Trinity Sunday ( 1st Sunday after Pentecost )

The Grace of the Father, the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the peace of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 

A young man asked an old rich man how he became so wealthy. The old guy smiled with memories and said, “Well, son, it was 1932,

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the depth of the Great Depression. As a young  teenager on my own, I was down to my last nickel. I invested that nickel in an apple. I spent the entire day polishing the apple and, at the end of the day, I sold the apple for ten cents.

 The next morning, I invested those ten cents in two apples. I spent the entire day polishing them and sold them at 5:00 PM for 20 cents. I continued this system for a week, by the end of which I’d accumulated a fortune of $3.50.  By my mid- twenties, I owned a fruit stand, and continued to build my small nest egg.  Later on, I met the love of my life, and we worked together building our own small store.   (pause)    Then in 1957, my wife’s father died and left us ten million dollars.”   (Source:  Unknown)

There’s a lot to be said for hard work, perseverance and wisdom, but in this man’s case his vast wealth had less to do with his own character than with the generosity of his wife’s father.

The reality of the Trinity is not received with worldly wisdom or pristine character.  It is not even directly revealed in the Scripture.  It is discovered  by intuition from the generosity of God through the Holy Spirit.  It is received by faith in God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit.

Solomon received the gift of wisdom.  Once again, it was less a matter of his hard work, perseverance and character.  It was a gift of God. When we think of wisdom, we face up to the reality that the wisdom which comes from God is often in conflict with what the world considers wisdom.  Believers in Christ Jesus seem so often to be out of step with the world around us. A world that promotes self-interest and political correctness, while it ignores common sense and blends right and wrong into a state of confusion.   Proverbs 9:10 encourages us that “Reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. 

In our reading from Proverbs, Solomon in all his wisdom, revealed an intuition from God. Solomon, with poetic license,   personifies wisdom in the appearance of a woman. Almost an angelic being translated from the Hebrew word Sophia.  This personification, speaks of one of the attributes that are common between Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in trinity.  That of wisdom.

The creation of the heavens and the earth, and ultimately human beings, were a matter of God’s wisdom in action. Not an afterthought, or chance, or natural selection.   With wisdom, received from God, through the Holy Spirit guiding our human spirit, we stand out against the wisdom of the world.  We hold firm in our agreement that God is one.  One perfect, eternal, powerful essence, with three distinct persons.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  A trinity in unity:  Described in our Lutheran tradition as our Triune God.

I am convinced that Jesus deeply wanted us to know the Trinity of God.  He spoke to the disciples before he returned to his place of glory at the centre of God’s Kingdom.  He confessed that He had “much more to say to [them], more than [they could] bear.” He promised that  “when  the Spirit of truth [would] come, he[would] guide [them] into all truth”. (Jn 16:12 NIV). 

Luther confessed in his explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed, “by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith’.  (The Book of Concord p.355)

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that we can come to a better understanding of God, as He reveals himself to us.  Even though our understanding of God is at best incomplete, God reveals himself to us as Triune God.

The first appearance of the Triune God is at the very beginning of creation.  Just like the quality of wisdom, the Holy Spirit was active in the creation of the universe, along with the Father and the Son.

The Triune God is present with us today. The Godhead fills our universe and our lives.  God who helps us make sense of our lives and understand God’s purpose for us. Who gives us the courage and confidence to live God’s purpose for our lives.  Who helps change the way we feel about all that happens to us in our everyday lives. And who gives us the courage to confront the corrupted wisdom of the world around us. 

John begins his Gospel, revealing our Saviour in the Trinity “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him.”

Just as Moses began his testimony of Genesis revealing the presence of the Trinity in creation, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.’ (Genesis 1:1–2 NLT)

In the great commission, God revealed Himself to the Apostles and to us in trinity, through the words of Christ Jesus.  “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in a the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  (Mt 28:19 NIV)  … 

In the wisdom of God, given to us by his Holy Spirit, we can accept Martin Luther’s thesis: “The Holy Scriptures teach that God is absolutely one and that He is also three persons, absolutely distinct.”

Paul writes in his letter to the Romans: ‘There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power‍‍ of the life-giving Spirit has freed you‍‍ from the power of sin that leads to death.’  (Rom 8:1-2)

Paul also wrote what we shared today, ‘since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 

Luther, called this “the article upon which the church stands or falls.” Justification by faith alone. To Luther, wherever this reality is believed and preached, we find the true church! A church ceases to be Christian when it fails to declare that each person, revealed as both saint and sinner at the same time, is reconciled to God by no other way than by faith.

And so, we stand today united with every Christian in the world, proclaiming our faith in one God in three persons, celebrating our unity, and stepping out in a shared mission to proclaim a common heritage.  It all begins with what our Saviour Jesus Christ did for us.  We worship our ascended Saviour, we praise God our Father, and we honour the Holy Spirit.  
And like the earliest church, we devote ourselves to the teaching of the Apostles, to fellowship, to prayer, and to breaking bread together in Holy Communion – one body in Christ. 

There is an old saying, “There but for the grace of God, go I”.   In the trinity of God, we discover that grace.  We are not just forgiven, but we are changed.  By faith, we are made new and we become precious children of God. 

We come with confidence to God the Father who created us, because of the sacrifice of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  God the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all believers, to give us the will and the fruit of the Spirit to live Christian lives.   And we give thanks to God for both the spiritual wisdom and the common sense that we have received.

And so, we give thanks and praise to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, God the Son, to our precious creator, God the Father, and to the ever present Spirit of God.

Amen.

David Thompson.

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-21

THE HOLY SPIRIT IS CHRIST’S PROMOTION AGENT

Are you a “morning person”? Can you overflow with excitement at 9.00am on a Sunday morning? Certainly the first Pentecost Sunday must have been an exciting occasion for 120 followers of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit 20180311_103505 (1)entered their lives in a way that permanently changed them and the future direction of their lives. Where the Holy Spirit takes over the management of our lives, it can no longer be “business as usual”. Just as wind cannot be tamed, so the Holy Spirit cannot be subdued or tamed by us. We cannot predict when and where He works.

Pentecost is no isolated event. It is the fruition of the mighty work of salvation Jesus began on Good Friday. We experience the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit as we embrace the cross of Christ, and receive the mighty blessings that flow from it. As we see from St. Peter’s Pentecost proclamation: when a believer is filled with the Spirit of God, he or she becomes a passionate ambassador for Christ and for all the good He did for us by His cross and resurrection. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to carry conviction when we speak about Jesus Christ. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His disciples. Forever afterwards, the Spirit remains stamped with Christ’s character. The Holy Spirit is clothed with the personality and nature of Jesus. We cannot therefore attribute any teaching to the Holy Spirit which doesn’t shed light on Jesus. There can be no exultant, joyous experience of the Spirit of God without a corresponding thankful appreciation of Christ’s sufferings for us and with us.

The first Pentecost Sunday is depicted as an event of international significance. St. Peter addresses an international audience with the universal language of the Gospel. The descent of the Spirit was marked by something visible in fulfilment of Jesus’ desire, “I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were already on fire”, but although the tongues of fire were very visible above each of the 120 Christians gathered together, it was what they heard rather than what they saw that made the real impact on their multi-national audience.

What we have here is the miracle of hearing: the miracle of all those present being able to hear the good news of grace, peace and salvation through Jesus Christ, rather than a miracle of speaking in different languages. The crowd asks, “How is it that each of us hears them [that is, the apostles], speaking in our own language (Acts 2:8)?” and in verse 11: “We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God”.

Certainly Pentecost involves a new gift of speech. But even more so, its newness involves a fresh capacity to hear the Spirit of God speak to and convict the consciences of those who are listening to the message about Jesus our Lord and Saviour. Unlike at the tower of Babel, different languages became no longer a threat or obstacle. The Gospel is a universal message for people of every tribe, nation and dialect. Peter and his fellow disciples are so “on fire” with enthusiasm for the wonders God has done through Christ His Son, that their audience thought they’d had a little too much to drink! Hardly likely at 9 o’clock in the morning!

In response to this accusation, Peter delivers the first Christian sermon and one of the most influential addresses ever given, one that radically changed three thousand lives that day. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter preaches from the Holy Scriptures to show how marvellously God fulfils His gracious promises to His people. Furthermore, on the basis of the Scriptures, he delivers a Christ-centred message, as he shows his listeners how to find Christ throughout the Old Testament. Peter points out how God’s Word, rightly applied, speaks into our present situation with its transforming good news of great joy. Only the Holy Spirit could have inspired such a Christ-centred sermon that hits home and pricks the consciences of those who hear it.

The Holy Spirit can cause people of all ages, young and old alike, slaves and those who are free, to prophesy. Prophesying now takes on a new meaning. It now means much more than to foretell the future. “Those who prophesy are speaking to people to give them strength, encouragement and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3).” One of the names given to the Holy Spirit is “Comforter” or “Encourager”. We all need encouragement like the earth needs rain. Each week, things happen that we never anticipated, things that can all too easily discourage us, or else others say discouraging things to us that sap our courage and depress us. That great Encourager whom Jesus has sent to us, the Holy Spirit, sends us fellow Christians to lift up our spirits and provide us with encouragement tailor-made to our needs. Such welcome, Spirit-sent encouragement gives us the courage to face life again with hope and confidence, and continue the work our Lord has called us to do.

A prison chaplain was so discouraged by the lack of response to his work, both by prisoners and the prison administration, that one Easter Monday, he was going to resign. He went sailing to think it over on the solitude of the sea. Then the inspiration came to him. “Every day that I stay on that job is a victory. I win just by staying there.” Such inspiration is from the Spirit of Encouragement, who seeks faithfulness rather than success from us. We sow the seeds of the Gospel and leave the size and shape of the harvest to the Spirit in His good time. He’s not in a hurry like we are. The seeds we sow may lie dormant for many years before they spring into life. The Spirit of Jesus doesn’t operate according to formulas invented by human beings. There are no four fail-safe acts of Christian love that will always work and win folk for Christ.

The Spirit of the living God uses each of us according to the unique combination of gifts He has given us. Our gifts complement each other’s gifts, talents and contributions. Those of us who have no musical gift, thank God for those who enrich our worship with their musical and singing abilities. God’s Word links being filled with the Spirit with worshipping God with music and singing: “Let the Holy Spirit fill and control you. Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:18b-20).”

The same Holy Spirit that creates faith in us also leads us to worship God, for in our Sunday services, the Holy Spirit endows us with His blessings and nourishes and nurtures the fruits of the Spirit in us. There can be no faith in God that doesn’t lead to praise, adoration and thanksgiving to God for the good gifts of Christ our Saviour and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. “To believe in God is to worship God (Luther).”

In conclusion, the Holy Spirit calls on each of us, on all of us, to pray for and work for the renewal of the Church. It’s too important to leave to others. Revival begins with me.

We pray:

Come, Holy Spirit, renew my faith, deepen my commitment to You, increase my love for Jesus and those He loves. Revive Your Church, O loving Spirit, beginning with me!”

Amen.

 

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Text:
Acts 16:16-34 & Revelation 22:10-14
“Actions of Being”
A common misnomer in our thoughts these days is this: If it gets the job
done then it’ll do. This seems to be the bottom line in doing what one must do to
survive. Unfortunately this type of rationale pays little to no respect20180311_103505 (1) for right
and wrong. In fact one might be tempted to believe, if it gets the job done then it’s justifiable, no matter what the means are of getting there.

As Paul and Silas walked through Philippi on their way to a place of prayer each day, a slave girl possessed by a spirit, repeatedly but rightly points to these men as “servant of the Most High God!” She was not wrong in what she said even though she was a noisy nuisance and others were making money out of her prophesies. Surely this might be used as a means of doing God’s work; after all she was proclaiming the Most High God?
Surprisingly though, Paul tired and troubled by her daily ranting, turned and
said to the spirit in her, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come
out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. (Acts 16:18)
After Paul took this action, he and Silas were seized, flogged, and thrown into jail. One would imagine they would have been sorry and sore. But instead, they sat up singing hymns and praying past midnight. Suddenly and unexpectedly an earthquake shook the prison, the doors flew open and the chains came loose.To the horror of the jailer, he awoke at the commotion, thinking his worst nightmare had come true. Believing the prisoners had escaped he reached for his sword to end his life, but Paul shouted,
“Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28) 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God he and his whole family. (Acts 16:29-34)
What must I do to be saved? The question “what one must do?” is perhaps a
very natural response for humanity. The jailer faced death, because the
prison had become unsecured under his watch. He was frightened, humiliated, and his immediate response, before Paul stopped him, was to take his life.
In this account from Acts, we’ve just heard of two responses to two situations.
They seem to be knee jerk sudden responses, with little thought to what one must do. The response of Paul and the jail keeper were natural responses according to who they were. They were immediate responses from their beings, they didn’t have to stop and think what to do! In the core of Paul’s being he was troubled by the spirit filled girl and in an instant he turned and cast out the spirit. The Jailer was troubled in spirit too, and in an instant he turned to take his life. Both men acted according to his being, they acted as according to whom they were called to be. The difference between them is this: Paul’s being was led by something or someone external, whereas the jailer’s being was led by his internal being or will. And this was leading him to death.
The difference between the prisoners and the jailer doesn’t end there either. In fact, ironically, the prisoners act as free men, singing hymns and praying, way after midnight; whereas the jailer acts as a prisoner, and Paul needs to stops him from killing himself. Then in desperation the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?”
As Christians we often place ourselves back under bondage, as did the jailer.
Instead of our freedom in Christ allowing us to be who we are called to be, we get caught up worrying what we and others must do to be Christian
 what we must do to be saved and save others. However, “being a Christian” is exactly that, “being” rather than “doing”. When one faces the question of doing failure, depression, and death follow hot on the heels of our defective human deeds. It’s not so much a question of “what I must do to be?” but rather, “my being in Christ allows me to do what he wills for me.”
From Revelation Jesus says to us, “ Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:10-11)
Here we are told not to bind up the words of Revelation because the time is near. In fact Jesus is near; the Kingdom of God is near. When Jesus returns to usher in his Kingdom, those who have appeared to be in bondage will be shown to be free while those who seem free, and bind others with their human judgements, will be bound in eternity. Those whose being is dependent on what they do will reap their wage; their means for getting the job done despite God’s way, will be paid for in full. Whereas, those who allow God’s means to make them holy, so that their being is holy, will also get their reward.
Jesus continues, “12 Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First andthe Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:12-14)

We all must ask ourselves, “What have I done? Am I doing what God wants me to do, or am I doing something else? What must I do to be saved? How do I wash my robes that I might have the right to the tree of life?”
It’s at this point we must turn away from the deathly deeds of our own rationale and understanding, and be continually drawn back into God’s word. In fact, just like the jailer which Paul saved from death, we must be led away from meditating and trusting in our deeds, and our desire to try and put things right by our own action, lest we too die from our futile and failing deeds.
Paul and Silas acted according to their being. They were not focused on what they must do. If they had they might have moaned and agonised over the actions causing their arrest. They may have grizzled like victims, “what have we done to deserve this?” But instead they worshiped God with joy knowing their fate and suffering, was about who they were called to be in Christ, rather than what they had done.
Likewise, Paul and Silas acted according to their being, when the jailer pleaded, “What must I do to be saved”? They pointed the man to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking God’s Word of truth and grace, so the Spirit could implant faith in his heart too. So in hearing this word, our crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus was planted in the jailer by the power of the Holy Spirit, as he and his family were baptised. He no longer had to do anything to believe, belief and being were given as a gift, and the work of being a Christian, moved him to immediately cleanse the wounds of Paul and Silas, take them into his home and feed them, and live in joy that he had come to believe in Jesus Christ.
We like the jailer have been captured in baptism, so we might remain in Jesus Christ, receiving all the gifts of his deeds, living as free holy beings of God, who have a right to the tree of life.
The grace of the Lord Jesus is with us, because God’s people have received the being of Jesus, through his gracious means of the cross and baptism. And therefore, the last word in Revelation, the last word of the bible for us is this:

The grace of the Lord Jesus “be” with God’s people. Amen.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Let’s join in a word of  prayer:   This morning, God our Father, may your grace lift us from the grip of our challenges and insecurities to experience the peace that your Son, our Lord Jesus

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David:

Christ brings to us.  May your Holy Spirit inspire us to renewed confidence.  And may we here today recommit our lives and hearts to following your will, sharing your love for us, and living our lives of faith in your Son Jesus Christ.  Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 The New Revised Standard Version quotes Christ Jesus saying, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my word.”  (John 14:23-24 NRSV)

There was a young teen who came running into the house to her mother with a cuddle and a broad smile on her face, exclaiming: “Mamma, I love you sooo much!”    The mother replied: “I am so glad you love me. It’s a pleasure to hear you say that.  You know, that I love you too Sweetheart, I’ve had such a hard day, and I am so tired.  If you love me so much, will you wash the dishes for me?”   As her expression changed, the young teen replied: “I do love you, mom, but not in that way.”  (—Unknown, from  Henry Munro)

I suspect there are many in the world today who say that they love Jesus, but when Christ Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my word,” they say in their attitudes and actions, if not in their words, “I love you, Lord, but not in that way.”

Before his ascension, Jesus told the Disciples “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984)) 

When Jesus was present, he was the one who instilled in the believers the right words, coached them through the proper attitudes, taught them the joy of doing the right thing. But as the disciples waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I am convinced they would have spent their time in that upper room re-living all that Jesus taught them. 

Words like those we find in the Gospel reading for today, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” 

Jesus tells his followers that the role of the Holy Spirit is, in effect, to remind us of Christ’s presence in our lives, as he asks us to keep his teaching.

Some of the work of the Holy Spirit is reminding the faithful of the truth, jogging the memories of the followers of Jesus Christ about all that he asks of us and all he will do to help us  so that we can be who he has called us to be in love.

It may surprise us to think of the Holy Spirit in this way, as a quiet, active presence in our lives.  Often the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit that are active in the believing and worshipping community.   And indeed, the Holy Spirit of God does work in our lives and in our communities in so many ways.

‘The Holy Spirit is the person and the power of God drawing people to Christ to see with new eyes of faith.  He is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  

Like our eyes through which we see the world around us,  we can only see our own eyes in the reflection of a mirror.  The Holy Spirit is the one through whom all else is seen in the light of Christ, and we see Him clearly in the reflection of the love of God the Father and the grace of God the Son, Christ Jesus.  Father and Son revealed in Scripture, and experienced in sacraments, through the presence of the Holy Spirit.’  ( Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Jesus knows everything about us.  He knows we are notoriously forgetful. Especially about Him.  And so, at just the right time, God poured out his Holy Spirit upon all believers, to remind us of all that Christ Jesus Is and all that he has done for us. 

 We know that we are created to love God, and to care for one another, but as the pressure builds of living in our broken world, we sometimes forget who we are and the peace we receive from Christ Jesus, who said, ‘”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

It’s like one pastor who related of an experience of being so stressed over running a Church that he could not sleep.  He went to visit a dairy farmer in the early hours of the morning, knowing that the farmer would be milking his cows at 4:30.  As he unloaded his cares to this quiet Christian, the farmer just listened with compassion while milking the cows.  After the pastor finished talking, the farmer said only one thing:  “I always remember that God gives me only the work that he knows I can handle.  So I raise my few crops, feed my pigs, and milk my cows, praising God.  All the rest, I leave to God, accepting the peace he gives me.”

That pastor left the barn that day, praising God for the peace of Jesus Christ, he discovered in the dedicated farmer, and he was renewed in his passion and his mission to share the Gospel.

The minister and author, Matthew Henry, once said, “When Christ died He left a will, in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better—His Peace!”

The Holy Spirit led the Gospel writers to witness the precious words of Jesus and so much more.  So that whoever has “eyes to see and ears to hear” would be joined with our Lord in this life and in the life to come.

Jesus warned the Disciples that the world would not accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither knows Him nor sees Him.  I have come to understand and to accept that God’s Spirit always surrounds us. The challenge is that we can only recognise that we are covered over with God’s Spirit when we receive this truth in the Scriptures.

To come to trust Scripture.  To have faith in it.  To gain comfort from it.  And to gain courage from it.   

God has determined to work salvation in this way.

Jesus wanted the Disciples to have a reality to share.  Their reality – and yet, also his reality.  By God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, their witness became our Saviour’s witness.  From the Scriptures, we discover that these two were inseparable.  Throughout the New Testament, we discover God working in the world through disciples.  He continues to work in the world today through each one of us. 

We are Jesus’ disciples to our time and place.  We can make his reality our reality too.  Inseparable from our Creator, our Saviour, and our Counsellor.   

By living our reality, with Christ Jesus at our centre, we can witness with our attitudes and actions, what our words often cannot say. 

Peter offers us some helpful advice from his first letter,   ‘Do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’  (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

God, in His grace and glory, is calling out to each one of us to be living witnesses to the world.  Witnesses that God can be trusted.  Knowing that we have the help of God’s Holy Spirit, who is with us forever.   And we have the grace and peace of our loving Saviour Jesus Christ.  As Jesus says:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  Be at peace my brothers and sisters in Christ.  AMEN.

David Thompson.

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Text: John 14:27
(Jesus said,) “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do
not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

‘Peace I leave with you’

 

Apparently there is an element of truth in this story. A plane landed after a long flight.The flight attendant explained that there was enough time for everyone to get off the aircraft and then reboard in 50 minutes.pilot
 Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman. The pilot had noticed him as he
walked by. He could tell that the man was blind because his guide dog lay quietly
underneath the seat next to him. “Sir”, the pilot said to the blind man, “we will be
here for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?”
The blind man replied, “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.”
Picture this: All the people in the gate area came to a complete stand still when they
looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog! The pilot was even

wearing sunglasses. Fear took control. People scattered and queued at the airline desk trying to change planes!

 

Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life perhaps more
so in some people than others but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time.
There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts.
The latest wave of flu strains makes us worry for our health.
The fear of terrorist attacks permeates public events.
The nuclear build up in North Korea has caused nations to fear the possibility of the
use of nuclear weapons.
Mothers, fathers and children in Israel and Palestine live in constant fear of another bomb blast or being caught in crossfire.
Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news of
people who would want to harm them.
We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night.
We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations.
And where there is fear, there is no peace. Fear brings with it anxiety, worry,
apprehension, dread, restlessness, panic and tension none of which lead us to feel
calm, peaceful, relaxed and stress free.
One of the best newspaper cartoons is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin comes
marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her
favourite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large
space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.
“What’s up today?” asks his mum.
“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.
“So far?” she questions.
“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin
marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”
Calvin’s mum looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suite like that!”
That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes
this world seems too violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats. A suit
like that would help, so we can say along with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way,
I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you this morning, but I do have some
important words from Jesus this morning to enable us to say, “Whatever may come

my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”

 

It is the night of the Last Supper. Jesus has just spoken of his impending death. He
tells the disciples that one of them will betray him and urges Judas to go and do
quickly what he has planned to do.
Peter boldly claims that he would rather die than deny his Lord, but Jesus knows that before the rooster crows he will say three times that he does not know the man they are talking about.
Jesus talks about going where they cannot follow and they are confused about this.
Haven’t they followed Jesus for the past 3 years? They have watched him heal the
sick, they have seen him bring comfort to the afflicted and laughter to the faces of
children. Not a day has past where Jesus has not been with them. Their sole thought
and attention has been him since the day they were called. And now they are faced
with the thought of life without him. Where is he going that they can’t continue to
follow him in the future?
Jesus knows that what will happen his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, his
trial and tortuous death the next day will upset them.
Like a child lost in a department store, these disciples are afraid, uncertain, confused and nervous. And so he continues saying,
“Do not be worried and upset. Believe in God and believe also in me….
Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid”
(John 14:1, 27).
In the New Testament, the peace Jesus gives is an unconditional, eternal gift to his
followers in every time and place. That’s why he does not give peace to us as the
world doesfor the world, peace is often very conditional, fragile, temporary, and, is
frequently reduced to mean only the absence of war and strife.
Worldly peace always has some kind of strings attached, some kind of conditions,
and worldly peace lasts only as long as the conditions are kept. Two feuding neighbours can’t agree over the type of fence to be constructed between their properties. They come to an agreement about the cost, type of fence, what kind of materials are to be used and how high it should be but immediately one reneges on what was agreed, the feud starts again. However, with Christ’s peace there are no strings attached; there is the wonderful promise that it will last forever. Peace, in the New Testament sense means: salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and humanity. The sin that stands between God and us has been done away by the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection. We no longer fear God’s anger because of our rebelliousness. Jesus reconciles us with God
he restores the friendship between God and us.
Peace is also the Holy Spirit in our lives as friend, comforter, counsellor, teacher and healer.
Peace is knowing that no matter what troubles may come our way, God, our
heavenly Father, has promised to never forget us and to always be our helper and
strength. He sent his Son to go all the way and die for us in order to reclaim us as his own. He won’t give up on us now. We are his special and most loved children.
Peace is the flow on of God’s peace into the rest of our lives as we live and work with the people in our day to day relationships and activities.
This peace has a positive effect on our health and well being. It is well documented
that stress, tension, and fear have negative effects on our body.
What can we do when fear grips our hearts?
Firstly, get to know what kind of God we have. He is gracious, loving and faithful. We don’t deserve it but he loves us and will always stand by us. We see just how
powerful his love for us is when we look at the cross and see what Jesus has done
for us.
Get to know God as the king and ruler of the universe. There is nothing so great or
too difficult for him to handle. Parting the sea to save the Israelites, saving Daniel
from the lions or Jonah from the belly of the big fish, springing Peter from jail, or
saving Paul from a shipwreck were all a piece of cake for him. Helping us when we
are afraid is just as easy.
Secondly, get to know God’s promises
and trust that he will stick by what he says.
Memorise and trust words like these
The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me from
all danger; I will never be afraid. (Psalm 27:1,2).
God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will
not be afraid… (Psalm 45:1,2).
Or Jesus words of authority and power,
“Don’t be afraid! I am the first and the last. I am the living one! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead.” (Revelation 1:17).
Be assured that God keeps his promises; that he is with us, even in the worst
possible situation imaginable on this earth.
Thirdly, realise that there are too many times whenour human attempts to be bold
are not sufficient. There will be times when even the texts of promise that we have
learnt off by heart will do little to ease our anxiety. We may even fee
l that God has deserted us. It’s then we need the Holy Spirit to help us to forgive us for our weakness of faith, to enable us to trust that God has not forsaken us, to spport us while we tremble in fear and to help us get through. He even takes our cries of fear to God and pleads to him on our behalf (Rom 8:26 27).
Our strength, our mind, our skills are of no particular use. We just have to relax and wait patiently, trusting in the God who knows all of our needs and is willing to use his power to help us. The Holy Spirit reminds us when fear is near, God is even nearer.
Fourthly,pray.
Ask God to intervene in our troubles and the fear they bring. Pray for
faith, for boldness and courage when we are afraid. Pray that we are able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit who points us to the love and compassion of God, and pray that in the end God would take us from the troubles of this world into the eternal world where there will be no more fear.
When fears and worries create tension and upset your life, Jesus promises,
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”
Amen

Fifth Sunday of Easter

God’s GIFT OF HOPE FOR YOU

 

Doctors in World War II and in Korea and Vietnam said some prisoners of war died from the condition  they called give-up-itis.  And what they meant by that is if kevinprisoners faced grim conditions with no prospect of freedom some of them became demoralized and some of them became filled with despair and after a while they became apathetic and they refused food and they refused to drink and they would spend their time in their bunk just staring into space.  With their hope drained away these prisoners eventually just wasted away and they died.  They died of give-up-itis. 

The human spirit needs hope to survive and to thrive.  The writers of the Bible recognized this more than 2500 years ago.  King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  I love how one translator turned this into a very pithy phrase.  “When hope is crushed the heart is crushed.”

It’s not surprising if God created human beings with this craving for hope it would make sense that He would also serve as our ultimate hope.  In fact, in Romans 15:13 it describes God as the God of hope.  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 In total there are 95 references to hope in the Old Testament.  There are another 85 references in the New Testament.  This theme of hope is woven all throughout scripture and it’s the theme of this sermon. The point I want to make today is that the God of the Bible is that source of hope.  God offers a hope that is so powerful that it can transform a human being’s life and it can rewrite a person’s eternity. 

It’s not the kind of hope that we normally think of when we use the word hope.  In everyday conversation we use the word “hope” in various different ways that aren’t really consistent to what the Bible refers to when it’s talking about hope. 

For instance sometimes we talk about hope and what we really mean is wishful thinking.  Wishful thinking is when we try to hope things in or out of existence.  We blow out the candles on our birthday cake and say, “I hope I have another year of health and happiness.” 

Wishful thinking is that kind of hopeful feeling that somehow, some way things are going to go the way we want them to even though we have absolutely no power over the situation.  We don’t have any power to make it happen.

Sometimes when we engage in wishful thinking, we can do so to such a degree that we can actually convince ourselves of something even when something isn’t true.  That’s the power of wishful thinking.

Another kind of hopeful attitude is blind optimism.  I think it’s great to be an optimistic person. But blind optimism tends to see  everything through rose colored glasses. Blind optimism is when we paper over our problems as if they didn’t exist.  We turn our  eyes from the ugliness of the world and see  everything as just fine all the time.  Sort of like the sign on the bulletin board at the local supermarket.  “Lost:  Dog with three legs, blind in left eye, missing right ear, tail broken and recently had an operation at the vet.  Answers to the name Lucky.” You can call that dog Lucky all you want.  That is not a lucky dog. 

Sometimes people in their blind optimism will pretend things are great when they’re not.  That’s not biblical hope. 

Then there are ambitious dreams, another kind of hope.  We say, “Next year I’m going to buy a new car.”   Or we say, “Next year I’m really going to improve my golf game so I can play in the Australian open”

All of that is fine.  It’s wonderful to set ambitious goals and then to work toward achieving them.  The problem is that often we are restricted by our own limitations or by things that are outside of our control. The prices of new cars skyrocket and we have to keep driving our old one. It is great to improve your golf but to play in the Australian Open also requires some special talent and giftedness. Sometimes our own limitations or circumstances or other people can affect our dreams in such a way that we end up disappointed or worse.

Now let me contrast wishful thinking and blind optimism and ambitious dreams with biblical hope.

For most people hoping is something that they do but there is no guarantee it will happen.  But the Bible talks about hope as something we can have. The  Hope of the Bible is something you can have.  You can possess it.  You can own it.  You can grab a hold of it. The New Testament uses two Greek words for hope Elpis and Elpizo meaning: a confident trust in God even when waiting must be endured . The hope of the Bible is the confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises that He has made to you.

Romans 5:5  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

2 Cor. 1:10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,

The Bible refers to this as living hope because it is always directly linked to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:4 “In (God’s) great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.”

Through His resurrection, Jesus Christ demonstrated once and for all beyond any doubt that He is God and that He really does possess the power to fulfill the promises that He makes to us.  Promises that He’ll change our lives, promises that He’ll guide us, promises that He will walk side by side with us through the turbulence of life, promises that He can cause good to emerge from the personal problems that we face, promises that He will grant us eternal life in heaven with Him.  The resurrection is an actual physical event in history that sealed Christ’s identity as being the God who loves us and who is committed to helping us. 

Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul firm and secure.”  Our hope is only as good as what it is attached to, as what it is anchored to.  Hope in and of itself has no power.  You can wish for something, you can hope for something, you might feel a little better about it.  We might fool ourselves into thinking everything’s ok.  But the only way hope has any real power is when it’s anchored in the God who has real power.  And not only real power but a real desire out of His love for you to help you.  Those who follow Jesus Christ hope in the confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises He’s made to them. 

In the time remaining I want to talk about two particular areas where Christians draw hope from Christ.

  • We have hope because we’re absolved of our past.

Lamentations 3:21 says “This I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.”

What the writer is saying here is, we can live with hope as followers of Jesus Christ because even though we may fail God (which we all do) and even though we may fail our children in some way (which we all do) and even though we may fail our spouse in some way (which we all do) even so God’s compassion, His forgiveness, His absolution for those wrongs we’ve done in our past is a renewable resource.  It never is exhausted.  It is fresh and it is available every single day. 

Jesus Christ is in the renewable resources  business.  If He had a business card it’d say, “Jesus Christ – Renewable resources”. 

That’s His job, that’s His ministry, that’s His mission to give renewable grace and love to  people like us.  He’s saying, “I can forgive you.  I can absolve you of your past because My compassions are new every morning.  They never fail.” 

Some people need renewable compassion from God because of guilt.  Like you squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, guilt has way of squeezing the hope out of your life. 

  Guilt lies to us and guilt tells us “You are disqualified from a new start.  You will never get a clean slate.”  Guilt squeezes hope from our lives.  If you feel weighed down by guilt in your life over something – the way that you treated your kids as they were growing up, a marriage that fell apart, whatever it is, why would you want to lug this backpack of guilt through your life when God is saying, “My mercies are fresh everyday.”  1 John 1:9 says, “You don’t have to wonder if I’ll forgive you.  Just ask Me.  Confess your sins and I will forgive you.”  The question is are you going to ask?

1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.  Nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain.  But to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

God is offering you His  gift of Hope this morning. Let Him be  Your anchor, the one from whom you draw your security and your self esteem.”  Because God doesn’t change.  And God does not disappoint.  He is there for us every single day.  God is the God of renewable grace and one of the great things we as Christians have is hope because we can be absolved of our past.

  • The second reason Christians can have hope is we are assured of our future.

In our very secular world many people believe there is nothing after we die. They conclude This is life is all there is. When you die You  are snuffed out.  There is no existence beyond this.  When you die everything you have, everything you are is buried in a casket and  that’s it.  You want a prescription for hopelessness?  For despair?  This is it!  This hopelessness is so black that people can’t face it.

So some people go to wishful thinking and they say, “Maybe I’ll be reincarnated or something.” Or some people engage in blind optimism and say, “I just won’t think about it.  Maybe by the time I get sick and I’m ready to die they’ll find some cure for whatever it is I have.” Or they’ll pursue ambitious dreams and say, “I’ll lose 20 kg, I’ll cut my cholesterol in half.  I’ll extend my life span just through discipline and self-control and hard work.”  Those defense mechanisms can make people feel all right for a while.  There is one really, really ugly statistic in this world and that is – death plays a perfect game.  One out of one dies.  One hundred percent.  One out of one dies.
But the gift of hope in our Christian faith is not wishful thinking, it is the hope that our future after death is secure. For Jesus says in John 14  that there is a place secured, prepared for us in heaven. For the follower of Jesus our hope is there will be a room for you, prepared by Jesus himself. What an assuring picture, Jesus becoming the ultimate servant, preparing our place in heaven, preparing our future home.

The bible reassures us that the hope of heaven is a home free from stress, relational dramas and endless ‘to- do’ lists. Our heavenly home will be one of rest and peace, prepared personally for those who trust in the hope of Jesus work.

This hope of heaven will be about our heavenly Father. Heaven is the Father’s house, Jesus explains, and this Father is one we can count on. Many people haven’t   had a good relationship with their earthly father. Some may have never known a strong father figure in their life. Some may have greatly feared their father or lived their life always trying to please him but never could. The Father of heaven, the one we hope in, is a perfect Father who welcomes us into a perfect home.

Our Father’s home is a world  the way He intended it to be from the beginning. A world free from brokenness, pain and disappointment. And our Father is there, strong, loving, fair, dependable and kind.

When you are assured of a future in eternity with such a Father God then you have a sense of confidence and boldness and courage in this world.  It turns us from hopelessness to hope.  That changes everything.  That changes your perspective.  Even in ways that are hard to understand. 

Titus 3 says, “God saved us in His mercy, not by virtue of any moral achievement of ours.  We are acquitted by His grace, and can look forward in hope to inheriting eternal life.”

 To have faith in promises like this is to  have the confident expectation  that God is going to deliver for me, I will stand in the presence of Jesus Christ.  And I will look Him full in His face.  And it will be the greatest moment in my life.  There will be nothing like that moment when we first drink in the face of Jesus.  Death is not something to be afraid of when you’ re assured of your future. Jesus promises you, I will forgive you of your past and I will take you to heaven that’s Living Hope.

Amen

Pastor Kevin Bell

Fifth Sunday of Easter

:John 13:34
A new commandment I give to you, so that you should love one another as I have loved you so that you love one another.

 

            What defines you? Who are we? What should we do? You might be asking these questions as you look back at what this congregation once was and look forward with the knowledge that things are changing, even faster. Looking to the past we’ll also remember Resurrection Sunday that great celebration of the church year, and forward to Pentecost the birth of the church; 50 days between the two. I 20180311_103505 (1)wonder, 2000years ago, what was going through the heads of those eleven disciples, we’ve heard their meetings with Jesus the two weeks after His resurrection, but now they’re waiting for something to happen, the coming of the Holy Spirit in power. Who are these eleven bludgers, what were they doing while they waited back in Jerusalem?

            I don’t know but I’d guess that they were probably thinking a lot about what had happened those last three years with Jesus, and on that Holy Week, the resurrection, the death, and that last meal with His disciples, what He had said and what He had commanded, our text for today. He said many things that last night according to John, they cover from the end of chapter 12 through to His prayer in chapter 17 and arrest in chapter 18. That’s 4 chapters of conversation and teaching in one sitting, I don’t know many people who’ve done that. Through those words Jesus is preparing the disciples for what will follow, His glorification, the fulfilment of God’s great promises, forgiveness, reconciliation, renewal, and life everlasting. The glory of God in the crucifixion and the glory of Jesus in the resurrection! To God be the glory! And thank God! Jesus gave His entire life for you and me, for the disciples and all people; for our forgiveness and salvation. Better to save you than go on living, that was how Jesus loved you. And since His resurrection and ascension continues to love you, to live for your benefit.

            And so, as He said on that last night, I’ll send a helper the Holy Spirit to be with you. And also He said, I live in you and you in me, together with the Father; the whole trinity in you and you in God. Together. But also, when Judas left to gather the mob, Jesus knew His death was soon and told the disciples what He had told others, where I am going you cannot come, yet. And where was He going? Peter found Him in the temple courts, John at the cross, Nicodemus in the grave site, but no one came with Him into new resurrected life, that death has no power over; at least not yet. He was glorified when He took on all our sin and it’s consequences, forgiving us and cleansing us by His blood; the Father was glorified in the fulfilment of His promises; And the Father glorified the Son, raising Him from the dead to new everlasting life. The disciples didn’t realise what Jesus was saying at the time, that last supper, I’m sure a painfully confusing time, ‘that’s wine Jesus, not blood, you don’t look like a vine.’ Confusing before His resurrection, but after and in light of it, Jesus helped them understand all He had said, that He is God and man, and He can remove all your sin, giving you peace, joy and life everlasting. This is true, but still the disciples after this explanation were told to sit and wait before they could tell anyone. So what were they defined by? Their confusion? Their waiting? Is that what defines Christians? Or as Jesus said, bringing something new, so that they are know by their love for each other. Love that finds it’s origin in Christ Jesus.

            No other order or task could they do at this time, but Jesus’ glorification, His death and resurrection, forgiveness and life giving, meant that the disciples could do the same for each other, as Jesus first loved so that you love. Jesus in His death and resurrection has reconciled you to the one you have betrayed and ignored many times in your life, God Almighty, your creator. How often we forget Him, what He has done for us, giving us life, food, friends, family and all the rest; ignoring that and going our own way, at times not even loving and caring for ourself. This is our sin, our betrayal; but He doesn’t return the favour, He so loved all the world, even those traitorous humans, even you; so loved that He gave His only Son to reconcile us to Himself, to make things good again, to forgive and bring life and peace. And because you and I have that peace with God Almighty, we can have that peace and love for each other. God has forgiven you, He has given His whole life to forgive you; That is love; and He has done the same for every Christian so why would you hold anything against them? This is the one thing that the disciples could do while they waited, all the other commands to go into the world, teach, baptise, spread this wonderful news, they had to wait, but not this one. Love one another as I have loved you so that you love one another. This is what defined the disciples, they were reconciled to God and to each other, they thought of each other as more important than themselves, cared and forgave, in this new life they had in Jesus. And you too have this new life, one of peace, of joy, of love, to God and each other. So live!

            And the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.