Today’s sermon is the first of two parts which will conclude next week [for those not here next week – it will be posted on our church website.
During this time we are going to wander around a bid and hopefully wonder a lot!
We can always find something new, or things can be revealed to us through the most well known of passaged.
Let’s start with the Gospel reading.
Jesus is hanging on our cross, and knowing it was completed he said his final words, ‘It is finished’.
The word ‘finished’ can also be rendered as something completed or accomplished [like mission accomplished]. Thus this is not about defeat, but about victory and seeing the mission through to the very end and about the action that happened rather than just on Jesus’ death.
But what is also interesting is the sentence itself. The Greek from which we translate is quite particular when it comes to the ‘tense’ of the verbs. The sentence is in the present perfect tense and is best translated as ‘It has been accomplished’ – which tells us of something [an action’ being finished, but also something that is continuing. What is finished continues – the baton is handed from Jesus to the Spirit of Jesus – to you and to me. In this equation God continues on with us and this was also revealed to me through the Old Testament passage.
Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sara, digs a well to provide water for his family and flocks – that will keep them alived. Water dug from the ground at a place that became known as Beersheba [more about that Beersheba and Australia’s place in this story a little later].
But more importantly God turns up reminding Isaac that God will bless him and will be with him.
In the second part of this reading Isaac’s son – Jacob – holds centre stage, escaping from his past, and his brother and maybe from God – when God turns up again.
In the dream a ladder stretches from Heaven to earth – Jacob’s ladder – as we know it. The angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Where was God? Our reading today tells us God was standing above it – but a better rendition from the older translations is ‘God was there beside him’. God is mighty and present in both Heaven and on earth and indeed has never left us.
In John 4:5-6 the link is reinforced when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well – God with the flesh on and He promises her living water – what that replenishes the earthly body and the heavenly Spirit.
Back to Isaac’s well at Beersheba for a moment. Australia and indeed Australian army horsemen had a major role in the restoration of the ‘promised land’ to the Israelites in 1917 during World War I. The Australian Light Horse Brigade attacked the Turkish defences of this southern Israeli town and they took it in a famous charge on horseback in what is considered the last successful horse driven battle charge in history.
And it all came down to the water in the wells at Beersheba. The attack occurred in mid-afternoon, over open ground [Thea and I have marvelled at it] but if Beersheba was not take swiftly the Australians and their horses would have perished – without access to the water.
God has continued [notice the tense] to use the Australians Water indeed has become part of the living water in God’s great plan and our story is once again enmeshed in the story of God then and now – the same yesterday, today and forever.
So what do we learn about this for our own faith journey. That God is with us and that our work is both finished and not finished – the war is won but the battle still rages [to continue the analogy from 1917].
Through Jesus and his spirit, we are called to continue his work of guiding, prodding, listening, speaking the Good News, healing, being equipped and equipping or empowering others – whether they be friends, family, our own children or strangers.
However, just like Jesus, we are called to be in the world, not of the world. We are to create new wine skins for new realities.
We see Paul in Acts when he goes to the Athenian Areopagus, finding people where they are. He speaks about the importance of this in the letter to Titus 3:1 as does Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-17.
We, as a church family, need to constantly review our relevance – whether it be through the buildings we have, they way we use them, the way we worship, the way we mission to the world and the way we display our love.
Jesus modelled that love particularly in his healing ministry. Next week we will explore that ‘healing’ further and how we tap into it to become human hands for a heavenly task.
We will explore two very famous passages from John’s gospel, including the healing of a man who was able to proclaim, ‘I once was blind, but now I see’.
I’ll finish today with a modern version of that story – of which I have some knowledge.
I met Pastor Garry Payne some ten of more years ago at a Full Gospel Businessman’s dinner at Hurstville.
Garry has a church called ‘Set Free Ministries International’ and, with his wife, he practises God’s healing power in his services. I have seen and experienced some of that gift and the miracles that ensue.
But one of the most powerful stories came from an outreach he and his wife Kim were doing in India.
At the end of preaching the word later in the afternoon at an outside rally, people came forward for healing. Kim was there on the podium with an interpreter.
A man brought a child forward in his arms and the interpreter told Kim that the child was blind. The light was fading and the spot lights had to be turned on. She prayed over the child and then held her towards the spotlight to see the child blink her eyes.
The man gave thanks and rushed back into the crowd [healing is more of an expectation in countries like this, who haven’t built up complex theologies and pharisaic doctrines or who reply solely on scientific principles.
Back at this accommodation later in the evening Kim marvelled at how God had given back the little girl her sight.
The interpreter was puzzled saying to her, Ma’am I know the light was poor when the father brought the child forward so you might not have seen that she was not only blind but she had no eyes at all – only empty sockets. God restored her eyes as well as her sight.