Friday, April 13, 2007

Going Going Gone Fishin' Folks!

This fisher of man, needs a couple weeks rest, to sabbath and be a fisher of fish! After this Sunday (15/4/07), I will not be posting any sermons for the next couple of weeks. But checkout the sermon for Easter 2 15/4/07 below. Grace & Peace to you Friar (of fish) Puk

C, Easter 2 - John 20:19-31 "Peace be with you!"

John 20:19-31 On the evening of that first day of the week (the day of Jesus’ resurrection), when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. Y

On Easter Sunday, Peter and John left the tomb of Jesus confused and bewildered that Jesus’ body was gone. Now we hear today on that first Easter evening the disciples were huddled together hidden away from sight so the Jews might not find them.

Imagine the speculation which took place behind those closed doors… What went down at the tomb? Did the Jews now take his body too? What has happened to him? Was this now going to happen to them? What was going on? Could this whole thing be a trick?

One thing we know is they still didn’t understand from Scripture — from the Old Testament, as we know it — that Jesus had to rise from the dead. Understanding this in itself would have been confusing enough, but adding the pressure of being wanted themselves, the disciples’ lives were in complete turmoil. They were powerless without any direction or peace.

It’s a completely different picture to that of the time before Jesus’ crucifixion. Even in the midst of suffering, beatings, and the piercing pain on his body, Jesus knew who had ultimate power. He believed and trusted his Father in heaven despite what he was going through. His humanity cried out for God to take the cup of wrath away, yet he remained obedient to he who had all authority and power. Jesus suffered horrendously at Calvary, and in his hands, feet, and side bore the marks of his sacrifice and suffering. Jesus endured the disciples’ and our powerlessness over sin and death, which causes the lack of peace, power, and perfection in our earthly life.

Surprisingly, after Jesus’ death and resurrection from the grave, although he was perfect and without sin, he still bore the marks of sin and death. One might think — being the obedient Son of the Father, God the Son, the creator of all that lives — these marks would vanish due to his divine perfection. Yet they don’t, so even in his complete obedience and perfection, what was still visible, were the marks of our imperfection and his passivity as a result of our sin.

These nail marks and spear wound are the source of great joy to the disciples as he appears amongst them and calls them to peace in his power over sin and death. Right at this moment Jesus re-creates his disciples and breaths new life into their weak, frail bodies.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Today is the day of Jesus’ resurrection and he resurrects our lives too, calling us to peace with his word, breathing new life into us with his breath of the Holy Spirit, and killing the power sin and death once had over us.

We like Thomas, who is called Didymus (which means the twin or double), were not there that first day to witness these things and receive Christ as did the other disciples. We bear in us the double-nature of being Jesus’ followers yet also struggle with doubt and confusion just like Thomas, and the other disciples too, for that matter.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “I don’t want to believe unless I see the marks of Jesus too. How do I really know if Jesus is present anyway? Could this whole thing be some sort of cruel trick?

When you and I enter into thought like this, our peace can be eroded very quickly. Then you feel the weakness of your true self and see that you’re far from perfect. One thing I can guarantee with these feelings is this: The father of lies and trickery is pleased when our old self rises over the Risen Lord of our hearts and causes us this worry and doubt!

So how do we know it’s God calling us to abide and remain in him? How do we know where Jesus Christ is, especially when we can’t see him like the disciples did? How do we know we’re receiving all the benefits of Christ and the cross? How do I abide or remain in him according to his holy and perfect will, so I might rest in assurance and peace?

Firstly we hear the word of God. Jesus says to you, “Peace be with you!” We hear him say this in his word, in fact, three times in the Gospel reading today. His word has power, so listen to him and rest in peace! See how many times God himself calls you to peace in the liturgy of the Sunday services!

God then tells you in his word to believe, when the pastor says, “I forgive your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It’s by Jesus’ command your sins are truly forgiven for his sake. The pastor is the Lord’s physical mouthpiece announcing God’s forgiveness and peace with you. The pastor is authorised to stand in the person of Christ (in persona Christi), commanded by Jesus himself to declare God’s forgiveness to all who believe and trust his instruction.

So why does God forgive your sin? He does so for the same reason you stand in his presence in peace each week, knowing “the church roof won’t fall on you”. In fact your life continues in him each day — as you believe you’re being recreated by his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave — as you believe you’re daily drowned in your baptism and raised to new life with him. You live under the power of God’s forgiveness as you live each day in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, each time you come into his presence, God names his forgiveness to you, and on receiving it, you know and trust God forgives your sin, and wants peace with you!

Then you also know God’s peace rests with you, and you can rest in his peace, when you receive his body and blood. Mysteriously Jesus Christ is physically and spiritually present in the bread and the wine, just as he mysteriously entered the room with the disciples. Likewise you receive him with joy in knowing he is with us here, right now! So because of his risen presence, Jesus calls you to rest in his peace and forgiveness.

All these things you receive each Sunday in church. Each Sunday is an Easter celebration of the Lord’s resurrection and yours too. Each Sunday you’re recreated in the work of Christ at the cross and his resurrection power over your sin and death. In fact, each Sunday you and I receive the marks of Christ, which are the reassuring marks of the church, and by these marks, you and I are called to trust we have truly received Christ. The nail and spear marks that scarred Jesus’ perfect body are the very marks by which Jesus is winning your salvation and healing your wounds.

Just like Thomas, Jesus calls us all to stop doubting and believe. And so in chapter twenty verse thirty-one of John’s gospel, hear, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Each time you come here, know you receive the risen Lord. Rest in Jesus, knowing your past is forgiven; that he is your strength and power in the present; and, in the future he will lead and raise you from death.

The peace of the Lord is with you; rest in his peace too! Amen. Y

Sunday, April 08, 2007

C, Resurrection of our Lord (Easter Sunday) - "Eight Day Creation"

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; he created our existence — all that exists — in eight days. Yes, that’s right! Eight days!

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”’ (John 20:1-2)

With all the chaos of Thursday evening, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, it was surely the darkest of times. In fact on Sunday morning, the first day of the week, as Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb, it was still so dark in many ways. Perhaps in a state of grief and shock, at the events which transpired, and, at the horrific attitudes of those who just days earlier had betrayed and falsely accused her Lord and hammered him to the cross, she went to the tomb before dawn – her heart broken and churning in nothingness. Her life had become a formless void of emptiness.

After all, Mary was no stranger to chaos. Jesus had stabilised her life, turning it from disorder and chaos to order and peace by casting seven demons out of her. Up until that time her life had been in complete disarray. She was a lunatic – mad, confused, evil had oppressed her – she had been bound by unrelenting darkness and nights.

And now as she travelled to the tomb it seemed as though this darkness had once again returned to her life. Her pain heightened by the hope and trust she had in her Lord who was now buried; who was dead in the grave.

But alas! When she got to the tomb the stone was gone! Now even greater uncontrolled chaos and confusion pulsed through her veins as she ran to tell Peter and John. And in disbelief they quickly returned to the tomb, and Peter entered to see for himself. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (John 20:8-9) John now believed what Mary had first seen. Jesus was not there! But they still cowered in chaos and incomprehension; disunified by Jesus’ death, they too had feared the Jewish leaders would come after them, and kill them too.

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:10-11a, 15-16)

In fact Jesus is the Gardener, but not just a gardener in the garden of his death and tomb! He is the one with the Father at creation, breathing light and life into all things, including the Garden of Eden. And now he stood in a garden once again with humanity.

Right at this moment, let’s be reminded of the words written at the beginning of John’s Gospel… In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5,10-14)

We know Mary received him with great elation as she cried with joy “Rabboni”! Suddenly all the fear and confusion was gone, the chaos was gone in an instant. The Word Made Flesh was alive again, and so powerful is his word he recreated Mary’s life with one word, “Mary”! And so too with us, he comes to us every day of our baptised life and recreates us with his powerful word, and names us as his own, dispelling all the chaos from our lives.

Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus’ yoke is light, in every sense of the word “light”. What Jesus gives us to carry is a light burden, and it’s a light to our path through the darkness of life. Through his word, with the eyes of faith, we see his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who is begotten of the Father from eternity, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, full of grace and truth.

When God named Mary, it was as if he said to her, “Let there be light.” And hope dawned on Mary, in all its glorified splendour. Now Mary Magdalene, ran with joy to pass on the word of life to the others after Jesus said, “Go… to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:17-18)

In Genesis 1:1-5 it is written… In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

In our world there is much darkness and destruction. It’s been this way since humanity was thrown out of the Garden by God as a result of our sin. We wander in the wilderness for a lifetime not fully understanding who we are, or who God originally created us to be. Our lives at best are full of confusion and toil until we die. On the first day Jesus walked into Jerusalem amid palm branches and cries of “hosanna” as King, but he wept over the foolishness of Jerusalem and humanity. (Palm Sunday 2007 was the 1st day of April, April Fools day). This was the first day — God saw it was not all good — it was not good at all.

But as it was for Mary Magdalene on the first day, it is for us too. As much as it is the first day of the week, where we still dwell with our doubts; our worries, our pride — our sin — where we dwell in the familiarity of a fallen world. We also dwell in a new day of the week, not familiar to us as the old seven-day order. We live in a new day of the week, the eighth day (Easter Sunday 2007 is the 8th day of April). This day is a reality, it’s the day of our hope, it’s a day of great joy, it’s the day of resurrection — Jesus’ resurrection and ours too. But unlike the other seven days of the week it’s a reality seen only by those who believe; to many it’s just another start to a week of seven days in an order filled with death, destruction, corruption and chaos.

On Friday, the sixth day, written in Genesis 1:26-27; God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

It just so happens that six days after the foolish first day of our fallen week (in 2007 Good Friday is on the 6th day of April), on Good Friday God recreated humanity, in his image. This frightful Friday, reframed the foolish fallen week into a Holy Week. God sanctified the whole week by sending his Son into the world to do his work of re-creation, and when it was done he said, “It is finished, and with that he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Now we can all get the daily baptismal rest we’ve needed every day since we were chucked out of Eden.

It’s written in Genesis 2:2-3, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3) And God did truly rest on the Sabbath, a very special Sabbath indeed, where God passed over us and let his wrath fall on Christ on the cross. Jesus’ work for our salvation is finished, and he rested in death. Now our Risen God can truly rest with sinful humanity.

So we celebrate today as the first day of re-creation, as the eighth day of creation, this is the Day of Resurrection. It’s a day of hope and eternal love for all who trust and rest in Christ’s work of the cross. However, for those who don’t believe, it’s just another day of toil and trouble; the first day of a week of failures and frustrations. But for us, it is a day of release, re-creation, and recreation. Circumcised on the eighth day, we are being cut from the old and given a new day where we can rest in our new transfigured baptismal glory, in Jesus Christ who is risen from death, and to whom all glory and power is given. Amen.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Good Friday Church Lights

I turned the Good Friday Lights back on last night.
Light always adds mood!
Something I learnt from my TV cameraman days!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

C, Maundy Thursday - John 13:1-38 "It's Faith at the Foot that Counts"

Jesus, Judas, Peter — even Pilate, St Paul, and Pharaoh; these men enter the stage as we look at the events surrounding Jesus’ — Last Supper, foot washing of the disciples, crucifixion as his exodus, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Christian Church since his resurrection from the dead, and exodus from our eyes into faith and eternity. And if Jesus takes centre stage with these other men then love and faith, are the pivotal two points around which hope, salvation, sin, unbelief, betrayal, and damnation swing.

In the three bible readings for Maundy Thursday we hear of the Passover in Egypt, written in Exodus 12; Saint Paul passing on what Christ gave to him, the Lord’s Supper with its call to discern Christ’s body and blood in bread and wine, in 1 Corinthians 11; and in John 13 we hear the Word incarnate knowing he would be lifted up in glorified brilliant light, when Judas goes out and it becomes the darkest night.

Each year as Holy Week arrives and we hear the passion narratives, we don’t just hear the story of Jesus’ death but also the stories of Judas, Peter, and Pilate. It seems Judas and Pilate, get a bad wrap, whereas Peter escapes the inevitable scorn poured out upon Judas and Pilate. One might be tempted to think the eternal fate of these three was preordained a long time before these events ever happened. But if we believe this to be the case, then for whom did Jesus die? All people or just some? And if for just a few, what makes you think you’re included too?

On the night when Jesus was betrayed — Judas deceived with a kiss, Peter denied with lies, and Pilate decided to overlook the truth of Jesus’ innocence, in favour of winning the crowd’s approval. These three men all sinned, so what is it that separates Peter from the other two?

We hear in John 13… It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5)

It’s interesting to note Jesus knows it’s time to leave this world. The word “leave” comes for the Greek word meaning — to be debased, or pass over from one place to another, or to completely change state, and this word is related to the words “base or foot”. Here Jesus is about to be walked out of this life through death on the cross, and yet he gets down to wash his disciples’ feet. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Yet Jesus takes their burden on himself, washing their feet so they might be clean, and then gets up and steps foot on the cross.

This was the full extent of his love, and he showed it to all at the meal, even he who was about to betray him, Judas. Judas was prompted here by the devil, but then again didn’t Jesus also rebuke Peter saying, “Get behind me, satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33) So here we see neither Peter nor Judas, are any different to each other, both are susceptible to their sinful human nature and the devil’s distractions.

This sin comes to the fore again, when Peter’s pride and lack of understanding, or perhaps guilt, seeks to have Jesus not wash his feet. But then again who of us would feel right about letting God wash our unclean bodies? Judas, however, is silent with the other disciples and does not protest against Jesus washing his feet. But then again if you didn’t believe he was the Son of God, who was to take away the sin of the world, you’d probably let the one you were about to betray wash your feet too. Imagine how Judas must have felt while Jesus stooped to wash his feet. Perhaps he felt powerful as he kept his churning conscience hidden.

However, Jesus knew exactly what was going on, and in fact it was he who held all the power as he knelt and washed the disciples’ feet. He knew he was going to be lifted up so all people might be drawn to him, and he also knew the betrayer had lifted up his heel or foot against him. As he calls Peter to allow him to wash his feet he says, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. (John 13:10-11) Later on a second time Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.” (John 13:21)

And then the third time we’re left with no doubt as to who is going to betray him, As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night. (John 13:27-30)

This is the hour of darkness, “it was night”. And when the darkest hour had begun, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. (John 13:31-32)

Here Jesus speaks of his exodus. Just as all those years earlier when Moses ate the Passover and the destroyer passed over them, so they could walk out of Pharaoh’s slavery, Jesus prepares to be walked out too, but innocently into the most unimaginable bondage anyone could face. The eternal Son of God, was bound to the cross and his feet were nailed to one place and point in time; he died for the sins of all people. Knowing this exodus must come first, he says, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” (John 13:33)

With absolutely no understanding as to what was going on, Peter foolishly says, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” To which Jesus answers, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13: 37-38)

In fact, later on Peter does exactly what Jesus said he would do. This happens after Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, and just before Jesus is led into Pilate’s presence. So Peter is the sinful fool sandwiched between the betrayer Judas who sinned against Jesus and was later filled with hopeless remorse, so much so, he hung himself because of his sin; and between Pilate’s pride, who despite knowing Jesus was completely innocent, sinfully trivialized the truth in order to be Mr. Popularity!

But earlier after Jesus had washed the disciple’s feet, Jesus reveals just what it is that separates Peter from Pilate and Judas as he announces the betrayal that’s about to take place. He says, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” (John 13:19-20)

When Jesus says “you will believe that I am He”, he is saying, “I AM the betrayed, I AM the one who will be walked to the cross, and crucified. I AM who I AM, I AM God the Son, hear my word — believe me!”

And with this belief comes a trust in God’s complete love. In hearing the Word Made Flesh, we too are called to know — God is love, the beginning and the end, all-powerful in complete control of every situation — and we are called to know and believe that because he die for our sin, all people’s sin, we must live in hope of eternal life, despite knowing we are completely sinful in nature.

Therefore, Jesus said to the disciples, and he says to you his disciple too, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) But at the same time he also says of his disciple Simon Peter, and knows we too are same, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

We now know from what we’ve heard it’s not the sin or the sinful nature that separates. If this was the case, Peter or the other disciples would have no chance, and nor would we! But rather we are required to have faith in God the Son, the one who shows the full extent of his love, who washes feet, and then steps foot on the cross.

Also the good news is he doesn’t leave us alone to believe, he has sent the Holy Spirit to plant faith in us and strengthen us as we hear his word. The Spirit gives us faith to believe and love, so we might be strengthened and live in hope.

Notice in all the Maundy Thursday bible readings, it’s not sin that separates. Rather it was unbelief that killed Egypt’s and Pharaoh’s first born, while those who believed God’s way walked out. It is not sin which separates us from God and brings judgement, as we drink from the cup and eat the bread. Rather it’s when we fail to believe, recognize, or know the truth of Christ’s body and blood in the cup and the bread; we trivialize the truth, and bring damnation on ourselves if we approach him without faith.

If it was sin that separated — Saul, the most hideous of sinners, might not have been visited by Jesus on the road to Damascus, and called to be the Apostle Paul where he passes on what Jesus gave to him and the church. And so too with Judas, his sin was forgivable, he only needed to believe Jesus’ word and sacrifice, rather than sacrifice himself in self-centred hopeless pity.

It’s the loss of faith, hope, and love in unbelief which separates and gives sin back its power. So during Lent we have examined the depths of our sin which led our Lord towards his innocent suffering and death, and tomorrow (Good Friday) we will do the same. But as we do also know the full extent of God’s love for you — how perfect it is, how complete it is, how forgiving it is, and how victorious it is over your sin and the sin of all who believe in him. Amen.