Sermon from 24th Apr 2022 (Easter 2)

John 20:19-31 (EHV)

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were together behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I am also sending you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 Whenever you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven. Whenever you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 But Thomas, one of the Twelve, the one called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 After eight days, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Take your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue to doubt, but believe.”

28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Jesus, in the presence of his disciples, did many other miraculous signs that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so we too may believe in our risen Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Amen.

You may have heard of ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’, well, imagine you’re at a meeting of ‘Believers Anonymous’…

Hi everyone, my name’s Thomas, …and I’m a believer.

Of course, I didn’t always believe. In fact, I had a bit of a reputation around town for being a bit of a doubter. You know, people would tell me things, but I didn’t believe them!

Like, they told me they liked me. But how was I supposed to believe them?

They seemed to talk about me behind my back. Of course, they didn’t always tell me they were doing this, but there’s enough clues to make me think this was happening. I mean, they’d go quiet while I was around, as if they didn’t know what to say to me. They didn’t always include me in their groups. Even the disciples met without me at times…like that night!

I remember it was a terrible time for all of us. We were all very afraid. We thought the Jews were out to get us, so wherever we went, we’d lock the doors. Of course, there was a time when we never used to lock the doors, but this was different! We were in danger! Our teacher was dead, and we thought we were next!

Anyway, that night I wasn’t with them. They say it was my fault I didn’t get the message. But how was I supposed to believe them? I reckon they just didn’t want me there with them. But that’s when it happened. Apparently ‘he’ was there with them.

I thought they were pulling my leg and having a good laugh at ‘poor old doubting Thomas’, so why should I believe them? How could our teacher be alive again? Why would they say such a thing?

But they seemed so sure it was really him in the flesh. It was as if…I don’t know, they didn’t seem afraid anymore. I didn’t get it. I was still scared out of my wits!

Anyway, I didn’t believe them. I told them the only way I’d believe was if I could touch the hole-marks in his hands and…well, you have to understand I was angry…but I told them I even had to put my hand into the hole in his side where the spear went into his body! I know! That sounds gruesome! But I wanted to believe! I wanted to be absolutely certain it was really him!

Then about a week later we met again, and this time I was with them. And it happened…just like that night!

I know the doors were locked, because I had checked them myself.  I also checked all the cupboards and under the table, and no, Jesus wasn’t hiding anywhere. I wasn’t going to be fooled by anyone! While I wanted to believe, I didn’t want to be fooled either! And then, suddenly, he was there!

He looked straight at me and offered me peace. It was as if he was reading my mind! Well, maybe that’s not quite right. It was if he was reading my heart and saw all my doubts. But as he was looking at me, I realised all my doubts were just a front for what was behind them. You see, behind all my doubts was…fear!

I never realised how afraid I was, but that’s why I was so doubtful! My fears had even tried to fool me that fear was good! Fear had also fooled me into justifying all types of wrong things because I was so afraid.

For example, I’m afraid of what people think of me. So I tried to make out I was a good person, hoping people would accept me. Of course, I couldn’t always make people accept me, so in order to avoid the pain of disappointment, I avoided people. I also avoided placing myself in positions where I might fail, or get in trouble, or let people down. I figured if I didn’t fail at anything (because I never tried), then people would think I’m as good as I made out I was!

What a cruel master fear is!

I don’t know if you’ve ever been afraid, but I came to realise I was more afraid of people than I was of God. Fear was the idol I had been sacrificing so much of my life to, and I was slowly being destroyed by my fears. My fears were also destroying my relationships with those around me.

Jesus, seeing how fear was controlling and smothering my joy and hope and love and peace, he offered me his peace. He offered me his wholeness and security and love to soothe and replace my fear with trust.

But he knows I struggle to believe. He knows how my fears have become the master which stopped me from believing.

So he graciously invited me to put my fingers into the hole marks in his hands and side. I saw and touched those dreadful sores which he wears as a result of people’s doubts and fears and anger and sin.

Then it happened! I can’t explain it, because it remains a mystery to me. In fact, it defied logic.

I suppose it was a bit like that room: the doors were locked, but somehow Jesus came and stood among us. Well, my heart was that room, locked with fear, and somehow the peace of Jesus’ words got past my fears. The peace of my risen Lord Jesus now stood among my fears…and when that happened, my fears seemed to become smaller and fade away.

So, I don’t know how else to say it, but…I became a believer!

Faith had now replaced my fears! I was no longer afraid because I believed Jesus is my Lord and my God. Fear was no longer my master and my idol. Jesus was now the peaceful ruler of my heart, and therefore he is also the ruler of all my actions.

I’m now free because I’m no longer ruled by my cruel and demanding fears. Because I believe, I now willingly submit to the reign of my Lord Jesus Christ who freely forgives all my sins, including all those sins I had committed as result of my fears and all the other idols in my life.

I’m now at peace because I trust Jesus Christ is the Lord of my heart and mind and actions. He’s proved to be victorious over sin, victorious over the devil, victorious over death, and even victorious over my fears!

But then the people around me wanted to put my belief to the test. They wanted to write my story down. This means all my doubts and fears would be exposed for everyone to read about and speculate about for the rest of time!

Therefore, even though I’m now a believer, I’ll forever be known as a doubter. I could feel my fears surfacing again. What will people think of me? Will people accept me? Will they talk about me behind me back?

I didn’t want all my doubts and fears to be broadcast for everyone to read about for the next two thousand years or more, but I know others will be in the same boat as me. They’ll also be afraid.

You might be afraid. In fact, you weren’t even in that room. I get what Jesus said to me now. I was blessed to see him in the flesh, but you weren’t. You didn’t get to see or touch him and his dreadful scars which he wore because of all our fears and doubts and anger and sin. Yet you too are blessed when you believe, even though you don’t get to see and touch.

So, even though I was afraid, I thought that maybe through my story, others like you will also be led to believe.

I can’t control what you think of me. I’m no longer afraid of what you think of me. I’m secure through my faith in Jesus. You may think I’m a doubter, but I know I’m a believer. But, what about you?

What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of letting people down? Are you afraid of getting hurt? Are you afraid of trying something new? Are you afraid of what people think of you? Are you afraid of letting people know about your own doubts and fears which lead you to sin against God and against those you love?

In this case, I encourage you to believe the words of Jesus. He offers you peace. He offers you forgiveness. He helps you forgive others. He wants you to fear him more than other people, but I promise you, Jesus isn’t scary!

Fear, and all the other idols which control our lives are scary, but Jesus is a kind and gracious master. He loves us all, and lovingly bears the wounds of suffering and death for you and me. He comes to offer you his love and peace to replace the fearful idols and prison bars of your heart.

But even though we’re now meeting here in ‘Believer’s Anonymous’, I don’t want you to remain as believers anonymous. We shouldn’t stay anonymous. We need to let others know, so that they too will believe and no longer be afraid!

This is a world filled with fear, especially when natural and man-made disasters threaten us. Others in this scary world are still afraid and controlled by their fears but don’t want to admit it.

Their fears are controlling them and they’re not free. They’re stuck in their prisons of fear and hate and unforgiveness. So many have still got so much guilt or shame or anger. They need to hear Jesus has forgiven them and washed away their shame. They need to believe the peace he offers them. Because they’re afraid, they don’t believe this can happen. But it can! All they need to do, and all you need to do, is believe in Jesus.

Like me, tell your story of how Jesus came to break through your barriers of fear so he may offer you peace through his forgiveness and cleansing and holy presence. Don’t be afraid to let your doubts and fears and sins be known through Confession, so that the glory of Jesus’ words of forgiveness will prove greater than any sin or barrier of fear and hate.

So, brother and sisters, do you believe the love and mercy and peace of Jesus can defeat your fears? Do you believe Jesus is your Lord and your God?

Then, may the peace of our risen Lord Jesus Christ drive away any doubts and fears, and guard your hearts and minds as we confess our faith together…

Recite the Creed

Sermon from 17th Apr 2022 (Easter)

1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (EHV)

19 If our hope in Christ applies only to this life, we are the most pitiful people of all.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came by a man, the resurrection of the dead also is going to come by a man. 22 For as in Adam they all die, so also in Christ they all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ as the firstfruits and then Christ’s people, at his coming. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has done away with every other ruler and every other authority and power. 25 For he must reign “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” Ps 110:1 26 Death is the last enemy to be done away with.

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so we may rejoice death has in fact been defeated by the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

St Paul says, if you have hope in Christ in this life only, then you’re the most pitied of all people.

I mean, think of it – there’s so many other things you could be doing this morning (just like any other Sunday morning)!

You could be sleeping in, going for a walk, going fishing, or enjoying the company of friends and family. You could be home munching on some yummy hot cross buns for breakfast, followed by a chocolate egg chaser, or you could be spending some time away for a long weekend of rest and refreshment, but no, you’re here in church being reminded of a 2,000 year old event and singing along to some modern and ancient hymns!

Why on earth would you be here instead of anywhere else? Why on earth would you believe in Jesus Christ when you could go along with the rest of the world and their paganism, humanism, or wokeism?

You must be here for a good reason, otherwise you’d be considered to be some of the most foolish people in the world who are wasting your time and efforts on a mythical fairytale!

In other words, if this guy named Jesus of Nazareth didn’t actually die on a Roman cross over two thousand years ago and then come back to life three days later, then you may as well pack it all up and go home!

However, St Paul writes to us today about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and says: ‘In fact…’. Or, in the original Greek, he says: ‘As it is…’.

In other words, St Paul is convinced this isn’t a fairytale. What we’ve heard this today isn’t wishful thinking. It isn’t foolish daydreaming. It’s fact.

Everything the Church believes and teaches means absolutely nothing unless it’s based on real historical events. Justification by grace through faith, the declaration that God has paid the full price to repair the relationship between us and him through the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, and the hope of living with God in heaven for an eternity, depends completely on the fact Jesus’ tomb was empty that Sunday morning.

Take away the historical fact of Easter, then you’re not forgiven and you’re still dead in your sins because God didn’t accept the sacrifice of his Son for your sins.

Take away the historical fact of Easter, then when you’re dead, you’re dead, and there’s nothing more, because there’s no promise of the resurrection for you or your loved ones.

Take away the historical fact of Easter, then this is as good as it gets, and we’re all stuck in a world of terror and evil and death and sin without any hope.

So therefore, our Christian faith depends entirely on the fact of an empty tomb.

When we consider the facts, historians are certain of one thing. Whether they believe Jesus rose or not, it’s considered an historical fact Jesus of Nazareth did actually die by crucifixion on a Roman cross.

But what they can’t agree on is what really happened in the tomb and why it was found empty.

Of course, there are many theories, such as the ‘stolen-body’ theory, the ‘wrong-tomb’ theory, the ‘Jesus only appeared to die’ theory, the ‘women were hallucinating’ theory, or the ‘local gardener was so upset at his lettuce being trampled by curious onlookers that he moved the body’ theory, but they can’t agree which one actually happened because each of these theories raise more questions than answers!

The truth is none of these theories account for the fact the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb went along with any of these alleged plots.

You see, if the body wasn’t discovered, then those guards were probably killed for failing in their duty. All they had to do was come up with the body of Jesus! But, no matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t do it. In fact, none of these theories ever produced the body of Jesus. How could they find the body of Jesus since he rose from the dead!

Further historical proof is in the witness of the disciples themselves, who were so convinced of the fact of the resurrection they staked their lives on proclaiming it.

You see, only one, John, is known to have lived to old age, and he managed that only because he was exiled. The rest died bloody, premature deaths because of their faith in Jesus and his resurrection.

For example, Andrew was crucified; Peter, Philip, and Bartholomew were crucified upside down; James was beheaded; Thomas was speared to death; while the others were likely stabbed to death with swords, or beheaded.

Why would you be willing to suffer torture, followed by a cruel death, if you were making up the resurrection of Jesus? Why would anyone be prepared to die for a lie? Surely, if anyone knew where Jesus’ body was, surely one of them would have spoken up!

Therefore, we’re left with the only other possible conclusion as fact, no matter how improbable historians think this is: Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the dead. This fact would confirm what was promised in the Old Testament Scriptures and later confirmed by the clear historical testimony of the New Testament writers.

The fact Jesus Christ has risen from the dead means you, and I, and all believers in Christ, will also rise from the dead. This resurrection fact means death is not forever, but rather, death is dead. Death is no longer the worst thing which can happen to us because, if death couldn’t hold on to Christ, it’s also not going to hold on to anyone else who is in Christ!

For all of us who believe and are baptised into Christ Jesus, it means the death we’re all going to face isn’t the important one. The death we’ll all endure one day isn’t the one that matters. The death that actually matters is already in our past because we’ve already died and risen again in our baptism.

We can say this because baptism joins us to Jesus Christ who has already died and risen again. Since death and resurrection has already happened to Jesus, then it’s already happened to us as historical fact.

This means on the Last Day when Jesus comes again, you, and I, and all believers in Christ, will be gathered by him to join all those who have gone ahead of us in faith to gather with them around the throne of God in joy and wonder. There we’ll gather around Jesus, the true Lamb of God, who is victorious over sin, death, and the power of the devil. There we will reign with Christ forever.

Therefore, death is no longer a menace to be feared by us who are in Christ. It doesn’t matter whether we die of old age, or disease, or COVID, or car accident, or cancer, or war, or on the operating table, or by terrorist attack, because death has lost its sting. It has no firm grip on those who believe in Jesus Christ and his victory over death.

Of course, for now, we endure this harsh and troubled world, but we endure it without fear and with a firm hope in the historical fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We all look forward with hope and confidence in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.

Because we believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we, too, will be brought to new life. And there’s nothing that the devil or his minions of death-wielding demons can do about it, for the battle has, in fact, already been won!

As unbelievable and unverifiable by many scientists and historians, we believe what happened in Jesus’ tomb on that Easter Sunday morning so long ago is real and factual, otherwise we’re all wasting our time, but we’re here celebrating the fact it’s true!

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is an event which took place in the real world, witnessed by hundreds of real historical people.

Jesus Christ himself rose to new life after being put to death on that Roman cross, and so we believe God won’t abandon us to the grave after our own flesh loses its life.

Therefore, we can be joyful and secure in the reality of the empty tomb. We can rejoice with our whole being in the certainty of our own resurrection. We don’t believe a lie or in fairytales or magicians tricks or the make-believe of contemporary CGI technologies.

We confess to believe this central teaching of our Christian faith is based on an historic reality. Therefore, we can boldly proclaim with all other Christians of past, present, and future: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting!” Amen!

And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sermon from 15th Apr 2022 (Good Friday)

Hebrews 10:16-25 (EHV)

16 This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, says the Lord.

I will put my laws on their hearts and I will write them on their mind. Jer 31:33

17 Then he adds:

And I will not remember their sins and their lawlessness any longer. Jer 31:34

18 Now where these sins are forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

19 Brothers, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place through the blood of Jesus. 20 It is a new and living way he opened for us through the curtain, that is, his flesh. 21 We also have a great priest over the house of God. 22 So let us approach with a sincere heart, in the full confidence of faith, because our hearts have been sprinkled to take away a bad conscience, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold on firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful.

24 Let us also consider carefully how to spur each other on to love and good works. 25 Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have the habit of doing. Rather, let us encourage each other, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so we may have true peace when we remember you will no longer remember our sins for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Lest we forget.

Every year we try to remember the sacrifice of soldiers who paid the ultimate price for people’s freedom. We try to remember because to forget would mean their sacrifice isn’t very important anymore. To forget would mean their death is now meaningless. To forget would mean the life they never lived wasn’t a big loss after all. And so, we remember, in order to honour their life, their service, and their death for our peace.

Lest we forget.

Every year we try to remember the anniversaries of our loved ones – either their birthdays, wedding anniversaries, or even the anniversary of their death. We try to remember because, if we forget, well, the repercussions could be expensive! Because, to forget may be interpreted to mean we don’t love them. To forget may mean they’re not important to us any more. And so, we remember, in order to show our love for them and to honour our memories of them.

Lest we forget.

Every day we tend to remember what people have done to us. We try not to remember, but we can’t seem to forget how they hurt us. As we remember, we not only think about what happened, but we relive the emotions and the pain whenever we see them, hear them, or hear of them. To forget seems too hard and impossible. To forget may mean we’re letting them get away with it, or even giving them permission to do it again. And so, we remember, by holding grudges against them, yelling at them, telling others about them, or by avoiding them.

Lest we forget.

Every day our own memories of what we’ve done or said which hurt others can haunt us, and we can struggle to live with ourselves. We don’t have to try too hard to remember, but can often be reminded about our failures, our faults, our inabilities, and our wrongs. We try to put these things behind us and ‘just move on’, but we can’t seem to, because we can’t forget. Our sin is often before us and behind us and within us. And so, we remember…which means we struggle to forgive ourselves or receive forgiveness from others.

Lest we forget.

Today, like every year, we remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, who paid the ultimate price of blood and death for the forgiveness of our sins. We try to remember because to forget would mean his sacrifice no longer has any meaning for our life, forgiveness, or salvation. To forget would mean we no longer recognise the high cost paid to reconcile us with God and each other. To forget would mean other things and other people have now been given first place in our lives. And so, we remember…lest we forget.

Yet, in a strange twist, you come here today to remember that God no longer remembers your sins and lawless acts. In this case, Good Friday is a bit like: Lest we forget…that God no longer remembers!

Now, it’s not really that God has forgotten what you’ve done (because God doesn’t have a form of dementia), but he chooses to no longer remember, recall, or dwell on your sins. Because you’ve been forgiven by Christ, he’s no longer thinking about what you’ve done. He’s not telling everyone else about what you’ve done. And he doesn’t remind you about all your past sins and wrongs again and again to make you feel bad.

If there’s anyone making you feel bad about what you’ve done, well, that’s all done by your greatest enemies who do want you to remember, such as:

  • the devil, who wants you to despair of God’s words, God’s promises, God’s forgiveness, God’s choice to no longer remember your sins, and God’s love for you;
  • the world, who always wants someone to pay for their crimes, and so can’t stand the fact you’re forgiven and no longer need to pay the full punishment for what you’ve done and said and thought; and
  • yourself, because your troubled conscience won’t allow yourself to receive and accept God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.

On the other hand, the only past God does want you to remember, is the suffering and death of his own dearly beloved Son for the forgiveness of your sins…lest you forget!

God wants to keep reminding you his beloved Son, Jesus, who paid the full price for your sins. He wants you to remember that, while you’re covered by the blood of Jesus through faith, your crimes have been fully paid for. This means there’s no longer any reason for God to recall or remind himself of your sins, and there’s no longer any need for him to remind you about what you’ve done.

Because God chooses to no longer recall, re-live, or remember your sin, he’s at peace with you and you’re at peace with him. There’s no longer anything hindering your relationship with God, but you have free and open access to his gracious gifts. You’re to no longer let the memory or re-lived emotions of your sins to get in the way of your peace with God. Sin is no longer a barrier between you and God because the sin is no longer recalled or dwelt on.

Because of God’s amazing grace, he’s not only forgiven you and chosen not to remember your sins, but he’s also chosen not to remember the sins of everyone else who looks to him in faith.

For this reason, God not only wants you to remember that God no longer remembers your sins, but he also wants you to remember he no longer remembers the sins of those people who have hurt you when they also look to Jesus in faith. All their sins are also covered and paid for by Jesus’ blood, which means their sins should no longer be a barrier between you and them.

In this way, we who remember that God no longer remembers sin, are a forgiven and forgiving community of faith who keep remembering the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.

We keep coming together to encourage each other with God’s forgiveness and build up each other’s faith which remembers God no longer remembers yours and my sins.

With God’s help, we also choose to no longer recall and dwell on each other’s sins because we keep receiving, and passing on, Christ’s forgiveness of sins to each other. This worshipping community therefore gathers regularly to be reminded (and to remind each other), how God no longer remembers our sins and lawless acts.

In a sense we’re not just a worshipping community, but we’re a remembering community who remember what God’s done for us through the washing of baptism into Jesus and keep on receiving the sprinkling of blood on our hearts through the reception of Holy Communion. Both of these divine acts of grace, received and remembered in faith, frees us all from a troubled conscience.

Living in this grace, the members of this worshipping-remembering community care deeply for those who neglect to meet together with us because, as frail and helpless humans, we know if we stop remembering what God does for us, we’ll naturally instead tend to remember, and dwell on, all the wrongs done against us.

This means our lack of peace with each other isn’t because we no longer remember, but because we choose to remember the wrong things.

We choose to remember the way people hurt us, how much they’ve betrayed us, how many times they’ve let us down, how they lied to us or misunderstood us, or how they weren’t there for us when we needed them.

When we do this, our remembering isn’t just a mental exercise. Our remembering causes us to relive what we remember – including all the pain, all the mental images, all the emotions, and so on. When we remember sin, it becomes a present experience instead of an historical event. When we remember and relive the pain of sin, we still demand punishment, which means we’ve forgotten Jesus’ suffering and death was enough.

And Jesus’ suffering and death was enough to pay for your sins and my sins and their sins. God chooses not to remember your sin and my sin and their sin because he chooses to instead remember his own dear Son has completed, finished, and fully satisfied the full debt of sin by his vicarious suffering and death. There’s no more debt to be paid. Because if there was any more debt to be paid, then the death of Jesus wasn’t enough and we reduce the glory of his suffering and death.

When we remember that God no longer remembers our sin, and their sin, those sins no longer have such power to affect our lives.

Sure, we may not completely forget our own sins (or the sins of those around us), but the more frequently we remember that God no longer remembers sin, those sins will become less and less powerful to enslave us into fear and hatred once again.

This knowledge and memory of God’s choice to no longer remember gives us a clear conscience before God and each other.

We can have a clear conscience before God because we no longer have to forgive ourselves. We instead let God have the final word on our forgiveness, and he says he no longer remembers our sins and lawless acts.

Therefore, while we can learn from our own past sins or those sins which have been done against us, none of us need to remember and dwell on our failures and faults and regrets. We also no longer need to dwell on and relive the sins which have been done against us. What we need to remember is that God no longer remembers. Let God have the final word on whether any sin should be remembered or not!

Because Jesus has obediently submitted himself to suffering and dying on the cross as the perfect once-for-all sacrifice for your sin, and the sins of the whole world, God promises you’re forgiven, for Jesus’ sake, through faith, and he won’t remember, dwell on, or remind you of your sins anymore.

Because you’re forgiven, you can have complete confidence you can walk right up to God without fear knowing you’re covered with the innocent blood of Jesus. You know your hearts have been made new and clean through faith in God’s forgiveness so you can live as free people – freed from the chains of remembered sin.

You can do this because you know and remember God loves you so much he sent his only begotten Son into this world to pay for your sin. His sacrifice is enough. The payment for your sin is finished, completed, and fulfilled. God chooses to no longer remember what you’ve done…lest you forget!

For this reason, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds as you remember your Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sermon from 14th Apr 2022 (Maundy Thursday)

John 13:1-17, 31b-35 (EHV)

1 Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved those who were his own in the world, he loved them to the end.

By the time the supper took place, the Devil had already put the idea into the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God. He got up from the supper and laid aside his outer garment. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who asked him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered him, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but later you will understand.”

Peter told him, “You will never, ever, wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Lord, not just my feet,” Simon Peter replied, “but also my hands and my head!”

10 Jesus told him, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet, but his body is completely clean. And you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 Indeed, he knew who was going to betray him. That is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer garment, he reclined at the table again. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me Teacher and Lord. You are right, because I am. 14 Now if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 Yes, I have given you an example so that you also would do just as I have done for you. 16 Amen, Amen, I tell you: A servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

31 After Judas left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify the Son in himself and will glorify him at once.”

33 “Dear children, I am going to 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 commandment I give you: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you are to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so that we may follow the loving servant example of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I’d like you to imagine the scene…

You’re all going to the most important meal of the whole year. It’s more important than any 21st or 60th birthday party. It’s more important than any wedding. The meal is the Passover – the most important meal of the Jewish religious calendar!

Obviously, for such a special occasion, you’d all dress up appropriately. You wouldn’t wear your gardening clothes or your comfortable track pants to this meal. You’d make sure you’re clean and tidy, and then walk to the Passover meal.

But this is where the complication begins. You see, you’d all be walking barefoot or wearing thin sandals on dusty roads. None of these asphalt paths! Despite your best efforts to arrive clean, your cracked and calloused feet would be dusty and grimy from dirt and sweat.

As you enter the house, you might look around for some water to wash your feet, or at least hope for a servant to wash them for you, but in this case, there’s no water, and no slave.

You’re all hoping a slave would be here to wash your feet, because this task of washing feet is such a degrading act. It was only reserved for Gentile slaves. A good Jewish slave would never want to stoop down and wash another person’s feet because it’s too degrading!

Of course, one of you could go and fetch some water to wash your own and each other’s feet, but everyone’s hoping someone else will do it. None of you really want to act like a slave and humble yourself below everyone else.

In the end, you all sit at the table with dirty feet. But, unlike today’s meal tables where your feet go under the table, you instead recline at the meal table with your faces and hands near the food, while your dirty feet would be as far away from the food as possible.

Like many special mealtimes, you’re all trying to get the host’s attention and make out you’re the most important or impressive person at the table. You try to impress each other with your jokes, your intellect, your knowledge, or your loud voice. A common argument breaks out again – you know the one – who’s the greatest among you?

But, before you know it, your host has left the table and you hear running water splashing into a bowl…●

(each time appears, water was poured into the baptismal font or another bowl)

You all turn toward the noise and you see the host, your highly esteemed teacher, Jesus, pouring water into a bowl, with a towel around his waist. ●

The shock of seeing your Lord do this suddenly hits you! Only slaves would do this – and only Gentile slaves at that! This isn’t a job for your honoured host! The room is shocked into silence except for the pouring water ● and the methodical movements of Jesus.

As your eyes look down at your feet, your face flushes with shame. Perhaps one of you should have grabbed some water and done this demeaning task, but your pride stopped you.

Now your Lord, the teacher you’ve been following for so many years, the one who performs amazing miracles and raises people from the dead, is the one who humbles himself and stoops down to wash your dirty feet!

Jesus kneels at Matthew’s feet to wash them. He next moves to Andrew’s feet and washes them with the water, gently massaging his tired feet with the towel. Bartholomew is next to receive Jesus’ washing.

One by one Jesus washes the dirt, the dust, and the grime from your tired feet, wiping them dry with his towel. James, John, Judas, Thomas. One by one you all feel ashamed he needed to do this demeaning act on you because you thought yourselves above such a lowly task. Philip, Nathanael, you, me, and then Peter.

For Peter this was all too much. How could he let his Lord wash his feet? He could wash his own feet, or at least see if someone else would do it, but not Jesus! No, Jesus should not be doing this demeaning thing! Peter would rather honour Jesus by doing something for him than let Jesus do this lowly act for Peter. He wasn’t yet willing to admit Jesus had to do everything for him. There was no other way, because that’s why he came.

So, Jesus insists once more, saying unless Jesus washes him, he’ll have no part of him. So Peter goes to the other extreme. Typical Peter – he could never be just like everyone else. He always had to be different! He says: “In this case Jesus, wash all of me, not just my dirty feet.”

But Jesus replies: “A clean person only has to have their dirty feet washed.” Peter’s already clean except for his feet. Just a splash of water and the act would be complete…●

Most likely none of you will remember it, but you’ve all seen it done to others. In this case, it wasn’t done to your feet.

A splash of water. ● The holy name of God spoken with the pouring of that water. And once again Jesus kneels to wash away the dirt and grime of sin from a person. In this holy act, Jesus himself, wearing the mask of a chosen servant, comes time and again as a slave to wash us all clean.

Jesus says, “If I wash you, you will be clean”. In your baptism, Jesus washes you, and you become a part of Jesus – made clean, pure, and holy as he joins you to himself. He did it all. There was no other way. He had to do everything for you, your forgiveness, and for your salvation. That’s why he came.

Through your baptism into Jesus, you receive all the benefits of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It’s not just a washing, but a joining to Jesus and all his benefits. It’s a reception of his life and death. It’s a new birth into eternal life in his kingdom.

But life in his kingdom, with all its heavenly privileges comes with responsibility and service. In this act of washing, Jesus was preparing his disciples for service. The greatest becomes the least. The Lord becomes the slave. The host becomes the servant.

Jesus’ actions of washing is a living example of this service which extends all the way to the cross, and you who have received the benefits of his service to you on the cross, are to love and serve as he does.

He reinforces this teaching of servanthood and humbleness when he says to you tonight: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35)

Jesus demonstrated his love for you through his humble and demeaning act of service for those around him. This is the kind of love he’s talking about.

The kind of love that swallows pride. The kind of love that gets down on its knees in service. The kind of love that washes dirty and unattractive feet. The kind of love that insists for the sake of the person being served. The kind of love that consider the other person more important. The kind of love that would even put its life on the line for unworthy sinners.

As you become part of Jesus, and as you’ve received his love and service, you’re to co-operate with the work of the Holy Spirit as you love and serve in the same manner.

Rather than hoping someone else is going to serve, the love of Jesus acts. Rather than thinking oneself above an act, the love of Jesus would stoop down and work. The love of Jesus is willing to sacrifice oneself for selfish, stubborn, recalcitrant, proud, and cantankerous people like you and me. The love and service of Jesus is a natural by-product of our faith in him.

Here, when you gather as one family around the table of the Lord, Jesus comes to serve you and wash you clean by his holy and innocent blood. He stoops down from above and willingly went to the shameful cross to suffer and die the punishment you deserve so that you don’t have to. He also came to love and serve you so that you may be equipped for love and service. It has to be this way. This is why he came. He loves and serves you so that you in turn can love and serve those around you.

●The sound of water reminds you of Jesus’ service to those around him, but it should also remind you how he equips you to love and serve in like manner.

Brothers and sisters who have been washed clean by Christ, ● love one another as Christ loves you.

And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sermon from 10th Apr 2022 (Palm/Passion)

Luke 23:34a (ISV)

34 Jesus kept saying, “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so we may forgive as we’ve been forgiven for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

“I’m not going to forgive him – he knew exactly what he was doing! Because of what he’s done, he doesn’t deserve my forgiveness. And anyway, even if I’m ever willing to forgive him, he has to admit what he did first and say ‘sorry’!”

Have you ever said something like this before? Have you ever made your forgiveness conditional on someone saying ‘sorry’ before you could forgive them?

Now, I’m not saying what anyone has ever done to you wasn’t wrong. The fact you may be struggling to forgive them may indicate what they did was indeed wrong.

But as a result of their crimes against you, how are you responding?

Are you holding a grudge against them? Are you keeping away from them, which means you’re limiting which neighbours God sends you that you’re willing to love and serve? Are you breaking the 8th commandment as you share their actions to others around you so they also think badly about them? Are you attempting to get back at them by your own threats and insults? Are you hoping to punish them somehow by not forgiving them?

Now, you may feel justified in doing all those things because you believe you’re the victim. Unfortunately, victims can quickly and unknowingly turn into vigilantes and perpetrators and you might become blind to your own sins that you do in response to your pain.

You see, when you’re the victim, you might justify your own harsh words and actions as deserving, but the harsh words and actions may still be sinful. You might justify your broadcasting of their crimes against you so that others might take up your cause for vindication, but your sharing of their actions might cause others to think badly of them. You might want to see justice done, and your form of justice doesn’t include forgiveness.

Understandably, none of us like getting hurt and we wish we could get rid of all the bullies out of our lives. We want to be safe from those who abuse us, hurt us, or manipulate us. We also want someone to make up for all the times people failed to love and support us. In other words, if only we could get rid of all of those who sin against us!

However, this creates a problem for our witness of Jesus’ Christ in the church.

The problem isn’t that we have sinners in church. The fact we have sinners in church should never surprise us!

After all the Bible tells us all people are cursed by the sickness of sin, so of course we’re going to disagree with each other. We’re going to have different tastes which clash with our own. We’re going to attempt to manipulate each other to get our own way. We’re going to let each other down, deceive each other, and break our promises. We’re going to steal and lie and covet and cross sexual boundaries which shouldn’t be crossed.

It also shouldn’t surprise us we have sinners in our families. Children will want to get their own way through their tantrums and door slams. Parents will go too far in their responses to their children because they’re frustrated or missing out on what they want to do. Husbands and wives are going focus more on what they can get out of their relationships instead of what they can put into it.

But the problem is that our witness to Jesus Christ is damaged when we don’t forgive as we’ve been forgiven. We don’t bring glory to Christ when we refuse to forgive those who sin against us.

Think about it this way:

In a world tainted by the inherited disease of sin with all its devastating results, the church and our Christian families are supposed to be havens, or even sanctuaries, where we may be loved and nurtured and supported, and most of all, forgiven!

Since we’re people who have been forgiven by the undeserving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who teaches us to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, our churches and families should be places where we can go to receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ!

If we can’t receive forgiveness from those who go to church, then where else on earth are sinners to go to receive mercy or forgiveness or peace?

If the Christian church (and its individual members), consistently practice unforgiveness, where is anyone supposed to receive the mercy of Christ, who prayed from the cross: “Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.”?

But in defence of your unforgiveness, you might say they know exactly what they’re doing! You might reckon they know exactly how much they’ve hurt you and what they were trying to achieve through their actions! So why on earth should you forgive them?

Well, since we’re to forgive as Christ forgives us, let’s consider what was going on for Jesus on the cross when he prayed for his Father to forgive…

  • He had been betrayed by one of his inner circle of friends – with a kiss.
  • He had seen one of his most outspoken and strongest followers deny even knowing him – three times.
  • He had experienced the self-righteous anger and hatred of religious people who were only trying please God by faithfully living according to God’s word – even though their faithfulness should have led them to acknowledge and believe who he truly was according to that same word.
  • He had been sentenced to die by those ‘faithful’ religious people through a farcical trial which was never interested in investigating the truth or applying natural justice to the accused.
  • He had seen an earthly authority wilt and give in to the power of popular opinion – after all, those who scream loudest, even if they’re in the minority, often seem to win.
  • He had been expected to perform miracles for an unbeliever as if he was a performing monkey.
  • He had been stripped of his dignity when his clothes were taken away from him so people could ogle at his agony and humiliation.
  • He heard the constant mocking and insults of those around him, including one of those being crucified with him.

You could argue that the people who did all these things seemed to know what they were doing, and they felt justified in doing them. Yet Jesus responds, before any of them ever repented of their actions, by praying: “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing!”

It’s a prayer we struggle to understand because we often believe those who hurt us know exactly what they’re doing, but do they really? Do we always know what we’re doing, and why?

I mean, have you ever asked a child why they did what they did, and heard them respond ‘I don’t know!’

Have you ever asked a person why they hurt you, and they said something like: ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I didn’t mean it’ or ‘I didn’t know you felt that way!’?

We simply don’t always know what, or why, we do what we do, and neither do those who hurt us. We’re often blind to our own sin and the effects of our sin on those around us…and so are they!

St Paul explains this common heritage of ‘not truly knowing’ in his letter to the Romans when he says:

I don’t understand what I am doing. For I don’t practice what I want to do, but instead do what I hate. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but I cannot carry it out.  For I don’t do the good I want to do, but instead do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am no longer the one who is doing it, but it is the sin that is living in me. (Romans 7:15, 18-20)

But, even if you reckon you do understand what you do, do you understand why? You see, the ‘why’ is the ‘sin behind the sin’. Your words and actions are the ‘what’, but your secret fears and desires of your hearts which led you to do or say those things are the ‘why.’

You do what you do because sin lives in your hearts (which aren’t as full of love and compassion and joy and peace as you often think). Those who sin against you, whom you don’t want to forgive, also do what they do because sin lives in them.

And the good news is, Jesus came to suffer and die for the forgiveness of your sin, and my sin, and their sin.

Jesus knows you don’t truly understand what you do or even why you do it. Jesus knows you’re blind to your own sins. Jesus also knows those who sin against you don’t even know what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. Jesus knows they’re blind to their sin (which is why you’ll probably never hear them say ‘sorry’ to you). Yet yours (or even their) knowledge (or lack of knowledge) about what we do isn’t the reason Jesus forgives.

Jesus forgives you because he loves you. He doesn’t love you because of what you do (or don’t do), or because you know (or don’t know) what you’re doing, but because it’s his choice to love you anyway, and there’s nothing you can do about it! He forgives you whether you know what you’re doing or not, and it’s his choice to do so. There’s also nothing you can do about the fact Jesus desires to forgive those who hurt you.

So, when Jesus prayed from the cross for his Father to forgive, he was praying this prayer for all those who betrayed him, denied him, abandoned him, abused him, lied about him, falsely accused him, wimped out on him, hit him, spit on him, nailed him to the cross, mocked him, laughed at him, and did nothing to help him.

His prayer from the cross means he forgives you too – even before you ever admitted, or said sorry for, what you’ve done, and even before you understood what (or why) you’ve been doing those things.

This means, all those times you betrayed, denied, abandoned, abused, yelled at, lied to, wimped out on, hit, spit, or laughed at those he loves, including those you don’t want to forgive, well, he offers his forgives to you for all those things.

So, while his forgiveness may be good news for you, you may also consider he also prayed for his Father to forgive all those who’ve betrayed, denied, abandoned, abused, yelled at, lied to, wimped out on, hit, spit, or laughed at you.

Now, of course it’s hard for you to forgive them. Forgiveness is always costly, but it’s a natural by-product of faith in Jesus. Your forgiveness came at the cost of Jesus holy life and innocent blood to pay for what you’ve done. You’re freely forgiven for the sake of Jesus’ suffering and death.

So, how might the words Jesus prayed on the cross bring you comfort and peace knowing you’re forgiven by Christ?

How might the peace and freedom you’ve experienced because you know and trust you’ve been fully forgiven by God himself, help you to forgive those who have hurt you for the sake of Jesus’ suffering and death?

How might this Christian church, or our own families, grow in faith and love as we all learn to pray along with Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them, because they don’t know what they’re doing.’?

Therefore, as forgiven and forgiving people, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in the forgiveness of Christ Jesus. Amen.

Sermon from 3rd Apr 2022 (Lent 5)

John 12:1-8 (EHV)

1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, the hometown of Lazarus, who had died, the one Jesus raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with him.

Then Mary took about twelve ounces of very expensive perfume (pure nard) and anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was going to betray him, said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He did not say this because he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief. He held the money box and used to steal what was put into it.

Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. She intended to keep this for the day of my burial. Indeed, the poor you always have with you, but you are not always going to have me.”

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so we may celebrate your victory of life over death for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Death is in the room!

We can say death is in the room because the one who was once dead is there reclining at the table, eating and drinking with them.

We can say death is in the room because we’re taught the wages of sin is death, and one of them is acting sinfully through lies, deception, and thieving. According to God, these sins deserve the death penalty.

We can say death is in the room because among them sits the one who was about to die for the wages of our sins. He was there as an honoured guest and friend, but unknown to them, he was being prepared for his own impending death and burial because he was going to pay the penalty for all our sins.

So, as this small group party together, death is in the room as they celebrate the defeat of death for one of them, as the reason for death is exposed within one of them, and as the preparation for death is done to one of them.

As they party on in the presence of death in this room, there are well-known characters present:

Lazarus, the one who was dead and buried for four days, is now sitting and eating as if he’s very much alive. And alive he was! You wouldn’t blame him for taking advantage of this second life as he enjoyed being served this little feast by his two sisters!

Martha, well, you’ll always find her in the kitchen at parties! She was busily serving all those reclining at the dinner table. She’s always so busy because this is her way of showing love for others, after all, some say the way to people’s hearts can often be through their stomachs!

Mary was also there and, well, some may wonder if she had some kind of attraction to Jesus’ feet!

I mean, think about it: Once before Jesus had visited them. Martha was in the kitchen (as usual), but where was Mary? At Jesus’ feet, in a position of humble learning. Later, when Jesus came to raise Lazarus from the dead, Mary fell at…Jesus’ feet, in a humble plea for mercy. And tonight, well, where else would we expect her to be except at…Jesus’ feet!

Scripture tells us in Isaiah 52:7: ‘How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of a herald, who proclaims peace and preaches good news, and who proclaims salvation’, but on this particular night, it’s what she does to Jesus’ feet, which sounds exceedingly intimate, provocative, and extravagant!

She anoints Jesus’ feet in an act of love for her Lord with an aromatic oil made from the crushed rhizomes of the spikenard plant, which is native to Northern India.

This oil was often used as a herbal medicine and, since it was described as ‘pure’, this would mean this oil was of exceptional quality. Also, because of the quality and quantity she used, the estimated cost of this oil would have been worth almost a year’s wages!

Now, for all you husbands present here (and no matter how much you earn in a year), would you be willing to buy your wife some perfume worth one year’s wages? Then, if you would ever be so generous to buy her such an expensive gift, imagine how would you feel if you saw her rubbing it into someone’s grubby feet?

Perhaps you’d be thinking a bit like Judas and reckon you could find many better things to do with the money spent on such a gift! Think how many tools you could buy, or how much fishing gear you could get, or how many sporting events you could attend, or what holidays you could take worth a year’s wages, or (after you’ve got a few things for yourself) how much you could give away to attend to the needs of poor people, such as through Australian Lutheran World Service!

Of course, many of you wives wouldn’t fare much better, because imagine if your husband was using your irreplaceable tablecloth you had inherited from your favourite Aunt…to wash his dirty car! What a wasteful use of something so precious!

Now, some may say death has a smell – whether it’s the smell of a slowly decaying body, the smell of preservative lotions and oils, or the smell of no longer having any breath, but at this particular meal, death has a different smell. On this night, death has a sweet aroma!

As Mary extravagantly anoints Jesus’ feet with this precious oil, an aroma fills the room. This would have caught everyone’s attention, and even more so as they turned to watch Mary let her hair down (which was usually only done in private settings) to wipe the sweet-smelling oil from Jesus’ feet.

If any paparazzi were there, this would become front-page news in the Galilee Times and the Jerusalem Herald! Imagine: A single woman massaging the feet of a popular and eligible bachelor, and even caressing his feet with her hair! What a scandal!

For Judas, another character in this room, the greater scandal is he could no longer get his hands on such an expensive item. In his eyes it was being ‘wasted’ on dirty feet, when it could have gone to better use to help the poor (and perhaps with some left over for him to help himself)!

Of course, the last mentioned character at this meal, is Jesus himself.

He was the guest of honour who had brought Lazarus back to life, which his sisters were very thankful for.

Martha and Mary were expressing their love and thanks to Jesus through their service – either by serving faithfully in the kitchen to provide a tasty meal, or by gently washing his tired and sore feet. Both serving actions would have filled the nostrils of those present – either the smell of good food, or the smell of aromatic oils. These smells would have hidden the presence of death in the room.

But while death is in the room, so is Life himself.

Jesus, the one who is preparing to die, is also the resurrection and the life. He had told Martha this after Lazarus had died, and he proved himself to be the resurrection and the life as he called their brother back to life.

Jesus tells Judas to back off from picking on Mary. The sisters are serving Jesus while they could. Mary hasn’t wasted this oil at all, in fact, what’s left over will be kept for the day of his burial, which is coming soon, because after all, the one who will die for them is in the room.

Sure, he knows there’s a need to help the poor, but he also knows there’ll be no end to their need. He also knows all people, whether rich or poor, need him to defeat sin, death, and the devil. That’s the task he’s more concerned about because this is the reason why he came.

So Jesus acknowledges there’ll always another opportunity to help and serve the poor (which we shouldn’t ignore), but the physical presence of Jesus won’t be with them much longer.

Jesus, the one who will defeat death and promise all those who believe in him life eternal, is about to die. The thought of this bitter-sweet. Sure, he’ll face the bitterness of suffering and death, but this is to bring us the sweetness of his forgiveness, peace, hope, and life eternal.

So yes, death is in the room, but so is Life himself, and he’ll prove to be victorious over death for us.

As we gather today, you can also say there’s death present in this room.

This is because many of us are like Lazarus. Through our baptism we’ve already died with Christ, and through faith we’ve also been raised to new life in him. We’ve already entered, and risen, from the watery grave and have already been given the promise of eternal life. We regularly gather to feast in Jesus’ presence and receive his body and blood to strengthen us in faith as we live our lives in honour of him who died and rose again for us.

Many of us are also like Mary and Martha, who have been blessed by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and wish to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We trust him as our resurrection and our life in a world of death, and we seek to serve him and his people out of love and thankfulness for our Lord’s undeserving grace. We serve him and his people in our own small way. We also look forward to gently holding his body in our hands, and tasting the sweetness of his blood which reassures us of his love and forgiveness, and strengthens our faith in his promise of life eternal.

But many of us are also like Judas. We might like to project an image of care and compassion, but we may do this out of love for ourselves, our reputation, or our own sense of pride. We’ll look for ways to serve ourselves and receive some advantage out of our service to others. We may also lie or cheat or deceive others, and so will sin against God and his people. Our sins are the reason for Jesus’ death. His death is the reason for our belief in our forgiveness from God.

Of course, we may be more than just one of these characters as we gather with the many silent witnesses of the past, present, and future, who gather around the Lamb of God to celebrate the victory of life over death and sin.

Yes, death is in the room, but so is life!

Jesus prepares himself, and those around him, for his death. He won’t be around in a bodily form as he once was for the disciples, but he’s now present for us in a new way.

He’s present in this world of death to bring us life and peace and forgiveness and hope. He’s present in his holy Word, in the holy waters of baptism, and in his holy communion.

Over the coming weeks we’ll hear of his death, but we’ll also hear how he defeated death, and sin, and the devil, as he rose from the dead to live and rule eternally.

Each of us will need to prepare for our own death one day, but we do so trusting Jesus has taken away the sting of death. Death has been defeated. Life now triumphs. The most precious innocent blood has been extravagantly poured out for all of us so that we may be washed clean and pure through our faith in Jesus. We’ve been made innocent and holy through faith in preparation for our own death and for our life with God in his eternal kingdom.

So, yes, death is present in the room, but so is the resurrection and the life, and the sweet aroma of his love and forgiveness for us fills us with joy and peace and hope.

For this reason, the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.