Third Sunday in Lent

The texts from scripture in today’s reading from the Book of Exodus and the holy gospel of St John speak to us of two significant events in the people ofgordon5 Israel and the Apostle’s history: the destruction of the second Jewish Temple and the coming to faith of the Apostles in the fulfilment of the Jewish people’s history in Israel’s Messiah the Lord Jesus the Christ.

Firstly the 20th chapter of Exodus relates the well-known account of God’s giving the tablets of the Law on Mt Sinai to Moses as the sign of the bond between God and God’s people Israel. This event formed the foundation of God’s covenant with Israel. But of course, this event is subsequent to the great deliverance by God of Israel from 400 years of slavery in Egypt through the Passover of the Angel of Death. In this event whereby, under the instruction of Moses, the Israelites were to put the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the door posts of their houses as a sign through which they would be delivered from the terrible  consequences of the Angel of Death’s visitation on the first born of their Egyptian captors. The ensemble of these events became known as the Exodus of Israel from Egypt under the leadership of Moses and is celebrated in the yearly memorial liturgy of the Passover. It is to this annual event that in St John 2 Jesus is said to have come up from Capernaum to attend in Jerusalem.

The gospel also tells us when he arrived at the Temple forecourt, he found traders selling various kinds of animals and birds used in the liturgical celebration of the Passover. Now these traders were providing a legitimate service for the worshippers who were celebrating the Passover. Since the Jewish authorities would not allow the Gentile coins, with the deified image of the Emperor stamped on them, to be used in the purchase of the temple offerings. So, the traders supplied, by means of exchange, the alternative kosher coinage to buy the required sacrificial offerings.

This business, legitimised by the Temple authorities, is disrupted by Jesus’ action. Overturning the money changers tables and driving out the animals from the Temple forecourt. Of course, the Jewish authorities were not pleased and asked Jesus by what authority was he acting to disrupt the accepted order of Passover celebration. Jesus action was not as many have described it an anti-capitalist act, designed to demonstrate Jesus’ affinity with the downtrodden poor and show his social justice credentials. No, Jesus action indicates a far deeper issue. His action indicates that the whole system of Temple sacrifice as a method of dealing with Israel’s relationship with God is at an end. Temple worship as the means of God’s forgiveness and reconciliation for His people is about to end.

The Passover, while it was the reason for Jesús presence in Jerusalem, was not the only important focus of the Jews worship of God. The existence of the Temple itself was at stake, in Jesus action. It is Temple worship itself that Jesus action indicates is ending. In response to the Jews enquiry as to Jesus authority for taking such violent action against the traders, He says, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up”. (John Chp. 2:19)

What sort of answer is this? The Jews ask the perfectly logical question; How is this possible? Since it took 46 years to build the Temple? The disciples are no less puzzled. They only come to know later after the resurrection what meaning Jesus statement had at that time.

Well, what is the meaning? To understand we must see what Temple worship was and why it existed at all in Israel. We have already indicated how in Exodus 20, today’s reading from the OT, God gave the Law on the tablets of stone to Moses as a sign of the covenanted relationship established with Israel by means of their Exodus from Egypt on the night of the Passover. But we seldom read Exodus 34 where God renews the covenant with Israel because Israel broke the first covenant. For as Moses descended from Mt Sinai with the first tablets of the Law Israel was down below with Aaron worshipping an idol, the Golden Calf or Bull. (The Bull being an expression of power and sexual promiscuity) When Moses heard the noise of music and dancing and saw what was happening, he smashed the tablets of the covenant in pieces and ordered a slaughter of the idolators. Moses is distraught with grief at the broken covenant and pleads with God to take his life in place of what remains of idolatrous Israel. But God mercifully renews the covenant with Israel with new tablets of stone given by God: and a regime of forgiveness for Israelis put in place. Initially this arrangement was the tent of meeting in which God met with Moses and then a tabernacle and ark in which the tablets of the Law were kept. This original system of consultation between God and Israel through the mediation of Moses was superseded in Israel’s history by Solomon’s temple in which the descendants of Aaron became priests offering sacrifice for the people as they confessed their sins. This system expanded and became more elaborate over time, but  essentially it expressed how God and Israel maintained the covenant in the midst of their sin and rebellion against God. The great festival of forgiveness and reconciliation between God and sinful Israel was called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It happened annually (some might remember that it was on Yom Kippur 1973 that Egypt attacked Israel in an attempt to reclaim land lost in the initial 1967 war.) This was an opportune time for Egypt to start a war with Israel. For on Yom Kippur everything came to a standstill, no one worked, it was such a solemn day. On this day the High Priest would take two animals, usually goats or  bulls, slaughtering one of them since God required a blood sacrifice  to atone for sin.

(As we are told in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives – for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life”. This is restated again in Hebrews 9:22, “And nearly everything is purified in blood according to the Torah, and apart from the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”.)

But the other animal, the scapegoat, the priest set free. This was a sign of the forgiveness through blood sacrifice, since the scapegoat on whom the Priest laid the sins of the people was driven into the wilderness, symbolising the life of the sinner lived before God. The High Priest would then take the blood of sacrifice and with the emblems representing the 12 tribes of Israel displayed on his vestments, and on this one day of the year  go in behind the curtain of the temple into the Holy of Holies, the very presence of God. There he would sprinkle or daub the blood of sacrifice on the Mercy Seat  made of gold situated on top of the ark of the covenant. He would then come out to face the people and with his arms raised pronounce upon them the Aaronic blessing.

The Lord bless and keep you the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you” (Numbers Chapter 6:22-27)

The liturgy of the Day of Atonement, the very reason for temple worship, had its origins in Israel’s sin against God at Mt Sinai, this act of rebellion has  haunted Israel’s memory throughout the generations. Both kinds of sacrifice, blood sacrifice of one goat and the laying of the sin of the people on the scapegoat which was driven into the wasteland of the wilderness to exist in a kind of nonexistence before God. In both these images the people saw themselves on the one hand as guilty and on the other as preserved in their guilt by God’s mercy. The function of the liturgy was to bear witness to the fact that the holy and living God could not be approached apart from an act of atonement and reconciliation. The liturgy as laid down by God’s command, showed that the ultimate ground of Israel’s reconciliation with God lay deep in the mystery of God’s own being and will. The rich pattern of the liturgy gave the worshippers something to lay hold of even though it pointed far beyond what they could grasp. For it witnessed to what God alone could do and would do for His people.

Jesus words in John chapter 2, indicate that He Himself is that act of God in person to which the liturgy of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement pointed. He Himself will be the sacrifice, slain for His people’s sin, but also, He Himself will be the scapegoat driven into the wilderness of death laden with his people’s guilt. Jesus himself as God’s servant and Son, as the great 53rd chapter of Isaiah Vs 4-9 indicates,

 “ he would be cut off from the land of the living, yet he bore our sufferings and was pierced for our transgressions. He made Himself a sacrifice for sin, for the Lord laid on Him the guilt of us all”.

In an incomprehensible reversal of all righteous and pious thinking, God declares himself guilty to the world and thereby extinguishes the guilt of the world. God himself takes the humiliating path of reconciliation and thereby sets the world free. God wants to be guilty of our guilt and takes upon himself the punishment and suffering that this guilt brought to us. God stands in for godlessness, love stands in for hate, the Holy One for the sinner. Now there is no longer any godlessness, any hate, any sin that God has not taken upon himself, suffered, and atoned. Now there is no more a world that is not reconciled with God and in peace. That is what God did in his beloved Son Jesus Christ. We see in Jesus, the incarnate God, the unfathomable mystery of the love of God for the world. God loves the world—not ideal human beings but people as they are, not an ideal world but the real world.

This is what the disciples saw and believed and proclaimed to the world this side of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. What they saw and believed, what they proclaimed was always in the framework of the history of the Israel and their relationship with God. For the Body of which Jesus spoke is His own Body delivered up to death for our sake but raised on the third day to be forever the One through whom our relationship to the Father is mediated by His word and the sacrament of His body and blood. In this mystery is the mystery of God for us: His unfathomable goodness and faithfulness to Israel and through Israel to and for us.

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this? Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”…. When he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (St John 2:18-22)

Dr. Gordon Watson.

CROSS TALK March 2021

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                                7th March 2021
                            Third Sunday of Lent

                    Service will be lead by: Dr. Gordon Watson
                       The theme of the address will be;
                  Two significant events in the people of Israel.


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                          This Sunday 7th March 2021 
                         
Worship Service led by: Dr. Gordon Watson

Third Sunday of Lent.

Worship Service led by: Dr. Gordon Watsongordon5
Holy Communion: Dr. Gordon Watson
Communion Assistants: David Pfeiffer
Communion Prep.: Corrine Mclean
Bible Readings: John McLean
1st Reading: Exodus 20: 1-17 The Ten Commandments
2nd Reading:1 Corinthians 1: 18-25 Christ crucified. God’s power & wisdom
Gospel: John 2:13-22 Jesus cleanses the temple and gives a sign
Prayers lead by: Joan Rayward
Stewards: Joan Watson and Dale Ampt
Music: Aileen
Audio/ Computer: Narelle

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                   Next Sunday 14th March 2021
                   Fourth Sunday of Lent.

Worship Service led by: John McLeanjohnmac
Holy Communion: David Pfeiffer
Communion Assistants: David Pfeiffer
Communion Prep.: Corrine Mclean
Bible Readings: Corrine McLean
1st Reading: Numbers 21:4-9 The snake of bronze in the desert
2nd Reading: Ephesians 2: 1-10 Saved by grace through faith
Gospel: John 3: 14-21 Jesus brings life and light to the world
Prayers lead by: Joan Rayward
Stewards: Don and Carol McLean
Music: Narelle
Audio/ Computer: Dr. Gordon Watson

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In our thoughts and Prayers:praying
John McLean,
Rosemary Conran,
Kathy Mitchell,
Renate Radmacher,
Ivan Francis,
Jenny Montgomery,
Les Mathies.
Tony Koch.
David Thompson.
  

Church Council Executive:
Chairperson: David Pfeiffer 0428667754news
Vice Chairperson: Roy Herbig 0417041325
Secretary: Rev David Thompson 0414521661
Treasurer: John McLean 0417946220
Pastoral Carers:
Corrine McLean 0427837400
Joan Rayward 65820898
Rev. David Thompson 0414521661

CATCH-UP’ COFFEEcoffee

Friday, 12th March, ’21 at 10 am
‘Rivermark’,
261 Hastings River Drive, PM.
Interested people please contact Carol on 0427832156. If you indicate you will attend, then find you are unable to do so please let Carol know so she can finalise the river numbers with the venue.

KYB
Will be commencing at our church on Tuesday the 2nd of February at 9.30 am, any inquiries please see
Corrine.

The LCA facilitator, Dean Eaton will be in Port Macquarie on Tuesday 9thrichard of March at 4.30 pm to meet with any interested people to discuss the future working together of the LCA and St. Peter’s Port Macquarie. Then dinner at Settlers Inn. 6.30 ish…

Something to think about:think

Home is where the heart is….
Because of the shortage near a military base where he was stationed, a young doctor and his wife and three children had to live in cramped quarters in a
hotel. A friend said to the doctor’s six year old daughter, “Isn’t it too bad that you don’t have a home?”
“Oh we have a home,” the youngster quickly replied, “We just don’t have a house to put it in.”

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You
sit still and trust the engineer.
You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.

 

Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love.
Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked
that means pain.
There are two things we can do when this happens.
We can kill that love so that it stops hurting.
But then of course part of us dies, too.
Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.

‘Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.’
Trust God and learn to live one day at a time.

An old dollar bill and an even older $20 arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired.
“I’ve had a pretty good life,” the $20 says. “I’ve been to Vegas, the finest restaurants in New York, and even on a Caribbean cruise.”
“You did have an exciting life!” the dollar says.
“Where have you been?” the $20 asks.
“Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist church, the Baptist church, spent some time with the Lutherans…”
“Wait,” the $20 interrupts. “What’s a church?”

“Do not resist growing old— many are denied the privilege.”
“One of the pleasures of old age is giving things up”
Abraham waited for 25 years. Joseph waited 13 years.
Moses waited 40 years. Jesus waited 30 years.

If God makes you wait, you are in good company.!!!!

If you’re ever headed the wrong way in life, remember the road to Heaven allows U-turns

Known by the Almighty:
Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world, and though the world would have you believe that you don’t count and that you are but a speck in the mass,
God says, “I know you.”

Our lives as Books:
There are people in the world around us who have never opened or read a
Bible. — But are they reading us.
Are they able to say of us to others “That man, that woman reminds me of Jesus?”
Do we let our light so shine that men may see, not us, but our Father in
Heaven?
This is the real test.

Stay connected with : Lutheran Media Livestreaming.
https://www.livestream.com/luthworship

Bible Study:
Tuesday. 7.30pm at Kemp St.

bible






Church Stewards:
Please make sure all attendees sanitize, sign-in and supervise 1.5mm rul
e.

Roster: Church Cleaning:
March: Carol and Don McLean
Cleaners please wash hands before and after cleaning and wear gloves.

Sermons:8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0
All past sermons are available to read on our web page.
stpetersptmacquarie.com
Stay connected with : Lutheran Media Livestreaming.

birthday

March Birthdays:
4 Maddison Warrener
4 David Thompson
7 Carol Mclean
9 Jenny Montgomery
16 Tahlia Clarke
19 Jenelle Francis
22 Joan Watson
22 Mathew McGufficke

Web page.
28 People visited the website in the last week, including 25 Aust. 1 USA.
1 UK. 1 Israel

We now have 79 followers

Statistic:
Sunday 21st February Attendance was 35sitting

Weekly Devotion:

‘Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them’ (Numbers 20:12).
Read Numbers 20:1–13
Have you ever stuffed up? I mean, really stuffed up? Perhaps you made a mistake at work, sometimes referred to as a ‘career-limiting move’. Perhaps your actions caused a relationship to break down. Maybe you’ve even had failures in ministry, in trying to lead God’s people.
Today we hear about Moses and his stuff-up of epic proportions. Moses had been called by God to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land – a holy role of authority, trust and prestige. Moses and Aaron also had special access to God’s presence in the tent of meeting, a place where God would appear to them and give them instructions for what they needed to do next. The people were grumbling because there was no water, so God gave Moses and Aaron some pretty simple instructions in verse 8:
Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the con-gregation and their livestock.
Could it be any easier? And yet Moses, perhaps sick of the whining or maybe wanting to give a demonstration of his own power, disobeyed God and in-stead struck the rock. The result was the same – water flowed abundantly – but Moses’ lack of trust had consequences.
It can be the same for us. The temptations of power and authority can lead us to become impatient and lose focus on where true authority and power comes from – God. And we suffer the consequences, just as Moses did when God prevented him from entering the Promised Land – the one thing he had been called to do.
The good news is that God is not limited by our stuff-ups. We are not that powerful! Moses may not have led the Israelites into the Promised Land, but they eventually got there, led by Joshua. And so, God continues to work through us and despite us, calling us to repent and refocus when we stuff up and continuing to love us as we live with the consequences of our actions. I thank God for people like Moses who show us that God’s story of salvation is much bigger and powerful than the individuals who are part of it – including me!
Prayer;
Loving God, you are bigger than any mistakes we make. Lead us to
repentance so that we can refocus our eyes on you. Amen.

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:18)
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1.)

Fink River Mission
Amazing leading story this edition. 85 years ago, a gravity fed pipeline from Kuprilya Springs brought life-giving water to Hermannsburg and this event if faithfully remembered and celebrated by the community every year.
Over 140 years ago German Lutheran Missionaries and their families brought the life-giving word to the Aboriginal People of Central Australia.
And in 2020, thousands of Aboriginal Christians led by dozens of Aboriginal pastors and church leaders, faithfully worship, sing and pray every week in Lutheran communities and family groups from across the WA border To QLD, from the top of SA to halfway up the NT. How amazing is that!
There are 5 copies of the News from Fink River Mission
“Christ in the Centre” Summer Edition – At the church entry.

Something to think about:
Mr. Smith,
I am pleased to inform you that I have made arrangements to pay off all your debts in full. I cannot proceed without your consent, however, and I ask that you contact me as soon as possible to receive your gift.
Your loving Servant. Jesus

Kindness:
You never really know the true impact you have on those around you.
You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them.
You never know how much your kindness turned someone’s entire life around.
You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk.
So! Don’t wait to be kind, don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change.
Just be kind. Because you never know how much someone needed it.

Time:
We don’t need to fear that there is not enough time, but we only need to remember to appreciate the time God gives us.

Sacrifice.
In 1937, a man by the name of John Griffiths found a job tending one of the railroad bridges that crossed the Mississippi River. Every day he would control the gears of the bridge to allow barges and ships through.
One day John decided to allow his eight-year-old son Greg to help him. He and his boy packed their lunches with great excitement and hopes for the fu-ture and went to work. The morning went quickly and at noon they headed off for lunch, down a narrow catwalk onto an observation platform about 50 feet above the Mississippi. John told his son stories about the ships as they passed by. Suddenly, they were jolted back to reality by the shrill sound of an engine’s whistle.
Looking at his watch, John realized to his horror that it was 1.07 pm, that the Memphis Express was due any time and that the bridge was still raised.
He calmly told Greg to stay put and then ran back to the controls.
Once there he looked beneath the bridge to make sure there was nothing
below. As his eyes moved downwards he saw something so terrible that he froze. For there, lying on the gears, was his beloved son.
Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Immediately, John realized the horrifying choice before him: either to lower the bridge and kill his son, or keep the bridge raised and kill everyone on board the train.
As 400 people moved closer to the bridge, John realized what he had to do. Burying his face under his arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were instantly drowned out by the noise of the bridge grinding slowly into position.
John wiped the tears from his eyes as the train passed by. A Conductor was collecting tickets in his usual way. A Businessman was casually reading the newspaper. Ladies were drinking afternoon tea. Children were playing. Most of the passengers were engaged in idle chatter.
No one heard the cries of a heartbroken father.

A LITTLE EXTRA FROM THE PAST.

paul

change

 think

Something to think about:

Never Argue with Children.
A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small. The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it is physically impossible. The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.” The teacher asked. “What if Jonah went to hell?” The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

Storms
Did you know that an Eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before
it breaks?
The Eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come.
When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the Eagle is soaring above it. The Eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.
When the storms of life come upon us – and all of us will experience them – we can rise above them setting our minds and our belief toward God.
The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God’s power to lift us above them. God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment in our lives. We can soar above the storm.
Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we han-dle them.
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like Eagles” Isaiah 40:31

Beginnings:
Begin difficult things while they are easy, Do great things when they are small,
The difficult things of the world must have once been easy:
The great things must have been small ..,
A thousand mile journey begins with one step.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Some-body would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that
Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Goliath

hope2

pipes


Second Sunday in Lent

The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.  Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Let’s join in a word of prayer:

david3
David:0414521661

  Loving Father, this morning we are together to worship You and to continue our journey with Your Son on his way to the cross.  We trust in your promise that by our faith in your Son, we will be counted among the righteous and be given the right to be called children of God.  We praise you for the gift of salvation that Jesus Christ has given, and for His life and ministry that we encounter.  Guide our time together so that we may take up our crosses and follow our risen Saviour, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

John Mark writes of a time when Jesus journeyed with his Disciples.  It appears that his more casual followers straggled along at a distance.  Waiting for the next witness of his divine authority by another healing or miracle.   

As they walked along, Jesus engaged the Disciples with a dialogue that ended with the question, “Who do you say that I am?” 

Mark records Peter’s profound response with well known words, “You are the Christ.”  Matthew adds a bit more to Peter’s words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt 16:16 ESV)   It is then that Christ Jesus commends Peter in Matthew “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 16:17 ESV)

As I prayed over this passage of Scripture, I was blessed.  The Holy Spirit opened my understanding of this passage of Scripture in a new way.  I saw in my minds eye that it was at this point the ears of the devil were perked up, and his attention was drawn to Peter, who is blessed to receive the wisdom of God.  Peter who has now revealed Jesus as the Christ, Son of the Living God.

I am convinced that the devil was also listening as Jesus spoke about what it meant for him to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God,  The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.   How he must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and then rise again on the third day.  The devil would have understood exactly what Jesus meant.  But these words would have confused Peter and would have planted the seed of doubt.

Doubt in the destiny of the Christ, Son of the Living God.  But even in the beginning of doubt, Jesus demonstrated his love, concern, and care for Peter.  Just as he loves us, is concerned over us, and cares for us, in our times of both doubt and certainty.  Times of fear and of faith. 

I am convinced that Jesus was actually speaking to the devil, when he said, “Get behind me, Satan.”  Placing himself as a barrier between the temptation of the devil and dear Peter.  Just as Christ Jesus living in our hearts by his Holy Spirit, presents an unmovable barrier between the devil and our spirit.  Joined with us through faith in Christ Jesus, and his sacrifice for us.  A reality that Peter was beginning to question, which made him vulnerable to the influence of Satan.

It was after this, that Satan obeyed the Christ, Son of the Living God, as he must always do.  He separated himself from Peter, at least for a while.  Then Jesus warned Peter, “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  That warning is for every Christian.  Every casual follower of Christ Jesus.  Every dedicated and disciplined Disciple. 

When we set our minds on the things we see around us in the world, we become vulnerable to the worst temptations.  Temptations to doubt the reality of Christ Jesus, of our baptism, of our faith.

Of God’s love for us.

When Jesus called all the followers and disciples together, he spoke a hard truth, a strict reality, almost a command. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”  

Words that have become so real to us in people of faith around the world.  Just as it would to the Disciples in the early Church in Jerusalem during their persecution.   The image from a few years ago still haunts me, as I read these verses.  An image of 21 Coptic Christians, in their orange prison jumpsuits, kneeling with heads bowed.  And standing behind each one an Islamic Terrorist with machete or sword or knife, ready to inflict a fatal blow.   Also the recurring images of Christians, in Africa, China, and around the world who are imprisoned, humiliated, persecuted and matyred for sharing their faith.

These are the modern witnesses for Christ Jesus.  These are the ones who embraced the grace of God, rather than deny their faith in Jesus Christ.  Who became vivid portrayals of our Lord’s words, “whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it.”

In the shadow of the cross of Christ, and the witnesses of these modern martyrs, how are we to order our lives to take up our cross and follow Jesus?  To live the grace of God in Christ Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit? 

To discover the answer, we search the Scriptures and we turn to a prolific Lutheran writer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

In  the Scriptures, we discover the words of Paul, ‘We know that our old self was crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.’  (Romans 6:6–7 ESV) 

Taking up our cross and following Jesus, reminds us that we can resist every temptation, set our hearts to the discipline of discipleship, and live our faith, because Jesus has set us free by his sacrifice. A life renewed each moment by the grace of God.

In his book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” Bonhoeffer describes the Grace of God. He writes of the concept of “cheap grace.”  Listen to how he defines it: “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church.  Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

In many ways, I agree with Bonhoeffer, that we are blessed when we respond to God’s grace with our lives of repentance, discipline, discipleship, and faith.  That is what the season of Lent is all about. I also agree with Bonhoeffer, that the enemy of the Church is ‘cheap grace’, when people abandon the teaching of the hard truths and flock to others who speak only of the blessings of Christianity. 

But the grace of God is never cheap … because it cost the death of God’s Son on the cross.   The grace of God is a given in the life of a Christian, as we confront our sinfulness and God’s forgiveness.  But we must never take the grace of God for granted. 

When Jesus was tempted in the desert, He responded to the devil with the words, “The Scriptures say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ ”  (Mt 4:7 NLT) We test the Lord our God, when we live without the discipline of faith and yet expect God to receive us with forgiveness and acceptance when we meet Him in eternity.

As baptised Christians, receiving God’s gift of faith in our Saviour, we are given eternal life with our Saviour.  But, living in this broken world,  we will still confront the cross of Christ.  When we hear Jesus’ call to live out our discipleship in our actions and attitudes, I hope the each of us will decide to live our lives in the shadow of the cross.  As the New Living Translation quotes Jesus, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”

I was told once that most Christians are intimidated by the concept of discipleship.  It’s just too difficult for us to consider ourselves disciples. 

That it is easier to remain casual followers, who are certainly Christians by their faith in Christ Jesus.  But are reluctant to take up the discipline of Discipleship.  Reading the Bible, Praying, Worshipping, Living Repentant Lives, Serving the Church, Caring for Each Other, and Supporting the Church with their finances.

Lent is a time when we can set aside time to confront the parts of our lives that are not under submission to Christ Jesus.  To let the Holy Spirit show us the ways we can revive the momentum of our own discipleship.  To see discipleship as something to be desired rather than to be feared.

As people of Jesus Christ, we are reminded that salvation, by the grace of God, binds us to his will for our living.  By the grace of God, we are free to surrender our will to the will of God and to submit ourselves to the authority of Jesus Christ.  To celebrate the promises of God.

At our baptism, we receive the full promise of God to be joined with Christ Jesus in eternity.  And we invite God’s Holy Spirit to be a vital part of our living.  We are declared righteous with God, because of faith.  But it was only the beginning of our life with Christ Jesus. 

We can hold onto our faith in Christ Jesus, trust God, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit through all the challenge that our discipleship will bring.

Over the few weeks of Lent, lets ask the Holy Spirit to set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father.  And may the grace and peace of God,  keep our hearts and minds in, Christ Jesus.   Amen.

Rev David Thompson

First Sunday in Lent

The text: Mark 1-9-15

 

Today’s sermon is about baptism and Lent. It’s about our journey of life and Jesus’ journey to the cross.

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David: 0428 667 754

In Mark we hear of Jesus’ baptism. One thing that we should notice about Mark’s account of Jesus baptism is that everything happens very fast, ‘immediately’, the spirit descends and the Father speaks, ‘immediately’ the Spirit sends Jesus into the wilderness.

Then comes Jesus’ temptation by Satan. Jesus is tempted to deny God and rely on himself, and worship Satan. Jesus does not succumb to temptation, and he resists temptation for us.

Our journey of faith also begins in baptism, by water and the spirit, but in contrast to Jesus journey our journey begins with death. The death of the sinner, in the water and by the word, the union of each Christian to our Saviour’s death and resurrection for us. This death continues for the whole of our life until we breathe our final breath, as Luther puts it in the hymn ‘Lord Keep us steadfast in thy word’, we are taken out of death to life.

As Christ was tempted after his baptism, so too are we. For in our sinful state, before our baptism, before we are claimed by Christ and have the gospel proclaimed to us, temptation is not a factor. For sin reigns before we are claimed by Christ. We have no regard for doing God’s will, we have no desire to resist evil, so we are free to sin without the need for temptation.

After baptism, after Christ has placed his mark on us, after we have heard the Gospel, temptation begins. Because Satan knows that he has lost another soul and wants to win it back.

We should be reminded here of the petition from Lord’s Prayer: “And lead us not into temptation.”

In his explanation in the Small Catechism, Luther taught this to mean: “God tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God may so guard and preserve us that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into unbelief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, but that, although we may be so tempted, we may finally prevail and gain the victory.”

For Luther, and for St Mark, it is not God who does the tempting. God leads us on his path of truth. But it is the devil, the world and our flesh that tempt us to sin. They tempt us by saying:

  • Jesus’ words are not trustworthy;
  • You don’t really believe that do you?
  • How could one man’s life 2000 years ago be relevant to you today?
  • You don’t deserve his gifts!
  • He doesn’t really love you;
  • It’s not a big deal, the world has changed and that sin doesn’t matter now;
  • You must work harder for your salvation, it’s up to you!

Many of us even become complacent in our faith. Satan can take a holiday. We look to the world and find in it such compelling evidence that we walk away from our Saviour who suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God. So after being brought to God by our Saviour we walk away and follow the ways of the world.

Others of us are so turned in on ourselves that Satan need not do any work at all. We continue in our sin, happily breaking each and every commandment, succumbing to our own fleshy temptation and refusing ever to repent.

Or we do repent with the best intentions, yet when we walk out the door we slip back into our sins again?

Brothers and sisters, we must return to our Saviour, to our walk of faith. When we are tempted, by Satan, the world or our sinful self, we must flee to our Saviour. For he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

We must return to the Cross, for that is the task of Lent. To turn away from our own sins, temptations, agendas, and turn back to our Saviour on the cross. Lent is about repenting of our turning away from God, and turning back with a good conscience granted by our Saviour Jesus Christ in our baptism. The task of Lent is to repent of our unbelief and lack trust, believe that he has done all this for us; that he has taken on our flesh, been baptized, walked through the wilderness, experienced and resisted all manner of temptations and even in the face of death did not turn back, but turned his face to Jerusalem and followed the path all the way to the cross, all for us.

Our journey of Lent follows Jesus’ journey. We follow him through our baptism, into our temptations, right to his Cross. Yet our journey doesn’t end in death—our journey ends in resurrection, as Jesus shares his own resurrection with us. We don’t receive what we deserve, that is eternal death, we receive what he deserves, eternal life with God.

As we take this journey of Lent again, and we lift our eyes to Jesus our Saviour on the Cross, we must always be aware that Lent is really a condensed form of the Christian life.

  • Our baptism is not just relevant in Lent;
  • Our temptations are not limited to Lent;
  • Our sin is not limited to Lent;
  • Our spiritual disciplines are not limited to Lent.

Lent is a chance to hone our spiritual disciplines, to be reminded of them so that we might make them a habit throughout our years of dying to ourselves and rising again to new life each day, in righteousness and purity forever.

As you join Jesus on his journey to the Cross, you might consider how the disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving to the needy help you focus on Jesus during Lent. Fasting, for instance, helps you focus on Jesus because you have free time when you would usually eat, time that is free so that you can read and meditate on his word. By reading the word, (you might focus your reading on Jesus’ suffering and death) you are immediately looking to him and away from yourself. You could also be free in that time to serve your neighbor with acts of service. You also free up some money by not purchasing food and this too could help you focus on the needs of others rather than your own needs.

The spiritual disciplines were never meant to focus you on yourself; we are good enough at doing that already. Spiritual disciplines are supposed to make you look outside of yourself, to look to Jesus and to your neighbor, to see in Jesus Christ the pain and suffering he endured for us, the temptations he resisted, so that he could bring us to God with a pure and clean conscience. What an incredible gift!

Amen.

Ash Wednesday

Be merciful to me

 

The text for tonight’s message is based on Psalm 51.  dhuffUnder the heading of this psalm there is sub-heading.  “For the director of music.  A psalm of David.  When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba”.  Ouch!  That seems a bit blunt putting that kind of a heading on a song that was used in the temple for worship.  It says that David wrote the psalm and now every worshipper was reminded of his sin whenever they opened their hymnal scrolls to Psalm 51.  Can you imagine the worship leader saying to his congregation, “Let’s now sing the hymn that was inspired by the king’s confession to murder and adultery”?  In certain periods of history saying something like that would certainly have meant “off with his head”.

David had become the greatest king that the land of Judah and Israel had ever seen.  He had defeated the enemies both within and outside the land and brought wealth and prosperity.   

One day David caught sight of the beautiful Bathsheba from his palace roof, began an affair that led to a pregnancy, and to the death of Bathsheba’s husband.  The prophet, Nathan confronted David with his transgressions, telling a parable of two men, one rich and one poor.  The rich man, who had many lambs, took the poor man’s one lamb and slaughtered it to put on a feast for his friends.   David was furious, and then Nathan said to him, “You are the man!”  This revelation led to David’s act of repentance that is expressed in Psalm 51.  The psalm opens like this –

1 Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins!
2 Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sin!
3 I recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins.
4 I have sinned against you—only against you— and done what you consider evil.
So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me.
5 I have been evil from the day I was born;
from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful.

These words are not some casual throw away lines that David rattled off to ease his conscience – perhaps a prayer that he has prayed many times as a kind of ritual that has lost its significance.  Rather this prayer expresses deep anguish and repentance. He looks into his own heart and at his life and the way he has acted and he only sees evil. 

I use the word ‘evil’ deliberately because it gets across the idea of perverse wickedness and sinfulness that is so opposed to what God wants and expects of his creation.  We are not talking about mistakes or errors or slipups or blunders that can easily be dismissed with an excuse or explanation or something like, “I can’t help it” or “Oops!” as if that makes everything go away. 

David is talking about ‘transgressions’ here.  He has gone to places where he should not have gone.  He has stepped over the line coveting another man’s wife, being overcome with lust, plotting and carrying out a man’s murder to get her – this is evil at its worst and David knows it as he says to God, I have sinned against you—only against you— and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me”.

He offers no excuse.  Not even his words, “I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful” are an excuse as if to say, “Look, God, I can’t help it because I was born this way”. He is simply saying that he is a sinner through and through even from moment when he was first given life and not even conscious of the world around him yet.  There is no part of him that is not a sinner and there has never been a time when he has not been a sinner.

It’s true that many of us would say that we haven’t done anything as wicked and horrible as David did but the prayer that David speaks here in Psalm 51 doesn’t pick out the ‘big sins’ to bring to God in repentance.  He is talking about all sin, all transgressions. Whether big or small in our eyes they are all sin in God eyes; they are acts of stepping over the line – transgressions – or trespassing into places we ought not go.  That’s why he even includes the sin he wasn’t even aware of when he was a new born child, even the sin that was part of him while still in his mother’s womb. 

Sin isn’t a matter of individual acts; it is a condition; it is broken relationship between God and us.  We may not even be conscious of the sin in our lives and yet it is still part of us.  It is part of our being.  We are all tainted with sin.  It is something that has been handed down to us from generation to generation from Adam and Eve.

This inbuilt desire to sin becomes clear when we say and do things that are so wrong, so far away from the way God wants us to speak and act. 

The apostle Paul doesn’t beat about the bush and calls a spade a spade when it comes to sin.  In Galatians (5:19-21 CEV) he writes, “People’s desires make them give in to immoral ways, filthy thoughts, and shameful deeds”.  He then goes on to describe how sin causes people to hate one another, to be hard to get along with, to be jealous, angry, selfish, argumentative, say harmful things, lie, and so on.  He concludes, “No one who does these things will share in the blessings of God’s Kingdom”.  Paul makes it quite clear that a sinner cannot stand in the presence of God and cannot expect to inherit eternal life.

In Psalm 51 David poured out his heart to God. He knew that sin had taken control of his life.  In this prayer he admits that his sins are always there and that he can’t fix them.  He can’t hide them.  He thought he could because no one noticed what he had done.  But even though no one else knew what had happened, God knew.  God could see into his heart and knew that David, the one who was supposed to be a model to the whole nation of what it meant to be one of God’s people, had committed some terrible things.

We might be led to think the same thing.  Because no-one else sees our sin it’s okay.  It’s hidden away and it doesn’t matter.  But nothing is hidden from God and it does matter to him because sin destroys the happy relationship that God intended for us to have with him and the world he created for us and the people he placed in our lives.  He wants us to be happy and for us to be happy he has to deal with the evil in our lives.

With such terrible guilt weighing him down and knowing how much he had let God down and being aware how angry God must be, how come David has the nerve to approach God in the way that he has?  Why is David so bold in his prayer after making so many disastrous choices?  We see the answer in the opening line of his prayer where he says,
Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love.
Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins!”
 

Caught up in sins of jealousy, lust, adultery and murder he had forgotten God but now he had come to his senses and realised anew what a powerful love God has for him and it is only in that love that he can even dare to come before God and own up to his sin.  Because of this love of God he can pray with confidence and without fear, Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me”.

David’s prayer expresses very well our need to be made clean, to be washed and be made whiter than snow.  David knew that even though God is a holy and righteous God and is opposed to sin of every kind, he also knew that God is merciful and his constant love for even the worse sinner never flickers, dims or is extinguished.  David’s confession of the evil in his life is actually a response to the grace of God.  When we confess our sin before God we do so confidently because we know how much God is committed to us and is faithful to us. 

When we see the bleeding, dying Jesus we see what the grace of God has done for us and to what extent God was prepared to go to make things right again between us and himself.  Through his dying in our place the guilt of our sin was removed; we have been made new and clean and fresh again – holy and spotless in the eyes of God.  David uses the words “wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” to illustrate the total removal of the stain of sin and the renewal of our lives with God.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the season of preparation leading up to Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter. As we begin this journey we do so knowing that even though we are sinners “God is gracious”.  Without this knowledge we despair.  With this knowledge, we have the confidence to continue the journey, knowing that God’s steadfast love is ever present with us.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy.

Transfiguration Sunday

The Text: Mark 9:2-9

Today’s sermon is brought to you by the numbers 6 and 3, and the wordallanb ‘listen’.

Six days.

God made the world in six days…and on the seventh He rested.

We’re to work for six days…and then on the seventh we’re to rest in what God does for us.

The glory of the Lord surrounded Mt Sinai in the wilderness for six days before Moses could enter into His presence on the seventh day.

Six times Joshua and the people of Israel walked around the city of Jericho, and on the seventh the walls came down in a shout.

And the transfiguration of our Lord happened after six days.

When St Mark has a habit of saying everything happened immediately, it should surprise us when there’s a break in this pattern – in fact we hear there’s a six-day break in the immediacy of Jesus’ work! But as we’ve just heard, the number six is significant in God’s story of salvation because it sets us up for what happens on the seventh day. We should stop and witness what God is doing on this seventh day.

So, while we’re surprised there’s a break in Mark’s narrative, it shouldn’t come as a surprise there were six days between what happened just beforehand and this seventh day where He was transformed in front of the disciples; where God revealed Jesus to be His beloved Son whom we should listen to.

But what happened beforehand?

Well, it was six days ago when Peter had confessed Jesus to be the Christ. No sooner had he made this Spirit-led confession that Jesus announced He would suffer many things; be rejected by the elders, priests and scribes; be killed; and then rise again after three days.

But this troubled Peter. After all, Peter had witnessed all the miracles of Jesus – all the healings (including the healing of his own mother-in-law), raising people from the dead, and how Jesus cast out demons – which no doubt had led him to the conclusion Jesus is none other than the promised Messiah spoken about in the Scriptures.

So, what Jesus was talking about shouldn’t happen. Peter figured this is now the time when the Scriptures would be fulfilled and when everything was set right. This is the time of Israel’s freedom and glory! This is the time when the glory of God is revealed so the nation of Israel could rule and bless all the nations!

So, this is why Peter tells Jesus off!

But in response, Jesus tells Peter off! He said Peter’s got in mind the things of man and not the things of God. The work of God isn’t all about health and wealth and glory and power, but it also includes suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection.

So, it seems Peter pondered Jesus’ words for six days, and on the seventh he saw the glory of God reflected in the person of Jesus Christ. But he still didn’t get it.

And neither do we. We often struggle to understand what it all means, which is why the number three enters our meditation.

You see, there were three.

There were three disciples: Peter, James and John.

There were three people in front of them: Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

The number three is a number of community – just like there were three visitors who visited Abraham before God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, and it’s also the number of persons who form our Triune God.

But it’s also a number of completeness – for example, a complete journey of three days between one place and another (which is mentioned many times in Scripture), a three-day meditation for Jonah in the belly of a fish, and it’s also the number of days before Jesus would rise from death.

Peter, not quite getting the significance of what it meant for Jesus to be the promised Messiah, offers to build three shelters – one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. After all, this is a great place and great time for God’s people! Here we have a gathering of the greatest prophets of all time: Moses the Law-giver, Elijah the mighty prophet who was taken up into heaven, and now Jesus the powerful teacher and miracle-worker!

So, let’s retain and preserve this holy moment in time and space! Let’s all come to hear the wisdom of these mighty men! Let’s all come near this holy place to have our diseases healed, our demons cast out, and our loved ones raised from death! Let’s all bask in the glory of our mighty and awesome God for the rest of time!

If only!

Isn’t this what we also want?

Wouldn’t we love to meet Moses, or Elijah, or Jesus face-to-face?

I mean, wouldn’t we love to ask them questions on what it’s like to have such strong faith? Wouldn’t we love to know more about their mighty victories over Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the prophets of Baal, or about Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the devil?

Wouldn’t we love to come near and have each of them teach us, touch us, and encourage us in a world gone crazy? Wouldn’t we love to go to one of those shelters to have our bodies restored to its youthful vigour, or to have our bodies healed from cancer or tumours or from dementia? Wouldn’t we want to bring our departed loved ones to the tent of Jesus, so He could raise them from death for our pleasure and comfort?

But Peter doesn’t know what he’s asking…and neither do we.

So often our wishes are all about us—what we want. So often, sinful human beings have in mind the things of a rebellious humanity.

But this isn’t what Jesus is about. He’s here to do the will of God; not the will of men.

God’s plan seems backward and strange to us. We see or hear a moment of glory thinking this is God’s plan for us which is supposed to last, but it doesn’t – at least, not on this earth. What often lasts are our troubles, sicknesses, fights, and  deteriorating bodies as age takes its toll .

The moment of Jesus’ transfiguration was a glimpse of God’s glory to strengthen Jesus for His journey through His own suffering and death, but it was also for frightened, confused and slow-to-learn disciples like us who look for assurance of God’s glory and power during our own sufferings and journey toward death.

When we see or experience suffering and rejection and death, we often reckon this isn’t part of God’s plan. We want the glory and health and strength and power and joy to last, but it doesn’t. God’s glory doesn’t match our own ideas of glory. Jesus told us His glory comes through suffering and rejection. His glory comes through sacrifice and death. His glory also comes in resurrection and restoration for those who trust Him.

Which brings us to the word of today: listen.

In this case, it’s not supposed to be a passive word where we just listen and not respond. It’s intended to be matched with a trust in what we listen to which also responds in obedient action.

You see, when God speaks, things happen.

When He speaks: light appears, waters divide, and worlds are created. When He speaks, people like Moses and Elijah respond in faith and pass on the Word of God.

Similarly, when His holy name is spoken over the waters of Baptism sins are forgiven, faith is stirred, people are adopted as God’s own, our bodies receive the benefits of Jesus’ resurrected body, and the promise of eternal life is given. When Jesus’ Word is spoken over bread and wine it also becomes His body and blood to bring to troubled sinners His forgiveness, life, and salvation.

In other words, the Word of God is powerful and active. The trouble is, we often don’t listen, and if we do listen, we don’t always respond in faith and trust.

We’re more likely to listen to our own fears and believe them. We’re more likely to listen to the latest feel-good motto or advert. We’re more likely to listen to what our itching ears want to hear. We’re more likely to listen to the lies and deceptive whispers of the devil who still asks: ‘Did God really say…?’

In other words, the call for us to listen to Jesus places us on a collision course with spiritual warfare which is just as volatile as the battle between Moses and Pharaoh and between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Because of our selfishness, our flesh resists God’s Word, and so does the world. In the end it’s a question of who we’re going to listen to, who we’re going to trust, who we’re going to follow, and who we’re going to obey.

So, the call to listen is a call to deny our own selfish will and let God’s will be done in our life, even if His will involves suffering for His sake, patience in times of trouble, endurance in faith when the world criticizes and condemns, willing service to the outcast and troubled, and forgiving those who don’t deserve such grace.

It’s also a call to believe something we struggle to believe. That Jesus did this for you and me. That we’re not as good as we make out we are. That our actions, words and thoughts are motivated by selfishness, greed, pride, and fear. That Jesus would choose to come into this cruel and heartless world to suffer and die at the hands of His own faithful people. That He wouldn’t defend His innocence or call for justice from the cross, but instead cried out to His Father to forgive us because we don’t know what we’re doing.

While God spoke His Word through Moses and the prophets like Elijah, He now speaks to us through Jesus. We’re made His disciples through faith and we’re to respond to His teachings of glory through suffering, love through service, and forgiveness by grace.

We listen to His words of forgiveness, and through faith we learn to forgive those around us. We listen to His sufferings and learn our own suffering serves a purpose to strengthen our trust in Him. We listen to His death and learn death no longer has a claim on you or I because we believe in the resurrection of the dead through Christ.

Yes, after six days Jesus is transfigured before his three disciples, and in this momentary glimpse of His true identity we’re called to listen – to listen to what God is doing for us as Jesus journeys toward the moments He was betrayed, denied, whipped, crucified, died, and rose again.

We listen as the glory of God is revealed through blood and sacrifice and as His love pronounces everything is finished. We listen so we can rest from our own work and witness what God has done for us through Jesus, the Son of God, with whom the Father is pleased.

And, as we listen to Him, we’re called to respond in faith, because it’s through trusting the words and actions of Jesus that the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The text:  Isaiah 40:31

Ever wondered what it would be like to fly?  I don’t mean flying in a plane orjohnmac dangling beneath a kite or parachute.  I mean sticking your arms out like a bird, or out front like superman if you like, and soaring above the earth; banking over the forests; skimming over the rivers; darting through mountain canyons; diving down and scaring the living daylights out of the members of your family; breathing deeply in the fresh air of free and effortless flight!  And if you are someone who is scared of heights, imagine if you had no such fear. You could come and fly with the rest of us.

From the early pages of history people have looked at the birds and wanted to fly.  You have seen people jump out of perfectly good planes and ‘fly’ at least for a while, but gravity does its job and the skydiver has no choice but to pull the ripcord on his parachute.

I’m sure every kid at some time has wanted to fly.  Maybe it’s been a theme in your dreams but like all dreams there comes a rude awakening when you wake up and discover that you are still a prisoner of gravity.  As much as we really wish we could fly, we have to walk to the bathroom, walk out to the kitchen for breakfast and walk to school or work.  We aren’t built for flying.

As adults we don’t think about flying as we did when we were kids.  Not only aren’t we built for flying but we also carry a lot of baggage – we carry too much weight.  Not only the kind of weight that shows up on the bathroom scales but the weight of worry, anxiety, paying bills, keeping the boss happy, and how our health crisis will turn out.  All this weighs us down.

Then there’s your family.  The people you love.  You see your parents getting older; perhaps becoming infirm.  You see your children struggling in this or that. Perhaps you’ve hit a rough patch in your marriage.  When you were a kid love wasn’t so difficult and so demanding.  But that’s because you were mostly on the receiving end of it.  And now you are called to be the one who gives it; called to be the one who loves.  This too can weigh you down.

So what about those dreams of flying high above the world in complete freedom and in the open spaces where there is not a worry in the world?  Nah!  Not anymore!  Life is way too heavy to entertain such thought.  Flying – that’s okay for kids to dream about because they don’t have the worries we have but for us the world is too real.  A bit like gravity – we can’t ever get away from it.

And yet, what does the text from Isaiah say?  “Those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed.  They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary.”  Hmmm.  “They will rise on wings like eagles”.  With renewed strength they will soar above the earth with the powerful wings of an eagle.  I don’t know about you, but Isaiah’s got my attention!  Suddenly my childhood interest in being able to fly is renewed.  Floating, drifting, circling, free as a bird.  Is there a way to overcome the gravity of our lives, a way to lighten our loads, a way rise above it all?  Is this just a dream, wishful thinking, belonging to the world of fantasy along with fairies, flying dragons and magic carpets?

Just to put these words about flying like eagles into context.  The prophet Isaiah was writing to the people of Israel during a time when they felt like their strength was sapped and they had no hope.  Like us, they were worried.  The news wasn’t good.  The dreadful Assyrians were breathing down their necks, and later it would be the Babylonians who would take them all away to live in exile. As they thought about all the stuff that was happening around them, they were weighed down and overwhelmed by the seriousness of their situation.

They started to say things like, “God doesn’t really care about me!  How can he? Look at all this bad and difficult stuff that is happening all around us.  He’s not really in charge of things!” (Isaiah 40:27).

You see what was happening here?  They began to see their problems as being bigger than God himself.  They forgot that the creator of everything, the everlasting Lord, whose love for his people means he will never grow tired of helping them, just might be able to help them with all their worries.

You see over the years a subtle exchange had taken place.  They exchanged their faith in God for a kind of do-it-yourself kind of attitude.  We do the exact same thing!  This DIY kind of Christianity excludes God from certain areas of our lives. I know God is there but I can handle this myself.

“Let’s see, my work, hmm, no that’s not God’s problem.

Finances, no. I can fix that.

Relationship problems, no.  That’s my responsibility.

My love life, no God doesn’t know anything about that, that’s my area.”

Without even giving it too much thought we exclude God from different aspects of our lives.  We can fix it we say and maybe it works okay for a time. But then we begin to feel the weight.  Our blood pressure rises.  We toss and turn. We get sick.  We become depressed.  The joy goes out of our lives.  We despair.  We slowly realise that the DIY approach isn’t all that successful after all. 

I’m sure that a lot us, including myself, have to admit to doing this at some time, if not more often than we care to admit.  We sideline God and try to be our own god.  We believe that we can do it alone, but that’s something God never intended for us.  God didn’t make us to stand alone against everything that threatens our safety and happiness.  God made us to rely on him.

This is where Isaiah comes in and we have this wonderful passage that was read earlier.  He asks, “How can you be so dumb.  Don’t you know who stretched out the heavens, made the earth and filled it with people?  Don’t you know that it is God who created the stars?  There are millions of them, and yet he knows when one of them is missing and if God knows each individual star, it follows that he knows each one of us personally and calls us by name.  He knows when we are in trouble.  No one can ever accuse God of turning a deaf ear to our needs. 

Then comes these wonderful words,
“Don’t you know?  Haven’t you heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God; he created all the world.
He never grows tired or weary.
No one understands his thoughts.
He strengthens those who are weak and tired.
Even those who are young grow weak; young people can fall exhausted.
But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed.
They will rise on wings like eagles;
they will run and not get weary;
they will walk and not grow weak.” (40:28-31)

Jesus affirmed what Isaiah said when he said: “Come to me, all of your who are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”. 

Jesus assures us that there is not a moment when we are not under his love and care.  Yes, there will be times when we could have saved ourselves a heap of stress and pressure if only we had trusted in the Lord for help and realised that he is ready, willing and able to give us renewed strength and a fresh outlook on life and its problems. 

The apostle Paul realised that he knew what he ought to do and trust God more, but found more often than not, that he did what he knew he shouldn’t do.  There were times when he was physically exhausted and drained, not knowing what would happen to him next.  But in each case he came back to this one point, “God can raise me above all this.  His love is so powerful that I can be confident, content, and certain no matter what the circumstances.  The Lord will help me to face each thing that terrifies me and give me the strength to continue”.  In the end Paul says, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

As Isaiah said, Those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak”. 

In other words, trusting in God to give us the strength that is beyond our own strength to deal with any situation, we can rise on wings like eagles.  We can fly.  We can soar high above our problems; we can fly free with the sky as the limit. God wants us to fly like eagles.

When we trust in God and his love for us and entrust our lives to the one who gave his life for us on the Cross, everything else is dwarfed in comparison to the largeness and authority of the Lord.  He is bigger than any problem we might face.  And as we learn to trust him, we begin to see things from his perspective. He draws us upward in faith, so that we begin to get a bird’s eye view of things, or more correctly, a God’s eye view of things.

Remember the dreams about flying, the fantasy stories like Peter Pan where children could fly? Well they are not too far off the mark.  We too can fly even though our feet never leave the ground.  We can rise above everything that threatens our security with a strength that comes from God.  “Those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles”. Amen!

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Like the first book of the Bible Genesis, the most ancient text of thegordon5 Gospel,
St Mark, upon which the other two gospel writers Matthew & Luke base their narrative, it begins with the word Άρχη. The beginning of the gospel Mark is Άρχη τού έυάνγγέλιου. After mentioning the work of John, the Baptist and his arrest, He introduces Jesus announcement concerning the fulfillment, the fulfilment of time, the basic structure of created nature. Time is fulfilled when Jesus comes into Galilee and says, ‘The time is fulfilled, repent and believe the gospel’. Then on the seventh day, again a reference to the creation narrative, for the seventh Day is the fulfillment of creation. On this day as God rests and rejoices in Creation’s goodness. But on this Seventh day, representing the goodness of creation, Jesus is confronted in the Synagogue at Capernaum with the fallen creation, it’s being subject to sin and death. He meets the demoniac. In the healing miracle that follows we see what the fulfilment of time means in Jesus.

In the creation narrative this fulfilment of the time is witnessed to by the seventh day of God’s creative action; this is the Sabbath rest of God’s peace and reconciliation with His creation. This promise of God’s rest and peace with His creation is the promise witnessed to by the seventh day. This is time’s purpose. It is the created form, ‘on the seventh day’, of the purpose of creation. The rest and rejoicing of God with His creation. This time according to Jesus is now fulfilled. It is no longer lost time, time without purpose tumbling down into an abyss of nothingness. The creations time is now no longer determined by its guilt and its being subject to death and decay as is all our time.

Jesus existence in time as the Son of God who shares to the full the creations alienation from the source of its true life in God, the crumbling away of our time into what Shakespeare calls “dusty death”. But in Jesus humanity God recapitulates, recreates  in Him the relationship creation had with its Creator at the beginning. His relationship with the Father for our sakes is the basis of times redemption and thus human redemption.

The ‘fulfilment of time’  witnessed to by the Sabbath, comes in Jesus, appropriately after his identification with Israel in the baptism of John. From John he receives a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. It is at this time that His unity with the Father and the Spirit is revealed. He is then driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the suggestion that there is some other way for Him to be the Son of God than the way of penitential obedience which ends in the cross. As the One who rejects this demonic temptation for our sake, Jesus comes into Galilee and proclaims that the time is fulfilled. Consequently, our time is not lost time but full of promise for it is the sphere in which God is present with and for us for our eternal salvation.

All this is a background to understanding the meaning of the text which relates to the healing of the demoniac on the Seventh Day, the Sabbath. Further, background to understand the miracle which is the subject of the gospel lesson for today; I want to talk for a few moments about cosmology. Cosmology you ask. ;what on earth has cosmology to do with the lesson from the holy gospel of St Mark chapter 1? We get the word cosmetics from this word and it means something with meaning and intelligibility as opposed to Chaos, which is unintelligible, chaotic. God’s creation is intelligible, understandable. Einstein, it was who said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible”.

The world view of the writers of the New Testament, their cosmology, is that of the Old Testament. Accordingly, they believed lived in a three-storied universe. Heaven, earth and hell under the earth. The space in between was inhabited by all sorts of spiritual beings, malevolent. In the creation accounts of the Book of Genesis God brings forth the dry land from a chaos which was composed of water. The dry land was established and safeguarded from the encroachment of the watery chaos by God’s promise and covenant witnessed in the story of Noah. So, water was an ever-present sign in creation of the threat of Chaos from which it was protected by God’s providential rule.

One of the more remarkable features of the accounts of the miracles associated with Jesus ministry arises from the fact that those who are the subject of his action are in need. They are sufferers. Jesus does not ask concerning their past or their present sin. He acts, and his action creates for them a new future. The help and the blessing that He brings are quite irrespective of their attitude to him. Jesus miracles are thus to be seen to encapsulate the fact that God in Christ acts toward us in our need by God’s free grace God moves towards the threatened and rebellious creature in the freedom of God’s grace.

What Jesus miracles reveal is that God has chosen to be God in such a way that He makes Himself responsible for the creature not simply in its need as a created, mortal and frail, but in its need as subject to the thraldom of sin and death. This is the God with whom we have to do in the miracles of Jesus, and it is this element that constitutes their strangeness; against which any questions we may have as to the nature of miracle as such pales into insignificance. That God is such a God never entered into the heart and mind of humankind. The true miracle of miracles is their testimony to this unheard-of reality

One of the difficulties in understanding the miracle is that so often it is transposed into a story about the general beneficence or goodness of God, an abstract notion whose content remains in the sphere of generalities, as so much of Jesus teaching when its meaning is divorced from His person.

I would suggest that we think of the miracles that Jesus performs as insights into His own self-interpretation of the way that he goes from Bethlehem to Golgotha. That is to cease separating the miracles from Him who speaks and acts in them: turning them into abstract moral ideas about God.

What Jesus saw and experienced of the human condition as He fulfils the purpose of His coming amongst us as God’s Son who assumed our flesh was an abyss of darkness that is not merely supposed, invented, or imagined. He saw and experienced the human condition as it really is; and as we have seen and experienced it in the space of our lifetimes. We have come to know our humanity and its capabilities through world wars, revolution, famine, genocide and terrorism. World War 1, the war to end all wars and make the world safe for democracy, then the Nazi terror and push for world domination, their genocide of the Jewish people in Europe, and before that as  a consequence of the first word war the Turkish genocide of Armenian Christians, Stalin’s mass murder by starvation of Ukrainian peasants and the wicked brutality of the deportations  of ethnic minorities and other undesirables to the death camps; the gulag archipelago, Mao Tse Tung and the millions he starved and killed in his so called great leap forward, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Osama Bin Laden Saddam Hussein, Kim Il Sung, so we could go on. We have come to know our humanity and its propensity for evil.

 Jesus saw and experienced the human condition as claimed and imprisoned by the actuality of visible and invisible powers of darkness and death. He understood human beings to be possessed by the negative power of evil, delivered up to it and corrupted by it.

In this miracle it is not the sufferer in his need who speaks. But on the tongue and lips of the sufferer that which imprisons and torments him, the demons. Sickness does not speak. Death does not speak. But the demons speak, the indefinable concretions of chaos: the true enemies of God speak and cry out. They do not do so on behalf of or in the name of the sufferer; they are the sufferer’s tormentor. They are the sufferer’s enemy not his friend. They speak out on their own behalf; in the form of cries and shouts of blasphemies because they see and know themselves threatened by the presence of Jesus. The inspirer of fear and torment is now itself afraid and tormented. What is shown in the presence of Jesus is that the trans-personal concretion of evil and chaos has nothing to say in its own cause; it can only seek to flee from the presence of God in Jesus.

Jesus ranges himself alongside the demoniac who in his torment epitomises the concretion of evil and chaos which are the true enemies of God, because they hold the human creature in subjection. Here, in Him, the life of the threatened and enslaved creature becomes the personal cause of God Himself. By means of His identification with the creature’s need and torment Jesus’ action brings forth a new human being. Not simply in the healed demoniac, he is but a sign of the healing of our humanity that Jesus has taken to Himself.

It in this new humanity of His that we are given to participate in God’s own eternal life. The miracle of the healing of the demoniac in the synagogue on the seventh day, is a sign of this new human being, our humanity present in the world in Jesus Christ. In Him humanity is endowed with a new being whose future is determined by the action of God Himself.

In this and similar miracles of Jesus God himself defies the power of destruction that enslaves human beings. God’s power revealed in Jesus is not a neutral force; it is the omnipotence of His mercy. Not quiet and passive mercy but active, vibrant and hostile to that which enslaves the creature. It is with this that we have to do in Jesus. What is new, incomprehensible and miraculous is that God is a God who victoriously combats evil in its banal negativity for our sake. In worship today, it is the same One who meets us here; we who are immersed in and struggle daily with the causes and effects of evil, He meets us with His same healing and saving power. He meets us in His Word and in His holy sacrament.

Dr. Gordon Watson.

Third Sunday after Epiphany

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

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Luke records in his record of the Acts of the Apostles that after Pentecost, ‘Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church. They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.’

Let’s  join in a word of  prayer:   Loving God, our Father, today, we join with believers around the world to devote ourselves to hearing your Word, to fellowship with each other, to praying, and to sharing in the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. As we worship You, guide our time that we may understand the reality that your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, has shown us great forgiveness and acceptance.  Help us to show great love for one another, and acceptance of others. God our Father, hear our prayer we offer in the name of our risen Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The new disciples who heard Peter’s message on Pentecost, devoted themselves to relating to God in a new way.  As people in a new very personal relationship with their creator, their saviour and their comforter.  As people who are forgiven.

Peter instructed them to repent over their sinfulness and to be baptised as a sign of their new life in Jesus Christ.  These were the first converts to the new Christian Church.  Their lives were changed forever.  They began to live up to their Christian challenge.  They became God’s family of the Church.  They cared for each other, they shared with each other, they praised God for Jesus Christ and for each other.  What a time of rejoicing it must have been.  They lived the experience of their forgiveness.

We join them today, caring for each other, sharing salvation and new life with each other, praising God for each other, and celebrating the Lord’s Supper with each other.  What a time of rejoicing it is for us today.  We can live the joy of our salvation every day. …. And yet, we still live in the brokenness of our humanity.

If we paraphrase Paul’s words to us today:  “every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, we are announcing the Lord’s death and resurrection until he comes again.”  A death that redeems our sins, and a resurrection that brings our eternal life.  All this by our faith in the Son whom God has sent.

As Christians, we are reminded that we hold two truths in tension.  In these truths the mystery of God’s grace is revealed in the reality of his love for us set against the reality of his hatred of sin.

On the one hand we have the truth that sin enters our lives as the fruit of a wrong relationship with God.   God takes the damage we do to each other very seriously.

But on the other hand lies the truth that we are all forgiven our sins at the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus  entered humanity to reconcile us to God and repair the damage of our broken relationship with God.

As we hold the Scriptures in our hands and in our hearts we hold onto the understanding that this is God’s message to us about his love for us.  His relationship with all of creation, and especially with each one of us.

As we discover in the Scriptures, when Jesus Christ took the bread and the cup of his Supper, he gave us a living reality.  That God’s relationship with us is lived out in the very personal and very real presence of Christ Jesus in our lives.

“This is my body”, and “This is my blood” were not words of a parable.  They were not words of a presumed hope.  They were words of truth and life.

The Augsburg Confession, Artlcle 10, states:  ‘Concerning the Lord’s Supper, it is taught that the true body and blood of Christ are truly present under the form of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper and are distributed and received there.’

That is why we take the Lord’s Supper so seriously.  Seriously enough to take a few weeks to prepare our youngsters to join us at the table of our Lord.  This preparation is purposeful to ingrain the reality of our relationship with God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

When we hear the words to eat and drink the elements of bread and wine, we join this to the act of eating and drinking, with the faith we have in our Saviour.  And they become the real presence of the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, just as he said.

As the Large Catechism explains:  ‘everyone who wishes to be a Christian and to go to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper should know .. what they seek and why they come.’

In our Step Up To Communion preparation process, we look at the five steps of the Lord’s Supper.  The Invitation of our Lord,  our acceptance of this invitation, our gathering together, our eating and drinking, and our giving thanks to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for this wondrous gift.

In Holy Communion, the Holy Spirit is present as well. He reminds us that we are receiving forgiveness of sin and renewal from Christ Jesus every time we share the Lord’s Supper.  He also reminds us that we compound our error when we hold onto our guilt over every wrong, and every unforgiveness of wrong done to us, as we rise from the table.    We can trust  Jesus when he says, “for the forgiveness of sin”, and we can have faith in our Saviour.  Let the past remain in our past, and look to every future moment with confidence and peace at heart.

As Lutherans, we respect the thoughtful and spiritual dialogue of Martin Luther.  He was caught in the middle of the dialogue between the strict understanding of Holy Communion by the Church at Rome, and the radical reform movement to distance from that established Church of the day.  But Luther, as always, turned to the Gospels with faith-filled vision of Christ’s words, and his intentions.

‘The Lord’s Supper was very important to Luther his entire life, because God’s promises and the bond with Christ became concrete for him in the bread and wine. Just as it can become for us.  In a sermon about the right use of the Lord’s Supper, from 1518, Luther says that “needing the Lord’s Supper is the most important condition of receiving it”.

Luther believed that Christ was bodily present in Holy Communion, trusting in the words of Matthew 26: 26 and 28: ‘This is My body’ and ‘this is My blood’. But he suggested, against Rome, that Christ does not remain present in the host after the Lord’s Supper, and that the host can not be worshipped.

When, in the 1520’s, Luther again had to think about the liturgy.  Big differences of opinions rose to the surface inside the reforming movement. Luther turned sharply against the ideas of radical reformers, who suggested that the Lord’s Supper was a memorial meal, and that the words of institution are not meant to be taken literally. According to Luther, that would be a violation of the plain meaning of the Scriptures.  Furthermore that the concrete presence of Christ through faith would be removed.

However, his Reformed opponents wanted to clarify their position, that only Christ Himself and not the elements of bread and wine provided salvation. They were also afraid of all kinds of superstitions around the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately, attempts to reconcile the three Christian traditions ended in failure.’  (CheckLuther.com)

Even today, the Lord’s Supper has remained an important point of difference between the theology of Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed Christian traditions.  But this does not overshadow our common faith in Christ Jesus and our love for every brother and sister in Christ.  After all, Christ himself said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The German pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a hunted man during WW II who upheld authentic Christian principles. As a part of the German underground he was not safe to worship openly.

Bonhoeffer knew there was no other community and fellowship like that experienced within the Body of Christ. He said: “Baptism incorporates us into the unity of the Body of Christ, and the Lord’s supper fosters and sustains our fellowship and communion … in that Body”.

For a time before he was imprisoned, and during his imprisonment, Bonhoeffer was cut off from other believers, and it took a toll on him. Donald LaSuer says “Bonhoeffer’s painful discovery is instructive for us. Cut off from the nurturing fellowship of other Christians, he felt a deeper hunger for the fellowship that was no longer available to him. Like a hungry man who knows the taste of bread though he can no longer reach and break from the loaf, he knew the power of fellowship when it was painfully absent”.

When we come to Communion, we have the chance to experience a fellowship with our Saviour and with each other, a deep union that only comes when we realize the saving grace that must cover each of us.  God forbid that we take this gift of grace for granted.

And so each one of us can look to Paul, that  we should always approach the table of the Lord’s Super, honouring the presence of our Saviour in his body, his blood, and his Spirit.   For nothing is impossible for God.

It is by God’s grace, that we are loved by him, saved by him, and given life eternal by him.  It is God’s grace that sustains us every day of our lives.

May the overriding grace and peace of our Triune God, which passes all human understanding, keep our hearts and minds in calm assurance of salvation in our living Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Rev. David Thompson.

Second Sunday after Epiphany

The Text: John 1:43-51

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The season of Christmas celebrates the coming of the Son of God in human flesh to save and rescue His people.

The season of Epiphany is about God revealing that this Jesus, born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, is the promised Messiah. Jesus in the long promised and much hoped for rescuer from God, and He manifests His divine power in the spoken word, and in signs and wonders.

Epiphany begins with the sign of the star in the sky which guides the Gentile wise-men to Bethlehem, and the rest of Epiphany shows how Jesus was revealed as the Son of God to all who would hear Him.

God must reveal Himself to us or we would not know where or how to find Him. Many people think they can find God through religious experiences, charismatic leaders, and even participating in non-Christian worship practises. But such things don’t lead us to God, they lead us away from Him and place us in spiritual danger.  

God cannot be found by humans. God finds us. He often comes to us through someone who already knows Him. This someone trusts in God. They know His life changing love and they want us to have it too.

This is the pattern we see in the Bible. A Jewish servant girl told Naaman about the prophet of the Lord who could heal him and he was cleansed of his skin disease and given faith (2 Kings 5). Four friends brought their crippled mate on a mattress to Jesus and he was cured and made whole in body and soul (Mark 2:1-12). Philip spoke with the Ethiopian about Jesus and he was baptised (Acts 8:26-39). Believers in Jesus bring those in need of God’s grace to Jesus.

This is what we see happen to Nathanael when Philip asked him to come and see Jesus. Philip knew Jesus. The Lord had said, “Follow Me” and Philip did, and he knew the Lord. He heard and saw that Jesus is the One whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote about. The Spirit filled Word of God revealed to Philip who Jesus was. Everything he heard from Jesus and saw Him do confirmed it. His eyes were opened. His heart was transformed. Philip is so excited that he goes and tells his friend Nathanael that the promised Redeemer has come, and he wants Nathanael to know the Lord too.

Someone did that for you. It was probably your parents or maybe a friend. They pointed you to Jesus saying come and see. Come and see the Saviour who has fulfilled the Law and everything God’s prophets said He would. Come and hear what He has done for you.

Christian parents bring their children to be baptised, and in water and the word a child sees and hears Jesus at work—cleansing, forgiving, creating new life and giving a new identity. Without Baptism’s gifts of rebirth and faith no one could find God. The old nature is too strong for any of us to overcome.

In Baptism you received the most wonderful gift from God. You were found by Him. He gives you His salvation. The joy and comfort you have in knowing Jesus lasts more than that moment. Knowing Jesus means a life time of forgiveness and mercy. Jesus is the One who saves us, and in Him we see God.

The Jesus we don’t really want to look at, is the bloodied body of Christ hanging on the cross. Most Christians prefer baby Jesus in a manger or ‘Jesus my friend’ or glorified Jesus in heaven. And He is those things, but Jesus is no friend, and no Saviour, and has no glory, without the cross and death.  

It is not pleasant to see Jesus suffer God’s judgment for us. To see Him dying. To see on Him all those sins we shrug off or consider a normal part of life. It’s horrifying. But take a look and see.

Because once you do, then you realise the immensity of God’s love for you. Then you realise that Jesus fulfils the Law of God and the words of the prophets, and to do that is no small thing. The Father gave up His Son into death, for you. The Son laid aside His divine powers, to die as an atonement for you. And He wanted to do that, so you can have freedom and life.

And so, Philip goes to his friend Nathanael to tell him that God’s Saviour has come. But Nathanael could not believe it. This Jesus didn’t sound like the Saviour he had been looking for. After all, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Philip doesn’t try and convince Nathanael of who Jesus is, he simply invites him to, “Come and see.”

But before Nathanael sees Jesus, the Lord sees him. Jesus knows Nathanael. He knows his heart. Jesus knows all our faults and yet in love He still welcomes us.

We heard in Psalm 139 today that God knows us. He knew us before we were born. He knows our words before we speak them. There is no where we can go to hide from Him. This can sound threatening, because God can see our darkest sins and desires. But despite this, He welcomes us that we may be made holy, washed and forgiven.

And so, Jesus sees Nathanael, and Nathanael will speak the Gospel because he saw and heard the grace of God and was changed by it. Like the patriarch Jacob, Nathanael will see heaven open before him, but not in a dream, it will take place when he sees Jesus die on the cross and be resurrected three days later. Jesus comes from heaven to open its doors by shedding His blood, so that sinners like Philip and Nathanael and you and me may believe and enter into paradise.

How often do we desire God like Nathanael did, and yet overlook Him because we can only see our problems and hurt and shame? Turn your eyes from them and look at Jesus on the cross. That’s how He wants you to see Him. Look and see your condemnation and judgment on Him, because if it is on Him, then you are declared righteous. If your sins are laid on Him, then they are not on you—you are free of them. If your death is laid on Jesus, then you will no longer die, but live. If His rising again is for you, then salvation and life everlasting are yours. Heaven’s doors have been opened wide for you to one-day pass through them. In God’s eyes you are already there.

But we are not there yet; living in eternity. We live here and have no end of troubles and pains. The sins of others impact us and we hurt others with our sins. We have fears and worries and sometimes we wonder, “where are you now Jesus. I can see you on the cross, and I’m thankful for that, but what about now; in my pain, carrying my crosses, living life here?”

The Good News is that Jesus is here now, for us. He is here, speaking, washing, feeding, forgiving. He is here strengthening our faith and growing us in hope and trust. This doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. Life is never a breeze, the devil makes sure of that.

But He who has called us is faithful. He has made us a part of His body; He cannot forget us or abandon us. He has overcome the darkness of death and He will lead us through every dark time we face.

This is the Good News of Jesus on the cross. Forgiveness and salvation are ours as a free gift and this has changed us. We are comforted by our crucified Saviour. We have joy that God smiles on us, and this shapes the way we live now, desiring others to come and see Jesus, that they would know Him too. As a child of the heavenly Father we can pray for His Spirit to open their hearts to know Jesus, even as we ask them to come and see.

The invitation to come and see Jesus is for all His disciples, throughout our whole life. There is always something new to discover, or something old to learn again, and the depth of God’s love for us is new for us every day.

And so, we need to come and see Jesus, often, and not dwell on our sins and or focus on our troubles. Come and see and hear the Gospel and be assured that He has opened heaven gates for us. Amen.