The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Every time a lost soul turns to Jesus Christ with faith, I am convinced, that Jesus beams with joy as he says ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ Let’s join in a word of prayer: O God our loving Father, the Lord of our lives, today we are filled with the wonder of your presence in our worship and in our lives. We celebrate that we are never lost to you, no matter how far we feel from your presence. We give thanks for the gift of salvation received through the sacrifice of your Son. Guide our time together this morning and give us a vision of your glory that will strengthen us in our walk together through this broken world. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Amen.
The elder of a large congregation was contacted in the middle of the night for a special visit to the bedside of a prominent member at the hospital. The elder immediately dialled the pastor’s home telephone number. To his surprise, he was greeted with little Venessa’s whispered, “Hello?”
Feeling a bit irritated at the inconvenience of having to talk to a youngster, the elder asked, “Venessa, is your Daddy home?” “Yes,” whispered the small voice. “May I talk with him?” the elder asked. To his surprise, the small voice whispered, “No.” The elder then asked, “Is your Mommy there?” “Yes,” came the answer. “May I talk with her?” Again, the small voice whispered, “No.”
Knowing that it was not likely that Venessa would be left home alone, the elder decided he would just leave a message with whomever was there watching over the child. “Is there anyone there besides you?” the elder asked Venessa. “Yes,” whispered the child, “a policeman.”
Wondering what a constable would be doing at the pastor’s home in the middle of the night, the elder asked, “May I speak with the policeman?”
“No, he’s busy,” whispered Venessa. “Busy doing what?” asked the elder. “Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman,” came the whispered answer. Growing concerned and even worried as he heard what sounded like a siren in the background, the elder asked, “What is that noise?” “Another police car,” answered the whispering voice. “What is going on there?” asked the elder, now alarmed.
In an awed whispering voice, the child answered, “I heard someone say they are bringing some special puppies to my house.” Now fully alarmed, and frustrated, the elder asked, “Why are they there?” Still whispering, the young voice replied (along with a muffled giggle), “They’re looking for me!” (adapted from Christian Cheong)
It is a wonderful reality that our Father in heaven doesn’t need to send out search parties to find us. He knows every location of every person, and he has a plan for every child of God who receives his outstretched arm that offers us salvation by faith in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul writes to Timothy, ‘God our Saviour wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ (1 Ti 2:3–4 NIV)
And, as Christ said, all of heaven rejoices over each repentant sinner who confesses their faith in our living Saviour.
God’s Holy Spirit is the lamp that searches the hearts and spirits of every person, like the woman in the parable of Jesus. And under his watchful gaze, the Word of God, and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism lights the way for faith to find its way into hearts that were once cold and unrepentant. Our Lord Jesus Christ welcomes everyone with love.
All of heaven rejoiced over even Paul, who wrote that, ‘Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.’
So, we should not give up hope for the neighbours around us who seem to live without faith. We should not stop praying for a family member who seems to be living without hope. We should not stop loving those around us who seem so reluctant to trust in Jesus Christ. Because, as Paul says, ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.
The good news is that Christ Jesus entered our humanity with a plan to touch the lives of every person. To save sinners, and that means you and me. Paul experienced the mercy, grace, love, and faith from the righteousness of Christ Jesus and that drove his ministry. This conviction is the same reality that drives each of us as we care for each other and witness the work of the Gospel in our lives.
God is active among us, and He can make all the difference in our worshipping community. I believe this with all my heart! No challenge is beyond God’s amazing grace. But we are called to be active as we wait for God’s providence to reveal itself. Active in prayer, active in the word, active in fellowship, active in love. Active in witnessing the grace and love of our Saviour, Christ Jesus with our attitudes, our actions and our words. Unlike the example of the Hebrew people in our reading from Exodus today.
God called Moses to return to Mount Sinai, to receive instruction for the people. For forty days, Moses remained on the mountain. During these forty days, the people just waited idly, receiving their manna, their quail, and being tested to see if they would remain faithful. We see from the reading, that the people couldn’t just wait. Instead of praising God for all that he provided in his care for them, their hearts turned to fear and doubt.
They responded by making a golden calf to become the object of their worship.
With the pleadings of Moses, God had mercy on them. The end of our reading in Exodus brings us to the words, ‘Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.’
God has also shown us his mercy and grace. God, the Son. entered humanity himself, to eat with us, talk with us, and journey with us. He took all our mistakes and all our failures, and all our sin upon himself. He sacrificed himself to receive the punishment that we deserve, and He led the way to a new relationship with the fullness of God our Father, by our faith in God the Son.
Jesus came into the world carrying the reality of the good news that God loves each one of us, individually, without limits. But sometimes it’s really hard for us to feel God’s love through the confusion and challenge of living. Just like the Israelites at the foot of the mountain. Especially when this broken world strives to tell us the lie – that God is distant, arbitrary, angry and judgemental. That God doesn’t love us, doesn’t care about us, and doesn’t hear us.
From Scripture, we understand that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways. But through Scripture, we can also know God’s love for us, and we can know the devil’s hatred. The devil uses the world to speak discouraging words to us in his effort to destroy our faith, to corrupt our relationship with God. To draw us into sin.
But God uses the Gospel to strengthen us, to encourage us, and to preserve faith in us. Jesus came into the world to defeat the devil’s effort to make us all captive of the self-doubt that he tries to put between us and God. In the Gospel today, we discover Jesus sharing the good news with those who needed it most. The tax collectors and sinners that were kept from worship in the temple and were separated from a welcoming relationship with God by their guilt and the rejection from others.
We don’t find anything about lost sinners that makes Jesus want to be with them. We do find something about Jesus himself. His nature, as God’s Son. And the Holy Spirit draws those to Jesus who need Him. That’s wonderful news for all of us, believers and nonbelievers alike.
Wonderful news because it means that as much as people try to avoid that offer of love and acceptance, as much as people insist on trying to get along by themselves, God will not rest until we receive him. He will not leave us nor forsake us. That’s why Christ Jesus is the way he is. That’s why he will give us, the Children of God by our faith, the intuition to encourage someone who needs to know that God loves them.
That’s why Jesus will use us to show his love to our neighbour, to our friend, to the stranger we meet Jesus wants us to understand that each of us is valued by a loving and caring God in Christ Jesus. And together, we can make a difference in our broken world, by simply living our faith with our attitudes, actions and encouraging words.
Jesus never gives up on us. He never gives up on those we love who seem to be lost and hidden by the broken world around us. So let’s never give up on God. Even when life seems to overwhelm us.
After all, in our baptism we are united with Jesus Christ into his death and resurrection. And Jesus didn’t give up – even when facing the cross.
One Christian church was striving for a way forward to reach out to people, both unbelievers and casual believers alike. In her book, ‘Reclaiming the L Word’, Pastor Kelly Fryer provides five guiding principles that enabled that Congregation to follow our Saviour Jesus Christ.
That Jesus is Lord; that Everyone is Welcome; that Love Changes People; that Everybody has something to offer; and that the world needs what we have. To which I would add another guiding principle, that faith is the key to everything we do.
Principles that I find so evident as a natural outflow of the love we share here at St Peter’s. Principles that we can engage with more purposefully as we journey together in the love of Christ Jesus our Saviour.
It is no hollow prayer when we ask the Holy Spirit to set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father. And we continue to Inspire people to LIVE a purposeful LIFE, growing TOGETHER in JESUS CHRIST. May the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in the calm assurance of salvation we have in our living Lord.
Pastor David Thompson.