Saturday, April 21, 2012

B, Easter 3 – 1 John 3:1-3,7 “One Hundred Years”

One hundred years ago Robert Scott set out for the South Pole and arrived there on the 17th of January 1912. Just over two months later he and his team of four perished trying to return from their feat. One member of his party's last words were recorded leaving the tent as, "I am just going outside and may be some time" deliberately doing so to die. The last member dying on the 29th of March!
One hundred years ago on March the 1st Albert Berry nervously jumped from an aircraft to see if his invention would actually work. It did! He was the first person to parachute from a plane. Later in the year in October the first bomb was dropped from a plane. I'm guessing it made a bigger bang than Albert's first parachute jump. The women are not left out either. On April the 16th Harriet Quimby was the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
However, just two days earlier, in the opposite direction the Titanic ploughed along the side of an Iceberg and in the early hours the next morning it sunk into the Atlantic Ocean. Of the two thousand two hundred and twenty-three souls on board only seven hundred and nine survive. But little do we hear that in May of 1912 the SS Imperator slid down the slipway into the sea at Hamburg. It was the largest ship built in its day.
Back in Australia Andrew Fisher was Australia's Prime Minister under Governor-General Thomas Denman, and King George the fifth. And here in the West John Scaddan was the Premier and Sir Gerald Strickland, the Governor.
Off the coast of WA a tragedy on the water yet again but this time a cyclone sinks a ship; the SS Koombana, killing around 150 people. And Australia has its first aircraft accident between Mount Druitt and Rooty Hill in Sydney. But back on dry ground Francis Birtles becomes the first person to cross the Nullarbor Plain in a car on the 13th of April 1912.
On the 10th of October the Maternity Allowance Act 1912 is passed, granting a "Baby Bonus" of five pounds to the mother of every child born in Australia. Now this must have come as quite disturbing news to the Kowald clan as born on the 19th of March, Ruby Kowald was the 13th child to Frederick Wilhelm Kowald and second last to him and his second wife Johanne Susanna Kowald (nee Zadow). Now I believe five pounds was quite a sum in 1912, perhaps this is why Frederick and Johanne fronted up again to have child number fourteen, Ella.
However, searching through public records on 1912 there is no mention of Ruby Kowald. In fact she shares her birth year with two WW2 fighter aces, one a German ace, shares her birthday of the 19th of March. His name was Adolf Galland who went on to become a general and friend of many whom he would have fought against over the English Channel. Ruby also shares her birth year with Gregory "Pappy" Boyington a US Marine ace who served in the Pacific and won the Purple Heart. Perhaps Ruby might have been the first female fighter ace if she had taken to the air with her 1912 colleagues.
But seriously, Ruby as most of us, will not be remembered by the annuals of popular human achievement, or tragedy, or by some other extraordinary event. Nevertheless, there is an extraordinary event that occurred in 1912, one which has not been recorded in popular history, but which exceeds in greatness over all other feats recorded.
This occurred yesterday one hundred years ago and like the Titanic it involved a drowning death in water. But it also includes a resurrection from the dead, and a rebirth more memorable than Ruby's earthly birthday on the 19th of March. One hundred years ago yesterday God took Ruby and made her his own, his child.
Ruby was drowned in the waters of baptism where she was united with Jesus Christ in his death on the cross. But for the last one hundred years God has been also daily raise her to life, calling her to daily drown the sinful human nature through repentance. One hundred years ago our Lord then sent the Holy Spirit into her heart to move and will her so she might have enduring peace and hope. And I pray as your pastor but also as a young brother in Christ that you Ruby have allowed Jesus to do his justifying work in you to the glory of God the Father.
But it's not just for Ruby! It's for all of us who have been baptised into him. We all yearly celebrate a birthday greater than our earthly birthday. All who are baptised are called to believe they are now yearly celebrating an eternal birthday, one that will go on being celebrated long after our earthly birthday is forgotten.
However, this day is not written down in the chronicles of history. In fact most in the world pay no attention to this wonderful eternal life changing event which when trusted gives us more than any feat we might accomplish here on earth. Nevertheless, we are called to see, hear, believe, and trust what has been freely given to us, but given at great cost to Jesus Christ, nailed to the cross for all and raised to new life for all who trust in him. Therefore…
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practises righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. (1 John 3:1-3,7 ESV) Amen.

Friday, April 13, 2012

B, Easter 2 – 1 John 1:5-2:2 “Living vs. Lying”

Light and darkness, black and white, night and day. When the sun rises the darkness disappears, and when it sets darkness envelops what was once seen in the light.

When we walk in the light of Christ, we walk out of the darkness, and expose what the darkness once hid. At this point in time we have two options available to us. One is to rid ourselves of the thing revealed by the light, or we can return to the darkness so we once again cannot see what was revealed by the light.
This is why the devil hates the word of God so much. When he hears the truth it reveals he is the chief of liars; that he never tells the truth; that he lies even to himself. Jesus, the Light of God reveals what the devil hides in darkness!
I imagine when Jesus descended into hell after being crucified on the cross, the devil was infuriated the light of God was not extinguished, but faithfully even there the light showed exactly what the darkness of hell was hiding. From that moment to now and unto all eternity the knowledge of their evil and the absence of God to forgive will be the sword in the sides of those whose phony faith once deceived them on earth.
In St John's first epistle, he writes what might be hard for our ears to hear. He speaks frankly about light and darkness, sin and truth, those who repent and those who are liars, those who know him and those who don't, the fellowship of the forgiven and the futility of the faithless. But John and the Apostles are writing these things so that their joy, your joy, and the joy of the one Christian church on earth might be complete. (1 John 1:4)
You see, now that the eternal battle has been won on the cross, the devil has only limited power. Yet this power works on all of us individually, internally, seeking to turn us from the eternal fellowship of the eternal kingdom with the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and all the saints. Seeking to return those of the oneness of Christendom back to the oneness of self and sin! To turn us from the New Adam who resisted temptation and won forgiveness for us on the cross back to the old Adam and his original sin.
So serious is this that in the first days of the church, not even what might seem to be a little white lie was tolerated. In fact it still isn't! We have heard in the book of Acts the oneness and common holiness of the early church. But immediately after this account we can hear the consequences of a lie.
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God." When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:1–11 ESV)
What was the root of sin here; a lack of trust, greed, popularity, approval, a piece of glory perhaps? One will never really know! But we know they weren't selling the property to glorify God as they wanted it to appear. The oneness was for themselves rather than the one Christian and Apostolic church. And what's for sure here is this couple was made an example of for the sin they sought to cover with a lie.
The easy thing to do here is to quickly overlook this piece of scripture. But we do so to our detriment! In fact, overlooking any piece of scripture is not a wise course of action! Rather we do better to heed the warning and examine ourselves in the light of this text and John's words in his first epistle.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 1:8–2:1 ESV)
If you are one with Christ; if you allow him to lead you from darkness into light, sin no longer separates you from God, but retreating back into the darkness and hiding the sin, perhaps pretending it doesn't exist, is a deathly exercise indeed.
Hiding the sin or returning to the darkness shows a lack of trust in Jesus. In fact, this action makes him out to be a liar, and it makes the power of the cross impotent. And if you relegate the cross as incapable of atoning for your sin, then in the darkness of your sin you remain.
The healthiest course of action for us who wish not to be swallowed by darkness is to acknowledge our sin before God, trusting Jesus' death and resurrection has indeed the power to cleanse us from sin. That by the atonement of Christ on the cross the Holy Spirit is cleaning us from our sin, and will continue to clean us from sin every day of our lives until we are called into the eternal oneness of God's holiness and peace.
…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 ESV) He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)
Let us come clean to our sin, so the Son of Righteousness can shine the light of his forgiveness on us, cleansing us of all our sin. Then we can let this light shine from our forgiven hearts into a world that desperately needs the same resurrecting forgiveness and the eternal peace that comes from it. Amen.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

B, Resurrection of our Lord – Isaiah 25:6-9 “The Veil Removed”

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isaiah 25:6–9 ESV)
The consequences of the cross are outlined in all their glory here in Isaiah. Rich food, the fatty marrow, aged wine refined to perfection. A well set wedding spread second to none, without any tears or anxieties, just pure joy and celebration.
This is the joy that was set before Jesus, leading him to endure the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated in glory at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 12:3)
The curtain in the temple, the separation between God and man, has been torn in two. All who are baptised into Jesus in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, have now had the oppression of eternal death removed.
On that first Good Friday, when Jesus hung on the cross dying, darkness shrouded the land for three hours, and then at three pm the curtain in the temple ripped from top to bottom. Jesus had given up his spirit and died, at that precise moment the exchange occurred. Jesus entered the temple not with the blood of lambs but with his own precious blood, gaining us access to the Father as if we ourselves were Jesus at his right hand.
Then buried in the tomb, Jesus kept the Sabbath like no other. He was still and he knew God, bringing glory to him, by bearing the truth of the gospel, even in hell before Satan and his legions. The devil now stands condemned, where he thought he had victory yet again by a tree, he was in fact beaten on the tree. A tree that looked so deathly was in fact the tree of life.
This is the master stroke of God. By being still in the grave, having been crucified, the greatest battle was won. Now Satan is eternally dying having been beaten by the death of Jesus Christ, the stillness of God. We can now remember this Sabbath as the most holy of Sabbath's, the Sabbath to fulfil all Sabbaths.
So now the curtain no longer needs to remain. The veil that once protected people from God's glory has been removed. Knowledge of good and evil has been surpassed by the eternal tree of life. All have access to God, and the Holy Spirit shows God's word to be true when all hear it.
So too the veil is being removed from us to reveal Christ within. The darkness of sin that once had its hold over us, now has no hold over those who trust in the tree of life. Now there is no question over how much good is "good enough" and as we come to know more and more our evil, as the veil is removed, closer and closer we can draw near to our Father, knowing we have been sprinkled clean from a guilty conscience.
All we might do is thank God and join him in this banquet to which we have been invited. To sit at his feet and enjoy the cleansing he gives to us all. God has given the food, God has poured the wine, God has place the marrow of Christ's fullness in each of us. The body and blood of the Lamb has swallowed up all death, all reproach, and all your tears. You are now blameless so bind yourself to the Lord.
The invitation says, "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28 ESV) This rest is eternal rest, from death, in God's presence. Allow the Holy Spirit to dress you in the wedding robes of Christ's righteousness having had your clothes of sin and death removed.
All we're called to do is trust and wait on him. We here in Isaiah, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
And this waiting for him simply involves allowing ourselves to be bound to him. Tied to him, to his death, and his resurrection! And then waiting in the sure hope and knowledge that he is our God who has given us life in Christ, through baptism, though the cross, on the mountain of the Lord's salvation.
Like Lazarus Jesus will be standing at your tomb and he will call you out by name, unbind you, and set you free, because you are bound to him and his resurrection and his life.
Jesus says to you, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. (Psalm 43:3–4 ESV) Amen.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

B, Maundy Thursday – John 13:1-17, 13b-35 “The King Who Serves”

Someone you respect, you highly esteem or are in awe of, comes to you. You want to do right by them. You have been following them for some time, watching what they do, copying their actions, learning their ways and their teachings. In fact, you wish more than anything else in the world, you could be more like them.
But your grandiose ideals of them come crashing down when your hero happens to do something less than heroic. You see the weakness in the person you have lauded all this time and suddenly your world seems to be thrown into chaos as the pedestal seems to be taken out from under them. And maybe confusing too, since they themselves have deconstructed your esteemed views of them!
Perhaps it was an actor, a politician, a sportsperson, someone in the public eye who fell from your grace? Or, a friend, a school teacher, your child, your spouse, a parent, or someone personally dear to you! No matter whom it was, or still is, the wheels fall of the cart, the house of cards comes tumbling down, when the one you have exalted, begins to exhibit actions not in accord with your acclamations.
The question behind the fall from your graces is, "Why is their fall so tumultuous to my own life? Why does it cause so much trouble within my own heart and mind?"
Maybe there's a sense of betrayal! They've let you down! How could they have led you to believe they were like that! Nevertheless, you know they haven't necessarily deliberately gone out of their way to mislead you, instead you know you've allowed it to happen, perhaps even willed their glorification in your own mind. You know you should have seen it coming.
Then again, maybe the one you glorify, and the ideals you uphold, have some value to you. If I can be like them, then I too will be seen in the best light by others. Others will see me in the same way as I've seen my hero. But in their tumble you also know you too will take a fall. If they are weaker than I projected, then just maybe I am not that great either!
Do you do the same with Jesus? Do you exalt him in this world so others too might honour you? Do you seek to ride on the coattails of his glory so you too might bask in popular approval; in the church community, in righteous religious circles, and amongst those who like to be seen doing the right thing.
If you do then you are no different than Peter. When he saw Jesus humble himself, take off his clothes, take the lowest of low positions, to stoop and wash feet, Peter couldn't take it. He objected, "Lord do you wash my feet?" Peter had no idea what Jesus was doing, and during these days Peter's world became chaos, the leader he had built Jesus up to be was not who Jesus came to be, for Peter or anyone of us who follow Jesus.
We all have a faith, a belief in whom Jesus is. And like Peter we too constantly need that destroyed and broken down so Jesus can show us who he really is, and who he really calls us to be.
You see Jesus was revealing to Peter so much more than just washing someone else's feet. Yet still Peter didn't even get the simple action of Jesus' deed. Rather he calls Jesus to wash his whole body, to move the focus from Jesus' low act of servanthood to the honouring of Peter being served. Notice here that Jesus also serves Judas too. He serves all, even his betrayer.
I suppose if Jesus had told Peter more about how Peter himself was to serve God and the church, it would have been too much for Peter to accept. After all the simple act of washing some else's feet as service was throwing Peter's ideals into chaos. How much more did Jesus' arrest and crucifixion confuse and cause Peter to deny his Lord?
One must ponder Peter's reaction if he, a simple fisherman from Galilee, was told he was going to speak in tongues, call thousands to repentance, heal the lame and the sick, speak with conviction in the temple, be arrested, be miraculously freed not just once but twice, baptise Gentiles, see his fellow Apostles slain, and be martyred himself. If Peter had seen his Lord's death and his own death in Jesus' action of foot washing, I imagine it would have been too much for Peter to bear.
But Jesus just washes his feet, and the feet of the other disciples. His act of foot washing was an act of complete love. He was their Lord and Teacher, and they too were to do the same as their Lord and Teacher.
Like Peter we too are often terrified by the idea that we might be called to serve in a way with which we might not cope. When Jesus asks them to do the same, to do likewise, he ask you to do so as well. After all we're all aware of Jesus' word…
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34–35 ESV)
One should not just hear this as a nice little Sunday School song, after all it's a new commandment. I wonder how Peter felt hearing this. He had just seen Jesus wash feet, now he had to do it too. What honour is there in bowing vulnerably and washing dirty feet? How much more does this impact us now knowing the full extent of his love he calls us to have for one another extends to his death on the cross?
You too are called to love one another in the same way as Jesus Christ. Can you do it? It should trouble you because you can't! In fact no one can, none of the disciples, not you, no one! Jesus walked alone to the cross, Peter wept, Judas betrayed and the rest fled leaving him to die alone.
However, we can be thankful that God never leaves us alone. The Apostles were known to be Jesus disciples not because of their acts, but rather the acts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not remain dead in a tomb, or descended into hell, rather God raised him, and he together with God the Father sends the Holy Spirit.
So how do you love as Jesus loved? Trust in Jesus, trust in his body broken and his blood shed, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation! We can love one another as Jesus loves us when we allow and trust the Holy Spirit to move us in the same acts of love as Jesus.
Like Peter and all the witnesses who've been sent since, you and I can only do what the Holy Spirit wills us to do. Only after Jesus' resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit was Peter able to serve and love as Jesus loved.
Therefore, through the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus washes you clean in baptism. Believe in him for cleansing, trust his word, lest you be like Judas who didn't believe in Jesus, but rather trusted in himself and even lost that trust.
You are clean; let the Holy Spirit put you on your feet, so you might be led in Christ. To serve others as he serves you. To trust the Father as he trusts the Father. To know your brokenness as he was broken. To have hope in your resurrection as he was raised. To know Jesus Christ and his love, fully, completely, eternally!
Dear Lord you sent your Servant King to serve us, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts so we may believe and faithfully follow him who faithfully fulfils all righteousness for us, the same Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.