Sunday, 30 May 2010

Peace with God

What do we have here?  

According to Paul...We have
Peace with God.

When do we have it?

Now…in the present…
it is this grace in which we now stand… Paul writes.

and just how has this peace with God…this state of grace… been achieved…
through Jesus and our faith in him and through the love of God pouring into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. [pause]

This peace with God…this grace in which we now stand…this justified state…this restoration of our original relationship with our creator...
available to us…not because of something we’re doing right…but because of what’s been done... for us through Jesus and through the pouring of God’s love into our hearts... by the Holy Spirit.

Here in Paul’s letter to the Romans… three hundred years
before a doctrine of the Trinity would be articulated... and officially adopted... by the councils of the Church… here in Paul’s letter and our reading from John’s Gospel… we have a clear expression of the work of our triune God…God in three persons...
Creator Redeemer and Spirit.
Today is Trinity Sunday…always the Sunday after Pentecost… and there few things as mysterious and paradoxical to the human mind as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity…One God… Father Son and Holy Spirit.

And yet... we
have this belief...precisely because we are Christians...because of our worship of Jesus…our faith in him…because prays to his father and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit.

and there it is… in Paul’s reassurance to the early church in Rome... and to us…

that the God who created the vast
universe…the galaxies…the giant nebula…the God who created life itself…has somehow broken into creation…
into the dimensions of time and space…in
Jesus and in the outpouring of the Holy SpiritThis creator God from whom we often chose to turn away
has made peace with

We have peace with God [pause]

Just let that sink in for a minute…
God isn’t mad at us…and
we can feel at peace

Instead of throwing the book at us…God has thrown the book away! And God has made this peace through his incarnate Son Jesus of Nazareth…the Christ…through his life...his death and resurrection...

and God
maintains this peace with us...
by pouring his love...into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Past justification present peace and future glory.

And Paul believes this with
all his heart…after all he’s encountered the risen Christ himself…he’s been lead by the Spirit... himself

But there’s a problem in Rome...
and Paul’s on his
way there…he wants to get some stuff sorted out before he arrives…
at the time Rome has a large population of Jews…
Paul… and many synagogues. The story of
Jesus of Nazareth is being told in their gatherings... and because of this… a church is forming…
composed of
both Jewish and Gentile

it already
irritates the Romans to have Jews in a city that worships Caesar as god. Now there are two kinds of Jews and they’re fighting each other over the claim that Jesus is the Messiah…public disturbances… have got some Jews kicked out of Rome.

And even worse as far as Paul is concerned…quarrels are breaking out between Jewish and Gentile converts… over things like circumcision and equal rights in sharing the benefits of being God’s children.

the Christians in Rome are suffering…some of it’s because of persecution... and some of it’s their own doing...their own reluctance to share these benefits... with the world Jesus came to save…[pause]

Paul writes his letter… not only to train them how to resolve their internal conflicts… but to ensure their difficulties…their suffering… don’t cause them to lose hope and abandon their faith. They are groaning at him through messengers

‘If everything we’ve heard about what Jesus has accomplished is true and the Holy Spirit coming on all the believers…why are we still
suffering and arguing and being persecuted?’

Why are we still suffering?  Why is there still suffering.

Viewed against this background Paul’s letter makes much more sense…Paul knows… what we talked about last week…

with the coming of
Christ into the world and the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost…the Kingdom of God is now …but not yet complete.

Yes you’re suffering Paul tells them…
we know the whole
creation has been groaning
So we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
And not only that, we also rejoice in our sufferings
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…
and hope doesn’t disappoint us…because God's love has been poured into our hearts… through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

In fact… Paul says later on his letter…
I consider our present sufferings aren’t worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
creation waits in eager expectation…
for the children of God to be revealed.

Paul says…I don't think there's any
comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next.

The Message translation of Paul’s letter says… Everything in creation is being more or less held
back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready… and can be released at the same moment… into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
So stop squabbling… and rejoice that you will share… in the glory of the Lord that’s to come.

That’s why there can be hope even in suffering

because with the breaking into time and space of his only
Son… God has begun the restoration and reconciliation of all creation … but as we know…its not finished…
but God…
Creator Redeemer and Spirit…
is finishing it…even when it doesn’t feel like it to us…

As the great theologian Karl Barth says…
the Holy Spirit establishes the righteousness of heaven in the midst of the unrighteousness of the earth and will not stop or stay until all that is dead has been brought to life and a new world has come into being.

The question for us here today in our relationship with our community with others on this planet and in our relationship with the planet itself is this…

‘Are we cooperating with God’s saving work as Creator Redeemer and Spirit… in the redemption of all creation… or are we part of the decay and destruction and waste… that attempts to impede it?

Are we prepared to hold onto hope in the face of our human frailty…and failure…and cling to the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
This is why the whole Trinity...Creator Redeemer and necessary for understanding our Christian faith.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit…
fundamental to the Christian faith…

past... present and future work…
our salvation
our present peace and our future hope…
of sharing in the glory of the Lord.
Let us stand as we say the Nicene Creed together

[i] from his book The Word of God and the Word of Man

Sunday, 23 May 2010

In the last days

What were the Jews expecting the Last Days to be like ...the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord?

Yes ok the Prophet Joel had predicted...

In the last days God says...I will pour out my Spirit
on all people...and they shall prophesy.

But first and foremost...
the Jewish people believed the Last
would be an age to
in... by the arrival of the Messiah...

and the
Messiah would be
a messenger of peace Isaiah 53:7
descended from King David Isaiah 11:1
crowned King of the Jews and Isaiah 2:4

the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him Isaiah 11:2

This Messiah will deal to hunger and illness
with righteousness and justice… he’ll judge the poor
and needy of the
evil and tyranny won’t be able to stand before his leadership Isaiah 11:4

He will include and attract people from all cultures and nations… and the knowledge of God will fill the world Isaiah 11:9-10

Death will be swallowed up forever…
and the
dead will rise again
Isaiah 25:8 and 26:19 [Pause]

In the face of a bewildered Jewish crowd
sneering in ridicule…
others amazed and bewildered…
all asking ‘what does this mean’;
Peter announces… that the Last Days…
have well and truly

That is not was they were expecting.

The Jewish Festival of Pentecost…or Shavuot…
for which these Jews were gathered in
this festival was for remembering…
 the dawn of another age…the age of the Law
the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mt Sinai …
fifty days after the Exodus... and by the first century celebrated fifty days after the Passover.

But that year according to John’s gospel… Jesus had been crucified on the day of the Passover…
a Friday on the Jewish calendar…14 Nisan in 33 AD.

And on the evening of Jesus’ crucifixion, to begin the Passover meal…the head of every Jewish household would have looked toward the rising moon.

What they
saw…what we know they saw from today’s science of astronomy…was the moon…
rising in
eclipse…lying fully in the Earth’s shadow …and blood red…for half an hour.

Earlier at midday on the day Jesus
died…because of the eclipse…the sun had been darkened for almost three hours.

And now Peter reminds the crowd seven weeks later... of the prophet Joel’s words.

before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood...and everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.

In the midst of thousands of Jews…returning to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost
there are gathered together in one place…
a hundred and twenty followers of the executed rabbi Jesus…who claim to have witnessed his resurrection

earshot and in full view of this crowd
all one hundred and
twenty… are transformed into multilingual speakers… capable of being understood by everyone present… no matter where they’re from.

And so as far as Peter is concerned…
the great and glorious day of the Lord… has

And Jesus had promised this would the last supper and again the very last thing before his ascension
you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

All the Jews gathered that day… knew the Spirit of God had turned up before
in the burning
bush…in the pillar of cloud and fire
sometimes filling the tabernacle...
coming on the
prophets in power…changing their lives and making it possible…for them to speak
the future purposes of God…into their present times.

But on this day… this day is different…the ones you hear speaking in your own languages aren’t great prophets…or even great teachers…but ordinary rag tag followers of Jesus… and Peter exhorts them to listen carefully to what he has to say.

This is about the
fulfillment of prophesy…the great and glorious day of the Lord has arrived
the new covenant has been established…
and the kingdom of God is well and truly…at

Jesus may no longer be there in the flesh to teach and to lead them…but now… by the pouring out of God’s spirit on every last one of them…they are all changed…they are all empowered to speak so you can understand

There’s a sense in which that Pentecost Day can be described as the "Birthday of the Church"
and we still
celebrate it fifty days after Easter…
after the Passover…on which Jesus was crucified.

And like the Jews gathered on that day…
here at the ends of the earth we’re still asking

 ‘what does this mean?’

And if the understanding…of Peter and the earliest Christians is right…this means we are living in the last days …the age of the great and glorious day of the Lord
ushered in… by the anointed one of God…
in whose name we
This means these are the days… in which the Spirit of God will be poured out on all flesh…
This means by virtue of our baptism in Christ…
by the Holy Spirit …we’re
all given the ability…
witness to Jesus’ life... death and resurrection

To speak in ways that
all can understand proclaiming Jesus’ saving message of peace…and his ministry…
of reconciling the whole
world to God and one another...
But this also means that the great and glorious day of the Lord is a work in progress…it is now but not yet complete Many of the prophets’ promises are still to be fulfilled.

All weapons of war are not destroyed...the world isn’t united in service and worship to one God.
People still starve and barren lands have yet to be made fruitful. And though Israel is established for the Jews…they do not experience eternal joy and gladness…
nor do their neighbours whose land they occupy.

On that day so long ago…the whole of God became available to the people of God…Father Son and Holy Spirit…

The mystery of the
Trinity which we celebrate next week…moved among them then…
and moves among us now…

And yes some of us believe… but are still reluctant or even unwilling to consent and surrender to the Spirit of God… in us… and upon us …and around us.

And in grace God waits…for our consent…

My friends... just as in the first century at the birth of the church... there is still much work to do...
and continuing conflict injustice and poverty shows we are not evolved enough as human beings...
to bring peace and healing to the world in our own strength. We
need the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

My prayer is that each of us here today will ask for a fresh outpouring of Spirit to transform change us...into effective witnesses...speaking the future purposes of God into
our community...
Please stand as we pray together 

Sunday, 9 May 2010

In the image of God

Easter 5 year C Sermon In the image of God Based on John 14

I’d like to begin this Mother’s Day message… with a reminder from Genesis 1:27… ‘So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 

God blessed them and said to them,
‘Be fruitful and multiply’.

Every time a baby is born… if they’re fortunate…
first face they’re likely to see… is the face of love
mother or father…maybe another…but the face of delight and affection… welcoming them to… life on this planet.
A face reflecting… perhaps the image of God.
But sometimes… it’s not like that… and that makes Mother’s Day or Father’s Day…tough days to preach on. And although everyone here has had a mother…
not everyone
is a mother. Not everyone is a dad.

Some of you lost your parents far too
early in life… others of you… never even knew them.  Some of you are grieving a parent… and your heart is tender.
And some of the
mother’s in our congregation…
are grieving their
children. Mother’s Day can be difficult.

We learn a lot about our lovability and our self-worth from our parents…don’t we? And we learn a lot about God from our parents too. What God is like…for example.

Sometimes our image of God is distorted or even destroyed… by our parents.

So today
that’s what I want to talk about…and how our image of God might be healed.
When Mark was six years old…sleep…knife… pillow in fear of his father… drinking and violence
…protect mother…Mark’s family would have identified as a a Christian….but Marks image of God…someone to be feared…

Today his image of God is being healed by his understanding of Jesus.

And then there’s Jane.  Jane’s mother belonged to an ultra conservative church in Southland. Original sin was the primary focus and she remembers even as a small child being told she was sinful and bad… try as she might she couldn’t be good all the time…decided she’d been rejected by God and if that’s how God is she didn’t want to know God.

Today…she’s met people who see God as loving not punishing…

Kerry’s story’s quite different. A young Christian mum…
wanted to love her new baby but she just couldn’t.
Kerry was suffering from post partum depression. Fortunately her
own mother was on hand…to smile into her newborn baby’s eyes and ensure Kerry got the treatment and support she needed …to overcome the depression.
Today…Kerry’s emotions are returning to normal…
and her mum’s been able to return to New Zealand… knowing her daughter and granddaughter will be

Alongside these three stories…are hundreds more.
Some people don’t learn enough about God…
form an image in the first place. All they have is Bruce Almighty to go by…and that’s a better image of God than the three people I told you today had. [pause]

Sometimes without even knowing it…our mum or dad… or some other caregiver… warp and damage our image of
self and our image of God...

But there
is a way to heal these things and it’s beautifully expressed in the reading…
set down for today from John’s

At their last meal together  
like a mother reassuring her
Jesus… gently
breaks it to his disciples… that he’s going somewhere without them…he’s going to be with God. The one he calls Abba…Father…

And ‘
no…you can’t come too…Jesus tells the…
this time…at least not yet… but one day you will.

And like fretful anxious children…
there’s no
way the disciples can understand…
the kind of
future Jesus is describing. [pause]
begs to go too. Thomas… is worried they’ll get lost trying to follow him. And Jesus gently reassures them all that they already know the way to find him.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you’d know my Father as well. So from now on…
do know him and you have seen him.

But Philip… says look Jesus…just show us the Father already…that’ll be enough for us.

And Jesus sighs:
Don't you know me, Philip, even after I’ve been among you such a long time? Anyone who’s seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
Don't you believe I am in the Father, and the Father’s in me? The words I say to you aren’t just mine.

It’s the Father, living in me, who’s doing his work.

I won’t leave you like you were orphans; I’ll come to you. 
Before long the world won’t see me anymore…
you’ll see me. Because I live, you will too.

On that day… you’ll realize… I’m in my Father

and you’re in me…and I am in you
Those who love me will keep my word…and my Father will love them,
and we
ll come to them…and make our home with them.

Hey that’s incredible isn’t it? … Jesus is saying… in some mysterious way…
love for him…in action in the world…
their obedience to his
teaching…in some mysterious way… their love and their actions…will allow them to see him…allow them to perceive his presence
and his Father’s

All through my life…Jesus seems to be saying…
it’s been just like this…
the Father…living in me
doing his work…all
along… in every loving action I’ve taken…in every word I’ve said… about humility and mercy and compassion and justice and loving your enemy…my Father has been living in me… already

So don’t be afraid of the future
you are loving me and acting out my love in the world…then my father and I are going to be right there living in you…In fact that’s how you’ll know we’re there …when you see love in action. That’s where we’ll be.

And still like fretful anxious children…there’s no way they can understand…the kind of divine presence
Jesus is talking about. [pause]
Ok…then…think of it like this… Jesus goes on…

the Spirit of truth will live with you and be with you.
When my human body is long gone…broken…destroyed by the powers and principalities of Rome and the corruption of the Temple…

Where ever my disciples… are acting out my commandments in love…

the Holy Spirit…this helper…will teach you all things and remind you of everything I’ve said to you. 

You’ll have a new way of seeing…a new way…
to recognise the presence of
God in your life…
and the lives of

your love in action…will be the indicator…the clue…the sign…that the Father and I are there
that God is right
there. [pause]

So how
do we heal…our broken and distorted images of God?

We look to Jesus.

How do we heal our broken and distorted understanding of our own loveability?

We look to Jesus.

How do we know God is with us…we know because Jesus has promised…that in every act of mercy…
every act of compassion…every attempt at peacemaking…or justice…

every time we
practice what Jesus taught us…
God… Creator Redeemer and Spirit… is
alive in us…
or in the one who shows mercy and love to

Where there is love in action…you can see…God.

The implications of Jesus’ new commandment…
to love one another as he has loved us…are
His glory isn’t to be seen in great acts of power…or in the palaces of kings

his glory will shine from us…as we act
saving message of Shalom…in the world.