16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. 
Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22 Suffering for doing right
13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear ; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
Gospel Reading: John 14:15-21 The promise of the Holy Spirit
15 Jesus said to the Disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” 
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 17:16). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 3:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Jn 14:15). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Sermon for 6th Sunday of Easter.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer:
This morning, God our Father, may your grace lift us from the grip of our challenges and insecurities to be all that we have been called to be. May your Holy Spirit inspire us to a renewed confidence, as we see the ending of this first round of Covid-19 isolation. And may we here together recommit our lives and hearts to following your will, sharing your love for us, and living our lives of faith in your Son Jesus Christ. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Amen.
Christ Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17 NIV)
‘Martin Luther once wrote of a dream where he was in his house and saw Jesus coming up the walk toward his door. Luther examined his surrounding and realized that everything was an absolute mess. Clothes were thrown over the furniture, old food was sitting out, trash was everywhere. And he thought, “How am I going to let the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ, come in to a mess like this.” He hurriedly tried to straighten up but the more he picked up the greater the mess became. Finally, Jesus was knocking at the door. Luther, resigned himself to the mess and as he opened the door, he said, “Jesus, come on in, if you think that you can come into a place like…” and as he turned he saw that everything had been put into order, everything in it’s proper place. The house was immaculate as Christ entered in. Oh, people, we make such a mess of our lives when we try to straighten them by ourselves. But if we will submit to Jesus, open our hearts to Him, He will make us immaculate, by cleansing us from sin and giving us the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide and establish us as a new creature.’
(‘adapted from contribution by Timothy Smith on Jan 29, 2005)
I suspect there are many in the world today who say that they love God, but when Christ Jesus says, “If you love me, obey what I command,” they might say in their attitudes and actions, if not in their words, “How am I going to let the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ, see the mess I made of things.”
Jesus tells his followers that the role of the Holy Spirit is, in effect, to remind us of Christ’s presence in our lives, as he asks us to keep his commandments.
When Jesus was present, he was the one who instilled in the believers the right words, coached them through the proper attitudes, taught them the joy of doing the right thing. But as the disciples waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I am convinced they would have spent their time in that upper room re-living all that Jesus taught them. Words like those we find in the Gospel reading for today, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:15-17 NLT)
Some of the work of the Holy Spirit is reminding the faithful of the truth, jogging the memories of the followers of Jesus Christ about all that he asks of us and all he will do to help us so that we can be the people who he has called us to be in love.
It may surprise us to think of the Holy Spirit in this way, as a quiet, active presence in our lives. Often the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit that are active in the believing and worshipping community. And indeed, the Holy Spirit of God does work in our lives and in our community in so many ways.
‘The Holy Spirit is the person and the power of God drawing people to Christ to see with new eyes of faith. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Like our eyes through which we see the world around us, we can only see our own eyes in the reflection of a mirror. The Holy Spirit is the one through whom all else is seen in the light of Christ, and we see Him clearly in the reflection of love of God and the grace of Christ Jesus. Father and Son revealed in Scripture, and experienced in sacraments, through the presence of the Holy Spirit.’ ( Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
God knows everything about us. He knows we are notoriously forgetful. Especially about Him. And so, at just the right time, God poured out his Holy Spirit upon all believers, to remind us of all that Christ Jesus is and all that he has done for us. Today’s reading and message is a foretaste of Pentecost. It’s like a preview of a movie that will peak our interest to experience that movie in a special way. In two weeks, Pentecost will once again remind us to experience life with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in a special way. We know that we are created to love God, and to care for one another, but as the pressure builds of living in our broken world, we sometimes forget who we are and what we are supposed to do and to be in life.
The Holy Spirit led the Gospel writers to witness these precious words of Jesus and so much more. So that whoever has “eyes to see and ears to hear” would be joined with our Lord in this life and in the life to come. Jesus warned the Disciples that the world would not accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither knows Him nor sees Him. Just as Paul encountered in Athens a world that recognised an unknown God, we encounter a world that rejects God in any form. Especially the truth of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, one God eternally.
I have come to understand and to accept that God’s Spirit is always present, surrounding us. The challenge is that we can only recognise that we are covered over with God’s Spirit when we receive this truth in the Scriptures. By faith, we can know him. By faith, he lives within us and joins with our spirit to sing the praises of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. By faith, we come to trust Scripture. To gain comfort from it. And to gain courage from it. Scriptures reveal that God has determined to work salvation in this way.
Jesus wanted the Disciples to have a reality to share. Their reality – and yet, also his reality. By God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, their witness became our Saviour’s witness. From the Scriptures, we discover that these two were inseparable. Throughout the New Testament, we discover God working in the world through disciples. He continues to work in the world today through each one of us. We are Jesus’ disciples to our time and place. We can make his reality our reality too. Inseparable from our Creator, our Saviour, and our Counsellor. Even in times of separation and recovery from pandemic.
By living our reality, with Christ Jesus at our centre, we can witness with our attitudes and actions, what our words often cannot say. Peter offers us some helpful advice from his first letter, ‘Do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
God, in His grace and glory, is calling out to each one of us to be living witnesses to the world. Witnesses that God can be trusted. Knowing that we have the help of God’s Holy Spirit, who is with us forever.
The grace and peace of our loving God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
26 God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.”
29 But Mary was very startled by what the angel said and wondered what this greeting might mean.
30 The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. 31 Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. 33 He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God. 36 Now Elizabeth, your relative, is also pregnant with a son though she is very old.
Everyone thought she could not have a baby, but she has been pregnant for six months. 37 God can do anything!” Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!” Then the angel went away.
39 Mary got up and went quickly to a town in the hills of Judea. 40 She came to Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the unborn baby inside her jumped, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 She cried out in a loud voice, “God has blessed you more than any other woman, and he has blessed the baby to which you will give birth. 43 Why has this good thing happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 When I heard your voice, the baby inside me jumped with joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that what the Lord said to you would really happen.”
46 Then Mary said, “My soul praises the Lord; my heart rejoices in God my Savior, because he has shown his concern for his humble servant girl. From now on, all people will say that I am blessed, because the Powerful One has done great things for me. His name is holy.”
John 14:1–12 Jesus the way to the Father
141Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. 2 There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. So how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father, too. But now you do know him, and you have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need.”
9 Jesus answered, “I have been with you a long time now. Do you still not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. So why do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you don’t come from me, but the Father lives in me and does his own work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or believe because of the miracles I have done. 12 I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the same things that I do. Those who believe will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
1 Peter 1:3,12-13, 2:1–10 God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood
13 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In God’s great mercy he has caused us to be born again into a living hope, because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. 12 Those who preached the Good News to you told you those things with the help of the Holy Spirit who was sent from heaven—things into which angels desire to look. So prepare your minds for service and have self-control. All your hope should be for the gift of grace that will be yours when Jesus Christ is shown to you.
2 So then, rid yourselves of all evil, all lying, hypocrisy, jealousy, and evil speech. 2 As newborn babies want milk, you should want the pure and simple teaching. By it you can mature in your salvation, 3 because you have already examined and seen how good the Lord is.
4 Come to the Lord Jesus, the “stone” that lives. The people of the world did not want this stone, but he was the stone God chose, and he was precious.
5 You also are like living stones, so let yourselves be used to build a spiritual temple—to be holy priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God. He will accept those sacrifices through Jesus Christ. 6 The Scripture says: “I will put a stone in the ground in Jerusalem. Everything will be built on this important and precious rock. Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.”
7 This stone is worth much to you who believe. But to the people who do not believe, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Also, he is “a stone that causes people to stumble, a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they do not obey what God says, which is what God planned to happen to them.
9 But you are a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. You were chosen to tell about the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 At one time you were not a people, but now you are God’s people. In the past you had never received mercy, but now you have received God’s mercy.
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
1 Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to our God.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Luke writes in his Gospel, ‘Mary said, “My soul praises the Lord; my heart rejoices in God my Savior, because he has shown his concern for his humble servant girl.”’
Let’s join in a word of prayer: Father of life, grant that today, our worship will reflect the true devotion of our hearts.
Reveal to us your concern for us, Father, and fill our hearts with praise. Guide our time, even in our imposed isolation, as we celebrate your concern for every mother, and for their husbands and children too. Fill us with your Spirit so that we rejoice over your concern demonstrated by your plan for our lives. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Saviour, Amen.
Sermon for 5th Sunday of Easter – Mother’s Day
A four-year-old and a six-year-old presented their Mom with a lovely house plant. They had used their own money and she was thrilled. The older of them said with a sad face, “There was a bouquet that we wanted to give you at the flower shop. It was real pretty, but it was too expensive, and Dad said “no”. It had the prettiest ribbon on it that said, ‘Rest in Peace,’ and we thought it would be just perfect since you are always asking for a little peace so that you can rest.” (Source unknown)
Even in the midst of his own hardship, Jesus gives us words of peace to provide a rest from anxiety: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.’ Jesus was giving us a focus for our attention to give us hope even in the hardship of living in a broken world. Hardship has a way of drawing our attention away from Christ. Pain slows us down. Very few of us, after facing a challenge to our Christian living, come out the same as when we entered in. Jesus understood this and tried to prepare his disciples, and us, for the road ahead. The most striking example of adapting to the challenges of living with the ups and downs of life is the mother of Jesus, Mary.
Mary, the very human mother of Jesus, began her journey of motherhood with the visit of the Angel Gabriel. The angel came to her and said, “Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.” Mary began that dialogue with anxiety, wondering what the angel could want with her. And she concluded the dialogue with words of faith. Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!”
Later, Mary quietly celebrated the birth of her son with dignity and grace. While the shepherds went away telling others what the angels had said about this child, Mary treasured these things in her heart and continued to think about them. (Luke 2:19 NCV)
She endured the uprooting of her family three times, when she and her husband Joseph were forced to go to Bethlehem to register for the census, and then to flee to and return from Egypt with a youngster to escape the jealous wrath of King Herod. ‘An angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, because Herod is starting to look for the child so he can kill him. Stay in Egypt until I tell you to return.” So Joseph got up and left for Egypt during the night with the child and his mother. And Joseph stayed in Egypt until Herod died.’ (Matthew 2:13–15 NCV)
Mary demonstrated her motherly care for Jesus when he came up missing on a family trip. ‘When Jesus was twelve years old, they went to the feast as they always did. After the feast days were over, they started home. The boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that Jesus was with them in the group, they travelled for a whole day. Then they began to look for him among their family and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him there. After three days they found Jesus sitting in the Temple with the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When Jesus’ parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why did you do this to us? Your father and I were very worried about you and have been looking for you.” Jesus said to them, “Mother, why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”’ (Luke 2:42–50 NCV)
Mary urged her son on to his mission in life, in the midst of a wedding they were celebrating together. ‘There was a wedding in the town of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his followers were also invited to the wedding. When all the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” Jesus answered, “Dear woman, why come to me? My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to do.” (John 2:1–5 NCV) And of course, Jesus listened to his mother and turned water into wine for the guests at the wedding.
Mary stood by her son, Jesus, in his darkest moments of his crucifixion. And she became the mother of an adopted son, the Apostle John, when Jesus spoke to her from the cross. ‘Standing near his cross were Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the follower he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the follower, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, the follower took her to live in his home.’ (John 19:25–27 NCV)
She was present with Mary Magdalene to witness the empty grave where they laid her son after his suffering. ‘The day after the Sabbath was the first day of the week. At dawn on the first day, Mary Magdalene and another woman named Mary (whom we identify as the mother of Jesus) went to look at the tomb. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, went to the tomb, and rolled the stone away from the entrance. Then he sat on the stone.
The angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would. Come and see the place where his body was.’ (Matthew 28:1–6 NCV)
And I am convinced Mary was there in the upper room with the Disciples when Jesus appeared to them saying “Peace be with you.” She pulled her sons together after the resurrection of Jesus, and gathered them in the upper room for prayers of thanksgiving that opened up the way for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. ‘The followers went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives (after the ascension of Jesus). When they entered the city, they went to the upstairs room where they were staying. (The Disciple) were all there. They all continued praying together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’ brothers. When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a noise like a strong, blowing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw something like flames of fire that were separated and stood over each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 1:12~2:4 NCV)
What a testament of motherhood. Motherhood through all the challenges and changes in the lives of their children. Motherhood in the presence of God our Saviour. Motherhood in the grace of God our Father.
As we journey with God, I am sure our mothers would smile, as we discover greater maturity of our faith and devotion fulfilled in our lives. As long as we live, there is still more that our Saviour wants to bless in us. There is still more the Holy Spirit wants to accomplish in us. And one day we will be present before God our Father in all our weakness, yet complete and holy, because of Christ Jesus. We can’t hide anything from God our Father, but he still loves us because of the sacrifice of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He loves us even more than our mothers love us, in spite of our shortcomings. Just like the old saying, “you can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool mom.” And mom still loves you.
One young mother filled with despair, went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were turning out so bad for her – her husband had an affair and she feared she would be left alone to raise her three children. She did not know how she was going to cope and just wanted to give up. She was losing her faith in the goodness of life and was tired of struggling. It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one took its place. With a compassionate smile, her grandmother took her to her warm and cosy kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed a few carrots, in the second she placed a couple of eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in another bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a mug.
Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, ‘Tell me what you see.’ ‘Carrots, eggs, and coffee,’ the young mother replied. Her grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft and mushy. The grandmother then asked the granddaughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the overcooked hard boiled egg. Finally, the grandmother asked her granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter closed her eyes as she tasted its rich aroma. The granddaughter then asked, ‘What does it mean, grandmother?’
With a mother’s compassion and love, her grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and proud. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its precious interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they changed the water
With a mother’s wisdom, she asked her granddaughter “Which are you?” “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? Ask yourself, my dear: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong. But with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?
Am I the egg that starts with a soft heart, but changes with the heat?
Did I have a caring spirit, but after hardship or challenge, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?
Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavour. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you let Jesus help you gain strength and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you let the Holy Spirit elevate you to another level?
My dearest granddaughter, may you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human and enough hope to give you strength during times like these. All to make you the best mother that God wants you to be.”
As the granddaughter listened with an open heart, her demeanour softened, her eyes smiled through a tear, and she sought the arms of her grandmother for a reassuring caress of a mother’s love. (adapted from NewsLinQ)
I suspect that most Christian mothers would be among those who would quote today’s Gospel to us, “Don’t be troubled. You believe in God, now believe also in Jesus Christ.” “He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through him.”
The only remedy that we find in this broken world for that empty anxious feeling when things don’t work out the way we intend, is to trust in our Saviour. As Jesus says, “You trust God, now trust me.”
This morning, let us all pray that our trust in Jesus Christ will remain strong. Our faith in a loving God will remain steady. Our passion will be kindled by the Holy Spirit to care for each other and reach out to our neighbour with enthusiasm, especially in these trying times. And our hope in the plan of Christ Jesus will remain a constant joy in our lives.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day today, may the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
5:1The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. 2 He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. 3 He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. 4 Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me. 5 You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honoured guest and fill my cup to the brim. 6 I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home as long as I live.
John 10:1-16 Jesus, the Good Shepherd
10 1Jesus said, “I am telling you the truth: the man who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who goes in through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The gatekeeper opens the gate for him; the sheep hear his voice as he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out. 4When he has brought them out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. 5They will not follow someone else; instead, they will run away from such a person, because they do not know his voice.” 6 Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what he meant.
7 So Jesus said again, “I am telling you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep. 8All others who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate. Whoever comes in by me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness.
11 “I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep. 12When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away; so the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. 13The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep. 14–15I am the good shepherd. As the Father knows me and I know the Father, in the same way I know my sheep and they know me. And I am willing to die for them. 16There are other sheep which belong to me that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them, too; they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 
John 21:1,15-19 Jesus calls us to be Shepherds
21 1Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at Lake Tiberias.
15 Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.” 16A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he answered, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.”
17A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!” Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.
18I am telling you the truth: when you were young, you used to get ready and go anywhere you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will bind you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!”
1 Peter 5:1-11 Follow the Good Shepherds and be Shepherds serving one another
5 1I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness.
5 In the same way you younger people must submit to your elders. And all of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but shows favour to the humble.” Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. 7Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.
8 Be alert, be on the watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that your fellow-believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings. 10But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation.
11To him be the power for ever! Amen.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Ps 23:1–6). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Jn 10:1–16). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., Jn 21:15–19). New York: American Bible Society.
American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good news Translation (2nd ed., 1 Pe 5:1–11). New York: American Bible Society.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
The Good News Bible translates the beginning of the 23rd Psalm as: ‘The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths, as he has promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are with me.’
Sermon for Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday
Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving Father, as we gather in the solitude of our homes with hearts that sing together the joy of knowing your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks to you for guiding us safely to this day by the voice of the Good Shepherd. May you bring us many more such days, as we listen for your voice and strive to discover the path to peace in our hearts. Give voice to our witness and courage to our convictions, that we may always remember to be caring and compassionate like shepherds to each other. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ our risen Lord, Amen.
The time between the resurrection of Christ Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, must have been time of great uncertainty for the Apostles and early Disciples. With such joy over the resurrection mixed with such anxiety their future. I can just imagine the Disciples and followers of Jesus Christ gathered together. Striving with all their might to remember every word Jesus spoke to them. Every miracle he performed. Every compassion he showed to people. Trying their hardest to pit these memories against the memories of the gruesome death of their saviour.
In our lectionary, placing Good Shepherd Sunday during this time of waiting for the next great event in the Christian calendar is no small thing – and certainly no coincidence. We have the gift of an opportunity to visit with the Disciples and followers as they experienced this time of waiting.
Jesus gives the gift of his wisdom and warning from John’s Gospel, when he compared himself as both the gate, the gatekeeper, and the shepherd of a flock of sheep. It appears that Jesus was so very fond of shepherds and sheep. I suspect they were everywhere in the holy land, and yet were not given much thought, except when a perfect specimen was required for sacrifice at the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem.
As we look at ourselves as the sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, we certainly don’t see perfection. But we do see the perfection of the ‘lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. And we do hold onto the image of a compassionate, vigorous, protective shepherd, just as I imagine Jesus wants us to see himself. Who protects us from the devil and his minions. Who guides us to the best that life has to offer. Who tends our wounds, provides our needs, and carries us when we cannot take even one more step. And who invites us to the even greater pastures in the perfection of eternity, when our time on this earth comes to an end.
I adore the Good News translation of Psalm 23. ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.’ So many in our developed part of the world cannot see past the wants of their existence these days, to remember that our needs are provided. And just give thanks to our Good Shepherd who has made provision for the greatest need – life – beyond the challenges, fears, and pain of this broken world. Even beyond the celebrations, accomplishments, and victories that are so temporal. Christ Jesus gives us the victory to live the joy of our salvation and the strength of our conviction. Even in isolation to overcome the threat and the reality of this global virus.
As King David’s 23rd Psalm continues, ‘The Lord lets me rest in fields of green grass and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths as he has promised.’ What a great allusion to our life in Christ Jesus.
I am told that sheep are a bit skittish, and find it difficult to relax in an open field, without protection. Always alert to any sound or sight that might be threatening. I am also told that sheep have a difficult time drinking from moving water of a stream or river, easily being drawn along in the current with their thick wool.
As sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, people are a lot like these sheep. When left in the open with no protection against our own temptations or the influence of the demons surrounding us, we live scary lives. When faced with swift currents of events around us it is easy to be drawn along in directions we don’t really want to follow.
But with the protection of our Good Shepherd, we are shielded from the worst of these currents of temptations. Sure, we will still make mistakes, and wander from the Good Shepherd from time to time. But he will never let us wander too far from his protection.
Although the prodding of his Holy Spirit that represents his rod and staff will sometimes certainly be uncomfortable as we are guided back to the flock.
Psalm 23 goes on: ‘Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.’ I always remember the story of a lamb that wandered from the flock and ended up slipping off a cliff, landing on a narrow ledge, caught in the trunk of a small tree there. It bleated, and struggled, and looked around with such panic for the longest time. The shepherd saw it there, but just waited as it continued to struggle. Until that lamb was completely spent lying in a limp heap against the small tree. Then the shepherd tied a rope around himself and worked himself down to the ledge to retrieve the poor little lamb, placing it one his shoulder as he made his way back up the crevice. You see, the shepherd knew if he tried to save the lamb while it was still struggling they both may have fallen to their demise. But when the lamb was quiet he could rescue the lamb without concern for either of their safety.
As sheep of our Saviour’s pasture, we will still go through the dark times of life in our broken world. We are reminded of this when we hear each day of the number of people who are struck with the virus, how many parish, and how many thankfully recover. No one is immune from the brokenness of life. But we can trust that our Good Shepherd will never abandon us to the deepest darkness we face. As Jesus spoke to the ladies that attended his empty tomb, and the disciples along the road to Emmaus, and in the upper room, “Do not be afraid.” And “Peace be with you”.
That peace from our Saviour brings us to the final words of the 23rd Psalm, ‘You, Lord, prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honoured guest and fill my cup to the brim. I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life; and your house will be my home for eternity.”
As we journey through this life, we have the assurance that not all the times of life will be filled with darkness and dread. That our Saviour also fills our cup of life to the brim with good things he has instore for us. And after we have passed through the deepest darkness, we will experience the most wondrous goodness and love of our Saviour. Jesus said, “I have come so that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”
John writes that Jesus revealed himself as the Good Shepherd who cares so much for each one of us. By trusting him and following his voice, we experience abundant life. By knowing Jesus, and feeling his presence close to us, we discover who we are, as children of the living God. Jesus lived among us to be known and understood, to be trusted and believed.
Jesus performed miracles so people would see his authority as God the Son, and trust themselves to his care. He taught so people would understand and apply his message to their living. He related in love so he would be known in mercy as Shepherd of our souls.
As we live in the presence of the Good Shepherd, we experience the abundance of living faith. We are invited to know his voice and respond to his calling as we live in his name. His authority is at work in us. His Spirit is transforming us into the people that we know He wants us to be.
Christ Jesus is calling us to show the world that we are Christians by our love – love for Him, for the word of God, and for each other.
Our response to God’s great and wonderful gift of salvation is to commit ourselves to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And to one another as brothers and sisters in his family.
Because of this, we can ‘devote ourselves to the teaching of the apostles, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer’, following the Good Shepherd. And we can pray that the Holy Spirit will set our hearts and lives ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God our Father. And to be shepherds to one another in the same way that Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd.
May the grace and peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
: First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 22-24, 36-41 Three thousand people repent and are baptised
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:
22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
36 Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (…OVER…)
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
: Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:17-23
Set free by the sacrifice of Christ
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
: Gospel Reading: Luke 24:13-35 Jesus made known in the breaking of the bread
13 Now on the day of resurrection two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about eleven kilometers from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body.
They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. 
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 2:36). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (1 Pe 1:17). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Lk 24:13). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
: Sermon for Third Sunday of Easter
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving Father God during this Easter Season, our fellow Christians around the world celebrate in isolation the resurrection
of Your son Jesus Christ, as we worship You. Guide our time together this morning that we may come to recognise the presence of the risen Lord in our lives. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Amen.
There was once a young boy who decided he wanted to find God. He knew it would probably be a long trip, so he decided to pack a lunch—four lamingtons and two cans of sparkling lemonade.
He set out on his journey and went a few blocks until he came to a park. He was beginning to become tired, and sat on one of the park benches next to an older lady surrounded by pigeons.
When he grew hungry, he pulled out a lamington. As he ate, he noticed the woman watching him, so he offered her one. She accepted it gratefully and smiled at him. He thought she had the most beautiful smile in the world. Wanting to see it again, he opened a can of lemonade and offered her the other one. Once again she smiled that beautiful smile. For a long time the two sat on that park bench eating lamingtons, drinking lemonade, smiling at each other, and watching the pigeons. Neither said a word. Finally, the little boy realized that it was getting late and he needed to go home. He started to leave, took a few steps, turned back and gave the woman a big hug. Her smile was brighter than ever before.
When he arrived home, his mother noticed that he was happy, but strangely quiet. ‘What did you do today?’ she asked. ‘Oh, I had lunch in the park with God,’ he said. Before his mother could reply, he added, ‘You know, she has the most beautiful smile in the world.’
Meanwhile, the old woman left the park and returned to her home. Her son noticed something different about her. ‘What did you do today, Mom?’ he asked. ‘Oh, I ate lamingtons and drank lemonade in the park with God.” And before her son could say anything at all, she added, ‘You know, God’s a lot younger than I imagined.’”
(Jef Olson, Hearts Burning Within) This morning we read in the Luke’s Gospel of two others who encountered God in a special way. As a result their eyes were also opened, their hearts warmed, with their spirits tingling. Two who discovered God in as unlikely a place as a park bench shared with a new friend.
These two disciples had followed Jesus during His ministry. They had heard him speak, saw him perform miracles, watched him heal the sick, experienced his forgiveness of sins. But they also witnessed His cruel death. And after this, they heard the witness that Jesus had been raised from the death he so willingly accepted on our behalf. There are some who say that Cleopas was a cousin of Jesus of Nazareth. That he may have been there at the Last Supper with Jesus.
After all that, on the same day of the resurrection of Jesus, they lowered their heads and began the sad march toward their home in Emmaus. A journey to try and pick up the shattered pieces of their lives after their great adventure of following Jesus. While on that journey home, they are joined by someone who appears to be a stranger. Someone who appears to be oblivious of the events that have happened in Jerusalem. Someone who doesn’t appear to know about Jesus. Someone they don’t yet recognise. So, they fill this stranger in on the sad news. News about a man, Jesus, who was a prophet and teacher. A man who they thought might be the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. But a man who was condemned to death and crucified. The unspoken words of these two followers are the sad news that this was not the Saviour they had been waiting for.
I can just see Jesus, shaking his head and smiling. Speaking words directed toward all humanity, and not just these two followers, “You are such foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures.” Then Jesus opened the Scriptures to their understanding. Scriptures that they surely heard him recite during his short ministry.
And even then, they still did not recognise the resurrected Jesus. Because they were not looking for him. They were not expecting him. It was unthinkable to them that Jesus could really be alive. But that is precisely the good news that overcomes the shadow of their sad news.
Jesus is alive, forever!
And Jesus is present with us every day of our lives. Even on our loneliest and saddest journeys. Even during this time of COVID separation from friends and family.
When Jesus sat with them to eat, and when he broke the bread and blessed it, they suddenly recognised him. We aren’t told what it was that awakened them. Whether it was the act of breaking bread that would become the hallmark of our renewal in Christ. Or the prayer that he said to bless the bread. Or the imprint of the nails in his hands as he handed the bread to them. Or maybe all of these witnesses that this was truly the risen Lord, once again in their presence.
And just as suddenly as they recognised him, He disappeared. But he left behind in the wake of his passing through their lives, a sure and certain faith, and the warmth and comfort of his continued presence. Opened eyes, hearts, and spirits.
Isn’t it amazing how accurately this describes the experience of almost every Christian. We are brought up with the Scriptures, that tell us about Jesus. We encounter Jesus personally in our baptism. But so often, we set aside our faith in the hustle and bustle of busy lives.
But at some point, our heart is softened, our mind is prepared, and our spiritual eyes are opened. We receive the full impact of Jesus as our very real and very personal Saviour.
From that day on, our lives are different. We have a new outlook, a new hope, and a new future. And then, in the wake of this spiritual renewal, we face the temptation to doubt the reality of our renewal experience. Was it real? Did it really happen? Does is matter at all anyway? This temptation becomes almost palpable for some to doubt God’s love and care during the threat of the challenges the world faces, especially from this virus.
Peter wrote in his second letter, ‘I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.’
Thank God that we have the witness of the Apostles. A witness that remind us of the continued presence of Jesus in our lives. A witness that confronts our own doubts.
And Thank God that we have the presence of our Saviour in our lives. In our prayers and meditation, in the fellowship of other believers by phone and social media, and in the joyful witness of baptism that we hold in our hearts.
What an honour it is to worship our Lord Jesus Christ, whether it’s through reading the words of others, through streamed worship services, or listening to recorded messages on the radio.
The two followers experienced fellowship as well. After their experience with Jesus, they rushed back to Jerusalem to share the experience with the Apostles, Disciples, and other followers. But instead of presenting their Good News that Jesus appeared to them, they receive the confirmation that yes indeed, Jesus is risen! When Jesus disappeared while in their presence, He went ahead of them to appear before those gathered in the Upper room on the evening of the resurrection.
And then despite all their initial doubts, they celebrated together. What a joyful time it must have been. What a joyful time it will be again to join together and celebrate our risen Lord, after our current restrictions are ended. And despite any doubts, and any challenge to continue believing, by our Saviour’s sacrifice, our baptism and our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will also be raised to be with Jesus, at just the right time.
We have a gift from the Holy Spirit of faith, and a sure hope in our Saviour, Jesus Christ. May the grace and peace of our God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, the author and perfector of our life eternal.
Acts 2:14a, 22-32Peter gives witness that God raised Jesus
14 Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:
22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
25 David said about him: ”‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.
30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Ac 2:22). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
: Sermon for Second Sunday of Easter
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Luke writes a testimony from the Book of Acts, ‘After his suffering, Jesus showed himself to the Apostles and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.’ (Acts 1:3 NIV84)
Let’s join in a word of prayer: Loving God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of your Son, our Saviour. Our hearts are attuned to the events surrounding that resurrection. Once again, fill us with awe and wonder over the appearance of your Son to the disciples, and the strength and confidence this gave them when they received your Holy Spirit. Guide our time together this bright and shining morning of the Easter season, that we may never deny our Lord, Jesus Christ, and that we remain signs of the resurrection to the world around us. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord, Amen.
In life, we often pursue that which eludes us. For me, it’s the perfect sermon. For others it might be true love, wealth and security, perfect family and children, or renewed health. Some folks spend their lives striving to find purpose or direction. Others search for sobriety while still others seek help for their depression. Some folks are looking for even a hint that there is a God and his love that they have heard so much about, even during worship on Sunday mornings. Most of us are striving for something, if we are really honest and are really living.
I’m not sure what is eluding each of us, but I can assure you that we are not alone. There are others who have struggled with the same issues, problems, and challenges. The good news is that many of them have overcome! There are those who have found true love, purpose, financial security and peace. There are those who have beaten depression, addiction, and self hate. I’ve have heard their stories, seen their pictures, and shared their victories. I trust their witness because I see the passion in their eyes and hear the urgency in their voices when they share their experience. It gives hope to those of us who have never experienced these things ourselves.
To be sure, I will keep trying to preach the perfect sermon, because so many victorious people can’t be wrong. And, after all, it is really Christ Jesus who inspires the words I share. I am never going to give up on searching for what matters. I’m going to celebrate when someone else find their victory. I’m going to encourage others to keep trying and remind them that they are not alone. I will point to the success of others and join in their joy!
That is why I get so excited every time I hear Jesus saying, “Blessed are those who have not seen and believed” (John 20:29).
In the reading for Easter, we shared the words of Matthew, ‘The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.’
I am sure that the disciples did eventually go to Galilee, just as Matthew tells us in his Gospel. But Acts tells us that Jesus appeared to the Apostles on several occasions before that, and John records events that occurred before their journey. The disciples were huddled in fear and grief and anxiety. Huddled in the upper room where they shared their last meal together just a few days earlier. Huddled, yearning for what eluded them. The Messiah died a cruel death, and was placed in a borrowed grave. Now Mary comes and tells them that their friend and Saviour is alive. Could they really believe that what eluded them was now their reality. How often is it that when we discover that thing that eludes us for so long is now within our grasp, we can hardly believe it.
It was in this atmosphere, that ‘Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.’ It was just unfortunate that Thomas was missing from the fellowship when Jesus appeared to them. When Jesus spoke to them, with his gentle greeting, “Peace be with you.” When Jesus revealed what had eluded them and was now standing in their midst. ‘One writer explains that the Hebrew word ‘shalom’, for “peace,” is a most comprehensive word, covering the full realm of relationships in daily life. The word as a greeting suggests the fullness of well-being and harmony. As a blessing, it is a prayer for the best that God can give.
At a time when the concept of shalom became all too casual and light-hearted with no more significance than a “G’day Mate”, Jesus came to give it new meaning.
At Bethlehem, God announced that peace would come through the gift of God’s unique Son. ‘a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those upon whom his favor rests.” ’ (Luke 2:13–14 NRSV)
The mission and ministry of our Lord made it quite clear that Jesus had come to introduce the rule of God and to usher in peace for the world.’
(Harry N. Huxhold, Which Way To Jesus?, CSS Publishing)
Even so, it would be some time before shalom became a reality for the disciples. Shalom in eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ. But in Christ’s presence in that upper room, I am convinced that they experienced peace in their hearts that would sustain them in their challenges of life. That they received what eluded them after the crucifixion.
That is what worship does for me every time I gather with my friends to express my Christianity – it gives me sense that all is well in a world filled with uncertainty and brokenness.
Francis Bacon writes the proverb, ‘If a man will begin in certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.’ (Francis Bacon, Advancement of Learning (1605)1.v.8. (London: Oxford University Press, 1951), 41)
So it was with Thomas. Who began with the words, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
And who ended with the words, “My Lord and my God!” That was when Thomas received the peace of God that eluded him through Christ’s resurrected presence in his life.
Dorothy Sayers says about Thomas: It is unexpected, but extraordinarily convincing, that the one absolutely unequivocal statement in the gospel of the Divinity of Jesus should come from Thomas. It is the only place where the word God is used without qualification of any kind, and in the most unambiguous form of words. And he says it with conviction. Thomas simply says of Christ, “My Lord and my God!” (Sayers, The Man Born to Be King (London: Victor Collancz, 1943), 319-20)
Thomas wasn’t there to experience the risen Christ Jesus when Jesus stood among the disciples and showed them his hands and his side. He wasn’t there to hear the words of Jesus, “Peace be with you!” the first time. And so, Thomas showed the same scepticism that Peter and the others showed to Mary Magdalene when she announced to them that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Jesus showed his compassion, when He appeared to the disciples in the upper room. He showed equal compassion to Thomas when He appeared a second time to confirm the message of the others. He shows us his compassion, when he appears to us in the Holy Scriptures as the Holy Spirit witnesses to our hearts that Jesus is alive. And Jesus tells us “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” We are blessed because Jesus is alive.
The Apostle John closes out the reading from his Gospel this morning with his words, ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’
After the gift of faith and wisdom from the Holy Spirit, Peter writes to us, ‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.’
God, in His grace and glory, is calling out to each one of us this morning to be signs to the world. Signs that God can be trusted. Signs that whatever eludes us is fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord, our friend, our Saviour. Because of the fulfillment we discover in Christ Jesus, we can live out the goal of our faith, our salvation. And we are not alone. We have the help of God’s Holy Spirit. That is why our prayer is that ‘the Holy Spirit will set our hearts ablaze for Christ Jesus to the glory of God.’
I share once again the words of Paul to the Church at Corinth, ‘What I received, I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.’ It’s now up to us to live as signs that Jesus is alive in our hearts and our lives. May the grace and peace of our God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN.
A common misnomer in our thoughts these days is this: If it gets the job
done then it’ll do. This seems to be the bottom line in doing what one must do to
survive. Unfortunately this type of rationale pays little to no respect for right
and wrong. In fact one might be tempted to believe, if it gets the job done then it’s justifiable, no matter what the means are of getting there.
As Paul and Silas walked through Philippi on their way to a place of prayer each day, a slave girl possessed by a spirit, repeatedly but rightly points to these men as “servant of the Most High God!” She was not wrong in what she said even though she was a noisy nuisance and others were making money out of her prophesies. Surely this might be used as a means of doing God’s work; after all she was proclaiming the Most High God?
Surprisingly though, Paul tired and troubled by her daily ranting, turned and
said to the spirit in her, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come
out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. (Acts 16:18)
After Paul took this action, he and Silas were seized, flogged, and thrown into jail. One would imagine they would have been sorry and sore. But instead, they sat up singing hymns and praying past midnight. Suddenly and unexpectedly an earthquake shook the prison, the doors flew open and the chains came loose.To the horror of the jailer, he awoke at the commotion, thinking his worst nightmare had come true. Believing the prisoners had escaped he reached for his sword to end his life, but Paul shouted,
“Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28) 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God he and his whole family. (Acts 16:29-34)
What must I do to be saved? The question “what one must do?” is perhaps a
very natural response for humanity. The jailer faced death, because the
prison had become unsecured under his watch. He was frightened, humiliated, and his immediate response, before Paul stopped him, was to take his life.
In this account from Acts, we’ve just heard of two responses to two situations.
They seem to be knee jerk sudden responses, with little thought to what one must do. The response of Paul and the jail keeper were natural responses according to who they were. They were immediate responses from their beings, they didn’t have to stop and think what to do! In the core of Paul’s being he was troubled by the spirit filled girl and in an instant he turned and cast out the spirit. The Jailer was troubled in spirit too, and in an instant he turned to take his life. Both men acted according to his being, they acted as according to whom they were called to be. The difference between them is this: Paul’s being was led by something or someone external, whereas the jailer’s being was led by his internal being or will. And this was leading him to death.
The difference between the prisoners and the jailer doesn’t end there either. In fact, ironically, the prisoners act as free men, singing hymns and praying, way after midnight; whereas the jailer acts as a prisoner, and Paul needs to stops him from killing himself. Then in desperation the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?”
As Christians we often place ourselves back under bondage, as did the jailer.
Instead of our freedom in Christ allowing us to be who we are called to be, we get caught up worrying what we and others must do to be Christian
what we must do to be saved and save others. However, “being a Christian” is exactly that, “being” rather than “doing”. When one faces the question of doing failure, depression, and death follow hot on the heels of our defective human deeds. It’s not so much a question of “what I must do to be?” but rather, “my being in Christ allows me to do what he wills for me.”
From Revelation Jesus says to us, “ Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. 11 Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.” (Revelation 22:10-11)
Here we are told not to bind up the words of Revelation because the time is near. In fact Jesus is near; the Kingdom of God is near. When Jesus returns to usher in his Kingdom, those who have appeared to be in bondage will be shown to be free while those who seem free, and bind others with their human judgements, will be bound in eternity. Those whose being is dependent on what they do will reap their wage; their means for getting the job done despite God’s way, will be paid for in full. Whereas, those who allow God’s means to make them holy, so that their being is holy, will also get their reward.
Jesus continues, “12 Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First andthe Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:12-14)
We all must ask ourselves, “What have I done? Am I doing what God wants me to do, or am I doing something else? What must I do to be saved? How do I wash my robes that I might have the right to the tree of life?”
It’s at this point we must turn away from the deathly deeds of our own rationale and understanding, and be continually drawn back into God’s word. In fact, just like the jailer which Paul saved from death, we must be led away from meditating and trusting in our deeds, and our desire to try and put things right by our own action, lest we too die from our futile and failing deeds.
Paul and Silas acted according to their being. They were not focused on what they must do. If they had they might have moaned and agonised over the actions causing their arrest. They may have grizzled like victims, “what have we done to deserve this?” But instead they worshiped God with joy knowing their fate and suffering, was about who they were called to be in Christ, rather than what they had done.
Likewise, Paul and Silas acted according to their being, when the jailer pleaded, “What must I do to be saved”? They pointed the man to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, speaking God’s Word of truth and grace, so the Spirit could implant faith in his heart too. So in hearing this word, our crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus was planted in the jailer by the power of the Holy Spirit, as he and his family were baptised. He no longer had to do anything to believe, belief and being were given as a gift, and the work of being a Christian, moved him to immediately cleanse the wounds of Paul and Silas, take them into his home and feed them, and live in joy that he had come to believe in Jesus Christ.
We like the jailer have been captured in baptism, so we might remain in Jesus Christ, receiving all the gifts of his deeds, living as free holy beings of God, who have a right to the tree of life.
The grace of the Lord Jesus is with us, because God’s people have received the being of Jesus, through his gracious means of the cross and baptism. And therefore, the last word in Revelation, the last word of the bible for us is this:
The grace of the Lord Jesus “be” with God’s people. Amen.
The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Let’s join in a word of prayer: This morning, God our Father, may your grace lift us from the grip of our challenges and insecurities to experience the peace that your Son, our Lord Jesus
Christ brings to us. May your Holy Spirit inspire us to renewed confidence. And may we here today recommit our lives and hearts to following your will, sharing your love for us, and living our lives of faith in your Son Jesus Christ. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The New Revised Standard Version quotes Christ Jesus saying, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my word.” (John 14:23-24 NRSV)
There was a young teen who came running into the house to her mother with a cuddle and a broad smile on her face, exclaiming: “Mamma, I love you sooo much!” The mother replied: “I am so glad you love me. It’s a pleasure to hear you say that. You know, that I love you too Sweetheart, I’ve had such a hard day, and I am so tired. If you love me so much, will you wash the dishes for me?” As her expression changed, the young teen replied: “I do love you, mom, but not in that way.” (—Unknown, from Henry Munro)
I suspect there are many in the world today who say that they love Jesus, but when Christ Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my word,” they say in their attitudes and actions, if not in their words, “I love you, Lord, but not in that way.”
Before his ascension, Jesus told the Disciples “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984))
When Jesus was present, he was the one who instilled in the believers the right words, coached them through the proper attitudes, taught them the joy of doing the right thing. But as the disciples waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I am convinced they would have spent their time in that upper room re-living all that Jesus taught them.
Words like those we find in the Gospel reading for today, “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
Jesus tells his followers that the role of the Holy Spirit is, in effect, to remind us of Christ’s presence in our lives, as he asks us to keep his teaching.
Some of the work of the Holy Spirit is reminding the faithful of the truth, jogging the memories of the followers of Jesus Christ about all that he asks of us and all he will do to help us so that we can be who he has called us to be in love.
It may surprise us to think of the Holy Spirit in this way, as a quiet, active presence in our lives. Often the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit that are active in the believing and worshipping community. And indeed, the Holy Spirit of God does work in our lives and in our communities in so many ways.
‘The Holy Spirit is the person and the power of God drawing people to Christ to see with new eyes of faith. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
Like our eyes through which we see the world around us, we can only see our own eyes in the reflection of a mirror. The Holy Spirit is the one through whom all else is seen in the light of Christ, and we see Him clearly in the reflection of the love of God the Father and the grace of God the Son, Christ Jesus. Father and Son revealed in Scripture, and experienced in sacraments, through the presence of the Holy Spirit.’ ( Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
Jesus knows everything about us. He knows we are notoriously forgetful. Especially about Him. And so, at just the right time, God poured out his Holy Spirit upon all believers, to remind us of all that Christ Jesus Is and all that he has done for us.
We know that we are created to love God, and to care for one another, but as the pressure builds of living in our broken world, we sometimes forget who we are and the peace we receive from Christ Jesus, who said, ‘”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
It’s like one pastor who related of an experience of being so stressed over running a Church that he could not sleep. He went to visit a dairy farmer in the early hours of the morning, knowing that the farmer would be milking his cows at 4:30. As he unloaded his cares to this quiet Christian, the farmer just listened with compassion while milking the cows. After the pastor finished talking, the farmer said only one thing: “I always remember that God gives me only the work that he knows I can handle. So I raise my few crops, feed my pigs, and milk my cows, praising God. All the rest, I leave to God, accepting the peace he gives me.”
That pastor left the barn that day, praising God for the peace of Jesus Christ, he discovered in the dedicated farmer, and he was renewed in his passion and his mission to share the Gospel.
The minister and author, Matthew Henry, once said, “When Christ died He left a will, in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better—His Peace!”
The Holy Spirit led the Gospel writers to witness the precious words of Jesus and so much more. So that whoever has “eyes to see and ears to hear” would be joined with our Lord in this life and in the life to come.
Jesus warned the Disciples that the world would not accept the Holy Spirit, because it neither knows Him nor sees Him. I have come to understand and to accept that God’s Spirit always surrounds us. The challenge is that we can only recognise that we are covered over with God’s Spirit when we receive this truth in the Scriptures.
To come to trust Scripture. To have faith in it. To gain comfort from it. And to gain courage from it.
God has determined to work salvation in this way.
Jesus wanted the Disciples to have a reality to share. Their reality – and yet, also his reality. By God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, their witness became our Saviour’s witness. From the Scriptures, we discover that these two were inseparable. Throughout the New Testament, we discover God working in the world through disciples. He continues to work in the world today through each one of us.
We are Jesus’ disciples to our time and place. We can make his reality our reality too. Inseparable from our Creator, our Saviour, and our Counsellor.
By living our reality, with Christ Jesus at our centre, we can witness with our attitudes and actions, what our words often cannot say.
Peter offers us some helpful advice from his first letter, ‘Do not be frightened. But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)
God, in His grace and glory, is calling out to each one of us to be living witnesses to the world. Witnesses that God can be trusted. Knowing that we have the help of God’s Holy Spirit, who is with us forever. And we have the grace and peace of our loving Saviour Jesus Christ. As Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Be at peace my brothers and sisters in Christ. AMEN.
(Jesus said,)“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do
not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”
‘Peace I leave with you’
Apparently there is an element of truth in this story. A plane landed after a long flight.The flight attendant explained that there was enough time for everyone to get off the aircraft and then reboard in 50 minutes.
Everybody got off the plane except one gentleman. The pilot had noticed him as he
walked by. He could tell that the man was blind because his guide dog lay quietly
underneath the seat next to him. “Sir”, the pilot said to the blind man, “we will be
here for almost an hour. Would you like to get off and stretch your legs?”
The blind man replied, “No thanks, but maybe my dog would like to stretch his legs.”
Picture this: All the people in the gate area came to a complete stand still when they
looked up and saw the pilot walk off the plane with a guide dog! The pilot was even
wearing sunglasses. Fear took control. People scattered and queued at the airline desk trying to change planes!
Fear is a normal human response. It is a part of every person’s life perhaps more
so in some people than others but still everyone has to deal with fear at some time.
There are many things that can cause unexpected fear to grip our hearts.
The latest wave of flu strains makes us worry for our health.
The fear of terrorist attacks permeates public events.
The nuclear build up in North Korea has caused nations to fear the possibility of the
use of nuclear weapons.
Mothers, fathers and children in Israel and Palestine live in constant fear of another bomb blast or being caught in crossfire.
Parents fear for the safety of their children with so many reports in the news of
people who would want to harm them.
We are afraid to leave our homes unlocked, or to walk in the dark at night.
We fear failure so we scramble to meet our tight schedules, duties and obligations.
And where there is fear, there is no peace. Fear brings with it anxiety, worry,
apprehension, dread, restlessness, panic and tension none of which lead us to feel
calm, peaceful, relaxed and stress free.
One of the best newspaper cartoons is Calvin and Hobbes. One day Calvin comes
marching into the living room early one morning. His mother is seated there in her
favourite chair. She is sipping her morning coffee. She looks up at young Calvin. She is amused and amazed at how he is dressed. Calvin’s head is encased in a large
space helmet. A cape is draped around his neck, across his shoulders, down his back and is dragging on the floor. One hand is holding a flashlight and the other a baseball bat.
“What’s up today?” asks his mum.
“Nothing, so far,” answers Calvin.
“So far?” she questions.
“Well, you never know,” Calvin says, “Something could happen today.” Then Calvin
marches off, “And if anything does, by golly, I’m going to be ready for it!”
Calvin’s mum looks out at the reading audience and she says, “I need a suite like that!”
That’s the way many of us feel as we see the news and deal with life. Sometimes
this world seems too violent and people seem to be at each other’s throats. A suit
like that would help, so we can say along with Calvin, “Whatever may come my way,
I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
Well, I don’t have a suit like Calvin’s to give you this morning, but I do have some
important words from Jesus this morning to enable us to say, “Whatever may come
my way, I’m going to be ready for it! Bring it on!”
It is the night of the Last Supper. Jesus has just spoken of his impending death. He
tells the disciples that one of them will betray him and urges Judas to go and do
quickly what he has planned to do.
Peter boldly claims that he would rather die than deny his Lord, but Jesus knows that before the rooster crows he will say three times that he does not know the man they are talking about. Jesus talks about going where they cannot follow and they are confused about this.
Haven’t they followed Jesus for the past 3 years? They have watched him heal the
sick, they have seen him bring comfort to the afflicted and laughter to the faces of
children. Not a day has past where Jesus has not been with them. Their sole thought
and attention has been him since the day they were called. And now they are faced
with the thought of life without him. Where is he going that they can’t continue to
follow him in the future?
Jesus knows that what will happen his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, his
trial and tortuous death the next day will upset them.
Like a child lost in a department store, these disciples are afraid, uncertain, confused and nervous. And so he continues saying,
“Do not be worried and upset. Believe in God and believe also in me….
Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid”
(John 14:1, 27).
In the New Testament, the peace Jesus gives is an unconditional, eternal gift to his
followers in every time and place. That’s why he does not give peace to us as the world doesfor the world, peace is often very conditional, fragile, temporary, and, is
frequently reduced to mean only the absence of war and strife.
Worldly peace always has some kind of strings attached, some kind of conditions,
and worldly peace lasts only as long as the conditions are kept. Two feuding neighbours can’t agree over the type of fence to be constructed between their properties. They come to an agreement about the cost, type of fence, what kind of materials are to be used and how high it should be but immediately one reneges on what was agreed, the feud starts again. However, with Christ’s peace there are no strings attached; there is the wonderful promise that it will last forever. Peace, in the New Testament sense means: salvation, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and humanity. The sin that stands between God and us has been done away by the death of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection. We no longer fear God’s anger because of our rebelliousness. Jesus reconciles us with God
he restores the friendship between God and us.
Peace is also the Holy Spirit in our lives as friend, comforter, counsellor, teacher and healer.
Peace is knowing that no matter what troubles may come our way, God, our
heavenly Father, has promised to never forget us and to always be our helper and
strength. He sent his Son to go all the way and die for us in order to reclaim us as his own. He won’t give up on us now. We are his special and most loved children.
Peace is the flow on of God’s peace into the rest of our lives as we live and work with the people in our day to day relationships and activities.
This peace has a positive effect on our health and well being. It is well documented
that stress, tension, and fear have negative effects on our body.
What can we do when fear grips our hearts?
Firstly, get to know what kind of God we have. He is gracious, loving and faithful. We don’t deserve it but he loves us and will always stand by us. We see just how
powerful his love for us is when we look at the cross and see what Jesus has done
Get to know God as the king and ruler of the universe. There is nothing so great or
too difficult for him to handle. Parting the sea to save the Israelites, saving Daniel
from the lions or Jonah from the belly of the big fish, springing Peter from jail, or
saving Paul from a shipwreck were all a piece of cake for him. Helping us when we
are afraid is just as easy.
Secondly, get to know God’s promises
and trust that he will stick by what he says.
Memorise and trust words like these
The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The Lord protects me from
all danger; I will never be afraid. (Psalm 27:1,2).
God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will
not be afraid… (Psalm 45:1,2).
Or Jesus words of authority and power,
“Don’t be afraid! I am the first and the last. I am the living one! I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I have authority over death and the world of the dead.” (Revelation 1:17).
Be assured that God keeps his promises; that he is with us, even in the worst
possible situation imaginable on this earth.
Thirdly, realise that there are too many times whenour human attempts to be bold
are not sufficient. There will be times when even the texts of promise that we have
learnt off by heart will do little to ease our anxiety. We may even fee
l that God has deserted us. It’s then we need the Holy Spirit to help us to forgive us for our weakness of faith, to enable us to trust that God has not forsaken us, to spport us while we tremble in fear and to help us get through. He even takes our cries of fear to God and pleads to him on our behalf (Rom 8:26 27).
Our strength, our mind, our skills are of no particular use. We just have to relax and wait patiently, trusting in the God who knows all of our needs and is willing to use his power to help us. The Holy Spirit reminds us when fear is near, God is even nearer.
Ask God to intervene in our troubles and the fear they bring. Pray for
faith, for boldness and courage when we are afraid. Pray that we are able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit who points us to the love and compassion of God, and pray that in the end God would take us from the troubles of this world into the eternal world where there will be no more fear.
When fears and worries create tension and upset your life, Jesus promises,
“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”
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 prisoners 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.