10 Minute Message
Lectionary Sermons Podcast in advance from St Stephen's Toowoomba. Reformed, evangelical but not fundamentalist attempts to struggle with the meaning of the Bible, life and faith.
God as Father, Forgiveness and the Lord's prayer reprise. Proper 12 C 2016

This is a repost of a sermon podcast 3 years ago. One of the more popular downloads.

Focus Reading: Luke 11:1-13 Direct file download: Click Here

The Lord's Prayer is challenging in lots of ways. Two of those are in the area of forgiveness and the imagery of God the first person of the Trinity as a "Father". In my reflection on this I take a very Jesus centred view. I believe that the Lord's Prayer and all prayer is corporate. Even our private prayer addresed to God or "The Father" is prayed with Jesus. When we pray "Our Father" we are sharing in Jesus relationship with the one he called "Father" or "Dad". We should not think of "The Father" as a super version of our Fathers, but as the One who is revealed in Jesus as just, compassionate, loving, and merciful. 

In the same way when we pray, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us", we are also praying with Jesus. If we are honest I don't think many of us would like to be forgiven in the way that we forgive others. We would rather a deeper more profound forgiveness. The sort of thing Jesus displayed from the cross. If we pray this prayer by ourselves it is not much comfort. If we pray this prayer with Jesus who has forgiven perfectly, then we have great hope and great comfort. 

Questions for thought and discussion.

What does forgiving as we have been forgiven mean? How do you measure up? 

How does the notion that we do not pray these words alone, but that we pray them with Jesus seem to you? In what ways might this make forgiveness easier or more comprehensible?

What makes the notion of calling God Father difficult for some people? What do you make of the notion that we have God as "Father" because we share in Jesus' relationship? 

In what ways if any mightthis be helful for someone who struggles with the notion of God as "Father"?

Direct download: Proper_12_C_God_as_Father_and_Forgiveness-1.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 2:16pm AEST
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Sit at Jesus' Feet - Proper 11 C for Sunday 16 July 2016

Focus readings: Luke 10:38-42 and Colossians1:15-28 

Direct download link: Click here

If you go to Tannum Sands just south of Gladstone in Central Queensland you will find two places of worship next to each other. One is the Uniting Church and one is the Jehovah Witnesses' Kingdom Hall. Both buildings and their grounds are kept in good order but there is a striking difference.

The Kingdom Hall is immaculate, its landscaped lawns are always mowed and it has a paved car park. The Uniting Church doesn't always have its lawn mowed, the back third of the property has gone wild and the car park is not paved. This difference in appearance also reflects a different understanding of God.

As I understand it the Jehova's Witnesses believe that they must earn their way to heaven by doing good deeds and getting everything right for God. Part of this is their service to the church including maintaining the church building. If they honour God through doing these things they will receive a place amongst the crowd in paradise. God will love them.

The Uniting Church people along with most other Christians believe something quite different. They believe that God already loves them. They believe that God came among us in Jesus. In him we saw what God was really like, and God loves us even before we love God. They do not have to do anything to earn that love. They do not have to go door to door, and God will still love them if the church lawn doesn't get mowed this week.

Yet the Uniting Church people still do mow the lawns. If one of them is sick, they will still pray for them, visit them and support them. They are involved in various kinds of community service and although they do not go from door to door they are willing to share what they believe with any who would hear.

If God loves them anyway why do they do this? It is I believe to say, "thank-you!" "Thank-you God for loving us and coming among us." 

Questions for thought or discussion

If you have an important guest are you more like Mary taking time to sit and listen or are you like Martha striving to get everything right? What are the strenghts and weaknesses of each approach?

What motivates you to love God and your neighbour? What if anything do you hope to receive something in return? 

How effective is thanksgiving as a motivator for loving the other?

Direct download: Proper_11_C-1.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 12:59pm AEST
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The parable of the Hurt Man Proper 10 C

Luke 10:25-37 Direct audio Download: Click Here

This story of the Good Samaritan has been told so many times that we become too familiar with it. As we have probably always been told it is a story about how we should love everyone - even those who are very difficult to love. This understanding of the story can not be denied. There is however another way of looking at it. When the lawyer and the crowd and the disciples first heard this story, they would have identified with the half dead man robbed and left lying at the side of the road. The shock in the story for them would not have been that they must love the Samaritan, their hated enemy, but that the Samaritan loved them. For me, the heart of our faith is that God in Jesus became our neighbour and lifted us out of the ditch and brought us to safety. Of course we may identify more with the robbers or the Levite or the Priest or even the inn keeper. Where ever we are God calls us to love our neighbours and when we need it to swallow our pride and accept love from our neighbours!!

 

Questions for thought or discussion.   

Imagine yourself as the hurt man and the Samaritan as a bikie, or gang member, or someone else you may make you angry or afraid. How does this change your view of the story?

What is it like for you when you are in need and someone offers you help? 

Who is your neighbour, whom Jesus calls you to love?

Image: Part of the Good Samaritan window St Stephen's Toowoomba Australia

Direct download: Proper_10_C_The_Hurt_Man-2.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 2:59pm AEST
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God is Crucial Proper 9 c 2016

Focus Reading: Gal 6:7-16   Direct Audio Download; Click Here   For an alternate sermon based on the Kings reading: Click here

God is crucial
In the Letter to the Galatians we read that instead of living lives which say thank-you for the good things that God has done and is doing for them, all of a sudden the Galatians were being asked to live out a set of rules - to obey the rules so that God would love them. The Good news about Jesus and his love had been turned on it’s head. Being a Christian had changed from being a life lived in the power of the Spirit to celebrate God’s freely given love into a life lived to obey a set of rules to earn God’s love. And the silliest thing about all of this, was that the rules are almost always impossible to keep, especially once you know what they are.
Jesus lived and taught and died on the cross, so that we could share his relationship with God. He died so that we would no longer be consumed and distracted, by sin, or the law, or houses, or our jobs, or our families or whatever and certainly not whether you’re circumcised or not.

Questions for thought or discussion
What things consume or distract you? In what ways (if any) can receiving God’s love as a gift (Jesus) set you free from these things which distract you?

Image Copyright: picsfive / 123RF Stock Photo

Direct download: Proper_9c_16_actually.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 4:50pm AEST
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Freed and Fueled Proper 8 C

Focus Text Gal 5:1, 13-25  Direct MP3 Download   Another Sermon for Proper 8 c with a mission focus

Freed & Fuelled
The book of Galatians has as it’s main theme a struggle between Paul who believes that God loves us freely as a gift and others who believe that while God is loving God demands we keep a set of rules called the Law in order for us to be acceptable to God. Paul tells us that all the rules could be substituted with “love your neighbour as yourself”. Forget the rules; let them go, that is what he is telling us. We are free to live as we wish for we are no longer bound by rules. Paul however urges us not to use that freedom for self indulgence. Instead he urges us to be slaves to one another. He urges us on the one hand to avoid the bad stuff, “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21, NRSV) More importantly he tells us that through the work of the Spirit God produces good things in us who believe. God empowers us to produce “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NRSV) We are not just told to stop doing bad, or told to do good. We are fuelled by the Spirit, or empowered to live lives of service and love.

Questions for thought or discussion.
What do you make of the idea that the fruit of the Spirit are not something to strive for but a gift that God produces in those who believe?
42% of St Stephen’s members volunteer for community service outside the church and many others love their neighbours informally. In what way if any is there a connection between the fruit that the Spirit grows in us and that wonderful community service?

Image Copyright: tomwang / 123RF Stock Photo 

Direct download: proper_8_c.mp3
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 11:12am AEST
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Freed from possession by the Law for Gospel Proper 7c

Link to Bible readings   

This is the full text of the sermon. Direct audio download link.

We might not think it but all of us have stories about how Christ’s love is at work or has worked in our lives.

And to some extent most of us will have at least some stories that are a bit similar to the experiences of those who wrote today’s Bible readings.

Our first reading is about Elijah. He had just confronted the pagan gods... It was a great victory, but the Queen was angry and wanted to kill him. He felt he was all alone... he felt that he was burnt out... he could do no more... he felt that he was surrounded by enemies... Maybe he was depressed...

But God spoke to him. God Gave him strength for the journey ahead. God didn’t speak in some huge loud way but in the still small voice.

Have you ever felt burnt out, or surrounded by enemies, felt like you could do no more? I’m sure all of us have. I know I’ve felt like that many times.

It was worst when I was at school in year 9. Because I was often bullied- surrounded by enemies. I felt I was all alone. At times I felt like I could not go on.

But at church I was not bullied, and on camps with a neighbouring church and in my Sunday School class, I learned about God’s love and I was given strength for the journey. I learned that I was not all alone. There was the church and other Christians, but much more important - God was with me too!

In Psalm 42 and 43 the story is almost exactly the same as in the story about Elijah. The psalm writer feels abandoned and surrounded on all sides by enemies. But the psalm writer also calls out to God. He remembers what God has done in the past. He remembers what it was like to worship with God’s people and so he asks God to help.

As I said before, I’m sure all of us have been through similar things. I remember once feeling like the Psalm writer in psalm 42 and 43. I was an older teenager and felt that I was all alone in the world. One night I ran out into the back yard and called out to God "Are you there!, Do you care about me?" I can't recall how it happened now but after a while, I did sense God's love and presence and I went to bed in peace.

Or perhaps we have a story like Paul’s Story. Paul had been a Pharisee, what had been important to him, was the Law. The rules, being good, doing right, meeting God’s standard. For a good part of his life he was very self righteous, but then one day, he realised that he could not reach God’s perfect standard. As we learn in Romans chapter 7:7-11, when Paul realised he could not reach God’s perfect standard he was racked by guilt, tied up with a sense of his own unworthiness. BUT as we learn in today’s reading he discovered there was another way. That way is the way of grace and faith. Our sins are freely forgiven because Jesus takes our place. We don’t have to struggle to perfectly obey the Jewish law.
As verses 23 & 26 put it: Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed....[BUT] in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. (Gal 3:23, 26 NRSV)
There have been a couple of times when I have come to a fuller understanding of God’s grace in my life. One of them was my time at college. Before I went to college, I was always early to everything. I was so anxious to obey the rules that I would feel terribly guilty if I was ever late. At college I learned much more deeply what I already knew. God loves us and accepts us as we are, not because we obey the rules. Since then I have lived a much happier and free-er life.

Finally, none of us I believe are possessed by a legion of demons, but perhaps some of us have at times been possessed, or grabbed a hold of, or seized by fear or anxiety, or hatred or bitterness, or un-forgiveness by some other emotion or force or circumstance that makes our lives hell. Perhaps like that young man we have been delivered from what has a hold of us by Jesus and his love!
I have shared before how, as a young man, because of all the bullying I went through, I was very timid and had almost no self confidence. But through my teenage years as faith awoke in me and I accepted Christ, fear was driven out of me and confidence grew in me. Slowly I became what I am now, not perfect, not complete but none the less, a confident minister of the gospel.

Image courtesy of Wayne McHugh

Direct download: Proper_7c.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 5:19pm AEST
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Life of the Party Proper 6 c

Focus Reading Lk 7:36-8:3 Direct download of MP3

Life of the Party
Because of the Lord's Supper and the banquet parables we so often think of Jesus as the host rather than the guest at meals. In fact when we read the New Testament we discover that generally Jesus is the guest at other people’s meals. He is not an easy guest. Mission, and discipleship, following Jesus is not only about inviting and attracting people to join us in church. It is far more, about going to people where they are, being guests, and announcing God’s love by witnessing our faith and bringing life to the party. This is what Jesus and the woman did in today’s gospel reading.
It reminds me of an episode of the Flintstones. Barney and Fred go to charm school so they can take their wives to a charity ball. The event is very boring so the boys, liven up the proceedings. It turns out charm school taught mostly not manners but how to bring life to the party. Some of the guests are mortified but the rest have a much more enjoyable time. We are called to bring life to the party!

Questions for thought and discussion.
As a church and as individuals how can we go where the people are, and witness our faith in words and service? How do we get the gospel into the shopping centres, gyms, businesses, and homes of our neighbours neighbours?
How do we bring life to non-church functions, parties, work places and public places?

Image Copyright: radub85 / 123RF Stock Photo

Direct download: Proper_6_podcast.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 10:11pm AEST
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Proper 5 C Magic Restoration

Focus Readings: 1 Kings 17:8-24 Luke 7:11-17

Direct Download of Audio file

Today’s readings have two themes. One is the miraculous healing power of God. Some people find the idea that God would literally raise the dead difficult. I don’t but I sympathise with people who do. This kind of thing simply does not happen in “real” life. It is magical, and yet from Kings and Luke we have two stories of sons being raised from the dead. In our modern scientific world such things are hard to believe. The second theme is the notion that God is compassionate. There were very few people more at risk in the ancient world than a childless widow. A widow who had a son may have some hope, but in both stories the women even lose their sons. Without their sons the widows would have faced almost impossible futures. These stories paint a picture of the nature of God. God restores to the widows what they need and value most, their beloved sons.
How do we know this is the character of God? The answer could be Jesus. If Jesus is both truly human and truly God. If Jesus is truly the creator and truly part of the creation, then we see the character of God in his life, teaching and action. We have a foundation for our hope. If Jesus is not truly human and God then...

How do we know the character of God? How could we better reflect God’s character in our worship, other church activities and in our daily living?

 

Image Copyright: kasto / 123RF Stock Photo

******************** Text of full Sermon notes below*****************

Magic Restoration
Why is the church shrinking as a proportion of the population? Why does a church like St Stephen’s which once had 900 confirmed members now only have around 150 with only 60-100 attending on any given Sunday?
I think today’s readings can help us explore that in two very different directions. Firstly there is something supernatural or magical or mystical about today’s readings. The dead are raised. We live at a time when the supernatural and the mystical are rejected as being unscientific and impossible. Indeed I have heard more than once that this is the explanation for why people don’t come to church. How could anyone believe in a jar of flower, like Sydney Nolan’s magic pudding which never runs out? How could anyone believe that a person who is dead, whose cells and body have begun to decompose, who has not been breathing for even a half hour, who could believe that they could be revived? Who could believe in someone walking on water, or a man born blind being given sight? And if there is such a thing as God, creator of the whole universe, how could we believe that the fullness of this One could live amongst us as a human being?
I don’t agree with this view, I believe in the supernatural, the mystical, if you want to call it that, the magical. I don’t agree with it but I have some sympathy for it, and a think part of the reason some people aren’t in church and why many are not attracted to it. Way back in the first half of the 20th century Rudolph Bultmann a liberal Christian Theologian put it like this “We cannot use electric lights and radios and, in the event of illness, avail ourselves of modern medical and clinical means and at the same time believe in the spirit and wonder world of the New Testament.”
Today Authors such as John Shelby Spong, Robin Myers, and Marcus Borg ask the same questions from a liberal or progressive Christian viewpoint and New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens ask the question from an anti faith viewpoint.
In the end the main defence of people like me who believe in the supernatural is the very things that Dawkins most strongly rejects. Our defence against this criticism is faith. It is however not blind faith. I won’t do it in detail but it is possible to make a strong historical case for the resurrection of Jesus. It is difficult to explain the existence of the early church without it. In similar vein it is hard to explain the early church at all coming out of Judaism if the life teaching of Jesus even before the Resurrection had not had a huge impact on those very early disciples who believed he had been raised from the dead. Faith is not without foundation, or unreasoning. I have however to be honest and say that while I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and can defend it historically I simply can not defend it scientifically.
In the same way I can not scientifically defend the raising of the two widows sons in the old and New Testament stories. Historically I can defend the belief that the earliest followers of Jesus believed he was a healer and miracle worker as well as a teacher greater than Moses and Elijah and these stories reflect this. Indeed the impact of Jesus meant that certainly following his death and resurrection and perhaps beginning beforehand the first disciples came to believe that Jesus was not only a greater figure than Elijah, but that he was God come amongst us as one of us, a real human being. I will come back to that.
What every person in a country with a Christian past or background can see in these stories is something that says God is compassionate and we should be too. In Jesus’ time and in Elijah’s time some widows were very vulnerable..... In the time of the early church a contrast with society was seen when the church got large enough to be noticed...
In our time it is my fear that a similar thing is happening. I want to be a bit risky here and say something bout the way we as a community support single parents...
It is not just the way governments behave that is worrying. Look at our community organisations. Once in every town of any size in Australia.... Unions... Political parties... Our own meals on wheels....
This decline in community can partly be attributed to both parents working... TV.... but at least part of it is to do with us becoming more selfish. The churches are actually doing much better than some... It is true that some people are not in church because they can not believe in things like bodily resurrection, but I believe more are not here because they do not believe in community.
One of the reasons I believe in Jesus as not just a great prophet or teacher is because of what he did in his own lifetime and what he has done through the church to draw us together in him as the one household, or family or body. The weaker members, the victims, even the undeserving victims like the tax collectors or the (I think largely mythical) unwedded mothers who have extra children just for the welfare money, even these are to be honoured and cared for and even the very real mums and dads who are alcoholics and dependent on drugs need to be honoured and cared for too. For me this is because Jesus commands it. It is because he is Lord and in his life our Lord loved the pharisees and tax collectors as well as the poor and the vulnerable. And those of us who believe in the supernatural and the incarnation are filled with hope, for we believe that the one who asks us to do this can raise the dead, heal the sick, restore the son to her widow and feed the hungry, with or without us, and so our small faltering, mixed up, sometimes even mean and pathetic efforts not only can be used by God to make a difference but they are also a small part of the renewing of the whole universe that began on the first Easter day, and therefore there is always hope.
For me the great sign of this hope is Jesus my risen and living Lord who draws me by the Spirit into his loving relationship with his Father and longs to have that same relationship with all creation including the widowed and the orphaned, the tax collector and the prostitute. That for me is part of who we are and I believe it is what our world needs too! I don’t know if it will fill the church with new and younger people but I believe that if we are faithful to this vision it will mean that we are part of a living temple, a great and eternal city.

 

Direct download: Proper_5_C_2016.mp3
Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 4:28pm AEST
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Easter Services

Our Easter Services will be:

Maundy Thursday 24/3/16 at 7.30 pm

This will be a Tenabrae Service

Good Friday 25/3/16 at 8 am

Easter Sunday 27/3/16 at 9 am

If you are looking for Easter Sermons

A Text only sermon can be found by following this link:

An Apology and an Apologetic. Easter Day 2012

For a Podcast Follow this link:

Easter = Transformation - Easter Day A 2011

A Direct link to the audio file can be found here: Easter_Day_A_2011_PM_Master.mp3

Category:Sermons in advance -- posted at: 12:18pm AEST
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On Tuesday the 8th of March at 11am in Rangeville Community Church a memorial service will be held for Rev Aub Baker. One of his many significant ministries was with Fronteir Services as a patrol padre. He entitled his recent memoir "Gate opener for the Lord". 

I did not know Aub well but like everyone who got to know him even a little bit I felt his genuine interest in me as we sat and yarned as well as glimpsing his  strong commitment to Jesus and also the church.

As a tribute to him I reprint a sermon I preached for the 100th Anniversary of  Frontier services formerly Australian Inland Mission. Aub  was present  on that occasion and shared in the service.

A Sermon for the centenary of Frontier Services (& the Australian Inland Mission).

Preached on the occasion of a combined Uniting Churches celebration service in the City of Toowoomba, Queensland, Sunday the 16th of September 2012

 

The theme for this service is “beyond the furthest fences”.... The question I want to ask, the question I want you to ponder, and the question I want to have a bit of a go at answering, is what led John Flynn, John the Baptist and Jesus, to go beyond the furthest fence and into the wilderness?  

 

Faced with the things they faced the missions of these three men must have seemed hopeless. 

 

If we start with John the Baptist and our reading. John has his ministry in a time when Jerusalem and surrounds is ruled by the Roman Empire. It was the great power of its time. A large and organized nation or Kingdom could defend themselves against Rome but Israel was not large or well organised. There were resistance groups but these were hopelessly divided. In the period following Jesus death and resurrection, Jewish resistance to Rome grew but the infighting together with the sheer size and might of Rome, led to the Jewish Rebels not only being defeated but Jerusalem was destroyed including the Temple which was razed to the ground. 

 

That wasn’t the only problem the religious world was divided too. There were the Pharisees, who like John wanted Israel to repent, they wanted people to return to the faith but over time this desire turned into legalism with over 600 rules and regulations. There were the Essenes who lived out in the desert like an order of Monks trying to keep themselves pure and clean from the contaminating world. There were the Sadducees who controlled the temple and acted as the city council of Jerusalem. They owed their power to Rome and made their money through the temple taxes and the money changers. They were despised by the pharisees the essenes and the ordinary people as corrupt and collaborators. And the picture I paint is a very simplistic one for many of these groups were also hopelessly divided amongst themselves.

 

It is into this apparently hopeless setting that John speaks his message of preparing for the arrival of God. He quotes the Prophets crying out that he is the messenger preparing the way of the Lord.  He gathers people to him in the outback saying “prepare the way of the Lord make his paths straight.” Repent be baptised. 

 

Now as I’ve just explained the need for that repentance and for forgiveness was huge. Israel was in a terrible mess. The people needed to turn to God, but surely the cause was hopeless. Despite John’s preaching, despite the crowds that came out to see him and were baptised, the people remained divided, corrupted and occupied. In less than a year John ends up arrested and dead, executed by the sword of Herod. So why did he do it? What drove John beyond the fences, and into this mad and hopeless mission?

 

Just four verses later Jesus begins his mission with these words “and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”” (Mark 1:15, NRSV)

 

They are almost an exact copy of what John was saying. The Kingdom of God is near, is among you is beginning now! God is coming and in some sense has already come! If that’s true people then we need to turn to God who has already turned to us. But of course what Jesus is facing is exactly the same as John. But he tells people to love each other, he reaches out to the despised and rejected, he touches the unclean, he feeds the multitude in the desert, he calls people to a new and better vision of life. He tells them that God loves them and cares for them. And what happens to him, he ends up dead on a Roma cross, rejected by his own people, and deserted by his friends. Like most of you I believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully God. Why would God enter into this mess, why would God go beyond the farthest fence into our human desert, only to die in that wilderness?

 

John Flynn was faced with very different set of challenges. He felt called by God beyond the farthest fence to outback Australia. When he began his work the only forms of communication were the telegraph which only went to some of the towns and mail which even in the dry season could take weeks to arrive. Medical care was practically non existent. And on the Spiritual front, it was said that there were people who had not even heard of Christmas and Easter and there were very few Bibles let alone ministers. Yet he had a dream of a mantle of safety that would cover the continent, that people in the remotest of places would be able to access medical care. He dreamed that the scriptures would be available and the word of God would be proclaimed in every station, camp and by every billabong. What on earth possessed him to attempt such a mad project and begin such a mad mission? What drove him beyond the farthest fence?

 

So why did they do it? What drove him beyond the farthest fence? John the Baptist believed God was coming, God was about to do something new and amazing. God was about to break into history in a new and wonderful way.

John was filled with a mad vision of hope, believing that even this most hopeless situation of Israel could be transformed into the Kingdom of God. And when God came the baptism was not going to be in water for repentance it was going to be in the Holy Spirit. The promised one would come and bring this about and our Christian faith has taught us that this promised one was Jesus. But just a moment ago we left Jesus dead outside the city wall the city, outside the farthest fence, dead on a Roman cross.

 

To understand our reading from Mark and to understand John the Baptist and Jesus and John Flynn, we have to recognise that we see their story from somewhere near the end. The New Testament was written after the Resurrection. The end of the story is not the cross, or the sword of Herod, the end of the story is the resurrection, the empty tomb, Jesus is alive. He is Risen.  

 

Walter Breuggeman, perhaps the greatest living Biblical scholar argues that as Christians “as strange as it... seems,... [we] understand and live all of life in response to the... God who brings slaves out of bondage and who brings life out of death.”(1) We are the people of the resurrection. It is because we believe that God in Christ is alive and with us, that we have been baptised with the Holy Spirit, it is because of this that we live and that we dare to go beyond the farthest fence.

 

John the Baptist did not get to see this but he believed that something like that was going to happen. The promised one was coming, God was about to appear in a powerful and special way and the Spirit was about to be poured out. In the same way Jesus’ life and teaching and even the cross only make sense in the light of Easter Sunday.

 

What about John Flynn, what’s this got to do with him. Well I’m pretty certain that one of Flynn’s main motivations was the resurrection. Even before he founded the AIM he was involved in a number of Shearer’s missions in outback Australia. At those meetings he distributed a little booklet he had edited and substantially written called “The Bushman’s Companion”. It’s full of first aid advice, has a simple cash book, a calendar, information about postage, and a section called “A ramble through ideals”. The last ideal dealt with is entitled “the resurrected self”.

 

He begins that section by writing

"I am the resurrection and the life," says Christ. 

It is not easy for us to accept that statement. 

But, once accepted, it brings before us, the vision of another self, a vision which must deeply influence the life of the beholder;...

For the confidence of resurrection does change the whole outlook of life, and even give outlook where, previously, it seemed to be utterly absent.

 

Flynn goes on to suggest that the resurrection is a powerful motivator in two ways.

 

First it brings hope where there seems to be none.  Is there no medical care, are there no communications, are there men and women who have not even heard that there is a Christmas and an Easter? Then as mad as it seems let’s send out ministers on horseback, Christian nurses to remote country towns, let’s try this new fangled radio thing and see if we can’t power it with bicycle pedals and lets send doctors across the trackless wastes, beyond the farthest fence in flying machines. Why because as mad and as hopeless as it seems, the God who raised Jesus from the dead, who brings life out of death can surely also do these things.

 

Second Flynn argued that the resurrected life was a spur to effort in this life. (3) If we are raised with Christ then while we will be remade or recreated “We shall still be ourselves. Individuality persists even through the grave and resurrection.” For him this meant that the bush man or woman who had never heard the Christmas and Easter story had an eternal being, and needed to hear that message. It also meant that those who needed medical care, and Spiritual comfort, and the ability to communicate, needed those things because these acts of service and compassion would be reflected in their eternity. The Padre’s visit, the nurse’s care, and the wireless message from afar would live on into eternity with those who received them. For this it was more than worthwhile to go beyond the furthest fence and to cry out in the wilderness. 

 

Flynn went beyond the furthest fence to the remotest people of the continent and God used him to do some wonderful and amazing things. John the Baptist went beyond the furthest fence to the outback Judea with the hope that God was about to do something wonderful. Jesus jumped all the fences of his culture, even unto death so we could know God’s love and risen life.

 

Where are we prepared to go? What fences is God asking us to cross? How in our time will we share the good news of Jesus and live out God’s love? 

 

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NOTES
(1) Brueggemann , Walter (2011-08-15). The Bible Makes Sense (Kindle Locations 892-894). St. Anthony Messenger Press. Kindle Edition. 
 
(2) John Flynn “A Ramble through ideals.” The Bushman’s Companion John Flynn Ed. 1916 edition p 63 (First published 1910) Presbyterian Church of Austrailia Australian Inland Mission
 
(3) Flynn 63ff
 
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 12:19am AEDT
Category:Sermon not in advance -- posted at: 1:31am AEST
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