Sunday 26th August 2012 – Bread of Life 4

The Word This Week:

Thoughts On The Word:

It has been one of those weeks! I have had two essays due this week for my B. Theology, and as a result haven’t written anything for you!  However I have below provided an excellent sermon by The Rev. Dr. Samuel D. Zumwalt, which was originally published here.

John 6:56-69

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”


In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today the Lord Jesus tells us that He means assurance – the assurance of everlasting life to all who entrust themselves to Him as their Savior, the Lord of Life and death, and who are also baptized into His death and resurrection. Jesus means assurance for those that ponder who they are, whose they are, and where they are going ultimately. Do you know Jesus as Savior, as the Lord over your life and death? Do you trust Him to give you the eternal life that He has promised? Have you been baptized into His death and resurrection?

A few years ago a woman came into my office for pastoral conversation. She had just been to a family reunion, and it was ugly. As she described it, quite a few of her relatives had spent their whole lives swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.

With great tears in her eyes, she asked: “Pastor, why is it that I feel closer to my church family and safer around them than my own family?” Well, I couldn’t help myself, I answered: “Because your family is crazier than hell.” That’s when she got her sense of humor back.

Somebody once said: “Jesus promises that you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. What He didn’t say was: ‘Before the truth sets you free, it really has to tick you off.'”

My friend and former parishioner needed to tell herself the truth about her family. They were crazier than hell. And she was a whole lot safer and whole lot more loved by her church family. And it was really OK that she didn’t want to be around her family very often or for very long. They spent more time tearing her down than building her up. Alcohol was their best friend, and they wanted her to share their best friend. My friend couldn’t be around them for very long, because she knew the truth about herself, too. She had a fatal progressive disease called alcoholism, and she just didn’t need to be around people – even her own family – when they were drinking.

In today’s Gospel lesson, the Lord Jesus is telling the truth about Himself but some of His disciples can’t handle the truth. They can’t handle that Jesus is God in the flesh, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, truly God and truly human. They can’t fathom that He is claiming to be the living Bread of Life, the living message of God’s great love. Jesus’ words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to abide in Him sounds to them like a bunch of cannibalistic gibberish. And so some of them suddenly decide they have places to go and people to see. They become the very first post-disciples. They are so done with Jesus!

Now you probably know some people that are post-disciples – people that used to follow Jesus and used to listen to Him and used to learn from Him. But now, like the disciples in today’s Gospel lesson, they have turned back and no longer walk with Jesus.

Someone once said that Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting. That mostly Christianity has gone untried. In other words, people never really got to know Jesus as Lord and Savior in the first place. Some never really listened to Him or learned from Him. For some, Jesus was like some fairy tale figure that you grow too old to believe in. For some, Jesus was like a childhood friend that you outgrew, because you were going places in life where He was saying you just didn’t need to go!

Why is it that some people leave Jesus behind? I think that they’re busy trying to win someone else’s approval. My friend and former parishioner could have decided that it was more important to be accepted by her crazy family than to do the next right thing. She could have been so needy for their approval that she would have done what would tear her life apart just in order to fit in. But my friend didn’t go there, because she knew Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She knew that she was more precious, lovable, and valuable than God’s own life. And while it hurt not to have a so-called normal family, she had found a more loving family in her church and in Alcoholics Anonymous.

When you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, you know who and whose you are – you are a child of God. You know where you are going ultimately – you have the Lord Jesus’ promise that He is yours and you are His. You have been buried and raised with Him in Holy Baptism. Like Peter, you can’t go anywhere else – the Lord Jesus has the words of eternal life. You know the truth, and the truth has set you free.

The sanest people I know – the most grounded people I know – the most centered people I know all know who and whose they are and where they are going ultimately. And you can’t budge them with a bulldozer. They know Jesus, and they abide in Him.

I say this from time to time, and I’ll say it again today. We practice the faith, so it’s there when we need it. We follow Jesus. We listen to Him and learn from Him, so that when the really tough stuff comes along we don’t stupidly try to handle it without Him!

Sometimes it’s really hard to entrust yourself to Jesus, your Lord and Savior. When it seems like no one loves you, you are vulnerable to settling for less. When it seems like no one cares about you, you are vulnerable to settling for less. When it seems like the really popular people don’t acknowledge you, you are vulnerable to settling for less. When it seems like God has forgotten you or has really let you down, you are vulnerable to settling for less. When it seems like everyone else has it so much better than you, you are vulnerable to settling for less. And that’s when we are tempted to be stupid – to try to play the hand life has dealt us without Jesus. That’s when a lot of us mess up our lives. We leave Jesus behind. We settle for less, and we really get hurt!

To those that think Jesus is a spoil sport that just doesn’t want anyone to have any fun, I have to say, “You’ve really got it wrong.” He doesn’t want any of us to get hurt. That’s why our God says “No” to us in Scripture. He knows that when we disobey, that when we don’t listen, we are headed for heartache – ours and often someone else’s, too!

Jesus means assurance. God so loved you and me, and the whole world, that He became human in Jesus Christ to save us from sin, death, and evil – to save us from ourselves. Whatever we have done, wherever we have been, however we have been hurt, however we may have hurt others, the Lord Jesus has died on the cross to take away our sins. God loves us. God wants us to have His forgiveness. God wants us to live with Him forever. He wants us to abide with Him in His life and His love. He doesn’t want us to run away and to keep on doing stupid things to ourselves and to others.

So if today you are hurting deep down inside because of something you have done or because of something someone has done to you, hear the Lord Jesus’ promise. God loves you. God forgives you. God wants you to live with Him forever – and forever begins right here and right now! The Holy Spirit is knocking on the door of your heart.

Bow your head with me and repeat this prayer silently in your heart: “Lord Jesus, I have done some really stupid things in my life. I have tried to live without your help. I have run away from you too often. I have cared more about what others think than about what you think. I have doubted your goodness and your love. Have mercy on me, a sinner. Take all my sins to your cross. Help me to trust you with my living and my dying. I want to live with you forever. Help me to walk with you. Abide in me. Stay with me. And help me never to leave you. You have the words of eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.”

Now please open your eyes.

Our heavenly Father wants everyone in the world to be drawn into His endless life and love. He not only sent His Son Jesus to be born of a virgin and to die on the cross for the sins of the world. God’s Son Jesus continues to come by His Word of promise in the bread and in the wine of Holy Communion. He doesn’t solve the mystery for us. He isn’t speaking figuratively. He promises that He is present in the bread and the wine, and He comes to forgive the sins of all who are truly sorry. Jesus comes to abide in us, to live in our hearts, so that we will be able to remember who and whose we are and where it is that we are going ultimately. The Holy Spirit is working to draw us and keep us close!

If you haven’t been baptized with water in the name of the Triune God or if you have a child that hasn’t been baptized, then please speak with me at the door. I’ll tell you to give me a call this week to set up a time to talk about getting baptized.

If, like my friend and former parishioner, you have been to hell and back and need to talk about it, please call me or e-mail me, I would welcome pastoral conversation with you. God does love you. He wants you to know His forgiveness in Jesus’ Christ. He wants you to share in His life and love forever.

Jesus means assurance – the assurance of everlasting life to all who entrust themselves to Him as their Savior, the Lord of Life and death, and who are also baptized into His death and resurrection. Jesus means assurance for those that ponder who they are, whose they are, and where they are going ultimately. Do you know Jesus as Savior, as the Lord over your life and death? Do you trust Him to give you the eternal life that He has promised? Have you been baptized into His death and resurrection?

If you know Jesus, don’t be a stranger to worship in His house. Introduce your family and your friends to Jesus. Pray daily. Worship Weekly. Read and study your Bible. Serve at and beyond St. Matthew’s. Be in Relationship to encourage spiritual growth in yourself and others. And give generously of the time, talents, and resources that God has placed in your hands for a few short years! When you see Him some day, you want to hear Him say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This sermon was taken from

50 Rules for Dads of Daughters {by Michael Mitchell}

Ok, I know it’s been a while since my last post, and you had probably thought it wasn’t going to happen.  I apologise for that.  The thing is, I haven’t felt inspired to write anything.  I have a post sitting in draft.  I’ve written and re-written it 4 times.  It doesn’t feel right, so I’m not posting it.  I obviously haven’t go the message that God wants me to share and I won’t publish something that doesn’t feel right.

I don’t want this page to turn into a referral to other blogs, but I am again going to share something I found, which I think a lot of people could get a lot from.  I originally just sent a link to Hubs, but he encouraged me to put it on here.  I think he’s worried that I’m letting my side of the site slip.  Either way, here it is!

This article was written for Dads, but anyone who has a special little someone in their life could find something for them in here.  I found this article here, and my wonderful hubby has made it available for you here!

Sunday 2nd March 2014 – Do Not Worry!

The Word This Week:

8th Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 49:8-16a

Psalm 131

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Matthew 6:24-34

Thoughts on the Word:

Matthew 6:24-34

 ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Who here remembers the song by Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy? I would sing some for you, but I fear the replacement costs for the stained glass windows would be prohibitive!

Brothers and sisters in todays Gospel passage Jesus is almost reciting those words to us – Don’t worry be happy – he is telling us that God is in control. That God is faithful and  He calls us to be a people of faith.

The Gospels brim with examples of how “faith” is fundamentally a matter of trusting God, leaning on God—not so much believing that God exists as believing that God actually is an intimate, caring parent and a trustworthy deliverer, and moreover, that this care and deliverance is for me, for you, for us, for all. God feeds and clothes the world’s creatures, Jesus insists, even the birds of the air and the grass of the field are fed and clothed by the divine hand; if God cares for them, then surely God cares for us as well. 

When it comes to our own basic well-being, however, there is an apparent competitor for our trust in this regard, another means of material provision that Jesus sums up using the Greek word mamonas (“mammon,” “wealth”). But what Jesus has in mind in using this term is not great sums of money, or even mere money at all, but rather a money-centred approach to life’s basic needs: a strictly material outlook.

We cannot, Jesus says, have it both ways. That is, we cannot at the same time (1) trust ultimately in our own economic striving as the foundation of our basic well-being and (2) trust ultimately in God as that same foundation. There can be only one ultimate foundation, only one ultimate trust. So we must continually, and mindfully choose which of these we take to be the true bedrock of our lives, our own economic self-care or God’s care for us. Our choice will determine the ground on which we stand. Jesus put it as “No one can serve two masters”

This does not mean, of course, that Christians should stop looking to provide for ourselves. If our ultimate trust is properly directed toward God’s care for us, there is no reason to rule out the idea that God will graciously provide us a job and a salary. However, something else is ruled out, namely, “worry about your life.” If we truly are under God’s loving, personal care, if God truly does and will provide, then though we may and should work and “strive,” in the end our own efforts are not the source of our well-being. In truth, God is taking care of that, no matter what circumstances may come and go – Look at the birds. Consider the lilies. They do not worry, and neither should we.

Jesus taps into our human nature in this Gospel passage — into our desire for control and comfort. We want to believe that we are in control of our lives and that we make choices and decisions from a place of objectivity and rationality. When things get out of control, we feel overwhelmed and frustrated. These feelings lead to behaviours that are unhealthy and destructive— it can lead to such things as manipulation, self-medication, greed, possessiveness, and depression, among others.

Jesus, as usual, offers an alternative to the destructive way we ourselves so often choose. If we are committed solely to obtaining wealth, we will worry: Will we get what we seek? How can we keep what we have? When is enough, enough? These are the questions we ask ourselves when we are concerned with material things and fret over them.

Lets be clear Jesus is not preaching a prosperity gospel here; nor is he preaching that we should be passive observers waiting for God’s blessings to shower down.

Jesus offers a choice: Mammon or God. If we choose wealth as our priority, we can expect great highs and devastating lows. If we choose God, in good times and bad we have no reason to worry. The point is that God will provide for us – God is faithful.

“Don’t worry, be happy” can sound shallow, frivolous, and unrealistic. Jesus tells us that the life of faith is not without its issues, concerns, and challenges. There are setbacks, delays, detours, failures, frustrations as well as joys, triumphs,  and accomplishments. Jesus condones neither wanton greed nor personal irresponsibility. The point is that when we are about God’s business and operating out of God’s vision for us, we have no room or need for worry. All is in God’s hands, and we are assured that we can handle whatever happens, because God is in control.

Brothers and sisters few of us are exempt from worry and anxiety. Most of us live with chronic worry, and we are scared of everything—losing our homes, losing our jobs, not having enough for retirement; caring for our children until they reach adulthood; worrying about them more when they are adults.  We as Anglican Christians in this diocese have found ourselves worrying and fretting over the diocesan finances and our ability to survive and thrive as a diocese into the future.

Those who have little, fret over having adequate shelter, food, and water; finding a decent job; taking care of their families; having enough money to survive. All of us—rich and poor, privileged and exploited—have legitimate reasons to fret and worry, even though we know such actions do not change the realities we face.

Jesus understands this; his call to worry-free living is not based on unrealistic views of the world. His words tell us that God will not leave us without support, they tell us that God is faithful and that in times of struggle and fear and doubt we can lean on our heavenly father. We can face life with all its uncertainties with the assurance that we are not alone—that God hears, sees, and cares about us and our situations. Brothers and sisters “Don’t worry, be happy,” because God is in control.

***Disclaimer – this week I have blatantly plagiarised large portions of this sermon from the book Feasting on The Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A Volume 1 (2010, Westminster John Knox Press) and if the publisher wishes me to remove any portion I will do so cheerfully.

Sunday 2nd February 2014 – Presentation of our Lord

The Word This Week:

Malachi 3:1-4

Psalm 24

Hebrews 2:14-18

Luke 2:22-40

Luke 2:22-40 (NRSV)

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Let us pray – In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen.

Good morning/evening,

Today before I begin, I want us to do a little experiment.  I would like everyone to close their eyes and picture the things that you most want to see happen during your lifetime.  It may be anything – from being held in high regard by the community so that you will leave a legacy, to gaining wealth,  security.. the happiness of loved ones… whatever is your hearts greatest desire, hold it in your mind.

Ok let’s open our eyes again… did you see the thing you most desired?

When we imagine the things we most want to see in our lives we have an unlimited number of things that we can list off… and almost all of them are inward looking… we want wealth for ourselves, security, happiness for us and those we love, we want to see things and do things… but the man Simeon from our Gospel account wanted something else – something which wasn’t restricted to a narrow reference of himself alone.  Simeon wanted nothing other than to see the unfolding of God’s promise for His people.

You see Simeon was so focussed on God that all he sought was that he might be a witness to the fulfilment of God’s will.  He sought nothing for himself, other than the satisfaction of knowing that God purpose was being achieved. Simeon put aside his own wants and needs and placed all of his hope in the will of God. What a model of faith is this man!

How often I wonder do we as Christians put God’s will – Gods satisfaction – above our own desires? For Simeon, placing God first in his life meant that he was able to recognise when salvation was in his presence… he was able to see God in his midst when the infant Jesus was brought to the temple.

Not only was he able to know the presence of God and recognise it, but he was also given greater understanding and knowledge of God’s purposes – our scripture tells us that the ‘Holy Spirit was upon him’,   and he spoke prophetic words over Jesus when he said – “for my eyes have seen your salvation,  which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

Like Simeon the prophetess Anna whom we are told was so dedicated to the Lord that she never left the temple, and was always in prayer and fasting night and day, was able to recognise the action of God in her midst.  She saw in the Christ child the redeemer of Israel, and proclaimed the news to all who would listen.

You see for Simeon and Anna the glory of God was revealed. Everyone else was milling about in the temple paying no attention to this baby and his parents. After all it was quite a common thing to see parents with their new born at the temple to fulfil the redemption sacrifice for their first born. But Simeon, and Anna were different. Their focus wasn’t on their own preoccupations, rather it was on God and because they were focussed, because they had their gaze firmly fixed, they were able to see the action of God.  They recognized God’s will being fulfilled right in front of their eyes while everyone else couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Brothers and sisters how often do we wonder about God? How often do we ask questions like where is God in this? How could God allow this? Is there really a living God active in the world?

I wonder if we are a little like the rest of the people at the temple that day, who had God incarnate right there in front of them but couldn’t see him. For Simeon, and for Anna these other questions fell away, not because they are not worth asking, but because they had made a decision to place God, and the fulfilment of God’s purposes at the forefront of their own lives.

When we look to the Gospel today, and when we recall all those times when we have felt that God was a long way off,  we must ask ourselves the question – Am I like Simeon and Anna? Have I placed God first in my life, or do I still cling to those things which call to me from this world?

Now brothers and sisters, I am not suggesting that it is all straight forward and easy. It is not, we are called to a life of living sacrifice, in the service of the King.  Jesus says that we are to take up our cross and follow him, and that means that sometimes we will be tested, and our faith will struggle, and we will begin to ask those questions again… where is God… it is in that moment that we must not be discouraged, but where we should look to the example of Simeon and Anna, and submit to God.  It is when we begin to falter that we must recommit ourselves to placing Christ at the centre of our lives, and placing all of our faith, hope and love in the one who is creator and sustained of all. 

There is still more we can learn from this Gospel passage though!  Not only do Simeon and Anna show us that it is through placing all of our faith in Christ that God is revealed to us, but they point us to what we should do once we have put God in charge of our lives.  Let’s read again what Anna did when she recognised who Jesus was… ‘At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.’

The very first thing Anna does when she sees that the promised redeemer has arrived is to start telling people.  Anna could be called the first evangelist, as she went about proclaiming the good news of the arrival of Jesus to all who sought salvation.

Brothers and sisters if we are Christians it means that we must place God first in our lives.  And if we have placed God first in our lives that means that we recognise Jesus as the redeemer of humanity. If we can see that Christ is the redeeming son of God, who offers forgiveness and salvation to all, then we are called to tell all who would listen! We are called to be like Anna and Simeon.

 Dear brothers and sisters, let us all as we go forth from this place today, leave with a renewed purpose, and hope.  Let us go forth into the world placing God’s purposes above our own, for it is in the fulfilment of the divine will that we will find true happiness.  Finally let us be bold as those who see Christ as our salvation, to proclaim to all who would hear, that we have seen salvation come and its name is Jesus.