Sunday 28th September 2014 – Testimony

This is my first sermon as a priest in the Church of God.  I meant to record myself preaching this, but with a brain like a sieve sometimes you forget things… 

The Word This Week:

Philippians 2:1-13 

Let us pray,

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

Good Morning again everyone.  This morning as you know is a very special time for me – it is the first time that I am serving you as a priest in the church of God.  In a little while I will be presiding at the Eucharist, for the very first time and together we will share in the presence of Christ truly with us.  These are significant things in my journey and I am truly humbled to have been called by God to serve his people in ministry, and I truly pray that he will give me the grace to do it well.  This morning I thought I would give you a little bit of background about me – I want to share with you my testimony, my story of how I came to be standing here before you today.

My story begins just down road in Tottenham, I grew up in a fairly typical family environment in contemporary Australia.  My parents were divorced, and I was raised by my mother and step father until I went to live with my dad when I started High School. My family was, again,  typical in terms of identification with the Christian faith – on the census they would mark down that they belonged to a Christian denomination, and they wouldn’t eat meat on Good Friday – but as for attendance at church – that was restricted to weddings, baptisms and funerals.  Now I want to be clear, my family is not and has never been anti-faith, it has just been not a priority in their lives.

I moved to Queanbeyan towards the end of High School and completed my HSC at Karabar High with the support of family. While I was there I was seeking for meaning in life – I was seeking for God – but of course Christianity was rubbish, only goody goody people were into that nonsense – and they were really all hypocrites anyway – or so my limited understanding of the faith, gained largely through the media and movies, would have me believe. So naturally I sought for God in other places – eventually finding myself involved in the neo-pagan movement and a practising Wiccan – Wicca is a pagan religion involving witchcraft for those of you who have never heard of it.   I was still a Wiccan when I met my beautiful wife for the first time at University… she prayed for me, and asked others to pray for me.

It was after the end of that year at Bathurst Uni, that i gave up on Wicca – it had left me feeling spiritually empty, and I resolved to myself that I would spend the rest of my life as an agnostic. This was where I was in my spiritual journey for the next couple of years as I worked as a Grain handler at the silo in Tottenham.  Then I moved to Albury-Wodonga with two mates.  I was studying an Arts degree, but not really interested in it… I was more interested in reading novels than in the required reading for my degree. It was this that lead me to enter a Dymocks Book store in Albury one fateful day.  While in that store I had an overwhelming compulsion to buy a bible… something that I couldn’t explain, after all I wasn’t interested in Christianity… I had bought that bible and was out the door before I really knew what was happening.

Of course now I can look back on that moment and know that the Holy Spirit was at work.  At the time I was a very confused 21 year old with a book I had no idea what to do with.  I did however know that I was baptised as an infant as a Roman Catholic.  So I resolved to go and speak to the local Catholic priest – Msgr William Fulton.  Fr Fulton is the man who truly introduced me to Jesus for the first time.  He met with me regularly, he gave me material to read, and answered my ridiculous questions.  He encouraged me and nurtured me and after some months he heard my first confession and admitted me to Holy Communion.

My journey from that time until now, has not always been easy.  I have been through times of doubt, and struggle. I have had demons to fight off and vices to conquer – and I am not done yet.  But God is faithful, and he will give me the grace I need to persevere in faith.

Now you’re likely thinking, “well that’s all fine and good Daryl, but what on earth does it have to do with the readings that you are supposed to be preaching on?”  

Well there was one thing that troubled me as I was coming to faith.  Why? Why would Jesus be willing to die on the cross for us? Why would this man suffer and die for me, and for you? It was our reading from Philippians today that began to help me understand, and I hope as we look at it  it can help you too.

The first thing I want us to look at is verse 6.  talking about Jesus Paul says ‘who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited’ Do you understand the significance of that statement? Jesus is not just a nice man, who did some nice things and was killed for it.  Jesus was and is God incarnate as a human being.  He is the second person of the triune God.  God didn’t just set up some man to cop the consequence of sin that we deserve, it was God himself who  came as one of us, to take the consequence for us.  

Lets keep reading, what did God the Son have to do in order to come and save us? Verses seven and eight continue: ‘but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.’  

Lets ponder that for a moment – the creator and sustainer of the universe, God the Son through whom all things were made, the eternal everlasting Word of God humbled himself to become a human being, and to offer himself as a slave for our salvation.  This God who had spent eternity in bliss, in a state of existance that knows no pain, no suffering – a place where every tear is wiped away and where death does not exist – this God came to earth as a fragile, weak human being.  He went through life just as we do, he was required to show obedience to his parents and elders just as we are.  He underwent the same kinds of temptations we do.  This God who had never had to endure pain, humbled himself and was obedient even unto death – even the most shameful, horrible and painful death imaginable – death on a cross.

It doesn’t seem rational that a regular human would do that – let alone God incarnate. So what could have been the motivation – Why? Why would he do this, why would he give up so much for our sake? Why would the creator and sustainer of the universe lower himself to such a degree, to save one of his creations, this human race who largely ignore him, and don’t live even remotely how he created them to.

Love.  Love is the answer. Love is the driver, it is only love that can explain this.  And what a love it must be! We know that love in this world can sometimes be fleeting, it can be often based in emotion and it can be fickle.  That is not the love that God displays through Jesus.  This is a love that is all encompassing, a love that is overwhelming.  It is a love that conquers fear – can you imagine the fear that Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsamene as he waited for them to come and arrest him? It is a love that is humble, the king of kings and Lord of Lords gave up everything he had for us. It is a love that is sacrificial – He offered himself, so that we could be saved.  When we look at it through the lens of this reading from Philippians it sheds new light on that famous line from John’s Gospel – For God so loved the World that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  

We still can’t comprehend the love that God has for us,  we can’t understand why he would love us so much, that he would do this.  But each day as we journey with Him, we should seek to honour him who gave so much for us.  We should seek to follow him as best we can, and though we will often fail we can be assured  that because of his great love – displayed through Christ – we are forgiven. We should give thanks everyday that we are loved, with an all encompassing, sacrificial love.

My brothers and sisters, you have heard my story, and you have heard how I came to begin to understand the love of God for me.  I want you to understand that this love of God is for you too.  Jesus didn’t just die for me – he died for you as well.  He rose from death and opened the door to eternal life not just for me, but for you as well.  I encourage you this week to consider the love of God, to consider what has been done for you – consider what it cost.  Then re-commit yourselves to your faith – seek to live lives that speak of the love of Christ that has set you free. Above all brothers and sisters, take comfort in the knowledge that you are loved, more than we could ever hope to understand.

The Lord be with you.

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