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.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Text:

John 27-28

“Hear Know Follow”

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give
them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch

them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28 ESV)

To hear, to know, to follow! These three little verbs sum up God’s interaction35th1
with each of us in one succinct little statement. If we ask ourselves, “What is
my purpose in this life? Why did God put me here in this body, in this place?”
The answer simply comes back, “hear and follow”!
However, humanity has gone and become confused in the chaos of this
world. No longer is the simple call to hear, suffice. We have immersed
ourselves in the complexities of ourselves and what’s seen around us. And in
all the questions and searching we lose ourselves.
So what is the purpose of living? With all the science and technology, with all
the advances in medicine and health, with the ever increasing knowledge of humanity’s social interaction and the plight of peoples around the world, why is it that we are further from a satisfactory answer than ever before? Why is our society more depressed and hopeless knowing the very things that are
meant to get us into the secrets of our social fabric; the meaning of life?
Last week’s Gospel reading recounts Peter’s reinstatement where Jesus asks
him three times if he loves him to, “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my
sheep.” And here the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world,
takes away the sins of Peter, and now raised to life as the glorified Shepherd
in victory over sin death and the devil, appoints Peter as the first under-shepherd, the first pastor, to feed his lambs.
Now lambs are helpless little creatures. They sit at the bottom of a merciless
food chain, potential victims of foxes, eagles, crows, and other carnivorous
characters. They’re also victims of themselves it seems. My grandfather often
use to say after seeing a sheep flop down and sulk to death, “they die for
practise”! And anyone who’s ever tried to yard weaner lambs will see just how
frustrating it must be for God who seeks to keep us safe in his fold.
Yet the secret of our salvation is really no secret at all. It just we’re so much
like a sullen sulking sheep most of the time, we don’t realise the Shepherd of
our souls seeks us. But listening to our own hearts, we take flight from the
safety of God and his salvation and run further into trouble. Surely it is me
who’s the greatest hindrance to my Heavenly Father! Humanity certainly is
helpless!
And so we are! Lambs and sheep that run amuck! We run away, running from
the arms of safety into the sins of self. But our helplessness, your hopeless hunt
for meaning in your life, that leaves you battered and bruised, unable to think
straight anymore makes you …blessedly …helpless! But how can that be?
Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday! Jesus is that Shepherd! He has
endured Good Friday to be our Good Shepherd. Jesus became the broken
man on the cross, blessedly helpless, and now he is our help! The Blessedly
Helpless Lamb of God is now the Good Shepherd tending us his blessedly
helpless lambs.
You see this man, who proclaimed to be the Son of God, who is the Son of
God– One with the Father from eternity, bore the eternity of death and now
leads us and carries us through the valley of the shadow of death into the
eternity of life forevermore. He lifts you out of the helplessness of yourself, your
questions, your doubts, your tribulations and troubles in this life. How? The
Good Shepherd washes you in his Good Friday blood so you stand in robes of
white before the Father in the eternal house of the Lord.
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with
him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a
resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with
him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so
that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death nolonger has dominion over him. For in the death he died he died to sin, once
for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3 –11 ESV)
And so we return to the text for today and the three verbs, “to hear, to know,
to follow”. Our purpose, having been made his children, his lambs, is to follow
him. We were created to glorify God, to worship him, to look to him and trust
him. Heartache comes in every person’s life, both Christian and not, when we
turn from this reality. So how do we follow the Good Shepherd when we in our
very nature constantly return to our silly sheepish ways?
To follow him requires knowing! But it’s here there’s a subtle surprise in the text.
We wrongly assume that it is us who need to know God by our own strength.
But being blessedly helpless we know that’s just not possible. Rather it is not us
who knows God but Jesus says, “I know them!” He knows you, his sheep!
“Knowing” is nothing short of being faithful, so Jesus is faithful to you. The
Good Shepherd constantly leaves the ninety-nine to look for you, the
blessedly helpless, lost one! You are his little lamb, he is the Good Friday Good
Shepherd. You can trust the Lamb of God who was faithful even unto death,
and now continues in faithfulness sending the Holy Spirit into your heart, willing
you to believe he who believes in you.
So Jesus knows you and you’re now free to follow him. He sends the Holy Spirit
to grow faith within, faith that hold fast to Jesus’ faithfulness towards you,
demonstrated on the cross. As faithful sheep of the Faithful Shepherd, the
Holy Spirit does in us who know we are blessedly helpless lambs that which we
are called to do, namely, to glorify God. And that is listening to him; hearing
his voice.
You hear the Shepherd’s voice when you hear the Word of God, the law and
the gospel. This is God’s rod and staff. God’s Word is our comfort as we pass
through the valley of the shadow of death. It teaches us about ourselves and
it guides us. It protects us from the self, and from the old evil foe. And
it returns us to the loving embrace of Jesus coming down from the cross in victory over our sin…. the Lamb in the midst of the throne is our Shepherd, and he
guides us to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Jesus says to you, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,
and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never

perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27–28 ESV)

 

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and
honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever!
Amen.” (Revelation 7:12 ESV)

Third Sunday of Easter

WHAT NOW?

: John 21:1-19

 

When you are not sure what to do, what do you do?koch3
Peter is in that situation; he’s seen the risen Jesus, but he is unsure what to do next, so he does what he knows. Peter goes fishing.

Have you ever noticed that nothing changes if you simply keep on repeating what you have done in the past? Peter goes back fishing, goes back to what he knows.

Is that where Jesus is calling us to live; doing what we know, what we can reason out? What we have always done in the past?

Of course there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with repeating what you’ve done in the past. When things work, why change? We can learn from the past, building on our experiences.

But Peter was faced with a very different situation; he was facing something he’d never done before, so how could he know what to do? Have you ever been asked to do something you’ve never done before?

Jesus had appeared to the disciples. They knew he was alive; but what now? Jesus had breathed on them and said; ‘Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgive, if you don’t forgive them they’re not forgiven.’ But what now?

Unsure of his next move Peter goes back to what he knows; he goes fishing.

That reminds me of another encounter Peter had with Jesus, and it was right at the start of their relationship. Jesus again had asked Peter if he’d caught anything, and his response was the same. The story is recorded in Luke; “Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear!” (Luke 5:5-7)

Jesus uses this incident to re-direct Peter’s life; “Jesus replied to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!’” (Luke 5:10)

But now in the reading from John we find Peter, going fishing! Not fishing for people, just fishing. He’s lost his way.

Have you ever felt like you’ve lost your way? Not sure of what to do, let alone what the next step might be? Peter has lost his way, so he goes back to what he knew; fishing!

But that’s not where Jesus leaves Peter. Jesus again comes to Peter and the other disciples and repeats that incident. That incident where he gave Peter a whole new direction for life.

But at that point in time Peter totally missed it. There was just too much of Peter’s ego, too much of Peter’s ideas of how things would work out. Peter saw fame and fortune glittering before his eyes. A renewed nation of Israel, with Jesus as king and Peter right alongside.

Peter could see it all, the only problem was Peter interpreted Jesus’ words through the lens of power and influence. Through the lens of wealth and position, and he was going to be one of the top dogs.

But now we have a very much humbled Peter. He knows that Jesus knows of his denial. Peter had caved in; what good is he now? A failure; he’d been such a coward, especially after all his boastful words.

Maybe Peter was hoping to hide away in the obscurity of fishing. Peter was no doubt feeling guilty, regretting what he’d done. How could Jesus use him now; such a failure?

Do you notice the self-assured Peter, the Peter who knew it all, the bold Peter is gone? Now Peter is humble, broken, unsure of the next step. But now Peter is able to hear Jesus’ words through Jesus’ way of looking at the world.

Gone is the ambition to rule the world. Gone is the ambition to kill the Romans and dominate his enemies. Peter is broken; what now?

And then Jesus comes and pricks those memories; reminding Peter that he has been called to go and fish for people. And then Jesus asks; ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ Three times Jesus asked; ‘Simon do you love me?’ Not to condemn Peter, but to heal him, to point Peter back in the right direction.

Peter is healed by an amazing act of love, of grace, of mercy. He doesn’t deserve it, but that’s who Jesus is.

What a change; Jesus doesn’t give Peter a picture of kings in royal robs lording it over others, forcing them to do their bidding and disposing of those who don’t please them. Jesus let’s Peter experience the wonders of his gracious, loving nature.

What a change; Peter won’t fish for people using power and influence, but by telling his story. His story, which lives out Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness, the very mercy and forgiveness that Jesus lived out for all of us on the cross.

Jesus has caught Peter’s heart.

Jesus is saying; ‘Peter this is how you fish for people, with my undeserved grace and mercy, with my forgiveness, that you might catch their hearts. That when I say, “Follow Me!” they’ll come because they know me, because they trust me, because I’ve caught their heart.’

Peter has gone from building an Empire through dominating his enemies; killing them if need be. To proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven, that through his words people catch Jesus, catch his love for them, catch the forgiveness he has won, catch the hope he brings, catch the new life Jesus offers in his kingdom.

Jesus has come to build a network of relationships, relationships based on his loving grace and mercy. A network of relationships that flow from the relationship all his disciples share with him.

For Jesus comes building a kingdom, not of winners and losers, not of the haves and the have nots, but a kingdom of loved people, loving one another; as Jesus does.

Notice we don’t love because the other person deserves it; Peter knew that only too well. He didn’t deserve it. We don’t love people because they’re perfect; Peter was anything but, he suffered from terminal foot-in-mouth disease. But it was Jesus love that healed Peter.

If we wait to be perfect before we act, we’ll never act. Jesus has loved us, forgiven us, breathed his new life into us. The healing comes from Jesus, and then we can step out and feed the people Jesus places in our lives. We can feed them with the very love, grace and mercy that Jesus has feed us on.

After this encounter Peter doesn’t go back fishing, for fish at least. His heart has been caught by Jesus, he now goes fishing for people, seeking to catch their hearts with the loving person, Jesus, just as his heart had been caught.

Peter’s ‘what now?’ had been answered. His way was clear, he applied Jesus’ grace and mercy telling his story of life with Jesus. Peter went and fished for people using Jesus’ network of loving relationships.

A network that caught us. What now? What will we do?

Jesus has invited us to catch people living out this network of love that he has created, seeking to catch people’s hearts. So they too have a heart to heart relationship with Jesus, trusting him with their lives, joyfully living with him as their king.

What are we going to do now?

Let us pray.

Jesus I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving your life that I might be set free to know your love for me and for all people. Thank you for forgiving me, and sending me to be your ambassador of reconciliation. Jesus fill me with the Spirit that I hear your answer to the ‘what nows’ of life. I invite you to show me the people you want me to share life with this week, making your love for them down-to-earth through me.

Pastor Tim Kock

Second Sunday of Easter

UNLOCK THE DOOR

: John 20:19-31

The Gospel for today presents us with a powerful image; the disciples were meeting behind, what sort of doors? Locked doors. And they were locked because of fear.koch3The disciples response to their fear was to hide. The word ‘hide’ always reminds me of Adam and Eve; their response to their fear was to hide.

Interestingly they hide by painting their Dad out to be an ogre. Someone they had to lock out of their lives. Do you notice that’s the same with the disciples; where are the locks being locked from? The inside.

Now the disciples may or may not have had good reason to be afraid, but they were the ones keeping the doors locked. They were the ones who locked the door. Their answer to their fears.

Is locking the door; locking others out and locking yourself in, the best way to find life, life lived to the full?

I must admit that I’ve done a fair bit of ‘door locking’ in my life. I still do at times lock people out. I get angry and lock people out; they’re the problem, they need to change, I’ll stay away from them to keep myself safe. Are you ever tempted to lock the door, to shut people out in the hope of keeping safe? Where are your locked rooms?

Then Jesus does a wonderful, wonderful thing. Jesus comes right into the middle of that room, and what a difference he makes. He breathes life into those people. He brings hope. He gives direction and purpose. He now shapes their life, not their fears, real or otherwise.

I love seeing how Jesus works, because I know if you had to wait for me to open my locked doors, it would never happen. Actually if I heard you knocking, telling me to open my door because I was being silly, I’d lock my door all the more. Your condemnation wouldn’t get me to open my door, let alone my heart.

Jesus doesn’t knock on the door, he comes into the room. Not to condemn but to breathe life into his disciples. Jesus comes into the room and all of a sudden the disciples will have the desire and the strength to open the doors that they had locked.

Do you notice that the threat is still there when they unlock the door and step out? We just read from the book of Acts that Peter and John were dragged before the high council, so the threat was very real, but did you notice what was motivating Peter and John. It wasn’t their fear, but their trust is in God, their trust is in Jesus, their risen king. That’s why they say; “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

They are living free, they are living out Jesus call on their lives, and no fear, threat or condemnation was going to shape them. Jesus was the one who shaped them. Jesus had breathed his breathe of life into them, empowering them to continue his mission in the world under the same authority that he had.

They are living from the core of who they are in Jesus. Their life is now a living expression of who they are. In Jesus they are the ones who now shape the world, the world with all its threats and bully tactics no longer shapes them. Jesus has breathed his life into them, they have unlocked the door and walked out into life with Jesus, breathing his life giving presence into everything they see and do.

I don’t think the high council really understand what had happened. Peter and John aren’t simply following another teaching. They’re not obeying a new set of rules. They are changed people, changed from the core of their being; so now it is who they are that is being given living expression.

Who’s telling you to shut up? Who is feeling uncomfortable because you’re not controlled by them, but living from the core of your being in Jesus? Who is seeking to intimidate you?

If I was to lash out at those trying to control or intimidate me, I reckon that would be like me locking the doors again. Putting up my defences, fighting to keep them out. ‘You’ll never make me to what you want’. But that’s not what the disciples were doing.

They don’t lock their doors; they stay true to who they are in Jesus. Jesus shapes them, not the bully boys of the high council; who were locked up in their own fears. The fear of losing their place of worship and their nation. They were so locked up that they couldn’t see the God they worshipped even when he stood in front of them!

I don’t want to be like that, and thank God in Jesus we aren’t. Jesus has come and stood in the middle of our locked room and empowered us for life, life lived under his authority.

Jesus doesn’t simply give his disciples a mission to do, he’s given them life to live; life to share.

What’s the opposite of life?

We have life to live, life to share. That’s what Jesus came to bring; new life, in a new kingdom, where fear has no place, because perfect love drives out all fear, and Jesus is perfect love, love incarnate.

So where is the devil tempting you to exist in a locked room? Who is he tempting you to keep out, because you’ll feel safe in your locked room? Where is the world around you seeking to impose it’s ways on so that you’ll shut up and follow the crowd? Who’s seeking to condemn you taking the life right out of you?

Good News, Jesus specialises in breathing his life into people that they open the door on the new life he has, enjoying life with him as their king, in his kingdom. Jesus isn’t into locking anyone away, but he has come that you might have the freedom to live life to the full.

Jesus has breathed the Spirit into you; your life is now lived from the source of life, from the very core of who you are. You have the breath of God filling your lungs that you can live true to who you are. The world around you doesn’t mould you, Jesus has, Jesus does, Jesus will, so that you have become a change agent, an agent of life. In Jesus, you now change the world.

You change the world as you live true to who you are in Jesus, breathing the Spirit’s life giving presence into every situation; forgiving and not condemning, loving and not hating, serving and not being greedy. Jesus has invited you to join him in life, living life to the full. That makes you a change agent, and not a reactor to fear.

Does Jesus want you to be living as his change agent, breathing his life into every situation and person you meet this week?

Sure does; and in Jesus, you have what it takes, he has breathed the Spirit in you, he has forgiven you, he does love you, and he is returning. Returning to share his life up close and personal, so that we live life to the full, in his fullness.

So this week I’d encourage you to ask Jesus to reveal some of the locked rooms in your life, that you might invite him in that he might set you free for life. Invite Jesus in, and enjoy his breath of fresh air.

This week talk with Jesus about who to share this life with this week. Invite Jesus to lead you to another person that as you live from the core of who you are in Jesus, the life he has might be made real to them, that they might hear Jesus invitation to life, that they might discover him behind their locked door setting them free for life, life lived in all his fullness.

Let us pray.

Jesus, where is fear causing me to exist in a locked room? I invite you into those spaces; shed your light, your presence that I might be living life with you from the core of who I am in you. Jesus who are the people trying to shut me up, fill me with your breath of life that I live true to who I am in you bringing your life into this world of death. Jesus fill me daily with the Spirit that I grow to greater maturity in living true to who I am in you, living out this beautiful life you have won for me to share with you and all your brothers and sisters. Jesus come in, heal me, grow me, love me that I might be all you’ve dreamed possible.

Pastor Tim Kock

Second Sunday of Easter

 

: John 20:19
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

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Sometimes things can be pretty hectic, a lot can happen in one day, and you think back, how did all that fit in, surely that was yesterday? Maybe you felt that way last Sunday, food, family, God’s service, travel … For the disciples on that Resurrection Sunday I’d bet it was a hectic one too; going from devastation at their friend and teacher’s death; grief at the supposed lies that Jesus was the King to save the world; then waking up to confusion at the women’s news; then when Peter and John confirmed the empty tomb; fear of the Jews who had just killed their leader and probably were looking for the disciples and the body; two leave for Emmaus and come back with news of their conversation with the risen Lord; then Christ suddenly appears inside locked doors says a few words shows His body and just as suddenly leaves. Now I doubt most of us even remember how I started that sentence, but that all happened to the disciples in one day. Devastation, grief, confusion, curiosity, disheartened, surprise, joy, wonder, disbelief; all these emotions within 24hrs, certainly an emotional rollercoaster if there ever was one. Hectic! And into all this Jesus speaks peace.

            To have all your plans destroyed, your position redundant, your friend and leader dead, and the authorities the ones who killed Him. Your whole world crumbled before your eyes, emotionally exhausted, from the heights of Palm Sunday your King welcomed royally, within a week His crucifixion; can we just go back to our lives before all this happened? But now the body’s gone, will the authorities come and try to kill us too? What can we do? And then, in the midst of this fear, worry and the darkening of the day, suddenly, there’s someone else in the middle of the room! Whose that? What’s, How’s…? Peace be with you. Holed up in this house for fear of the authorities, probably exhausted from the events of the previous week, Jesus comes to them bringing peace. Perhaps the disciples thoughts; What’s happened to Jesus my Lord, the promised Christ? He is alive! Am I following a madman to my own death and destruction? No, Jesus has ultimate power over death! What can I do to save myself? Peace, you don’t need to worry, Jesus has done it for you, He saves you.

            Here Jesus first and foremost brings the peace that comes from knowing He is alive, their friend and leader is alive, but also that He has God’s power to appear where He wills and the truth that death has no power over Him. It’s not just a vision, but Jesus, body and soul, is fully alive, risen and glorified. God’s Word is true, Jesus is alive and so peace to you. Earlier Jesus had said that He would turn sorrow into joy (John 16:22); and how true that was this first Resurrection Sunday! From fear and terror, to wonder and joy in just two words. With His physical body, His scars He proves who He is and that He lives, and the disciples rejoice! What an amazing experience, what wonder, to have your whole world destroyed and now three days later restored and glorified! To be like Job in His devastation, seeing all you love destroyed, but then here to have it all suddenly restored and so much more! That wonderful joy and release of grief and fear, but then Jesus still has more to say, and again He says peace to you. First peace to allay fears then peace for calm to listen to the truth.

            Peace to you, as the Father sent me so I send you. The mission of the church, the body of Christian believers, is to continue Jesus’ mission, to bring God’s Word of forgiveness and truth to the world. And He breathes on them, just as the Father breathed life into Adam, so now Jesus in new life breathes on the disciples and says, receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven, if you retain them, they are retained. This is Jesus’ mission, what God sent Him for, to bring His forgiveness and condemnation of sin, truth and mercy. Now Christians are called to follow Him, to speak God’s Word of mercy and truth to all the world. And that Word has power, when I say to you today God’s Word of forgiveness, your sins are forgiven, God does forgives your sins. This is the grace that Jesus gave to the church and that you and the LCA have given to me to serve you. He also gave the authority to declare the truth, just as He did, that those who reject Jesus, who reject that they sin and reject Christ’s forgiveness are not forgiven. This is the truth, it is God’s Word, Jesus’ mission, and we need to be careful how we do this, so again you have entrusted me with the public working of His mission, but we all Christians also declare Christ’s truth to each other, forgiving one another and trying to lead all people back to Jesus, in word and action.

            Now I don’t have all the answers, just a guide to speak the truth in love. However, we see how Jesus again, does His mission when we hear of Thomas the Twin. He was struggling, as we all do, with two people inside himself, the believer and the unbeliever. He was not with the twelve and when

they tried to fulfil Christ’s mission by telling Thomas the truth, He did not believe. Thomas was staying in His betrayal and rejection of Jesus. But Jesus again suddenly appeared. Did Thomas have a flash of fear? Again He had betrayed His Lord, will He now be struck down as that fig tree? No, rather Jesus brings peace to a troubled conscience. “Here are my wounds, touch them, do not be faithless but faithful, believe!” God’s Word works its forgiveness and Thomas makes the strongest declaration in the whole Gospel of John, ‘My Lord and My God.’ We know that Jesus was more than a man, more than a prophet, so much more than even the archangels of God. But throughout His life no one had confessed that He was God Himself. Now Thomas, who has been called the doubter, gives the strongest confession of trust and faith in Jesus, My Lord and My God. So Jesus shows His mission, bringing truth and forgiveness; then Thomas gratefully receives it. This is now our mission to together bring Christ’s Word of truth and mercy to each other and all people and receive it well from each other, responding in joy, trust and love; confessing together who Jesus is, Our Lord and Our God.

            And so, the peace that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham

Fifth Sunday after Easter April 29th

  • “I am the true vine”

    John 15:1-8. Can’t bear fruit by ourselves! 10/5/09“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. {2} He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. {3} You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. {4} Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. {5} “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. {6} If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. {7} If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. {8} This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.20180311_103505 (1)Today I have brought along a branch off of our grape vine at the manse. It is a branch that I cut from the vine this morning: part of a vine that I am sure has produced good fruit. Now at the moment this branch looks alive and well. Well, as good as can be expected at this time of the year: but in reality, now that it has been cut from the vine, it is good for nothing. It is dead – fit only for burning or mulching into compost. There is no way that I can leave it out in front of our church and think that next summer we will get fruit from it. Now that this branch is off the vine, it is dead – fit only for burning. There only one way that this branch could produce fruit next season and that is if it were still connected to the vine. By itself now, it can do nothing but die. We know that don’t we; this branch is now useless. It would only have survived if it remained in connection to vine.Now our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to learn an important lesson from this illustration. Jesus is saying that the same principle applies to our lives as Christians as it does to this branch. Now if that is case then we had better do a lot of serious thinking. Have you taken note of the attendance figures of this congregation over recent years and related to that the number of members that we have on our books? Have you thought about how many times you yourself have missed church in that same period of time? Now sure, attendance every week does not necessarily mean that we are Christian, just as missing the odd Sunday mean that we are not a Christian. But it is indicator that we need to do some serious thinking as individuals and as a congregation, in light of these words from Jesus.

    The main word in this reading is remain; or abide – 8 times in this short reading. So, here Jesus is trying to make a very important point. He says there is a close connection between remaining and bearing fruit: that is, having peace, hope, love, joy and more. Jesus is trying to really impress on us the importance of our remaining connected to him, if we want to live and be happy and fruitful. He says, apart from him – if we think we can live without him, ignoring him much of the time – we in reality do nothing but die. To remain means to dwell; to be present with continually; to not wander away or have broken contact with. This is what Jesus here encourages us to do in relation to him: Particularly if we want to live and bear fruit in our lives. This illustration of the branches and the vine makes the point so well for us.

    So who are we to think that we can have only occasional contact with our Lord and still be strong and healthy – happy and content? Surely, we cannot expect to only have little connection to our Lord in worship but still be able to bear the fruit in our lives that we, and God, would want? Who are we trying to kid? It seems that we often have this idea that as long as we say that we believe, then that all that matters: then everything should be rosy for us; and everything should fall into place for us. After all, we think we are baptised and so are a part of God’s family, therefore everything is well. Now as long as we keep some contact; some faith; we will be right. Well think again!

    Look, what happens to a branch that is broken, even if it is still connected; is it possible for it to be as healthy as if it was completely connected? The greater the break, the worse off the branch would be. What happens to a branch that is only just hanging by a little bit bark and not much more? It barely gets enough sap stay alive, far less grow and bear fruit. On top of that, it is in far greater danger of being broken off completely. Yet many us seem to think that as long as we have a small connection with our Lord and his Church, we’ll be right. Who are we trying to kid? Ourselves it would seem.

    If it were you or I that were caring for that vineyard, we would cut that branch off completely and burn it. We would get rid of it because it is of no value, but is simply using up valuable resources. However, not our Lord, he still sees great potential in us; he still sees the possibility of much fruit. So he prunes the branch: perhaps he might even have to prune it very heavily, for its own good; so that it can live and produce: So that we can still live and produce the fruit that he seeks from us.

    Now sure, we do not like the troubles and pains that come our way, and we often blame God when things go wrong. But the broken branch has an important message for us. If we are not pruned, there will not be enough sap and nutrients to keep us from withering, and we may not even survive, far less produce any fruit. If we are not pruned, when the storms of life come, we will soon be torn away from the vine and die. But if we are cut back, we will be able to withstand the forces that come to bear against us. And with time, the Lord can even strengthen that broken wound and even enable us to bear the fruit that is so important.

    But now back to the main point: the importance of our remaining connected to the vine – our Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this branch dead, even though it still looks green? It has severed all connections with the vine. It cannot get the sap and nutrients that it needs to stay alive. Even though at the moment it does not look too bad, it is in reality dead. Because it is no longer connected to that which gives it its life and vitality, it is dead. There is no way that it can get what it needs for itself to be able to survive, so it will wither and die, even though it looks alive at the moment.

    The point here being, that we need a good supply of sap in order to be happy, healthy and fruitful; and that we cannot get by and for ourselves. This only comes from our remaining in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those nutrients that we need come to us in the form of God’s Word and the Sacraments. They are the key ingredients for us as Christians and we need a constant supply of this for our well-being. That is why regular attendance at worship is so important: That is why Bible Study and home devotions are essential. There we get what we need to give us the strength and vitality that is necessary for our survival as Christians: There we are given what is needed for us to find love, joy, peace and all the rest for our lives. There in the Word and Sacraments we find the love and forgiveness that we need, extended to us by our Lord. And only then are we truly able to love and forgive – bear the fruit that is an essential part of our Christians life.

    That all comes as we remain connected to our Lord Jesus. As we hear, and are extended, God’s love and forgiveness, we come to know that without him we are nothing; that we are dead. But primarily that Jesus Christ alone is the source and only means of survival and happiness. It is there as we regularly attend worship that we are fed with his Word and his Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper and receive the nutrients that we need to stay alive and healthy as Christians. There we are enabled to go out and produce the fruit that our Lord seeks from each of our lives.

    Yes, there are many who might look green and healthy at the moment, but do they see Jesus as their life giver – every day? Do they see the importance of remaining in Jesus – knowing that in him alone they have life? Do they believe that it is the Word and Sacraments that are the important means that our Lord uses to feed us and keep us alive and healthy? To ignore him and what he has to give us, and to think that don’t need him is disastrous: It is to cut ourselves off from all the goodness that our Lord has to give to us; and that can lead to only one ultimate end – to be burnt in the fires of hell.

    But on the other hand, in living in that constant relationship of love, trust and friendship with the Lord Jesus means life and fruitfulness – it means stability, strength, peace and hope. Above all, it brings great glory to our God who is the source and being of everything that is good within us.

    Here then is an important message for us to consider now and in the days ahead; and this I ask you to not take lightly. Look prayfully to this illustration of the vine and its branches and see what Jesus wants us to always keep in mind. As we remain in him may we produce that fruit that is so good and necessary. In so doing, may all glory go to our Lord Jesus Christ who is our source of life and vitality. For to him alone belongs all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.
    Pastor Roger Atze