Click here to watch the [Worship Video](https://bit.ly/2wOdI3l) for Sunday 17 May
Today we have heard Jesus speaking to his disciples in John chapter 14. The first thing we heard Jesus say was, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (14:15)
The last thing we heard Jesus say was: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (14:21)
Now, if we had stayed in the room just a little longer we would have heard Jesus respond to a question from one of his disciples. Jesus said: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. (14:23)
How do you feel when you hear Jesus speak words like this? These are strong words. In this conversation Jesus shows the close connection between love and action. Our love for Jesus will show by the way we live according to his commands. And what are Jesus commands? What are his teachings?
Well, Jesus has not given a new list of Commands and rules like those given in the Old Testament. Jesus does not lay down a new list of laws that we must keep in order to win God’s favour. Rather, Jesus is calling his disciples to a new way of living that is grounded in God’s unconditional love for us. Jesus is calling us to participate in God’s plan to bring hope salvation to all.
In John 15:12 Jesus clarifies this new way of living saying: 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. In 1 John 3:22 we read of God’s new way for us to live: 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
Keeping Jesus commands means living to see God’s will be done. It means remembering who we are, whose we are and to whom we are sent to love and serve. Keeping Jesus commands is to believe that Jesus is the Christ our saviour who has made us friends with God forever. It means living with the confidence that Jesus has taken away our sin and has given us eternal life.
Keeping Jesus commands means celebrating the victory Jesus won for us in his death and resurrection.In short, keeping Jesus commands can be understood as loving one another in ways that reflect Jesus’ sacrificial and self giving love for us.
Now, Peter was one of Jesus first disciples. Peter recognised how hard it is to keep the commands of Jesus: When Jesus was on trial, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Peter denied knowing Jesus out of fear that he too would be arrested. But Jesus love for Peter was greater. After Jesus resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and asked Peter three times – ‘Do you love me?’ To which Peter replied three times. ‘You know I love you.’ And each time Jesus commissioned Peter to care for and feed Jesus own flock. In love and grace Jesus reinstated Peter.
Now, one of the other readings set down for today that we have not yet heard is 1 Peter 3:13-22. In Peter’s Pastoral letters it is so clear that Peter’s life and proclamation was shaped by his experience of the grace Jesus showed to him.
Peter writes: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.’ 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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”
Friends, the same Peter who in fear denied Jesus wrote these powerful words. So what happened to Peter between the time he denied Jesus and he wrote his letters? Well, Jesus gave him an advocate, a helper, a counsellor – Jesus gave him the Holy Spirit to help him do what he could not do on his own.
The Holy Spirit leads us to believe and helps us to live as God’s children. The Holy Spirit alone can turn our attention away from our love for self-preservation and self-satisfaction. The Holy Spirit alone can help us to truly love Jesus and do his will.
Luther described the work of the Holy Spirit this way: ‘I believe that on my own I can never come to Jesus my Lord, or believe in him, no matter how hard I try. But the Holy Spirit has called me to Jesus by the good news about him. The Holy Spirit has led me to know and trust Jesus, made me holy, and kept me in the Christian faith.’
Today we have heard Jesus saying to his disciples: ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.’ (v17, 18a)
An advocate is a helper - one called or sent to assist another; one who pleads the cause of another. In the legal sense an advocate is someone who defends a person who cannot defend themselves.
In the Bible we are introduced to our two advocates. God the Father sent Jesus to be our first advocate: Jesus came to make us right with God our heavenly father by taking away our sin. In 1 John 2:1 we read: ‘My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.’ So, think of Jesus as our first advocate, standing before our heavenly father. Picture, Jesus defending us before God the father. Picture Jesus saying: “Father, I died and rose again to take away the sin of the world so that - all who believe in me can live with us forever!” How wonderful it is to have Jesus as our advocate before God the Father.
But today: Jesus says, ‘the Father will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. We are in need of this helper, each and every day. For as long as we live in this world we will live as both the saints that God declares us to be because of Jesus and the sinners that we are because of the nature we were born with. We need the spirit of truth to be our helper .
When the world and our inner voice condemn us for our mistakes and errors, we need another, stronger inner voice that will advocate within us for our own self worth. – That advocate is the Holy Spirit.
When our world is tipped upside down because of COVID 19 and we question our own worth, we need the Spirit of God to remind us of our eternal worth. When we have experienced rejection from those we care most about or when like Peter we fall short and experience shame, nothing other than the Spirit of the living God can give us the inner confidence to start again and keep on keeping on. The Holy Spirit will daily renew our faith, hope and passion for living. The Holy Spirit will encourage us and lift us up.
Today, God gives us his Spirit to be our advocate and helper to empower us forever! The Holy Spirit will remind us that we are loved by God.According to the verses following our Gospel reading: the Holy Spirit will teach us and remind us of the person and work of Jesus.
In John 14:25-26 Jesus said: ‘All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’
It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to understand and appreciate the Bible. It is the Holy Spirit who fills us with wonder, joy and peace even in unsettling times. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to discern God’s will for our lives. It is the Holy Spirit who interrupts our wayward plans, intervenes for us, inspires us and calls us back to Jesus and the loving arms of our gracious Heavenly Father.
All over the world, the Holy Spirit is at work leading people of back into relationship with God through the Good news of Jesus death and resurrection for all. And one day the world will look very different. There will come a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This will happen not by force, but by the grace of God that all people will experience as the Holy Spirit leads us into the truth of who Jesus is, who we are, how much we need a saviour and how much God loves us!
As the spirit points you to Jesus you will come to realise just how life giving it is to Love Jesus and keep his commands for he has loved you first. Amen.
Click here to watch the [Worship Video](https://bit.ly/2wOdI3l) for Sunday 10 May
This is a street directory. It’s the way that we used to find our way from Place A to Place B. I remember when I moved from Tasmania to Melbourne some 20 years ago. The first thing I did was to purchase a Melways. This was an absolutely essential tool to navigate my way around what was a city of almost 4 million people at the time. I wore out at least two street directories over my 20 years there, constantly paging through them. On a trip across town I’d have to stop a couple of time to check what the next steps were.
It’s different now. I used Google Maps in the car through my phone. A map appears on a screen in my car and a calming voice directs me each step of the way. There’s no need to stop and work out where I am. It’s set and forget. Yet, I have to say that I feel less comfortable with this technology than I did with a street directory. I always felt more confident when I had prepared for it thoroughly, memorising which roads to take. I felt more responsible for the journey. It wasn’t just about the destination. It was also about the way there.
We’ve been on the journey through the COVID-19 Pandemic for almost two months now. At the beginning, we really had no real idea where we were heading and we were all anxious about how hard the journey would be. We’ve been living with but not enjoying physical distancing, the shutting down of many workplaces and public spaces, and our church building too.
Thank God, these restrictions have made a difference to the course of the pandemic. In Australia we’ve been blessed with a low numbers of infections and death compared to many countries. But there are there are things that we want to get out and do. It’s Mother’s Day. We want to see our mums, our grandmothers, to give them a hug, let them play with grandchildren. Is it safe to do that, or not? When will we be back to normal? How far are we along the COVID-19 road?
In a recent press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he believed that Australia was on the “road back” from tackling the coronavirus with some restrictions starting to lift. The Prime Minister pointed to the reopening of elective surgery, schools starting to come back and says it won’t be long before some businesses are opening again. “We are definitely on the road back now,” the prime minister told ABC radio.
The way in was deeply concerning. The way through has been challenging. Now we are starting to talk about the way out. What way are we going to live through, and thrive in, the long way out?
In today’s gospel reading, we are taken back to the time before Easter, less than a day before the cross. But only Jesus himself knows what lies on the way immediately ahead of him. So he explains to his disciples both the way that he will travel, and the way that this will also impact on the journey ahead of his disciples.
Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, and shows them him that he is a servant king, not a royal bully. He then announces three things: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” This glory is the fulfilment of his mission-to show the world how much God loves it, as Jesus is crowned King on the throne of his cross. Secondly, and as a consequence, Jesus says: “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me…where I am going, you cannot come.” And thirdly, to cap it off, Peter, you who are the leader of the pack, you will deny that you even know me three times, before the rooster crows the next morning.
I’m not surprised then, by what Jesus says next to his disciples: “Do not let your heart be troubled.” It’s a word to each of them as individuals. I know your heart, Jesus is saying. I know your circumstances. I know your path. Don’t panic. Stay calm. Yes, there will be a hard road ahead, but you are not going to walk it alone. I will walk with you. Jesus himself knows what it’s like to be troubled. That’s the word used of Jesus when he’s standing in front of Lazarus’ tomb. It sums up all the heaviness and grief that he feels, and we do too, in the face of death, but also right now, as we wonder how difficult, and how long the way back to normal might be, and even what a new normal might look like.
The starting point, Jesus says, is this, “Believe into God. Believe also into me.” Lean into me. Let me take the strain of what you are experiencing. My Father and I are in this together, Jesus is saying. My whole life, the way I’m walking, is all about bringing glory to my Father, and doing something amazing for all of you.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms, many dwelling places.” Think more mansion than 3-bedroom brick veneer. My Father has plenty of real estate and I’m getting a space ready for you. About a year ago I bought a house. It had bothered me for years that I needed to get a foothold in the housing market. Our family home has been a great blessing. But if I thought that taking this step would banish worry about the future I was wrong. What happens if the pandemic drives real estate values down? What about how much I still owe? Bricks and mortar might be a good investment, but they don’t provide the eternal security that Jesus promises. “Trust on God. Trust also in me” are the words I need to keep hearing.
Jesus goes on, “I am going there to prepare a place for you.” You individually. My journey will take me to the depths of the cross, and then to the heights of heaven again as I rise from the dead, and return to my Father. This is my way, and this will be your way too because “I will come back and take you to be with me, so that you may be where I am.”
These are certainly powerful and encouraging words, but one of Jesus’ disciples, Thomas hasn’t got a clue what Jesus is talking about and isn’t afraid to say so: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way.” It’s better to be straight than to stay silent and confused. And it’s true. The disciples certainly don’t know the way that Jesus will walk in the next 24 hours. And if that’s not clear, nor is the rest of it, which just sounds like pie in the sky when you die. Thomas is nothing if not a pragmatist. He wants something concrete. He wants something that works right now, not at some indeterminate time in the future.
I like Thomas’ honesty, because I feel the same things. It’s bit like the difference between Google Maps and a street directory. Google Maps makes me feel like an observer of the journey. I know where I will end up, but have no idea exactly how I’m getting there. With a street directory I feel more part of it. I get to see each segment of the trip. Perhaps that’s what Thomas’ wants. Some help, some guidance, Jesus’ presence right now, each day.
Thomas gets a mind-blowing answer to what is a big question. Jesus says to him, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.” I’m everything you are ever going to need. Right now, through the journey of your life, right to the destination, my Father’s house.
I am the way. The way to the Father. The way home. And the one who is beside you, dwells with you through each and every step. Jesus can say this because he is the “Word made flesh, who has made his dwelling among us.” Jesus has committed himself to experiencing and redeeming our humanity, and to share his relationship with his Father, with us. If you want to arrive at God, Jesus is the way. Better than that, Jesus doesn’t just point you in the right direction. He takes you there personally. “Brothers and sisters...we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, opened for us through the curtain, which is his body.”
The way Jesus did this was to walk the lonely and painful way to the cross. We had to bail long ago. In and of ourselves, we couldn’t love purely. We didn’t want to sacrifice. We couldn’t serve God with a pure heart. Only Jesus could. And did. Jesus forged a new way through his obedient life and suffering death, He went way down, even into death and into the place of God’s judgement against our sin. It’s a way that we would never want to go, that we will never have to, because of him.
Jesus is the truth. In him, we know the truth about God, that he is loving, forgiving and merciful. We also know the truth about ourselves. That we are lost in life without him. That following his way, through his word, is what a meaningful and fulfilling life is all about. Jesus is the life-the one who lived fully for us, and whose life enlivens us. He accompanies us every step of the journey. We have a permanent home in him with God our Father. A place for which the mortgage has been paid in full, and where we will never be kicked out.
One of the first names given to early church was people of the Way. Paul was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus to find “any there who belonged to the Way” to arrest them. He wasn’t successful in his mission because God pulled him up and set him on a new journey-to share the good news of Jesus. We are people of the Way. Jesus is the Way. Jesus is with us on the way. And the way where we are headed is our home with God, permanently, eternally, thankfully. Amen.
Click here to watch the [Worship Video](https://bit.ly/2wOdI3l) for Sunday 3 May
The farmer slows down, stops his ute and opens the door. The car’s suspension squeaks and groans as he climbs out. It’s a long time since this ute saw some grease. The Falcon’s paintwork is faded and dirty. It would never pass a roadworthy. The tyres are bald and studded with three-corner jacks. They balloon under the weight of the hay bales, stacked in the ute.
The farmer opens the gate, slides back onto the vinyl seat, crunches the car into gear and idles through. He doesn’t need to worry about closing the gate because the last thing the sheep have on their mind is freedom. There’s little feed left as summer stretches into a dry autumn. Despite some recent rain, the grass is yet to grow.
As the car ambles through the paddock, the sheep start to stir. They know this car and they know the driver. At first, they are a little hesitant because there’s someone they don’t know standing on the opened tailgate. He’s a little hesitant too, because he doesn’t know much about sheep. He’s a city boy, and the straw is rough on his soft skin. He’s worried about getting his hands dirty.
The farmer stops the car. The sheep come closer. The boy cuts the twine that holds the straw bale together. He pushes it over the edge of the tray. The farmer gets out and observes his flock. The summer has been hot and long. He looks for any sign of weakness or exhaustion.
After he feeds the sheep he’ll need to check the water trough and ensure that it’s full, and that the windmill is functioning properly. It’s been a silent sentinel watching over the farm for decades, faithfully bringing water up from deep below ground.
The little boy wonders out aloud about the sheep. ‘Do you know all their names?’ he asks the farmer. There’s silence for a while. ‘No.’ ‘Do you know how many there are?’ Again, some silence. ‘About 300.’ The boy saves the other questions for another time.
I was that little boy, and this is a memory from 45 years ago. Whenever I hear Psalm 23, or Jesus’ words in today’s gospel, I am transported back to this farm in the Murraylands in South Australia. Sheep could never survive here left to their own devices.
Only in the winter months stretching into spring is there enough feed to nourish them, and perhaps some water flowing in the creek that comes down from the hills. But the rest of the time there is little feed, and during the summer months, and well into autumn, the sheep must be hand-fed. Without the farmer-shepherd’s diligence and care, and left to their own devices, they would simply die.
I’ve often wondered whether this is a helpful image to carry into my meditation on Psalm 23. After all, the psalm speaks of ‘green pastures and quiet waters,’ a kind of verdant paradise, with not a blade of grass out of place. And for a few months each year, in a good winter, that’s what this country looks like. But the rest of the year the feed dries off, and the paddocks become bare.
Just like our lives and our world appears right now. At the beginning of 2020, we may have had plans for the year-the path of our career, travel, time with family and friends. All of us these have been turned on their heads, as we find ourselves locked into this time of isolation. Some of us are no longer working, others can’t see children and grandchildren, travel has been cancelled, social events are on hold. Where are the green pastures? It’s more like a dark valley, and it actually is a journey through the valley of the shadow of death for some in our wider community. But it’s when we find ourselves in this harsh environment that we find the psalm speaks the loudest words of comfort.
The agricultural country of Israel and Palestine is not dissimilar to the Mallee with which many of us would be familiar. It’s dry and dusty. Watercourses flow only sporadically and there is little permanent water. Farming sheep in this kind of environment requires a great deal of care. In contrast to our settled parcels of farmland, ancient shepherds drove their sleep from place, looking for pasture and security. But along the way they would have faced great danger, not only from lack of food and water, but also from predators in human and animal form.
We may feel that the COVID-19 pandemic is like one of those enemies about which the psalm speaks. In today’s gospel reading Jesus also speaks of thieves ‘who seek to steal and kill and destroy.’ In these days, hopes, plans, dreams may have been stolen. And also a sense of security in the things we own, in the work we do perhaps, in our bank balance, our superannuation or investments. We thought these things were indestructible, but now we are forced to look somewhere else for the hope, security and future that we crave.
God’s people, starting with King David, who penned these words, would have understood the difficulty of a life lived against many threats. Israel was a precarious people, squeezed by stronger political powers. This was their story from the very beginning. It was God who shepherded them and led them from their captivity on Egypt through to the land that he had promised. Moses reminds them,
‘Surely the Lord your God has blessed you in all your undertakings; he knows your going through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.’ (Deut. 2:7)
But during this time when God faithfully shepherded his people, they showed their true colours. They were cranky and recalcitrant. They created a rod for their own back when they stampeded toward the danger of idolatry, and stubborn refused to thank God for his shepherd care.
One September school holidays I helped to drive some sheep from my grandfather’s farm to the shearing shed on another farmer’s property. All was going well until we came to the creek, flowing perhaps half a metre wide over the culvert. The sheep backed up, and began to turn and head back from whence they came. No amount of gentle hesitation could convince them to walk across the creek, such was their fear of running water. The only way we could budge them was to lift them and none too gently deposit them across the other side. Once we had done this a few times they began to get the idea. Then they did follow like sheep.
As the Lord is a shepherd, so you and I are sheep. It’s by no means a flattering comparison. Yet it’s an apt one. Many of the dark valleys that we traverse are of our own making. Although the good Shepherd leads us in right paths, we are just as likely to head off down a gully or over a cliff, citing curiosity or self-interest as our motivations. Sometimes we are plain bloody minded and heedlessly disobedient. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray…’ Isaiah writes. Don’t we know the truth of his words.
What will this shepherd do? Leave us to fend for ourselves? See trouble coming and turn tail? No, this is not God’s way. Instead, God redoubled his efforts to round up his wayward sheep. God sent his Son, the one who calls himself the Good Shepherd. He cared for the sheep, not out of self-interest, not because of the pay-packet at the end of the week, but because of his passionate concern. He called these recalcitrant his sheep by name. In the ultimate act of servant love, he received the blows that the sheep deserved for their stupidity and perversity. ‘The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He leads us beside still waters. When I hear these words, I think of a water trough, full of water drawn from deep below the ground, pumped by the power of the wind. Jesus gives us the water of life. In the still waters of baptism we are refreshed: this is the ‘spring of living water gushing up to eternal life.’ A source of life that can always be relied upon, no matter how parched the surroundings. The shepherd’s strong yet gentle voice speaks a powerful word of forgiveness. In the darkest valley we are not abandoned. In this strange time God is protecting us. He’s stripping from us those things that we surrounded ourselves with, but which took us away from looking to him for strength and sustenance. He is confirming in us the hope that is ours in his sacrificial death and life-changing resurrection. He is creating a thirst and a hunger for him, in the quietness and isolation of these days, and inviting us to listen to him, whose voice we can always trust, and whose love will lead us to his house, in which we will dwell forever.
The farmer drives along. The little boy cuts the bales and tears them apart, and pushes them over the tailgate. Sheep gather in a line behind the ute’s tracks and feed. It’s not much but it will keep hunger at bay. Our Good Shepherd however, is so much more generous. Not only does he give us his life, but even more, he gathers us around his table, in his house. He feeds us. He fills us with his abundant life. With goodness and mercy strong enough to see off all predators and evil, even death itself. Right now we are sad that we can’t gather around the Lord’s table to receive the body and blood in Jesus. But God still refreshes our soul through his word. We lack nothing because we have him, and he in us through his Holy Spirit.
Some years ago I went to hear a renowned Lutheran theologian speak. He was asked to summarise the heart of the church’s message. This was his simple answer: ‘The love of the shepherd for you, the sheep-this is the core of the gospel.’ Live fully in this love. And share with other sheep this love of God for them too. Amen.
Click here to watch the [Worship Video](https://bit.ly/2wOdI3l) for Sunday 26 April
I wonder if our Gospel reading complies with our current social distancing restrictions?
Here are two followers of Jesus walking along the road together. Along comes a third person who walks with them.
Together the three of them walk and talk about what had happened over the last few days. This third person amazes the first two with his biblical understanding of why the events of the last days had to take place.
As they neared the village, these two followers of Jesus said to their knowledgeable walking companion – “stay with us – it is nearly evening. The day is almost over.” In other words: Come be our guest.
Right now, during this time of social restrictions, one of the issues many of us might be struggling with is our inability to welcome guests into our own homes.
We have been told to keep visitors to a minimum and we are not permitted to entertain groups of guests in our homes. Instead, we have been asked to quarantine our homes for our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.
It feels so wrong. I would love to be able to invite people over for a meal. I would love to say to friends and family, ‘Come on over, we’ll, cook up a storm, enjoy a bevvy and have a good chat.’
This is one of the activities I am missing at this time.
Maybe you’re feeling it too. Maybe you have children or grandchildren living elsewhere and right now you would love to welcome them home and share a meal with them. But because they are not currently living under your roof, to do so would be against government advice and would show disregard for the wellbeing of others.
So I long for the day our dining table can be full with family and friends again.
In the meantime how will we live? How will we wait?
Today I want to take you back to some prayers that are often heard in many Lutheran households. In our Lutheran tradition many of us have grown up starting our meal times saying prayers such as:
‘Come Lord Jesus be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed. Amen’.
‘Be present at our table Lord, be here and everywhere adored, these mercies bless and grant that we may feast in paradise with thee. Amen’.
What are we asking for in these prayers?
And why talk about these now?
At a time when guests are not welcome in our homes, these prayers remind us of the one guest who promises to be with us even when other guests can’t.
In these prayers we are welcoming the one guest who is above the law, the one who is even above the government. Not only can this one be a guest in my house, this one can be a guest at your house too! … and all at the same time… with no risk of spreading any virus!
This one guest was spoken about by Old Testament prophets like Isaiah who wrote: ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Only 2 chapters earlier in Isaiah 7:14 this guest, is named as Immanuel. Meaning: God with us.
The incarnate life of this guest is revealed to us in the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
And we know this guest as Jesus.
Jesus ate with all types of people – He even ate with those regarded as sinners. He died on the cross and was raised to life to redeem all who turn away from their sin and acknowledge him as lord.
And before Jesus ascended to heaven he promised: “I will be with you always to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
Now, we might be struggling with the feelings that come of Isolation at this time, and our inability to welcome guests into our homes, but today I want to remind you of what you are saying when you pray:
“Come lord Jesus be our guest.”
This prayer is not wishful thinking.
God is with us even if we don’t ask for him to be present.
When we pray: ‘Come Lord Jesus, be our guest’. We are trusting that he is already here with us - just as he has promised. In this prayer we are appreciating his real presence with us.
Yes, Jesus is truly the unseen guest at our table. He comes to minister to us with his grace as we eat together, as we reach out to each other in caring conversations, as we dwell in his word together and as we engage in acts of love and service.
As the church we often highlight the other ways God comes to minister to us with his grace – we love to highlight the ways God ministers to us when we meet together as an entire congregation. What we often forget is that God also comes to minister to us with his grace through our ordinary every day conversations.
Our Lutheran Confessions teach this in Luther’s Smalcald Articles: Luther explains that God shares his extravagantly rich grace in more than one way: first, through the spoken word, in which forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world (which is the proper function of the gospel); second, through baptism; third, through the Holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters’. (see Smalcald Articles 3:4)
If we agree with Luther - that God can minister to us through each other – then, wherever caring conversations take place and words of hope and comfort are spoken, and wherever two or three of us gather in the name of Jesus, Jesus is there amongst us and God is at work sharing his grace with us.
This can happen anywhere – even at our humble kitchen tables.
Now, In our gospel reading it was only when the disciples and the third person sat down at the kitchen table, and the third person took the lead at the meal by giving thanks, breaking the bread and sharing it around… it was only then that the two followers of Jesus recognised that this third person was Jesus.
Then suddenly Jesus disappeared from their sight.
Christians believe that Jesus appeared to many people after his resurrection. Christians also believe that Jesus ascended so that he can be truly present with all people everywhere.
So, in this time how can we increase our awareness of God’s presence with us as we gather at our kitchen tables to eat and talk as households while in isolation?
Here are some ideas:
Firstly, when you pray ‘Come Lord Jesus’, pray it not as a wish or a pious idea. Pray it with the confidence that Jesus is truly present with you and will minister to you through the conversations you share.
Secondly, where possible eat together in your home. Use your meal time to build up and encourage one another. Let God speak to the members of your household though your conversation and consolation, that they may know God’s unconditional love as modelled by you. Share your highs and lows. Be prepared to forgive and ask for forgiveness. If you live on your own or know someone who does, have these conversations over the phone.
Thirdly, add to your meal time a devotional practice whereby you stop and listen to Jesus speak to you through his Holy Word. Think of it this way, you would never invite a guest into your home and not give them an opportunity to speak – would you? So, give Jesus your guest an opportunity to speak to you. Treat Jesus’ presence with the same respect as any other guest at your table. Listen to him speak through each other, but most importantly, listen to him speak most clearly by reading his holy word together!
How about seeing your household meal times as more than just a daily necessity and more as a daily opportunity for God to minister to you through his holy word that we read together and the ordinary conversations that we share together.
As our second reading for today explained: It is through the living word of God that we are born again. Just as his word lasts forever, so the life that we have by His holy word lasts forever too!
So let’s appreciate Jesus as our table guest by always giving thanks for his presence.
Consider every meal as a feast of love and grace – where Jesus is present with you. Consider every meal as a foretaste of the great feast of Holy Communion (the special meal we long to share when we meet with our entire congregation and worship God together) Consider every meal and every conversation you share as a foretaste of the great feast that God has prepared for us in paradise.
At every meal we can acknowledge God’s presence with us through the love and care we show to one another, and through our conversation, devotion and acts of service. For the conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters is one of the genuine means by which God shows his extravagant grace to us.
If you would like to further consider how you can celebrate God’s presence with you, around your table, then check out Grow Ministries free Church at Home resources or their Growing Faith Moments at their online store [www.growministries.org.au](http://www.growministries.org.au/)
Before your family mealtimes you may pray, ‘come Lord Jesus be our guest’, but do you treat Jesus as the guest at your table?
Remember, when we have a guest in our home we engage in conversation with them, learn from them, laugh with them, celebrate special moments with them, and create memories together!
If Jesus is truly our guest, let’s honour him by listening to him and conversing with him! The clearest way we do this is by listening to his word as given to us in scripture.
Now more than ever, in this time of social isolation, we have the opportunity to recalibrate and recognise Jesus as the one guest who is always present in our homes. May you welcome Jesus as your guest and listen to him and learn from him.
Finally, Let Jesus lead in your home!
When Jesus was the guest at Emmaus, he was given the opportunity to lead by serving. It was then that the eyes of these two followers were opened!
Likewise, as we acknowledge the presence of Jesus as our guest and allow him to lead our mealtime conversations by dwelling in his word together and listening for what he says to us, then we will see the world around us differently and be sustained in hope and peace.
So, may you live though this time of isolation knowing Jesus is your merciful Guest who remains with you. May his presence and leadership in your home fill you with a peace that surpasses all human understanding and keep your hearts and minds safe in him to life eternal. Amen
Click here to watch the [Worship Video](https://bit.ly/2wOdI3l) for Sunday 19 April
It has been almost a month since our federal government announced social distancing measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Our worlds have suddenly shrunk. We’re getting used to the four walls of our homes. If we live with others, there have been many things that have been good about this-evening meals around the table, watching movies together, just being in each other’s company, a kind of reconnection with those nearest and dearest to us. If we live alone it has been much harder.
While we have been locked in, we have been locked out of our church building, for the same reasons, for the love of neighbour, and to ensure that the course of this pandemic is stopped in its tracks. This hasn’t been easy either. We miss the physical presence of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We miss singing together. We especially miss gathering around the Lord’s table to receive the precious meal of Jesus’ body and blood in bread and wine. We might we wondering what it means to be church in this time of physical distancing.
In my previous congregation, someone once commented on the fact that the church building itself ‘presented an imposing façade.’ I don’t think this was a compliment. The church had thick walls, a castle like turret, and opaque windows. You couldn’t see in, and you couldn’t see out. Just like St John’s church building, and Concordia Chapel too. One of the reasons that we recently installed new glass doors in St John’s church and hall is so that people could stop and have a look inside.
Now the physical church building is locked, but the church itself is open and gathering wherever we happen to live, and whenever we take the opportunity to share the good news, even in our isolation. I’d argue that there’s never been a better to be the church in our homes, and to radiate God’s peace, forgiveness and grace. What can we learn today from Jesus’ locked down disciples today, and how the presence of Jesus transforms them?
What a big day Sunday had been for Jesus’ disciples and friends. We had the first believer, John, and the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene. These were life-changing, earth-shaping events. So why is it that we find the disciples locked in a room much like our lounge rooms?
'When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked for fear of the Jews…' Hadn’t the good news reaches their ears? Why were they sitting tight, shrouded in sadness, disturbed by the stories flying around of the empty tomb but not daring to believe? I can think of a couple of reasons. First, the resurrection truly was an unprecedented event. Of course it was difficult to believe. Secondly, if it were true, then how was the Risen Jesus going to react to the way that his disciples had failed him, and fled from him when he was facing the cross. Was now the time for divine payback?
What are the fears that we bring to this time? We may be coping OK with social isolation, but how long will we be able to keep going? And what about the economic implications, for us personally, and for the society in which we live, let alone the wider world and countries where poverty means that they are deeply exposed to this virus? You may have deeply personal fears about the wellbeing of your loved ones, or even your own health. You might be worried about how St John’s will navigate its way through this. What will our congregation look like when this is over? There are many anxieties and concerns, and perhaps we judge ourselves harshly simply because we feel this way.
What happens next? Jesus happens. The Risen Jesus shows up in the locked room. Trying to keep out those who the disciples considered their enemies didn’t stop the Lord of love and life. “Jesus came and stood among them,” literally in the middle of them. It’s undeniably the same Jesus at whose feet they sat for three years, the same Jesus who shared of himself at the Last Supper, the same suffering Jesus from whom they ran.
They recognise him. And his voice. And his words. “Peace be with you.” They couldn’t have expected a more powerful greeting. Peace to you, in your fear, in your anxiety, your confusion. I bring you the peace that I promised before I went to the cross. “27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” With my peace, I drive away your guilt, your shame at the way you failed me.
But it wasn’t just Jesus’ voice. It’ was also his body. “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.” This peace was no small matter. See the scars that secured this peace. It was war with the evil one. These are the battle scars that came with wrestling with human sin and disobedience and defeating it. Jesus’ cross was not an accident of history, but the means by which God made peace with the world
Jesus is ever and always the crucified one, then and now. The only God worth believing in a wounded, crucified, scarred one. An English poet, Edward Shillito, who fought in the First World War, wrote in his poem, “Jesus of the Scars:”
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak; They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
This suffering, saving God stands among the disciples, not to condemn them, but to reinstate them as disciples, and to fit them for the task at hand.
'Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you…' Think of the power of that word in the middle of their anguish. Think of the possibilities it opened up to the disciples who only two days previous were mired in despair. In Jewish thinking, peace, shalom, is the hallmark of the new age that God would create. Remember how Isaiah describes it, 'The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kind, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.' This is the cosmic peace ushered in by the brutal death and triumphant resurrection of Jesus. He is the one who creates and endows this peace. What a gift this is for his followers! They feel anything but whole, but what matters are not their emotions, or their mistakes, but the loving, restoring word of Jesus himself.
This is the gift that keeps on giving. Jesus doesn't pronounce peace on his followers, in order to make them into a holy huddle. This peace has universal dimensions. 'As the Father has commissioned me, so I send you.' There's a Jewish saying, 'One who is sent is as he who sends him.' God is present in the work of Jesus; and Jesus is present in the work of the disciples. What an incredible and entirely unexpected, unwarranted commission.
But ordinary people, like Jesus’ disciples, like us too, need something extraordinary to go out on God's behalf. “With that Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” Only those who have the breath of new life can be messengers of life. The gift of the Spirit means new life, a new birth. That's what Peter shares with us in our second reading today: '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.' New breath, new life, new hope. It's all ours, and it's ours to proclaim.
What is the core ingredient of this living hope? The forgiveness of sins! And that’s the divine tool with which the church is empowered to go into the world. “'If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven them, and if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.' That's the treasure of the church that I, as a pastor, have the privilege of announcing to you in worship, and even today. But each one of us can also assure one another of the boundless grace of God, a grace far more powerful and creative than any sin we can think of or commit. And the opposite is sadly true. Not placing our trust in Jesus and his forgiving love means leaving locked all the benefits of life in Jesus' name; peace, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, life forever in God’s presence.
Fast forward to the following Sunday. The same room. The same locked doors. One very sceptical disciple called Thomas. The one who speaks for us when we struggle to believe. The one who wants to be convinced of the reality of the resurrection. The one Jesus graces with the same words, “Peace be with you.” The same scars that speak of his healing. Thomas’ unfaith is blown away. “My Lord and My God” is all he can say. And that’s all there is to say. Jesus offers grace to him too. And he is commissioned with the others to share the good news of God’s forgiving love in Jesus
Our church buildings will be closed for the time being. But not the church. The church is dispersed and is in hundreds of places, in our homes and households, and in our neighbourhoods and conversations in a way that we could not before have imagined.
Think of the opportunities you have to speak good news-into the disagreements and upsets of home life when we are living so close to one another. Think of the conversations with neighbours over the fence or out the front. Or even with those you pass when you’re out exercising. There’s a vulnerability in all of us in this time of collective grief, an openness to share with a stranger, to check in with people, just to see how we’re doing. See these encounters as chances to share the peace and forgiving love of our Risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Peace be with you
Click here to watch the [Easter Sunday Worship Video](https://bit.ly/2wOdI3l)
Today is one of the few days each year that I got up before the sun does. Sunrises are beautiful, hopeful. Despite the chaos and concern all around, the sun still rises. Nights are not always easy times for some of us. Sometimes we wake, the worries that live in our subconscious bubbling to the surface in the quiet hours. Then sun rises and we plunge into the waking world, barely refreshed.
That’s certainly the way it would have been for Mary Magdalene, and Peter and John too. Who could possibly sleep well when their lives had been rocked to the core as Jesus breathed his last on the cross? There was no future, only darkness.
The sun set on Friday. It rose again on Saturday. This was the day of Sabbath. God’s people were commanded to rest as God the Creator rested from his work of creating the world. Meanwhile, the body of Jesus rested in the tomb, alone and unattended.
The sun set on Saturday and the Sabbath was over. I’m sure there was another night of disturbed sleep, the events of that Friday playing over and over again in Mary’s mind. What if Judas hadn’t handed Jesus over to the authorities? What if he had been given a fair trial? What if his followers hadn’t fled when the heat became too much? At the bitter end, it was three lonely women, who stood by. And John.
Mary wakes early, before the sun is up. John tells us that it was “very early, in the morning, still dark.” The only thing Mary can think of doing is to pay her respects to Jesus, her friend. She walks carefully through the dark, to the tomb. Even in the dark, she can see that the stone covering the tomb entrance has been taken away. She doesn’t need to look further. She knows what has happened. In death, as well as in life, Jesus has been dishonoured.
She runs back to find Peter and John. Breathlessly she announces, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.” Suddenly Peter and John are wide awake, shocked into running to the tomb. John is younger, and fitter, and he arrives at the tomb first. He stops, and hesitantly peers into the tomb. He doesn’t see a body, but he does see the graveclothes.
Peter arrives a little later. Perhaps the glow of dawn is starting to spread, even if the sun has yet to break the horizon. He pushes straight past and goes straight to the tomb. He sees more-not just the grace clothes but also the face covering, rolled up neatly, separately. John, perhaps needing Peter’s permission, takes a closer look. And he’s first to arrive at the astonishing conclusion: “He saw and believed.” It was as simple and yet as earth shattering as that. And just perhaps, as he said these words, the sun finally rose.
The evidence lay in front of them, but full understanding had not yet dawned. John admits as much, by adding this aside: “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.” No matter what Jesus had told them, no matter the promise of God “that he would not abandon his chosen one to the realm of the dead, nor let his faithful one see decay”. (Psalm 16) Or Isaiah’s powerful words about the suffering servant: “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied, by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many and he will bear their iniquities.”
Yet enlightenment was still a little way off. They needed to Jesus face to face. So, lost in their thoughts, puzzled, confused, “the disciples went back to where they were staying.” I’m sure that the sun was up now, but even so, it would take some time to feel the full strength of its rays.
Mary, meanwhile, must have been nearby, but she doesn’t know the conclusion John has drawn about what has taken place. For her, it’s still an open and shut case of grave-robbing. Her tears flow as she stands outside the tomb crying. She finally looks in, and she sees even more the Peter, and then John. Graveclothes, a head cloth, and now two angels, brighter than the morning sun, one at either end of the stone slab on which Jesus had rested in death. They ask her a pastoral question, “Why are you crying?” She repeats the same answer as she gave to Peter and John. They don’t give any answer, because Jesus is there.
Not that Mary realises it first of all, and when she does turn around with tear swollen eyes, she doesn’t recognise Jesus. She thinks he’s the gardener trying to make beautiful this place of death. Jesus asks the same, beautiful tender question. Mary gives the same, sad answer.
What changes everything is a word from Jesus. The call of her name. The same voice that addressed Lazarus to release him from death now speaks a word to Mary that proves that he, too, has been released from death, and that he’s alive. Mary turns toward him, overcome with joy, and calls him, “Teacher.” Jesus’ sheep know his voice, and Jesus knows his sheep personally. The next thing Mary does is hug Jesus. She wants to hold on to the one over whom death no longer has a hold. “There’s no need to keep holding on to me,” Jesus says. I’m here to stay with you now, but I am going back to where I belong, to my Father and your Father. Right now, there’s good news to be told. Death has been defeated through my cross. Eternal life is my promise for those who call on me, whose name I know.”
Mary is immediately up and out of there. And I like to think that as she goes back to the disciples, the sun is now shining brightly. Her message is simple but life changing, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”
The sun rose that morning. It has risen this morning too. It continues to rise and set no matter what’s happening in the world. And to some extent this daily rhythm brings shape to our days in these strange times. But that only gets us for far. We need a bigger story to help us in a time when we feel utterly helpless. This is the story-the God who saw how our human condition-the way that sin breaks us apart from him and from one another-the fear and anxiety that comes when death comes into our frame of view, magnified in this time of pandemic-the way that our world has had to shrink at this time, and we are tempted to shut out the needs of others-this God has conquered death in the death and resurrection of his Son.
Yes, the sun rises, and the sun sets. As it did on Good Friday. The sun rose over Jesus as he stood before Pilate. It continued to shine as he was mocked, flogged and placed on the cross. At noon the sun stopped shining altogether, though, as if creation itself turned dark in protest at what was taking place. At 3.00pm Jesus died, the earth shook, graves released their dead, people fled in panic, a centurion saw in this death the sacrifice of the Son of God. On Easter Day, the sun still rose, but so did the Son. And he is alive today, and for ever and ever.
What I love about the Easter story is how honest and real it is. There’s Mary’s deep sorrow, even despair. Peter and John’s competition, and confusion. And the fact they return home wondering what this all means. We are the same. Especially this year. There is deep concern about our lives, our futures. There are dark corners where the the resurrection news has appeared not to penetrate, or the relationships that are mired in conflict, or the old habits that won’t die. And then there’s the overlay of COVID-19 on top of it all
How might we maintain Easter joy, hope and purpose in this climate? By remembering that we are resurrection people. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says today: “Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” We are called into new life through the power of Jesus’ resurrection. It remains not merely an event recorded in the pages of Scripture, but a present reality in our lives.
The same powerful God who was at work in the life of his Son is at work in our lives today. Baptism places us at the foot of the cross, and in the cold dark earth of the empty grave. The passing of time is no barrier to the work of the Spirit. The death of Jesus is our death to sin. The raising of Jesus through the mighty power of the Father is our raising too.
“You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The son still rises, has risen, in us, each and every day.” As much as we labour under the shadow of this pandemic, the isolation, the anxiety, this day, and each and every day is a celebration of Christ's victory over death and sin. We live securely and safely in God’s loving hands.
The sun rises each day. The Son of God has risen this day. Amen.
Click here to watch the [Good Friday Worship Video](https://bit.ly/2wOdI3l)
*How can it end like this? What have we done? Where did it all go wrong...?’
We can easily imagine these questions filling the minds of the disciples in the hours after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.
*In fear of loosing their own life, they isolated themselves behind locked doors.
How can it end like this? What have we done? Where did it all go wrong?
Back at the start of this year, who would have thought we would find ourselves in the situation we are now in: distancing and isolating ourselves from one another, to reduce the impact of the current pandemic and protect our own lives.
*At this time, when our world has changed so quickly, I find myself asking: God, what does the cruel death of your Son Jesus on the cross - almost two thousand years ago - mean for our world today?
*As I ask this question, I am led to reflect on a time recorded in the biblical narrative – a time before death entered the world.
Death entered into the world when the first humans were deceived into disobeying God. Ever since then this virus has been passed on from generation to generation. None of us are immune, none of us are able to escape it’s effect. No matter how hard we try to isolate ourselves we all live and die with the same original virus.
This virus leaves us isolated and distanced from God and from one another. It breaks down our relationships. It clouds the way we see the world around us by making us think we are at the centre of the universe. It has corrupted our desires. In turn, we have made ourselves our own highest authority whereby we focus on our own needs and desires without care for anyone else.
*Possibly of greatest concern, is that this original virus leaves us spiritually dead. It leaves us with no true fear of God’s authority nor true faith in God’s power.
When it remains uncontrolled, this virus destroys life and condemns us to an eternal death.
The virus I am referring to is the original, the first and greatest of all diseases and it’s impact has consequences not just for this life time but for all eternity.
The original virus I am speaking about is what is what the Bible refers to as sin.
*Now, the reason why Christians continue to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus -the Son of God - is that Jesus death and resurrection is the means by which God has given the vaccine that overcomes the power of sin and sets us free from eternal death and welcomes us into an eternal community with God where all is made new and no one will ever again suffer in isolation and die.
While our world seeks a vaccine to overcome the current covid 19 pandemic. Know this: Jesus is the one that has overcome the original virus of sin and death for us:
*God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
*The power of sin is devastating in our lives. It is seen in our dysfunctional relationships and our communication breakdowns. It is seen in our struggle to listen to one another and our difficulty to understand one another. It is seen in our selfish actions and inactions.
The power of sin in our lives is also seen in our inability to possess true fear of God or faith in God. It is seen in our desire to love everything equally rather than loving God above all else.
Our sin condemns us to eternal death. Without a cure for sin, eternal death is the reality we all must face. For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
But today is a Good Friday. It is a Good Friday, because today we celebrate that in Jesus the power of sin and death have been defeated once and for all!
*When Jesus shed his blood by dying on the cross, and on the third day was raised from death, the power of sin was conquered once and for all. The righteousness of Jesus became our vaccine. His righteousness now cures us from the eternal condemnation that we deserve because of our sin.
We receive Jesus righteousness not with a needle, not like an annual flu shot, we receive it daily by faith. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. And through the hearing of word God’s spirit works in our lives to create faith.
*So each day is a new day to start again! You can start again today by faith. You can look to the cross of Jesus believing that in Jesus’ death and resurrection he has already forgiven you all your sin and has set you free from eternal death and promises you eternal life.
Not only that, he gives you a helper to live in you – his breath, his Holy Spirit to encourage you and support you - to remind you that you are loved by God and are already holy because of Jesus. His Spirit gives us a new identity and opens for us a new way of living where sin is defeated and the love and peace of God now rules and guide our lives.
But as long as we live in this world, the old virus of sin will want to reinfect our lives in a variety of ways, calling us to turn away from Jesus and to forget what Jesus has done for us. When this happens, Remember God is gracious and compassionate – abounding in love. Remember who you are – that in Christ you are more than conquerors. Your daily cure is found in turning back to Jesus and remembering his sacrifice to save you from your sin. Because of the cross of Jesus, there is forgiveness and healing and new life for all. Because of the cross of Jesus we can start each day in the knowledge that God’s love for us is greater than death itself and we will always be in his care.
*So what can we say, how did we end up in this mess? Where did it all go wrong? What are we going to do now? Is this the end?
*As Romans 8 says:
No, In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. There is nothing in all creation that will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
*….Thanks be to God that the death of Jesus is not the end. He was raised to life again to share with us the first and most important vaccine the world has ever needed so that all may receive forgiveness and new life.
*Knowing there is forgiveness and new life for all who turn away from their sin and believe in him, let us today remember God is with us and confess our sin to God our father, confident that he makes all things new!
“Jesus said, ‘As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’” John 9:4-5
Jesus sees and acts
Things have moved so quickly across our world in the last weeks, and we find ourselves facing challenges unprecedented in our lifetimes. This raises in each one of us all kinds of fears and anxieties. How will we cope? Will we get sick? What will happen to our families, jobs and livelihoods? How can we be the St John’s community when we cannot worship together? How long will this go on for?
In John 9 Jesus notices a blind man. Other people see him as a burden, and Jesus’ disciples sees him as a theological problem to be solved. But Jesus sees him as someone who is loved by God, and an opportunity to display the works of God-the God who cares for his people, and who showed his love through sending his Son Jesus into our world to live for us, to die for our sins, and to rise from the dead.
Jesus’ words here give me great encouragement as I, together with you, work out how to respond to and live in this new reality. It is still day. Yes, the sun stills sets everyone night and rises every morning. Each new day is an opportunity to learn how to trust anew in Jesus, who has shown himself to be the light of the world. It is certainly not easy, and the temptation is to overwhelmed by this rapidly changing, and deepening situation.
We can begin by praying. The most ancient and simple Lenten prayer is “Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” Therefore, we pray for God’s mercy for our families, our neighbours, our church, our community, our nation, and our world. Then we ask God to give us compassion and energy to shine this self-sacrificing love of God in us to those around us, especially to look out for those who are lonely in this time of isolation- to call people; to address people’s physical needs-to go to the shops for someone who can’t get out of the house.
What works of God’s love, mercy, compassion and healing can be displayed in and through us, God’s church, at this time? This is the response to this crisis that God is calling for through his church.
Peace in Christ
Pastor Andrew Brook
‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’ Matthew 12:43-44
This weekend we continue our sermon series on Generous Giving. Last week we considered what it is we need. And how when we help someone in need we are helping Jesus. This week we are going to consider what it is that we have and how we can generously give what we have. May God open our eyes to see what is in our hand and how we can best give it away for the sake of the world God loves.
Please note: this sermon series is supported by two different intergenerational weekly devotionals for all ages that are available from our church office. If you have not yet got yours email the Church office to request a PDF copy or a printed copy.
Today we will specifically hear about a moment when Jesus was in the temple courts teaching a large crowd of people. Jesus noticed how a widow quietly gave her last two coins to the Lord. She put in everything she had. I wonder, how could a person who has no means to provide for themselves give away eveything? Could this be sign of her trust that her community would care for her and truly be the community God had called them to be: a community that cares for the needs of vulnerable people?
So, what is in your hand? What do you have that God is nudging you by his Spirit to give to the Lord for all his goodness to you? Will you be giving it out of abundance or poverty? Regardless of what we have we can all give generously. What has God given you that you could share for the sake of his kingdom? This will be different for all of us. On this autumn long weekend, in the very liveable month of March, many of us may have in our hand a pair of BBQ tongs and a tray of meat (with and some vegan sausages) that we could give to the Lord by showing hospitality to others.
Regardless of what we give, in all our giving we do so in the faith and confidence that God provides through community. May our sharing what we have never be as an exhibition of our abundant riches and self-sufficiency. Rather, may our sharing be an expression of our faith: that we are doing the work of the Lord: building community and ensuring that the needs of all in our community are met, especially the needs of the most vulnerable.