March 21, 2021

TIME HAS NOW COME – FATHER, GLORIFY YOUR NAME !

Passage: Jeremiah 31: 31-34 and John 12: 20-33

 

Friends as you soon meet for Annual General Meeting, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen!

Our meditation is taken from scripture portions we heard a little while ago, let me read this:

“Indeed, a time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant… “But I will make a new covenant….says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.” (Jeremiah 31: 31-34).

Speaking of times, Jesus recognising ‘the hour’ of his suffering, trail and departure had come prayed in great distress, ‘Father, deliver me from this hour’? No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name’ (John 12: 27-28). There is a time and season for everything under the sun, but right now, let us take time to pray and ask God for his help.

Gracious Father, times and seasons are in your hands, look upon us with compassion. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight our rock and redeemer. Amen.

Friends in Christ, couple of weeks ago, when my brother was visiting us, we went home from church and turned on TV. There it was the final game of the Constellation Cup, for those who do not know what this is, it is a Netball tournament between Australia and New Zealand. When we turned on the TV the game was in its final quarter. Usually, my brother and I, make an effort to watch any sport as long as Australia and New Zealand are playing. It gives us plenty of opportunities to have a friendly banter with one another. As it happened, the final quarter was nail-biting, the clocking kept ticking away, each moment had its build up, and it was hard to predict who was going to win. Ah, the thrill of watching sports, ‘time’ is precious when it comes to sports, you got to make ‘that shot’, or ‘kick that goal’ just in time. Any delay or penalty could cost your team immensely. If the ball was taken away, then that would mean opportunity to score will be reduced, and that is not good news! Anyways, as it was the case that day, unfortunately, Australia after holding the cup for a decade, relinquished it to New Zealand in a nail biter finish in Christchurch. In the interest of preserving my brother’s name, reputation, and honour I will not share the details of his celebrations!

But here is the deal, time is precious and it waits for no one, hopefully, that is not news for us. However, as humans we experience impatience sometimes because ‘our time’ is limited and so we want things here and want them now! In times of suffering, this default condition of our hearts rushes us a bit further, adding to unnecessary stress to our life experience. Our problem is we would like to see the light at the end of the tunnel and if possible, we want that tunnel (which gives us grief and tests our patience) to be short. If a problem goes on far too long, in our eyes, it is rather unpleasant, uncomfortable, and inconvenient experience and must be avoided.

God’s people (Israelites) during prophet Jeremiah’s time have a similar problem. Do you know, by the time Jeremiah wrote this passage, these people were living as exiles in Babylon? As prisoners, they did not like that reality of life they were living, so they cried out to God to rescue them. Apparently, they were also angry with their ancestors because they failed miserably in keeping God’s covenant with them. As a result of their sin, even though they were descendants of Abraham, i.e. inheritors of the promises, destruction was brought upon them. Babylonians took them away as prisoners, away from their homes, and away from their precious temple, away from joys of life, they spent not one or two but seventy years in Babylon. Seventy years is a life time for many. No wonder they wanted rescue to come quickly, their hearts recognised clock is ticking way and they can’t wait to see light at the end of the tunnel. Often they would cry out and weep before God (verse 14) asking for salvation. Last time they suffered similar fate, they were in Egypt as slaves. At that time, they cried out to God, who responded to their prayers by sending Moses. Given this experience, they prayed from Babylon, seeking rescue from the mess as soon as possible.

Friends, the good news we hear from Jeremiah today is this: God hears prayers and responds to His peoples suffering. In times of difficulty, rescue is not that far away for us. Watching news yesterday, I was thinking of our brothers and sisters with the emerging flood situation in Northern NSW. Even as the flood waters filled out streets and properties, isolating people and cutting them off from access to basic human needs, the news report said, when people called for help, rescue operation was dispatched to them immediately. Every effort was made to rescue victims from engulfed flood waters. By the way, we will pray for brothers and sisters and uphold the on-going rescue efforts in the prayers of the church today. But, if this is what humans do to support life and look after one another in times of suffering and trouble, how much more does a loving God respond?

Without a shadow of doubt, God’s word promises God indeed responds to the suffering of his people. The good news we hear God said: “indeed, a time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant… “But I will make a new covenant….says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.”

Wow! Listen to all the promises of God. To those who are suffering, God said He will look after us through a new covenant. This covenant promises forgiveness of sins, it promises identity as people of God, and access to God’s workings in our lives so that we suffer no more.

A bit later, we hear the promised arrival of such time through Jesus. Unlike the ordinary times, this new season brings fresh promises of hope. John the Baptist put it in context for us when pointed to Jesus and said: ‘behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ The love of God sets history in motion.

As promised, God put this new covenant in place for us. Even today, when sin continues to exert its power, wreaking havoc. Law, on the other hand, fails to protect the vulnerable, God’s work comes through the gospel. Times might change, but evil one still sow’s seeds of enmity between people. Right in the midst of all this chaos, God’s word offers forgiveness and hope! Unlike us, sin did not have a grip over the heart of Jesus, hence he remained obedient to God, even in times of suffering. As the writer of the Hebrews (5: 5-10) put into perspective for us today:

During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, and he was designated by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

The times of anguish, suffering, betrayal, and death upon a cross was not a nuisance or inconvenience for God-man Jesus. Last time I checked scriptures, when Jesus was lifted up on a cross, it was rather a time of blessing for us all. Pleased with the obedience of Christ, God raised Jesus to life. Just as a single grain of wheat when planted dies only to give plenty of harvest later, so did Jesus death brought life, salvation to us all. Through this bread of life, Father forgives and does not recollect our sins. The power of sin over our hearts, had been replaced by the power of the gospel. The crucifix, that baptismal font you see there, are living testaments to God’s salvation in our lives.

By fulfilling the demands of the law, Jesus ushered a new covenantal relationship with God. The means of grace, promises of the gospel comes to us. By repentance and renewal, God is at work in us! Sometimes, I imagine God’s saving work in our life like this: God in his high vis shirt with rolled up sleeves, with a hard cap on, work shoes, declaring to the repentant, ‘you are forgiven, your sins can no longer hold you prisoner to shame, guilt, death, and separation from my fellowship (God).’ This undeserved favour of God is richly poured upon us through the word and sacrament ministry. As receivers of this ministry we rejoice and give thanks to God at all times. Yes, even during inconvenient and uncomfortable times of life such as during sickness, loneliness, worry, and anguish.

The challenge for us today is this: How do we hold on to this promise and bring Glory to His name even during uncomfortable times of our lives?

After all bringing ‘Glory to God’s name’ must be the priority of our faith journeys, don’t you think? As we prepare for Holy Week ahead, we follow the footsteps of our Saviour Jesus who called us to ‘deny ourselves to follow him.’ When Jesus knew the hour of his departure had come, what did he do? He prayed to the Father, and prayed specifically that God’s name be glorified in his life. Prayer is such a powerful gift my friend, it shows our reliance and confidence on God. In times of difficulty, it helps us to stay close to God our Saviour.

The point of our journey is not to avoid inconvenient elements and go through the tunnel of our suffering with our own strength, own abilities, and self-made paths, prayer teaches us to seek God at all times. Prayer helps us overcome worst situations in life, our brother and friend Jesus showed us this, His first words and the last words on the cross were words of prayer to the Father.

Let me leave you with this thought, scripture teaches us that risen and ascended Christ, sits on the right hand of the father praying for you as your High Priest. So, no matter what suffering you are going through today when you pray, you are joining with the prayer of Jesus who is already praying for you. So take your issues, problems and worries to God in prayer, and ask God to glorify His name in your life.

To this purpose, the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

 
Rev. Jaswanth Kukatlapalli
Pastor at Mackay Community Lutheran Church (Mackay), and
St. Martin’s Lutheran Church (Cannonvale)
Office Address: 44-46 Wellington Street, Mackay, Queensland, 4740