Saturday, July 30, 2011

A, Pentecost 7 Proper 13 – Isaiah 55:2-3, Psalm 145:8-9 “Real Rest”

The feeding of the five thousand is an impossible picture for us to comprehend. We could expend much energy trying to work out how it happened — rationalising, justifying, questioning, thinking, defending, explaining, ignoring or even attacking the reality of this miracle written in the Word of God. How did Jesus do it? Five loaves, two fish — 5000 men plus women and children — 12 baskets of leftovers. It all seems to be a bit too much.
Today we are not going to focus on this miracle as such, but use it as a catalyst, to allow God to delve right down into our inner being, and address the toilsome troubles buried in the core of our person. What happens in you when you hear the feeding of the five thousand? Rationalising, questioning, thinking, defending, explaining, ignoring or even attacking? Do you look for a way to comprehend or justify what the word of God says next to your everyday reality of heartache, labour, toil, tiredness, and exhaustion?
You see, what is going on in all of us today, is a deep yearning for rest. We hear pleasant pictures painted in the Psalms: the shepherding, the lying down in green pastures, the table set, and the cup overflowing before us. A place of no worries or concern. A place where no harm can come to us, a place of complete rest, a place where we’re served in tranquil peace having been caused to stop and rest from the frantic pace outside these walls. And even more — the worry, doubt, and pride inside, in your heart.
In fact, it’s not really the frantic pace of our western society that’s the cause of the problem. Each of us could be carried a million miles away and yet once there in an isolated corner of creation still feel the effects of a world out of control. Like the feeding of the five thousand in the word of God, the restless world is also a catalyst to your deepest realities of heartache, work, toil, tiredness, and exhaustion. What’s going on in you? Isn’t it time for some real rest?
I’ve been asked on a number of occasions why we use the Psalms; it’s said, they don’t make much sense and are hard to understand! And this is true if they are gleaned into the vacuum of individualism. You definitely will not get the nourishment that’s truly there. The truth is the Psalms, like all of God’s Word, are very personal, it is there to serve you. However, the noise of our inner being, the rationalising, questioning, pondering, defending, explaining, ignoring and attacking effectively blocks the intent of God, who seeks to address the “whole” of your situation in the most personal way.
The Psalm or even the feeding of the five thousand fills our ears, and straight away our heart blocks by challenging from within with the question, “What’s it mean?” And in this noise of seeking to conform the word to our ways, God’s way is lost.
So let’s not ask “what’s it mean?” for the moment, but let’s just let it “do” to us what God seeks it to do. And in letting God do, there will be more meaning in it for us personally than we can ever consume; there will be an eternity of leftovers, lashings of love and mercy, forgiveness and faith. Baskets of leftovers for us to lavish on others!
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. (Psalm 145: 8–9 ESV)
God intends you to rest in him. In the Psalm God seeks to serve your innermost being by drawing you out of yourself to look on him. He wants to reveal the greater reality of your hidden depths within. With these verses of comfort he seeks to enter into the place where lies your greatest fears, your most powerful prejudices, and your most sacred of sins, and there let the beauty and peace of his goodness enlighten you with his grace and mercy — his enduring refreshing forgiveness and favour!
We might want to ask “How can this be? Letting God see the reality and rottenness of my darkest depths and desires, as well as the things I’ve done will get me into big trouble with him!” But nothing could be further from the truth! God is rightly displeased with our sinfulness. However, he seeks to rightly deal with it too! After all he is abounding with wave after wave of rich, overflowing, wealthy, generous love focused on you. And he is slow to anger too.
This slowness to anger, is not over who you are, a sinner. But over not allowing him to deal with you and your sin. Nevertheless, this anger is slow in coming, and he patiently waits your lifetime to deal with your sin, be it ever so gently with you personally, having dealt harshly with it on your cross through the crucifixion of his Son, Jesus Christ.
So at the end of this earthly life, those who have rested in God’s steadfast love, Jesus’ death and resurrection, will be given even more. But those who are exhausted from their efforts to find peace in this life, even the mercy they rejected will be eternally out of reach.
So God has brought you this far into his rest. He has been working on you as you’ve been listening. If you’ve been listening and resting? The inner voice of our sinful humanity still seeks to rise up - rationalising, questioning, thinking, defending, explaining, ignoring and attacking. Our sin filled inner self-appointed authority verses the authority of God and his word, second-guessing what’s being said against the more easily seen exhaustion of daily existence in the twenty-first century. The human spirit struggles to subdue the Holy Spirit’s work of bringing the sinner to salvation, into real rest.
Nevertheless, God is patient. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
He has made you and he waits for you. In your exhaustion and struggle he asks you, Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy? (Isaiah 55:2a ESV) And after we’ve given all our righteous answers, born out of rationalising, questioning, thinking, defending, explaining, ignoring and attacking. He still patiently asks his question.
He does this so we might come to realise it’s not so much about our frantic activities expending energy to make money, or working for satisfaction, but rather the tiring and failing internal activities of the sinful nature trying to live up to our expectations reflected by us and everyone else encouraged on all the more by the father of lies.
So why do you do it? Let this word from God rest on you. Let the word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of “your” heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV with “personal” emphasis). None of us are hidden from God, let’s be honest with ourselves and God, so we might get some real rest now, and forever!
When we allow this to happen, we no longer continue on the self destructive path of rationalising, questioning, thinking, defending, explaining, ignoring and attacking the deeper reality of God, and the hidden truths of our inner being. But we come face to face with Almighty God stopping, resting, hearing, confessing, receiving, trusting, believing, adoring, glorifying, and hoping.
This is the narrow path of God. Those who traverse it know it's not by their energy expended they walk it but rather it's by Christ and his Holy Spirited energy who carries them on it into eternal life.
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. (Isaiah 55:2–3 ESV)
This steadfast sure love for David, is also for you. This love is Jesus Christ. Come, hear, incline your ear, stop and listen. Come to Jesus! Pour your true selves, your depths of sin on him, that you may have real rest, rich eternal food, and your soul may live. Amen.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A, Pentecost 6 Proper 12 – 1 Kings 3:5-12, 16-28 “Wisdom from God”

Two prostitutes plying themselves to their whorish trade find themselves in a predicament. Both of them are tripped up in an obvious work hazard and give birth to babies. As was their practise the mothers slept and nursed their children in their beds. Unfortunately one of the mothers smothers her baby by accidentally rolling on it while she slept during the night. The next morning the two mothers awoke to find one child dead. Accusations fly that the mother of the dead child swapped the two children during the night and now both argue that she is the mother of the living child.

Being the only two in the house the prostitutes need someone to come and judge who is the mother and who is lying. There was no DNA test to show the maternal mother, only equal claims on the child. These two women needed a person who might hear the case and understand exactly what had happened. They needed a person who could hear not just the words from their mouths but also the thoughts and motives concealed within; one who truly understood, one who knew the truth of what was going on.

King Solomon was that man. In fact he was the king of Israel and highly respected by people near and far. Everyone who knew of his wisdom came into his courts for advice. From social misfits to the queen of Sheba, all came because of Solomon's ability to discern between right and wrong. He was blessed with wisdom; with the ability to hear and understand just what was going on.

So how did Solomon decide which mother was the true mother of the living child and who was the mother who had rolled on her child and smothered it. Solomon's wisdom put the mothers to the test and he called the living child to be sawn in two and half given to each woman. One mother thought it was a reasonable idea, but, in a bid to preserve the life of her child, the other mother pleaded Solomon to give her baby to the other woman to spare its life. Solomon's wisdom led him to make a seemingly foolish decree that would allow him to simply hear and understand the truth of the situation. The true mother in her desperation to preserve the life of her flesh and blood ultimately winning out and Solomon returned the child to her.

From where did this wisdom come? How is it that Solomon knew to use such deadly words to find the true mother? We are told when all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, …they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. (1 Kings 3:28 ESV) Solomon had wisdom from God.

We have heard in text that Solomon was a weak man. When Solomon first became king he said to God, And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. (1 Kings 3:7 ESV) Solomon was weak; he was immature and hadn't developed the ability to govern what his father had left him. Solomon was not a baby or a toddler; in fact he was probably about twenty years old when he took up his father's leadership. But he knew he needed to suckle on the wisdom and experience of someone else if he was going to survive as king and lead the enormous kingdom of Israel.

Solomon was a weak man, his immaturity led him to sacrifice and burn incense on the high places originally built to worship Baal. But in his weakness and immaturity God still came to Solomon, even after he offered a thousand burnt offerings at Gibeon's high place. God appeared in a dream and said, Ask for whatever you want me to give you. Aware of his short fallings Solomon asks, Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? (NIV) Discernment—the ability to distinguish or judge correctly—to be able to truly hear and understand without being led astray by coloured words or by his own wayward heart. This is what he asked for, and this is what God gave to him.

God gave Solomon wisdom and in this wisdom Solomon leaves the high place at Gibeon and returns to Jerusalem going to the Ark of the Covenant, the earthly footstool of God, and burns offerings to God. Solomon then went on to build the temple of the Lord, to house the Ark of the Covenant, in Jerusalem. He built God's earthly dwelling on the plot of land that King David bought, the threshing floor of Araunah.

Unfortunately Solomon lost his wisdom in latter days. He lost sight of God and the understanding that only God could give. He became a whore to his wives and their Gods, and built altars and high places for them. His discerning heart was severed from its source; when he turned his back on God the wisdom also went. His seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines became the centre of his attention and without God and the wisdom he gave, Solomon's weakness ruled his life once again. He gave up his God given, God glorifying judgement, and turned to judgement without the wisdom of God.

God calls us to be discerning in all we do. But if Solomon in all of his wisdom can lose it, how is it that you and I might retain the wisdom God has gifted us with in our lives?

Like Solomon we are weak in our sinfulness, we are not able to get ourselves out of our predicament. But God came to us while we were still sinners and gives us wisdom and maturity. In fact the most mature person is one who has no need to take the wisdom of God and colour it with worldly understanding. The most faithful person is surely a young baby at baptism, lying in the arms of Jesus, trusting completely in his gift of eternal life. Unfortunately as we grow we learn to become weak and immature and chase after the things of this world. And then it takes a life time for us to recognise and surrender to the maturity and wisdom of God which was placed in us at baptism.

So how does God affirm and reaffirm that maturity he places in us at baptism, even though we continually seek to dilute it with the immaturity of our worldly thinking? And how is it that God allows you and me to become wise and discerning, first of ourselves and then of others? So that the maturity of God allows us to have faith like that of a child, and to follow God like a little child follows its daddy? And so we can lovingly encourage others to hang onto the wisdom God has given them?

Solomon's wisdom came from God, and our wisdom, to hear and understand with the heart of God-like compassion, comes from Jesus Christ alone. Unlike Solomon, Jesus didn't just receive the wisdom of God; he is the wisdom of God. Solomon was merely a custodian of the wisdom and so too were the Pharisees and the scribes, the teachers of the law, in Jesus' day. Their understanding and ability was incomplete and far from perfect, whereas Jesus is perfect in discerning just what you and I need, so much so that in complete wisdom he was crucified, buried, and raised for you and me. He knows you and understands you perfectly; he hears exactly what you need. He knows your inner most thoughts—your misery, your joy, your suffering, your secret sins—he knows your human plight. In Jesus you find the perfection of wisdom, not Solomon in his earthly kingdom but rather the King of kings in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God. When Jesus spoke—he spoke not like a scribe, a teacher of the Law, a secretary of the Word—he spoke with authority and wisdom as God the Son, the Word of God living as a human amongst humanity. Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God, and he speaks as the King of Heaven, here on earth as a man to you.

Jesus is the wisdom of God and he lives in us right from our baptism. Some grow and bury Jesus under a whole heap of garbage in their lives, gathering around them many gods just as Solomon gathered and worshipped his wives and concubines. But no matter how much garbage you have in your life, and we all have our favourite whorish activities, Jesus is still there in you living his wisdom. His perfect wisdom is hidden in you and in his perfect wisdom he intercedes on our behalf before our Father in Heaven together with the Holy Spirit. And these two members of the Trinity take our prayers and present them to, Abba, God our Father, as a pleasing aroma even while we struggle to surrender and lie in the arms of God with the maturity of a little child, confident in faith that we will receive for what we ask and for what we need.

How can we be confident that this all happens for us? The word of God promises us if God is for us who can be against us! Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ. That is: nothing will separate us from his wisdom in our lives and his Kingdom in eternity. There is not one thing in this life that anyone can do to sever the promise God makes to you in Christ Jesus; there is nothing anyone can do to sever God from the wisdom found in his Word, written and incarnate.

You have been predestined to be God's child, hear his word, his promise, and joyfully receive the child-like maturity and wisdom he places in you, which leads you and calls you to his Kingdom. Jesus lives in you, wisdom lives in you, the King of Heaven lives in you; this wisdom has predestined and called you by his word to be a part of his kingdom forever. Amen.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A, Pentecost 5 Proper 11 - Matthew 13:24-30 "Wheat & Weeds"

Key Text Matthew 13:24-30
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ”‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 ”‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Sermon
Who are the weeds and who are the wheat? In my life, do I produce weeds or do I produce wheat? These are good questions for us to ask as we examine the gospel reading for today? In fact the parable of the weeds and the wheat is very timely at this time of year since many have just finished planting their crops and the paddocks are carpets of green.
However, these carpets of green are not just the infant wheat, barley, and oat plants. There are weeds growing amongst the crops too! Who put the weeds there? When farmers plant, do they inadvertently sow weeds too? Jesus says that the enemy plants the weeds in the good soil. Who is this enemy? In most cases there’s no sinister neighbour who would go to the effort or have the time to sow weeds amongst your wheat.
So two questions remain: Who are the weeds and the wheat? Or more importantly, am I wheat or weeds? And secondly, who is the enemy if I don’t have an adversary climbing over my fence to plant the weeds?
This agricultural picture is one to which we can all relate. Every one of us knows what a pain weeds can be; literally, for children who get prickles stuck in their feet; and financially, for those who spend much time and effort to rid their gardens and paddocks of weeds.
In last week’s Gospel reading Jesus tells of the parable of the farmer who plants his seed which falls on different types of soil. God is the farmer and we are the soil. But in this parable God is not the only farmer! The soil, or the world, which receives the seeds of God’s word also has the seeds of weeds—the seeds of sin, the seeds of Satan—planted in it too.
Are you a weed or wheat; a bad seed or a good seed? It’s a scary question if we honestly examine ourselves. And if the weeds weren’t sown in us how is it that we keep on sprouting up the weeds of sin in our lives?
As any farmer knows looking after good soil and keeping it that way takes a lot of work. One must be careful not to introduce weeds as one seeks to improve their dirt. Gardeners know of this problem. Manure and straw is good for the garden but sometimes the weeds in the straw and the manure do more harm than good.
Well God doesn’t introduce weeds or sins when he fertilises us with his word, but when we take his word and mould it to suit us there’s a big danger that weeds might be sown in the good soil that God has made us to be with his word.
Also sometimes the weeds of sin still appear even when everything seems to have been done right. Clean mulch and organic matter is placed on the soil of our hearts by God, and the fruit of sin still grows from us. Where do the weeds come from? Have you ever found yourself suffering from the exasperation of recurring weeds? Seeds of sin may have laid dormant in you, way past the point of you remembering when the sin first occurred, and them something happens only to bring back the sin of the past.
The good news in all of this is that asking the questions and recognising the weeds in us is half the battle won. God has given us all the ability to look into our hearts and recognise weeds. Unfortunately though, we even abuse this gift too by then taking this ability of noticing the weeds and look over our neighbours’ fences and criticise them about all the weeds of sin growing in their dirt. But God calls us to look at ourselves and see the weeds of sin that need rooting out of us.
So how does this all happen? How do we notice the weeds in the garden, when we can’t even see the garden because of the weeds that obstruct our view of it? In Paul’s letter to the Romans he says, ‘if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.’ (Romans 8:10-11) The Spirit of Jesus which lives in us is none other than the Holy Spirit and it is he, through God’s word, which opens our eyes to the weeds which need rooting out.
Paul goes on to say, ‘If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.’ (Romans 8:13b-14) So it is the Holy Spirit living in us, by God’s grace and the power of his word, who puts to death the misdeeds, the bad habits, the weeds of sin, our corrupted natures. After he does that he then places in us Christ, so, to the Father in heaven we appear as ‘Sons of God’. God the Holy Spirit places the richness of Jesus, God’s only Son, in our hearts, so we can stand before God holy and blameless as his forgiven children. All this happens when the Holy Spirit reveals the weeds in us, and encourages, leads, and gives us the words to say sorry to our Heavenly Father in repentance. Our sin is shown for what it is and we surrender saying, ‘yes God, you are right and I am wrong, no ifs or buts, I am sorry!’
One of the greatest feelings there is, is the feeling of having the burden of sin lifted off one’s shoulders. When we say sorry God has already forgiven us, but if we think it is not appropriate to say sorry well then our sins remain, and the weeds continue to grow. God calls us to a life in Christ; the Holy Spirit enables that to happen through the word of God for Jesus’ sake. Because of our weedy existence though, he calls us to continually let the Holy Spirit root out the weeds in us.
Now that we are Sons and heirs with Christ, we can confidently call out to our Father for all that we need. Just like a little child dependant on its daddy we too can call out to God our Father, our Heavenly Dad. We can pray for all we need and be confident that God hears us. And we can be confident that even though we struggle with weeds of sin in our lives we are God’s children.
When God sends Jesus Christ to the final harvest he will find us cleansed and pure like a golden head of wheat, the weeds of sin already bundled and burn through the fires of the Holy Spirit at baptism and God will harvest us and take us to be with him in glory. Amen.
And the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

A, Pentecost 4 Proper 10 Matthew 13:9; Isaiah 55:10-11 “He who has Ears”

He Who Has Ears
A sermon on Matthew 13:9; Isaiah 55:10-11
Pentecost 4 Proper 10 (Year A)
10/07/11 Pastor Heath Pukallus Katanning-Narrogin Lutheran Parish

Jesus says, "He who has ears let him here!" This is a strange phrase! It sounds as if there were those around the place without ears. Some people are born without ears, some loose the outer ear through accident or skin cancer, and some are born deaf. But this is not what Jesus is talking about here. The deformity was not physical but rather spiritual, as the people had perfectly good ears, but some were not prepared to stop and hear Jesus speak to their hearts; into their personal situation.

One of the teachers at seminary, often remarked, the organ of faith is the ear. Faith enters us through the ear. We believe in many things that grow out of our experience, our education, or our environment, but true faith comes to those whose ears are permitted to hear the word of God.

The reason faith may not come to someone is because the person fails to trust in the word of God. The readings this week focus extra attention on the word of God, calling us to see it is not God nor his word that need to be reviewed, but rather you and me need to render our hearts so we can be returned to the only thing that matters in a mortal's life. In other words if you wish to dwell in the eternal kingdom of heaven, let you who have ears hear!

In Isaiah 55 we're told quite clearly, "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10–11 ESV)

Yet mistrust over things like rain coming are common, and even greater faithlessness in God to provide regardless of feast or famine. So if we can't even trust God's promise in his word to provide seed and bread, the earthly things, how much more is the unbelief in the eternal things promised which are never seen in this life without faith? If you can't trust God for the simple seen things, how do you expect to trust him for the hidden treasures of heaven?

Make no mistake, we stand at the crossroads. It's time you allowed Christ to lead you as he did St Stephen. Is this congregation going to glorify Christ in its members' move towards death? And therefore grow in faith as a congregation in this place. Or, is it going to die not having allowed God to let his word water it and return to heaven having done what he intends it to do?

Jesus tells the parable of the seed scattered in different places; on a path, on rocky ground, amongst thorns, and then in good soil. What is the same for each seed? It dies! Every seed the sower casts, dies, but only the seed sown on good soil brings glory to he who has sown it. Like Saint Stephen it is God's will for you to lay down your lives as living sacrifices bringing glory to God and allowing faith to increase within, rather than continue dying while trying to keep up appearances.

At this point there will be some of you who are shutting down to what God is saying to you. Indeed the hammer of the law has fallen hard, and it needs to! But my prayer and God's will is that a majority of you are struck in the core of your being by the Holy Spirit and want to know, how we might be this "good soil" so God is glorified in our dying and we as individuals are caught up into the bountiful harvest at the Lord's return?

It can all be summed up in the simple words of Jesus – He who has ears let him here! Now one might joke that without ears, someone who needs to wear glasses will not see either. On what does one hang their glasses if they have no ears? But spiritually speaking this is no joke, it’s truth. Without ears to hear, one will not see or eternally experience God’s love, instead only his wrath and separation.

The greatest problem is not that we don’t have ears, but that you with ears are keeping them from hearing God’s word. This is either done practically by not regularly bringing your ears into the hearing of his word, mainly due to hardness of heart. Or, the worries of this world choke you and deafen you to his word. Or, there’s an expectation that the word is a quick fix and when in sinfulness it doesn’t suit you, you let the word within die.

But why anyone would have that for themselves by thinking they don't need to hear God is beyond me! Jesus has already bore the wrath of God on the cross and now he seeks to lift us up in glory through his resurrected power over death! St Stephen died full of the Holy Spirit trusting in this resurrection power. In fact he saw the glory of the Father and Jesus at his side as his assailants covered their ears and stoned him to death as he proclaimed the resurrection. God calls you to unblock your ears and hear. He who has ears let him here!

Just about any soil can be made good if it's acted upon. Even good soil not acted upon in the right way can become saline and good for nothing. So while we have ears to hear there is hope. But you who cut yourselves off from hearing God is like soil which refuses to receive water and nutrient becoming more and more a wasteland. Yet it need not be like this at all!

Hearing with ears connected to the heart allows the Holy Spirit to work deep within us, rooting out the darkness of sin, taking the salinity out of the soil. Unlike the saltpans left to produce nothing, showing the dying and dead trees of a bygone era, when God exposes the salinity of sin in you he excavates it leaving rich organic soil worked by the Holy Spirit. And the sin he takes out is heaped on a hill called Calvary.

He who has ears let him here!

But there's a final part to this message. When you allow yourself to hear, you are allowing the community of God to work upon you.

We are not called to read the word of God. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with reading the bible, but it happens in response to hearing it. Hearing however, calls you into community, first with the Trinity, and then with all others who have been called into this triune fellowship.

It takes one to read but it takes a community to hear. God the Father speaks to you, he speaks his Word, and this is Jesus Christ – the "Word made Flesh". And when he speaks the Holy Spirit is the carrier of the Word made Flesh to the ear and the heart. This in turn switches on the eye of faith so we might see the faith community here on earth and those who are in need of hearing the word of God. Others who like us were once dying seed on rocky, hard, thorn strewn ground.

And as the Holy Spirit uses us to enrich others with Jesus' gifts, he also continues his residual effect in us of tilling and fertilising us with forgiveness and faith in the gifts of Jesus' body and blood and written word.

So what is it for us and our congregation? There are worse times just ahead. Strife we Australians have never experienced is coming and it will devastate all who trust in themselves. But for those who have ears to hear, faith will only increase in the midst of suffering, just as St Stephen's faith held fast in his hour of death.

It's more crucial to rend the heart at the moment, than the garment! Now is the time to allow the depths of the heart to be worked with the Word of God, so the salinity of sin deep within can be saturated in forgiveness and salvation. Those who have ears to hear will allow God's word to return to him having done what God sent it to do! Amen.

Friday, July 01, 2011

A, Pentecost 3 Proper 9 – Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30; Romans 7:15-25a “It Croaks and then it Croaks”

It Croaks and then it Croaks
A sermon on Matt 11:16-19, 25-30, and Romans 7:15-25a
3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 9, YR a) 6/07/11
by Ps Heath Pukallus Katanning Narrogin Lutheran Parish

Key Texts

'15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?' (Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24 NIV)

18 "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners."' But wisdom is proved right by her actions. 27 All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:18-19, 27-30 NIV)

Sermon

There was a little frog who came up out of the ground when it began to rain. As he came up through the mud and darkness he realised he had company with many other frogs. They sat in the rain and croaked; in fact so much so, that the croaks of a thousand frogs created such a din that nobody could hear a thing. These frogs are noticeable and identified by their call; yeah-but yeah-but yeah-but yeah-but. Maybe you have heard one lately!

From the Word of God Jesus says, 'Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest'…yeah-but yeah-but. 'Go and make disciple of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have told you'…yeah-but yeah-but. 'Blessed are you when people insult you persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me'…yeah-but yeah-but. 'If you forgive those when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive them their sins your Father will not forgive your sins'…yeah-but yeah-but. 'Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved'…yeah-but yeah-but

The frogs get very noisy these days. It's hard to hear the word of God with all their croaking. From where is that sound coming, I wonder? Sometimes it's even harder to hear Jesus tell me just what he has done for me. 'I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me'…yeah-but yeah-but. 'I am with you always even to the end of the age'…yeah-but yeah-but. 'The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a random for many'…yeah-but yeah-but. 'The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life'… yeah-but yeah-but. 'Take eat and drink this is my body, this is my blood given and shed for you'…yeah-but yeah-but. I'm sick of that noise where is it coming from?

That frog is wallowing in the mud alright, wallowing and croaking doubt within me! You've probably heard that same species of frog croaking in you. It never really seems to go away. Yeah-but Jesus that's too ridiculous to believe. Yeah-but they are not Christians see how they acts. Yeah-but if I can just prove it then I will believe. Yeah-but why should I forgive them I am much better than them. Are the frogs of doubt, the frogs of mis-trust, the frogs of self-importance, the busy feel good frogs of human understanding so loud in you that you fail to hear God or receive the benefits from being in his rest?

Jesus likened his generation to children rather that frogs. Kids playing with each other in the marketplace squabbling and fighting because one won't play and dance while others won't be mellow and mourn. A parent might say, 'you shouldn't have started the fight!' And then all the excused follow, 'yeah-but yeah-but yeah-but'. In Jesus' generation and today he calls us to be discerning; he calls us to sharpen our focus, train our ear, and silence our tongues so we might hear his word, repent, and receive the forgiveness we all need so desperately.

Jesus tells us those who are not discerning are in dire trouble on the day of judgement if they do not repent. Against those who excuse him Jesus denounced their cities in which his miracles were performed, because they did not repent. Like our little frog croaking, so much so, he doesn't stop long enough to be fed, dying once the mud returns to a hard clay pan, so too are those who find every excuse to croak about themselves rather than receive the life giving food of God and repent. The one who croaks loudest croaks it first! These little frogs are prophets of evil and death!

Who are you? Who am I? Why am I the way I am? What makes me do the things I do? These are all very good questions for us Christians on the quest of recognising who we are, as we struggle with sin, and all the baggage these noisy little frogs croak up in us, trying to distract us and those with whom we come in contact.

In Paul's letter to the Romans, he gives us a very privileged look at his disgust with the frogs of evil that harm him. Paul bears his soul to us and struggles with who he is; he is a Christian and hears the Word of God, he is a sinner croaking within and carrying it out. This text in Romans seven is a hard text to digest. I encourage you to dissect it, but for now hear the confusion and angst bubble over as Paul writhes with his reality under Christ and the reality of living with sin in this life. Hear and know that it is not just you who struggles with the frogs of evil. '15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?' (Romans 7:15, 18-19, 22-24)

These would have to be some of the most passionate words spoken by Paul. You might think he should have it all together being a noteworthy apostle; having been confronted by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus and undergoing the definitive conversion experience. But troubled by sin and death he cries out, 'Who will rescue me from death?'

It might seem that we are failures in our Christian lives. So often we only hear the croaking death knells of sin. In fact we see the destruction we cause to ourselves and others all around us, and continually croak, yeah-but to excuse it. But Jesus calls us to stop croaking and rest in him. Yes, stop, listen, and rest!

Listen to this, 'No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.' That is you to whom he has chosen to reveal the Father. And before those little frog croaks begin again, let me give you a "but" from God. One to silence all the yeah-buts within. 'But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. (Rom 3:21-24) God says, 'you are a sinner, yeah-but you are my child now because of Jesus Christ'.

In the gospel we hear that John came neither eating nor drinking and they said yeah-but he has a demon. Let God's messengers reveal to you the demon-like yeah-but frogs croaking in you, so you might repent and seek forgiveness. We also hear Jesus came eating and drinking and they said yeah-but he is a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Let Jesus carry the gluttony and debauchery of your sinful lives. Let him take your sin to the cross so that it no longer weighs you down, let him take the guilt of your sin on himself, so that sin has no power in your lives even though the frogs will never go away while you live in this life. Let Jesus, the wisdom of God, prove you right before God. After all, as we have heard in the gospel, wisdom is proved right by her actions. (Matt 11:19) God is proved right by the actions of Christ on the cross, for you and me!

Jesus says in the Word of God, "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." So hold back the croak of death and put on the yoke of Jesus instead. To Jesus Christ and him alone, let us flea. Amen.

Prayer
"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to us, your little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." Amen