Archive

Archive for October, 2016

Ulladulla 2016 Part 3-All are included in the superabounding of grace

October 24th, 2016
Comments Off

There is so much evil in this world and the darkness seems so deep. Instead of beauty too often we see the distorted ugliness caused by sin.

And yet we are claiming that under the superabundance of God’s grace sin has no chance. In fact sin has no future. God will restore his beauty to the whole creation. It will reflect the glory of his character.

And that assertion we are claiming a great hope for all mankind.

And on what basis are we saying this?

Romans5:20

20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,

No mater how evil, and in one sense this reached its peak when the world crucified its Saviour, grace super overflows: it’s Niagara Falls of grace, not just a little trickle-down effect. It’s this huge grace so that sin has no chance.

21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Robin Parry said:

1 Corinthians 15, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” But in Romans 5, Paul has a similar thing comparing Adam and Christ. He’s basically saying everything that goes wrong in Adam gets put right in Christ. “And where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.”

There’s nothing that sin can do to deface God’s creation that grace in Christ cannot put right. There’s no depths that sin can go to or human depravity it can go to, but that the grace of God in Christ and the death and burial of Christ can’t go deeper. And there’s no sin that God can’t deal with in Christ. The end of the story is resurrection, it’s the empty tomb, it’s not Golgotha. You know, it’s the triumph of grace.

When Paul spoke of the abundance of grace, he not only thought of God’s grace breaking through into the world of sin and death in the death and resurrection of Christ. He also thought of the breaking down of that middle wall of partition which had separated Jew from Gentile.

He thought of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ meant that God has now openly revealed himself as the God of all men.

He has now ceased to be God only known inside Israel, and has become God known outside Israel as well, and both outside and inside he is the same.

The covenant was secretly from the beginning a covenant with all humankind, and it has now been revealed as such through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We have only to see the witness of the reception of the Holy Spirit by Cornelius and his family.

By any argument from the OT an uncircumcised Roman pagan could not be included in the commonwealth of Israel, and thus belong to the people of God. He was outside the covenant.

And yet the Holy Spirit forced the church to revisit the scriptures. So instead of arguing against their inclusion based on previous interpretation of scripture they had to reinterpret scripture in the light of this new awareness of what God had done in their midst.

The new reality the Holy Spirit was revealing in his work: God’s grace was and is not for one people only but for all. This means that when Israel received that revelation, it received it not for itself only but that it might hold it in trust for all other peoples. And so the sin that has been revealed in Israel’s history and in Israel’s rejection of Christ is not only its own sin but the sin of all peoples.

When God in Christ bore the shame of Israel, that gracious intervention was not only on behalf of Israel but on behalf of all men. And so the superabundance of God’s grace means not just the reconciliation of the Jews but the reconciliation of the Gentiles too.

But how do the Gentiles come into this scenario?

At first it appears the abundance of man’s sin is about the Jews conflict with their own Messiah. How then can the superabundance of grace become something that affects all men?

The answer is given in the Passion narratives of the Gospels. All of them emphasize that the crucifixion of Christ is not directly the work of the Jews. But while it is certainly instigated by the Jews, its execution is the work of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, and his subordinates, and so the work of the Gentiles.

The Jews “handed over” Jesus to be crucified that is the technical term used by the New Testament to describe the part played by the Jews. Their sin became great in that they expelled Jesus from the sphere of the holy people and gave him up to the unclean Gentiles outside.

The early church understood this:

Acts 4:23-28

23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord
and against his anointed one.’

27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.

And it was at the hands of these unclean Gentiles, who were not elected and not called, at the hands of those who, according to Ephesians. 2:12, “were without God in
the world’ that he was hung on the cross, not inside Jerusalem, but outside the city gates.

Thus as Israel’s transgression reach a fullness as the executioners of the Jewish Messiah, the Gentiles are directly involved. By the way they acted, they made it obvious that they were no better than the Jews.

For now they have openly shared in the abundance of the transgression. “But where the transgression became great, just there grace has become very much greater.” And so they also have a share in the superabounding of grace.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh became objectively possible through what this Pontius Pilate did with his guilty- innocent hands.

He who suffered, at the hands of unclean Gentiles, died and rose again, for unclean Gentiles, as well as for clean Jews, that they might be reconciled to God. He is the Advocate for all flesh.

Ephesians 2:15(b) -22

15(b) His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.

All have sinned. Grace superabounded in the very place in the very place sin abounded. And if both Jew and Gentile needed this superabundance of God’s grace it removes any human superiority and resultant hostility to one another. By removing the hostility with God, by the peace of reconciliation, he destroyed the basis of hostility between Jew and Gentile.

18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

The key to all of this is the Holy Spirit. There is an unifying fellowship of the Holy Spirit. This was the evidence to accept uncircumcised Gentiles into the people of God.

The Holy Spirit works in a way that brings glory to Christ as the Saviour of all mankind.

19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The family of God, Jew and Gentile, is being built together into God’s Temple in which he resides through the Holy Spirit.

The superabundance of God’s grace is at its most glorious in this new reality.

Message for the Day

Ulladulla Last Day Part 2-Restoration of God’s beauty into this world

October 23rd, 2016
Comments Off

The fullness or superabundance of grace in all its beauty is revealed to us in a very pivotal moment in history.

Jesus on the cross

There’s a particularly poignant line in the account of Jesus’ death which says that, when he died, “the veil in the sanctuary was torn from top to bottom.”

What the gospel-writers are saying is that, at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil that sits between us and the inner life of God was ripped open so that we can now see what God looks like inside.

I think it is important to remind what was said last year on this:

The cross shows us the beauty of God’s heart – what his inner life is like. How is this so?

We see Jesus, the Son. What’s he doing? He’s suffering and dying, but in a particular way. He hangs on the cross in anguish, dying, but he also hangs there in trust and faithfulness, giving his life away without resentment, recrimination, and bitter questioning because he knows and trusts God even when God seems silent.

Luke 23:34

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

We see Jesus on the cross, but we see him there clinging to someone else with a trust that turns hatred into love, curses into blessing, bitterness into kindness, recrimination into understanding, and God’s seeming silence into faith. On the cross we see one person, but as being held and empowered by somebody else.

Less visible, but clearly there as the recipient of this trust, present as the one about whom this drama is ultimately about, is the Father. He is suffering with the son, holding the son in this darkness, showing himself worthy of trust, and trusting the son not to short-circuit the tension so that God’s response, the resurrection, can be what it should be, not an act of vengeance, nor a bullying definition of whose in charge, but an act of unfathomable redemption, understanding, forgiveness, and love, an act that, more than anything else, defines God. The Father is there too at the cross, suffering, waiting in patience, empowering another to trust.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is also at the cross, uniquely generated and released by what unfolds there. As the drama of the crucifixion, this deep interplay of giving and receiving in love and trust, is taking place, a forgiving warmth, a healing fire, and an unfathomable patience and understanding are being produced, revealed, and released.

Hebrews 9:14

 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

When the veil inside the temple is torn, what we see, what flows out, is only forgiveness, patience, gentleness, understanding, and warm invitation.

The cross defines God as love and gives us a picture of what that kind of love looks like.

Andrew Purves described:

Romans 5 Paul talks about grace. Overflowing. Three times he says, “Grace overflows.” Again he says grace overflows, and the third time he puts it in the superlative—grace super-overflows—it’s Niagara Falls of grace, not just a little trickle-down effect. It’s this huge grace so that sin has no chance.

Sin has no chance. All that despoils and makes ugly God’s good creation doesn’t have a chance. If these living waters are flowing into our lives, sin doesn’t stand a chance.

John 4:14

but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’

On the last day of the Feast

John 7:37-38

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them

Being under the reign of God’s grace means we are restorers of God’s beauty wherever we go. What we saw on the cross is meant to flow out of us as living waters.

We have been called to participate in the restoration of God’s beauty into this world. We can live today in the reality of this beauty.

An analogy I heard several years ago was that God was weaving a beautiful tapestry.

God is weaving throughout history his beautiful tapestry that will be for eternity.

What is Beauty? And how do we respond to this in our appreciation of God’s tapestry? And how does this liberate us from the anxieties that can naturally surround us in this mortal life?

We see beauty in the Hebrew word shalom.

Many people know that this word is usually translated as “peace” but it has a much richer meaning than this. The Old Testament uses this word to describe the ultimate goal and end of history and all that God is doing– peace. Now, when we think of peace, we usually define it negatively- no fighting, no war, no hunger, no pain.

But this word in the Hebrew carries with it the meaning of reknitting the very fabric of the universe. It paints a picture of a world that is made up of an infinite number of “strands” of sorts, and shalom is when these strands are re-woven together into a sort of tapestry.

Let’s think about what we know as beautiful.

Just think of God. He is the perfect and complete tapestry within which all things are woven together in the first place. He is peace. He is shalom. He is Beauty.

Seeking to enjoy the Beauty of God protects us from becoming careless in our worship or tempted to limit God to be like us.

We need to see our humanity as beautiful.

Psalm 139:13-16(a)

13For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16(a) your eyes saw my unformed body.

Humans are the crown of God’s creation. In the opening chapters of Genesis you see that with each day of creation what God creates grows increasingly complex and nearer to the heart of God, until you reach that final creative act, where God intimately makes humans in his very own image. What an honour to be God’s image bearers!

God loves all humanity, and so should we. Being God’s image-bearers gives us all innate worth and innate beauty.

The Gospel is Beautiful.

God, being rich in mercy, though we have abandoned God’s beauty and our own true beauty, God has not abandoned us. He loves his Beauty. And he loves the Beauty of His creation.
The ultimate, infinite, precious, all-consuming, King of Kings and Lord of Lords takes on the form of a child born in a manger. Oh the humility. Oh the beauty in this act we call the Incarnation, where the infinite God takes on finite humanity. That is beauty.

Thus our definition needs to make God the most beautiful Person in the universe, it needs to make the cross the most beautiful event in history, it needs to make Jesus the most beautiful man who lived the most beautiful life this world has ever known, and lastly, it needs to make the Gospel (or the message of Christianity) the most beautiful thing anyone could ever hear or believe.

And history revolves around this cross. Because at the same time that Christ, Beauty Itself, was literally being torn apart, he was reconciling all things to himself.

In other words, he was taking every stray strand in the universe – every bit of evil, suffering fallenness there will ever be in history and he was making himself the common glorifying thread that would reknit the broken fabric of a broken creation. And so we live now in the process and story of God putting all those strands in their proper place.

This is the beauty of being baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

And we, His people are his Bride,

Revelation 19:6-8

6Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

Those that are “in Christ” are woven into that tapestry that is the new heaven and the new earth.

We’re not just going to live in it, we are part of it. 2 Corinthians 5:17, reads: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

We are the new creation. The new tapestry. The good news of our salvation is that all that has been ugly with the world and in ourselves has been conquered. Beauty is here, and Beauty is ever increasingly filling the earth, and this Beauty is our salvation from ugliness and sin.

And we receive this salvation by seeing its Beauty, turning our affections toward this God, and trusting that we cannot reknit our own lives but Christ has reknit them for us.

 

Message for the Day ,

Ulladulla Last Day Part 1-The Superabundance of Grace

October 22nd, 2016
Comments Off

There is much more to grace than being plan B when we make a mistake. It isn’t just wiping the sleight clean to give us a fresh start.

We may also think grace is God being fair, making sure everyone gets what they deserve at the end. Like balancing the books. If you have done your best, he will make sure you are OK in the judgment. It is as if God will use grace to make sure you are not going to hell. It is like the proverbial insurance policy, just in case.

Grace is not God’s reaction to us. It is who he is.

In this service we want to see more what we mean by the Superabundance of grace Paul talks about in Romans 5.

Please read The Workers in the Vineyard, Matthew 20:1-16

Reflect on what is troubling about this parable.

Who is the parable about?

1For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 ‘About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the market-place doing nothing. 4 He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” 5 So they went.

‘He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?”

7 ‘“Because no one has hired us,” they answered.

‘He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.”

8 ‘When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.”

9 ‘The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 “These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

13 ‘But he answered one of them, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

16 ‘So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

With the laborers who spent all day in the vineyard: their hard work justified their expectations of favorable status and extra pay from the landowner.

They are jealous and ungrateful because the payments seem to them to be unjust.

They feel the landowner is unfair in not recognizing the merit of their work.

The point Jesus is making is that the landowner is free to do what he likes. He is generous.

What is the focus when we talk about grace? Us or God? Is it the labourers or the landowner? Is grace a response to what we do or who God is towards us?

Is the parable emphasising how unworthy we are or is it emphasizing how generous and giving God is?

The first will be last, and the last will be first.

Again how upsetting is all of this. We can form what we think is a fair way of looking at how God deals with this world. We who have been in the church a long time deserve something more.

Or even more disturbing Jesus seemed to be saying those who feel they deserve more could lose what they have because they don’t like the way God treats others Or more to the point: he seems soft on others and more demanding of me.

I think of Peter in

John 21:18-23

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’
19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’)
21 When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’
22 Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’ 23 Because of this, the rumour spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?’

What is that to you? Its none of your business.

Grace upsets.

Remember how Jonah was so upset about his mission . Why?

Jonah 3:10

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Jonah 4;1-3

1 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
3 Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’

You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Grace isn’t just something God does, it is who he is.

And the superabundance of grace is even more scandalous.

Remember who is the superabundance of grace?

John1:14,16-17

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses;

The law was God’s grace to Israel.

Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

The superabundance of God’s grace is in Jesus Christ.

Baxter Kruger wrote:

The Christian vision of God is of a God who is eager to know us, eager to cross the chasm between the Creator and the creature, and eager to stoop down to us and lift us up so that we can share in everything that he is and has.

Such a vision of God is utterly unique. The human mind would never create a deity of such grace and humility and other-centeredness. The Christian God is interested in relationship with us, and not just relationship, but union, and not just union, but such a union that everything he is and has — all glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life — is to be shared with us and to become as much ours as it is his. The plan from the beginning, in the Christian vision, is that God would give himself to us, and nothing less, so that we could be filled to overflowing with the divine life…

Over 40 times, John tells us in his gospel that Jesus Christ was sent by God the Father. John saw that the coming of Jesus Christ, his death on the cross, flowed out of the endless love of the Father for us and out of his unyielding determination that his purpose for us would be fulfilled. …

Jesus’ death is part of the fulfillment of the eternal purpose of God, part of a seamless movement designed to lay hold of the human race, cleanse us of all alienation, and bring us home. For the Father will have it no other way. He will be “satisfied” with nothing less.

It sounds too good to be true. Grace is so overwhelming when we think of the cost to God.

As we play Worthy is the Lamb think about what the man who died and is now glorified is going to share with us.

When scripture says we have ascended with Christ, or that we will sit upon his throne he is saying what happened to the Lamb is shared with us. Yes in this life we may suffer with him, so that will be glorified together

The fullest demonstration of God’s love is Jesus, the Lamb of God. In him we see the fullness of God’s grace.

To watch Worthy is the Lamb click here.

Message for the Day