Maundy Thursday

Psalm 116:12

“What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?”

bible

            Here we are tonight, commemorating the last supper Jesus had with His friends before He died for you and for me. The night He lowered Himself to the rotten job of cleaning filthy feet that had trodden the dusty paths of Palestine. Serving His disciples, His students and followers, the ones who should’ve ordinarily speaking served Him. Then eating with them and miraculously, mysteriously giving His body and blood to them for forgiveness even before He had died for their sins. And finally giving a new command, a mandate, saying, “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35). Then what follows are those dreadful events we remember in the coming days. Dreadful for Jesus, He sweat blood, but also wonderfully hopeful and joyous, for in His dying He freed many captives and in His rising He brings them with Him into new marvellous life.

            That is His story and it is yours too, who trust His words. So what shall you return to the Lord for all the goodness He’s given you? We struggle in this world, to do what is right and to not do what is wrong, we suffer through drought and even plenty. Afflicted by the devil, by sickness, by expectation, by the tyranny of time and money, even in our resting we are tempted to forget the wonder of what God has done for you. He created us and all that is, He gives us life and sustains us knowing what is best for everything’s benefit but we constantly forget what He did, that He sustains us and that all we have is given by Him. Instead we go our own ways, away from God and the source of life, into sin and death, broken relationships, betrayal and lies. We seek to make ourselves masters of our own universe, but what we think is best for us often is most harmful. It’s easy to see this when we think about eating sweets, or meat and alcohol, even that desire to just stay in bed; but also our desires to build up wealth and safety for this life and to please everyone are also ultimately harmful. This is sin, our sickness that drags us away from God.

            But even in our sin, in this slimy hole we can’t escape He sent His Son to save us, Jesus Christ (Psalm 40:1). Despite our rejection of God and His great love for us He is merciful to us, and seeks our good, salvation and freedom from sin, death and the devil. The Lord is gracious and righteous, full of compassion, He protects the unwary and when the psalmist was brought low He saved Him (Psalm 116:5-6). Jesus gave His life to save you, to bring you true and ultimate rest in God. He gave His life for His disciples, even though they all broke their promises, to stay with Him, to love as He loved, He died for them too, freeing them from sin, He forgave them. Just as He forgives you. And so as the psalmist asks, what shall we offer to the Lord for all this wonderful and merciful goodness He has freely given?

            I will life up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all people. Serving Him with thanksgiving throughout this new life He has given, listening to Him, even at this dreadful time of betrayal. Striving to love each other as He first loved us, giving His whole life, from birth to death and beyond, for you and me. Listening to the Word of God, to Jesus, trusting Him and looking to Him for the mercy and forgiveness we so often need. He has given us everything and still He gives more. Thank God for His mercy and great love for you and me, call on His name in your time of need and in your time of plenty Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!

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

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Easter Sunday

1 Corinthians 15:22
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

            Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Resurrection Sunday the Great snip38Celebration of life over death, Jesus bursting from the grave to new and vigorous life! He, just like all people descendent from Adam, died; died on the cross. He was buried, but death could not hold Him, death is defeated and in Jesus there is no fear of that final enemy. Still today we search for ways to delay death, try to fight that enemy that comes for all people; many intelligent people are searching for a way to prolong our lives here on earth, to improve the quality of life as we age and even to try and find a way for immortality in this life. Certainly much good has come from this, but this world is not perfect, it is sick with sin and suffering. Our forefather Adam and Eve the mother of the living, turned away from God and went their own way; they left the source of all life, God Almighty, and tried their luck with the serpent and knowledge. And still today all humans are good children of that couple, seeking for more, for immortality, stability and power in this life, going our own way and rejecting God’s love and life itself. We all face death because of our sin and like an addiction we cannot get out by ourselves.

            But we are not by ourselves. Jesus is with us. The Holy Spirit was sent to walk alongside you, to advocate and encourage you. In baptism God promises that we are now His children, restored to His family like the prodigal son. In baptism we are together with Jesus, we are joined back to the source of life, so now death has no power over us (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)! Jesus says that those who believe will not perish, even if they die, still they will live (John 11:25)! Glory to God our Father! This is the wonder of Resurrection Sunday, that Jesus rose from the dead, not to die again as Lazarus, the widows child, or any number of people who have come back from being dead. Death no longer has any power of Jesus, He rose from the dead not just for His everlasting life, but for yours. If we are joined with Him in His death to sin, surely we will rise again in a new, everlasting and glorified life like His (Romans 6:1-14; Philippians 3:21).

Jesus rose, and as certain as that is, you who are joined to Him in baptism and Holy Communion have life everlasting. On Good Friday we see our sin and evil destroyed, wonderful thing that this is, without the new life of today we are left suffering in this evil world. But this world is not the end. Those scientists that seek to extend life, even if they are successful will not reach the peace, joy and love that only the Triune God provides. With Jesus we are truly free from sin, from guilt and shame, free from the destruction our desires bring on ourselves, freed from sin, death and the devil. Yes will still suffer temptation and evil in this world, just as Jesus did, but just as it was promised that we would be freed from the power of sin and death, so He has promised, that just as He died and rose, so too you and I will be renewed when He returns at the resurrection of the dead, when sin, death and the devil will be destroyed. Now this wonderful comfort, you are forgiven, you are in Jesus a new creation a new life, this is not just for you, but for all people!

We heard from Acts Peter’s realisation that salvation was not just for the Jews, but for all people in all the world, for us and every different type of person. This offer of forgiveness and new life is for all people. So Jesus told the disciples to preach, to speak of His love to all people, to testify that Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead and that everyone who trusts His forgiveness is forgiven. It does not matter if you are Greek, German, Tigrinya, Australian, rich, poor, the nicest person down the street, a rapist, or even a politician; this message, this Good News, is for all people. For all people have turned away, all have sinned, all people face death, but God rich in mercy, many times more merciful than us, does not wish our destruction, rather that all people turn back to life, to love, to Jesus Christ, the King of kings, Lord of all and saviour of sinners. In sin all die, but in Jesus all will be made alive.

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

Pastor Joseph Graham

Good Friday

Text: John 19:28-3028

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished,and so that Scripture would be fulfilled,Jesus said,“I am thirsty.”29A jar of wine vinegarwas there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.30When he had received the drink, Jesus said,“It is finished.”With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.It is finished.palm5

We wonder why Jesus’ ministry had to end this way.Why was it necessary for Jesus to die?They are very reasonable questions, but they are not questions that we would ask if we truly understand what Jesus promised.Take St Peter for example.Jesus prophesied that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.Peter objected and said, “Never, Lord –this will never happen to you”.But did Peter hear Jesus properly?It is very likely that Peter didn’t hear fully what Jesus said.It is likely that once he heard Jesus say that he must be killed that he stopped paying attention.And that’s what death does.When we hear about death, especially about the death of someone we love it can also make us wonder why.Why does life end?Why is it necessary to die?But Peter needed to listen to Jesus and the totality of what he said:asHe said that after he was killed, on the third day he would be raised to life.But even as Christians we don’t always think of that when we are confronted with death.We don’t automatically think of eternal life when someone we love dies.We are usually so grief stricken thatwe cannot see past the reality of death.Even St Paul acknowledges that when he speaks of Christ’s victory over death.He says: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.Whereas death no longer has victory because of Jesus’ death and resurrection it certainly still carries its sting.And that sting is evident every time we sit at the bedside of a loved one –as we watch the coffin lowered into the grave, as we visit the gravesite of our loved ones –the sting of grief in death remains.But Paul also reminds us that we grieve but not as those who have no hope.We have hope because we know that the grave will not hold Jesus for long. We know that on the third daythat he will rise.But those 3 days are so long when it’s someone we love.Even though we know that we will be reunited with all our loved ones as we await the resurrection, it is so hard because the grief is so deep.Asking “why” about death or questioning God’s love because of death won’t remove the sting of death from our experience.Our loved ones will continue to face the reality of death and we shall continue to face the reality of our own death.Death is a reality of life.The only way to truly findcomfort in death is to listen carefully to what Jesus said about his own death.On the third day I will be raised to life.Without death there can be no resurrection.Without Jesus’ resurrection,we can never see death in any other way than an horrific event.Even Jesus’ own death is meaningless without that final part that Peter missed –on the third day I will be raised to life.To outsiders, a battered and broken Jesus who could no longer hold his head up and died in humiliation and defeat could not possibly be anything but a reminder of the pain and finality of death and no hope at all. But to those who believe into him, the true Son of God has completed his great work of defeating death and he cries out “it is finished”.But what is finished?Death’s victory is finished.As St Paul says, “the message of the cross if foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.And the power of God is,that just as Jesus has been raised from the dead,we too shall be raised to eternal life.Jesus’ announcement, “It is finished,” is clear and simple. No long explanations of how –no detailed sermon of what you have to do.Just “it is finished.”Jesus has completed his task that God sent him to do. He came so that you and I can have forgiveness and eternal life. He came to give us the victory of death –the same victory over death that he achieved. He came to ensure that we would enter his kingdom of heaven and live forever.That’s why Jesus had to die because in order todefeat death he had to die and rise from death.And just as Jesus has risen from the dead, we too shall live a new life when we die.Thanks be to God who gives us the victory over death. Amen

Palm Sunday 14th April

Philippians 2 : 5 – 11

‘and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!’

 Today, on this ‘Palm Sunday’, we think of Jesus entering Jerusalem in joy and triumph!gus1

Even so, have you noticed how the story is told emphasizing the humility of Jesus?
The letter of the apostle Paul to the Philippians forms the basis of the response we use in worship during this season of Lent …  Christ humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross!  (v. 8)

In the Gospel Reading for today, we have a quote from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, (Zech. 9:9) which says …

‘see your king comes to you, gentle (or humble) and riding on a donkey’  (Matt. 21:5)

I suspect humility is a quality or characteristic not so well known in our modern world.

Humility is defined …

‘as the act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others, … or having a clear perspective and respect for ones place in context.’

 Now would you say you are a humble person? 

Is it even your desire to be humble in spirit? Perhaps the more we think or speak of ourselves as being humble, the less humble we are!

While the less conscious we are of this state of humility, the more humble we become!

Whatever, today Jesus provides for us the focus and image of humility.

As inadequate as I am at this, I will attempt, from God’s word, to paint a picture of Jesus’ humility.

Jesus is God’s own Son. He is the eternal God. He shares the glories of heaven with his Father; yet he always lived in humility before God, his and our dear Father. (v. 6)  He didn’t demand the glory!

Jesus only spoke the things his Father told him to speak. He said to the unbelieving Jews: ‘I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.’ (John 12:49)

Jesus only did those things the Father asked him to do. Again, after healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus said to the angry and disbelieving Jews: ‘the Son can do nothing by himself, he can do only what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’ (John 5:19) Jesus always gave God the Father glory!

Today the apostle Paul most vividly describes the humility of Jesus.

His incomprehensible, obedient, death-embracing humility!

It is the mystery and marvel of God’s kingdom revealing the depth of his love from the bloodshed of Calvary. From the bloodied cross we measure God’s determined purpose to be merciful … to the world!

Jesus teaches, and then he shows the world that there: ‘is no greater love than to lay down one’s life …’ (John 15:13)  Jesus willingly and humbly goes to the cross for us.

John records Jesus telling us: ‘The reason the Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the authority to lay it down and the authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.’ (John 10:17-18)

Here Jesus emphasizes two qualities – love and humility.

The apostle Paul not only points us to the humility of Jesus.

It is in the name of Jesus that he calls us to live in this same spirit of humility in our lives

‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus’, he says (v. 6)

God not only calls us to be humble – he grants us the same ability to ‘empty oneself’ or ‘make oneself nothing’ (v. 7) in the service of others, because we are his children. Children who follow the Father!

The call is for us to follow Jesus by: ‘dying to self.’ This is what Jesus means when he says: ‘whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’ (Matthew 16:25)

This is the paradox of following Jesus. The contrast between our earthly life here and now and the heavenly life God offers. Clinging to earthly life forfeits eternal life; but losing our life now in love for Jesus gains real life. This is the joy of a servant heart!

Do you know that real joy in your life?

The mystery is that when we lose ourselves in the service of something bigger than ourselves, we find real joy in life.

Could it be that Jesus’ model of humility challenges our understanding?

Is there something bigger, foreign even; about God’s humility in Jesus?

When we think about and describe ‘humility’, our minds tend to focus on behaviour or character.

But Jesus models humility thinking … relationships!

His … and God’s relationship with us … and the world!

He thinks of his relationship of love, loyalty and obedience to the Father who loves just as much!  For Jesus, it was all about God … and his relationship with his Father.

He thinks about his relationship of love for you … and the world!  A love that compels him to take on our human form. To be born a dependent and defenceless baby. A love that leads him to leave the glories of heaven behind, and take on the corruption of sinful humanity!  Yes, a love that even demands he ‘be sin’ for the world, all the way to the cross; so that your and my sin can be cancelled forever. A love that surrenders to physical death and the grave. And then, in the power of God’s love, bursts alive from the cold, dark earth; so that we can be welcomed into his kingdom of life!

 Yes, the truth is, our humility is also revealed in terms of relationships, isn’t it? 

Especially in our relationship with Jesus!  By the place that Jesus, God’s own Son has in our hearts.
So what is your relationship with Jesus? 

Do you love Jesus?  Do you love him for his sake, … or for your own sake?  Do you really love him for who he is?  God’s own Son, your Lord and Saviour!  The one who gave up everything, even his very life, just so that you could become God’s child and heir!

How are you showing that love in your life?

Is Jesus at the very centre of your life?  Or is he just someone out there – at arm’s length. Who you can call on, but only as you feel the need!  Or just Sundays!  Who you can take or leave, just as you like!

So let this be a challenge for every one of us as we model humility.

Humility before God, and humility as God’s people in the world.

As the apostle Paul says: ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.’ (Romans 12:3)  So what does it look like in your life?

Is it YOU first, OTHERS second, and JESUS third?

Or is it JESUS FIRST, OTHERS second, and YOURSELF last!

That’s what a heaven blessed humility really looks like!  That’s what we get to see in Jesus. That’s what we experience when Jesus is first in our heart and life. Jesus truly brings JOY into our lives.

When you and I discover Jesus’ spirit of humility, then we truly begin to live! 

Lord God, grant us something of the humility and gentleness of Jesus!

 Hallelujah, Hosanna and Amen.

Pastor Gus Schutz

5th Sunday in Lent 7th April

Philippians 3 : 4b – 14

‘Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.’

As Christians in the world today, we are living in really exciting times!gus1
Don’t you think so?
They may be challenging and tough times, but I believe that for us they are really good times.

They are difficult times because the established church is coming in for a bashing like never before. Everything that the Christian Church stands for is being attacked as outdated and irrelevant. The teaching and morals we promote are labelled by many as intolerant, inappropriate and insensitive. Even God’s Word, the Holy Bible, which for us is the basis of our faith, our teaching and way of life, is in many circles treated with utter contempt. And I could probably go on!

We are living in a world of constant and rapid change. Change can be difficult and stressful. But challenging and tough times are good times, because they bring us back to the heart of who we are and what we really believe.

So what do you believe?  What do you really believe?

I get to conduct many funerals. It happens to be an occupational hazard!

I remember a man coming to me after the grave-side service of one funeral, and saying: ‘Thank you for pointing us to Christ crucified and risen from the dead – the only sure hope for us in death!’

I simply responded: ‘What else is there to point to?’ And yet I suspect he was saying something more; because I have experienced it and I struggle with it most times I prepare for a funeral.

Yet, some so called ‘Christian’ funerals today seem to deny the need for a Saviour. The whole process becomes a celebration of the one who died. So that the comfort for those who mourn is … ‘he lived a pretty good life, she lived a good life … now that’s gotta count for something!’

Well, the apostle Paul blows that line of thinking out of the water!

But the danger can be that some of us ‘Christians’ just don’t get it!

So just listen to what Paul says highlighting his own personal ‘good life’

  • ‘I was circumcised on the eighth day’ (v. 5)

The command of God that was given to Abraham was followed in Paul’s life!  This means he was born into the Jewish faith. He knew the privileges and observed all the ceremonies after his birth.

  • He was … ‘of the people of Israel’ (v. 5)

This put him in a most unique and special relationship with God. Because God chose Israel from among all the other nations!  By calling himself an Israelite, Paul stressed the absolute purity of his race and descent.

  • He was … ‘of the tribe of Benjamin’ (v. 5)

He was not only an Israelite, he was from an elite tribe!  This gave him a very special place and position. It was as if he belonged to Israel’s royalty!

  • He was … ‘a Hebrew of Hebrews’ (v. 5)

We know that the Jews were scattered all over the world. But Paul belonged to that group of Hebrews who stubbornly refused to assimilate with the nations among whom they lived. And to do that, they continued to learn and speak their native Hebrew language. It made them truly Hebrew.

  • ‘in regard to the law,’ he was … ‘a Pharisee’ (v. 5)

There were not many Pharisees. They were a very special sect – the spiritual athletes of Judaism. Devoting their whole lives not just to the study of every smallest detail of the Law, but also to following it to the ‘nth’ degree!

  • And ‘as for zeal, persecuting the church’ (v. 6)

Commitment to a cause was the greatest quality in religious life. Paul was convinced that Jesus Christ was intending to undermine Jewish Law. So he persecuted the followers of Christ, trying to destroy his apostles. (see Acts 9:1-2)

  • And ‘as for legalistic righteousness’, he was ‘faultless’ (v. 6)

There were no demands of the Law which Paul did not fulfil. When it came to the Law, he was above and beyond criticism.

So how do your credentials stack up against those of the apostle Paul?

Does our ‘good life’ come anywhere near the ‘good life’ and the ‘achievements’ of Paul?

Now just listen to what Paul thinks of his credentials?  His ‘good life’!  He says: ‘… I consider everything a loss to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, having a righteousness … which is through faith in Christ.’ (v. 8-9)

Now that word rubbish is a very strong word. In English we call it ‘dung.’  We know it by other names – it’s that offensive substance that every living creature expels from the body daily!

It does not matter how impressive our human achievements are – they only amount to dirty, smelly dung. Even our Christian parents, or our connection to the church – whether regular or occasional, cannot put us right with God. Our position in society is of no help!  My being a pastor will not save me!  We cannot win God’s saving love. We cannot earn eternal life with God in heaven.

God’s saving love comes to us only through faith in Christ.

Let’s hear what the Apostle Paul says: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  This is the heart of our faith as Lutherans.

So do you get it?  Everything else in life is dung, compared to knowing Christ!

Now we have all come to know each other, to varying degrees, haven’t we?

Well, big deal!  So what!  Our ‘knowing’ each other counts for nothing, if we are not in a relationship with each other. In relationships that blesses us all – and please and honour our God.

When we die, we can’t take our life achievements with us.

At very best our credentials and our achievements will be like dung. They may perhaps fertilize the world we leave behind, and the lives of others. But they won’t help us.

When we die the only thing we can take with us is our relationship with Jesus!

So to know Christ should be our ultimate goal.

Now just consider your values.

Do you place anything above your relationship with Jesus?

It is only in Christ that we enjoy all the blessings and benefits of being in a right relationship with God.

We have peace now through the forgiveness of sins. We experience it in the miracle of baptism. We express it in our personal confession, followed by God’s forgiveness!  Strength for daily living in the power of God’s love!  Given to us right here in Christ’s body broken and his blood poured out.

I hope you came here with empty hands this morning. Because there is nothing we can offer God.

May you go with hands and hearts filled to overflowing with the richness of God’s love and grace, …

as he leads you forward … ‘toward the goal to win the prize for which God

has called (you)  heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ (v. 14)

Pastor Gus Schutz

4th Sunday in Lent 31st March

Matthew 6 : 12, 14 – 15

‘Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors, … For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins’.gus1

 Forgiving relationships are living relationships!

If we can’t forgive others, then we will never be able to live in healthy relationships with other people. This is true for all of our relationships. It is true in marriage, in our homes, in our work places and at leisure. If you are not forgiving, you are not living!
Why?  Because you and I are not perfect twenty four seven, are we? We say and do things that hurt others. Sometimes we are simply misunderstood. We don’t mean to hurt others, but we do inflict hurt on them.
It is the same with us. We are also hurt by others. Sometimes their intention is to hurt us. Other times we misunderstand them. Maybe we are just having a bad day. We are vulnerable, sensitive or touchy.
But the truth remains – we hurt, and we are hurt.

So without forgiveness, there is hostility, division and separation.

But where there is forgiveness, there is healing and reconciliation. Relationships can be restored and strengthened again. There can be hope for a better future through forgiveness.

We need to know that forgiveness is only possible because of Jesus.

Words of forgiveness happen to be the first words Jesus spoke from the cross!

Did you know that?  Jesus was nailed to the cross along with two criminals, and he is recorded as saying: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’. (Luke 23:34) He came to establish a new way – the way of forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the heart of Easter. It is the purpose for which he came and the climax of his mission in the world.
We know Jesus died on a Roman cross. He was buried in a tomb and the entrance was blocked by a large stone and guarded by Roman soldiers. Jesus was dead!
But Jesus broke free from the tomb. He overcame death, and he appeared to people as the risen and living Lord Jesus.
The actions of Jesus were not just a moral example. He was God in human flesh, who came to extend his grace and forgiveness to all of humanity.

Forgiveness is at the heart of celebrating Easter.

Today we are challenged to truly understand forgiveness. Both how we offer forgiveness to others, and also how we receive forgiveness for ourselves.

  • Some of you will know the story of Nelson Mandela.

He was an anti-apartheid revolutionary in South Africa, mid last century. Because of his strong stand, he was unjustly and unfairly imprisoned for twenty seven years. Apartheid was a system imposed by the then minority white government of segregating races. Of keeping the predominantly dark skinned people separate from whites. It inferred that black skinned people were inferior to white skinned people.
Now we could understand that after being falsely imprisoned for those long years, a man may grow bitter and resentful toward such a cruel leadership that ordered his imprisonment. But Mandela wisely knew that forgiveness was the only way forward. He said: ‘We never heal until we forgive’. ‘You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy and forgiveness, than you will through acts of revenge’.
Mandela’s life was an amazing and wonderful witness to the power of love and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a choice we make in life.

It is a value we continue to live out. It is a daily attitude we put into practice, even when we feel wronged, and even if those who brought pain on us are not seeking our forgiveness.

Forgiveness really matters!  Remember how important forgiveness was for Jesus.

  1. Firstly, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches his people how to pray.

It is from his teaching that we get the well known and frequently prayed ‘Lord’s Prayer’. It is significant that immediately after the Lord’s Prayer, he repeats the call to: ‘forgive!’  Now doesn’t that emphasize how important forgiveness is?
He adds this warning to his repeated call to forgive – For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’ (Matthew 6:14-15)

  1. Secondly, Jesus challenges us to see what our failure to forgive looks like from God’s perspective. (The parable of Matthew 18:23-35)

He tells the story of a servant who owes his master or king an outrageous amount of money – about a million dollars!  He has no way of repaying this debt. So he pleads for mercy and has the debt cancelled! But immediately after having his debt forgiven, he meets a man who owes him a small amount – only a few dollars – and demands that it be repaid in full. This man is poor, so, in the same way, he pleads for mercy. But his plea falls on deaf ears, and he is sent to jail until the meager amount is repaid.
In Jesus’ story, others see what has happened, so they complain to the king. Naturally the king is furious, so he has him dragged in to explain his cruel behavior, when he has been treated so graciously.
It’s a question we all need to consider. Every single one of us has been forgiven so much by a gracious and loving God. He is so good to us, he keeps on forgiving us when we turn to him for mercy. Whatever debt others may owe to us is by comparison minute! Therefore we should be ready to forgive, thankful that our God is so rich in forgiving us!

So why is it that like the unforgiving servant we struggle so much to forgive?

  • Well, we simply underestimate the amount we have been forgiven!

This is common, even for us as Christians. But the apostle Paul makes it clear that: ‘we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. (Romans 3:23)  The prophet Isaiah is less charitable, suggesting that in God’s eyes: ‘even our very best actions are like filthy rags!’ (Isaiah 64:6) So Paul is right to say: ‘we were dead in our transgressions and sins!’ (Ephesians 2:1)

  • Again, we are all probably suffering deeply from our own hurt.

Every one of us here will have our own story of being hurt by others. There will be people here today for whom forgiving another just feels impossible. You have been hurt, wounded and abused. The scars of those wounds run so deep that you feel the request to forgive is too great. The bible’s word for ‘forgive’ literally means ‘let go’.  Some of us may know we need to let go, but we don’t know how to let go. That’s how difficult it is to forgive. The point is this: ‘until we let go, we will forever be bound!’  It is an awful thing to be bound in your own hurt and pain.

When we truly understand the love of Jesus in forgiving us, we can begin to forgive!
Jesus is showing us that if we have been forgiven a great debt, we too can be led to forgive. Knowing we have been forgiven so much helps us to forgive others. Our capacity to forgive others is shaped by our experience of forgiveness. Look to Jesus!  For God, in Jesus, just keeps on forgiving us! So, as God forgives you, in the power of his love, forgive others, one person at a time.

Today is the opportunity for each one of us to make a fresh start.

Look to the cross of Jesus, and see that his forgiving love is for you. That means you can start be forgiving yourself. In Jesus, God gives you a new beginning and new opportunities every day.
So let Jesus give you the courage and the grace to forgive others. You may be surprised how better you will feel and how you will bring healing to our relationships with others.

Not only that – you will honour the God who in Jesus so richly forgives you!

Pastor Gus Schutz

Third Sunday in Lent 24th March

Matthew 20 : 26

‘Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.’

How do you understand and rate the quality of ‘humility?’gus1

There is an ancient text written six hundred years before Jesus was born listing positive life-guidelines for living well. There are almost one hundred and fifty short statements in that list. But the idea of ‘humility’ does not even rate a mention on this list!  Does that surprise you?

Now contrast that with the book called: ‘The Ideal Team Player’.

It was released in 2016 and is written by Patrick Lencioni. He is not a Christian author, he is a world best-selling writer. His books are even used by corporate leaders around the world. In his book: ‘The Ideal Team Player’, he lists three main attributes of the best team members. Would you believe it, one of the three happens to be: ‘humility!’

This is an enormous change, but our community gives little thought to it!
An ancient document lists nearly one hundred and fifty guidelines for living well, and humility is not even mentioned!  But ‘The Ideal Team Player’ lists only three qualities and ‘humility’ is one of them!

The point is this: humility was not a virtue when Jesus came into our world!

In fact, humility was even seen to be a weakness, a character flaw. People would not lower themselves beneath those they believed to be less than them. They would only humble themselves before those who were much greater than them. So Jesus spoke to his disciples about the attitude of leaders at that time, the Gentile leaders. ‘You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them’, he said, ‘and their high authorities exercise authority over them.’  (Matthew 20:25)  He was describing their leadership style. So, if followers of the Greco-Roman culture were to hear these words, they would say: ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what we do!’  It’s a bit like someone scoring a goal, and raising his arms, as if to say: ‘look how good I am!’

 So how did Jesus respond to this pride and arrogance?

He says: ‘No, that’s not how it is to be. Actually greatness is servanthood. Greatness is to be a slave.
It is to humble yourself, and joyfully and lovingly be willing to be the servant of others. Jesus does not only teach humility, he models humility in his life. There are so many examples, but two stand out above and beyond all the others …

  1. Firstly, when Jesus was at the last supper with his disciples.

This story has come to greatly influence both the church and our world.

Foot washing was a necessary social task at that time. Palestine was a very hot place. Roads were dusty. People wore open sandals. They shared meals together at the end of the day. You may imagine that to do so without having your feet washed would be very unpleasant. That task was obviously left to the lowliest of servants. No one wants to wash the feet of others, do they? The meal is ready, but there is nobody to wash feet. No servant has been assigned. Jesus notices this, so without a word, he takes on the role of washing the feet!  He knows the time has come for him to leave the world and return to His Father. (John 13:1) He knew his relationship and position with God.

In the culture at that time, Jesus would have been … and should have been the last person in the room to wash anyone’s feet. But he humbles himself, takes on the role of a servant, and washes their feet.

Now, the unusual nature of what Jesus did is made clear by Peter’s reaction.
This is not right, he thinks!  So Peter refuses to allow Jesus to wash his feet. He is simply representing the culture of his time. In Peter’s eyes, what Jesus does is not right! So Jesus must explain his actions. For what he has done is not just a moment in time!

It’s the picture of the future for all who would be the leaders of the early church.
They will set the tone and pattern for leadership in the future. Yes, even for us in the world today!

“Do you understand what I have done …?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  (John 13:12-17)

  1. Secondly, and most powerfully, we see humility in Jesus death on the cross!

No act has influenced the world view on humility more than the death of Jesus on a Roman cross. All four gospels outline the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, but the apostle Paul gives us another perspective. Paul is writing to the church at Philippi, encouraging the attitude of humility. He invites them to serve others, to look for the good of others, and not their own desires. He uses the example of Jesus’ death on the cross to reinforce his point. Jesus gives up his life for others. Scholars suggest this section which was our first reading today, did not originate with Paul. They believe he is quoting a poem or hymn that was passed on between Christians. The clear teaching is that Jesus gave up what was his.
For although: ‘being in very nature God, he did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.’ (Philippians 2:6)

He set His being God aside in an act of humility and service for all humanity!
This became the example, the template, the pattern for behaviour of the early church, in leadership. How gloriously and wonderfully refreshing!  If this were the same attitude and approach of church leadership today, maybe the church would not be the foul odour in society that it currently is.
The apostle Paul embraces the same model of humility. He was dealing with issues among God’s people at Corinth. As a church leader, missionary and church planter, he had a right to expect support from the church. Financial help would allow him to continue his role in ministry. It was the practice that speakers who travelled to speak and lecture were paid. Paul insisted that he would not use this right, for he was there to serve people with the gospel.

‘If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?’ he says. ‘But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel.’  (1 Corinthians 9:12) The attitude of Paul was to follow Jesus. ‘Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.’ (1 Cor. 9:19)

What a blessing to have this God inspired change of attitude!

It is only in the first century, after the death and resurrection of Jesus; that history speaks of humility in a positive way. This is not a religious reflection. It is the simple truth of history. The example of Jesus has transformed leadership styles in the church, in communities and around the world.

I thank God for the humble, servant leaders we have here in our congregation.

At the Holy Trinity Lutheran College and the Sunnyside Lutheran Retirement Village. At the Jacob’s Well Christian Bookstore and the Christian Emergency Food Centre. I thank God for the men and women of God who have modelled serving with humility in leadership roles in our community over the years. I praise him for the men and women who follow Jesus as they embrace the privilege and responsibility of parenting their children and of being a shining light for all people.

When Jesus went to the cross, he gave up his life for all people.

What amazing love!  For in Jesus he gave all people the opportunity to come into a relationship with God. It is only through Jesus that we can call God our dear Father. Thanks be to God for Jesus!

Lord Jesus, please continue to bless us with your humility, as we lead your people!

Pastor Gus Schutz