Easter Sunday Sermon

Sunday 27th of March, 2016

John 20:1-18

On this Easter Sunday we hear a Gospel reading from John that tells us of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that we all here today believe and confess. Now I don’t know about you but I would not have expected the resurrection account to be told this way. I would have expected Jesus to immediately reveal himself to his disciples. I would expect Jesus to make a bigger scene. I would expect that the telling of his resurrection from the dead would start with him, or if not him one of his close disciples. But it doesn’t rather, it starts with a woman named Mary Magdalene.

May Magdalene is coming to visit Jesus tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark. Notice here that at this point none of his other disciples are mentioned yet, it is just her alone. We don’t know what they were doing, but they were not here at this moment at the tomb of the buried Jesus. The very fact that she came there to this tomb at that time of the morning, suggests that Mary was deeply grieving. She could not let this man Jesus go. She could not accept that he had just died like this, two days before. In this account from John’s Gospel we see that Mary is steadfast and devoted to attending to Jesus his dead body. Mary was one of those who had taken upon herself the task of seeing to Jesus’ body, a task that lead to uncleanness according to the Jewish law. The very fact that she was doing this was made her unclean by the law. The Jews were not to come near a dead body, for it made them unclean. This action would have put her in a position that if she was found out then she most likely would have been ostracized by those around her, banned from the community until the priests had cleansed her. Yet she was willing to do this for her Lord.

When she found the tomb empty she ran to the other disciples to tell them, and Peter and the John came running to see for themselves. They came went into the tomb and saw what they needed to see and then as verse 10 says: 10  the disciples went back to where they were staying. But notice the Mary did not leave, rather she stood outside the tomb crying. Mary was weeping because she was not able to care for her Lord in death. She was still wanting to care for him. The question of the angels prepares her for what is to come. “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” Imagine seeing two angels in white.

This woman is in a place of deep grief. Her grief must have been intense not to have stood in awe at the sight of Jesus. Jesus speaks to Mary and says “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”, but she does not answer the questions, but rather she is still looking for his body.

At this point things change. The resurrected Lord Jesus calls her by name. He said ‘Mary’ In this one word, spoken to her by Jesus, all of her earthly priorities are undone. In an instant Mary has found the living Lord. She recognizes him immediately, calling him “teacher.”  In this moment Jesus’s relationship to her has changed. He is not dead. He is the risen Lord, full of hope and love.

Mary desperately want to cling to Jesus, but rather he tells her not to hold on to him, but to tell “my brothers, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

So Mary obey Jesus and she does what others would soon do, she bears witness through the words of Jesus to the risen Lord.

In this action Mary is about to start one of the most important events in history, the telling to others of Jesus resurrection from the dead. It is Mary who first speaks of the Jesus and his resurrection. She is the one who said “I have seen the Lord”.

Mary was the one who did not give up on the worldly task of burying her Lord, at great personal cost to her, and that determination made her the first eyewitness to our risen Lord. And having witnessed the Lord, she brings the good news to the other disciples of Jesus.

It was Jesus, who by his words has created and redeemed this devoted follower, and then renewed her by his gracious words. It was Jesus who propelled her so that her response was to immediately go out and take the message of her Lord to the other disciples.

This incredible event, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, spread through this devout ordinary women.

On the whole the resurrection of Jesus is not something that we stop to think about often in our Christian lives. We certainly think about it on Easter Sunday, but it tends to fade into the background at other times. Yet every time we meet for worship each Sunday, we are gathered together with our risen Lord. If fact it is only because he has risen and concurred death that we worship at all.

We meet with the risen Lord Jesus, the one who has risen from the dead and taken away our penalty for our sins. But he is also the one who still coming to us and is speaking to us and reminding us that our grief and our veil of tears, that we experience because of death  is but a passing matter, when it is compared to  the eternal life we enjoy, partially now, and will soon enjoy fully with Jesus in heaven.  It is because of his work in Mary that we here today have heard the Gospel of Jesus and have come to him. We too like Mary can say “I have seen the Lord”. We have been spoken to by him in our baptism, we to are spoken to by him through his Word, we to are spoken to by our risen Lord Jesus, who his renewing us, so that we too, like Mary, can bring the good news of his resurrection to others.

I encourage you to ponder on how Jesus spoke to Mary that day. To dwell on how, something so huge and incomprehensible, a dead man being raised from the dead, could be revealed and spread to others in such as small and humble way. Think about how he is still revealing himself to you and others today.

This Easter Sunday is a day where we celebrate the victory over death and sin by our Lord Jesus, where we celebrate the fact that Jesus overcame all that he went through on the Friday, and because of this he has now won the victory over sin and death. This is the day where we celebrate the fact that you and I have been included in this victory that he won for us; and therefore we stand in victory with him. I remind you of Jesus words to Mary: “…Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ These words also apply to us. We celebrate this day all that Jesus has done, but also all that Jesus still does for us here today. But let it not only be this day, that we ponder these things, but every time we gather together to worship him.

May our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, give you his peace.

Good Friday Sermon

Friday 25th March, 2016

John 18-19

Here we are on this Good Friday gathered together in worship as we remember what our Lord Jesus. Christ has done for us as he took that journey to the cross. This day is not an easy day for many. As what we remember is not pleasant. We remember Jesus being abandoned by those close to him, we remember his being unfairly treated by the chief priests, we remember his standing before for Pilate, the ferocious anger of the crowd yelling “crucify him”, we remember the brutal violence that was dished out to Jesus, violence that is beyond our imaginations; and we remember his brutal death. And in this we remember that Jesus the ordinary man punished for our sins.

If we are to be honest on this day it is tempting to detach ourselves from what happened to him. It is easy to look back and see that this man Jesus got caught up in the evil plans of the religious leaders to kill him, that this was just a tragedy that happened to an innocent man. Others shift the focus away in by focusing on the bigger picture. The God had decided from the beginning that this what was going to happen. Look at all the prophecies in the Old Testament that point to the death of the messiah. This was always going to happen it was a foregone conclusion. This is just the way it had to be.

However, in John 10:11 Jesus says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” then a bit later in this chapter he says “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (v 18)

It is easy to see Jesus here as some passive victim, that thing things just happened to him. But Jesus is not as passive as we like to think he was. Right from the start of John’s account beginning at Jesus’ arrest we see that Jesus took the initiative. Jesus was in control of what was about to happen to him. When Judas and those sent to arrest him came: Jesus “knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them ‘Who is it that you want?’” (18:4) Jesus went out to them. He did not try to hide, he did not try to run away, he did not try to protect himself, but he went out to them and he asked the question “Who is it you want?” He went out and he willingly gave himself over into the enemy’s hands. The religious officials and soldiers seized him and bound him, but the reality is Jesus, put up no struggle and he would have gone freely with them.

When Peter his disciple acted to protect Jesus by striking the high priest’s servant’s ear, Jesus reacted by commanding “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father as given me”

You see Jesus had a resolute and unbending commitment to his Heavenly Father. In fact right throughout Jesus’ journey to that cross he was determined to follow the path his Father had set for him. And make no mistake, this was no easy choice for Jesus to make. He really wrestled with whether he was going to follow through with it and there is no doubt that if he could to he could have wavered; he could have decided not to go through with it; he could have chosen a different path. There is a moment when Jesus is on the edge. You see this clearly in Mathew’s account of the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane where we see Jesus wrestling with his Father. Jesus prays “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” in that moment he does not want to go through with it, and yet he says “Yet not as I will, but as you will”.

Jesus did the very thing God asks of you and me, but we can’t do. That is he 100% trusted his Father. He deliberately made that choice to follow the will of his Father. As Paul says in his letter the Philippians 2: 8 “And being found in the appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross”.  Jesus was not forced, coerced, or bullied into taking this journey to the cross. And if he had wanted to he could have pulled out, he could have chosen a different path. But he didn’t.

Good Friday is one of those days where we look at Jesus and we see clearly his love for his Father and his love for you and me. He made this decision knowing what was about to happen and what was in front of him: Knowing that he would face the desertion of his disciples and denial by Peter; knowing that he would have to face the abuse of chief priest and hard hearted religious leaders and face their false accusations, knowing that he would have to face the anger and the total rejection of the people before Pilate; knowing that he would have to face the extreme physical suffering; knowing that he would have to face death by crucifixion. And knowing all of this, he willingly chose to be obedient and to walk this path. There are things about our faith in Jesus that are at times incomprehensible, and the fact that Jesus made this choice for you and me is one of them.

Not everyone knew that this journey was Jesus choice and that he was taking this willingly. The Jewish religious leaders, for instance, believed that they were in control of the situation. They were the ones who had been planning for some time to kill Jesus, because of his so called blasphemous behaviour. And now they had him right where they wanted him and their plans for his death were coming to fruition. They were finally going to get rid of him.

Pontius Pilate also believed that he was in charge of the situation. After all he even says to Jesus in 19:10 “Don’t you realise I have the power either to free you or to crucify you” Jesus replied “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above”

The thing is that Jesus himself was the master of the situation right up to his very last breath when he said “ it is finished” and then it says “With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” Even his death was not taken from him, he gave it up willingly.

Many people in our world believe that Jesus existed. They even believe that he lived and died on a cross at the hands of the Roman Empire. But to them this is just some historical event. Yes it happened and yes is moral teaching are good for humanity. Yes Jesus shows us how to live a good life.

But you and I know the truth, we know what reality happened on that cross. We know the punishment for the sins of the world was laid upon him. We know that the anger of God towards our sin was given to him And the most amazing thing is that Jesus took the punishment for the sins of the world, willingly. It was his choice to follow through.

God’s Word says that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). This is the reality of the world we live in. The world around us does not want to deal with the reality of sin before God. It does not want to face the fact that there will be accountably before him. It does not want to acknowledge sin. But as Christians you and I know different. We see the realty of sin in the world. More than that not just the sins of others, but the reality of our own sinful hearts. We know that Jesus journey to death on a cross was not just something random that occurred 2000 years ago, but that on that cross the punishment for our sin was paid.

Jesus’ journey to the cross demonstrates what our sin is capable of: the political power games, cruelty, abuse, brutal violence, mockery and injustice, because this was how the Son of God was treated at the time of his crucifixion. But it also highlights the extent of God’s love; in that he loves his creation so much that he gave his only Son Jesus and that Jesus willingly chose to obey his Father’s will and gave his very life for us so that our sins may be completely and freely forgiven. Through his sacrifice the very thing that hardens our hearts, our sin, is taken away so that we can be in a right relationship with our God. From this right relationship we are called respond.

1 John 3:16 says 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. We are to reflect on Jesus and all the he has chose to do for us, and to respond by seeking to follow him walking in the path that our Heavenly Father wants us to walk, and seeking to follow Jesus by giving our laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters. You see Jesus crucifixion, cannot be just navel gazing and marvelling at what he has done, but it calls for us as believers to respond to others, just has he has responded to us.

It was no random twist of fate that Jesus went to his death on a cross for your sins. He chose to. And why did he choose to do this? He chose to because he loves you so much that he willingly took your place so that your sins and mine are now forgiven. And this is worth pondering and thinking about.

The peace the passes all our human understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus Amen.

 

Maundy Thursday Sermon

Thursday 24th March, 2016

1 Corinthians 11: 23-26

On this Maundy Thursday where our thinking about the very night that our Lord Jesus was sitting around a table with his disciples where he first instituted Holy Communion it makes sense that tonight I am going to preach on the epistle reading from 1 Corinthians 11.

One of the strengths as Lutheran Christians is that traditionally we have been very strong in the area of teaching the faith. To have the right teaching is important to us as it helps us to live our Christian lives knowing what we believe and why. If I was to ask you ‘why we come to Holy Communion?’ you would all be able to answer me quite well. But if I was to ask you what happens in Holy Communion many would find this question harder to answer. This is the question that I would like to focus on this evening.

As we are church community who partakes of the Lord Supper regularly you will know the words that are spoken. But have you ever thought about the first words that are spoken in the words of institution. “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed…” Jesus was having his last Passover meal with his disciples, the very ones who would betray him. We know that Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over the authorities for money. But he was not the only one who betrayed Jesus this night. Peter made the bold claim that he would not deny the Lord, but he did. The disciples who had followed Jesus, been with him, known him, received from him, were in a short amount of time going to abandon him and leave him on his own. These disciples that were full of all the right words, but in reality cowards, were the ones sitting with Jesus at that table. Before we condemn these disciples though, we need to realise that we are also like them come to the same table. Yes we are Christians and followers of Christ, but we are also sinful people. We too like the disciples, run from Jesus at times; we don’t listen to him; we give up on him when the going gets tough; we too can often say the right words, but underneath in our hearts we can be cowards like them. Yet it is to the disciples and to us that Jesus, gives us his body and his blood. Many people tend to think that being a Christian is living the perfect life, that we come to communion because of our faith, but this is not true. Jesus gives to us his body and blood because we are sinners and he strengthens our faith through this. None of the disciples were worthy to receive the body and blood of Jesus that night, just as none of us are worthy to receive now. But he gives it to us.

St Paul says: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (26). Tomorrow on Good Friday we remember the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus on that day as he was crucified. As his body was beaten and broken, as he blood was shed on that cross for all our sins. On that day he gave his body and his blood for you and me, yet it is in this meal at the Lord’s table that you and I receive what he did for us. You see as we come to the altar, we eat and drink his body and blood that was given and shed for you and me. In Holy Communion we receive in all that Jesus has done for us on that cross. Jesus comes to us in the midst of our sin and gives us his gifts that he won for us. He gives us strength and he gives us faith, he gives forgiveness; and he gives us life. Every time we partake in Holy Communion we proclaim the Lord’s death: meaning all that he has done for us through his death on that cross, that you and I now receive.

This reading also says we proclaim his death “until he comes”. We all know that Jesus has been resurrected from the dead, we know that he will come back again at the end of time. We know that we live in what is sometimes called an in-between time. We live between Jesus ascension and also his second coming where we will be called home to live with our Triune God in heaven. But one of the remarkable things about our worship services, where Holy Communion is partaken of is that at this very altar, Jesus comes to us and gives us now here in the present, what we will also receive at the end of time. In this meal the future that we will have with our God, one in which there will be forgiveness, peace with God, healing, and life eternal, all because of what Jesus has done on the cross, is given to us every time we come to this altar.

It was no accident that Jesus instituted Holy Communion right before he walked down the path to his death. The path where he took on all of the world’s sin onto himself, as he carried all of our sins to that cross, so that God’s anger and punishment that should be directed towards us, now is laid on him; where the death that we deserve was instead given to Jesus. Because he won the overall victory over sin and death, and they do not have any power over him, he is able to give us life with our God. In Holy Communion he comes to us and he gives us this life, by giving us himself.

One of the great temptations that we face a Christians in this life is that we think that we can live life as a Christian on our own. That when we struggle with sin that we somehow have the ability to overcome the sin in our lives. After all Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. We stand forgiven before God because of Good Friday. The reality is that we continually need Jesus to give us all the he one for us that day, as we still battle our sin each day. We need him to continually come to us and strengthen us in faith; build us up; assure us of our forgiveness before God. It is Holy Communion that Jesus does this. In other words we as Christians we need to come to the altar with open hands and receive all that he promises to give us. Often the evil one gets in people’s heads and tries to convince them not to come, because they are not worthy because of their sins. But this is precisely why we need to come and receive from him because he through it he gives us faith and strength. The problem is rather when people come to Holy Communion thinking that they deserve to receive from him.

So I encourage you to regularly think about Good Friday when you come to Communion, even when it is not the Easter season, and to reflect on all that Jesus is giving to you through his body and blood.

Jesus our True King

Sunday 20/03/16
Luke 19:28-40

So here we are once again at the beginning of another remembrance of Holy week; the time in our year where we get to the heart of what our Christian faith is all about. This time of the year where Jesus Christ and that journey that he made some two thousand years ago to his death on that cross, is the focus of our thoughts and attention.

This week begins today known as Palm Sunday with a Gospel reading from Luke chapter 19: A reading that is full of irony.

In this Gospel we hear about how Jesus sent some of his disciple’s head of him, with specific instructions to find an unridden donkey. As he then comes into Jerusalem, for what we know is his last time, they put Jesus on it. And as he is riding, a large number of his followers were there waving palm branches, throwing their clothes on the ground in front him. They were joyfully praising “… God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’(v38). They cried out to him as he went by.

When the people of Israel in the Old Testament times welcomed home their kings from victory, they did so by waving around palm branches, they also threw their cloaks on the ground for the king to walk over. The fact that these people were doing this was making it clear that Jesus to them was a king. They were jubilant and you get a sense of them knowing that something great was about to happen. The true king of David was finally coming home. His followers and disciples were there and they were bearing witness to him praising God for all the miracles they had seen. They were looking back at the deeds of their king, and rejoicing at what he had done. At the same time they were looking ahead. Looking forward with great expectation to what their king was about to do. They were on the eve of a great victory where their king would rule again.

These people were proclaiming Jesus as a king and the truth is that his is, but the irony here is that this true king of David was not a king they knew or one they wanted.

They wanted a king who was going to claim victory over the Roman Empire. The Romans had ruled Jerusalem for many years and the Jews were being oppressed. They were longing to be free, they were expecting the Romans to be ousted and Israel brought back to its glory days of King David, and Jesus was there man to do it.

The crowd expected their king to come and to clean up the religious hierarchy. The religious leaders of that time, while outwardly devout, we very corrupt and also added to oppression of the people.

This king was going to come and reign with truth and justice and God himself was going to bless his people Israel once again. And now was the time for this to happen.

But it did not happen as they expected. This king did not play his part. And for this he paid a high price, in fact it cost him his very life.

This king, Jesus Christ, was fighting a different battle. He was walking a different journey. As he rode to Jerusalem he was being assaulted by the sins of the people. The sin of jealousy which, eventually drove them to want Jesus out of the way. He was riding towards the sin of fear because if Jesus was becoming too popular then people would lose their power and control; Jesus was riding towards the sin of greed, as many loved money over God’s mercy which they showed when Jesus challenged their money-making schemes in the temple. Jesus our king was riding his way to battle and to victory over the real enemy, your and my sin. And even greater than that Jesus our king was riding towards the battle and victory over death.

What those who were waving about palm branches and sing shouts of praise did not get was that Jesus was riding into Jerusalem as a king and he was coming to save his people from the enemy, but the enemy was not some Roman soldiers or religious leaders. Jesus was riding to face against the very enemies that haunt you and me. He was going to battle against the dark places in our hearts and minds. He was taking on our worst enemies: sin, that infests and overruns this world we live in, and even Satan himself. But his biggest enemy that Jesus was riding towards was ultimately our greatest enemy—death and the grave. This is the journey that our Lord Jesus was heading for and which you and I know he won.

We live in a world today, that still cannot see this. Many people want a king-Jesus who is how they want him to be. They want to King who will make everything easy for them in life. They want a King who will not interfere with their happiness; They want a King who will not challenge them, but give them what they want. They don’t want a king who walks in humility; they don’t want a King who walks with people in their suffering and pain; they don’t want a King who challenges them; they don’t want a King who deals once and for all with their sin. Now it would be easy for us to sit back and judge the Jews and Romans for what they did in crucifying our Lord Jesus during this Holy Week, but the reality is the sin that drove them to do this is also our sin. The Jesus who is and the Jesus we want, often don’t match.

The Jesus who told some of his disciples to go and find a colt to ride into Jerusalem on, knew what he was riding into. He knew what he was facing. These events did not take him by surprise. He knew he was walking with his Heavenly Father; he knew what he was taking on. He knew the opposition that he was going to face; he knew that crowds’ praises of him would prove shallow, when their expectations of him weren’t met; he knew that some of the same people shouting praises on this day, would in a few days abandon him; he knew he would face tremendous suffering and pain and even death.

But Jesus as our true King kept his eyes on the ultimate prize: the defeat death once and for all. It is because Jesus was faithful to His father’s will that we can see now, along with the disciples that Jesus’ victory was more than dealing with a Roman soldiers and religions leaders. His victory is over everything that sin and death could do to you and me.

He was willing to pay the ultimate price for the victory over our enemies. He did this for you and me so that we may stand with him in his victory. This is the great irony: in dying his death on that cross for you and me, something which to this day is seen as offensive to many, he acted as our true King and saved us from our enemy.

Palm Sunday in our church year is about worshiping our Lord Jesus as the King that he is, not the king that we often want him to be, but the King that he is as he demonstrated his love of us by his actions.

My encouragement to you all this coming Easter weekend is to use this time to think about wherever you are in your life with Jesus. I encourage you to reflect upon this coming week just how determined Jesus was to face down sin and death for you. So that we can share in his victory.

 

 

 

 

 

What happens when we are tested?

Sunday 28/2/16

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Every now and then we hear something that is written in God’s Word to us that seems to stand out and provokes a reaction in us and gets us thinking. In today’s reading in 1 Corinthians 10 we find one of these well known verses. Verse 13 says this: 13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

I wonder what you hear when this is read aloud. From some you may hear a message of comfort and hope. A knowing that when you are going through very difficult times in your lives that it will end, that God has everything in hand and he will not let you be pushed too far. That there is always an out somehow and God will show you.

On the other hand there are those who find these words very confronting. Rather than find them comforting you may find them hard to believe. When people are going through very difficult times and struggling, often they can’t see God at work, they can’t see a way out of their situations that they find themselves. Maybe this is where you are. When the Word says: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength.” you simply can’t see it. And rather than feeling encouraged by these words, you may feel disheartened and discouraged. If this is you, you are not alone for many find this Word is hard to relate to.

One of the issues that we have in our western culture is that we are extremely individualistic, meaning that we think of ourselves first and foremost. So when things don’t go well, when we are faced with challenges that make us uncomfortable we ask questions like: Why aren’t you taking problem away from me God? Or When are you going to give me a break from this pain and suffering? Or Why are you punishing me God? Many Christians ask these questions of God often.

One of the reasons why so many people do not find comfort in these words from verse 13 is because they hear them in an individualistic way. However, there is more going here than many people realise.

This Word of God here is not referring to the occurrence of random and unexpected life events that challenge and test us.  Rather, this Word is referring to challenges that strain one’s loyalty to God and her or his community.

Trails and testing and temptation are a part of life they happen to all of us at times. They are a reality that we live with. This is hard for many of us to take because we believe that when testing comes our way that something is wrong; that we must be doing something wrong; that God is somehow unhappy with us, otherwise our lives should always be happy.

One thing that the apostle Paul is clear about is that such challenges come from a source other than God. Testing and temptation is not something that we as Christian believers seek out or chooses for ourselves. It is also not something that we are happy about or rejoice in and celebrate. Difficult and hard times are not something that we look forward too. Rather, testing is a part of the everyday dealings of life. They come to us because we live in this fallen world. The question then becomes not whether we will face testing times, but how will we as Christians face them together.

Earlier in the book of Corinthians in chapter 7 when addressing the marriage relationship it says in verse 5: “Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” The marriage relationship will have testing times and Paul encourages us to be prepared. The same is true of today’s reading, except the testing is not about just two people, but the entire Church community. As a Church community and as individuals who belong to it, we are to prepare ourselves in advance to respond faithfully when the gauntlet of temptation, testing, and challenge is thrown at us. We do so with confidence and assurance that God is with us and provides a way out.

As we face testing times as believers we are warned not to take God’s grace to us for granted. Behind today’s reading lies the example of the Israelites.  Who also faced many times of testing as they journeyed with the Lord. But as is pointed out they so often failed to remain faithful to the Lord when testing came. In fact in response to the things that happened to them they began to put God to the test, and were often unfaithful to Him, the one who delivered them. They gave up and turned their hearts away from Him and began grumbling at the Lord. They began to look towards other things for relief; specifically they began to worship idols, which involved sexual immorality.  This is one error that Paul is urging the Corinthian church not seek to repeat. He is pleading with them not to be testing our Lord, as the Israelites did (1 Corinthians 10:9). The Israelites were guilty of not trusting in God and therefore they took his grace for granted.

This warning still stands today; we live in a world of sin where we daily confront idolaters, sexual immorality, grumblers, and even those who abuse the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. We are warned that we dare not allow ourselves to be affected by these temptations, when going through testing times.

As Christians who are called by God into this community we are called to respond to life’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, expected and unexpected happenings as a unified body. Though we are diverse in settings, backgrounds, and experiences, as I have often said the three Congregations in the Parish are nothing like the others, they are in fact very different and face different challenges, we are to be reminded that God is faithful to all of us as His one body.  As it says in verse 13: “God is faithful and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength” In light of this you and I should be faithful to one another as God is faithful to us.  The encouragement that we have is to be willing to walk with one another through these hard testing periods of life that we face. As God uses each of us here in this community to care for each other, build each other up, support each other and give comfort to each other.

As we all face times of testing and challenges to our faith we need to remember that we have Jesus whose suffering, death, and resurrection have redeemed us from death and destruction. That you and I have been given his Spirit who leads us into all the truth.  That you and I do have one another, the body of Christ into which we have been called, with whom we celebrate God’s love. Where we do meet together around the table where we eat and drink our Savior’s body and blood, where he comes to us and strengthens us in faith.  Yes we do face many trials and testing times, but we are not alone. For this we can be thankful.