Monday, 28 April 2014

Sermon Extra 4 - Did Christ have to die for our sins?

The theology around Christ being sacrificed for our sins, is, I think as old as the faith.
There is another slant on this, which when I first heard it, made a light come on. It’s all about an ancient blood covenant.

You will recall that when God made the blood covenant with Abraham, that the people would inherit the land, God instructed the patriarch to slaughter animals and then divide them so that there was a path between the carcasses.  That night a smoking pot and a torch was seen to pass along the path. (Genesis 15).  As I understand the rules around covenant at that time, each person had to pass between the slain animals. Thereby each person was pledging that they would keep their part of the covenant. And the only way to break the covenant was the death of one of the parties. However in this passage Abraham does not pass between the animals, God does – twice.  Meaning that God was making a covenant with both Abraham and himself.  So if the covenant was broken then God has to honour his pledge, not Abraham.  God eventually did this, when he had Moses bring the people out of Egypt.

 Later on God told Abraham the sign of the covenant was circumcision – which again is a blood covenant.

After Moses read the law to the people in the desert and when they accepted the law, Moses then sprinkled blood from a sacrifice on them. (Exodus 24) – another covenant sealed with blood.

At the last supper Jesus said of the wine: this is my blood which will be poured out for many, so he was again initiating a blood covenant (albeit with a substitute substance) for the disciples and through them, us.  
The physical part of the blood covenant was his death on the cross. So it’s not so much that he dies for our sins, but rather that he was making a blood covenant with God for us.  As he was both human and divine he, like the old covenant with Abraham, was making a pledge, both as God and as man.

  His physical blood sealed the new covenant and thereby opened for us, our part of the covenant, which is salvation, forgiveness of sins and eternal life.  Hence the idea, that he died to save us.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Sunday - Br Simeon

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order
Homily preached at Winmalee on
20th April 2014:      Easter Sunday, by Br. Simeon

Gospel:  Matthew 28: 1-10

“ Power and wonder of the Resurrection

Eternal God, on this most holy of days, stir up your Holy Spirit within us that are gathered here this morning, so that your words to us would lead us to be faithful always to your way, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Today, we must visit a tomb.  That seems a bit strange.  Most people don’t enjoy going to graveyards.  Among our list of favourite things to do, no one places, "Visit the mortuary."  Yet, as Christians, we chose to visit this tomb and to visit it often.

The tomb that we seek to visit is not just any tomb.  It is the tomb of our
Saviour.  This is the place where the body of Jesus was once laid.  Strange how sweet this place is to us.  Surely, it is not like the tomb of others. There was weeping here once, but no longer.  There was sorrow here once, but no longer.  There was hurt here once, but no longer.

The women going to the tomb that morning were not going there to celebrate a resurrection. No, they were going to finish the burial process, for on Friday afternoon there had not been time to properly prepare Jesus’ body. For them it was not going to be a good day.

They were not thinking springtime thoughts about flowers bursting forth from the earth, or caterpillars turning into butterflies, or new born baby chicks breaking loose from eggs. None of those thoughts entered their minds because you see they were in the middle of the Easter story.

What they saw and heard that day was an earthquake shaking the earth, a stone being rolled away, guards being so frightened that they became like dead men, an angel appearing, and last but not least, Jesus talking to them as they rushed back to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty and that, can you believe it, Jesus was going to meet them in Galilee.

He was going to meet them in Galilee, how could that be, after what happened to him on that Friday. They did not know how Jesus was brought back to life, but they believed it happened, just as we believe it happened. It was going to be a good day after all.

The early disciples witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They could not forget the open tomb and His pierced hands, and wounded side. The living Christ had a powerful and profound effect on them. The people who went to the tomb on that first Easter morning testify to the power of the resurrection. They were in awe and wonder. This sermon reminds us to revisit the empty tomb each Sunday and remember the wonder of it all.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ caught His followers completely by surprise.  The resurrection came as a wonderful surprise to the disciples. It is very evident none of the disciples were sitting around at the tomb waiting expectantly to see Jesus alive and worshipping Him.

Like the disciples being moved, in awe and wonder;  for us, Easter not only moves us, it touches something deep down inside of us. We encounter God's wonder, that feeling of surprise and awe aroused by something strange and unexpected. It's what Mary Magdalene and the other Mary felt when they learned that Jesus had risen. They departed "quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy" (Matt. 28:8). They were astonished. They went to the tomb expecting to find a dead man in need of embalming. Instead they found an empty tomb. Jesus was alive. That fact, while strange and unexpected, was wonderful and exciting.

One can't experience Easter without wonder. The trouble is that we don't feel wonder any more. Wonder is rare, especially as we grow older. The catch phrase of our culture is: "Been there. Done that." We are spiritually and emotionally not alert. We are a people saturated with analysis, explanations, and experiences - but void of wonder. G.K. Chesterton wrote, "The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder." It is that wonder and mystery of the resurrection that we want. And once we experienced it the most lavish purchase or the most thrilling experience can never substitute for it. For when God touches you, you know it. You can't explain it. You experience it. You feel it. It goes right through you.

Wonder begins in the presence of Jesus. Regardless of our geography or status or age, where the Lord is present, that place is alive with wonder. As we become more aware of God's presence we become more filled with wonder. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary felt it. It was a power, a vibe that went right through them. When they saw Jesus their only response was to fall at his feet in worship.

When you and I encounter the living Christ, our only response is to celebrate his presence. That's Easter. It is the presence of Jesus that moves us and touches us deeply. It is the rocking experience of Jesus' triumph and the relational experience of Jesus' presence. It becomes an experience to imagine that God will be present in our lives to roll the stone away from our hearts. Easter makes us want to fall at Jesus' feet in gratitude and praise for what he has done. That, my dear friends, is something you don't explain and never forget. You experience it. You feel it. It goes right through you. Christ is Risen, He's Risen indeed!


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Sermon Extra 3- Living in Faithfulness.

 Maroubra Presbyterian Church.
Living in Faithfulness.

Pastor: Rev. Johnnie Li

Good Friday  Maroubra Presbyterian Church

We are a Reformed Church at Maroubra Junction in Sydney, close to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and holding to the Westminster Confession of Faith as our doctrinal standards. Our traditional worship is simple and dignified, focusing on the exposition of God's Word. Over the past 20 years or so we have the joy of fellowship with overseas students attending UNSW, building them up in the Reformed Faith.

My wife, Jessica and I had chosen the church to attend a Good Friday Service since our own proved too inaccessible that day.

I am presenting it here as a Sermon Extra because I was impressed with the passion  and Scholarship of the Preacher.

As a non-denominational Community it behoves us to pass on the thoughts and perspectives of others on the Christ Story.

Br Andrew

18 th April Good Friday

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Good Friday 18th April 2014 provided by Br Simeon

“The Cross, such love”

What do you see when you look at the cross? The sin of the world? Suffering, pain, loss? Sorrow, separation, death? To some degree all that is present in the crucifixion. No doubt, all of those things are the sword that pierced Mary’s soul as she stood and watched. Those things, however, can also become the veil, the lens, that distorts our vision of the cross. They can keep us from seeing why this day is called Good Friday. They can keep us from seeing a way forward. Sometimes we let the suffering of Jesus blind us to the love of God.

If today is just another day of suffering and brutality, a day to re-enact the execution of Jesus, then it makes no sense to speak of this day as good. We must acknowledge, however, that good does not mean easy or magical. The goodness of Good Friday does not eliminate the reality of sin, grief, suffering, and death. It means those are not the final or ultimate reality of this day, or any day for that matter.

To fixate on the bloody details of the crucifixion risks promoting a false view of what the cross of Christ accomplishes. That fixation leaves us with an angry God seeking retribution, payment, for humanity’s sinfulness through the violent, bloody, torturous execution of Jesus. That is not the good news of Jesus.

The biblical descriptions do not focus on the brutality, gore, and violence of the cross. For some reason we have allowed that to become the focus of the crucifixion. It is there, to be sure, but that is not where scripture places the focus. St. John offers no graphic or bloody details. He simply states the facts:

“One of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face” (18:22).
   Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged” (19:1).
   “The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head” (19:2).
   They kept “striking him on the face” (19:3).
   Jesus carried “the cross by himself” (19:17).
   “They crucified him” (19:18).
   Jesus said, “I am thirsty” (19:28).
   Jesus said, “‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (19:30).
   After Jesus was already dead “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear” (19:33-34).

For Jesus the focus is not on suffering and death. It is on love. That’s why Jesus can give himself to the cross. He doesn’t look at the cross, he sees through it. Death is not the end. Jesus trusts the Father’s love more than his own death.

Peter, however, can neither look at the cross nor the one who is dying. “I do not know him. I do not know him. I do not know him.” Peter fears death is the end. For Jesus and for himself. In a sense he’s right. Without love death is the end. Without love the entire earth becomes a tomb.
But what if there is more to see? What if those are simply the veil that Jesus’ death tears down?   What if we are to see love there as well? That’s what makes this Friday good. The crucified love of Christ is stronger and more real than death. The crucified love of Jesus does more than join us in our sufferings and dying s. It carries us through them. God’s love defeats sin and death. Every time.
Every day we must decide which we trust more, death or love. That decision in many ways determines our world view, guides our relationships, affects how we approach the circumstances of our lives, and colours our image of God. Can we see and trust the crucified love of Good Friday in our deaths, in the violence of our world, in our losses and sufferings, in the brutalities we experience, in the sins we commit? That is both the challenge and the hope Good Friday offers.

The Cross of Christ is the safeguard of our faith, the assurance of our hope, and the throne of love. It is also the sign of God's mercy and the proof of forgiveness. By his cross Jesus Christ has pardoned us and set us free from the tyranny of sin. He paid the price for us when he made atonement for our sins. The way to peace, joy, and righteousness in the kingdom of God and the way to victory over sin and corruption, fear and defeat, despair and death is through the cross of Jesus Christ.


See Sermon Extra by Brother Luke - did Christ have to die for our sins?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Passion Sunday - Br Andrew

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily preached at Winmalee on Sunday 13th April  2014 by Br. Andrew

Did God the Father forsake Jesus Christ?   As stated in Matthew 27:46?

Passion Gospel

Yes, God did forsake Jesus and this is why it was necessary:

In his letter to the Romans Paul explains that when we sin we separate ourselves from God, (3:23) he turns his face way from us because He cannot look upon sin and the ultimate penalty for our sins, our “wages” is death.(6:23)
If we had chosen the first passion Gospel today we would have heard the passage telling us of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; we would have heard him say "My Father, if this cup can't pass away from me unless I drink it, your desire be done."
When Jesus took our sins upon himself, when he took responsibility for our sins and agreed to receive our wages of death God the Father had to turn his face away from his beloved son and forsake him until the penalty was paid. In putting all our sins behind his back God forsook his son. This was the cup Jesus feared to drink.

The most terrifying thing that Jesus faced when he made Atonement for our sins was to be separated from his Father, to be loved less than the world for which he was sacrificed as we read in the Gospel of John chapter three; “16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

To be abandoned by his Father not only in his flesh but also in his Spirit :- during the three hours of darkness Jesus spent dying on the cross the Trinitarian relationship was fractured. In turning his face away from Jesus in hiding our sins behind his back, the eternal Word turned also – leaving the incarnate one no more human than anyone else except that he was the most perfect human being that ever lived, the only sacrifice fit to justify us before the heavenly courts.

It was an unimaginably terrifying experience, I cannot think of words to describe what could have happened. Reading the accounts of the Passion in the Gospels and our readings from Isaiah and the Psalm place words into the mouth of an otherwise silent Christ to grant us insight into the turmoil that raged within his heart and mind as he struggled to surrender himself to his Father’s will.

From the clamour of the crowds Jesus heard his own words thrown back into his face, those crucified with him, with the Pharisees Elders and scribes reproached him ‘You who destroy the temple, and build it in three days, save yourself!’ ‘He trusts in God. Let God deliver him now, if he wants him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’.

Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani?" That is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? "They gave him vinegar to drink and waited for Elijah to come and save him,
Jesus has drunk of the cup from which he feared to drink and has been deserted, abandoned by God; - Finally Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit, he gave his life for us; it was not taken from him.

In Philippians chapter 2 verses 7 and 8 St. Paul speaks of this unimaginably terrifying experience as an emptying, an act of obedience unto death.

We know that at this point that Trinity is restored since earlier in the Record of the Passion in Luke chapter 23:43 we read that Jesus told the good thief; that today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Matthew records earthquakes with rocks splitting in two enabling the opening of the tombs of long since dead Holy ones who witnessed in Jerusalem after Jesus’ own resurrection. These resurrections were symbolic, showing that the resurrection of Christ is the resurrection of the race --.the witnessing in Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection – that he is the first born from the dead.

[The veil was the heavy curtain which hung between the holy and the most holy places in the sanctuary. By excluding from the most holy place everyone except the high priest, who was the only one allowed to pass through it, and then only once in the year, it signified that the way into the holiest -- that is, into heaven -- was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was standing (Heb. ix.7, 8).]

But the moment that Jesus died, thus making the way manifest, the veil was appropriately rent in twain from top to bottom, disclosing the most holy place to the priests who were at that time offering the evening incense in the holy place.
If anyone is aware of attempting to keep God out of the way behind a veil in their mind it can’t be forever, putting off the decision to commit their lives to him by accepting the salvific death of Christ and his resurrection to eternal life…
We do not know the day or the hour…

Monday, 7 April 2014

5th Sunday in Lent - Br. Luke

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour

Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily preached at Winmalee on Sunday 6th April  2014

Gospel John 11:1-45

I guess I should have been more careful with the selection of the hymns for this morning.  Perhaps I should have chosen that old gospel song “Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones”. That would have been more appropriate, given the reading from Ezekiel.

But have you noticed there are couple of things in the reading this morning they are all about resurrection.  They are all about people being raised from the dead. Ezekiel is raising bones from a slain army. I wonder how those families of those slain people would have reacted had they seen his people back alive again. But there he is with the power of God raising what are essentially skeletons back into human life.

There is Jesus with Lazarus in the tomb raising him. I guess he is different because he has only been dead four days, whereas the Army’s been dead a lot longer. But the same thing raising them up from the dead. And the reading there from St Paul’s for the mind of the flesh is death the mind of the Spirit is life. So the theme through these through three readings is morning is all about resurrection.

It’s also pointing us toward the power of God. Because the only person who can raise people from the dead is God. And so all three readings today are pointing towards that. Of course what happens in a couple of weeks’ time is Easter. So it is pointing us again to the event that is coming in two weeks. The resurrection of Christ.

I want to just have a little look at Romans. Now you all know that St Paul is not one of my favourite people; but I want to have a look at Romans. Because Paul is talking about the difference between Spirit and flesh. So when we are thinking about people being raised from the dead being resurrected, we instantly go aha physical resurrection with thinking of bodies and flesh and people moving around and talking like we are, in this room today. But St Paul is talking a little bit differently he is talking about the Spirit. Now the resurrection from the dead can’t happen without the Spirit.

God told Ezekiel that it is the breath of God that will go into the bodies and make them alive. He is talking about the Spirit. If you read in Genesis it was the Spirit of the Lord that moved the face of the waters. And I think if you go back to the Hebrew it actually says the breath of God that breathes across the face of the water. If we look at the gospels, Jesus is often called the Word made flesh. So it is God’s spoken Word that is becoming flesh. Here we see that it is the Spirit is the thing that ties it all in together.

St Paul says those who are in flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if it is so that the Spirit of God dwells in you. He is telling us very, very clearly that it is God’s Spirit that we have to have dwelling within us. Doesn't matter so much what the flesh does it doesn't matter how we see the flesh it is life that comes from the Spirit. And that’s why Jesus says to the Apostles on a number of occasions ‘receiving the Holy Spirit. And what does he do when he says that he breathes on them. And when the bishop consecrates the oil of chrism what does he do? He breathes on the oil of chrism which then sanctifies it. It’s the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Just remember it’s the Spirit. When we come to Easter and we talking about the resurrection the same thing is going to happen. It’s the Spirit of God that raises Jesus from the dead.

If Christ is in you the body is dead because of sin but the Spirit is alive because of righteousness. We going back a couple weeks ago. Remember we had that reading where Paul was talking about the sin of body leads us to death. The judgement of the law is sin and death. He’s talking about the body. Not the Spirit, but the body. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

The Lectionary compliers have done it again. They do it all the time. They point us back to Ezekiel, again reminding us here in St Paul and then Jesus is talking the same thing when he raises Lazarus from the dead. I always have a bit of a giggle I am afraid when I think of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Just imagine what it would be like the tomb opened, the smell must've been horrible, and it comes out all wrapped up. He must've been shuffling because he was all bound up in cloth with a veil over his face. So he would have had difficulty seeing.

But what is important in this story is a couple of other things not just the Spirit. The family Mary and Martha and all the people that were with them were weeping because Lazarus had gone. Lazarus had died. We haven’t got the earlier part in the story in today’s reading where Jesus delays his departure to see them. So that in a way he knows he’s dead. Jesus waited for him to die before he went and in part of the reading that we missed Jesus tells us that Lazarus died so that Jesus can raising from the dead. Remember that last week we had the blind man who got his sight back and Jesus said he wasn't he was born blind because he was a sinner, he was born blind so that I can demonstrate the power of God and heal him. Jesus is saying something similar in this passage from John. That Lazarus has died so that I show you the glory in the power of God.

The interesting thing is that he challenges Martha and Mary. He says to them do you believe, and they say yes. So Martha says when Jesus tells her to open the tomb, it’s going to be smelly. Jesus said didn't I tell you that if you believed you would see God’s glory. He’s reminding them that he has that power. But he is also reminding them that it is of the Spirit that dwells within us and within Christ which then raises Lazarus from the dead. And they are a witness to the power and glory of God.

Right at the end of the gospel passage of course many of the Jews, who came to Mary and saw what Jesus did, believed in him. And then there is always that sting in the tail isn't there: Some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done. Now we can be fairly certain they went going to go to the Pharisees and say wow isn't he great, isn't he amazing, isn't he terrific. No they going to say look what he’s done now. No they are dobbing on him because we all know the Pharisees don’t like him and neither do the Sadducees like him at all.

In some ways we are like the Pharisees and Sadducees on occasions. We can see all the miracles that Jesus does. We can see in our lives what is happening. We can see the Spirit moving. It is often said you don’t see the hand of God until you look back. When we are going through a crisis or something at the time we don’t actually see the Spirit working. It’s when you stop and reflect and take a fresh look backwards, then you say ahh there is the hand of God at work. So when we doubt and we do doubt because we human. Now I imagine that at some point Ezekiel may have doubted that the bones could be brought back to life. We know, because we can see it, that some of the people gathered there didn't believe that Lazarus will be brought back to life.

So when we have our natural human doubt that something can’t happen, we’re being a little bit like the Pharisees. Because we are looking for evidence, we’re looking for proof that it won’t work. We desperately wanted it to fail, because then we are justified in what we were doing, or not doing, as the case may be. And remember as Christians the Spirit dwells within us so we have to do what we have to do and follow the two great Commandments. Which are love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbour as yourself.

It’s always that last one that makes it difficult. Loving God can be hard but it’s the second one which is the killer. So when we don’t love our neighbours as ourselves, then we are being like the Pharisees and Sadducees. When we see the miracles around us, we need to remember always that it is the Spirit living within us.

We can rely on God, we can rely on Jesus. Because as he said to Mary and Martha if you believe you will see. There is time to doubt, because then you are like the Pharisees. Just remember to be like Martha and Mary and not like the Pharisees. And St Paul reminds us that the Spirit dwells within us. Grasp onto the resurrection and onto the love of God, which flows from the Spirit. Amen.