“World conquerors”                      EASTER 6 & Mother’s Day                         13 May 2012

On Saturday night, before a big service (like today), I find it helpful to stand back from my sermon and reconsider my approach to the readings. In particular I try to consider what has happened in my week and day to see if there is a special illustration that might be used to introduce what I want to say in the sermon. If I can get feedback from someone, that is always helpful.

Fortunately, last night, I was able to get together with my small group of sermon advisors to think together about my sermon for this morning. It says a lot about friends when they are willing to make themselves available to their pastor at 9:15pm on a Saturday night. So I met with my sermon supporters, David and William Read, in section 101 between the 2nd and 3rd periods of the game at Mile One.

We were all in a state of considerable excitement at that time- not just over my thoughts for this sermon! We (that is, the Ice Caps) were up by one, and seemed to be mostly in control of our game. But the Penguins are a very dangerous team- they can turn things around quickly and then, if one is not careful, as advisor David Read observed, “Bang! It’s in the net!” Sermon illustration supervisor William agreed: “They just have to keep working hard” he said. “I think we’ll be alright.”

How accurate they were. Later in the third, the Ice Caps did cough up the puck and “Bang! It was in the net!” But we did just keep working hard and we were alright! We persevered and didn’t give up under the pressure that came- even intense pressure at the very end- and we came out the victors! We won the series and move on to play the top seeded team the Norfolk Admirals beginning this Thursday.

My advisors knew what they were talking about- victory is only won by those who still believe they can win and do not give up in their pursuit of that victory!

Saint John wrote to his readers is first century Turkey: Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (v.5)

What is a world conqueror? Not a controller but one who is not conquered by the world. One who perceives and lives in the kingdom of God.

(Gospel of the Hereafter quote)

 

The one that hangs on and doesn’t lose is the conqueror. Doesn’t give up hope- doesn’t lose heart- doesn’t forget the belief that they can persevere, endure and take it home.

In hockey, as in life, it doesn’t mean that the losers did give up. It doesn’t mean that the Penguins gave up before the final whistle! No, they battled to the end as well BUT it does mean that the Ice Caps never gave up. What is necessary to win is to never give up.

Saint John says that those persons who do not give up on the faith and hope that Jesus is the Christ already have the victory in them. It is just a matter of time before it is revealed.

The Ice Caps already had the victory in them when they showed up in the locker room last night before the game. But they had to battle out on the ice for three tough periods to reveal it to a delirious crowd, that it really was theirs.

Well- you might say- they might have lost it. Yes, they might! But we know that they would have lost it for sure if they didn’t believe they had it in them to begin with.

Jesus says to His followers over and over: Do not be afraid. Why? Because He has overcome the powers that threaten to shut them/us down. He has conquered every power that threatens to take away our lives and power to live our lives as the children of God in the kingdom of God. That is His work and He has done it.

Our job- our work- is to believe in Him and His life, His victory, already at work in us. We may have to struggle and battle hard for three full periods of life but if we do not give up the hope of victory that He has already attained for us, then one day, we will see it revealed before all of heaven. And the fans that are watching us and cheering us on- the saints and angels in heaven- one day will be delirious to celebrate our victory with them!

That is why Jesus’ commandments are so direct and simple: Abide in my love…keep my commandments…love one another!

His commandment is to abide in him…his love. We will be able to do with him what he does with His Father. And why? So that His joy may be in us and complete in us! Wow. 1 John 4:7

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

15:11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

 

Even our places of failure are sources of God’s victory in Jesus. In the Bulletin this week you will read a wonderful tribute that Ron Nikkell, Director of Prison Fellowship International wrote for his friend Church Colson, who began Prison Fellowship after he got out of prison for his part in the Watergate scandal of the 1970’s, that brought down President Nixon and his advisors. Colson knew the depth of his own failure and yet it was there he met the grace and victory of Jesus to transform his life, and the lives of many others. Not long ago, he wrote:

The great paradox [of my life] is that every time I walk into a prison and see the faces of men or women who have been transformed by the power of the living God, I realize that the thing God has chosen to use in my life … is none of the successes, achievements, degrees, awards, honors, or cases I won before the Supreme Court. That’s not what God’s using in my life. What God is using in my life to touch the lives of literally thousands of other people is the fact that I was a convict and went to prison. That was my great defeat, the only thing in my life I didn’t succeed in. (Chuck Colson)

Memorial Hymn Sing and Mother’s Day: We remember those who have made a major impact for good on our lives. We give thanks for those people who have helped us to believe that we can also amount to something in life: those who planted in us some hope that we too might be conquerors. These are people who continue to inspire and encourage us, even though they may have been dead for many years. Their hope and faith lives on in us.

And it is Mother’s Day! We give thanks to God for the life that has been given to us through our mothers. They bore us and shared their life with us, just as God has. Our mothers are vessels of God’s life and love to us. Even if they weren’t ideal mothers, they are the means through which our perfect God has shared His life with us, and so when we honour them (and next month our fathers too) then we honour God who has used them to bring us to life and make us able to receive His victory in Christ.

Listen again to our simple faith, to the hope in us that conquers:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

The last thing I want to say something about is friendship and what Jesus says about friendship and love, uniting us to Him and the Father and one another.

 

Hockey players don’t have to be friends but it sure makes it a lot easier to play with one another and to play for a common purpose. If you are friends then you have one another’s backs, you push yourself a little more- you are willing to sacrifice more because you actually care for the other person. When the game is over you still have to face that person and spend time with that person. You still care for your teammates even when you are off the ice.

 

Jesus says we are not only his servants- working towards a common cause- we are His friends. We don’t just serve together- He actually loves us. He likes to be with us even when we aren’t in church- even when we aren’t battling for things of faith in the face of an unbelieving world. He likes to hang around with us and wants us to enjoy hanging around with Him. That is that “abiding” idea we were thinking about last week.

 

Just as the Father and the Son love to be in one another’s company, so Jesus wants to share the Father’s friendship with us. He wants us to conquer in life through the knowledge of and experience of God’s friendship. It is already ours if we trust it is. We already have Jesus’ friendship if we just abide in Him. We are already victors and conquerors and will go on to the next and final round of life, where there will be no losers, if only we just do not give up hope that this is so. The victory and friendship and love of God in Jesus Christ, is already in us.

 

And for us to see that victory revealed, even before the final revelation in heaven, all we have to do is love one another That will show us that the Spirit of God, which is the truth of God and His victory over all that threatens His eternal life in us- all we have to do is love one another.

 

5:6 This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.

 

John 15:9-17
15:9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
15:11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
15:13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15:15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.
15:16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
15:17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayers of the People                   Easter 6 & Mother’s Day              13 May 2012

 

With Jesus our Lord, we walk in the company of holy women who have gone before and who still walk with us: mothers of the faith both named and unnamed, who have raised up children of faith. Let us give thanks to God for them as we say to the Lord: We thank You for mothers of faith.                                    We thank You for mothers of faith.

 

Let us pray. (Silence)

 

Heavenly Father, Jesus said: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. Thank You for those who have taught us how to love You and Your commandments. Thank You for Mary, Mother of the Lord, who opened her life to Your will, and our world to our Saviour. For holy women who have graced our lives, we say to You Father:           We thank You for mothers of faith.

 

Lord, we walk in the company of Deborah, who judged the Israelites with authority and strength, and we walk with Esther, who used her position as queen to ensure the welfare of her people. For holy women of the Old Covenant who have graced our lives, we say to You Lord:                                                           We thank You for mothers of faith.

 

Jesus, we walk in the company of those who met You on earth: the woman with the flow of blood, who audaciously sought her healing and release from You. We walk with Mary Magdalene, who wept at the empty tomb until You appeared to her. For holy women of the New Covenant who have graced our lives, we say to You Jesus:

We thank You for mothers of faith.

 

Holy Spirit, who was poured out on the Church at Pentecost, we walk in the company of Phoebe, who led an early church in the empire of Rome, and we walk with Perpetua of Carthage, whose witness in the third century led to her martyrdom. We walk with Julian of Norwich, who wed imagination and theology, proclaiming, “All shall be well.” For holy women of Church history who have graced our lives, we say to You, life-giving Spirit:                                                    We thank You for mothers of faith.

 

We walk in the company of our own mothers and holy women who have been mothers of the faith to us: grandmothers and aunts, teachers in school and Sunday school teachers, fellow parishioners and women who have lived courageous and inspiring lives with You Lord. For women who teach us to resist evil with boldness, to lead with wisdom, and to heal by the way we share our lives and are present to one another, abiding in You O Lord, we say:                   We thank You for mothers of faith.

 

Lord Jesus, You appointed us to go into the world and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give us whatever we ask Him in Your name. So, Father, we ask You to give us what we ask for as we pray under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in the humility of Mary, Mother of our Lord, and in Your Son Jesus Christ’s Name. Amen.

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