Tag: Vicar Shaun Manning

Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd Sunday – May 12th

Vicar Shaun Manning 

John 10:22-30

Here at the feast of Dedication, the Jewish people have come to celebrate the successful triumph over the Syrians where they drove them out of the Temple they had profaned. A king of the surrounding empire had invaded, forced Greek culture on the Holy Land and even erected statues to Greek gods in the Temple.

In the midst of all this, winter is among them and probably the reason why Jesus is walking in the portico of Solomon for it was an enclosed area of the Temple. But the Jews who are gathering around Jesus here are about to be hit with something more than the winter breeze. They are about to be hit with truth that cannot be hidden from, a truth that they cannot be protected from by a portico or any other form of protection.

This is the truth, that they are not a part of Jesus’ sheep-fold. Well what’s the big deal? Isn’t this just some first century rebellious Jew? Isn’t he just some good man that taught and exemplified love?
Who then cares if one is a follower of him or not, as long as you just respect his message to stick it up to authorities and love people that’s all that really matters …  ?
Well this would be true if He didn’t claim to be divine … It wouldn’t matter that you didn’t believe in Him, don’t belong to Him, don’t listen to Him and are not within His safe and secure hands, if He wasn’t God.

So we have two alternatives when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth … it’s either that he is a mad-man who fooled everyone and Christianity is the biggest hoax or it is the best news because Jesus is who He says He is, the Christ, the Chosen One of God, the One who holds death and life in His hands, the Good Shepherd.

So let’s have a look at how this all unfolds…

22 It was the feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

They encircle or gather around Jesus.
The original text here seems to insinuate not just a desperate request but perhaps even something more sinister. The literal translation of this would read “until or for how long will you hold our life or take away our life?” Jesus not only has the power to lay down His own life and pick it up but also has the power to hold our life and even take it away. Jesus lays down His life for His sheep, for those who hear His voice but he also brings judgment on those do not believe and reject Him. Jesus interprets their rejection as a sign that they do not belong to His sheep-fold, as ones who the Father has not granted (drawn by the Father) and put in the Son’s hand.

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.

When did Jesus say this? He told them in the opening parts of this chapter; 10: 1-21.

In comparison to their disbelief, Jesus now goes on to state who He sheep are …

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;

Shepherds in the time of Jesus used very different methods than we use for sheep farming today. No four wheelers to round them up, of course ― they simply led them out of their enclosures or brought them back in by calling them. The sheep would become familiar with their shepherd’s voice and follow them.

My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me … fair enough He may be speaking about Peter, John and James etc. who are following Him … but no … He takes it a step further and turns up the heat…

28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.

Okay, now it’s starting to escalate … now He’s claiming to not just have followers but the key to heaven and eternity … but wait there’s more …

29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

But what is so significant about what Jesus says, is that he applies it to people in the context of faith ― something that has already been done in Ezekiel 34 where God brings judgment on the religious leaders of Israel for failing to care for his people and He promises his people that he will care for them:

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’” (Ezekiel 34 vv11-12, 31).

And what does Jesus say to the Jews in our text? “You do not believe because you are not of my sheep.” The connection Jesus makes to Ezekiel 34 would be inescapable to the Jewish religious leaders. Jesus is claiming to be the God who speaks in Ezekiel 34! The Jewish leaders would have been fuming!

And even though they would not have missed the connection, Jesus takes it a step further ― after all they did ask for a plain answer! He says in verse 30: “I and the Father are one”. Jesus has existed for all eternity, just like his Father. Jesus has the same divine nature as his Father. Jesus is true God, just like his Father.

This is exactly what Jesus means, for in the very next verse after today’s text, John tells us that again the Jews picked up stones to stone him ― stoning by death was the penalty the Old Testament prescribed for blasphemy. They think Jesus is guilty of blasphemy ― making fun of God ― by claiming to be God. To them, Jesus is just a “crazy man” in the Temple but really He is God Incarnate, God in the flesh.

Just as quick as children fill up their buckets with pebbles at the beach they have not recognised the voice of God, so they pick up stones to haul at him ― that the one who spoke these words in Ezekiel 34 is speaking to them right there in Solomon’s Colonnade.

If they were His sheep they would’ve recognised His voice and believed but instead they gather rocks to stone Him for blasphemy.

Jesus is saying that He and the Father are one. In other words the ‘temple’ in which God dwells is now standing in front of them, Jesus is the Christ.

He holds your life in His hands my brothers and sisters. The safest hands there are.

My question to you today  is … how well do you know this Good Shepherd?

Do you hear His voice and follow Him?

If you look around this place, your brothers and sisters in the pew next to you, the amount we know the Lord may vary. Some very much and some very little. And as important as getting to know the Lord Jesus is, to know who He is as your Good Shepherd; it is not half as important as the fact that He knows you.

The real key here is that He knows you!!

The Lord cares enough to know you.

Our knowing of Him may vary in this place and even be inconsistent in our own lives. But one thing is consistent, that is He knows you as much as He knows your brother and sister in the pew next to you. Very intimately.

“my sheep hear my voice…” – that is they hear and listen to Him speak. So you are a sheep if you’ve heard Him. His Word, Baptism, HC, Absolution…

“…I know them…” you are known by Him if you are His sheep, He knows you intimately. He knows your failures and tendencies to go astray and yet calls you, gathers you and embraces you.

“… they follow me…” we follow Him not to become His sheep not to remain as His sheep but because we are His sheep. Having our life in His hands, He sustains us our Good Shepherd by…

David once broke a lambs leg to keep it from wondering off… I’m pretty sure that isn’t a biblical quote, however, just as the Father disciplines children and those that He loves… and Jesus and the Father are one… and Jesus is our Good Shepherd, so it may not be stretching it too much to say that the Lord Jesus does have an intimate relationship with His sheep that incorporates loving fatherly discipline. (Heb 12:9-11).

Friends, may we not be like those who are not apart of the Lord Jesus’ sheep by not hearing His voice, by not recognising our need to be known by the Lord, not following Him.

Luther at the end of his life uttered … “we are beggars, this is true”.

After all his discovery and re-discovery of God’s character in light of the Gospel, many theological writings and hundreds of sermon and pastoring of people. He concludes it all with those words. Beggars aren’t too different to sheep, fairly silly in constant need of tending to and feeding.

That’s me and you. And it’s who we would stay without the Good Shepherd knowing and taking care of us.

Friends, you have heard His voice today.

You have heard His voice because He has gathered you into His sheep-fold again to be tended to and fed. Through His word and words being spoken this day.

So wherever you’re at this day… feeling disciplined, feeling like a lost sheep in need of rescuing once again.

He has you friends, and always has. And your presence here this morning testifies to the fact that He still has you in His safe hands.

Despite our rebellion, our straying, and even our discipline, no one snatches us from His hand. And He grabbed and claimed you at your Baptism and has never looked back since…

This is not a crazy man who says all these things, this is the Lord, so let’s not treat Him and His words as if He is. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep.

Despite how much or how little we know the Lord.

The Good News is that He knows you, you are known to Him.

Our trouble is catching up this side of eternity …

We get glimpses but still struggle to see who He really is, what He has done and who we are as a result.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Amen

 

Breakfast with the Risen Lord

Easter 3 – May 5th
John 21: 1-19
Vicar Shaun Manning

21 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the
Sea of Tibe′ri-as; and he revealed himself in this way. 3 Simon Peter
said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go
with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.

As I mentioned the other week, when we read the Gospel narratives it is always important to know who Jesus is speaking to, so we can better understand what He is saying.

Jesus doesn’t speak to all people the same way.

He doesn’t speak to the crowds the same way He speaks to His disciples, neither does He speak to His disciples the same way He speaks to certain individuals.

And I don’t believe this is by mere coincidence.

The Great Commission to baptise and teach, is not given to the crowds but to His chosen eleven. Likewise with the keys of the kingdom, that is the authority to forgive sins, He doesn’t give this authority to His followers in the crowd but to His close disciples and also here, He commissions Peter to tend and feed His sheep, not just any random person He interacted with. And He does so by premising that “if you love me”… then tend, feed and look after My flock. This could mean that loving Him cannot be separated from the calling He is giving them.

Does this mean that the crowds and Jesus’ followers have no role in tending and feeding the sheep, since they are just a part of the flock? Of course not.

I remember a few years before my Nan died, she had a health scare in which she thought she would probably die. She spent moments with us a group, as a family and then she asked to speak to a few of us on our own and I was one of them.

Me being around 16 at the time, Nan had witnessed me date or at least speak about a handful of girls that I was interested in, you know high school relationships some last like weeks or even days sometimes. So Nan, having a few moments alone with me, reassured me of her love for me etc. but then hit me with me “I want you to settle down and be with just one girl… please”.

This was her dying and departing wish.

And this is Jesus’ departing wish, to tend and feed His flock.

Her saying this to me didn’t mean that it doesn’t extrapolate out to the other members of my family but this was specifically intended for me, first and foremost.

Likewise with Scripture as a whole but especially when Jesus speaks. We have to know who He is speaking to, to find out what He is actually saying.

He tells one man to sell all He has and give to the poor… how many of us take that literally for us and our context. The church, other than certain monks throughout history, have taken this to be applicable to them.

This is not the blueprint for Christian giving but was specific to that man and His idolatry.

So today, I believe that Jesus is speaking to His disciples which He was going to put in charge to oversee the tending and feeding of the flock, in His stead. But of course, like with my family, the principle being conveyed is not irrelevant to the rest of the flock. My Nan also wouldn’t want her other children and grandchildren living frivolously.

Our text today is all about Revelation.

And what is that the Lord Jesus is revealing about Himself this time?
Well primarily that He is Risen.

  • He is their intimate authority. (4-8)… He is their Good Shepherd (15-17)
  • And so calls Peter and the others to do the same (18-19).

Nothing on their own… (literally and symbolically), they need the Lord.

It calls to mind the vine and the branches, for without Him, Jesus, we can do nothing.
Why do they and we need the Lord?

Because the answer to that question is the same answer of why you have Him.
Someone has preached Him to you. Someone has administered Him to you by baptising you, by giving you Holy Communion.

Someone has taught you His Word and witnessed Him to you, encouraged you or even dragged you along to the places where His people gather.

My point is that we have Him because He gave Himself up for you and to you. He did through His life, death and Resurrection, of course. But then He gave Himself to you through His Church and through His shepherds.

His shepherds have been called to bring, not themselves and their teaching but Christ, the true and Good Shepherd, and His teaching.

And so the reason why any of us have Him is because we were given Him, through His shepherds and through His Church.

Here, the Risen Lord Jesus calls the initial ones to tend and care for His sheep in His stead, so that even we 2000 years after the Resurrection and thousands of miles away from the Sea they gathered, can partake in Him and all that He has won.

The day was breaking when the Risen Lord appeared to His disciples on Easter Sunday, now also the day is breaking as He reveals Himself by sea here.

He calls out to them as His ‘children’? A word which calls to mind a ‘calf’, or a young lamb of His. For He is their intimate authority, their Good Shepherd.

Typical Jesus, asking questions He already knows the answer to. “Children, have you any fish?”
Annoying as it is… He is again, calling to reflection of their state and need for Him, then providing for and comforting them.

Similar to that in St Luke’s Gospel… where Jesus tells them to cast their nets again… “we have toiled all night but at your word, I will let down the nets”… a miraculous catch happens and Peter says “depart from me, I am a sinful man”.
Now at the end of His ministry He is calling them to cast their nets again, a reminder for they will be catching people in His people in His departure. They will do so by tending and feeding the sheep, His sheep.

Beloved Disciple and Peter are the ones to respond, as in the Resurrection account.
Peter jumps into the sea, just like he jumped into the tomb to find it empty.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore… 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.

He feed the crowds, now it’s time to have breakfast with the disciples before His ascension for they are to continue this mission. This mission of tending and feeding the Lord’s sheep, standing in the place of the Good Shepherd.

Does it get more human than “come and have brekky”?… “It is the Lord” do we understand how profound this is? This is God, the creator of the universe, taken on human flesh sitting on the beach with a fire, waiting for and then calling His disciples to come have brekky with Him.

This is who your God is! This is the God we have… it is so different to the God people think we have. Ones that don’t know Him, ones that He hasn’t revealed Himself to. Even One that we don’t expect.

This calls to mind that which so outraged the Pharisees: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” Yes—he does! It’s true! These disciples are not especially worthy of Jesus’ presence, fellowship and favour. They haven’t done anything to deserve it. They haven’t lived perfectly holy lives. They don’t have exceptional faith. Remember they rebuked Jesus for welcoming little children. Now they are called children by Jesus.

They sought to correct what Jesus meant when he had spoken of his coming death, trusting in their own wisdom instead of his words—“surely Lord, this will never happen to you!” They selfishly squabbled about who should be considered the greatest. They couldn’t stay awake and keep watch and pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. They’re actually just like us. And Peter even denied who Jesus was, not just once, but three times.

Peter is about to reinstated by the reversal of his three-fold denial. Again it is by a charcoal fire, as it was that night of Jesus’ arrest.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

From the seven disciples present this day, He pulls Peter aside and speaks with him. Perhaps re-emphasising Peter’s leadership as well as to reinstate and reverse his denial.
Compare this integration to Confession/Absolution questions.
” … do you love me?”

Love integration:
“Feed my lambs”
“Tend my sheep”
“Feed my sheep”

Peter is not the Shepherd but has been called to stand in His place, to tend and feed the true Shepherd’s sheep. How so? What does feeding and tending look like? (1 Peter 2:18-25).

Pastors & Priests for centuries have been called to stand in the Shepherd’s place to be a shepherd to God’s people by feeding and tending them. It might seem like they are drumming on about the same things all the time, but that is what they are called to. Because we are all like sheep who have gone astray and keep going astray. Hence we have to be constantly called by the Good Shepherd, by His Gospel, through the shepherds He has appointed and called to do so.

This is a life and calling that is intended to a laying down of their lives for the sake of the sheep. (v18-19) He lets Peter know of the type of death he was going to experience as a result of this calling.

19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Just before today’s text Jesus had said to His apostles: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23). At the end of Matthew’s Gospel He had told them to make disciples of all nations by baptising and teaching everything He had commanded them. What Jesus is speaking of in today’s text is not a literal feeding of the poor. He is speaking to Peter, an apostle to whom He had commissioned and given the authority to publicly forgive and retain sins in His stead.

The Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is so concerned about you that after laying down His own life for you He appeared to his apostles and charged them to feed His sheep with His teaching, which is really just Him. He and His word cannot be separated, He and His gifts cannot be separated.

This has been handed on to you―through which the Lord Jesus himself declares to you that your sins are forgiven and that you are His lamb which He has bought with His shed blood.

Our text from the book of Revelation said that:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12), who by His cross has conquered sin and death. With His blood, He has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

This same Lord Jesus visits people of all nations and calls them to Himself by the Gospel, even as He “was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:14).

And so this started here in the Holy Land, and now has made its way to the Barossa. And this is not by any accident. It has been the result of hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries of tending the flock and feeding the sheep.

Shepherds of His Word and Sacraments have been supported by the sheep to enable them to preach, teach and administer. But this does not mean that the those of us who don’t have leadership in the church have no place for God’s mission, of course not.

We all have our role in Shepherd’s work. Pastors, shepherds of the flock, can’t be at all of our work places, family’s houses, friends birthdays and the like to try and exemplify the faith to them all. But he is called to tend and feed you as part of his flock. He is called to love the Lord by loving and caring for you. He is called to equip you as sheep so that other sheep may see you and your relationship with the Shepherd and their need for Him too.

So I encourage this day to think about those who have left the sheep-fold. Those who have taken for granted their status as a sheep of the Shepherd. Those who have forgotten their Shepherd and traded Him in for something else.

So we come to be fed and tended to, so we can witness to why we need to be and why they, whoever they may be, need to be also constantly feed and tended to by the Lord also.

The more you realize who you are the Lord’s sheep and who He is as your Shepherd, the more you know what a sheep of the Shepherd look, smell and talk like.
Just like sheep, we cannot grow old of being tended to and feed.
Be tended to and fed this day.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Amen

Harvest Thanksgiving

28th April 2019, St Petri.
Vicar Shaun Manning

Harvest Thanksgiving – John 6:25-35

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let this food to us
be blessed.”
I want us to think about what we mean when we say
this…
Reason being is that it can be easily misunderstood.

What do we mean when we are inviting the Lord to
come and be with us in this meal?
Come for a meal we have prepared for you to join?

This understanding alone would be similar to saying to our car manufacturer to come for a drive with us, when they are the ones responsible for the car.

Or even more so a child saying to His mum and dad, come and join me for a meal which they have purchased, prepared and provided.

Hang on a second, am I your guest or are you mine?

Are you the provider of this meal or am I?

There is nothing wrong with saying this prayer of grace but I am just challenging us to think about what it means.

Don’t get me wrong I think this prayer assumes the fact the Lord does give, has given and continues to give everything we have but there is no harm is rehashing this from time to time.
He is not the Lord just because we recognise Him to be, He is regardless if we recognise it or not.
It doesn’t change Him or His reality when we recognise Him as Lord, but it definitely changes ours.

It is a prayer that calls upon the Lord to be present our table, in our family as we give thanks to you for all you have provided for us.

The Catechism’s pre-meal grace touches on this more succinctly.
Do you know it? We started with it at the beginning of our service today.
“Bless us and these thy gifts which we receive from your bountiful goodness.”
Giving is good but we/you are not the Lord. We are used by the Lord so let us never forget all that we have comes from Him.

By saying… “Come Lord Jesus” we may be treating Him as some addition…
The Lord isn’t some addition to your life but is your life, sustains your life and has granted you eternal life.

We are called to use these gifts for Him and His kingdom … not to simply fill stomachs and make money.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”

Seeking… what does it mean to seek the Lord Jesus, and can we do it and do we?

And if we can, what is our motivation for seeking the Lord?

The Lord can truly search the heart and know our motivations.

And here He sees that their motivation is not to see Him as Lord but as provider, a somewhat divine bellboy who we give us what we want and need.

Do some of us do this? Most definitely. Our motivations are almost always flawed, we very much prone to think of human concerns of our stomach, bank accounts, sexual desires and social pleasures than we are the things of God and His kingdom.

We also have a habit of deciphering who is genuine in their seeking of the Lord or not.
This is not in and of itself but it is if we think we are infallible in our labelling of who is genuine and who is not in Worship especially.

Jesus knew this about the crowds but didn’t turn them away. He also knows this about us but doesn’t turn us away. Rather He looks to remind us of our tendency to strive after what is temporary rather than what is eternal.

What does it mean to ‘labour’ for that which endures to eternal life in comparison to food that perishes. (Stomach vs is God’s Word “man shall not live on bread alone”. “do not worry about what you will eat…” “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth but rather…”)
Jesus says that the Heavenly Father knows that you need such things, He knows that you need company, need your stomach full but seek first His kingdom, Jesus says, and all these things will be added.

Trinitarian aspect: Christ has been sealed by the Father so what Christ gives is divine and endures to eternal life. Examples?…

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
They’re looking for a ‘work’ to do and so Jesus gives them a work of God, which is just that a work of God… God works faith, so that we are able to believe in the One He has sent.

God commands faith, provides a faithful One and also works faith in us, as a gift.
Just as He commands prayer, provides a prayer and prays with us in Christ, by His Spirit.

‘Signs’… big in John’s Gospel. He had already performed a sign at Cana as well as His dealings with them til this point. However they still request something to show them why they should believe. This is a prime example of why they need a faithful One and one to work faith. Their own faith is fleeting and inconsistent even though they had already seen and heard Him do miraculous works already. Much like the Israelites, with Moses and others, still complained and lacked faith despite the waters parting in the Red Sea for them.

God imparts the waters of Baptism but that is still not enough for us.

Offers His body and blood but we are still ungrateful and look to do things for Him rather than receive from Him.

The crowds wanted to know how to do the works of God and Jesus gives them a long list of things to do on the synagogue roster… no… He calls them to believe more in Him, recognise Him as the Divine Lord, provider and call them away from confidence in-self, which comes from a sinful attitude of self-sufficiency.

You want something to do? Believe more deeply in the Lord, the Lord of your life who has granted you life with at the font. Grow in reliance and trust in the Lord of your Baptism, discover and re-discover what He has done for you in your Baptism and what it means for you now and eternally. Kneel at the altar, receive His forgiveness and the power it gives to live out your life as a child of His in your vocation.

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

Not only is this periscope reminiscent of the Israelites but the woman at the well (John 4). As well as the whole biblical narrative in fact.

Reminds me of the woman at the well, “show me so that I may drink of it always”…
Jesus reminds them of the obvious, that God the Father was and is the true source of the manna not Moses or anyone else.

The Father has raised the stakes… not just sending bread/manna from Heaven but Bread of Life.
This bread never runs out, for it is eternal and encompasses truth. For He is eternal, He is truth and He is the Way.

“we don’t know the way…” is similar to the above statement “Lord, give us this bread always”
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”… He says to Phillip… “The One standing with you, I am He” He says to the woman at the well (John 4).

And here Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” He says here… it is me not something He will give, I am the Gift.

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”

What the Father is giving is not something to fill the stomach, load the bank accounts and comfort the body. But to give you His Son, the bread of life. This is the Son who gives life eternal because we don’t have it apart from Him. This premises that what we have apart from Him is perishable.

We should ask the Lord to be amongst us, as we eat and do anything as the epistle reminded us. But the true and divine invitation is “Come to me” (show pic of trinity with mirror).
“Come and dine with us”.

This what we get when we consume the bread of life in faith.

This is what occurs in Holy Communion… we are invited to dine with the divine and consume the bread of life literally. Jesus later in this chapter goes on to say that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood have eternal life and He will raise them up on the Last day.

This is why God Almighty, invites us for the sake of His Son, the One who has made us worthy to dine with them.

We invited to this divine meal so that we can witness to this Divine love to others by hosting others as Christ hosts us here.

By having strangers in your home, serving and feeding them is partaking in what God in Christ has done and does for you. Strangers to God but now made dear children of the Heavenly Father by Christ sharing His inheritance with us.

A famous Christian once reflected on his faith, exclaiming “I’m just a beggar, who founds living bread.” You and I can now be beggars, who tell other beggars where to find bread, the living bread of life who satisfies all hunger of the human soul.

When we have fellow beggars who are strangers in our home or life, it starts to challenge what we think of our time, our possessions and the fruits of our labour. Is it for us to live on and be comfy or is to be in service to God and neighbour??

Think about it for a moment… using up petrol, money or time on some random in comparison to your wife, kids or family members.
Of course we are suppose to prioritise our vocations as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives etc. But is that it? Is that our only call?

We also have a call to love our enemy: If you love those who love you back, what gain is that?
Welcome the stranger: Jesus’ quote about banquets… Luke 14

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

My goodness me, that is challenging…

Hebrews 13 about welcoming the stranger.

13 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

May God grant us the wisdom and awareness our who is the true source of our belongings, gifts, time and resources so that we are better able to give Him thanks for all we have and use them for His kingdom and His mission.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus, the bread of life. Amen

Good Friday

Good Friday – April 19th    So that we may dwell in the Father’s Place

Vicar Shaun Manning

John 19:17-30

17 So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Gol′gotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 

God who creates, gives life and is life, is now being lead to a place which represents death and where he will suffer death. The One who built with wood and nails as a carpenter’s son, was about to be crucified with these same tools – wood and nails.

It is of comfort when we know someone who has experienced sufferings as we have. If a sinful human being and their experience can bring us comfort, what about the Divine? In Christ, the God of the universe has experienced human devastation and the tragedy of the fallen world we live in.

What did He do to be crucified? What crime did He commit to suffer such a death?
If he was guilty of anything it was unfathomable love. Love that fulfilled the Lord’s promises of old and becoming sin, experiencing death and despair. Despair that led him to feel abandoned by His Heavenly Father.

It is easy to read this account and forget that the man who is bearing this cross and is crucified with criminals is the Divine Son of God.

Jesus is in the centre of the three, and symbolically this makes sense, for His death is the most significant death of all time. Having a mocking sinner on one side and a repentant one on the other.

19 Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews then said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Did Pilate know and believe Jesus’ claim? We can’t be exactly sure but it does appear so, or at least that He was used by God to inscribe this.

It was inscribed in all spoken languages of the time and place. Perhaps symbolic to the fact that He is king to all and Lord of all.

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and made four parts, one for each soldier; also, his tunic. But the tunic was without seam, woven from top to bottom; 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfil the scripture,

“They parted my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

25 So the soldiers did this. But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag′dalene. 

26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28 After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so, they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Overview of fulfilment:
Crucified on Golgotha with inscription
In all spoken languages of the time and place. Perhaps symbolic to the fact that He is king to all and Lord of all. And through the Great Commission this would be actualized by “making disciples of all nations”.

Garments and tunic is distributed (to fulfil scripture)
Four parts. Imagine how you would feel as His mother or His friend that they in the last hour they are dividing His clothing. It’ll be like arguing over inheritance in the hospital room whilst the person is dying, but even worse it is strangers doing so.

 

Mention of all three Mary’s, and His command to mother and beloved disciple.
Fulfilling and giving commands in the midst of agony. Even in the midst of His crucifixion He is concerned for the welfare of His mother … the fourth commandment, a commandment in which I struggle with personally, was fulfilled by Christ in His earthly life where He honoured His earthly parents as well as His Heavenly Father … He was also concerned for His beloved disciple. Fulfilling another commandment which He gave in His earthly to love the Lord your God with everything and your neighbour as yourself …  even the night before, love another as I have loved you.

“Mother behold your son”… Some have interpreted this as calling His mother to take care of all disciples for Mary would’ve played a motherly role to the early disciples (think of Luke’s Gospel).

 

And finally …
“I thirst” (to fulfil scripture), vinegar (also scripture Psalm 69:21); “it is finished” and bows His head and gives up His spirit.

Fulfilling Scripture? Commitment to His promises at all costs.
The Lawgiver Himself is fulfilling the Law and all the prophets. “I will be your God and you will be my people”. How? Through Christ … He is the One who not only is Divine but represents you to the Divine, the very mortal one sitting in the pew this morning.

The Law, Prophets and the Psalter anticipated this man … who comes because He needs to come. There is no other way to buy you back but to fulfil the promises and scripture He has given since the beginning of time.

The ramifications of “it is finished” and the salvation it has achieved spills on into your devastation and despair of life. Despair, depression, devastation, darkness and the devil’s use of such things has been entered into and crushed. Crushed by Christ’s fulfilment of Scripture. The fulfilment to bring you to a place where there will be no fears, tears or heartache. And He brought you into this life with His Father both now and for eternity by experiencing fears, tears and heartache and more.

This is who God is, this is who your Saviour is. He is a promise keeping God and nothing can stop Him from keeping them. Even death. In fact, it may even cost bloodshed for Him to fulfil His promises, and it did.

I finish with the words of a beautiful song which reflects on the Lord’s death…

O humble carpenter, down on your hands and knees, 
look on your handiwork and build a house so you may dwell in Me.

The work was done with nothing but wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands
O show me how to work and praise trusting that I am Your instrument.

O loving labourer with the sweat upon your face,
oh, build a table that I too may join you in the Father’s place
oh, in the Father’s place!

 

So may this Carpenter bring you peace this Good Friday in His death, dying the death we deserved on the wooden cross. He did this so that you may dwell in the Father’s place with Him.

May He keep your hearts and minds safe in Him this Holy weekend and evermore until you meet Him in Paradise.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lost Sons – Vicar Shaun Manning

FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT  (31 March 2019)

Isaiah 12:1–6  |  2 Corinthians 5:16–21  |  Luke 15:1–3, 11–32

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’

3 Then Jesus told them this parable:

The parable of the lost son
11 Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.

13 ‘Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 ‘When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” 20 So he got up and went to his father.

‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.

21 ‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

22 ‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

25 ‘Meanwhile, the elder son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”

28 ‘The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”

31 ‘“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”’

Christ Has been made the Prodigal Son for us to be Reconciled to the Father

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…
In chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells three famous parables. First, the parable of the Lost Sheep, second; the parable of the Lost Coin, thirdly and lastly, he tells of the parable of the prodigal son.

Many scholars and theologians don’t particularly like this title for it is not primarily about the younger son who takes his inheritance early and squanders it. But rather it is generous loving and waiting father who welcomes him back with open arms.

Let us pray…

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our be acceptable and pleasing to you O Lord, Amen.

When we look at the Gospels and we read and hear our Lord Jesus speak, it always important to ask a few basic questions… where is He speaking and to whom. Sometimes the former is important due to what He is saying might be better understood by the surrounding geography. But the latter is always important. To whom Jesus is speaking helps understand why He said what He did in the first place. And do we have in our case today…

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable…

So who is this parable directed at? The Pharisees and scribes. Why? to help them understand why He welcomes sinners and eats with them and also to help them see their flawed attitudes in all this.

The scriptures are filled with conflicts between people and one of the more common ones is not to dissimilar to our common conflicts and what are they, sibling disputes and rivalry.

This is your common “that’s not fair” dispute between children and this matures as we get older but the same attitude of inequality continues to pop it’s head up in different ways.

What  Jesus was trying to convey to the Pharisees and scribes was really just one primary point, the generous heart of God. Although this truth had ramifications for both brothers, it is the God’s unmerited, unimaginable and illogical generosity that Jesus wants them to hear.

The ramifications of it for the younger son were that it was a place back home in his father’s house after self-inflicted estrangement from it.

The ramifications it had for the older son were revealed in his inability to understand his father and his love, even though he had been there with him and obedient to him.

I wonder you’ve ever been to a foreign land, either voluntary or involuntary. Picture if you can, a place where you’ve been that is foreign, feels foreign or perhaps just made you feel uncomfortable being there. I know hospitals are a place where people typically don’t like being in and are often looking to get out of ASAP to return home to the comfort of their own bed, own clothes and own surroundings.

Now the place that this younger son went to was the extreme. The place where he had lived a life that was worse than his father’s servants. Had a diet that was also nowhere near as nutritious as they had either.  In fact he didn’t get to eat what the pigs did when he tried.

We often applaud the repentant heart this prodigal son had when he returns, but let’s think of what it actually was that sparked this reminder to go home – Hunger.  Perhaps it was hunger that turned into a contrite heart but hunger nevertheless. It is Interesting that he did not think of the sin he was committing before he got hungry. The selfishness this reveals in the heart of the younger son is devastating. And I don’t think the rest of us are much better by the way.

In fact, we were so badly rotting with the pigs, hungry, depraved and self-centered, that our Father sent Christ to come and get us. We were, and are, trapped in a foreign land, full of sin that stinks of dirty animal pens and that is where we would be if Christ didn’t come get us.

It is actually Christ who has made us worthy to be loved, embraced and kissed. Christ did not only come and get us and lift us out of the dirt and rottenness of sinful rebellion … He actually became sin. Our Father made “Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is what our epistle reading highlights for us, for this very reason.

Older brother

He/we must remember that we are only in this house for Christ’s sake, that we were the younger brother and still are at times. How would we want the Lord to treat us if and when we fall into temptation.

The Lord will bring justice and reward to everyone, but let him do that.  Do not be the dictator of how and to whom the Lord should or shouldn’t show mercy. Let us be at one with the Father’s will, heart and intent for sinners.

We are therefore called to rejoice with heaven when a sinner comes home. In fact, since we are in the Father’s house let us prepare our hearts, our homes and our churches for a place for lost sinners. As we partake in the Father’s mission, and are not hostile toward it, let us never grow out the truth and reality that we are in this house by grace. We all deserve to be still in a foreign land and would be if it weren’t for Christ.

Younger sons and daughters… come home.
For those of us here who are yearning for a return to church and Christian community of our children, grandchildren… align yourself with the Father’s heart today and wait with Him.

Elder sons and daughters… rejoice with the Father when sinners in our family or friendship circles repent. I know myself how tempting it is to say “I told you so” or something to that effect. For many years growing up, when I first came to faith, my mum was one of a group in my family who would want nothing to do with the faith and still doesn’t… When she calls to ask about God or the Scriptures, the temptation of course is to be cheeky or aggressive, “I thought God didn’t exist mum?”.

You see, our heavenly Father is nothing like this… he makes Himself vulnerable and runs out to greet the son with no questions asked.

This is the difference between us and God that this parable highlights.

When we are tempted to be the elder brother in situations and judge the younger brother, sister, family member or friend remember this…

Our Lord Jesus became the Prodigal Son for you too… The ‘prodigal son’ was off feeding pigs, Jesus was born in the place they eat from…

He went to a foreign land, didn’t squander His Father’s inheritance personally but was treated as if He did… to the point that He felt abandoned by His Father, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”.

This is what our Creed is speaking of when it says “he descended into hell”.  To be in hell is to be separated from the Father. This is why we are to call on our Lord when we feel like we’re living in hell and struggling with life… because He stepped into it Himself.

He did this so that He could take us from this foreign land, from Satan’s grip, and bring us back home. This is how the lost become found, the dead made alive… This is how God the Father sees us while we were “still a long way off,” He saw us and “felt compassion”… only through Christ. In this return He sees Christ and His righteousness, and so runs to us. This is a belonging and affirmation that only Christ has the right to. But through His incarnation, life, death and resurrection… He has incorporated us into this house filled with celebration by God’s servants and all the company of Heaven. He has taken sinful and rebellious humanity on as His own and brought us back as forgiven sons and daughters. And it is only by Christ are we able to return home to the Father’s house.

May you always keep this at the center of your heart and mind so that you may continue to know what it means to be a child in the household of the Heavenly Father, trusting and learning from Him, mimicking Him in His love and generosity to his fellow children… this is part of what the Lord Jesus is getting at when He says “love another, as I have loved you”…

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

 

O Jerusalem – Vicar Shaun Manning

Sunday 17th March St Petri Lutheran Church

Vicar Shaun Manning

Lent 2, St Petri

Luke 13: 31-35

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

 

Intro
I wonder what analogy you think of when you reflect on your relationship to the Lord? Or when you think of the Lord’s relationship to His people.

The Scriptures have several ways of expressing this, a Shepherd and His sheep, a Bridegroom and His Bride, as well as others.

Here Christ, see’s His people as His brood of chicks and He our mother hen. Jerusalem, the place where prophets and messengers of God are killed are about to put to death it’s greatest prophet. In fact, this is not just any prophet and messenger, this is God Incarnate.

Our Lord Jesus speaks to Jerusalem, a representation of His people, directly… not just as His Father’s people but also His people as He expressed His deep love and longing compassion for them.

When our Lord Jesus laments over Jerusalem, He is lamenting over His rebellious and stubborn people. Is the Church still rebellious and stubborn in need of being gathered and protected by its mother hen and Lord? I would think so.

Our Lord goes from this lament over Jerusalem to stepping into this very city to be crucified by them in order to redeem them. It is the only way in which Jerusalem could live, in fact it is the only way His people both then and now can live.

 

 

And so our text begins…

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

The motive of these Pharisee’s is unknown, were they legitimately warning Jesus so that He would avoid being killed by Herod? This is would be a turn of events for the Pharisee’s, for to this point they have often been a hindrance for Christ, through constant questioning of His ministry.

Not only is the Pharisee’s motive’s unclear from our text but also the truth of their message and warning. Did Herod really want to kill Jesus? Chapter 9 and 23 of St Luke give us evidence that Herod was more curious of Jesus and His legitimacy as the Christ than He was about His demise.

With this in mind, perhaps the Pharisee’s were trying to lure Jesus to Jerusalem, non-Herodian territory, so that could do what they pleased with Him with more freedom.

Jesus responds to this imperative to leave…

32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’

Was this really intended for Herod to hear? or was Jesus speaking to the Pharisee’s who being ‘fox’-like’ in attempt to manipulate Jesus to Jerusalem?

I think it is safe to say to that the Lord Jesus is directing his statement for both audiences. Perhaps even knowing that this message would probably never get to Herod anyhow. It is as if the Jesus here is saying that He dictates the when and how of His course, His goal, His mission. And what is this course? what is this course He is looking to ‘finish’? It is the goal of the Father, to reconcile all people to Himself through Christ, starting in Jerusalem then to the Gentiles.

Jesus says blatantly says that His reason for eventually going to Jerusalem is to perish, for prophets should not die outside of Jerusalem.

We may have heard the narrative many times but it’s worth meditating on, especially in Lent, that our Lord came to die, this was an essential part of His goal, His course, His mission. For who though? His people. Hence He speaks directly to them… listen to this again and imagine where Jesus may have been looking… He either looks to Jerusalem geographically or perhaps He even keeps dialoguing with the Pharisee’s and speaks to them and calls them Jerusalem… Just like the Lord Jesus out of compassion says “O Martha, Martha” and later confronts St Paul with “Saul, Saul” here He says similarly…

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Again I think this statement could be directed at both… For the Pharisee’s are not only advocates for Jerusalem but also a part of it. So perhaps this response is directed straight at the Pharisee’s, who are unwilling and in fact are trying to control and manipulate Christ (by killing and stoning Him through these actions now as well as covenantly throughout the OT History) rather than being His children and letting God be their mother hen.

They/We would much rather be in the line of a fox attack then safely under the care of the Father (mother hen). This is who we are without Christ, and who we were before Christ.

Hence, Christ comes into this rebellious city of Jerusalem to buy them back… to be the chick they were supposed to before their mother hen. On Christmas Eve, I preached about the example of cats. The man trying to woo in the freezing cold cats outside who will die if they didn’t find warmth. After the run away from Him, he says “I’d have to become a cat, maybe then they would listen and trust me”. Well here, in this analogy, God did become a baby chicken. The chick we were supposed to be, living under the motherly care of our Hen but always being unwilling, running away, preferring care elsewhere which then put us in the line of attack from the fox. We still are, aren’t we? Stepping constantly into dangerous territory, doing things the Hen would not want her chicks to do.

Living by the world’s standards, precepts, opinions and norms is like the modern day Herodian, those prefer to live under that fox than the Hen. We are so susceptible to these attacks from the fox, the evil one, our flesh and the world when we run away from the care of the Heavenly Father.

35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

They will say this when the Lord makes his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But not for long, they will soon after crucify Him.

God, through Christ, has stepped into Jerusalem, and also steps into your life by laying down His life for you. He then put His spirit in us so that we can say “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”. As St Paul says, “no one can Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit”. This was granted to Lily today, as it was granted to any of us who have been baptised and been adopted as God’s children. Lily has now been given the right to say, along with the rest of the Lord’s people, Jesus is Lord. So that we avoid the warning of being a house forsaken by God, under the power of the evil one, having no Saviour to wipe away our sins and make us clean before our Heavenly Father.

Our Lord is going to gather you under his wings again this morning when you come and kneel at the altar, as He has already begun doing this morning. Picture this sanctuary as His nest and other little chicklings coming to under His wing of protection, forgiveness to be comforted and then sent back out to do His will in the world.

And this truth of the Lord being the mother hen who gathers us and His peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace Plus Equals Minus Grace – Vicar Shaun Manning

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

St Petri Lutheran Church, Nuriootpa

3 Epiphany

Galatians 1: 11-24

Paul received the Gospel through a revelation of Jesus Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example #1 – God’s forgiveness vs human forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

  • Jesus’ insistence on John baptising Him

  • Jesus washing the disciples feet

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Sunday 13th January – St Petri Lutheran Church

Baptism of Jesus Sermon – Vicar Shaun ManningBaptism of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year’s Eve – Audio Message

Vicar Shaun Manning at St Petri Lutheran Church, Nuriootpa

Christmas Eve Message – Vicar Shaun Manning

Monday 24th December – Christmas Eve

St Petri Lutheran Church – Message by Vicar Shaun Manning

Luke 2:1-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nonsense,” the man always replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Amen.