One of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice...Jesus said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.' Luke 17:15,19
Do you say grace before meals? Many of us do. How many of us return thanks after eating? When our children were young, we used to do both. But somewhere along the way the return thanks dropped out of use. I can't say that it was a conscious decision. But I wonder what it says about my heart of thanks. Perhaps the older we get, the more inclined we are to assume that everything that we have is the result of our effort and achievements.
In the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer, we pray, 'Give us today our daily bread.' Martin Luther gives us this explanation of the 4th Petition: 'God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all people, though sinful, but we ask in this prayer that He will help us realise this and to receive our daily bread with thanks.'
With thanks! Thanklessness is not just out there, in others, but also within us. Our sinful nature means that the same kind of critical spirit and lack of gratitude can grow among God's people. Just like the nine lepers who received God's gracious healing but didn't return to give thanks to the giver, Jesus himself. Only one leper 'came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan.' Perhaps it was because he wasn't an insider that he saw clearly how amazing God's grace was.
When I hear this story, I want to find myself on the side of the one thankful leper. But there are so many times when I know I've been with the silent nine. They faithfully carry out the religious ritual as commanded by Jesus, but they haven't joined the dots, and realised that in Jesus is all of God's life and being. I don't think I'm alone.
This is not the abundant life of thanks for which God has recreated us through baptism. So we say: 'Jesus, Master have pity on us'. We confess that we haven't thanked you as we should. We haven't acknowledged you as the source of all the good things in our lives and our church. Give us thankful hearts, and lips that praise you. And may our thanks spill over for good into the lives of others.
"I am reminded of the sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also." 2 Timothy 1:5
A couple of weeks ago in worship Pastor Andrew socialised our proposed St John’s vision statement “We are a Christ-centred, welcoming, vibrant, intergenerational community empowered and equipped by God to serve and share Jesus’ love.”
What might it mean to be an intergenerational community? In my mind, being an intergenerational community is to be a community where people of all ages intentionally come together to do life together. Where people of all ages interact with one another in ways that reflect mutual respect and appreciation. Where young and old serve side by side, talk the faith and pray together.
Today, in Paul’s letter to Timothy we are reminded that God works through intergenerational relationships to pass on the faith. In today’s reading Paul mentions the people that the Holy Spirit first used to help nurture Timothy’s faith. Paul writes: I am reminded of the sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also (v5). Paul goes on to teach Timothy what he is to do with what he has received … Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you (v6) … do not be ashamed of the testimony about your Lord …. Join with me in suffering for the Gospel. (v8)… keep the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus (v13)… Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (v14)
Today, we give thanks for those whom the Holy Spirit has used to pass the faith onto us down the generations. Like Lois, Eunice, Timothy and Paul may our faith be sincere. By the power of the Holy Spirit living in us may the Gospel be demonstrated in what we do and say so that faith in Jesus may grow in the generations that follow us.
Peace in Christ
“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” 1 Timothy 6:11b-12
Today we celebrate the gift of mentors, those people older than us who have made a real difference in our lives because they cared enough to invest time, prayer, wisdom and compassion in us.
The Apostle Paul was a great mentor to Timothy. He knew and cared for Timothy deeply. Time and again he calls Timothy his son: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:11). He spoke well of him to others: “I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare” (Phil. 2:19).
A true mentor always seeks the best for the person they lead. As a young pastor, Timothy was finding the call hard going. Paul says: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1 Tim.4:12).
A mentor shares their own story, as Paul does with Timothy: “You, Timothy, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, persecutions, sufferings…continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you have learned it…”
If you are older, I want you to think about how you can play this kind of role in the life of someone younger than you at St John’s. Grow Ministries Guiding Principal #4 says: Children and young people have multiple adult mentors of faith. We have a mentor support network in place for our confirmation students. But this is the start of what Pastor Nigel, I, and the Grow Team believe is possible so that we live fully into our mission statement and become a “vibrant, intergenerational community, empowered and equipped by God to serve and share Jesus’ love.” Wouldn’t it be great if everyone of us who are younger could be blessed with this kind of mentoring, from children through to young adults? If this is something you would like to know more about, please don’t hesitate to contact Pastor Nigel or I.
What an incredible gift God has given us in and through each other, people in whom the presence of Christ dwells through the Holy Spirit.
This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his only Son into the world to give us life through him. True love is God’s love for us, not our love for God. God sent his Son to die in our place to take away our sins 1 John 4:9,10
What’s the best thing about going out to dinner? Is it the chance to spend some time eating without the TV in the background? Is it the meal that you don’t have to cook, or the fact that someone serves you and makes you feel special? Or that you can just walk away and don’t have to do any cleaning up?
That’s not the way it is at home. Everyone needs to pitch in to get dinner on the table. Trouble is, everyone also has excuses about why they don’t need to help. “It’s not my turn.” “I did it last night.” “Why can’t he do it.” Sound familiar?
There’s a selfish part inside each one of us as human beings. We want things to go our own way. When something goes wrong we say: “It wasn’t my fault.” Or, “They made me do it.” This isn’t just a huge problem at home, but at school, in the wider community, and at a global level too.
God’s plan was that we would love together harmoniously, helpfully, enjoying this beautiful world he made for us to live in. But sin broke this good pattern. So God decided to do something about it. He sent his Son Jesus, who rolled up his sleeves and cleaned the mess caused by our sin. Through his death on the cross, Jesus took the blame for all the wrongs things that we do. He didn’t do this resentfully, or grumbling all the way. He did it lovingly, willingly, wholeheartedly.
This is the good news on which our school, and our church is founded. God’s goal is for people to love him, not because they are scared of him, or ashamed of what they’ve done, but simply because his servant love is so compelling and captivating. I pray and hope that each one of you can celebrate and live in God’s forgiving love through Jesus Christ his Son.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
For the last two months we’ve been reflecting on St John’s mission and vision. Today we arrive at our Vision Statement. This is what we believe God is calling us to become. “We are a Christ-centred, welcoming, vibrant, intergenerational community empowered and equipped by God to serve and share Jesus’ love.” Which of these words or phrases stand out to you? Which excites or challenges you the most?
Our statement begins and ends with Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” This word from Jesus provides us with the reason for the church’s existence, and the impetus for its work in the world.
A few years ago World Vision commissioned McCrindle Research to survey Australian community attitudes about the church and Jesus. Australians don’t have a problem with Jesus. Only 17% of people deny that Jesus existed, and people admire what Jesus did and said. 35% of Australians confess that Jesus “had divine powers and was the Son of God.” But where people get stuck is with the institution of church. Whether it be as a result of their direct personal experience, or a perception, respondents saw the church as an “exclusive, authoritarian, hypocritical gathering.”
This reality brings with it the incredible opportunity, both as individual Christians and the wider St John’s community, to show people that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” We do that by welcoming people through the hospitable love of Jesus, we are vibrant with the love of God in word and action, we serve rather than stand back, and we are a community for all generations. That’s the kind of future I’m praying for St John’s.
But in your hearts revere 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
I’m not a great teller of other people’s stories. But one thing I am an expert on is my own life, and the story of God’s work in me. Each one of us has this story to tell: how God has completely changed the course of our lives. We’ve been given a new identity, as Peter reminds us today: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
We have been chosen by the creator of the universe in love. We’ve been given God’s work to do-serving the world and praying for it-our spiritual act of worship. We’ve been made holy, redeemed by the blood of Jesus. We are the apple of God’s eye. And God has done all of this so that we might share this good news through the story of our lives, through what we say and how we live.
We live in a society that distrust institutions but cherishes individual experience. People will not listen to a public pronouncement from the church, especially as it is tarnished by the scandal of sexual abuse. But they will listen to your story and mine, provided that we share it in the context of a respectful dialogue, where we don’t just speak but also listen in love.
Peter’s advice to the first generation of Christians is incredibly wise: “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.” The first Christians were deemed to be weird misfits, who didn’t buy into all the cultural assumptions of their day. They were to be distrusted and even pitied. We face similar pressures. But when the chance came, Peter urged them to gently tell their story of the God at work in their lives, and in their world. Telling people about Jesus in this way is the hope of the world. Both then and now.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we ought to love one another…If we love one another, God lives in is and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:11, 12
We’re halfway through reflecting on St John’s mission actions and vision. Celebrating in worship and growing in faith, we express the saving love of Jesus by caring for others. Caring is love in action, as the Apostle John reminds us: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God…This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us...If anyone says, ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” Love is not an optional extra for Christians. We don’t get to pick and choose who we love, or who we won’t.
Jesus illustrates this through a parable about a dinner party. People wanted to sit with the important and powerful, and walk over the ‘little ones.’ We fall prey to the same temptation, viewing others for what they can do for us and looking for others to advance our interests. This is the very opposite of the key kingdom value of humility-the deliberate choice to walk in the way of Jesus. So Jesus shows us what humble love does: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed.” The people Jesus identifies here are dependent on the care of others. Showing them love is an acknowledgment that we, too, are totally dependent on God’s gracious, hospitable love. “We love because he first loved us.”
St John’s has been focusing on welcome and hospitality, from the way that we welcome guests in worship, in Newcomers’ Lunches, shared meals, through to sharing God’s hospitality with the students who live at Highgate Park. This is just the start. Think of how many people in our community need to hear God’s gracious invitation to experience his love and care. How is God calling you to care by sharing his hospitable love?
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22,23a
Today we is the third week in which we are dwelling on the second line of our mission statement: We exist to share Jesus love by: Growing in Faith. God’s plan is for all of us is includes growing in faith all lifelong.
After years of research and ministry experience one of my mentors David Anderson wrote the following 5 statements about how faith is formed and grows in the life of children and youth:
1. Faith is formed by the power of the Holy Spirit through personal trusted relationship, often in the home.
2. The church is a living partnership between the ministry of the congregation and the ministry of the home.
3. Where Christ is present in faith the home is church too.
4. Faith is caught more than it is taught.
5. If we want Christian children and youth, we need Christian adults who practice the faith with them.
I appreciate these statements! They demonstrate the importance of personal trusted relationships and faith filled caring conversations as part of God’s plan for faith formation.
And how will we know that we are growing in faith? It will be seen by our fruits. For where the Spirit is at work there will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The work of the Spirit in our lives will enable us to bear these fruits. On the other hand, the works of our Flesh will bear the opposite fruits such as: pride, anger and envy.
May we encourage each other to keep in step with the Holy Spirit so that together in Christ we may be a welcoming, vibrant, intergenerational community that is growing in faith and bearing the fruits of the Spirit.
Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 1 Corinthians 11:28
Today we give thanks for the means of grace through which God works to grow our faith in Him. At our 10.30am service, God welcomes Paxton Shoesmith into his family through the miracle of baptism. God also welcomes 8 young people to receive Holy Communion for the first time.
God comes to serve us and help us grow in faith as we celebrate Baptism, receive Holy Communion, listen to his word, hear the words of absolution and as we enter into caring conversations with our brothers and sisters in Christ. And wherever the gospel is shared God’s Spirit is at work growing faith in Jesus. In the Smalcald articles (Part 3 article IV) Martin Luther lists these 5 means as the key ways in which God’s graceful gift of the Gospel is given to us. There’s not merely one way that God ensures the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus is delivered to us; instead, He provides it to us in plentiful ways so that our faith in Christ may grow!
When young people come to receive Holy Communion, a question that is often asked is: when is one ready to receive Holy Communion? The Small Catechism says: ‘We are ready when we believe the words of Jesus: This is my body given for you. This is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ Also according to 1 Corinthians 11:28 we get ready to receive this meal by examining ourselves and recognising our ongoing need for God’s forgiveness. A simple way of examining ourselves is by asking ourselves what I call ‘the ABC’s of getting ready for Holy Communion’: Do I admit that I have sinned? Do I believe that Jesus died and rose again to take away my sin? Do I call on the Holy Spirit to help me live a life of love towards God and others? If we answer ‘yes I do’ to these questions then we are ready to come and eat of the bread and drink from the cup.