Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 3:10-12a
The Lord said, “I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”  But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  God answered, “I will be with you”.

The call committee appointed by the congregation to seek out a new pastor was having great deal of difficulty finding a pastor for their parish.  So they did what some congregations do these days, dhuffthey sent out an email asking for expressions of interest from any pastor who might be see himself as a possible candidate to be called to the congregation.  There wasn’t an overwhelming number of responses but the committee met to work through those they did get.

One member of the committee read out one the letters:
“To the members of the call committee: 
It is my understanding that you are seeking a pastor and I would like to express my interest in filling that vacancy.  I can’t say that I preach very well.  In fact, I tend to stutter when I speak and get stuck for words.  I do have a lot of experience since I am almost 80 years old.  I have only just recently had an encounter with God.  I heard a voice which told me personally that I was the one to be your pastor.  One never knows when God will appear right before your very eyes.  As far as people skills go, I do tend to lose my temper every once in a while.

I’m also inclined to want things done my way, and can get impatient and cranky if it’s not taken care of right away.  Once I even killed somebody.  But since I know you are gracious people, I know you will believe me when I say that’s all behind me now.  Although I am kind of reluctant to work with you folk, I will turn up in a few weeks to lead you into a brighter future whether you call me or not.”

Silence fell over everyone in the room. 
An old bloke with no seminary training, who is arrogant, temperamental, hears voices, an ex-murderer as their pastor?  Hardly the right kind of person.
Finally, someone spoke. “By the way, who did you say wrote that letter?” 
The answer came, “It’s signed, ‘Moses’.” 

Of course, the setting of this story is fictional but it does go to show that no committee would have picked Moses to be the leader of God’s people.

What can we learn from God’s call to Moses?

  1. When God calls, he calls ordinary people. 
    Moses was the least likely candidate to receive a call from God, especially such an important call. 
    He wasn’t all that young anymore (about 80 years old); he wasn’t an especially pious man. 
    He did have a good education, but he had lived out in the wilderness looking after sheep for the past 40 years, hiding from the authorities because he had killed a man in a fit of rage.
    He certainly didn’t regard himself as a leader. 

Moses wasn’t looking for a closer relationship with God.  He wasn’t interested in a special, risky task for God. So, God takes the initiative.  The call was all God’s idea. It was a gracious call that took the gifts and abilities that Moses had, along with his weaknesses, and used them all for the good of others.

In fact, God did this kind of thing on a number of occasions in the Bible. 
Jeremiah was still a young lad. 
Mary was just a young girl. 
Amos was a shepherd.
Gideon was a wheat farmer.
David was a shepherd boy. 
Peter, James and John were just ordinary fishermen. 

When I went to the seminary (remember this was a long time ago) I was surprised to see in my class blokes who were more than twice my age.  They had given up their careers and come to the seminary.  One evening over a glass of red the topic came up why these “old blokes” had decided to go back to study.  One had been a farmer.  He had left school as soon as he could and taken over the farm from his father.  There were good seasons and bad seasons – that’s how farming is but as he went around the farm on his tractor ploughing or harvesting or whatever, a kind of uneasy feeling came over him.  At first he didn’t know what it was and hoped it would go away.  He was an elder and lay reader in the small local congregation and someone said one day, “You ought to be a pastor”.  Suddenly that uneasiness took on a focus.  He described how he argued with God.  “I’ve got a farm.  I’ve got a family. I’m not a scholar.  I hated school”.  It took a while, but God finally got his attention.

Age, gender, status, qualifications are not important.  When God calls, he calls the person who is most suited to do the job. 

That day in the wilderness, on an average ordinary working day, something happened.  A bush burst into flame.  A voice came from the bush.  God was grabbing Moses’ attention.

God reaches down and grabs the ordinary lives of ordinary people for extraordinary purposes.
Is it possible that God is trying to get your attention? 
Is God calling you to do something very specific, very different, something out of the square?  Maybe it’s not something so out of the ordinary, so way out there, but for you it’s a challenge.
When God calls there is nothing unkind or harsh about it; he’s not being unrealistic or hard to gone on with; behind every call there is always God’s love.

  1. When God calls, he has a very definite purpose in mind.  
    That day in the wilderness, God wasn’t interested in just a friendly chat.  God introduces himself, “I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  And then he revealed something of the pain in his heart as he told Moses how his people were being cruelly treated.  He had heard their cries for help.  Now he was sending Moses to lead the people out of Egypt to a new home.

When God calls, he has something very definite in mind.   
He has called you to be his disciples.  Do you sense that God is calling you to do something very specific as his disciple? 
What is God’s special call to you?  Don’t think for one minute that he doesn’t have something special for you to do in his Kingdom.
Is he calling you to be a peacemaker, a reconciler in the sandstorms of anger, jealousy, ill feeling, and anxiety?
Is he calling you to be life-giving water in the wastelands of the lives you come across in the classroom or office or wherever love and kindness and mercy and understanding are needed? 
Is he calling you to be his word of comfort to someone crossing a wilderness of sickness and grief? 
Is he calling you to be the voice of those who have no voice – the homeless, the hungry, the refugee, those caught in slavery to addiction of every kind.
Is he calling you to lead someone to the promised land of eternal life through Jesus? 
In what way is God calling you to be Moses-like and speak for God to others?

  1. When God calls, we object.
    When Moses heard what God wanted him to do, he said,
    “What?Who?  Me? 
    People won’t believe me. 
    I’m no one special. 
    No-one will listen to me.   
    I’m not a leader. 
    I’m a poor speaker and I can never think of what to say”. 
    What a list of objections.  Moses tried all the excuses he could think of and not one of them is original.  God had an answer for them all.

Moses would have done anything to dodge God’s challenge. 
When we start to do this, I suggest that we need to stop for a moment and remind ourselves that through dodging God’s call, we may miss a valuable moment to make a difference in a person’s life, or make a valuable contribution to the life of this community.

We may not always see the reason why God is calling us to do a specific thing, but be assured that when he calls us then it is for some very good reason.  When God calls, love is always behind his calling.   

  1. When God calls, he reassures. 
    Moses was given assurance that God would help him speak, find the right words and what to do along the way.  God never promised that this would be an easy assignment, however, he promised to always be present to help. 

When God calls are you ready to listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit, take up a challenge, to step out in faith, even though you could easily give ten good reasons why you can’t? 
Even though you think you are the most unlikely person for a particular task, are you game enough to take up the challenge trusting that God will help you and that the person doing the asking is Jesus in disguise? 
Even when the task seems too big or too hard are you able to get past your initial fear and hesitation and step outside your comfort zone?

We may not understand the reasons why God calls us to take up certain tasks, but one thing we do understand – it’s not beyond God to call you or me to do something that we wouldn’t have thought of doing in our wildest dreams.

And at the moment when we’re busy thinking up all kinds of excuses, we can be assured God has very good reasons for placing that challenge in front of us.  Remember at the back of every one of God’s call to do something is his love.

He knew that Moses would be able to handle the job – with his help. 
When God calls us, he knows that we can handle the challenge – with his help.  When God calls, he also promises, “I will be with you”.   And you can be certain of that promise.  Just look at Jesus and the cross.  There you see God’s commitment and promise to us in the flesh. There you see God’s promise of forgiveness and renewal for the times when we fail just as Moses and all the others failed.  Even when we blunder badly fulfilling the task of being his disciples, and we know that Moses did this often, we also know that we have a Saviour who is ready to forgive and set us right again and refocus as we get back on track.

When God calls, as difficult as it might be to say, may our response be,
“I don’t think I’m the best person in the world to do what you are calling me to do.  There are plenty of others better than me. But at this moment I believe I am the person you are calling to do the job and I know you will help me do it.”

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

Twelth Sunday after Pentecost

The text: Matthew 16:13–23

 

What kind of person do you warm to? Someone who brags about their achievements and never seems to mess things up? Or someone who makes mistakes, but is quick to admit them and stands by you when the going gets tough? We can more easily identify with someone who is very human, can’t we?20180311_103505 (1) Someone who displays weaknesses common to many of us, and yet remains an inspiration to us. We may often wonder about the kinds of people Jesus calls to serve him.

They seem to us to be the most unlikely of candidates to achieve great things for Christ. Simon Peter was the most unlikely of candidates to lead a religious revolution. He’s been called ‘the apostle with the foot-shaped mouth’. Peter was eager and enthusiastic, bold and outspoken, with a habit of revving his mouth while his brain was still in neutral. Our four gospels are remarkably candid about the faults and failures of the first leaders of the Christian church. Their weaknesses and shortcomings aren’t smoothed over by some public relations expert.

Rather, the candid recording of erring disciples by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is part of the evidence for the reliability of their narratives about our Lord. Both their strengths and weaknesses are revealed to us to give hope to all of us. In a sense, there are no great Christians, only the great grace of Christ, which is either eagerly embraced and used to make a life Christ-like, or is sadly neglected and underused. Our world isn’t looking for perfection from those of us who bear Christ’s name – it is looking for reality, for people who quickly admit what they’ve done wrong instead of blaming others for what’s happened. No Christian is a finished product. We’re all learners with a lifelong learning process still ahead of us to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’, as St Peter urges us out of his own experience.

When Jesus called Peter to be his disciple, the life of Simon Peter the fisherman changed dramatically. He became not only the most prominent of Christ’s followers, but also later became the leader and principal spokesman of the fledgling Christian church. He’s a fascinating Christian because of his fallibility, and yet impetuous enthusiasm. Peter wasn’t born a giant of history, but became one through his lifelong love for Christ and his desire to cling to Jesus Christ, no matter what happened.

One day, when many of Jesus’ disciples deserted him, Jesus asked his 12 apostles: ‘Will you also go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:67–69). In other words, Peter’s saying that he could not contemplate following anyone but Jesus. There’s no other option worth considering!

Christ called Peter to follow him when he was having no success in his work as a fisherman. When he obeyed Jesus, Peter had an extraordinary catch of fish. He instantly realised that he wasn’t just having good luck in fishing. Rather, in Christ, he was in the presence of a power beyond his comprehension. His immediate response was one of unworthiness. He fell down before Christ and said, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’.

But Jesus didn’t depart. It was precisely such a person as Peter, a man who knew his own weakness and sinfulness, but could at the same time recognise and acknowledge the presence of God’s power that Christ wanted. Leaders are involved in the middle of the action. They are curious and love asking questions as did Peter. His readiness for adventure means he had the potential to be a great leader. He had the habit of opening his mouth when he should have opened his ears instead. From time to time, he didn’t fully understand what he himself was saying.

One such occasion was when Christ was transfigured in all his heavenly glory before his eyes. After Peter spoke, St Mark bluntly tells us that Peter didn’t know what to say! His great confession of faith in today’s gospel is all too soon followed by Peter’s unguarded and unthinking tendency to protest what Jesus says. As the proverb states: ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!’ Jesus had just lavished great praise and blessing on Peter for his profound, Christ-centred confession of faith. Jesus then addresses Peter as a minister and says, ‘On this rock [that is, on this ministry] I will build my church’. Then Jesus adds the hope-filled, comforting and encouraging promise that the Gates of Hell can never overpower Christ’s church.

This promise has sustained and empowered the martyrs and missionaries of the church ever since. All the organised opposition and hostility towards Christ’s church will never wipe it out. Christ guarantees his bride, the church, will remain forever.

The first Director General of the BBC, Lord Reith, was visiting a group of people, preparing a radio program. One of the group members told Dr Reith what the program was all about. It was to be about ‘giving the church a decent burial’. ‘Young man’, Dr Reith responded, ‘the church of Jesus Christ will stand at the grave of the BBC’. We might add ‘and at the grave of every other secular organisation!’ Christ’s church is like an anvil that has worn out many hammers.

Jesus gave to Peter and the ministers of his church the ‘Office of the Keys’, that is, the authority to forgive the sins of those who repent. Peter would especially treasure his own forgiveness by Christ, and his rehabilitation at Easter after Peter had so cruelly denied he ever knew Jesus. Prior to his denial of Jesus, Peter was super-confident that he alone would never deny our Lord. No thoughtful Christian will want to point an accusing finger at Peter, because the depths of his failure to be faithful to his Lord is matched by the depth of his repentance when he realised what he’d done. When Jesus turned to look at him, Peter went out and wept bitterly. Peter repented because Jesus prayed for him.

A sense of our own vulnerability to letting Christ down is essential. If we don’t recognise and acknowledge our own vulnerability, and plead constantly for Christ’s help, we too set ourselves up for failure.

An alcoholic had been sober for a number of years. He was asked what the secret was to his recovery. He replied, ‘As simple as it sounds, it was the hardest lesson for me to learn. Every time I crave a drink, the last thing in the world I want to do is pray. I will do anything not to pray. But I finally discovered that when the pressures build up to get drunk and go on a binge, if I will force myself to pray for five minutes, the temptation will fade away. But you don’t know how hard that is. When a man needs a drink, the last thing he wants to do is pray about it’.

Peter learned that same lesson in the Garden of Gethsemane when he failed to join our Lord Christ in prayer. In his two letters, where he shares with us all the marvellous things he learned from our Lord, Peter writes, ‘Keep sane and sober for your prayers’ (1 Peter 4:7). He starts his first letter off with the marvellous difference Christ’s resurrection can make for all of us. He writes, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy, he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:3–5).

In St Peter, the New Testament gives us a portrait of a disciple who, through weakness, was made strong. In our weakness, we too can discover Christ’s strength and the inexhaustible sufficiency of his grace. Jesus says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The life of St Peter reminds us that church leaders are weak and human like every other Christian and need the prayers of their people for their ministry to be truly blessed by Christ. When Christ called Peter the ‘rock’, he was referring to what Peter would become. Christ views all of us in light of what we can still become by his grace alone. Thank God for that mercy! Instead of sacking us when we fail, our Lord Jesus longs to forgive us and recommission us for his service.

What a marvellous incentive that is – to continue in the work of the Lord knowing that in the Lord, our labour is not in vain. Amen.    

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

The text: Genesis 45:1-15

 

“Orphans Lead the World” is the surprising title of an article in a medical journal. The writer studied the lives of politicians who had the greatest influence on our history. He was soon struck by the astonishing dhuffdiscovery that most of them were orphans: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, George Washington, Napoleon, and Queen Victoria were all orphans who didn’t let the situation of disadvantage with which they began life to deter them from achieving great things for others. These orphans were determined to not let the emotional deprivation they had suffered in their childhood stop them from being positive men and women. They wanted to live in such a way that they would improve the lot of others.

As a teenager, Joseph was deprived of the comforts of his family. Joseph however let God use the unfortunate circumstances of his life to bring immense blessing to countless men and women in a foreign land. His positive attitude to the negative events in his life has inspired countless Christians to follow his example. The story of his life is one of the most inspiring stories ever written. He is one of the Bible’s most commendable characters, and his actions remind us in many ways of another Joseph’s stepson – Jesus. The events of Joseph’s life capture the imagination of those who read about him in Genesis 37-50.

Children easily identify with the story of Joseph and his unkind brothers. They can understand the brothers’ jealousy of Joseph when their father favours and spoils Joseph. As a 17 year old, Joseph should have known better than to tell his brothers of his egocentric dreams. As far as they were concerned, he was “too big for his boots”, and deserved to be humiliated. The brothers sold him to slave traders. An Egyptian official called Potiphar bought Joseph. Potiphar sensed his God was blessing what Joseph did and he made Joseph manager of his entire household. Because of Joseph’s faith in God and his positive attitude to his situation, God blessed Potiphar’s work. Just when everything seemed to be going well for Joseph, trouble comes from an unexpected person – Potiphar’s wife. Joseph says a resolute “no” to her advances. “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” he told her. When she sees that nothing can change his mind, she accuses him of betrayal to her husband, who has Joseph put in prison.

In prison, Joseph could easily have become bitter because of the unfair and dishonest way he’d been treated. But Joseph believed that though life is often unfair, it is nevertheless good. “Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more.” Joseph saw how God richly blessed his time in prison. God hasn’t abandoned him there. Instead of being obsessed with his own misfortune, Joseph shows genuine care and concern for his fellow prisoners. “Why are you looking so sad today?” he asks two prisoners. Joseph kept his positive outlook because he believed God had a good and gracious purpose for his life. This liberating conviction saved Joseph from giving in to bitterness or resentment. Instead of blaming God for what happened to him, Joseph’s indestructible faith enabled him to confess, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.” God is doing the same for Christians in our country today.

The more important the work God has for one of His people to do, the longer the preparation. Jesus was 30 years old before He began the most important work ever, that of our eternal salvation. Joseph saw the two men whose dreams he’d interpreted released from prison before him. In God’s good plans for us, times of waiting are never fruitless. “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” In God’s good time, God gets Joseph to interpret the dreams of Pharoah, King of Egypt. Joseph is promoted to the second highest position in Egypt from where he saves the lives of many people by preparing for a major drought.

Joseph sees that God’s plans for his people are larger than every player, including himself. He believed that God meant him for something much better than an affair with Potiphar’s wife. God can use our loyalty to Him and commitment to His Kingdom to bring blessings to future generations. No act of faithfulness is insignificant as far as God is concerned. A cup of water given to a thirsty child will be recalled and praised by God in heaven. Joseph looked beyond the hassles of daily lie, beyond sibling rivalry, untruthful accusations of sexual harassment, and alienation from his brothers, to see in his life the caring hand of God. He remains sure that God’s hand is on him “for good”. He trusted God’s loving-goodness despite what sometimes seemed like the opposite. God lets us enter suffering, that through it, He might bring about some greater good. God has all the threads of our lives in His hands, even when we’re least aware of it.

There were no external miracles in Joseph’s life. God works through the ordinary events of life to create His saving master piece for us. From Joseph’s fractured family, God created an indestructible nation. God didn’t let family conflicts and disagreements thwart His loving purposes for others. The time has come when Joseph can no longer hide his true identity from his estranged brothers. His brother Judah has profoundly changed for the better. Judah would now do everything he could to prevent his father Jacob from suffering again. “For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father (Genesis 44:34).” And Joseph is deeply affected by the change in his brother. Joseph’s revelation of himself is one of the most moving scenes in the Bible. His words reveal Joseph at his noblest: “I am your brother, Joseph.” What wonderful words of forgiveness and reconciliation!  

There will be no more recriminations. The past stays in the past, pardoned and wiped clean. All that matters now is a new relationship with each other. “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; He has made me a father to Pharoah, and lord of all this house and ruler over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 45:7-8).” To allay the anxieties of his brothers, Joseph maximises what God has done and minimises his own contribution. Joseph is convinced that without God, he would never have achieved anything good.

Everything good we have received comes from God. There are no accidents. Whatever happens to us happens within God’s plans and purposes. Not only is God at work in everything that goes right in our lives; God won’t let painful things happen to us unless He can bring good from them. Our ultimate source of hope is that God can bring good from our evil. “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as He is doing today’ (Genesis 50:19-20).”

What God lets happen to us is better than our plans or what we want for ourselves. If we have to change our plans, it may be because God has something better in store for us.

A teenager was sitting under an oak tree looking out at a watermelon patch, wondering if God was right in the way He planned things. He thought that surely God had got things wrong. A big oak tree had tiny acorns, when it would have made more sense to have big fruit like a watermelon. Just then an acorn fell on his head! Then he understood that God’s wisdom is vastly superior to any human wisdom. Our lives aren’t at the mercy of impersonal forces like fate, luck or chance.

The death of our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest example of how God has brought the greatest good from the greatest evil. Like Joseph, Jesus too was rejected by His brothers and sold for silver. From our Lord’s tragically cut-short life, we are eternally blessed. “What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will He not with Him also give us everything else? (Romans 8:31-32)”

The story of Joseph encourages us to really believe and live each day in the light of this truth: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

 

Amen.

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

“FAITH TO WALK ON WATER” –MATTHEW 14:22-33.

KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS”

A man took his new hunting dog out for his first hunt. He shot a duck that fell into the lake. The dog ran on top of the water, picked up the duck and brought it back to his master. The man was flabbergasted.

pastorh2

He couldn’t believe what he had just seen. He shot another duck. While he starred in disbelief, the dog again ran on top of the water and retrieved the duck.

Hardly daring to believe what he saw, he invited the neighbour for a shoot the following day. Once again, each time he or his neighbour shot a duck, the dog would run on top of the water and retrieve the duck. The man said nothing- neither did the neighbour. Finally, unable to contain himself any longer he blurted out, “Did you notice anything strange about my dog”? The neighbour rubbed his chin thoughtfully and finally said, “Come to think of it I did. Your dog can’t swim”. This just goes to show that some people can’t see a miracle even when it stares them in the face.

Political joke- Joh Belke Petersen was premier of Qld. Joh-Bob Hawke and the Pope had a meeting on Fraser Island. The meeting finished and the helicopter that was to take the three men back to the mainland was late. So the Pope decides to walk to the mainland. Joh then does the same. Then Bob Hawke set out but unfortunately drowns. The Pope turns to Joh and says, “Didn’t Bob know where the stepping stones were?” Joh replies, “What stepping stones?” Despite what some of his most fervent supporters might think Joh couldn’t actually walk on water.

The fact is that people can’t walk on water-as anyone who has tried will know. We don’t have webbed feet. Walking on water requires skills/powers that we humans simply don’t have. Yet for a short time, Peter was able to walk on water.

The Scene: After the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus wanted to be alone to pray. He sent the disciples ahead by boat. The wind blew up. Then a full blown storm hits. This was not uncommon for an inland sea surrounded by mountains.

It was about dawn- before 6 am when Jesus walks towards the boat-no stepping stones. By the way why was Jesus walking on the water? Mark Twain was visiting the Holy Land and decided to take a boat ride on Lake Galilee. He asked the man how much that would cost. The man figured that Mark Twain was a wealthy American and said $100. Mark Twain said,”forget it. Now I know why Jesus walked on the water” The disciples are terrified. They think that Jesus is a ghost. Then Jesus speaks to them,” take courage. It is I- don’t be afraid.” Tell me! Would you have reacted any differently? Wouldn’t you have been frightened in that situation? Would you have had Peter’s courage? “Lord if it is you tell me to come to you on the water?” Would you have asked that question? And then when Jesus says “Come” would you have had the courage to go?

They say that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. That’s Peter isn’t it-bold- impetuous-over confident. There was no doubt that Peter believed it was Jesus. And that he actually walked on water. Just imagine how Peter felt-on top of the world-elated- pinch himself to see if he was dreaming.

Then what happened? Peter looked away from Jesus. He “felt the wind. He saw the water whipped into huge waves. He saw that he really was outside the boat-he was really walking on water. Then he made a crucial mistake. He took his eyes of Jesus-panicked. He thought to himself, “What on earth am I doing out here on the water? He had a sinking feeling- and that is what happened-down he went. It was a very short time from elation to panic.

Perhaps you have had those times when you were “Riding high”- when things were going well. So much so that you started to get “big ideas” about yourself and your abilities. You were going “great guns” “hot shot”. I think that something like that was going on in Peter’s mind. “Look at me guys-I’m walking on water”. The implication –Peter was better- showed more faith than the other disciples who stayed in the boat. Then Peter got that sinking feeling and down he went.

A similar thing can happen to us when we develop a superior attitude- or get too big for our boots. Suddenly with a crash- your worlds comes tumbling down. All those securities- all those things that propped you up have come crashing down. And you are feeling helpless. You feel like you are drowning-going under. Everything is closing in on you. Have you ever felt like that? What did do you do?

As Peter went under the water he yelled out to Jesus, “Lord save me”-brief prayer- a prayer of desperation-conviction. Jesus was the only possible source of help. What do you do in desperate straights? Who do your turn to in those life threatening situations?

Peter prayed, “Lord save me”. And Jesus did. He reached out, grabbed his hand and said, “O man of little faith why did you doubt?

What can we learn from this story? There are times when the storms of life threaten to overwhelm you. There are times when the waves of sorrow-doubt-strife-affliction-trouble threaten to swamp you. Remember help is at hand. And it is only a prayer away. So when you are in a situation like Peter-when you are being overwhelmed-give the Lord a call. Turn to Jesus and He will help you. The Psalmist says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you”.

Now that is a promise from Almighty God. You can’t do better than that.

So in those times when you feel in danger from being overwhelmed by troubles-pressures- when your sins threaten to sink you-when you seem to be falling deeper into a hole. Then Look to Jesus-keep your eyes on him. Ask him for help. And He will help. He will take you by the hand just like he did for Peter. He will assure you that because you have turned to him in faith, he will respond. He will save you from whatever is threatening you.

Now it is most unlikely that Jesus will invite you to walk on water. But there may be times when he will ask you to step out in faith- to put all your trust in him. The important thing then is to remember that Jesus is by your side. He will be right there to lift you when you fall-to save you when you feel overwhelmed.

BUT! You will never discover that unless you take the step of faith. Peter would never have discovered whether he could walk on water unless he stepped out of the boat. That is the way it is with God’s promises. You will never discover whether they are true-unless you take the step of faith. You only find out of God keeps his promises by taking the step of faith.

You may ask, “Isn’t that taking a risk?”Isn’t that too risky”?

Well it all depends on who is making the promise. Is the person who makes the promise reliable-dependable?

Remember! It is Jesus who makes this promise. His Word is reliable. You can trust his Word-promise. How do we know that?

The Cross and the open grave are proof that Jesus does keep his promises.

So when Jesus calls you to step out in faith, remember that he is by your side. His hand is already in yours.

And above all- “KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS”.

Pastor Haydn Blaess.

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

JESUS FEEDS THE FIVE THOUSAND –MATTHEW 14:13-21.

            “THE LORD CAN DO A LOT WITH A LITTLE”

            Have you ever been asked to do something that seemed impossible? Suppose you and 5,000 people were in the middle of the Simpson Desert. It was tea time. You were asked to feed the crowd. The nearest McDonalds is well over 1,000 kilometres away. You ask everyone to pool their food. But all you can muster up is five small bread rolls and a tin of sardines. What would you do?pastorh2

            You would probably shrug your shoulders and give the person who told you to feed the crowd a look that clearly indicated you thought they were out of their mind and say something like, “You’ve got to be kidding! That’s impossible! Who do you think I am? Jesus Christ?

            That might have been something like the way the disciples felt when Jesus looked at the crowd of 5,000 men (20,000 total) –and said to his disciples, “YOU feed them”-“you give them something to eat”. The disciples no doubt felt that was totally unreasonable of Jesus to ask such a thing of them.

            How had this situation come about? Jesus and the disciples had gone to a remote area for some rest. Jesus had just heard that his cousin John the Baptist had been executed by Herod. He was looking for some timeout with his disciples. But the crowd had found out where Jesus was going and followed him. Jesus had compassion on them and healed the sick among them.

The disciples being practical men noticed that it was getting on towards evening. And as it was a remote spot they suggested to Jesus that he should send the crowds away to get themselves some food.  In the circumstances, it was a logical-practical-realistic suggestion.

Then Jesus dropped his bombshell.” They do not need to go away”, he said, “You give them something to eat “.  Just imagine how you would have felt if you were one of the disciples. You would have been stunned. Jesus seemed to be totally unreasonable. Perhaps Jesus didn’t realize how serious the situation was. We had better brief him – make him aware of the real situation. Tell him how little food they had been able to find. “We only have five bread rolls and two small fish”, they said. Jesus doesn’t bat an eyelid. “Bring them to me”, he ordered.

            Now the disciples knew that they couldn’t feed the crowd with the limited amount of food they had. And Jesus knew that they couldn’t. So why that strange command? Why ask them to do something that was clearly impossible?

Most of Jesus’ miracles had a teaching element to them. Jesus never performed a miracle for its own sake. Every miracle Jesus performed was a demonstration that he had ushered in the Kingdom of God. And in this present case the disciples were about to learn an important lesson. They learnt that without Jesus they were helpless.  But with Jesus “all things were possible”.

Now they undoubtedly thought of themselves as being practical-down to earth men. But when they were presented with this practical problem they couldn’t manage it themselves. They had to have help from the Lord.

The disciples at first tried to avoid the problem by sending them away. But Jesus wouldn’t let them off the hook. There are times in our lives too when we try that strategy. We try to avoid-ignore them problem- hoping that it will go away.

The lesson that Jesus taught the disciples is intended for all of us. It boils down to something Jesus once said, “apart from me you can do nothing”. We all need God’s help throughout our life. We simply aren’t always smart-strong-capable enough to deal with Life’s problems. Like the disciples’ we need to learn to rely on Jesus and his power to meet the challenges of life.

Ephesians 3:18 says, “God is able to do far more than we can thing or imagine”. With God’s power-guidance- with Jesus’ help-support we can move from the realm of “impossibility thinking” to “possibility thinking”.  What was impossible for the disciples by themselves became possible when Jesus added his resources.  We may not always have the resources-abilities to help people facing difficult problems. But we do know someone who does have the resources-Jesus. Bringing people to Jesus can be the very best thing we can do for people-especially when the problem is beyond our capacity to deal with. As it was the case with the disciples.

And if Jesus could meet the needs of all those people in the wilderness almost 2,000 years ago couldn’t he also meet the needs of people today? How many of you believe that?  “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”.

            And yet there is another side to this miracle that we need to look at. The disciples were important to Jesus’ plan. He didn’t say to them, “Get out of the way-you are all useless. I’ll do it myself”.  He could have said that but he didn’t. After he had blessed the food he gave it to the disciples-who had the important task of distributing the food.

Certainly the resources-food- came from Jesus but the disciples had their part to play. Jesus worked through the hands of the disciples that day.

            And he still does. This pattern of God working through people continues today. The Lord still wants to use us as his partners in his work-junior partner’s maybe-but partners never the less. The Apostle Paul says “You are God’s co-workers” (1. Corinthians 3:8) It is surely a great privilege-honour for us to be regarded by God as his co-workers.

That is why he challenged the disciples by saying, “You feed them”.  This showed two things.1. Their dependence on Jesus’ power. 2. It showed that God had an important part for them to play-to be involved.

            Just before his Ascension Jesus gave them his commission-his instructions to go and make disciples- baptizing and teaching. And from the time of his Ascension, Jesus’ followers have carried on the work of the Lord. So each one of us likewise has an important part to play. A poem by a lady called Annie Johnson Flint sums the position well, “CHRIST HAS NO HANDS BUT OUR HANDS TO DO HIS WORK TODAY”. Do you agree?

Now I know that can sound a bit like bragging- as if God is absolutely dependent on us. And in a sense those words aren’t true. If we don’t act God will find some one else.

But this much is true. Our Lord has chosen people-people like you/me to carry out his work. And if God’s people fail then there is the possibility that God’s work may fail. But it won’t be God who has failed, but we who have let him down.

            The Story of the Archangel Gabriel asking Jesus about his plans for the world to know of his love.

            THEME: “ JESUS CAN A LOT WITH A LITTLE “

            When Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd they told him they only had a little- five small loaves and two fish. And it certainly was a little amount to feed the vast crowd. Yet with that little amount provided by the disciples Jesus was able to feed the large crowd –they in face had more than enough- there were even left-overs-12 baskets full.

            So what does that say to you?  I believe that Jesus is saying, “Come to me just as you are-ill-equipped-weak-fallible. Bring to me whatever you have-however little-however ordinary. And I will bless it and use it greatly in my service-in the work of my Kingdom.”  REMEMBER! “A LITTLE BECOMES A LOT IN THE HANDS OF JESUS”.

Prayer: Lord use me to accomplish your purpose in this world. Amen

Pastor Haydn Blaess.

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

THE PARABLES OF THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE PEARL.

                                    MATTHEW  13:44-46.

           

            Have you ever dreamed about discovering some hidden treasure? I used to enjoy reading stories about pirates sailing to islands to look for buried treasures-books like Treasure Island. pastorh2Even today people are fascinated by stories of sunken ships that were supposed to have carried cargoes of silver-gold-jewellery. When I was a young boy I once found a shilling-in the late 1940’s a shilling could buy you a lot of lollies-and that is what I spent it on. And I hid them so my sister wouldn’t find them. I was going to eat them all myself. And I think I did.

            Other people looked for treasure on Land. Gold was discovered in Australia in the early 1850’s. People rushed to the gold fields-hence the expression “Gold Rush”. People came for over seas-America-Europe-England, even China. Sailors deserted their ships-farmers left their farms, leaving their wives behind to manage while they went off to make their fortune. Shop assistants-tradesmen-clerks­ left to try their luck in the goldfields. They gave up just about everything they had to search for gold. For prospectors- gold was the only thing mattered-counted.

            Read parables. Jesus told these two parables to teach us about the importance of the Kingdom of God.

  1. In the 1st parable Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a man finding a valuable treasure buried in a field. We aren’t told how he found it or what he was doing when he found it. But somehow, quite unexpectedly he comes across a treasure he wasn’t even looking for. Now that might sound a bit odd to us. Why would you bury your treasure in the ground?

But that was not unusual for those times. Remember there were no banks-safety deposit boxes. In unsettle times people would often put their valuables in a jar-box- wrap it in cloth and bury it in the ground. If the owner died or was killed no one else might know about it and it would just lie there until someone found it.

            You can imagine the surprise-excitement for the man who had discovered the buried treasure. After he gets over his initial surprise, he reburies the treasure. He has no rights to the treasure as it is on someone else’s land. So he quickly rushes off and sells everything he has to get the money so he can buy the land.

He considered the treasure was so important that it was worth sacrificing everything else he had. He gave up everything else to obtain the treasure.

            What does this mean? Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of Heaven is such a treasure.  It is worth more than anything else in the world. Later Jesus tells the story of a Rich young man who wanted to follow Him. Jesus tells him to sell everything and follow him. But the young man could not make that sacrifice. The Kingdom was not important enough for him. It was not his priority.

            In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,”seek first the Kingdom”. He says, “Lay up treasures in heaven”. In other words he was saying, “work out your priorities-focus on what is really important.

            In what way is the Kingdom a treasure? The kingdom is a total package. It includes everything we could possibly need for this life and the life to come. It includes-God’s love-grace-forgiveness-acceptance-the Holy Spirit-guidance-eternal life. That is why it is such a great treasure. That is why it is so valuable-important.

            Some questions we need to consider.

+Do we in fact regard the Kingdom as a valuable treasure?

+Do we appreciate being in the Kingdom?

+What  value do we place on our faith?

Is it a priority for us?  Would you have acted like that man who found the buried treasure?  The point is this: if we are prepared to sacrifice all that we have to gain an earthly treasure, what should we be prepared to do for the Kingdom?  

            The second parable is about a merchant who after years of searching finds the perfect pearl. You get the impression that he had been searching for such a pearl for the whole of his life- that is was a life long ambition to find such a pearl.

Pearls were highly valued in the ancient world-sometimes more so than gold. They were found in the Red sea-Persian gulf-Indian ocean.

Now the merchant’s dreams had come true. He had hit the jackpot. He found a pearl of extraordinary perfection-beauty. He had found the pearl of his dreams. Now this was not the only pearl in the world. There were many others. But this pearl was unlike any other he had seen. It was one of unsurpassing beauty-value. None cold compare with this special pearl.

The implication is that there may be many other attractions in the world-many other desirable things-other alternatives. But they are not a patch in comparison with the Kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven surpasses them all. By comparison they are of little value.

The pearl is an object of great beauty. There is also beauty in the Kingdom that we seldom think about. Beauty has its source in God-it comes from him and ultimately points back to him.

But I am not just talking about “physical beauty”-“good looks”-“outward appearance”.  I am talking about the beauty of “character”-“truth”-“love”, a beauty that comes from a vital/living relationship with God. This kind of beauty shows itself in such things as “serenity”- a person who is at peace with themselves and others because they are at peace with God. It is what we might call a “Christ –like beauty”. It is what we sing about in the hymn, “Beautiful Saviour”. It is an inner beauty that shows itself in our outer character. And this “inner beauty” is more valuable than outward appearance.

            These 2 parables have some common features.

  1. There is the idea of finding something of tremendous value.
  2. There is the thought of selling things of lesser value to obtain the object of great value.
  3. No cost is too great when it is a matter of gaining the Kingdom.

These parables teach us that the Supreme value of the Kingdom is worth more than anything else in life. It is worth sacrificing­-giving up everything else in order to obtain it. St Paul said, “Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up every thing else and regard it as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him”. (Philippians 3:8-9, CEV).  

            Many centuries before Jesus told these parables God offered Solomon anything he wanted- riches- success-fame-long life. Instead of these material things he asked God to give him wisdom to rule wisely. Solomon understood something of the values of the Kingdom. He asked God something that was better than material things. Likewise in these parables, the man who found the buried treasure and the merchant who found the perfect pearl aimed for the best- the thing that was of the most value.

            What is it that you really value? Are you focussing on the lasting values of the Kingdom? Or are you focussing on things that ultimately fade into insignificance? That is the question you need to ask yourself and think about.

Let us thank God that Jesus makes it possible for us to be a member of his Kingdom. He paid the price so that we could have the prize.

Pastor Haydn Blaess.

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

THE WEEDS AND THE WHEAT”   MATTHEW 13:24-30 

            “”WHAT AWAY TO RUN A FARM”

            Life can be messy. And I’m not talking about changing babies dirty nappies. Things in life are not always clear cut.pastorh2 They are not always black-white. Life is so often a variety of shades of grey.  Evil flourishes alongside good. Good and bad can be intermingled.

            And most of us don’t like that. We prefer things to be clear cut- black and white. We like things to be neatly divided-clearly separated. We aren’t comfortable with ambiguity. We like things to be straight forward­. We like things to be in neat tidy categories such as “good and bad”-“evil and righteous”- “worthy and unworthy” etc.

            This parable tells us that life in general and life in the church in particular isn’t always like that. It tells us that God has his own way of dealing with things. He has his own time schedule. It tells us that Judgement is God’s concern, not ours.

            In this parable we find that the Master postpones Judgement. He refuses what seems to be a reasonable request from the servants who want to separate the wheat from the weeds and pull out the weeds.

            Here we have a parable that deals with an issue that has concerned believers down the centuries. For centuries believers have struggled with the apparent slowness of God to act-to bring judgement on evil doers- wicked-unbelievers who mock God-God’s apparent slowness to tidy things up.  There was an occasion when Jesus had to refuse the disciples who wanted him to bring down fire on a Samaritan city that refused to give Jesus and the disciples food. In fact Jesus rebuked the disciples for their attitude.

This parable deal with human impatience over God’s amazing and exasperating patience –forbearance.

A minister who spent 20 years counselling clergy-especially clergy who had suffered burn-out-depression  said, “From my experience I have discovered that some people should never have gone into ministry-especially if they have been a professional photographer-printer-engineer. That also goes for people who are perfectionists.

 If you are the sort of person who has a need to have everything in focus- if you like people to stand neat and tidy and still like in a photo, you are going to be miserable in the church because people just won’t stay in place-being neat and tidy. They will get out of focus. They will disappoint you-they will let you down- they won’t always co-operate. Church is a lousy place for people who like everything to be neat-tidy-well organised.  People are hardly ever like that.

            As I said before life in the church can be messy-saints+sinners sit in the same pew-row of chairs-right next to each other and who can tell who is who.

            But it goes deeper than that. Each one of us is both saint+sinner at the same time. We are saint because we have the Spirit of God living in us and because we have been redeemed by Jesus-made members of the Kingdom. But at the same time we are sinners because we still have our sinful nature that struggles for control. Romans 7 “the good that I want to do I don’t and the evil I don’t want to do I do” The Russian author, Solzhenistsyn who wrote the book, “the Gulag archipelago” said, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being”. That is similar to what St Paul said in Romans 7.

            Read parable. What kind of farmer is this man? Wouldn’t it make sense to get rid of the weeds before they grew and matured By leaving the weeds grow could result in the wheat being choked. He might get a bumper harvest but it would be of weeds not of wheat. Today any farmer worth his salt would get out with his spray equipment and spray the weeds before they could do too much damage.

            The weed mentioned by Jesus was called “bearded darnel”. And in the early stage of growth was almost impossible to distinguish from the wheat. They looked so similar. The roots of the weed would get intertwined with the roots of the wheat. So of you tried to pull out the weeds you would be likely to uproot the wheat.

            The best way to deal with the problem was to wait until harvest time. The harvest grain would be spread out on a table and sorted by hand. Although the seed of the darnell was similar in size and shape to the grains of wheat, it was a different colour. The farmer would employ women who would carefully and painstakingly separate the grain from the seeds of weed.

            What does this parable mean for us today? What is God teaching us here?

God is teaching us an important truth about the nature of the church. There have always been people who wanted to have a “pure church”-a church consisting of the ‘spiritual elite”-“a holy huddle”- an exclusive church for the pure and holy.

            Interestingly enough this was an issue for the early church. In the days when the Roman Empire was persecuting the church, many Christians renounced their faith under the pressure of persecution-threats. But later some of those who had renounced their faith wanted to come back into the church. This caused a great deal of discussion. There were some who said that if people had renounced their faith, they could not be accepted back into the church. There were others who argued that if these people confessed their failure-their sin at giving up their faith, then they could be forgiven and accepted back into the church. The latter view prevailed. And that was the right-Biblical decision. There is no such thing as a pure church on earth. We are members of the “Holy Christian church” as the Apostle’s creed says. But that is not because we are intrinsically holy, but because Jesus shed his “holy and precious blood” for us. Although we are sinful humans, God regards us as holy because of what Jesus has done for us.

            Jesus told this parable to correct his disciples misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. The disciples expected that the Kingdom would come explosively-totally –in all its fullness.

Jesus understood the Kingdom more like this and this is what the New Testament teaches.   Show diagram.

            The Kingdom of God had indeed come to earth with the coming of Jesus. But the old age had not been eliminated.  The weeds still grow together with the wheat. Only at the end of the age at Christ’s Second Coming will evil be destroyed and the Kingdom come with all its fullness.

            The parable does 2 things.

  1. It warns against expecting perfection this side of Judgement day. It warns against being legalistic-judgemental-self righteous. Would you accept King David into your church? An Adulterer-murderer-bigamist-a failure as a father-dysfunctional family?
  2. It is an assurance that despite the ambiguity of our present experience- despite the messiness-disfunction-disorder-failure we often see in the visible church today- and in our own personal lives at times- the Kingdom of God is at work and will ultimately triumph. The church can not fail despite the weaknesses and failings of its human members- because it is God’s church. And that is why we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “THY KINGDOME COME”.
    Pastor Haydn Blaess.

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

GOOD LISTENING”  MATTHEW 13:9 

            The story that Jesus tells about the sower and the seed is one of the well known parables in the New Testament. Through this story Jesus tells of the importance not only of preaching the Word of God but also of hearing it.pastorh2 In fact so important is this message of the parable that it is one of the few where Jesus himself provides the meaning of the parable. Remember Jesus doesn’t tell stories for the sake of telling stories. The stories were not an end in themselves but a means to an end. In other words his stories always had a deeper meaning- a truth that would help his followers to understand what God had to say to them.

            In this parable the seed is the Word of God. The different kinds of soil that it falls on are the different ways people receive the Word of God that they hear preached, read or study themselves. The farmer did his best to spread the seed. Now the seed was good seed but the results varied depending where the seed fell.

Some fell on hard ground and immediately the birds gobbled it up.

Some fell on rocky soil and withered and died because it could not take root in the shallow soil.

Some seed fell among thorns and weeds and began to grow but were eventually choked by the thorns.

Some fell on good cultivated soil and grew into a bountiful crop. So it depended not only on the sower and the seed but also on the reception the seed got. So the preaching and the hearing of God’s Word become one activity.

            What this means is that effective preaching is not just my activity alone. I can do so much to prepare and deliver my sermons. But effective preaching also involves effective hearing. And that is where YOU come in. The sower can sow the seed until he drops from exhaustion but if the soil is hard and full of weeds it will be a meagre harvest. Like wise the preacher can preach until he is exhausted but if no one is tuned in to what he is saying then he is wasting his time. The Holy Spirit can be speaking to us through the Scriptures as they are being read to us or as we read them ourselves but if we are not listening  with open ears-hearts and minds, those words will not have any significant impact.

             So what does it mean to be a good listener? That is the crucial question.

  1. In the first place, a good listener is open to the Word of God. As the minister prepares himself to preach the Word, so the listeners must prepare themselves to receive it. When the reader begins to read the lessons or the minister begins to preach we can be put off by the person who is reading or proclaiming God’s Word. We may get sidetracked by the readers’ tone and expression­-or lack of it or tune out  when the minister goes on longer than we think necessary.

            Rather than focussing on the person who is doing the reading or the minister who is preaching, prepare yourself to receive the message as God’s Words for you.

Prepare yourself by asking questions such as:

+What will God say to me today through the sermon?

+What will God want me to get out of the Bible readings?

+What will God say to me today that will make a difference to my life?

            The Bible readings and the sermon are God’ Word for you this day. It may be dressed in human words-human examples and even human error, but nevertheless, it is God’s Word for you. What is important that you listen to it as if God himself were speaking to you. You never know what life-changing words you may be missing if you tune out.  

  1. A good listener recognises that the Word of God has authority. It is one thing for the minister in the pulpit to proclaim God’s promises-but unless you believe God’s Word has authority to back up those promises the preacher might as well save his breath. When God speaks –things happen.

The Word you hear is the same Word that proclaimed at the beginning, “Let there be Light”. It is the same Word that gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is the same Word that stilled storms-healed the sick and raised the dead.

It is a Word that is to be believed-trusted because it has the authority of the eternal God himself. 

  1. Good listening means allowing the Word of God the widest possible application to our lives. Let the Word speak to you. As you hear-read the Word, say to yourself as you hear the Word, “That means me”-“God is speaking to me”.

Now it is a well-known fact that when God’s Word gets too close to the bone or touches a raw nerve of sin, we put up our defences.  We may switch off, or start making excuses to justify our behaviour or start applying the message to someone else. As a result the Word isn’t able to establish any roots in us at all. We filter what we hear. We may water it down-put our own interpretation on what is being said (a bit like the spin doctors employed by politicians) or pass it off as irrelevant –not having any meaning for our lives.

Now there comes a point when you need to ask, “What is God saying to me through this passage”? To listen to the Word and regard it only as an interesting piece of Biblical knowledge hardly acknowledges the authority of God’s Word. This is a misuse-misunderstanding of the purpose of God’s Word. When God’s Word speaks, things are meant to change. When we hear God’s Word as a message from God to us we need to take it seriously and make changes in our lives that will bring glory to God.

            Now I’m not saying that applying God’s Word to our lives is easy. As Martin Luther said, “I believe that by myself I can’t believe. Satan- our sinful nature- the influence of the world about us all conspire to lead us away from really hearing what God has to say to us. So we need to be aware of the forces against us that want us to regard the Word as irrelevant- too boring or to believe that we don’t need to change.

            It is all too easy to conform to the standards and ways of living that are acceptable to the majority of the community but are against God’s ways. That is why we daily need to apply God’ Word to our ways of thinking-attitudes-behaviours.  As long as we live on this earth we will need to listen to God’s Word and apply it to our lives. Listening to and applying God’s Word is a vital part of our Christian life.

            If you are to grow in your faith and your relationship with your Lord and Saviour, you need to + set a time aside-+make a definite decision to read God’s Word- to study God’s Word with others and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in your reading and applying God’s Word.

            The Word of God is like a seed- it has miraculous power with in it-the power of the Spirit. But there is something that we need to do. We need to have open ears-hearts and minds to be the rich fertile soil for the Word to be planted in and grow.

We need to recognize the authority of God in His Word. And we need with the help of the Spirit to apply that Word to our lives. May God enable us to be fertile soil for His Word. Amen

Pastor Haydn Blaess.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

       “HAND OVER YOUR BURDENS” –MATTHEW 11 :28-29.

            An elderly lady was walking down a country lane struggling to carry a heavy case. A man came along on a cart and offered her a lift. pastorh2So she gratefully climbed up on the cart and sat beside the driver but still holding the suitcase on her lap. The man said, “Why don’t you put the heavy case at the back of the cart”? The lady answered, “O NO! The poor donkey would never be able to pull all that weight. I’ll carry it myself.”     That’s silly isn’t it?  And yet so many people are like that elderly lady. They continue to carry their burdens –even when they have the chance to off load them. As a result life becomes a burden for us. We find life has become a chore. It becomes weary-tiresome.

            But it doesn’t need to be that way. There is good news for all those people who are feeling the weight of your burdens. It’s the Good News from Jesus, who says,

COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND BURDENED AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST”. 

Now if that is true it means that you don’t have to carry your burdens alone-whatever they are. The burdens may be:

+an illness—+ a physical handicap—- a difficult work situation. It may be a loss you have suffered and never recovered from. It may be a relationship difficulty.

It may be a sense of guilt from some past action. It may be a failure in the present. It may be anxiety for the future.  It may be anything that weighs you down and makes life a hassle. Burdens come in many shapes-sizes-forms-weights.

But whatever it is you don’t need to carry it alone. Listen again to the comforting words of Jesus.” Come to me all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest”.

            What a tremendous promise that is. What comforting assurance to know that you are not alone in your struggles of life. Jesus will be with you. That’s his promise.  And Jesus always stands by his promise. He has the power of Almighty God that enables him to keep his promise.

            Now I don’t know what burdens you are carrying right now. But many people are weighed down with the burden of guilt. And what terrible burden guilt can be.

Now guilt can come from many different situations. You where you have done something you shouldn’t have.

            But whatever the cause of guilt, the result is that it always spoils our relationships. It spoils our relationship with God-remember Adam and Eve hiding from God in the Garden of Eden. It also spoils our relationship with others. Guilt is like an invisible barrier which comes between us and others. It separates us from them. And as long as the barrier of guilt remains, our relationship with God and others won’t improve. It will continue to deteriorate until the issue is dealt with.

            Perhaps you have experienced a relationship that has been spoilt by guilt. Maybe you are experiencing one right now. If you are let me reassure you that it need not be that way because of Jesus’ promise. His promise is:

            “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened-burdened down with guilt and I will give you rest.” Yes! rest. Yes! Restored relationships. No matter how great the guilt is that you have experienced- Jesus can take it away-completely. That is what he does with his forgiveness. That is why he went to the cross for. Jesus died on the cross to restore relationships-with God and with others. That is what Jesus does best.  

             There is another burden that affects many people. It is the burden of anxiety.  And that too can be a terrible burden. In some cases it can be described as a crippling burden. Anxiety can affect people with a dreadful apprehension- a generalised feeling of fear. People can be anxious about a whole range of things. It may be:

+fear of Failure-     +Illness      + Disaster      +Disgrace      + fear of aging- loss of youthful capabilities.  +Fear of the process of dying   +fear of Death itself. This is particularly the case for people who don’t believe in eternal life. They fear that death is the end of everything.

In short people can be anxious about practically every area of life.

            Yes! Anxiety is a terrible burden-and it is very wide spread in our society. Hugh Mackay- a psychologist and researcher on society has described the widespread feeling of anxiety among people today. In fact he has referred to our current times as the “Age of Anxiety”.

            But anxiety is not just a modern phenomenon. It was an issue at the time of Jesus. In fact anxiety was so widespread in Jesus’ time that he spoke very specifically about it.

            “Therefore do not be anxious about your life-what you shall eat or what you shall drink nor about your body-what you shall wear….Do not be anxious about tomorrow for tomorrow will be anxious for itself”. (Matthew 6:31-33).

            So what is the answer to the burden of anxiety? Listen to what Jesus says,

COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO ARE WEARY AND BUDENED AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST”.

            So bring your burdens-your anxieties to Jesus. Bring your fears-worries to him. Go to him and he will give you strength to bear your burdens.

            I guess there are many more different kinds of burdens we could talk about. But really the way to deal with them-whatever kind they are-is the same as the burdens of guilt-anxiety we have already talked about. We-You and I-need to take those burdens to the Lord. We need to give them to the Lord-and not keep on holding on to them-like the old lady in the story. Only when we give them to the Lord and relinquish our grip on them will we receive rest.

            Remember the story I about the elderly lady with the heavy suit case? Let’s apply that story to ourselves. The elderly lady represents you and me. What does the heavy suit case represent? It represents your own personal burdens-whatever they might be.  And here you are walking along life’s road struggling with your burden. Along the road comes a man on a cart pulled by a donkey. But this is not just any man. This is Jesus. He stops and speaks to you. He says with a kind look on his face and with compassion in his voice, “Come to me you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest”.

            “Hop up on the cart next to me and place your burden in the back. And we will journey through this life together on the way to eternal life where there will be no more burdens-tears-pains-no more crying. For all these things will be gone”.

  What a wonderful picture that is. And you know it could be true for you.   

            Why don’t you try it? You have nothing to loose except your burdens.

            And think about this. Who was really carrying the burdens in the story?  It was the donkey. There is no need for you to be a donkey. Amen.
Pastor Haydn Blaess.

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Romans 6:16
Don’t you know that if you submit yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

            Slaves and obedience. Hard words for us today, but I ask is anyone truly free? Here the Spirit clearly tells us, no. 8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0Whoever, whatever, you obey you are a slave to. It’s simply a fact of life. A slave to your stomach, your bladder; a slave to your boss, your lecturer; a slave to money, to our changing culture, to this fallen world, a slave to sin. You can think of teacher’s pets as slaves to the teacher; of the hippies as slaves to that counter culture; of someone with diarrhea as a slave to the toilet. There are countless examples of these things we rely on, these things that tell us about 1 who we are and 2 what we do. And when you obey them, utterly accept what they say about you and this world, they are your god and you are their slave.

            Of course this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to your bladder, but rather I give these examples to show that slavery is not an institution as we might think, and freedom is not absolute. When you fully submit to something you find your identity and meaning there; you are free to live it out, but not free to reject it. Free to do and free from it’s opposite. An example: free to eat, but free from starvation. The same with sin, the slave to sin is free to sin but free from what is right. The slave to righteousness is free to live in holiness but free from sin. So what are you a slave to? Sin or God in Christ Jesus? If we remember from last week the first part of this chapter, in baptism you died to sin and rose to life everlasting in Christ; and obviously dead slaves don’t so to much.

            And this is what Paul is talking about, trying to get through to the Roman congregation, that we who have been united in Jesus by baptism don’t have to sin and can do what is right. You’re allowed to buy your wife flowers just out of love, you don’t have to always sit in front of the TV when you get home. You’re free to thank God even when you hear good news out in a crowd, you’re free from having to beat yourself up when you fail. We are free by the grace of God, to live His life of joy, peace and love that is ours with Jesus, and free from doing what we know to be wrong. Thank God for this gift of freedom, yes, for our slavery to Him. Remember you are free to remind each other and let others know of this wonderful grace as well!

            But when you do, I know that slavery is a hard word for us, and Paul recognises that too. However, he uses it to get across the truth of 1 who we are and 2 how we live. We can imagine sin as a person, that sin tells us who we are ‘a good enough person’ or even ‘someone more important than others’ and sin tells us how to live, ‘to do whatever you want so long as it does hurt anyone else, or at least anyone you care about’. And of course we hear many different things about who we are and how we should live, you know yourself what you hear and what you hold to.

But more than all these different voices is the voice of God who created all things, who is the source of life and existence. He has authority over all things and what He says goes. I mean, He said ‘let there be light’ and there was light, can’t get more true than that (Genesis 1:3). And when you were baptised into Christ, His death and resurrection, our Heavenly Father said, ‘you are my beloved child’ and so you are, and we are family in Jesus (Matthew 3:17). He said, I have taken away your sin, your guilt, your evil, you are righteous in Jesus (Psalm 103:12; 1 Corinthians 1:30). He tells you, ‘you are not of this world’, you are being made new and holy, perfect in Christ (John 17:16). This is the truth, do not reject it, this is who you are in Jesus by baptism together with all your new family the saints of all times and places. And if you want to know what it means to live this life, hear what the Spirit tells you in Matthew chapter 5 and following, go take some time away and read it even with another and listen to how God tells you to live. If you need some help, ask, ask another Christian a saint, ask the Holy Spirit.

Don’t forget who He says you are and don’t forget your family in Jesus, all the saints who have gone before. God has freely given you all these things, He didn’t have to let you know, He didn’t have to say what He said, He doesn’t have to give you life, yet this is what He does, what He has promised. The fruit of this life according to what God has said, is union and reconciliation with Him in love to life eternal, a free gift. This is the Gospel, In Jesus, by the Spirit, you have been set free from all sin and what it says of you, free to hear God Almighty who loves you, free to live according to His Word.

So remember your baptism, and as you live the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Joseph Graham.