Monthly Archives: April 2016

Sunday 24 April, archived sermon – A New Commandment I give unto you

A sermon on Anzac weekend. (From the archives April 2013)

Readings:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; John 13:31-35

 31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come. 34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

Message

I wonder if you remember this song:

-1-
We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord. (x2)
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.

Chorus
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,
By our Love,
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

-2-
We will work with each other,
We will work side by side. (x2)
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity
And save each man’s pride.

Chorus

-3-

We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand. (x2)
And together we’ll spread the News
that God is in our land.

All praise to the Father from whom all things come…

copyright 1966 Peter Scholte

It was a great song. I’m not sure why songs written in the 1960s needed so many repeats! Maybe it was the 60s. People might have needed reminding of things. Who knows.

Ironically that song fell out of the book Living Praise because the owners withdrew the copyright. Not very loving – the new edition had a blank page with apologies instead of music.

So what has happened to the church after all these years?

So many times we sang this song from John 13.

So many sermons on this passage:

34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’

They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another? “Yeah right” is the classic kiwi approach!

sermon outline 28 April

WE DO GET IT RIGHT THOUGH

Today we remember those who gave their lives for their country – in whatever war you think of there have been terrible losses and sacrifice.

In the face of such devastation – many have shown the love of Christ in action in the face of terrible risk and threat.

  • Like those who stuck up for the persecuted Jewish people – and hid them or rescued them.
  • Those who refused to fight as pacifists – but served in amazing ways as peacemakers or medical staff
  • Chaplains who were with their people on the front lines praying and ministering to the dying
  • And many who nursed the wounded at great risk themselves. And the endless sacrifice of soldiers…

HOW NEW IS NEW?

What is new about this new commandment that Jesus gave?

Loving your neighbour wasn’t new – that was already in the Old Testament or Jewish Bible.

Listen and look again:

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

AS I HAVE LOVED YOU – is the key.

Love for Jesus was more than words – more than his teaching about love – but an action.

God so loved the world so much that he sent a text or telegram? I don’t think so.

God so Loved the world so much that he GAVE HIS ONLY SON. (John 3:16).

Jesus laid down his life for us. In fact, when he was preparing his followers for his death he said this (in the previous chapter in John):

23 Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

27 ‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!’

You find that passage – especially verse 24 – on memorials and cenotaphs throughout the world (κενοτάφιον – empty tomb; kenos – “empty”, and taphos – tomb) – memorials that are empty because the people remembered are elsewhere – on Flanders field or some unknown place of terrible sadness and death.

…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Paul says something very similar to husbands in Ephesians 5:

Eph 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Sacrifice! A great reminder!

So as we give thanks for those who have sacrificed today – let’s commit ourselves to really love each other as Jesus loves us!

  • It’s a tall order!
  • It is possible – by His grace and through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit!
  • It is essential for Christian witness – people know we follow Jesus because of our love
  • It is not PERFECTION – real love is honest, not pretentious, and knows how to say sorry and move on when things go wrong!

But – you may be thinking – “my life is too hard – this command is too hard”. You say to me, maybe – “you don’t know the people that I have to deal with” or “you don’t know my family, pastor!”

Let’s dig a little deeper into this passage before we go home today. Go back to verse 31of John 13:

It begins with this innocuous line: 31 When he was gone, Jesus said…

And of course context is everything.

The “he” is Judas. And Jesus loved Judas – he was one of his team.

And prior to that in John 13 Jesus had washed their feet – despite the protestations of Peter.

What is coming – for Jesus – is a betrayal and a denial – a cruel trial, flogging, a crown of thorns and an agonizing crucifixion.

It’s from that cross that Jesus forgives his tormentors.

This Jesus – who will need tremendous courage and strength – is the one who says here:

33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer.

In fact some translations have “Little children” here…

It’s a tender address. No parables here – no mysteries and riddles to crack.

They knew they had to love their neighbour (Leviticus 19:18).

It probable figured that they had to love each other.

Listen to the whole passage preceding the commandment again:

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come.

It would not feel like glorification for Jesus or his followers. It would feel like defeat.

Glorification is not about success, but obedience now in the short term – and reward in the long term!

We’re back to sacrifice are we not?

Back to our soldiers who give up their lives for others.

Heroes who rescue their friends on the battle field.

One can understand the feelings of their comrades at this time.

There is a sense of enormous gratitude – when you are rescued, protected, or saved by someone. I’d like to know – we’d all like to know – that there is someone we can depend upon, someone who will defend us if we are attacked or in danger.

So too Jesus – who died for us. He saves us.

So too those tens of thousands of New Zealanders who gave their lives in war or protecting others in some way.

Love is shown in sacrifice.

Amen.

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Sunday sermon 17 April, Easter 4 – Sheep and shepherds

Family Service Readings: Psalm 23; John 10:22-30;

FAMILY QUIZ – for all ages.

  1. Who wrote the Psalm “The lord is my shepherd?” (David)
  2. What is the number of that Psalm? (23)
  3. Who had the first sheep dogs in the bible? (David – Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life – “Surely” or a dog called “Shirley”). [This is a joke by the way :-)]
  4. What part of a bible days sheep was very fat? Was it the tummy or the tail? (Tail)
  5. Which way did bible shepherds may their sheep move. Did they drive them from behind or lead them from in front? (in front)
  6. If a sheep was injured say scratched by a sharp thorn bush or sunburned – what did the shepherd use to heal them? (olive oil)
  7. What would a shepherd carry the oil in back in bible days? (a ram’s horn).
  8. What was the name of the shelters made for sheep to be sheltered in/ (sheepfold)
  9. What material was a permanent sheepfold made of? (stone)
  10. What was used to guard the door of a sheepfold? (a watchman or shepherd).
  11. When David was a shepherd boy what animals did he protect his sheep from? (lion and bear. 1 Sam 17)
  12. Did shepherds really know their sheep by name? (yes)

And then two key questions:

  1. Does Jesus know you by name?
  2. Do you REALLY listen to Him?

MESSAGE FOR ADULTS AND KIDS

As this is a family service, here are some questions to discuss with someone younger or older than you in church today:

  • When do you feel the most unsafe?
  • Who are the people you should be safe with?
  • Have you ever been abandoned?
  • Do you remember being lost? In danger?
  • Have you ever been left behind?

When you’ve been left behind, perhaps after school,  and no one came to fetch you. How did you feel? Scared? (not really/maybe).  Unloved? (toughen up kid –  or maybe you felt terrible unloved?)  Angry? (probably – because you’re a kiwi kid and have a sense of entitlement?)

We watched a presentation about children in Romania being abandoned totally by parents – children who lie in hospital cots for years. It’s a great story though of a kiwi woman who started an orphanage there – and eventually a whole organisation to rescue children.

The bible has a lot of ways of describing God’s love for us as God’s children. The Good Shepherd is a great one – this Sunday Easter 4 is always Good Shepherd Sunday. He really does care for us as part of his flock. And of course he speaks of “lost sheep” in another place, describing how we get separated from Him. Here’s a great video telling that story:

 

Thankfully we are found by Jesus – and part of our work is to help lost people get reconnected to Him too.

Here’s one way of looking at Psalm 23 which is one of those passages that are our bread and butter – like 2 Corinthians 5:17 (if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation) and John 3: 16 (God so love the world). It’s by Ben Witvoet.

_______________________________________________

Dialogue with Scripture:

This has been another busy week. I don’t know whether I can focus on worship this morning. Something is nagging at my feelings.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Life is busy. There seems to be no end to work. I can’t relax.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.
I have bad, painful memories.

I am hurting inside.

He restores my soul.

I struggle with sin. The good I want to do I cannot do. The evil I do I do not want to do. Who will rescue me from this body of death?

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 

I am getting older and may soon die. Someone I love may soon die.

Even though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

My fellow workers look down on me. My boss gives me a hard time.  have few friends at school.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Life is full of troubles. My health is not as it should be. Where can I find meaningful work?

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

I am worried about the future. Will I meet a partner? Can I repay my debts? Is my business going to fail? Will my marriage last?

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

________________________________________________

John 10 – the good shepherd.

The Gospel reading has a number of great things that are a strength to us as well.

The whole of John 10 is worth reading. It doesn’t all take place at the same time. This last part is at the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) in winter and takes place on the east side of the temple where pronouncements and judgments took place.

The Jewish leaders are eager to pin Jesus down on his claims. In fact, there’s only one verse in the whole of John’s gospel where the question is asked directly? They encircle him, corner him and ask: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (John 10:24).

He answers in sheep and shepherd language. They would pick that up quickly – because they would have known Psalm 23 too (The LORD- YAHWEH – GOD -is the shepherd) – and that there and in other places God is the shepherd of the flock. Jesus is making a claim to be this shepherd. Here is his reply:  Joh 10:25  Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, Joh 10:26  but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. Joh 10:27  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. Joh 10:28  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 

Importantly, eternal life – in John 17:3 – is described as a relationship – knowing God. And Jesus is claiming here that we are safe in his hand.

Just in case they don’t get it he spells it out further: Joh 10:29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. Joh 10:30  I and the Father are one.”

The moment he claims to be God – the next verse in fact – they want to stone him!

There is nothing worse than a closed mind. They could not get their heads around that possibility that he was “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14). Of course in John 1:11 John writes: He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Jesus challenges us too – to really believe in Him – not just who he is but that he really is the good shepherd.

I suspect often we live the opposite – as if we had been abandoned by God – that he forgot to fetch us at the school of life.

Here’s Psalm 23 again – with some key words to describe God and Jesus:

Psalm 23 -a Litany

The Lord is my Shepherd That’s Relationship!

I shall not want That’s Supply!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. That’s Rest!

He leadeth me beside still waters. That’s Refreshment!

He restoreth my soul. That’s Healing!

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness That’s Guidance!

For His Name’s sake That’s Purpose!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death That’s Testing!

I will fear no evil That’s Protection!

For Thou art with me That’s Faithfulness

Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me That’s Discipline!

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies That’s Hope!

Thou anointest my head with oil That’s Consecration!

My cup runneth over That’s Abundance!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life That’s Blessing!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord That’s Security!

Forever That’s Eternity!

May he bless you today with the knowledge of how good He is.

Amen.

Sunday Message 10 April, Easter 3 – Harvest Sunday

READINGS: Deuteronomy 8: 7-18;  2 Corinthians 9:6-15;  Luke 12:16-30

SERMON

Have you given anyone a gift recently? I wonder what the occasion was. Perhaps a birthday, Christmas, or the celebration of a new life – the birth of a baby. Perhaps a grandchild?

Think about the gifts you have received in the past year.

  • Do you remember who gave them to you?
  • Did you remember to thank them?
  • Do you think about them when you use that gift?

The overwhelming idea in the passage from the Old Testament today is a warning that we should not forget the gifts God gives us – the blessings he bestowed – the things he has done. And I would add the prayers he has answered.

Over the years I have had amazing conversations with people who have really considered believing in God – or have prayed to him (when they usually didn’t) – or have even come along to church for a while in a crisis. Who contact me in emergencies for spiritual help and prayer – and when things are going well they are suspiciously silent. We pray for people who have needs – are unemployed or unwell –  their prayers are answered and we don’t see them again for a long time.

Deuteronomy 8 reminds us of this amazing gift of life and creation (whether it’s the land promised to Israel or this beautiful country we enjoy) – that we should not forget and become proud about our achievements (v14) – and it also says that he gives us the ability to produce wealth! (v18).

It’s that old attitude of gratitude. We often realise too late when people are dead and gone what a blessing they were. And so too many other things we enjoy.

  1. DON’T FORGET THE LORD! This is the first point today. This generous God – we should not neglect to speak of his kindness and grace, and to praise him constantly for his gifts. Which leads to the second point worth remembering today: 

2. GENEROUSITY IS CONTAGEOUS

The reading from Corinthians picks up the harvest theme from a different angle.

Again it is God who “supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” (2 Corinthians 9:10).

The generosity of spirit in both practical and spiritual things – with cheerfulness – is the natural outflow of knowing we are blessed to be a blessing.

And so Paul says to the church in Corinth (in the context of their giving):

2Co 9:6  Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2Co 9:7  Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

We are not always known to be cheerful givers. The offering time in many churches is not noted for excessive happiness and hilarity!

Paul was dependent upon peoples’ gifts to keep the work going – so that the gospel could reach all the places he travelled to on his missionary journeys. He says:

2Co 9:10  Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2Co 9:11  You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2Co 9:12  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (As an aside we need to thank God regularly for those who serve with us here).

God has blessed us – we bless others and give to the work of the gospel as part of our thanksgiving and worship.

The riches we receive are not physical here. This is not a prosperity business – giving to be blessed – even though we are told we will be blessed!

We give to those in need to glorify God! We need to be generous kids of a generous Father. Generosity is contagious. Like love – its catchy!

And now to the third point today:

  1. SELFISHNESS IS RISKY AT BEST – FOOLISH AT LEAST

The gospel reading is a stark reminder of the power of sin – which focusses on me mine, what I will do for myself. It comes through clearly in the words of the barn man:

Luk 12:17  He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Luk 12:18  “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. Luk 12:19  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ Luk 12:20  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Luk 12:21  “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”

What is this guy really after? A nest egg and early retirement? God calls him a fool.

What matters when the plug is pulled and we are gone from all this stuff in a flash?

There’s nothing wrong with providing for oneself and family. But this man is totally obsessed with  himself. The context is greed. Look at the preceding verses Luke 12:13-15:

Luk 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Luk 12:14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Luk 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

What could he have done?

Probably being content with what he had would be a start. Paul says this on the matter:

1Ti 6:6  But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Ti 6:7  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1Ti 6:8  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1Ti 6:9  People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1Ti 6:10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Following on from this warning is our last point:

4. TRUST HIM WHETHER IN WANT OR WELL PROVIDED FOR (aka DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY?)

The gospel passage today ends with that wonderful reminder about God the provider:

Luk 12:22  Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Luk 12:23  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Luk 12:24  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Luk 12:25  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Luk 12:26  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luk 12:27  “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. Luk 12:28  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! Luk 12:29  And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. Luk 12:30  For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  

He ends with this:

Luk 12:31  But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luk 12:32  “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 

Worry is an unprofitable emotion indeed. Remember last week how I said we have to fill our minds with scripture to offset all the other stuff we are fed.

My prescription for you today: Read this passage at least once a week. It reminds us that we are more valuable than the birds who are provided for. He will take care of us!

  • Guard your heart – that insidious love of money and stuff can destroy you.
  • Seek his Kingdom, little flock. He has been pleased to give us the kingdom! This means not storing up for heaven as a kind of investment, but living for different lasting values and priorities now.

To recap we should work on:

  • Not forgetting the Lord – being thankful!
  • Being like Him – generous.
  • Living lives in a mode opposite to greed and selfishness.
  • Trusting Him – he is our provider. The Kingdom kids have the King’s kindness to depend upon! Remember Luke 12:30 “Your Father knows that you need them”.

May His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth – as it is in heaven.

Amen.

 

Sunday Message 3 April 2016, Easter 2 – Peace, Power, Purpose and Pardon

We watched “Risen” this week. Some of our home group managed to go along to the movies together.

I was quite intrigued and moved all at once.

The story is told from the point of view of a Roman soldier, played by Joseph Fiennes. His job is to find the body of Jesus which they are told has been stolen.

Ultimately he sees Jesus with the disciples – and realises that this is the same man he saw dead and buried.

It did make the idea of resurrection very real. Startling. Unnerving. And exciting.

You have to have some sympathy for Thomas who for some reason or another wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to most of them.

That Sunday night Jesus shows up – and Thomas is invited to check out those wounds.

He is response is a profession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”

Thomas’ life changes radically. We have it on good authority that he eventually takes the Gospel of Christ to India. Like the others (apart from John) he eventually gives his life as a martyr and witness to the gospel.

What’s more intriguing is Thomas’s name. He is called Didymus – the twin.

There’s a good chance his actual name is Judas Thomas (meaning Judas the twin). He can be forgiven for changing his name or sticking with Thomas. I had a conversation with someone this week who is changing their name for the sake of English speaking people who can’t pronounce a foreign name.

At breakfast this week we will be asking the question “what’s in a flag?”.

So what’s in a name then?

Not too many are given new names by Jesus. Simon the reed becomes Peter the solid rock.

Most keep their names.

But they become known by the name that is eventually given to followers of Christ.

“Christian”

Christian names traditionally given at Baptism are also symbolic of a new identity in Christ.

Scripture bears this out. These are key verse we should know:

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (new creation)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sinn for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

John 3 (born of God – from above)

12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent,n nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.’

Ephesians (old self are replaced with new self)

21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

THESE ARE KEY QUESTIONS AT HIS EASTER TIME:

  • What are we known by?
  • How do people see us?
  • How are we really changed?
  • Are we really different?

TODAY’S READING FROM JOHN TELLS US MORE ABOUT THIS NEW LIFE.

  1. We receive His peace. (PEACE)

Paul tells us this too:  We are justified by faith – we have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)

Rom 5:1  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The peace with God is foundational – and relational. And then there is inner peace:

We have a peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4)

Php 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Php 4:7  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

He spoke about peace before his departure in John 14:27 and 16:33:

Joh_14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Joh_16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

He speaks peace to them at each resurrection event. (I am sure he would have as when dead people show up it is very troubling).

Joh _20:19  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

Joh_20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Joh_20:26  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

  1. He gives us his Spirit (POWER)

This word for breath – like the word for gardener last week – is very unique. It appears in Genesis when God breathes into Adam – and Ezekiel 37 – where life is breathed into the dry bones (dem bones dem bones…) ἐμφυσάω – emphusaō – means a puff literally. For those who have asthma – you will understand how vital that puff is. I don’t have too much trouble with my asthma. I did have a serious attack last year. Without being over-dramatic – it was one of those Psalm 31 moments – “my times are in your hands”.

Without that life – we are dry bones indeed. Dead. Without that power – we have no confidence or boldness to go out – which is what happens next. The power is immediately given for the task. The peace, the commission, and the power all belong together as we see in verses 21-22:

Joh 20:21  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Joh 20:22  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

  1. He sends us out (PURPOSE)

This is a Trinitarian mission statement. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (v21).

We still have some streets to cover in our task of handing out the “Hope” booklets. Have a look at the map in the foyer.

It’s easy to leave it to the pastor or elders. Or to support missionaries who go across borders.

The thing is – we are all sent.

That’s why we talk about “one holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic (sent) church.

Matthew 28’s great commission is just another way of looking at the passage today. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you…”

Mat 28:18  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Mat 28:19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Mat 28:20  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

  1. He makes us a forgiving people (PARDON). We take on the Father’s nature, and the son’s (father forgive them – his words on the cross).

It fits with Jesus’ teaching on the Lord’s prayer:  Luke 11:4 “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”  Or in the traditional Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Do we? Often we don’t because we are angry or offended.

This is probably our weakest point. Christians have to be careful. Gossip and scandal are both unhelpful. We are often the ones who shoot our wounded.

Fortunately, we have a wonderfully merciful and loving God.

If only we could be more like Him. Actually we can – with his peace, power, purpose and pardon!

Forgiveness is not only our weakest point – it’s also a most misunderstood point. Listen again to this passage:

John 20:23  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV)

 What do you make of that? Listen to it in this translation: John 20:23  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (NRSV).

The church is God’s family – and some things just are not ok. You can’t tolerate evil. Or rebellion. Or deliberate or wilful sins. The health of the family is at stake. (Matthew 18 has a process for that reason – first confront the person, then take a couple of witnesses to confront them – and if that doesn’t work tell it to the whole church. Exclude them because some things are just not on.)

Tom Wright helps us here as he writes about this passage:  They are to pronounce, in God’s name and by his spirit, the message of forgiveness to all who believe in Jesus. They are also to ‘retain sins’: to warn the world that sin is a serious, deadly disease, and that to remain in it will bring death. They are to rebuke and warn– not because they don’t like people, or because they are seeking power or prestige for themselves, but because this is God’s message to a muddled, confused and still rebellious world. Wright, Tom (2002-10-18). John for Everyone Part 2: Chapters 11-21 Pt. 2 (New Testament for Everyone) (Kindle Locations 2436-2439). SPCK. Kindle Edition.

When there is genuine sorrow for sin and repentance and restitution – then you don’t have to retain those sins. Simple hey. It’s all about the body – the family – and the harm people can do. It’s not about our being unforgiving for personal wrongs people have committed to us. (And we always add this point – that forgiveness is a process – especially when there has been abuse. It may take a long time to reach there. And it does not mean we forget what people have done, or that we should not put up boundaries when people are toxic.)

Listen again to what Wright says of the commission to the apostles:  They are to rebuke and warn– not because they don’t like people, or because they are seeking power or prestige for themselves, but because this is God’s message to a muddled, confused and still rebellious world

What a challenge to be people of the resurrection and the cross.

Christ did not die for nothing. He died because the wages of sin is death. He died. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. We live.

How can we not be changed?

Amen.