”, we say, I have not got time, or I don’t what to say or……

When Jesus says that this Church is his and that he is the Cornerstone of his people, not us, and that he is the head of the Church and shows us that things need to change for the sake of his purposes and plans, we might say, no way. “This is how the church is to be and over my dead body will anyone tell me otherwise”.

Friends, this Rabbi on the donkey who was welcomed by the crowd desperately wanting him to fix up their “church” and their lives is the same one they killed for disappointing them. From “Hosanna” to “Crucify him”, was their cry. It is ours too.

Has God disappointed you? Hasn’t Christianity worked for you? Has the church let you down? Has St Petri let you down? Has a Pastor got too heavy handed or not decisive enough?

With our disappointments, our fears for the future of the church and our future in it, with or impatience and even unwillingness to let the Call of Christ have its way in how we live; let’s go to Golgotha now. That’s the Jesus way. Let’s lay down the palms and be glad he entered our city. Let’s acknowledge that we did some chanting and some booing, some welcoming of his call into our listening hearts and some shutting the gate on his call for changes within our very souls and still go to Golgotha with him anyway.

His way looks ugly but it is glorious. It looks weak but it is cosmic level power of God. It looks fearful but it is complete freedom from having to be masters of the church, masters of our own lives – he is. In his Way of undeserved kindness and vision, he is calling us to let go of what we hold dear and let him live his Way in us. Change will happen – he will change us to be like him and being like him is the best we can be. No manipulation, gossip, control, pay back here – just this divine man offering us everything good and calling us to go his Way of fixing things – us serving and loving together in his name and under his time-line and in his vision of us – the holy, chosen, loved people of God in mission in this place.

He is fixing us and his world by calling us into his mission to love, to serve, to live by faith, not by sight – to trust his way, not ours. This is the different Jesus’ way of fixing his church, his people and his world.

So, which way we will we go in life? More control; more fear; more worry; more talk about the gloomy future of the church, or will we go Jesus’ way – from the palms to the cross and the empty tomb – with him

Let’s go Jesus’ way here at St Petri. Let’s leave the palms and head to Golgotha this week and so, be transformed into Lazarus again next Sunday –  walking, living, breathing bearers of the glorious cross in this city.