Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sermon for Christ the King

“Truly I tell you,
just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, 
you did it to me.”

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him,
then he will sit on the throne of his glory.
All the nations will be gathered before him,
and he will separate people one from another
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 

We are at the judgement.
Jesus sits on a throne in glory, angels around him.

This must will be wonderful sight, one we will all behold, one we will all share in.
Christ the King,

All the nations will be gathered before him,
and he will separate people one from another
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

It gets a bit trickier there.
This idea of separation.
Sheep and goats.

It all seems quite harsh.
But I suppose the good thing is that in the passage, we are given the criteria of this judgement.
In this passage, Jesus tells what it is that we are to be judged on.
And with the overall message of Matthew’s Gospel,
we are given a lens with which we can focus the message

Jesus says to the those at his right hand, the sheep:

“Come, you that are blessed by my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.” 

This list is more or less repeated four times in this passage.

Hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned.

Listen to those.

Hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned.

Think of the kind of people that will suffer them.
These are the people who are having it really tough.
Some may have made bad decisions that have led them to be in such a situation.
But I don’t hear anything in what Jesus says that would allow that to be a reason to not help.

Food, water, welcomed, clothed, care, visited.

Listen to those.

Think of the kind of person that would respond to those in trouble in such a way.
This is a person who responds to need.

Think of the kind of heart that responds in such a way.

This is a heart that is open to another.
This is a heart that is not hardened by life.
This is a heart that is not cynical or suspicious.
This is a heart that responds openly with love.

The actual acts, the actual needs are not the important element.
They are repeated to emphasize the idea of need,
to really bring home the hopelessness of some people’s lives,
but in and of themselves they are not the point.

The main point is what is going on in the person who responds.

It is about showing mercy.

Mercy is a strong feature in Matthew’s Gospel.

In the calling of Matthew,
when Jesus is being criticized for associating with tax collectors and sinners, he replies
Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Again, when he is criticized for doing something unlawful on the Sabbath, he replies
But if you had known what this means,
“I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless.

I desire mercy and not sacrifice

In both instances Jesus is quoting the Prophet Hosea
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
   the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings. 

Steadfast love, mercy.

This is more important to God than anything else.
To do the works,
to clothe, feed, visit, and care,
but without a heart that is filled with steadfast love,
to do such works as these without a heart that is acting out of mercy
is to miss the point.

It is mercy that God desires from us.

He longs for us to not only look after those who are doing it tough,
but more so to join them in their pain and suffering,
to be one with them, hearts joined, their pain is our pain.

At the outset of his ministry,
Jesus laid out his manifesto of sorts, in which he said:
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

He says to those who have shown such mercy
Come, you that are blessed by my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world

Mercy, true heartfelt, at one with others mercy will receive mercy from him.

But this goes even deeper that just judgement.

Look who is speaking.
Look at who is being fed, clothed and cared for.

It is Jesus.

“Truly I tell you,
just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,
you did it to me.” 

So, on this feast of Christ the King, when we celebrate the exalted Lord,
we are to remember Christ as one of the least.

And think of Jesus words when questioned about the greatest commandment:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 

With Jesus self identification with the least, our neighbour, this statement becomes deeper.

In loving and serving our neighbour, we are loving and serving Christ.

The two commandments have become one and the same.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

It will be in our showing mercy, that we will receive mercy

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sermon for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other.

Jesus tells us this parable about the three slaves and their master.
He uses the things of the world around him to express a greater truth.
He uses the present to express the eternal.

He uses these images to express something about the Kingdom:
The master is God, we are the slaves.

The master is going away
and before he leaves he gives his slaves money according to their ability.
Some are given more than others.
They are to do their best with this money.
Invest, build, whatever.
It is a gift to them and they are to use it according to their abilities.

Two of them do well with this.

They use their gifts to increase the amount.

The master returns, and they present their results.

Here’s the thing.

They are given this according to their ability.
They are given this to use their gifts.
Not someone’s else idea of what their gift is, but their own abilities, strengths.

It is their true being,
their heart and soul that is being given the opportunity,
not their ability to follow instructions,
or their ability to please someone else,
but it is their very being that is asked to do this.

God asks the true self to use its gifts for the growth of the kingdom.

“Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things,
I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

Now I hope that when I die and I am called to give an account of what I did with the gifts that God gave me,
that I am able to answer honestly from my true self.
I hope that I can say I used the gifts I was given for the good of the kingdom.
I hope that I don’t have to make excuses.

I hope I don’t hear:
“Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things,
You have done exactly what the parishes demanded of you.
You have done everything that everyone has asked of you,
even when they were the opposite of each other.
Well done, good and trustworthy slave,
you completely lost your true self to the will of a few.
I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

That is not what will be said.

The point is that God has given us all gifts,
and we are to use them for the good of the kingdom, not to keep others happy.
We aren’t to lose our true selves.
If we lose our very being at the altar of criticism, we have lost everything.

Think of the last slave.

This is a man who is acting out of fear, or rather inacting out of fear.
He hides the gifts given to him.

Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.

The problem is he has misread his master.
He views him as a figure to fear.
And in doing so, he hides the gifts that were entrusted to him.

He is more afraid of getting it wrong and getting in trouble than using the gifts that God has given him.

How many of us view God like that?
How many of us think it is better not to do something in the risk of getting it wrong?
How many of us have hidden our gifts because we are afraid that we will get it in the neck?

How many in the church are afraid of doing ministry
because they think they will be told they aren’t good enough?

How many in this congregation hide their gifts from the parish
 because they are afraid they will only end up in the middle of some stupid historical battle that no one really understands anymore?

How many within this parish bury their gifts
because they know if they actually revealed them they would only receive grief and whinging?

Is that how it is?

Have we all become like the third slave,
acting out of fear and hiding our true God given selves in the hope that we just don’t cop a serve if we get it slightly wrong?

From my own experience, I can say that is exactly how it feels some days.

I am not surprised many have hidden their gifts.
The culture of blame, criticism, us and them,
all tangled up in a survival mentality has taken a strong root in this parish.

It fractures relationships between parishoners and clergy,
it limits relationships with the greater community,
and nullifies any evangelism and ministry that might take place.

More importantly, all this can have a very negative effect on our spirituality.
If the church negates our gifts, we start to think of God as being the same way:

Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, so I was afraid,
and I went and hid your talent in the ground. 

In his letter to the Thessalonians,
Paul tells them that the God is not about wrath, but about eternal life in Jesus Christ.

If the church acts towards those within with wrath, what are we saying about God?
What might that look like to those who are not yet with us?
It can only reinforce the image of a vengeful God.

Paul writes:
God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other.

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other.
Not criticize and tear down.

Everyone has been given gifts by God.
Jesus calls us to use them for his kingdom and the building up his body, the church.

To bury your gifts in fear is to deny yourself who you really are, and to deny yourself what God has given you.

To chastise, criticize, wear down, and complain about someone’s ministry or work is only to deny that person the chance to be who God has called them to be.

Paul tells us:

Therefore encourage one another and build up each other.

It is in doing that that we will be able to be who God has called us to be, so we will hear:

Well done, good and trustworthy slave; enter into the joy of your master

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sermon for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

When I hear of the second coming of Jesus, I think of a few things. 
In my prechristian days, I think I heard about this more than anything. 
I’d see pictures of people with sandwich boards proclaiming “The day is near” or something. 
I thought they were mad. 
To this day, when people carry on about Jesus return, 
I still think they are a bit unbalanced. 

It also reminds me of the Jesus people movement of the 1970s. 
Much of the music that was recorded at that time speaks of Jesus return. 
Nearly every album by these artists will contain a song about Jesus return. 
The two texts that the hippy Christians really responded to were Revelation and the reading we had from 1 Thessalonians today:

For the Lord himself,
with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive, who are left,
will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air;
and so we will be with the Lord for ever. 

It is true, we do need to consider this. 
It is something we all believe: 
we say it together in the Creed, 
we acclaim it in the Eucharist, 
so this is not something foreign or wrong. 
It is though, an issue of emphasis. 

The problem is that this has been used as a way of control and keeping people in a state of fear. 
Fear is the best way to control people, as governments past and present know full well. 
Life with Christ should not be based on fear. 
It should be based on love:
Love of God and love of neighbour.

So what is Jesus getting at with this parable about the ten maidens.
We can look at all the details, 
we can question whether the 5 wise ones should have given the oil to the 5 foolish ones. 
We can ask what does that mean for us? 
Should we not share our oil with those who have none? 
Are we to look out for ourselves and not worry about those who can’t, 
for what ever reason?

All that is is to miss the main point:

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Keep awake.
Be ready.
Be prepared.
I was a scout. Be prepared was the motto. 
I can’t exactly remember what that meant as a scout, but it has stayed with me.

There will be items that you will always have with you. 
Wallet, phone, whatever. 
You know the things you need to have with you so you can do whatever it is you need to do, 
and if there something you might have to do.

It is those ‘just in case’ things though. 

Back home, there was a rule: always take a coat. 
You never knew how cold it was going to get, or how long you were going to be.

These days, there are several things I do to always be prepared. 
There are items I always carry with me: 
  • the Scriptures, 
  • the Prayer Book, 
  • Reserved Sacrament, 
  • Oil of the Infirm, 
  • a Stole. 

These are always in  my bag, wherever I go. 
So whatever situation I am called into, I have what I need.

These are practical things.

We keep our houses tidy in case someone pops around.
We check how much petrol we have before we go on a long drive.
Basic stuff.
We are now being told to get our bushfire plans in place. 
Be prepared.
Jesus is telling us the same thing, but on a much more serious scale. 
And even more so, he is talking about a constant state of readiness. 

Keep awake.

What does that really entail for us.
What is our state of preparedness?

I think one of the key issues is that this can’t be based out of fear.

If we only do good because we are scared of being punished, 
because we are scared of not going to heaven, 
then we are missing the point. 

Keeping awake is important for its own sake.
Being prepared is being awake to God. 

By being awake to others around us, 
we are awake to what God is doing in and around our lives. 
By being awake our hearts are opened to know the pain in other peoples lives, 
to see where God is present to begin his healing work. 
When we are truly awake, we understand that it is through us that this work is done.

When we are awake, we are prepared. 
We are prepared to see Christ among us, in us, and with us. 

We are awake and prepared when we live our lives loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves

By keeping awake, we are not only ready to see Jesus when he returns,  
but also our true selves are awoken to know his presence in every moment of our lives. 

We are awoken to the eternal presence of God.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Sermon for All Saints' Day

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; 
and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 
Then he began to speak, and taught them

Last week we heard Jesus being tested about what the greatest commandment was, and his masterful answer:
Love God and your neighbour as yourself. 
Jesus reveals that love is the law.
All things must come from love.

With talk of commandments, when we hear from the gospel today,
we will be struck by the similarities between Jesus and Moses.

Indeed that is the connection Matthew is making.
As Moses ascended the mountain to speak with God,
Jesus here ascends the mountain and the recently called disciples follow him.

Matthew is setting this scene as a new beginning.

But then we hear what Jesus says.
Blessed are the…..

Compare it with what Moses says when he descends the mountain:
You shall not…. You shall

And this is why we need to be careful with the Beatitudes.
They are not a list of proscriptive rules or laws.
Many try to turn them into such things, and many interpret them in such a way,
Be merciful.
Be pure.
Be meek.

This is not how they are to be treated.

Jesus isn’t telling us how we should be.
Unlike the commandments,
where God through Moses told the people what they should and shouldn’t do, here Jesus is telling us how things actually are.

Jesus isn’t telling us we should be poor in spirit.
Rather he is telling us how God views those that are.
He is telling us that these are favoured.
God will look after such people.
Everything will be ok.
This is how things actually are, not how we are to be.
Jesus is informing us of the reality, of how God views us, how it actually is.

But is this the reality we live in?
Is this the reality of our world?

Look at who is blessed.

‘Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Those who mourn for a loved one are generally given a month or so to grieve, then everyone expects them to sort themselves out.
Those who mourn the way things used to be are told to get with the times.

‘Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

The meek if anything inherit nothing.
The meek are trodden on and seen as weak and useless.
They are ignored, abused and forgotten.

 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Those who protest at injustice are seen as troublemakers and lawbreakers.
They are seen as whingers.

‘Blessed are the merciful,
for they will receive mercy.

To show mercy in the face of wrongdoing is seen as weakness and backing down. It is the giving of power to those who would harm us.

 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
To be pure of heart is seen as naïve and idealistic.
It is to be a dreamer with no hold on reality.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

To yearn for peace,
especially at this time is seen to not be part of Team Australia.
It is to be unpatriotic, it is weakness,
it goes against the grain so much that we dare not suggest it as the way to be.
Our world seeks vengeance and violence not peace.

If we think about it, the world that Jesus is talking about,
and the world we live are two very different things.

This may indeed be the point.

Jesus is saying
you lot see the world like this,
a world where being gentle, caring, generous, idealistic, humble, peaceful,
are seen as weakness.
But God see’s these very things as qualities that he blesses.
God favours people who are these things.

In this way, the beatitudes are a protest against the values of the world,
and statement of the kingdom.
They are what we need to value when we see them in others

Jesus tells those first disciples the values of the kingdom.
He isn’t commanding them to be like them,
He is telling them to view the meek, the mourning, the merciful,
as God views them.

On All saint’s Day we are reminded of the very qualities of saints,
qualities that we see in the beatitudes.
Saints are those who hold these qualities
while the world around them does all it can to pull them down.

The kingdom Jesus is telling us of,
and what he showed us in his life, is a new way of seeing,
and ultimately a radical way of being.
The world may reject those who God blesses,
but we are invited to see the new reality that is coming.

When we learn to recognise such qualities as being blessed,
when we call those who embody such qualities saints,
we begin to participate in the realisation of the kingdom.

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost

‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and to God the things that are God’s.’

The religious and civic leaders continue to challenge the authority of Jesus.
They are now trying to trick him, to trap him.
They bring up issues from life and scripture that demand an answer.
They are the kind of questions that essentially are lose lose for Jesus.
But, Jesus is far smarter.

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.
So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying,
Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’

The Pharisee’s aren’t talking about taxes in general.
They are talking about a particular tax, ‘to the emperor’ tells us that.
Everyone paid all sorts of taxes, Temple tax, land tax, all sorts.
The tax the Pharisees are talking here is the Imperial Tax, ‘to the emperor.’
This was paid to Rome to support the Roman occupation of Israel.
They had to pay a denarius a year to their oppressors.
A denarius a year to keep being oppressed.

You can imagine that this was highly unpopular.
Most would have resented it. Nationalist zealots in particular.

The two groups which have conspired on Jesus with this question had very different views on this tax.

The Herodians were fine with it. They had been put in power by the Romans, so of course it was in their interest to keep the Romans happy.

The Pharisees on the other hand had a trickier relationship with this tax.
 The tax had to be paid with a coin engraved with a picture of Ceasar, which also stated his divinity. This is of course a problem for those so religiously devout: just having this coin breaks the first two commandments:

You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol

So you can see what is happening.
This tax was a controversial issue.
Most were opposed to it, so if Jesus says they have to pay it,
he will be offside with the crowd.
He will be seen as supporting the oppression.

If he says they don’t have to pay it,
he will immediately be in trouble with the authorities.

The two groups who have bought this question to him don’t agree on what the right answer is either.
The only thing they agree on is that they want this trouble maker gone.

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said,
‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’

This is the first bit of brilliance.
He gets them to hand over the coin.
By doing so, they reveal their own complicity in the system.
He also reveals that he is not. He does not have a coin to show.
At this very moment, their plan to trap him begins to unravel.
You can almost hear the gasp of the crowd.

If this handing over of the coin wasn’t enough, he makes it clear.

‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’

They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’
Their answer tells everyone they know exactly who is on the coin, what is written on it, and therefore not only are they complicit in the system, they are in fact breaking their own rules by doing so.
The coin carries a graven image, and states the divinity of emperor.
Two commandments broken.
And the fact they can name this, means they can’t plead ignorance.

Their plan is now gone.
Their trick is over.

Then he said to them,
‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and to God the things that are God’s.’

So what is the emperors and what is God’s?
Taxes, rates, all those things are dreadful.
None of us like paying them.
But, we have to.
Even if we don’t like the government, or agree with what they are doing, we have to pay our taxes.
That is the emperors.
A small or sometimes not so small part of our money.

To start carrying on about not paying them suggests something else. It suggest the idea a few more dollars as being of supreme value.
It tells of what is in the heart.
Give to the emperor what is the emperors. Don’t let that become your big issue. Don’t let holding on to a bit of cash become what is imprinted on your heart.
For where your heart is, there will your treasure be also
Your heart, your whole being belongs to God.
Give to God the things that are Gods.

While the emperors image is on the coin, God’s image is in us.
We are created in God’s image.
Give to God what is God’s.

This ends up going deeper than about a coin, money, or taxes.
In his this statement Jesus reminds that we are God’s, and that we are to give ourselves, our time, our minds, and our hearts to him.
Give the government its tax, but give your whole life to God.
Be in the world, but not of the world.

Jesus is setting the Pharisees straight about their hypocrisy, and in doing so he sets them onto a higher way of thinking.

He says the same to us.
‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and to God the things that are God’s.’

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sermon for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes

In the parable we hear today, Jesus is telling as an allegory of God’s work within Israel.
He uses images from the prophet Isaiah and the Psalms to tell the religious leaders what has happened, what is going to happen, and how this is going to effect them.

On the surface, it seems to be quite straightforward, but a closer look reveals what Jesus says is far more potent, and also raises some difficult questions for the church today.

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. 

This imagery comes from the Isaiah reading from earlier:

Let me sing for my beloved
   my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
   on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
   and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watch-tower in the midst of it,
   and hewed out a wine vat in it.

The beloved is God, and the vineyard is Israel.

Jesus is setting the scene for the religious leaders, so they know exactly what he is talking about. There would be no question in their minds about what he is talking about:
 it is about God and Israel.

Two sets of slaves are sent to collect the produce:
The first set of three, one is beaten, one killed, one stoned.
The second set is larger, and is treated in the same violent way.
These slaves represent the prophets who were ignored by the religious leaders at the time.

The landowner sends his son, and they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him

The son is Jesus, and this fortells his crucifixion.

We have to look at the owner of the vineyard here.
He sends a delegation and they are killed.
A normal human reaction to that would have been to send an army to sort this out.
But he doesn’t.
He doesn’t react with violence.

He sends another delegation.
When they are killed, surely his response should be ‘they’ve had one chance, now I’ll send in the army and get them out of my land.’

But it isn’t.
He send his son, the heir.
This is not a normal reaction.
After two sets of horrific violence and death inflicted on your people, why would you send your son?
Surely now would be the time for vengeance.

The son is killed.
Jesus puts it to the chief priests and elders:

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ 

They said to him,
‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

The chief priests and elders react as we would expect.
Jesus does not supply this answer.
It is the chief priest and elders.

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”? 

He questions their response.
He doesn’t agree with them.
He doesn’t condone the violent response at all.

Have you never read in the scriptures.
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”? 

God didn’t retaliate with violence.
Instead he sent his son to die, the stone the builders rejected.
He was raised, he became the cornerstone

This is a different way of authority and power.
It shuns violence and aggression and revenge.

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.

Jesus is saying to the chief priest and elders
that because they are still clinging to power and authority,
they can’t see how God might be working in a way that does not take life,
but rather gives life.
They can’t see how their use and abuse of their authority is actually keeping God out.

The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.

This is a message for the church today.
We don’t stumble over the block that is Christ, the cornerstone.

We stumble when we follow the way of the elder and chief priests.
We stumble when we strive to hold on to authority and power.
We stumble when we embrace the way the world understands power
rather than the way of God,
God who showed us the ultimate power when his son gave his life on the cross.
God who showed real power is not life taking, but life giving
when his son was resurrected to new life, a life in which we all share.

Jesus tells us that the kingdom will be taken from us if we continue to act out of power instead of love, compassion and selflessness.

The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone

The cornerstone of the faith that is borne out of love, and forgiveness, not power, control and violence.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sermon for the Feast of St Michael

You will see greater things than these. 

And he said to him,
‘Very truly, I tell you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

In John’s Gospel, when Jesus says, very truly, what comes after is something very important.
It is normally something prophetic,
something he is going to do,
or something that is going to happen top him.

These very truly I tell you statements usually end a discussion.
They are the final say on what has gone before.

Today’s ends chapter one of John’s Gospel.
We have had the prologue, the wonderful almost creedlike introduction.
We have heard about Jesus’ baptism.
We have seen how Jesus called the first disciples:
What are you looking for?
Come and see.

Nathanael makes the proclamation of Jesus divinity, based on Jesus seemingly clairvoyant ability.

‘Where did you come to know me?’
Jesus answered,
‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’
You will see greater things than these.

Look out.

you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man

This phrase “angels of God ascending and descending” is unusual.
It occurs only in one other place in all the scriptures, Genesis chapter 28.
Jesus is using this strange phrase to tell us something. The passage it comes from is helpful.

Genesis chapter 28 tells us the story of Jacob

Jacob has left Beer Sheba, and is on his way to Haran.
He lays down for the night. He takes a stone and uses it for a pillow.
He has a dream.

there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven;
and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

God speaks to him in the dream, promising him the land where he is forever,

I am with you and will keep you wherever you go

Jacob wakes up and says:
‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’
‘How awesome is this place!
This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’

The idea of angels ascending and descending is one of a gate of heaven, or heaven being opened.
It is a place where there is no division between us and God,
where communication, contact are open.
The angels are Gods messengers, they are also the symbols of holiness and divinity.
It is they who show us that this gate is open, that heaven is opened.
They are the markers of such an event.

Why would Jesus use this same image to express what is about to occur.

Notice in Jacob’s dream, the angels are ascending and descending on a ladder.
When Jesus tells us, it on him.

Jesus is the ladder that the angels will ascend and descend upon.
For Jacob, it was the stone on which he lay his head, the place was the gate of heaven.

Jesus tells us that he is that gate:

As he will say in chapter 10,
I am the gate.
Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
The angels of god will ascend and descend upon him, not a ladder.
He is the link between heaven and earth.
He is the way the things of heaven will now come down to earth.
He is also the way the things of earth are shown in heaven.

Where with Jacob, this reality was in a place,
and was made sacred by his anointing the stone with oil, making an altar,
Jesus is saying that he is supercedes this.

By using this phrase, the angels of God ascending and descending,
Jesus is telling Nathanael, that he is the way to know of God.

Those same words can still have the same effect today.
To people who do not know Jesus Christ, but who know of the presence of angels in their lives.

To a world that is more comfortable speaking about angels than it is about the Son of Man,
these words of Jesus are a reminder.
To a church that is afraid of speaking about other beliefs,
these words are a reminder.

These words tell us that angels work with Jesus and us.
Angels are not outside of our faith, they are a part of it.

They tell those who don’t know Christ, that the angels they speak with most certainly do,
and in fact are doing his work.

It is my belief that as Jesus is the ladder between heaven and earth,
angels are the bridge between the world and the church,
a middle ground, a meeting place to speak with such people.

But for today, we celebrate Michael and All Angels.
We celebrate their being with us, and we worship God with them, as we say every week:
“with angels and archangels, we worship you Father, in songs of never ending praise”

And as our collect for today says:

as your holy angels stand before you in heaven,
so at your command
they may help and defend us here on earth.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

To follow Jesus, we are to deny ourselves, and take up our cross.
As God goes to such extreme lengths to find us, 
we are to go to the same extreme lengths not to lose anyone.

These issues, denial of self and not losing relationships, 
with others and with God, come together in one thing: 

Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive.
How many times?
What are the limits?
Give me a law and a judgement that I can work with.
I get this forgiving thing, it’s radical, this can change the world.
But there has to be a point where we stop. 
Tell me boss, where is that point.
What is the point where I can revert to the old way.
Where is the point where it becomes allowable for me to start paying back.

As many as seven times?

That is quite a bit of forgiving.
Seven times someone sins against you and you should forgive them.
Peter thinks that seems a reasonable amount.

Not so.

Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

Lets not get carried away with the number.
Jesus answer tells us that the idea of a number of times isn’t the point.
But it does recall Cain and Abel, Genesis 4.  
Lamech, Cain’s descendent exclaims that after he has killed a man, 
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
    truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.

These  numbers are being used to show something, 
the actual numerical value is not important.

Lamech is talking about unlimited revenge.
Jesus is speaking about unlimited forgiveness.

To quote Dr Moulton:
“Jesus pointedly sets against the natural man’s craving for seventy sevenfold revenge, the spiritual man’s ambition to exercise the privilege of seventy seven fold forgiveness.”

Jesus then tells us a Kingdom parable.

A slave owes a king a ridiculous amount of money. 
The amount is astronomical. He can’t pay the king the money, the king orders him and his family and all his possessions to be sold.

“Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.”
And out of pity for him,
the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 

The slave is given his freedom and all his debt is forgiven.

He goes out and find a fellow slave who owes him a much smaller amount, 
grabs him by the throat and demands his money.
“Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” 
The fellow slave uses the same words.

No go. He is thrown into jail.

Other slaves see this and go and tell the king who then says to him:

I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?
And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured
until he should pay his entire debt. 
And here comes the sting in the tale:

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you,
if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Forgiving is not always easy.

If we are people of unforgiveness, we can’t expect God to be forgiving to us.
This same God who will search us out when we are lost 
and rejoice when he does, 
will not be rejoicing if we do not show the same love and forgiveness to others.

We are to forgive as we are forgiven:
The Lord’s prayer in which we ask God to 
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

When we hold on to anger, 
thoughts of revenge, 
of putting people in their place, 
of seeking power over others, 
of asserting our dominance, 
we are acting out of place not of forgiveness 
but of selfishness, ego, power, and ultimately darkness.

Forgiveness is not easy. 
I don’t think it supposed to be. 

I dare say all of us have some part of hearts that is refusing to let go of some hurt or slight that has been done to us.

Some part of our hearts that can’t let go of some resentment 
or anger toward another person.
Yet, we work our way around it, justifying to ourselves why we still hold on to it.

A lack of forgiveness can destroy friendships, marriages, and parishes.
Jesus tells us it can also destroy our relationship with God.

Jesus tells us that we face the same trial the unforgiving servant went through  

if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

Jesus is calling us to be people of forgiveness. 
There will be times we get it wrong and don’t forgive when we should.
We always get another chance.
The idea here is that we become forgiving. 
That forgiveness is part of our whole being.
From the heart. 

We can think of it as a sort of purification: 
When we don’t forgive, we keep our hearts impure. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Maybe this is what Jesus means when he speaks about how we will be punished if we don’t forgive.
Jesus is saying that it is impossible to have a complete relationship with God 
if we can’t forgive.
Jesus is saying if our relationships with each other are darkened by a lack of forgiveness, 
our relationship with God will suffer in the same way.

So when Peter asks Jesus how often he should forgive, 
Jesus turns it on him by using a ridiculous amount of times.

He is saying that as God’s forgiveness in unlimited, so too should ours.
He is saying as we have been forgiven, so too should we forgive others.
From our hearts.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Jesus calls us to follow him
and he gives us some of the instructions about how we can do that.
Deny ourselves of ourselves and be prepared to sacrifice.

He then tells us about the other side of the deal.
We do our bit, and he does his.

If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray,
does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 

Of course we are the sheep Jesus is speaking of.
Those who have denied themselves, and taken up their cross and followed him.

But sometimes we get it wrong.
We fall into sin, or to get it closer, we miss the mark.
We get it wrong.
We fall into ways of being that aren’t about loving God or our neighbour.
We fall into ways that aren’t about denying ourselves or carrying our crosses.
We start to see power as something to use and abuse
and we start to see some as ‘the other.’
We fall into the ways of the world and leave behind the ways of the kingdom.

We become the sheep that has gone astray.

does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 

We may lose our way, but God does not want to lose us.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

None of this is to say that we can do what ever we want and everything be fine.

We can get great comfort from all this.

Even when we get it wrong,
God will come after us, give us clip around the ear,
then give us a big hug.

And if he finds it, truly I tell you,
he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 

God rejoices in finding us.
Like the prodigal son, he rejoices, in the one who was lost being found.

God will go to extreme lengths to find those who are lost,
and I can speak from my own experience that he searched long and hard.
I was lost and was found, and I thank him everyday for not giving up.

So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Then Jesus explains to us how we should sort out our differences.
This can seem somewhat jarring after the beauty of the shepherd image.

He outlines a three step process.
If member of the church sins against you, the first step is to sort it out one on one.
Don’t involve anyone else, the two of you sort it out.
Most problems will be sorted out at this point.

However if that doesn’t work,
take someone else from the church with you as a witness.
This is basic mediation.
By taking someone else along,
both sides of the story are heard by someone not involved.
This should sort out most issues,
and only needs to be used in those that aren’t sorted out one on one.

Now if it doesn’t get sorted with mediation, it becomes a big deal.
The whole church gets involved.

Can you imagine the seriousness of the issue if it gets to this point?
We are dealing with issues of abuse, theft, serious stuff.
This is not for a personal slight or difference of opinion.
This is serious.

It is made even more serious that in the event of the person not listening to even the church:
let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector
They are to be removed from the church.
This is no small thing. This not to be done lightly.

The seriousness of this is made clearer when we think back to the lengths that God will go to find one that has gone astray.

If God goes to such lengths, are we not also to avoid losing someone?

Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 

That should let us know how serious it would be to removed someone from the church.
If we loose someone from the church, we loose them from heaven.
By excluding someone from the church, we exclude them from God.

That is definitely not something we should ever be comfortable in doing,
and it really makes the seriousness of what we do here real.
For where two or three are gathered in my name,
I am there among them.’
Jesus tells us of his presence where two or more are together.
He is with us when we gather.
If we exclude someone, we effectively take them out of God’s presence.

The image Jesus gave us of the shepherd who will go to any length to find the lost should be enough to tell us of how important we are to God.
Here Jesus reminds us of the importance of not losing anyone.
He is telling us the lengths we should go to not lose anyone from the church.

The shepherd rejoices in finding what went astray.
We too should rejoice in not losing anyone.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sermon for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

‘If any want to become my followers, 
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 

Jesus has asked the disciples who they say that he is.
Peter answers that He is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.
He is rewarded for the answer, and is told that he is the rock on which the church will be built.

Everything is going well.

From that time on,
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem
and undergo great suffering at the hands of
the elders and chief priests and scribes,
and be killed,
and on the third day be raised. 

Imagine what is going through the disciple’s heads at this point.

He teaches us the way of God’s kingdom, he heals the sick, he feeds the hungry out of nothing. He walks on water. He can do anything. He isn’t just some guy, he is the Son of God.
Now he thinks he has to be killed by the religious leaders.
We warned him that he was causing trouble with them.
Surely he doesn’t have to be killed by them?
There must be something he can do.
There must be something we can do.

Peter, who has just been praised so highly, and given the most significant role of the disciples, thinks he must do something. He speaks for the group.
He pulls Jesus aside.
‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ 
No Jesus, you’ve got it wrong. You are catastrophizing things. This isn’t what the father expects of you. You have misheard or something.

Peter thinks he is doing the right thing,
but he is in fact actually going along with the very powers that Jesus is challenging.

He is entering in on the issue on a human level not a divine level.

But Jesus turned and said to Peter,
‘Get behind me, Satan!
You are a stumbling-block to me; 

Peter is the rock on which the church will be built, but now he has become a stumbling block.
He is called Satan because what he has said is like what Satan said to Jesus in the desert.
He is pushing a human agenda, not divine one.

for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Then Jesus told his disciples,
‘If any want to become my followers,
let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 
Now we get to the real tough stuff.
It was fine and well Jesus saying he was going to suffer,
but now he is saying that any who want to follow him must be prepared to do so too.

Deny themselves.

Deny themselves what exactly?
To deny oneself of oneself.
To give up your own idea of who you are and find instead who you are in Christ.

The idea of giving up an aspect of ourselves doesn’t come easy.
Jesus is calling us to give up the things that we think are important,
 and replace them with things God thinks are important.
Jesus is calling us to give up the things of the world and replace them with the things of God.
We are called to live differently than the world,
and that means not following the way of the world, but the way of Jesus.

And that is the way of the cross.
Take up your cross and follow me.
What is the cross that Jesus talks of?

Jesus he will take up his cross and he will be killed,
Revealing to everyone how the world acts in the face of love,
How power responds when it is challenged by peace.
He also reveals the futility and impotence of such powers by raising from the death they inflicted upon him.
The way of the world is no match for the power of God.

The cross we must take up is similar.
We will all have our own personal crosses,
some known to all, others between yourselves and God.

But as Christians, and as a church we have a cross to bear,
and it is borne by following in the footsteps of Christ.

When we act out of a position that seeks power and control,
we are working with the same powers that sentenced Jesus to death.

To carry the cross means to resist the allure of power and control.
It means to surrender our own desires for power,
and to not fall into the way of the world.

The world tried to kill the way of God by putting his son on a cross.
When we act to gain power, collude with power over those who are weak,
when we seek to dominate,
we are not carrying our cross,
but are carrying the nails to crucify others.

To surrender to the allure of power and control is the opposite of denying ourselves,
it is the opposite of carrying our cross,
it is the opposite of following Jesus.

We are to deny our desire for power.
When we do, we are following the way of the cross, we are following Jesus.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sermon for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Who do you say that I am?

This is such a simple question, yet the answer is not quite that simple.

Where and when Jesus asks this question are important in the whole narrative:

Think about what has happened:
He has healed many people.
He feed over 5000 with just 5 fish and two loaves.
He has walked on water.
He has challenged the religious leaders.
He has been challenged by a foreign woman, an outsider.

Up until that moment, his mission was for the ‘lost sheep of Israel.’
The healings, the feedings were for them.
After the Canaanite woman’s challenge, he begins to heal Gentiles.
There is another miraculous feeding, this time for all people, not just ‘the lost sheep of Israel.’

Jesus mission has become bigger than he initially thought.
It is time to reassess. It is time to take stock of the situation.

He takes his group of followers with him to Ceasarea Phillipi.
This was the regional headquarters of the Roman Empire.
If Canberra is Rome, this is like going to outside the local MP’s office.
He does this for a reason. He is asking them about who is the most important.
Is it the religious leaders?
He has challenged them, and the disciples, while a bit scared, have continued to follow him.
Is it then the civic leaders?
Who is then?

So, things are changing.

Jesus wants to know:
‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 
He is asking the disciples: what are you hearing about me?
What is being said about me when I am not around?
What is being asked about me?
With all that I am doing and saying, what is the impression I am making on all the people.
Now that it is not just the lost sheep of Israel, but all people, who do they say that I am?

And they said,
‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah,
and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 

None of these are right. They all fall short of the mark.
They all recognise something of who Jesus is, but not the whole picture.

Who do people say Jesus is today?
He is a baby that is talked about along with Santa in December.
He is a guy who lived a long time ago who said a lot of stuff that sounds good, but doesn’t really work in everyday life.
He is man who millions of people carry on about, but don’t really follow.

I am not sure whether most people get who Jesus is.
I am not sure whether we do a very good job of letting them know.

Those who don’t know Jesus will get to know who he is by how they see him portrayed by those who claim to follow him.

When the church sits by and does nothing to help those in trouble,
what impression of Jesus are the public going to get?
When the church abuses its own people and abuses it’s power,
what will people think Jesus is like?

So, Jesus has heard from the disciples who everyone else thinks he is.
But who do you say that I am?’
You who have been with me, who have witnessed all that has happened, who have talked with me, who have shared in my life, who do you think I am ?

You can feel the tension.
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 
Peter gets it right.
Jesus is the Son of God.
He isn’t just some prophet or man who does good, he is the Messiah, the anointed one.
He is fully human and fully divine.

Who do you say Jesus is?

We say a whole bunch of stuff about him today, especially after the sermon when we affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed.

What Peter confessed, we will confess.

Who do you say Jesus is?

Who is he?
Who has he been in your life?

Is he the one who saved you?
Is he the one who stayed with you when everyone else left?
Is he the one who was with you when it seemed that there was nothing worth living for?
Is the one who healed you of your pain?
Is he the one who feeds you spiritually so you can carry on?

Who you say Jesus is will largely depend on your own life and experience.

Ultimately, the answer will be our lives.

The way we live, the way we treat others, the way we respond to what happens.
The way we live, the way we treat others is really who we say Jesus is.
We are saying this is how Jesus is, this is what Jesus does.

When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison.

And Jesus answered him,
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church
We can pray for a time when there will be no need for anyone to ask who Jesus is,
because everyone will know.
Everyone will know who he is through the actions of his body, the church.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

'Woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish.'

The two events we have heard today seem to be unrelated.

Firstly, Jesus puts it straight to the Pharisees that they have got it wrong.
He says all their rules about how to go about things are upside down.
What you eat, washing of hands, these are not the things that defile.
Rather it is what happens in here, the heart that will.
It is our intentions that will either defile us, or make us pure.
Jesus will say,
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
In the second story, we hear about the Canaanite woman.
She is desperate to save her possessed daughter.
She hassles Jesus and the disciples.
Jesus tells her he is not interested.
She challenges him, and he recognises her faith, and heals her daughter.

But look at the disciples in these two events:
Hear what they says when Jesus attacks the Pharisees:
Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?
Hear what they say about the Canaanite woman:
Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.
In these two events we see how the church reacts to power and weakness.
In these two events, we see how the church reacts to those who are in and those who are out.
In these two events, we also see how we are supposed to be, in the actions of Jesus.

Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?

Watch out Jesus. Keep your voice down. You are saying things that are really going to put us offside.
Be careful what you say.
Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.
Jesus, can you get rid of this foreigner. She is causing a scene. This is not helpful.
Stand up for the chosen…

The disciples are interested in keeping on good terms with power and authority.
They are not interested in a foreign woman who seems to be barking mad.

Their words of concern are about upsetting the powers that be.
Their words of anger are about keeping an outsider out.

To me this is how the church still works.
We are afraid of upsetting the wrong people.
We are afraid of speaking about something that may get us offside with the powers.
There are subjects we avoid speaking about because we don’t want to offend.
We suck up to the council, the government, prominent business owners, wealthy neighbours.
We don’t want to rock the boat.

When we side with the authorities on issues that go against the teachings of Jesus,
we are being like the disciples here.
We are not living or speaking the gospel,
we are living and speaking out of a different place.
A place that keeps our position of privilege.

And when we wish to shun the outsider,
when we wish that person would not cause trouble,
when we wish that person would just leave us alone and shut up,
we become like disiciples with the Canaanite woman.

When someone asks for our help, even if they cause a scene,
we don’t need to tell them to go away,
but rather, ask them to come in.

Instead of looking at the disciples reactions,
we can look at those of the Pharisees and the Canaanite woman, how they react to Jesus.

The Pharisees are upset with what he is saying.
He is threatening to them.
He challenges all they are, he challenges their position, power, and authority.
Their reaction is one of fear, fear that will eventually crucify him.

But the Canaanite woman’s reaction is one of faith:
‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David”
She recognises Jesus as Lord, even as an outsider.
She responds to the presence of Christ with overwhelming hope and faith.
Her situation is desperate, and she believes that Jesus is the one who can fix it.

We as disciples have to look where we stand.
We can’t stand by those in authority who would shun those who don’t fit in,
who make people lives more difficult.
We can’t be scared to stand up to them.
WE need to be careful that we don’t stand up for them against those who are abused by them.

Our place is to be with the Canaanite woman.
To respond to the first steps of faith.
She comes with faith, and her faith pays off. Her daughter is healed.

When someone makes those first steps, we can’t be like the disciples.
People come with all volumes, ideas, attitudes.
What they wear, what they say, the way they say it is of no difference to us.
The fact that they make those first steps toward Christ does make a difference.

We can’t be saying Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.
But rather “great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish’

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’

The story of Jesus walking on the water is even more well known than the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
Many theories have been put up about how he did this: sandbanks, lowtide, stepping stones.
And like when we discussed the loaves and fishes, the how doesn’t matter. It really is of no interest.

Even the fact that Jesus is walking on water isn’t the main point of this story.
It is the central figure, the cause of the story, but it is what happens around it that is the story.

After feeding the multitudes, Jesus sends the disciples off in their boat to the other side of the lake.
He goes up to the mountain to pray, if you remember , this was his original intention before the crowds came to him, and he felt compassion for them and fed them.

Jesus stays up the mountain all night, praying.

But while he is up there, the disciples in the boat are in trouble.
The wind has turned against them, they are far from land.
The boat is being battered by waves.

The word that we have, battered, in the original Greek is a bit stronger.
It is closer to 'tortured.'

IT may help us to remember that when Matthew was writing his gospel, the church was suffering severe persecution. This word would have wrung very true for those earliest Christians.

They would have seen the boat as the church, themselves as the disciples.
The waves torturing them as the persecutions they faced.

Our brothers and sisters in Iraq are facing persecution, torture and death today.
Churches that are over 1500 years old have been bombed.
In the past week there have been reports of mass crucifixions for those who will not denounce the faith. There are reports from priests of children they have baptised being cut in half.

It is a horrific situation. And the world sits by and watches.

We can feel helpless and hopeless. Unable to do anything.
We can do something.
We can pray.

We can be thankful that we live in a country where we are free to practice our religion freely.
Our boat isn’t tortured by waves of persecution.

We face different issues.
Indifference.  Apathy.  Complacency.

Our boat sits lonely on the water, with hardly anyone noticing it,
and those who do notice it only bother when it suits them.

Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters in Iraq are being beheaded for daring to profess the name Jesus Christ.

Indifference and apathy have a different effect.
One day there will simply be no one here who cares and there will be no church.

For those in Iraq, they face the prospect of the church being wiped out where they live.
We face the idea of our church slowly sliding into irrelevance.
It is up to us to stand up for our brothers and sisters in Iraq.
It is up to us to stand up for our own church.

In the boat it can feel like we are alone, that what we think, feel, believe means nothing to anyone else.

The winds that batter our lives can make what we believe disappear for a while.
It can all seem so futile and it feels like Jesus is miles away.

When I read this story, I put myself in the place of Peter.
So while it is useful to think of the boat as the church, it is Peter’s actions that express our actions.

Peter sees Jesus on the water. He has been in the boat, he is frightened.

Jesus spoke to them and said,
‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’
He said, ‘Come.’

In the midst of the storm, Peter sees Jesus.
In the midst of all the rubbish we face in our lives, when it feels Jesus is not around, something happens to remind us of Jesus presence.
He is there in front of us. Do not be afraid.

Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk toward Jesus, doing the seemingly impossible.
But he notices the strong wind, and his fear returns.

The presence of Christ in our lives is not like an on off switch.
It is not like we turn it on, and we never have to worry about it again.
And it’s not like Christ ever goes away.
It is more like life gets in the way.
Bills, arguments, bureaucracy, families...
all these things can feel like the waves, we can feel like we are sinking in them.
In those times we can forget Jesus with us.

Peter sinks and cries out ‘Lord, save me!’
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him,
‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’

When things get so bad, we call out to Jesus.
He reaches out his hand.
‘Why did you doubt?’

Jesus reminds us of his presence in our lives.
His presence can’t be turned on and off, but our awareness can and often is.
Like Peter, we becomes fearful of what the world sometimes throws at us, and we start to sink.
But it is not as if Jesus is not there.
It’s not that he reaches out his hand to us, rather it is we notice his hand is reaching out toward us.

Why did you doubt?