Sunday, May 30, 2010

C, Holy Trinity Sunday - Romans 5:1-2 "Leap of Faith"

You’re at the age of eighty and someone says to you, “Jump!” Would you? How about at the age of fifty? Thirty? Fifteen? Seven? Or what about if you were just two years old? It’s a hard question to answer not knowing just what the jump involves.
At the age of eighty, the chance of jumping anything, or to anyone, might be considered ludicrous or frightening. Bodies and bones at this age need special care not to be broken; to jump is not even a consideration when falling fills the heart with fear. But an elderly person will jump at the opportunity to share a cuppa and conversation to avoid loneliness.
At fifty one might consider jumping something, but hopefully wisdom is starting to kick in. So jumping a puddle or the fence should make way for one to find an easier way around the water or to find a gate through the fence.
Thirty, on the other hand, is a relatively better age to consider a jump of any kind. At the age of thirty one might even consider jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane, as long as a parachute was strapped to one’s back. However, if a father suggested a thirty year old jump into his arms, the father would be met with ridicule or even flattened if the thirty year old took up the challenge.
A fifteen year old, overflowing with oestrogen or testosterone might gladly jump into the arms of the one they adore. Or, they might dare do a feat that fills even a thirty year old with fear, jumping into something completely silly or dangerous. Thinking they were invincible, they might push aside their wellbeing for the thrill of a jump, making even jumping out of an aeroplane look safe.
A seven year old would possibly hesitate at taking an unsafe jump. Or perhaps they wouldn’t even be old enough to dream up a deed that’s too dangerous. But a seven year old would definitely be at risk of being reprimanded by a parent for jumping on the lounge or a bed. And most seven year old children love to jump on a trampoline.
A two year old, on the other hand, is still mastering the art of jumping. Their jump looks more like a hop to the rest of us. Their little feet barely leave the ground. Even just hopping without falling over sees the small child filled with delight at their achievement. However, a two year old child will out jump every other person if asked to jump to their parents. Without hesitation a trusting child will lovingly launch into the arms of mum or dad!
So would you jump? It depends of the circumstances of the jump; the age of the jumper, their ability, perhaps their sense of what’s right and wrong, and the environment of the jump.
Faith might be viewed in the same way as “taking a jump”. In fact, the term “leap of faith” connects faith or belief and jumping or launching one’s self. If we’re to go back and look again at the calls to jump at different ages and replace jump with faith, what type of faith pictures would be painted? For an eighty year old, a thirty year old, or a two year old?
So how do these pictures of jumping or faith, fit God’s view of faith? Does faith grow from the context of the circumstances, the abilities of the person, or even from the environment in which one is called to have faith?
As varied as the reason people might or might not jump, as we have seen, is also as varied as the views of just what faith is believed to be in this world. You see, everyone has faith in something. Even the most godless individual has faith.
If a person claims to be without faith they fail to have an existence. Or, at the least, those who can’t grasp what they have faith “in”, have trouble reconciling just what their being consists “of”, in this life. So faith exists in every person but a faith in God often falls into confusion and misunderstanding.
There’s just as much confusion over just what faith is in the church as well! What usually happens is some of us use our worldly understanding of this faith and then projects our ideas of faith onto what it is to have faith in God.
The result of this understanding of faith is that we credit ourselves for our faith, believing it comes from something we’ve done, or how we feel, or how we think or reason. Then when suffering comes and we’re tested we find the faith we’ve had deserts us when we needed faith the most.
On the other hand, the faith God gives is different. We’re told faith justifies us and gives us peace before God.
In Romans 5:1-2 Saint Paul addresses the origins of faith and what it does in us. He says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Note we are justified by faith, not justified by our faith. Paul repeats himself by then saying, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We hear before God we must be justified to have peace. Justification must occur for peace to exist, for peace to occur we must be made just or righteous before God.
So we are justified by our Lord Jesus Christ! We are made right before God by what happened to Jesus. We live in peace with God, through Jesus’ faithfulness and love towards his Father, and towards us. For our sake and because he trusted his Heavenly Father he endured the cross and the grave. Jesus was faithful even unto death.
We are justified and have peace with God because of Jesus Christ and his faith. Therefore, we are justified by a faith that comes to us from Christ, a faithfulness that has already led to his death and resurrection, a faith which had caused us to be drowned in baptism and raised to new life because of his death and resurrection, and a faith which is leading us towards an earthly death but also towards the reality of a powerful resurrection into the peaceful presence of a loving God.
Saint Paul continues in Romans five verse two, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
That is to say, through Jesus we have also been given access by his faithfulness into his death and resurrection in which we now stand. Grace is nothing other than Jesus’ death and resurrection – for me. Every eternal beneficiary of grace knows that despite their sin they can confess that Jesus’ gift of grace is “for me”.
So our faith, the faith that saves us from the eternity of hell, is his faith and it comes as a result of the work he did on the cross when he faithfully stood under the condemnation of yours and my sinful reality.
Nevertheless, we now have access to all the blessings of grace; that is Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, for me, as we stand or remain under the cover of his faithfulness.
Standing in the faith of Christ also allows us to rejoice in God’s presence, despite the sinful nature which still struggles within. All believers stand as one in and under Christ. That is why we hear in Ephesians chapter four “There is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
From faith comes works, from faith comes understanding and reason, and from faith one gets to experience a myriad of emotions from troubling exasperation to joyful exhilaration. But it never works the other way around. Faith forms the foundation of our Christian being, and the being of the whole Christian church under Christ. But the things that come from our human beings are never the essential ingredients of faith. Why? Because every part of our humanness is tainted with the weakness of individualistic self-centred sin!
A little further on in chapter five Pauls says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) We had a faith but this was the faith of the ungodly; it was a faith that was anti-God, and pro-everything else in his creation, but primarily centred on ourselves. In our weakness by our own efforts we’re only capable of unbelief when it comes to God.
But God came to us while we were sinners; Jesus died for those who are weak. This is the promise of a God who is faithful to you and me.
In the same way God was faithful to Abraham. This man struggled to believe he would have a son to Sarah. He even lay with Sarah’s maidservant Hagar to have a child, yet God was faithful to him and despite his weakness Abraham grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20-21)
So as you struggle with your human weakness, know that while you were completely weak in your being Christ died for you! And the faith God gave to you in your baptism, was the faithfulness of Christ, so you might be fully convinced by what God has promised you.
You bear the faith enflamed by the Holy Spirit in the Word of God, the faith which lays you in the arms of Christ, and the faith which cause you to be at peace with God, confident to stand in his presence and name him Father, rejoicing and glorifying his holy name. Amen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

C, Pentecost Sunday - John 14:12 & 27 "Greater Things"

To do what Jesus did and does! How is this possible? What did Jesus do, anyway? What’s it mean for us when Jesus says “you will do even greater things”; that is, greater things than the things Jesus did before he was taken to the right hand of the Father in heaven. And what can you expect to be doing when you allow yourself to be guided by this promise Jesus makes to you here in John chapter fourteen?

To know the greater things God desires to constantly do in, with, and through us, we first need to know just what it was that Jesus did, while he was on earth.

We might look to him turning water into wine! Or making a small meal of bread and fish feed five thousand. These things are great, yet we do greater.

How about the healings he performed as he dwelt amongst the people of the day! During Jesus’ ministry he did many miraculous things amongst those who were sick and dying. But Jesus still did greater than this, and he promises that now we can do greater things than these. How can this be?

Jesus walked on water, he made storms go calm, and a fruitless fig tree withers at his curse. He raised Lazarus from the grave three days after he was had died, as well as Jairus’s daughter and the widow’s son at Nain. He cast out demons, yet he still did greater than all of these things.

So we might come to the conclusion that the greatest thing Jesus did was to die on the cross and come back to life on the third day. This is surely great, however, Jesus didn’t do these things, but rather he was passive in these events. In fact, they were done to him! He never crucified himself, nor did he raise himself from the grave. We human beings crucified him and God raised him.

In all these events plenty of marvellous and miraculous things happened. That’s for sure! However, in these astonishing things a more specific greatness occurs, but is not immediately obvious. This is the greatness to which we have been called since Jesus’ ascension to the right hand of the Father.

Jesus first had to be raised so he could have access to all people, in order for us to do the greater things than the things he did. He and the Father also then had to send the Holy Spirit, so we might be connected to the Father and Jesus Christ as one, and so the greater things can occur.

But before Jesus was raised what he did which was the greatest work, was his faithfulness to the Father, even though he knew it meant his life would be taken, even though he knew he would be killed, he trusted and was obedient unto death.

Jesus greatest works began immediately after his baptism in the Jordan by John when he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He didn’t succumb to temptation but remained faithful. And the greatest work of faithfulness is illuminated by the glory it gives to the Father in heaven.

There was no glory in his forty days of suffering in the wilderness! He could have thwarted the devil with a legion of angelic hosts and revelled in the victory, yet he didn’t and he suffered every trial of his and our humanness. And he continued to this pattern for the duration of his earthly ministry.

In all his miracles he often told the disciples not to tell anyone. Have you ever wondered why? Our rationale would have us spread the news around to drum up support. But support in what? It definitely wouldn’t be support that brings glory to God! No! It would be a masked glorifying of God — it would seemingly glorify God — but in reality would glorify us.

This is why Jesus constantly sought to stay out of the spot light so the glory due to God alone was not distorted into a praise of the healing or those being healed. In fact, on healing individuals he commanded them not to tell anyone but rather go and show themselves to the priests in the temple and worship God.

When we hear in John 14:12 that we will do greater things than Jesus, after he goes to the Father, we always set our minds on the obvious extraordinary circumstances of the events surrounding Jesus’ ministry on earth. But once we peel back the extraordinary exterior the greater, but less obvious, is revealed. And this greater work is what we can do, now that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, and present with, in, and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just as the Father and the Spirit were present with Jesus as he walked to the cross, God is present with us. He is hidden from physical sight, that’s for sure! And just as Jesus trusted his Father, giving him the glory, we now do greater things than Jesus because we do them by faith through the power of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit hidden in his church, in his word, in his holy means that he gives to the church; and because of these things, hidden in us.

The greater things we do are, in fact, still done by God in us! Just as Jesus was passive, we too are passive when we do the greater things. When we allow the full power of Christ’s resurrection and glory to dwell and work in us, the Holy Spirit uses this power to glorify Christ and the Father in heaven, and in the works done through us the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son before all people here on earth. And finally we too will be glorified with Christ when we pass through death into God’s sinless eternity.

So for greater things to happen, God must be glorified “alone”. We become less, so Christ becomes more! And we take on the nature of Jesus being servants in a world that doesn’t recognise it desperately needs to be divinely served by God the Father who sustains, God the Son who graces us with forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit who unites us into Jesus Christ. And all the while, it’s not we who are glorified when doing the greater things individually and collectively in the church, but God “alone”.

Today, we celebrate Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit, to the church, to gather the church around Christ as one, and to give glory to God alone. For us we also celebrate with Lois in her confirmation; as she affirms what the Almighty Lord has done for her. And in a short while she will be called to greater responsibilities in the church in the rite of Confirmation. Lois, how are you to fulfil these greater things?

These things are greater than memory work well learnt, greater than your excellent attendance in class, your comprehension of the faith, or any of the other human gifts you have. This is the greater work of faith.

And not just you Lois, but today we are reminded that all of us who have affirmed our faith in confirmation are called to greater responsibilities and work in God’s church. What are these greater responsibilities and works? How are you performing in doing greater works than Jesus?

It all comes down to faith, or trust in God and his means! This means we come to a realisation that nothing from within our humanness is worthy of glory, but rather is only a cause for despair. That worry and doubt, both born of sinful pride, together with the same boastful pride are allowed to be daily drowned in repentance, so we stand under the authority of Jesus Christ, giving glory to him. Even our failures, which are many for us all, can give glory to Christ, by our allowing Christ to deal with them through confession and allowing his forgiveness to reign supreme though faith.

This is the greater work, the greater responsibility to which all of us have been called with Lois today. Are you prepared to give God the power in your life, let him deal with your weakness, and carry you through the trials of this life?

This greater work happens now in those who believe in him. Greater things happen because God’s faithful children persist in the things God has given — hearing his powerful Word, receiving full forgiveness in our believing reception of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and Holy Absolution.

Furthermore, by allowing ourselves to be immersed in these greater things by the Holy Spirit glory is given to God, and we are faithfully led to participate with Christ in the greater work of prayer for the sake of our neighbours and the world. So they may know of God’s glory and be led into his forgiving presence further glorifying God. Whatever you ask in Jesus’ name, will be done, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)

It comes down to faith and worship, not the faith and worship of our self-centred society, but belief in the ways of worship given by God. This is not all that popular these days! In fact more and more, those who faithfully follow God will be persecuted from inside and outside the denominational churches because of God given faith. Why? Because nobody likes their glory being stolen! One’s pride always takes a big hit when all glory is returned to God. And this happens irrespective of a person being seen to do “the Christian thing” or not.

But take heart when your pride is knocked down or you are persecuted as a result of someone else’s sinful pride, because we know suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)

And lastly hear the promised gift Jesus leaves with those who believe in him, and rejoice that despite the trials we face, we now have the power of a God who has overcome death and is daily giving us the gift of life. Hear and believe what Jesus says to you right now…

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. (John 14:27) Amen.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

C, Ascension - Acts 1:1-11 "Hidden Here"

We don’t know exactly how Jesus went into heaven; all we know is he was hidden by a cloud. Was it a glory cloud similar to that which shrouded Mt Sinai when God spoke, or the cloud which covered the mountain of Transfiguration? We don’t know! What we do know is Jesus was taken into heaven to be at the right hand of the Father in glory, and once this happened the Holy Spirit would come.

Now if it was you or I who had done what Christ had done, wouldn’t we want to stay about and bask in the glory amongst those whom we had helped? A nice little ego massage perhaps! But it was not Jesus’ style nor was it his will to do such a thing.

In fact his whole ministry was one of humility and hidden glory. The spot light was not the motivation for his ministry here on earth, rather this man from Galilee seemed to be much the same as every other ordinary person – maybe even a little weak. His family was in the line of David but they held no priestly office. His dad was a carpenter, a simple man no doubt, and Mary his wife kept the house. As a matter of fact, we know little about Jesus. Only what was needed to be revealed for the sake of our salvation is written about Jesus. The gospel witnesses write specifically about only three years of this man’s life.

In their books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John, we hear Jesus commanding those he healed not to tell anyone. We hear Jesus allowing the devil to come into his presence to try and tempt him, when at any moment he could have repelled him with his divinity. He never sought the high place at banquets and gatherings, but rather served. Think of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet or the outcasts of Jewish society amongst whom he dwelt. When he did find himself in the position of honour he was compassionate and humble, as he was when the woman wiped his feet with tears, perfume and her hair. And in the extraordinary events such as the transfiguration, he asked for the disciples not to make what happened know until after he was gone. Most of the things he did were done in humility before only a few witnesses.

In the four gospels we hear of the events of Holy Week; one week leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Weakness seems to be the theme. He didn’t strike back when captured but submitted to the Father’s will, even though it appeared that through his death he had lost and it was all over. The disciple were very ordinary men, he chose the weak of this world—the unschooled, the unpopular, and the ordinary—to continue his ministry, even after they had all failed in standing with him as he was condemned to die on the cross.

Under all these things God’s glory was hidden. Under the flesh of this man was an all-powerful or omnipotent God. He suffered death and now has risen from the dead. The disciples witnessed these things, and then Jesus appeared only to a certain number for a certain time before ascending into heaven. He didn’t stay with the disciples to build the church first in Jerusalem and then out in the nations of the world. However, as the disciple stood there and watched Jesus disappear into a cloud, it was still only the beginning. The work was not complete and humanity had not given the glory to Christ nor recognised him for who he is. In fact today the work is still not complete, nor has all humanity recognised Christ as glorious Lord of all.

Ever since Christ has ascended, however, he has become powerful. He had to rise from the earth to be omnipotent, all powerful. His all-knowing, or omniscient, presence once only found with the disciples in Jerusalem and the surrounding districts two-thousand years ago is now present everywhere. Jesus is present everywhere, his infinite knowledge is there for everyone, a gift for all people, to know, as he knew. And the power and glory given to him is available to all people.

The disciple’s looked up into the sky and lost sight of Jesus. Two men in white appeared, just like two appeared with Jesus in glory at the Mountain of Transfiguration. Was Jesus still there standing with the two men shining in glorious white clothes? After all, his ministry had only begun and the kingdom of Israel still had to be restored (Acts1:1,6). He was now hidden, first by a cloud just as God was hidden by a cloud when he spoke, and then by his glorious omnipresence throughout creation. What the disciples saw at transfiguration, what Saul saw on the road to Damascus, and what John saw and recorded in the book of Revelation is the reality which is all around us now. These two men dressed in white, representatives of the unseen realm of God which is all around us, announce Jesus will return. Surely their presence was also a testimony the kingdom of heaven was still near even though the King of heaven was now hidden.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray your kingdom come. Has not it already come to us in baptism? Hasn’t Christ come to us? In the explanation of the Second Petition in the Small Catechism, Luther asks us, ‘when does God’s kingdom come?’ And then he says: God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so by his grace we believe his holy Word and live a godly life on earth now and in heaven for ever.

You see Jesus vanished out of sight, but he is still with us, he promised in his word to be with us. He had to become hidden from the physical sight of a few so he could be physically present through the eyes of faith to many. Jesus was not on earth for only thirty-three years and now is absent. He is God with us today and to the very end of the age.

It shouldn’t surprise us he is hidden from the sight of most. Although many saw him two-thousand years ago, they failed to see him as their Saviour and rejected the things he taught them while he was with them. He remains hidden to many today. We do not see him face to face but we do see him. He has sent the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to his hidden presence – in us, in the forgiven sinners we congregate with in church, in the bread, in the wine, and when we hear his word.

It shouldn’t surprise us the church still appears weak to most. But we know it is powerful because the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the reality that the glory of God is not hidden in a cloud but concealed within the limbs and sinews of you and me. We need not look into the distance to see Jesus, he is here with us right now, and he is faithful to you every day regardless of your recognition of him. Now that is powerful!

Jesus did not stay with the disciples to receive commendation for his work of salvation on the cross. His power, once hidden in him on earth, is passed onto us by the Holy Spirit so we might do what Jesus did and continue to do even greater things because he is now with the Father (Jn 14:12). The power which was hidden in him while he was on earth is now revealed through the Holy Spirit, given to, and hidden in us.

How do we handle his power? We look to Jesus as our guide? The power he gives us is only effective if it brings glory to God. Harnessing and restricting this power just for ourselves is like trying to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; it never happens. When we seek to use God’s power for our glory it vanishes like a mirage.

Picture God looking at us from the unseen heavenly realm. What does he see? He sees Jesus hidden in multitudes of Christians, witnessing to the ends of the earth. He sees the Holy Spirit encouraging his church to speak the word of God boldly, bringing glory to his holy name. In our weak human frame he sees the ascended Jesus Christ glorified and powerful.

All power and glory to the God the Father, his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

C, Easter 6 - John 14:23-27 "Time Management"

A couple of weeks ago we heard how Christ having been raised from the dead, confronted Peter on the shores of Lake Galilee and asked him three times if he loved him. And when Peter responded in the positive Jesus then commands him to feed and take care of his sheep and his lambs. If you want to recount these events they can be read in John 21.

In the gospel reading today (John 14:23-29), also under the theme of love, Jesus tells his disciples and us loving God reveals itself in our trust and adherence to his Word. Not only will one who loves God hear the word, but they will uphold or keep it.

So what is upholding God’s Word, in order that we can be reassured we are loved by God? How can you be sure your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life? What guarantee do I have I am being included in heaven’s eternity rather than in an endless existence outcast into a never-ending place of darkness and suffering.

The first thing we can observe is our time management regarding our relationship with God. This time management is not what we do for God, lest we become guilty of trying to earn our salvation through what we do! But rather, it comes down to how much time we allow God to do his thing in, with, and through us. So we ask ourselves, “Am I allowing God access into my hearing heart to conform me to his thinking and will?” Another way of saying this is, “Am I being still, actually stopping, to know and let God be God to me?” Alternatively, “Am I so busy in my own mind and life, being god of myself, to let God be God.”

The sin of time is arguably one of the greatest deceptions these days. People are too busy for healthy relationships with each other. And even worse, we’re too busy to give God any access into ourselves. We become so busy embellishing our relationship with ourselves; we have no time for anyone or anything else.

Let me be clear! This is the number one idolatry against God’s First Commandment where “I am the lord my god, and I will have no other gods other than myself!”

If we think this sin is worse out there amongst the pagans, I would encourage you to stop and take check of yourself. This is one of today’s greatest deceptions in God’s children too. We only need to seriously investigate where the glory trail leads to see we all fail in our time management and our time for listening to God and his will.

In Acts 16 we hear a peculiar occurrence as Paul and Timothy are guided by God not to minister in what we would now know as northern Turkey. Rather than go into the Asian provinces of Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, and Bithynia, they passed by and allowed the Triune God to lead them into Macedonia, which today is northern Greece and modern day Macedonia.

Surely the people of these Asia Minor areas needed salvation too! Paul and Timothy very well could have argued this way and gone there. But with a love for God they placed themselves under his will and were lead elsewhere.

Unfortunately today in the church, we act in a way which Paul and Timothy didn’t. We give God’s will a shove and in its place put our desires, seeking to quickly put God in an ever shrinking box rather than giving God time to conform us into him and his will.

This even happens where we get busy for God, because in doing what “I” believe to be God’s work I am not actually allowing God to be busy in me with his faithful way, truth, or life.

Are you so busy doing “so called” godly things to let God be busy with what he needs to address in you? You know! The things you’d rather keep hidden! You and I must answer “yes” because of our sinful self-centredness.

So, should we despair of being Christian and do as those who once sat beside us and abandon faith in God in favour of a faith in other things as do the pagans? Should we give up as a myth having true peace? Indeed, have we the power to find or hold onto the love of God? Furthermore, does God love me even while things seem to be falling to pieces everywhere in my world?

Seeking answers in ourselves will lead us to despair. Looking into ourselves is in fact the problem. You and I have no answers to save ourselves from death. But rather, death comes to each of us because of who we are.

Every part of our being is tainted by sin; our emotions and feelings, our understanding and thoughts, even our will and our godly works. Because we are being bound to death in this life, every part of our earthly being is dying too. We set ourselves up for failure every time we try to love and exist without someone disempowering the deadliness that pulses from our very desires and efforts.

The answer is with God; in allowing him time to do his will in you! He seeks to do his heavenly work of forgiveness in you. This involves digging out the sin, placing it on the cross, and setting you free from its oppression. We all need to give time to God, to stop our headstrong selves, and let God do what God does. So often we acknowledge what God does but don’t actually let him come near to do it. We want God’s love but we don’t let him love us his way, with his truth, nor with his life – given in death, and raised in victory over sin and death.

Jesus, the Son of God, promises to manifest himself and his love in us. In his work he reassures us that his Father is also our Father in heaven. And because he knows we struggle with receiving and giving forgiveness, we so often succumb to temptations, and we continually need to be delivered from every evil under the sun, he sends the Holy Spirit to continually work in us to call, enlighten, and gather us as one holy church into Christ’s heavenly presence.

The Holy Spirit works in us enabling us to love God, to know we are loved by God, and gives us the ability to let the love of God shine in our lives when we uphold and keep his Word. This means placing yourselves under his authority by hearing his Word, repenting in accordance with what the Law shows us we do wrong, and glorifying the work of Jesus on the cross over all things.

So regardless of the testing times we face, we are continually turned to Christ in faith rather than being lead by unfaithful worry and doubt caused by the tests we face.

Give God time to do his work in you; to let the Holy Spirit teach you with the Word of God so the Word of God is empowered in you, so it can cleanse you from all sin and doubt and worry. And so you hold it up with Christlike trust!

Let the Word of God work in you so the Risen Word, Jesus Christ, in all his glory can reassure and remind you he has done enough for your eternal peace. Let God be the God of your time until it is time for him to take you out of time into eternity.

Jesus answers you, "If you love me, keep my word, and my Father will love you, and we will come to you and make our home with you. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me. "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." (John 14:23-27 with my “you” emphasis)


Saturday, May 01, 2010

C, Easter 5 - Revelation 21:1-6 "ALL things New"

A new car – smell the upholstery. A new tractor – everything in it actually works; there’s no dust on the dash! A new toy – it’s the thing you’ve always wanted. A new home – feel the comfort and enjoy the cleanliness. A new pair of shoes – now you’re walking just a bit taller; you feel just a little bit more important today. A new piece of clothing – now you’re looking like a new person.

New things do something to all of us. The unused, the thing not previously present, the contrast with the old, the adventure of learning, exploring, touching, smelling, using and the experience of owning is a time of great excitement when we get something new.

As you dwelling on those wonderful feelings experienced when you get new earthly things, God invites you in the second last chapter of the bible to focus on an even greater new gift. And with it all the mystery, wonder, and joy of being immersed in the beauty of something new which will never lose its sheen, which will never lose its excitement, which will never lose its value.

Feast your heart on the eternal newness of God’s gift to you as we hear again what this gift is in Revelation chapter 21…

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. (Rev 21:1-6)

Imagine the wow factor the Apostle St John would have experienced when the angel of the Lord showed him this new heaven and new earth. Its newness so dazzling and so amazing; one could imagine it too good to be true.

However, God’s Word is one hundred percent true, and what he shows John is true, and the joy we will experience is something to truly look forward to and yearn for.

In this life, on this earth, we desire new things and love the good feelings they give us. But these things we receive as gifts from others, wear out, breakdown, fade, and fall apart. They are temporary at best. Or, we work and toil for new things. The same still happens; they just don’t last forever! And even worse, the efforts we go to get them, actually wears us out and breaks us down. They cause us grief, heartache, and tears when they go wrong or don’t work properly, only adding to the pace of our own downfall.

But the new heaven and the new earth – the holy city, the New Jerusalem is God’s gift to all who trust in him. For those who endure and persevere in this life with the faith God gives will receive a gift so incomprehensible no words or explanation can truly do it justice. Such is the beauty, the celebration, the joy, the relief, the never-ending newness of this heavenly gift God has for you!

And the amazing thing is he gives it to you despite who you are and he gives it to me despite what I have done. Your sins and my sins don’t count us out, when we allow God to continue making us new in this life. He does this when in faith you allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit to continue cleansing you from your sinful nature and the sin that spews from your sinful nature, so your sin and old nature have no power over you anymore. This is the power of God’s forgiveness in Christ which he calls you to believe.

We don’t fully understand or knowingly experience, the newness Christ and the Holy Spirit are working within. Yet in faith we’re called to trust its happening. When God says, “I am making all things new!” This is his promise to you and all of us; he is making each of us new too. Even now God is wiping away the tears which in the New Jerusalem will be wiped away forever.

But humanity as a whole and each of us as individuals struggles with the newness of this eternal gift from God. Not being able to understand or see, or fully experience this new heaven and earth now, leads us to want to shun the gift. Instead, we like to revert back to the old rather than the new.

It’s like a new pair of shoes being put aside for the old comfortable boots that don’t cause us any pain. The process of God making us new does involve some pain in this life, like blisters do with new shoes, as God reveals and bursts the blisters of our sinful nature, to bring us true eternal healing.

However, the new heaven and new earth God has for you, will be better than any new gift we might receive or thing for which we work in these days. God will be with us, face to face to fit us for heaven and heaven for us. Unlike the pain for gain you must endure in this life, there is, and will be, no payment for the gift God is giving to you. He promises, “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” (Revelation 21:6)

God also promises you that in heaven, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4)

God’s promise to you is this: you also will be a part of this heavenly congregation when you believe in the one he has sent! (John 6:29) This gift of a new heaven and a new earth is for you; God’s personal gift to you won though the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

It is done! It is finished – at the cross, in the bestowal of faith at baptism, and in our trust that God has done and is doing this marvellous thing — He is making all things new! He is making you new, for your new heaven and earth.

Let the Holy Spirit write these things on your heart! For God’s Word is trustworthy and true! Amen.