The crucified King

Text: Colossians 1:15, 20 

8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things…. Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.

Things are not always what they seem.  What seems to be the most obvious can be awfully wrong. The gospel reading today is another one of those cases where things are not what they seem to be. 

We heard the account of Jesus’ crucifixion as recorded in Luke’s gospel.  We are told how Jesus was nailed to a cross between two criminals. 
He is weak from all the beatings; his clothes are stripped from him and soldiers gamble for his robe; he suffers the mockery of those standing around the cross.  They call out, “If you are a king, then save yourself”.  They laughed at his weakness and inability to save himself, they joked about his claim to be a king and now his unkingly naked body was nailed to an instrument of torture – what a joke and what a good laugh they had – a king on a cross – what a ridiculous idea!

But there was one person who saw something in Jesus that no one else saw.  In spite of the gashes in his flesh from the whip, the nails, the wounds, the blood, the nakedness and the shame, one of the criminals crucified with Jesus recognised a king.  He said to Jesus, Remember me, Jesus, when you come as King!”  Jesus promised him, “Today you will be in Paradise with me”.

A strange king indeed – suffering, weak, humiliated, despised, rejected and dying.  But the death of this unlikely king made us friends with God through his death.  God was going to stop at nothing to break down all barriers between him and all people.  He was even prepared to let the King of king and Lord of lords die in order to make everything right again between him and us.

This is where Paul’s letter to the Colossians picks up the theme of the kingship of Jesus.  The apostle goes to great lengths to emphasise that Jesus is God’s Son; he is everything that God is.  Through him “everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities” were created.  If he is the creator of all these then, he is also lord and king of everything in heaven and on earth.  Paul goes on to say that Jesus is not only king of every part of creation, he is also head of the church; “he is the source of the body’s life”.  

Things are not what they seem.  This king is all powerful, above all things, the lord of all and master of the whole universe, with multitudes of angels at his beck and call, living in the perfection of heaven.  Yet it was not above this king to get down and get dirty.  Jesus doesn’t just dress up to be like us, he is one of us.  He takes on our human nature and lived among ordinary people especially sinners and outcasts, including lepers and the demon possessed.  What happened to him could hardly be regarded as being kingly. 

He died on a cross.  Just grasp the magnitude of this.  The King of kings and Lord of lords, God’s Son, died on a horrible human instrument of torture and death.  Not only that, he died for all those who are enemies of God because of the evil things they did and thought (Col 1:21).

In his usual clear and precise way, Paul says, “By means of the physical death of his Son, God has made you his friends, in order to bring you, holy, pure, and faultless, into his presence” (1:22).  That’s worth repeating to make it sink in.  “By means of the physical death of his Son, God has made you his friends, in order to bring you, holy, pure, and faultless, into his presence”.

Today is the last Sunday of the church year and it is traditional to talk about the end of the world, the end of our life here on this planet as we know it and the certain judgement of God on the Last Day. 

This image of the servant-king that Paul and Luke paint for us is so important as we face the prospect of coming face to face with the holy and righteous God.  There’s no denying that we are sinners. 
There’s no getting around the fact that right up to the last day of our life we will continue to sin in thought, word and deed.  The Bible makes it quite clear that our sin condemns us and we would have no chance of surviving the judgement of God on the last day. 

But Paul makes it clear that there is nothing to be afraid of.  Christ has died for us.  Jesus is master and king over sin, death and the power of Satan to condemn us.  Jesus’ death has made us friends with God again and made us holy, pure and faultless.  Our sin has been wiped away.  Forgiven.  Forgotten.  We will be welcomed into heaven.

Isn’t that what happened to the man dying next to Jesus.  In his moment of deepest agony, Jesus tells the criminal who sees in Jesus a king that his sin will no longer be held against him.  “Today you will be with me in Paradise”.  At a moment when all would seem to be hopeless and without a future, Jesus is truly a king.  He pardons and assures the man that he will be with him in Paradise. 

Without a doubt, there is a future after death and after the end of this world.  Jesus promised the man next to him, “Today you will be with me in Paradise”. 

We have a servant-king who died for us and rose from the dead, who has done everything possible to ensure that we need not fear what will happen.  At the end of everything, we are safe.

Kings and crosses don’t normally go together but in the case of Jesus they do.  Jesus may have been raised to the highest place and given the name that is greater than any other name (Phil 2:9) but this mighty king cannot be separated from the cross on which he died saving you and me.  As Paul so nicely summarised, His Son became a human and died. So God made peace with you, and now he lets you stand in his presence as people who are holy and faultless and innocent” (Col 1:22).

Worship this different kind of king, this Jesus, and trust him.
This is our king – nailed to a cross to rescue us from the powers of darkness and sin.

This is our king – risen and ruling, and “openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).

God’s uninterruptible love

Text: Luke 21:10-12, 18, 19

church4“Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be terrible earthquakes, famines, and plagues everywhere; there will be strange and terrifying things coming from the sky. Before all these things take place, however, you will be arrested and persecuted; you will be handed over to be tried in synagogues and be put in prison; you will be brought before kings and rulers for my sake. …. But not a single hair from your heads will be lost. Stand firm, and you will save yourselves.

Interruptions can be annoying.  You decide that it’s time to start your Christmas cards and letters but as soon as you put pen to paper someone in the family is hungry, can’t find something, or your phone rings there goes your good intentions. 

Sometimes interruptions, though initially annoying, can be creative and constructive.  The whole story of the Bible can be looked at from the viewpoint of interruptions.

The devastating effects of sin interrupt the peace and harmony of life in the Garden of Eden.  Sin interrupts God’s plans for the world.  God had created a beautiful world and had put beautiful people in it but sin interrupted the beauty of God’s world.  In turn God interrupts sin by becoming a human being who lives among us filled with grace and truth and dies for us.

Moses was happily looking after sheep and keeping out of trouble when his life was interrupted by a voice from a burning bush.  It was God who was challenging him to step out of his comfort zone and demand that the king of Egypt let the people of Israel go free.

God’s people were caught in sin and were drifting away from God and so he interrupted the lives of ordinary people and sent them as prophets to interrupt their drift away from him and bring them back into a relationship with their Creator and Saviour.

The announcement of the birth of Jesus interrupts a young girl’s life and her wedding plans.  The silence of the night is interrupted when angels announce the birth of the Messiah.

A traitor friend who needs to go and sell his Lord for the price of a slave interrupts Jesus’ celebration of the Passover with his disciples.  This same traitor and the armed guards interrupt Jesus’ prayers in the Garden.  And finally, the sadness and confusion after Jesus’ death is interrupted by the news that he has risen.  His tomb is empty.

Interruptions are events in our lives that can’t be forced back any more than we can hold back the tide.

Today’s difficult gospel text makes us aware of the interruption that will affect the whole world.  Jesus is leaving the temple and he is looking around at one of the most magnificent structures in the world at that time.  He tells his disciples that this grand monument will be destroyed.  We know that this happened at the hands of the Romans.  The history of the temple will be interrupted and brought to an end, he says, and it was. 

He goes on and says that everything we cherish, every institution and tradition, every treasure that we count on and store up will be interrupted and brought to an end.  Wars, earthquakes, famines, and other disasters in nature, persecutions when family members will rise up against other members of a family, will interrupt our way of life and the peace we enjoy. 

Peace and safety in our world and in our community are very fragile things and can easily be interrupted by hostility, bloodshed, robbery and fear. The interruptions that we experience almost on a daily basis are reminders that things in this world are very uncertain.                                                    

When you think about it, the interruptions that we experience in life can make us feel very insecure and uncertain.  Everything that we once considered solid and secure; what we once thought to be the centre of our happiness and peace can suddenly be interrupted and we are left with nothing.  Take the story of Job in the Old Testament who had everything and in an instant it was all gone.

But Jesus wants to make it quite clear in our reading today that there is one thing that will never be interrupted, that is, the love that our Father in heaven has for us.  Jesus says, “Not a single hair from your heads will be lost”.  Regardless of what may happen to interrupt our peace and happiness in this life, nothing will interrupt God’s love for us.

 “Stand firm”, Jesus says in the last verse in our reading.  Trust and believe in that love for you.

“Stand firm” and believe that Jesus’ love has forgiven all your sin and prepared a way for you to eternal life.

“Stand firm” and believe that he will stand beside you and help you no matter what kind of interruption will disrupt your happiness and peace in this life.
                                                                                                                                                                    “Stand firm” in the knowledge that even though all kinds of disasters may come  God loves you and he will not allow anything interrupt that love and care for you.

On the day we die or when Christ bursts into this world on the last day (whichever comes first), that will be the last interruption that we will ever experience.  There will no more interruptions by sickness, death, wars, natural disasters, accidents, crime or whatever.  We will be taken into God’s presence and join those gathered around the throne of God. 

In the meantime we need to deal with the interruptions that take place in our everyday life. How easily is our trust in Jesus interrupted?
How readily do we allow our pet sins interrupt the newness that we have in Christ?
How often do we allow or even try to find interruptions that keep us away from reading God’s Word, praying and worshipping together with our fellow believers?
How willingly do we allow our sinful nature and Satan interrupt our walking God’s ways?

God grant that the Holy Spirit would interrupt every sin, every temptation, every fear and doubt, and remind us every day that God’s love for us is uninterruptible.  God grant that our commitment and faith be as uninterruptible as God’s commitment to us.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.


The purpose of life.

Jeremiah 14:7-10,19-22  2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18  St.Luke 18:9-14

The Pharisees were dedicated to the preservation of Jewish culture in terms ofgordon5 the Mosaic law and its traditions relating to life and worship. They were jealous for the sacred history of God’s people; God’s unique provisions for the Jewish people. Israel as God’s people, made to be who they are as distinct from the rest of humanity by God’s gracious call of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is renamed Israel. This call took the form of a covenant- including the gift of the Law, the ten commandments. The unique identifier of the Jewish people and religion through their entire history to the present day. The Pharisees were the guardians of this tradition and the understanding of its significance for the survival of Israel as the people of God. Their description as Pharisees comes from the Hebrew word פרושים   prushim from  פרוש parush, meaning “separated,” that is, one who is separated for a life of dedication to law and purity.

When this story was told by Jesus, we very often overlook the fact that the original hearers far from being offended by the self-conscious righteousness of the Pharisee would find it wrong indeed, obnoxious, that a Pharisee should be unfavourably compared to a Publican. The publicans were the “tax collectors” for the Romans in the state of Israel. The word came from the Roman word “publicani.” Because the publicans were representatives of the pagan Roman conqueror, their work was detested. A Jew who chose to become a “publican” was viewed as a betrayer and a servant of the occupying power of Rome. He was about as far opposite to a Pharisee as one could be.

The publicans were also hated for stealing from their own people more than what was required by the Roman’s tax laws. They took advantage of their official position to coerce and cheat people. They were people looked down upon, as amongst the lowest of the low in that society, people who were despised, whose company one would not want to cultivate.

In fact, we too generally believe that like the Pharisees for Jewish people who upheld Israel’s tradition there are groups in our own community who sustain the threads which hold the fabric and continuity of our community together. The farmers who farm, the teachers who teach, the parents who sacrifice their self-interest to the interests of their family and we could go on and name the numerous groups of people in the community who by their dedication to their calling are the ones that make a civilised society possible, who sustain the lasting essential structures that make life possible in a civil society.

The Pharisee in the text before us today with his pious faithfulness and predictability intends to serve God. He does in fact give thanks to God for His being who he is, for having made him such in his difference from the Publican. He does not make out that it is he who has made something of himself. He acknowledges that it all depends upon God as to who he is as a Pharisee.

Indeed, it is not the point of Jesus’s comparison to disparage or deny the piety of the Pharisee, in another place (St Matthew 5:10) Jesus says unless his disciple’s righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees, they shall not enter the Kingdom of God. But what Jesus indicates is that the kind of obedience the Pharisee offers God vitiates, destroys, the goodness of the Pharisee’s whole life’s meaning.

In comparing himself to the Publican in the very act of thanking God for making him who he is; the pious Pharisee shows that he himself is not in the doing of his good work.  His doing of good works, his keeping of the Law of God is done not for the sake of the goodness of the action itself, but with one eye on God, whose judgment he recognises as the highest court. He has one eye on God recognising his action and one eye on the action itself. His vision of being and doing good according to God’s Law is divided. In St Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus says of such a human situation,

 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye is single, your whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness!

 It is the divided nature of the Pharisee’s action that destroys its value in terms of obedience to God’s will expressed in the Law . His action is not unselfconscious but very self-conscious. His eye is not single but divided as he lives before and with God.

The Publican, on the other hand, turns away from who he is in what he does, and remember what he does is betray his people by working in support of the pagan Roman regime: whilst defrauding his fellow citizens. As distinct from the Pharisee he does not look at his works, his deeds, whether they be good or bad; he looks only to God’s mercy as that which is the basis of his life before God and before his contemporaries. He looks only to God’s mercy as that which makes Him who he is, the only basis of his future hope. He looks neither to the right nor the left but only to God’s mercy as the truth of His life before God and other people. He pays no attention as to whether his conscience accuses or condemns him. In other words, in contrast to the Pharisee he trusts alone in God’s mercy. He looks at himself and his deeds, not with a divided eye but a single eye on God’s promised forgiveness; he seeks his righteousness outside of his work, in God alone, His mercy, now made visible in the One who is speaking. The Person of Jesus Himself is the manifestation of God’s mercy on his way to the Cross.

So, the difference between the pharisee and the publican is not to be considered on moral grounds. On moral grounds the Pharisee is regarded as a far worthier citizen than the Publican. The difference is the question which confronts us all in the One in whom the mercy of God ceases to be an abstract category. In the person of His Son, God confronts us as the crucified One, whose life is determined by absolute trust in God. It is the law of the cross, God’s incomparable mercy. This is revealed in Christ’s absolute obedience, for our sake, to the Father’s purpose for His life fulfilled in the cross. It is this that establishes the Publican as righteous and condemns the Pharisee. This action divides and judges not on the basis of what we can see or feel,  but on the basis of God’s grace and His grace alone.

But who are the Pharisees today. We live is a quite different society/community than that which is depicted in the New Testament. I mentioned before, we may look to those who, like the Pharisees, hold the community together and express their vocations by serving in the structures of society that keep it functioning as  a liveable civil society. The health care workers, the farmers who farm, the teachers who teach, the parents who sacrifice their self-interest to the interests of their family and we could go on and name the numerous groups of people in the community who by their dedication to their calling are the ones that make a civilised society possible, who sustain the essential structures that make life possible as a civil society. But these people do not function in our society as the Pharisees once did for Israel, being the source of guidance as to living life before God as God’s people.

The Pharisees today are those self-appointed individuals and groups that seek to control and to manipulate peoples’ thought and behaviour with their  post-modern critical theories as the source of all insight and wisdom to which we must not only pay attention but obey.

(The Australian 070922)The teacher at a Church of Ireland school was jailed for an indeterminate time after refusing to address a transitioning student as ‘they’. Enoch Burke was arrested yesterday morning for breaching a court order.

After Judge Michael Quinn made his ruling, Mr Burke said: “It is insanity that I will be led from this courtroom to a place of incarceration, but I will not give up my Christian beliefs.” He now lives in Mountjoy prison.’

Or the widely reported dismissal of the recently appointed CEO of the VFL club Essendon. The former CEO of the National Australia Bank he held his new position for 30 hours and then he resigned at the request of the Board because they came to the knowledge that he belonged to a Christian Church whose doctrine banned Abortion and was against Same Sex Marriage.

In recent times the Archbishop of Hobart was dragged before a court because he published for use in the education of students in Catholic schools a small book containing the Catholic doctrine of marriage as between a man and a woman. Someone who read it was offended by what it says about Christian marriage but also what Christian marriage excludes.

Whether it is in the UK, Europe, Australia or New Zealand not a week goes by without yet another example of a book being banned, ideas being censored, the past being rewritten, statues being demolished and authors being vilified and held up to ridicule. Political correctness, represents a threat to the existence of society as we know it. Including such basic ideas as rationality and the public expression of religious belief.

In schools and universities as a result of post-modern literary and post-colonial theory students are taught that our society is inherently racist, there is nothing beneficial about the Western Christian tradition, and, if they are white, they are told they must atone for the crimes committed against people of colour. Our culture is plunged into ethical chaos where intolerance masquerades as tolerance, and individual liberty is crushed by group think. The post-modern world is the world of double think as described by George Orwell in his books like Animal Farm, and 1984, and others. In them the Orwellian world is the world where Big Brother controls citizens thought and anyone, particularly Christians, who question the thought police is victimised, punished and silenced. In totalitarian societies like China and present-day Russia we actually see what Orwell so remarkably predicted would happen once human ideologies replaces the open and free societies of the Western democratic kind. The ideologies which inhabit the politically correct guardians of our community, who censor and victimise anyone who trespasses over the boundaries of their ideology, whether it be militant feminism, Marxist interpretation of history, the black arm band view of Australian history and race relations, or secular humanism which denies any rational narrative or purpose to the human story, they all lead us in the same direction as  those already established in communist or fascist states.

As Christians in this context, we have the responsibility to tell the truth about the human condition on the basis  of God’s action toward us in Christ. That human beings are not an accidental conglomeration of atoms thrown together by a cosmic accident, beholden to a blind fate that only has the meaning that I or my group give to the human condition. That there is a purpose in life derives its meaning not from us but for us in Christ. This purpose invites us to trust ourselves to One who in the cross dignifies our humanity by actually bearing our brokenness in himself and thus giving us freedom to live truly human lives, serving each other as we have been served in Christ, and in that service to find the true basis of human freedom.

Dr. Gordon Watson.

Your Prayers Make a Big Difference

Luke 18:1-8

In the New Testament, love and prayer belong together. If you love God, youallanb can’t help but communicate with Him.

It’s a sheer joy to communicate with those you love dearly, isn’t it?

In the face of all the discouraging things that happen in our modern world, it’s amazing that so many people keep praying regularly.

The problem of prayer becomes acute when God seems to be in no hurry to answer our prayers, for whatever profound reasons He has in mind. If five people pray that they’ll get a job, say, as a chaplain, the prayers of four will seemingly go unanswered, because only one person will get the job.

How do we make sense of this? Prayer is first of all, all about getting to know God better. Prayer is of inestimable value even if it does no more than remind us of who we are before God, that is, sinners in need of all the help we can get from Him.

Lack of prayer may indicate a lack of hunger for God. It thrills God most of all when we want Him more than we want things from Him. How marvellous when our Creator is more precious to us than anything else we might desire; when God is better than our hopes, better than the best we’ve dared to imagine. Our praying can be greater and better than the things we pray for.

Prayer involves more than asking for what you think you want. It involves asking to be changed in ways you cannot imagine; to be made more grateful, more able to see the good in what you’ve been given, instead of grieving over what might have been. Our ability to love is sometimes reflected in our ability to pray.

If you don’t pray, everything can disappoint you by going wrong. If you do pray, things will still go wrong, but not in a way that will disappoint you. Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tyre? We can never make it on our own, no matter how clever we are, how much luck we may have, how many strings we pull or how hard we work. Even when we have everything going for us, God is still our primary need. Who else would we want to go to, except the God who loves us, who treasures us and who wants us in spite of our inadequate prayer life, in spite of our failure to love others as we ought, and in spite of our failure to live as God would like.

When we feel discouraged, we’re directed to “take it to the Lord in prayer”, and persist in that prayer until we get a response. Our greatest temptation in prayer is to give up too soon.

The young widow in today’s parable is a model of persistence for us. In Jesus’ time, widows often had to go to a judge to get justice. When a husband died, his property often went to his brother, leaving his widow helpless. Widows often lacked someone to help them. Jesus shows a passionate concern for the plight of widows, a concern that most likely flowed from seeing Mary, his widowed mother, struggling to make ends meet.

Jesus tells us of a widow who refused to give in until she got justice. To make matters worse, the judge in charge of her cause is a callous magistrate, lacking any compassion for this woman. Furthermore, she had no money with which to bribe him. Persistence was the only weapon she had to secure her inheritance and her future. And she was shameless in her persistence.

She didn’t give the judge a moment of peace. We have the picture of a powerless widow threatening to box an all-powerful judge. Though this judge has many men at his beck and call, he can’t shake off this one persistent widow. It would be like our Prime Minister trying to ignore the verbal harangue of a homeless bag lady until she hits the Prime Minister over the head with a water bomb, dousing him until he takes notice. The unjust judge fears this widow will pester him forever. Verse five literally states, “I’ll hear her case or she’ll give me a black eye.” You can imagine the newspaper headlines: “Powerless Widow Wins!”

We’re often in as much need of help, with a need greater than we can cope with alone, as this widow was. Jesus reassures us that God is more ready to hear us than we are to pray. We fail to persist in prayer as our Lord wants us to, maybe out of a false sense of self-sufficiency.

When we don’t get answers as soon as we think we should, we shouldn’t despair. F.B. Meyer once said, “The greatest tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but unoffered prayer.” God wants us to pour our hearts out to Him over all the things that churn us up and upset us.

The story is told of a woman of humble origins who was saving her coins for “a treat”. Then she met her future husband. He was the personification of her dreamed-of hero. She couldn’t believe it when he asked to marry her. They moved to a large house; her dream home. And they had children. It was all she had ever wanted. Then she became ill.

The news from her doctor was: “Your liver has stopped working.”

She almost screamed at him: “Are you telling me that I am dying?”

“We have done all we can”, the doctor said as he left her.

She felt a fire of anger ignite within her. She wanted to tell God off. As best she could, she struggled to the hospital chapel, preparing what she was going to say to God:

“Every time anyone finds a little happiness, You pull out the rug from under her feet. Well, I just want You to know that I have had it. I see through You.”

But when she got near the front of the chapel, she fell. She was so weak, that she could hardly see.

She could just read the words woven onto the step into the sanctuary that read,


Suddenly, all the angry words, all the desire to tell God off was gone. All that was left was, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Then she put her tired head down and listened.

Deep within her, she heard: “All of this is a simple invitation to ask you to turn your life over to Me. You have never done that, you know. The doctors here do their best to treat you, but I alone can cure you.”

There and then, Jean turned her life over to God. Finding her way back to her hospital bed, she entered a deep sleep. After further tests the next day, her doctor gave her good news: “Your liver seems to be functioning again.” Like Job in the Old Testament, God had led her to the brink, but only to invite her to surrender, to Him.

Through prayer, God invites us to place our whole life into His hands. When we pray, God works. Time spent in prayer is never wasted. A bad prayer is better than no prayer at all. God delays His answer because He knows we need to spend time with Him more than we need the things we pray for.

God either gives us what we ask for or something better. Like a wise parent who withholds certain potentially harmful presents from a child who desperately wants it, like a bow and arrow, until the child is old enough to use it safely, so too God, in His infinite wisdom, withholds things that may harm us rather than help our faith now.

God delays in order to . . .

first, teach us patience;

secondly, to increase our gratitude for what we already have;

thirdly, because God has a greater blessing in store for us;

or fourthly, for a reason we would not yet understand.

For example, a failure to forgive others may be the reason our prayers are not being answered.

St. James reminds us, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.” Look at all the blessings that are ours as a result of Christ’s unanswered prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Unanswered prayer there in the garden didn’t stop Jesus from continuing to pray on the cross. Moses, Job, Jonah and Elijah prayed that they would die. This request wasn’t answered because God still had blessings to bring to us through them.

A woman in hospital suffering from cancer had her pastor pray regularly for healing. When healing didn’t come, she said to her pastor,

“Today, let’s not pray that I’ll be healed. God knows that I hate this illness. God knows I want to be healed. Let’s pray that, whether I’m healed or not, I’ll feel close to God because even if I’m not healed, especially if I’m not healed, that’s what I really want – GOD.”

She was a reminder to her pastor that in the end, we don’t simply want peace, bread and health. We want God. God grant that the more you pray, the more real God will become for you. Jesus asks us that when He returns, He will find in us the kind of faith that persists in prayer like the widow in the parable.

This is the only parable of Jesus that ends with a question, indicating that our Lord wants us to go home today with this question firmly fixed in our minds: “Will the Son of Man find such faith on earth when He returns?”

Our faith in our Lord moves us to pray, and prayer feeds and sustains our faith, making it indestructible. Our age is one of “compulsive talking”, but not to God. There are gifts God won’t give us until we ask for them. When you’re too worn out to pray, ask the Holy Spirit to help you. We’re always in better shape after a heart to heart with God.

Martin Luther said, “Prayer is the most important thing in my life. If I should neglect prayer for a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith. … Guard yourself against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, ‘wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.’” 

Prayer contains too many marvellous blessings and benefits for you to want to ever delay for a day. Do your prayers make a difference? Yes, yes, yes! Forever and ever. Amen.

“Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Luck is indefinable and illusive

Text: Luke 17:15-16

When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.

Luck is that indefinable and illusive thing that sometimes brings good fortune8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0 and sometimes doesn’t. You might say the terrorist who didn’t pay enough postage on a letter bomb experienced some bad luck. It came back with “Return to Sender” stamped on it.  Forgetting it was the bomb; he opened it.  

Have you said when you were almost run down crossing the street – “Boy, that was a lucky escape,” or comment about someone’s bad luck as one thing after another goes wrong.

Some people however, don’t believe in luck. They say, “You get what you deserve”.  Everything that happens to us is a reward or a punishment for the amount of effort that is put in. If you work hard, invest a lot of time and energy into something, you will get back what you have put into it.    

Have you noted that up to this point I haven’t mentioned God in this sermon? That’s because the belief that we get what we deserve and that good and bad are the result of luck or coincidence, have nothing to do with God. There is no room for God who gives generously and excessively even though we don’t deserve such abundance.  The God of the Bible doesn’t just give to good people or to people who in some way deserve to be treated better, he is gracious and generous to everyone whether they realise it or not.

The biblical concept of our heavenly Father giving us everything that we need, is absent from the thinking of many people these days. There is no thought given to what the Bible says about God being

  • the supplier of our daily bread,
  • the giver of our abilities,
  • the provider of everything that we need to live happy and peaceful lives. 

For many people God doesn’t figure into how we are able to live so well every day.  Rather they say,

  • I get it because I deserve it;
  • I am well to do because I have earned it;
  • I get what I need because I have put in the hard hours working for it.

The Bible looks at things this way.  It sees God right in the middle of everything that happens.  It is stated again and again that

  • God put me together inside my mother,
  • God has given me my brain, my skills, and made me who I am,
  • God is leading me,
  • God is protecting me,
  • God is supplying me with daily food,
  • God heals me,
  • God is guiding the rulers,
  • God is helping his people,
  • God sends the rain and provides the harvest.

In fact, everything is seen as coming from the generous hand of God.  He doesn’t give because people have deserved it, in fact, we see so often that he gives even when people are downright awful. Look how he provided daily food to the whining and faithless people of Israel when travelling to the Promised Land.

The Bible also says that we ought to recognise God’s loving hand even when things aren’t going well for us.  Even though we can’t see it at the time, be assured that God is not handing out what we deserve. Somehow, God will use the present trials to bring us blessing.  Meanwhile in the midst of suffering we know that God is nearby, ready to help and support us until we come through to the other side.

When is the next big anniversary of this church? An anniversary is a great event. We could do a lot of chest beating and back patting and congratulating ourselves what a great job we have done here in this community.  But when you read the history of the Lutheran Church from its early days it has been a struggle and at times the flame almost went out.  We can only say in the end that in spite of the failings of the people, God is at the centre of what has happened here.  God has provided the people, the resources, and the help.  God has been the source of the wisdom, the faith, the commitment, and the right timing and the faithful realised this and gathered week after week to thank God for his leading.  

We heard in the Gospel reading before the story of the ten lepers, who called out to Jesus for help and were healed.  Only one returns. Only one can see that God is somehow involved in his restoration to health and returns to say thank you.  And Jesus makes a point of it.  “There were ten men who were healed.” he says, “Where are the other nine?”  And then Jesus commends the one who came back to say thanks because in expressing his gratitude he was recognising that not only was he healed, but who it was that had healed him.  The ex-leper didn’t know how it all happened, it wasn’t just good luck and it certainly wasn’t what he deserved, but he knew that somehow God had done something marvellous. He put God back into the centre of his thinking.

We put God back into the centre of our lives when we say at the end of hectic week, “Thank you God for helping me through this past week”. 

When we say grace before a meal, we put God back at the centre when we say, “Thank you God for this food”. 

We put God back at the centre when we say, “Thank you for the people you have placed in my life to love me and care for me – my family, my friends, and my church family”. 

When our good health is restored, we put God back in the centre when we thank him.

When the path through life is tough going and we don’t know where it will lead us we put God back into the centre when we look at the cross, are reminded of his love for us and place our future in his hands.

When we are weighed with fear and the trouble that sickness and death bring, we put God at the centre who gives us hope for the future when we thank Him for his love.

In a way, we can say that we see the things, events and people in our lives in a different way to the rest of the world. We see that God in one way or the other is behind everything that happens.

God has been excessively generous to us.  He has been generous for no other reason than to support and promote his work. Whether through a Lutheran World Service Appeal, or the offering plate to support mission work here and overseas, the training of workers for the church, or the work of the local congregation, God has made us rich so that we can richly bless others. 

If, for you, things operate on a “you get what you deserve” principle, then you have no need to say thank you for anything.

If everything is purely luck and you are ready to deal with whatever luck brings, there is no need to say thank you, except “thank my lucky stars!”

However, if you see God as being in everything, generously pouring out his blessings, sometimes in ways that are easy to see, sometimes in ways that are difficult to see, then join with the Samaritan leper who saw himself as totally unworthy of receiving anything from Jesus at all and yet receiving so much. 

He fell at Jesus’ feet and thanked him for the new beginning and the restoration of his life.  But this was more than just a healing of a man’s body.  Jesus said, “Get up and go; your faith has made you well.”  This healing has far wider implications.  This one Samaritan leper saw the deep love of Jesus, the love that would take him to the cross; the leper saw in Jesus the love that saves. 

This encounter with the love of God meant that this leper would never be the same.  He truly was the luckiest man alive. 

With faith in Jesus and trust in his love for us and with Jesus at the centre of our lives then you and I are the luckiest people on this planet.


Forgiveness is the Return of Splendour in the World

­­­­­­­­­Luke 17:3-10

Forgiveness is the Return of Splendour in the World8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0
Do you find it easy to say “I am sorry” to someone you’ve hurt?These three powerful words enable us to have smooth relationships with others. “Always apologise more than you think you need to” is advice worth practising as long as you live.

Expressing regret for hurting someone or sinning against them is the first step to healing a damaged relationship with others. The reason many relationships aren’t as good and loving as they could be is because we’ve failed to apologise when we’ve hurt and offended someone. Jesus points out to us in today’s text that love can involve having to apologise seven times in one day, if that’s what’s necessary for domestic harmony or harmony within a church community. This will also involve free and unconditional forgiveness of each other seven times or more in one day if necessary.

Our problem is that we’re quick to excuse ourselves, and we find it easier to criticize the other person rather than forgive them. Love is thrilled to say “sorry” to those whom we’ve hurt.  Where there are no apologies, anger grows and creates in us a desire to hit back.

Jesus’ call to forgive a sister or brother seven times a day if necessary made His disciples only too aware of their inadequate faith. That’s why they pray to Jesus, “Increase our faith”. They’re only too aware that they need the help only our Saviour can give them. By asking Jesus to increase our faith regularly, we are praying that our Lord will enable us to do things for Him that seem to be humanly impossible. He means we should use the faith God has already given us to ask Him for a more effective, life-transforming faith. Faith that grows like a mustard seed is faith that’s said its prayers.

Jesus links faith, prayer and forgiveness inseparably together when He says, “So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses’ (Mark11:24-25).”

No other act in the universe is as glorious and beautiful as God’s forgiveness of us. No other antidote brings such complete healing and peace as does forgiveness. Nothing in our sinful world bears the imprint of Christ, the Son of God, as surely as does forgiveness.

God forgives you like a mother forgives her child when she kisses the offence into eternal forgetfulness. His forgiveness of you is stronger than all your sins. Forgiveness is His barrier-breaking, future-opening gift to you.

Forgiveness meets our longing to make a fresh start in our relationships with God and each other. God’s forgiveness of you means you can live as His new creation, as if your life has just begun. Forgiveness is God’s most characteristic quality as our heavenly Father. He pleads with each one of us to be forgiven and forget; forget all the past sins of which God has already forgiven you and all the sins other people have committed against you.

The Bible tells us that ultimately all sin is against God and must be confessed to Him. King David confesses to God: “Against You, You alone, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified in Your sentence and blameless when You pass judgement (Psalm 51:4).” Because Jesus has taken the blame for all our sins in place of us, God no longer condemns those who plead for His forgiveness. “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).”

We show appreciation of God’s undeserved forgiveness of us by our eagerness to forgive one another.

A young man had a sharp disagreement with another church member. As he’d been a Christian for a longer time than the other person, his pastor asked him to initiate the process of reconciliation. The youth said to his pastor: “He is the one who started all this. I have done nothing wrong. Why should I go to him? He should be the one to make the first move, not me.” Forgiveness involves making the first move. To be a Christian involves forgiving what I think is unforgiveable. We are most like God when we forgive others.

If you cannot forgive others, you break the bridge over which you must pass; for everyone needs to be forgiven. Every Christian needs to be a good forgiver. Nothing stops prayer more than an unforgiving spirit.

To forgive someone is to slice away the wrong from the offender and see her or him in a new light. By living as God’s forgiven and forgiving people, you can make a tremendous difference at home, at work, at sport and at church.

The servant in today’s Gospel reading couldn’t expect any special treatment for simply doing his daily duty. Servants employed in the time of Jesus were grateful for the security of a job and worked for their masters out of a sense of loyalty. In ordinary life in the time of the New Testament, a master never waited on or served a servant.

 As our Master, Jesus, however, did something unique and unheard of before. He came not to be served, but to serve us in amazingly wonderful, down to earth ways. In Holy Communion, Jesus serves us with sacred food in this sacred meal so that we can serve others in all sorts of down to earth ways, like He serves us. Love knows its duty is never done. Love’s only reward is to have the privilege of serving others.

Serving our Saviour Jesus makes our lives full of meaning, because what we do for Him is eternally worthwhile with results seen only in heaven. We serve Jesus, and look forward to that day when in heaven Jesus will come and serve us. “It will be good for those servants whose Master finds them watching when He comes … He will dress Himself to serve, He will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them (Luke 12:37).” What a wonderful honour that will be!


Deadlines and Second Chances

Luke 16:19-31

Deadlines and Second Chances20180311_103505 (1)

Most people these days are used to working to deadlines – ‘due dates’ to pay our bills or complete tax returns, Business Activity Statements or school assignments. There are ‘closing dates’ for entering competitions or buying tickets.  Although there can be disadvantages or disappointments if we miss those deadlines, there is usually some sort of second chance or a way around our misfortune.  Even angry football fans that miss out on grand final tickets are still able to watch the game on TV.

There is one thing in life though for which there is a final deadline, after which there is no turning back.  That has to do with whether we accept the gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ and live for him, or whether we choose instead to live for ourselves, worldly wealth and material possessions.

Jesus talks about that deadline in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  First, we are told about the enormous difference between the material wealth of these two people: There was once a rich man who dressed in the most expensive clothes and lived in great luxury.  There was also a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who used to be brought to the rich man’s door, hoping to eat the bits of food that fell from the rich man’s table.  Even the dogs would come and lick his sores (v.19-21).

Next, Jesus tells us about the enormous difference between the spiritual wealth of these two people.  Lazarus was the one who was spiritually rich and the ‘rich man’ was the one who was spiritually poor.  The evidence of that is what Jesus said about them when it came to the final deadline.  Their roles were reversed at the point of death: The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven.  The rich man died and was buried, and in Hell where he was in great pain, he looked up and saw Abraham, far away, with Lazarus at his side (v.22, 23). 

The one who enjoyed comfort and pleasure on earth was now in torment and pain because, with all his earthly riches, he had neglected the greatest riches of all – the riches of God’s grace.  The one who endured torment and pain on earth was now enjoying comfort and pleasure because, in all his earthly poverty, he had found the greatest riches of all – his faith in God, and in God’s promises.

Both men had reached the deadline where their eternal fate would be decided forever.  There would be no second chance now, no way around the dilemma.  Their decision was now irreversible.

Suddenly the rich man thought of four things he should have done while on earth.

First, he lifted his eyes up to heaven.  He looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus at his side (v. 23).  He focused on the Father’s house above and the comfort, which believers receive there.  He had opportunity to do that during his earthly life, like David who said: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple, for he will hide me in his shelter”  (Ps.27: 4,5).  He could have done that instead of focusing on himself, his own wealth and enjoyment.  Now it was too late!

Second the rich man prayed for God’s mercy.  He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me” (v.24a).  He became aware of his real condition before God.  He was not worthy to stand before God on his own.  He was spiritually bankrupt, separated from God forever because of his sin.  He needed God and his mercy.  He could have received God’s mercy and salvation beforehand if only he had realized his own condition and prayed for mercy while he was living life on earth.  Now it was too late!

Third, the rich man began to think of Lazarus.  He called out, “Send Lazarus to dip his finger in some water and cool off my tongue, because I am in great pain in this fire” (v.24b).  Lazarus had been in pain on earth but the rich man had thought only of himself.  The scraps that Lazarus received were not given; they “fell”.  Now the rich man became aware of the need for compassion – when he was the one who needed it!  Now he noticed Lazarus.  But the gap that he had created between himself and others was as wide and “unbridgeable” as the gap between heaven and hell (v.26).  Abraham reminds him that he once had an opportunity to bridge that gap.  Now it was too late!

Fourth, the rich man had a ‘burning’ desire for evangelism.  The rich man said, “Then I beg you, father Abraham, send Lazarus to my Father’s house, where I have five brothers. Let him go and warn them so that they, at least, will not come to this place of pain” (v.27, 28).  In his life he had the Word of God, the warnings of Moses and the Prophets and the words of eternal life to share with them then, but he didn’t.  Now it was too late!  One of the greatest torments of Hell will be that people there will suddenly have a ‘burning’ desire to do all those things they should have done on earth, but will not be able to do them.  Christ’s warning is that we have only one lifetime to ‘get it right’ with God.

But isn’t God ‘a God of second chances’?  Doesn’t he want everyone in heaven and no one in hell?  That’s true!  That’s why he sent Jesus as our Saviour.  In Christ, God has provided a second chance for every human being who will receive it.  He has provided a much better alternative to the life that is lived to self and worldly pleasures and possessions.

Through Christ, God has offered us a fresh opportunity to focus on the father’s house above. We know that Jesus’ death has paved the way to the Father’s house for us, and that if we trust in him we need never be worried because, as he assures his faithful people, he has gone to prepare a place for us.  We have ample opportunity to renew that focus now through God’s Word and worship.

Through Christ, God has already bridged the gap that could have separated us from him eternally.  His amazing grace has given us the cross of Jesus as a secure bridge across that gap and Jesus’ resurrection as an assurance of his eternal victory over death and hell for all believers.  Every person has the opportunity to pray the ‘Sinners Prayer’ for mercy and to receive his free gift of eternal life.

Through Christ, God has given us the power and motivation to show love and compassion for others.  Jesus said: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34), and  “As much as you have done it to the least of one of these, my brothers, you have done it to me” (Matt. 25:40).

Through Christ, God has given us the hope of having our families share God’s place of eternal happiness instead of the place of eternal pain.  Someone has risen from the dead and come to us to help us turn from our sins.  We have the Word of God – Moses and the Prophets as well as the word of Christ and his Apostles – to share God’s good news with our families and friends.

The fact is that, for us, God is providing the riches of his grace – and his second chance – right now.  What are the priorities in our lives at the moment?  What sort of riches are we really interested in – material or spiritual?  Are there some things we ought to look at changing now, before it is too late for ourselves and our families? 

When it comes to the deadline, when our life is over and we stand before God in judgement, there will be no more second chances.  God has given us our second chance, in Jesus.  Let’s not forget to put our trust in Him alone!  Amen.

And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Your favourite fairy tale.

Luke 16:1-13

The Merciful Master and His Shrewd Manager

What’s been your favourite fairy tale? What was it that grabbed your20180311_103505 (1) attention? Were you fascinated to watch the bad guy in action being eventually defeated by the hero of the story? Just as in real life, fairy tales contain bad guys as well as good ones. What fascinates us, I think, is the conflict between good and evil, with the hope that good will triumph.

The stories Jesus tells are not simply nice ones with only nice people in them. Rather, Jesus tells stories true to life with people of questionable character, like we find in real life. Our Lord tells us stories with the kinds of people we hear about each day, in order to grasp our attention. Have you been let down by someone you trusted? It’s a painful experience, isn’t it? Life isn’t always a rose garden. Jesus doesn’t depict life as better or worse than it is. Today’s parable has all the marks of something that really happened.

In the parable which Jesus tells us just before this one, the parable of the Prodigal Son, after wasting his father’s property, his son returns home and throws himself on his father’s mercy, just as in today’s parable the wasteful manager throws himself on his master’s mercy. This morning’s parable is about more than the wasteful use of someone else’s property. Its focus is rather on showing mercy on someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Having hit rock-bottom, the bad manager acts with amazing decisiveness and shrewdness to secure his future. It isn’t his dishonesty that’s commended, but rather, his shrewdness in using whatever opportunity is available to him to secure his future and make friends with those indebted to him. The fact that Jesus shares this parable with us is an act of grace and mercy. It invites us, yes even urges us, to prepare for our eternal future while we still can.

We have an advantage the wasteful manager didn’t have – as those who listen to and treasure Jesus our Saviour, and live in the light of the good news He brings us, our future is assured. Jesus reassures us: “My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of My hand (John 10:27-28).” The wasteful manager doesn’t reap what he sowed or get what he deserved. Grace, which God freely bestows on us, is God treating us so much better than we could ever deserve! Never forget that!

This parable is all about the amazing mercy of the manager’s merciful master who doesn’t punish or throw his wasteful manager into prison. The manager backs his whole future on his master’s reputation for showing mercy. By sacrificing his own commission, he invests in friendship, realising that to have friends that welcome you and care for you is much more important than being wealthy. He now realises that other people aren’t for our exploitation and personal advancement.

As soon as his master calls him to account, he doesn’t waste time on self-pity or trying to defend his actions. Instead, he maintains a cool head in the crisis and promptly does all he can to secure his future. “I have decided what to do so that when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes (v4).” Already he can see the welcome mats being laid down for him. While he still has the finance books, he will alter the accounts so that both he and his master will be commended by the debtors.

He now invites the debtors to alter in their own hand, the figures on the contracts he has access to, thus lessening their debt. The debtors will now be indebted to him. His shrewd insight is that he sees that the solution to a good future must come from outside. His entire plan is based on the assumption that his master is an honourable person who will respond again with mercy, as he has done in the past. The manager must act in haste in order that the debtors will think that the diminishing of their debts have come from the master’s mercy rather than the manager’s desperation to save his own skin. For the master to now repudiate these alterations would reveal him as mean and hard-hearted. To maintain his good reputation, the master can do nothing but endorse his manager’s actions. His master now commends his manager’s shrewdness, rather than the morality of his actions.

What’s more, Jesus suggests that we, His followers, can learn from worldly men like this manager; how to wisely prepare for our eternal future. Jesus says, “The people of this world are much more shrewd in handling their affairs than the people who belong to the Light (v8).” This means we’re to love God with our minds as well as our hearts, and use all our intelligence and wisdom to lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven. We’re to use our brains to reflect on the meaning of life and death, time and eternity. Jesus’ parables are brain-teasers that hold a mirror to ourselves, so that we’re aware if we’re avoiding thinking about life’s most important questions in a flurry of secular activity. The better we understand the deep questions of our Christian faith, the more it will motivate us to grow in love for our Creator and eagerness to help others.

Jesus wants us to be as passionate and enthusiastic about the practice of our faith in God as the non-religious men and women around us are about their sport, their hobbies and entertainment activities. We learn from them about dedication and commitment. The non-religious folk around us often make huge sacrifices to achieve their earthly goals. How much more shouldn’t we do the same for something that will last forever? In the face of all the good things that God has in store for those who love God, there can be no room for a half-hearted faith. Instead of just possessing a faith in God, we want a faith that posses us, hook, line and sinker!

This week, God is giving you another chance, another opportunity to put God first, to love God above all things and discover the great and unexpected blessings that flow from doing so. When Jesus says, “No servant can serve two masters; for a servant will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth”, He is stating the First Commandment in different words. Treasure God above everything else because your God treasures you so much more than you could imagine.

This morning’s parable doesn’t threaten; it encourages. Here’s someone without hope who has got himself into an unholy pickle. If he’s so shrewd in dealing with his own interest, how much more reason have you, “the people of the Light”, to draw the consequence of the happy situation into which your Lord Jesus has placed you. Your interests are looked after. Your future is assured. You have the best possible hope.

God isn’t going to sack you! God will not let you down although you may have let God down. Your life is in loving hands and your God surrounds you with His protecting and supporting hands. Since Jesus Christ died for you, that’s assured. Your future is good. How much more reason have you to act and live discovering the joys of God’s life! You don’t have to compete with others anymore. You don’t have to be afraid of dying anymore, for you have God’s life now. Your life is worthwhile now. You needn’t act as if the weight of the whole world is resting on your shoulders. Because of the mercies of the Lord that are new every day, you are worth a great deal more in God’s sight than your non-Christian neighbours and friends could ever have an inkling of.

“Listen! This is the hour to receive God’s favour; today is the day to be saved! (2 Corinthians 6:2)” Don’t delay! Embrace God’s grace and mercy today. For “according to God’s great mercy, we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and to an inheritance that is imperishable (1 Peter 1:3-4).”

We thank God for that. Amen.

Vernon P Kleinig

I have found my lost sheep.

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


‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’  Every time a lost soul turns to Jesus Christ with faith, I am convinced, that Jesus beams with joy as he says ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’   Let’s join in a word of prayer: O God our loving Father, the Lord of our lives, today we are filled with the wonder of your presence in our worship and in our lives.  We celebrate that we are never lost to you, no matter how far we feel from your presence.  We give thanks for the gift of salvation received through the sacrifice of your Son.   Guide our time together this morning and give us a vision of your glory that will strengthen us in our walk together through this broken world. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord,  Amen.

The elder of a large congregation was contacted in the middle of the night for a special visit to the bedside of a prominent member at the hospital. The elder immediately dialled the pastor’s home telephone number.  To his surprise, he was greeted with little Venessa’s whispered, “Hello?”

Feeling a bit irritated at the inconvenience of having to talk to a youngster, the elder asked, “Venessa, is your Daddy home?” “Yes,” whispered the small voice.  “May I talk with him?” the elder asked. To his surprise, the small voice whispered, “No.”  The elder then asked, “Is your Mommy there?” “Yes,” came the answer. “May I talk with her?” Again, the small voice whispered, “No.”

Knowing that it was not likely that Venessa would be left home alone, the elder decided he would just leave a message with whomever was there watching over the child. “Is there anyone there besides you?” the elder asked Venessa. “Yes,” whispered the child, “a policeman.”

Wondering what a constable would be doing at the pastor’s home in the middle of the night, the elder asked, “May I speak with the policeman?”

“No, he’s busy,” whispered Venessa. “Busy doing what?” asked the elder. “Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the Fireman,” came the whispered answer.   Growing concerned and even worried as he heard what sounded like a siren in the background, the elder asked, “What is that noise?” “Another police car,” answered the whispering voice.   “What is going on there?” asked the elder, now alarmed. 

In an awed whispering voice, the child answered, “I heard someone say they are bringing some special puppies to my house.”  Now fully alarmed, and frustrated, the elder asked, “Why are they there?”   Still whispering, the young voice replied (along with a muffled giggle), “They’re looking for me!”   (adapted from  Christian Cheong)

It is a wonderful reality that our Father in heaven doesn’t need to send out search parties to find us.  He knows every location of every person, and he has a plan for every child of God who receives his outstretched arm that offers us salvation by faith in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul writes to Timothy, ‘God our Saviour wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ (1 Ti 2:3–4 NIV)
And, as Christ said, all of heaven rejoices over each repentant sinner who confesses their faith in our living Saviour. 

God’s Holy Spirit is the lamp that searches the hearts and spirits of every person, like the woman in the parable of Jesus.  And under his watchful gaze, the Word of God, and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism lights the way for faith to find its way into hearts that were once cold and unrepentant.  Our Lord Jesus Christ welcomes everyone with love.    

All of heaven rejoiced over even Paul, who wrote that, ‘Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.’ 

So, we should not give up hope for the neighbours around us who seem to live without faith.  We should not stop praying for a family member who seems to be living without hope.  We should not stop loving those around us who seem so reluctant to trust in Jesus Christ.  Because, as Paul says, ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.

The good news is that Christ Jesus entered our humanity with a plan to touch the lives of every person.  To save sinners, and that means you and me.  Paul experienced the mercy, grace, love, and faith from the righteousness of Christ Jesus and that drove his ministry.  This conviction is the same reality that drives each of us as we care for each other and witness the work of the Gospel in our lives.

God is active among us, and He can make all the difference in our worshipping community.  I believe this with all my heart! No challenge is beyond God’s amazing grace.  But we are called to be active as we wait for God’s providence to reveal itself.  Active in prayer, active in the word, active in fellowship, active in love.  Active in witnessing the grace and love of our Saviour, Christ Jesus with our attitudes, our actions and our words.  Unlike the example of the Hebrew people in our reading from Exodus today. 

God called Moses to return to Mount Sinai, to receive instruction for the people.  For forty days, Moses remained on the mountain. During these forty days, the people just waited idly, receiving their manna, their quail, and being tested to see if they would remain faithful.  We see from the reading, that the people couldn’t just wait.  Instead of praising God for all that he provided in his care for them, their hearts turned to fear and doubt. 

They responded by making a golden calf to become the object of their worship. 

With the pleadings of Moses, God had mercy on them.  The end of our reading in Exodus brings us to the words, ‘Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.’ 

God has also shown us his mercy and grace.   God, the Son. entered humanity himself, to eat with us, talk with us, and journey with us.  He took all our mistakes and all our failures, and all our sin upon himself.  He sacrificed himself to receive the punishment that we deserve, and He led the way to a new relationship with the fullness of God our Father, by our faith in God the Son.
Jesus came into the world carrying the reality of the  good news that God loves each one of us, individually, without limits.  But sometimes it’s really hard for us to feel God’s love through the confusion and challenge of living.  Just like the Israelites at the foot of the mountain.  Especially when this broken world strives to tell us the lie – that God is distant, arbitrary, angry and judgemental.  That God doesn’t love us, doesn’t care about us, and doesn’t hear us.

From Scripture, we understand that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways.  But through Scripture, we can also know God’s love for us, and we can know the devil’s hatred.  The devil uses the world to speak discouraging words to us in his effort to destroy our faith, to corrupt our relationship with God.  To draw us into sin. 

But God uses the Gospel to strengthen us, to encourage us, and to preserve faith in us.       Jesus came into the world to defeat the devil’s effort to make us all captive of the self-doubt that he tries to put between us and God.  In the Gospel today, we discover Jesus sharing the good news with those who needed it most.  The tax collectors and sinners that were kept from worship in the temple and were separated from a welcoming relationship with God by their guilt and the rejection from others.

We don’t find anything about lost sinners that makes Jesus want to be with them.  We do find something about Jesus himself. His nature, as God’s Son.  And the Holy Spirit draws those to Jesus who need Him.  That’s wonderful news for all of us, believers and nonbelievers alike.

Wonderful news because it means that as much as people try to avoid that offer of love and acceptance, as much as people insist on trying to get along by themselves, God will not rest until we receive him.   He will not leave us nor forsake us.     That’s why Christ Jesus is the way he is.  That’s why he will give us, the Children of God by our faith, the intuition to encourage someone who needs to know that God loves them. 

That’s why Jesus will use us to show his love to our neighbour, to our friend, to the stranger we meet  Jesus wants us to understand that each of us is valued by a loving and caring God in Christ Jesus.  And together, we can make a difference in our broken world, by simply living our faith with our attitudes, actions and encouraging words.

Jesus never gives up on us.  He never gives up on those we love who seem to be lost and hidden by the broken world around us. So let’s never give up on God.  Even when life seems to overwhelm us. 

After all, in our baptism we are united with Jesus Christ into his death and resurrection.  And Jesus didn’t give up – even when facing the cross. 

One Christian church was striving for a way forward to reach out to people, both unbelievers and casual believers alike.  In her book, ‘Reclaiming the L Word’, Pastor Kelly Fryer provides five guiding principles that enabled that Congregation to follow our Saviour Jesus Christ.

That Jesus is Lord;  that Everyone is Welcome; that Love Changes People; that Everybody has something to offer; and that the world needs what we have.  To which I would add another guiding principle, that faith is the key to everything we do.

Principles that I find so evident as a natural outflow of the love we share here at St Peter’s.  Principles that we can engage with more purposefully as we  journey together in the love of Christ Jesus our Saviour.

It is no hollow prayer when we ask the Holy Spirit to set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father.  And we continue to Inspire people to LIVE a purposeful LIFE, growing TOGETHER in JESUS CHRIST.  May the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in the calm assurance of salvation we have in our living Lord.

Pastor David Thompson.

Hard To Hate.

Text: Luke 14:25-33, Psalm 1:5-6, Philemon

“Hard To Hate”

 Hate is a hard word to hear. Especially in20180311_103505 (1) the context of the Gospel reading where we hear Jesus say a person must hate his or her very own life, hate father and mother, or hate sister and brother. Hearing ‘to hate’ startles the senses, yet Jesus goes on to shake us even more.

If you don’t perfectly hate like this, then Jesus says you cannot be his disciple. Added to this he says, “…any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33 ESV)

What does God require of you? He wants you to lay down everything and take up your cross and follow him. Anything less and you cannot be his disciple. Without this hate of self and family, without the bearing of your cross, you and I are seen as flavourless salt… and salt that’s not salty is good for nothing!

A simple test of your hatred of self and family in favour of God can be best observed by your focus on your birthday over against your baptism birthday. Which of these two days gets your greater celebration?

Does the brighter spotlight fall on the day you were born, or rather, do you rejoice more over the anniversary of your day of birth into the eternal kingdom of God. Do you celebrate and commemorate the day you were born into your sinfulness or the day you were crucified and buried with Christ, the day you were baptised into his death, the day your sinfulness was defeated and you received eternal life?

Unless you hate your birthday more than the day your cross became Christ’s cross, and pick it up and follow him, you cannot be Jesus’ disciple!

In light of his word here, we start to see the shocking insufficiency of our existence. In fact, some of you are hard up remembering just what date it was when you were baptised, while some of you are questioning his word, trying to side step it, ignore it, or perhaps trying to justify yourself.

What is revealed here is we’re not what we’re meant to be! Humanity has lost its way! Our thinking has become confused and contradicted against the truth of the situation and our real position in this world and with God.

Most of us have come to accept a benign type of Christianity, devoid of anything which might seem offensive to our postmodern ears. However, what might seem to be benign is in fact malignant if you allow the word of God to dig beneath the surface and expose the reality of your human existence.

Is your quest for your idea of life the very thing that’s cutting you off from the life God wants to give you?

You know, it’s not meant to be this way!

In Psalm One, we’re told, “…the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV)

So what is it for you? Are you righteous; one in God’s congregation? Or, are you a perishing sinner?

There’s a number of ways you might respond. First there’s the way of pride. We might look at ourselves all puffed up thinking we’re not doing too badly! Then, there’s the way of brokenness. We might see deep within the darkness of our sin and in shame seek to flee further from God’s presence.

Both of these responses are flawed! They are both equally wrong because answers are sought from within you.

However, there’s another way! The third way! By this path you can be honest! And answer both questions… YES! Yes, I am righteous; I am one in God’s congregation! And yes, I am a sinner! There is a part of me perishing! Thank God it’s being done away with!

Why is this different from a righteous pride that comes from within, or, equally from within, a humiliation that leads to the giving up of hope? It’s different because the twofold yes comes from outside. It allows you to be completely honest knowing yourself as God knows you!

In fact, God knows you better than you know yourself. He knew you before you were born. He knew you before your baptism into Christ’s death on your cross! He even knew you before this world existed. As we’ve heard in Psalm One, the Lord knows the way of the righteous.

Now God calls you to know yourself! Know your nature; be honest with yourself and him. Know you’re dying, but not despair! Rather because of the eternal joy that awaits you, endure the cross of dying, the killing of your sinful nature, and look forward with hope; fully convinced of the future.

To see yourself clothed the way you were meant to be before sin entered the lives of humanity! To see with God given faith, when God looks at you he sees Jesus! To see you covered with the righteousness of Christ. Believing and trusting Christ’s righteousness is the only way of righteousness.

When this happens we will hate what we are, but love what we have become, what we’re becoming, and what we will become in Christ!

We will realise this life is more about death than life and regret and detest it’s like this. But we’ll also see in death what has begun in baptism will be finished and done away with, so true life can begin. We will grow in love in the knowledge Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And we will yearn, more and more, to be the same as him.

Today we also hear about Paul, Philemon (fill-ee-mon), and Onesimus (O-ness-ee-mus). Onesimus was Philemon’s slave, and after escaping and being found by Paul, Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon. But Onesimus is different from what he once was. He’s no longer a slave to sin but is now bound by the Gospel. He had become the same as Saint Paul.

Although we know little about what it’s like to live in a social setting of slavery, we in fact, like Onesimus, were slaves to sinfulness but are being freed from that old bondage.

If we look into ourselves we might seek to flee our slavery like Onesimus, in despair or arrogance. But Onesimus then relied on Paul to win favour with his master, Philemon. Likewise, Christ has won the victory for us and we can rely on him to put us right with God.

We could imagine Onesimus hated his old life as a slave. We too who trust Christ to put us right will detest our old life too. We will hate the way things have become in this world. We will hate who we’ve become, slaves of sin. And because of it long for something much better and trust God is bringing it to fruition in our lives.

In hating ourselves we might learn to truly love who God is re-creating us to be. And then with this Christ-centred love we might love our neighbour as ourselves. We might love and serve one another as Christ loves and serves us. Amen.


Pastor Heath Pukallus