Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Let’s  join in a word of  prayer:
God of such amazing grace and mercy, we know from Scriptures, the certainty of your care for us.  Help us express this care for others
as your children,  seeking to be compassionate and setting aside our pride.  God of all mercy, help us to hold onto the faith that your Holy Spirit puts into our hearts by word and sacrament.  Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord,  Amen.

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David:0414521661

Two brothers were born into a middle class Christian family here in Australia.  The brothers grew apart, with one embracing Christianity as a teenager, while the other became interested in experimenting with all that living in a broken world offered.  As life progressed the Christian tried to encourage, warn, and even frighten his brother into accepting faith in Christ Jesus.   Nothing seemed to make a difference.

As they matured and became older, the wayward brother became ill, and faced death.  The Christian brother sat at his bed side through the last days of his brother’s life, and spoke gently of Jesus.  In the last moments of his life, the brothers prayed together and the dying brother expressed a reborn faith in our Saviour.  He closed his eyes for the last time with the shadow of a smile on his face, and contentment in his heart.

At the funeral, the Christian brother was sad and angry.  The Pastor spoke to him with concern over his grief.  The Christian explained that he was angry because his brother had lived his life devoid of faith, but at the last moment received life eternal.  It was clear that the Christian brother was resentful of his brother’s wayward life and deathbed conversion.

The Pastor gently related the parable we shared in the Gospel today.  It made all the difference, because the reality of God’s grace and love for every believer shines through, no matter how confused our life becomes.   In the Kingdom of God, it may even seem that ‘the first will be last, and the last will be first,’ as Jesus relates to us.

This does raise an interesting question though.  Can we disregard our relationship with Christ Jesus until we are near the point of meeting Him?

 In light of such a question, I am reminded of Paul’s words, ‘what ever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’  And so, I suggest that it does make a difference.  We don’t believe in Jesus just for the eternity we will share with Him.  We believe in Jesus for the hope we have each day we live with Him here and now.  ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain.’

I am convinced that when we get to heaven, there will be no contest to see who was the most deserving of God’s grace because no one deserves it.  We receive it because of God’s nature, not because of our’s.

I suspect there will only be one contest in heaven. When we look back and see what we were before, when we see how Jesus rescued us, when we recall how confused we were, when we remember how God reached out and brought us into His family, and how he upheld us in his hand, and when we see Jesus who loves us and gave himself for us, the only contest will be to see which of us will sing the loudest:  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”  Grace that set our hearts free to trust and believe.

God’s generosity is limitless.  His forgiveness has no boundaries.  His love is eternal. He is not a respecter of merit.  And yet, Jesus ends the parable with the words, ‘the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

From the words of Christ Jesus, I have a sense that there is an order to things in eternity.  That we have a foretaste of this in the parable.  The followers of Christ Jesus can be assured of the promises of life eternal from God.  Life that is special, joyous, and exciting.

In the parable, we see workers who are hired in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening, all receiving the same reward for their commitment to the landowner.  In the reality of salvation, I expect the same generosity from God, for those who come to faith in Jesus Christ, and receive the gift of baptism.  Whether as a baby, a child, a teenager, an adult, or on their deathbed, the same salvation is offered and received. There are no levels to salvation, and there is no purgatory where we must work away our sins.  Jesus fulfilled the entire law, and took our punishment to free us from judgement.  Nothing is impossible for God.

I suspect that there is not one Christian who would disagree with the mercy and grace of our loving God.  After all, God sent his Son to die on the cross to offer us this salvation.

And yet, among the workers, those last hired, are first paid, and they receive the same reward as all the others.  In our minds, this seems unfair.  We most often work an hour for an hour’s wage.  In the parable we have the words of the landowner, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a normal days wage?  ‍ Take your pay and go.”    Jesus died on the cross for all humanity.  Because of this universal act of sacrifice, God offers the same unlimited salvation to every person individually.  And we receive this gift individually, by faith in our Saviour, Jesus Christ.    

When the landowner went out to hire labourers, he did not pick and choose among those who were there.  Everyone who was standing there was hired, and the landowner returned again and again to discover those who were ready to begin work.  Yet the landowner made the agreement with each worker individually, when they were hired. 

God’s Holy Spirit has been poured out upon the whole human race at Pentecost.  God keeps every person in his view, and when we are ready to receive his grace and mercy, He is ready to receive us.  And the angels in heaven shout for joy as a new child of God is registered in the book of life.

But let’s not be confused about this.  When God chooses us to join the Kingdom of God, our work on earth is not finished.  It is just beginning, and will continue as long as we have breath.  Paul writes, ‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me.’

While we labour in the field, God’s Holy Spirit gives us different gifts and abilities. It must have been in the parable that some of the workers tilled the land, some cultivated the crop, and others harvested the fruit.   As the Scriptures tell us, ‘we are to use our different gifts in accordance with the grace that God has given us. If our gift is to speak God’s message, we should do it according to the faith that we have; if it is to serve, we should serve; if it is to teach, we should teach; if it is to encourage others, we should do so.’   
Whatever gifts God has given to us, and whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God.  And we do all with love for one another.  All to the glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  There is no reason for any Christian to complain about God’s grace from envy or resentment, as the workers did in the parable. And as the Israelite people whom God led to freedom from Egypt.  

In Christ Jesus, we have the spiritual freedom to do our best to align our priorities with God’s will for our lives and our world.  We can give thanks to God for his mercy in offering salvation through our Saviour.  It’s only wise to use whatever gifts we have been given to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the harvest fields where we have been placed.  Our generous and loving God who wants everyone to be saved.

Over the weeks and even months ahead, we as a worshipping community will rely upon the gifts we have been given, and the spiritual freedom we are blessed with.  We see from the Contact, and other testimonies that the Lutheran Church especially in New South Wales are facing a future with hope, faith, and confidence.  Facing the challenge and the opportunity to re-imagine worship and mission as Lutherans of the 21st Century. 

I am excited to witness what that future will bring.  New expressions of worship with word and sacrament.  New opportunities of mission right here in New South Wales and even Port Macquarie.  And new challenges of working closely with the District and the Lutheran Church of Australia in redefining the LCA Constitution and identity.   I have a keen desire to be part of this new initiative, and I hope that we will all move forward with faith, hope and expectation, rather than anxiety, fear, and lost familiarity.  And as we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit to go out and call others to join us in our little vineyard of the world, we can rejoice along with the angels in heaven.    

So, for today, for tomorrow, and for the future, may the grace and peace of our Triune God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   AMEN.

Rev David Thompson.

CROSS TALK September 2020

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20 September 2020
16th Sunday after Pentecost.
Service will be lead by: David Thompson.

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David:0414521661

 

The address will be;
Nothing seemed to make a difference.

This Sunday:
16th Sunday after Pentecost.
Worship Service led by: David Thompson
Holy Communion: David Thompson
Communion Assistants: Don McLean / David Pfeiffer
Communion Prep.: Corrine McLean
Bible Readings: Sherry Thompson
1st Reading: Exodus 16:2-15 Bread from heaven in the desert
2nd Reading: Philippians 1:21-30 Living for Christ
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16 The workers in the vineyard (Begin: ’Jesus said:’)
Prayers lead by: Don McLean
Stewards: Don and Carol McLean
Organist:
Audio/ Computer: Orion Thompson

**************************************
Next Sunday 27th September.
17th Sunday after Pentecost.
Worship Service led by: Dr. Gordon Watson
   

Worship Service led by: Dr Gordan Watson
Holy Communion: Dr Gordan Watsongordon3
Communion Assistants: Corrine McLean / David Thompson
Communion Prep.: Corrine McLean
Bible Readings: Bob Rayward
1st Reading: Exodus 17:1-7 God gives water from the a rock
2nd Reading: Philippians 2:1-13 The humility and exaltation of Christ
Gospel: Matthew 21:23-32 Which son obeyed his father?
Prayers lead by: Carol McLean
Stewards: Rosemary Conran and Carol Wooden
Organist:
Audio/ Computer: Narelle Clarke

In our thoughts and Prayers:
Carole Rogers, Joan Watson who are recovering from surgery, John McLean, Rosemary Conran, Kathy Mitchell, Renate Radmacher, Ivan Francis, Jenny Montgomery, Marty and Telita Calley, John & Corrine’s son in law and grand-daughter recovering from surgery and illness. and all those people who are af-fected by the Corona virus.
Please keep in your prayers the future of St. Peters as we seek to know God’s will.


Contact Magazine:
September issue of the NSW District ‘Contact’ has arrived for those who don’t receive an electronic copy. Please pick up your copy from the church foyer.

Something to think about:
Be kind to everybody.think
You never know who might show up in the jury at your trial.
“So how are things down on earth?” asked St Peter of the beggar who had just arrived at the Pearly Gates. “Did people treat you decently?”
“Oh, they were kind enough”, responded the beggar mournfully.
“But even the kind ones never seemed to have any money.”

Jesus:
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant women. He grew up in yet another village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop till he was thir-ty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never travelled more than 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things one usual-ly associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth.
Twenty centuries have come and gone and today he is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that have ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.

Church Stewards:
Please make sure all attendees sanitize, sign-in and supervise 1.5mm rule
Ladies Fellowship:

The Ladies Fellowship will be placing an order for some of these tracts from LTM (Lutheran Tract Mission) within the next few weeks. Please look over the examples displayed in the entryway of the church and if you would like to add any items to our order, please write down the number of the tract and the quantity you would like and give to Sherry Thompson.
Once the order is placed and delivered, we will receive an invoice to cover the shipping costs. These tracts are from .10-.20 cents each.


Bible Study:
Tuesday. 7pm at Kemp St.
Roster: Church Cleaning:
Cleaners please wash hands before and after cleaning and wear gloves.
September: Sherry and David Thomson.

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September Birthdays:
21 Sherry Thompson 22 Derryl Huf
25 Cathryn Mitchell 29 Molly Warrener 29 Kimberly Hughes

birthday

Thank you to Daryll for our web page.
81 People visited the website in the last week, including 63 Aust. 5 China, 11 USA
1 Canada, 1 France

We now have 75 followers

Statistic:
Sunday 13th September Attendance was 28.

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Weekly Devotion:
Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20)
Read Matthew 18:15–20
Have you ever been overwhelmed by a list of jobs, chores, or instructions? I know I have. Life can sometimes do that. And sometimes, reading the Bible does that to me, too.bible
I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat through sermons and Bible studies where the pastor or leader has given a list of instructions for how to live a godly life, and at the end of it, I feel anything but godly. And this week’s set of passages have instruction after instruction, but in them, we will find grace, hope, and a pathway forward.
And, in my life as a pastor, I’m also aware of having done the same to people who have heard me preach or lead a study.
The passage that we’ve read today has a lot in it, and ironically enough, seems to get used sometimes by us Christians as a weapon when we point out someone’s fault. People say, ‘Aha! I have caught you in a sin! Now, Jesus compels me to tell you!’
For this reason, I like to think of Jesus and how he related to sinners. Most of-ten, it was with gentleness, humility, respect, and grace, but at the same time, with the necessary firmness required. That, of course, is how he deals with me.
And so, it helps me to remember that when I think of someone else’s sin against me – if they belong to God, if they are baptised, if they believe, if they follow – then Jesus is present with them. That person is holy. And if I want to talk with them about sin, I’m moving towards a holy, grace-filled and restora-tive moment.
And that changes my perspective.
No longer is this passage a play-by-play rule book, but it is Jesus giving us an opportunity to give and receive grace as children of God.
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to see you in my brother or sister who sins against me and help me to look for holy moments with them. In Jesus name, Amen.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Paul writes to us this morning, ‘why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.  It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’  So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.’

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David:0414521661

Let’s join in a word of prayer:  Loving Lord Jesus, as we share this time of worship, joined together in your presence, strengthen our resolve to withhold judgement and actively accept each other for the person each of us is.  Help us gain a new perspective of peace, confidence, and joyful fellowship as you fill us with your Spirit, and feed us on your word.  Gracious Lord Jesus, hear our prayer for your name’s sake, Amen.

Would you say, “most Christians agree on everything”.  Is that right?  Well, sometimes even we, as Christians, are quick to disagree and even judge other people, even other Christians.  The way they live or the way they express their relationship with God.  The words they use.   
In this broken world, we recognise there’s a lot of false teaching around, and a lot of what we would consider casual Christianity.   We don’t want to get taken in by it.  So we learn to judge as wisely as we can, and test everything against the precious Word of God. 

 At the same time, the basis for our judgment isn’t always the best it could be. It’s sometimes easy for us to filter what the Bible teaches with our personal bias.  And to extend this judgement from ideas to people.

A story is told about a Catholic priest who was walking down a lane behind his church to his car.  Suddenly a thief jumped out from behind some bushes and pressed the muzzle of his gun into the priest’s ribs.

The thief said, “Give me your wallet!”  Without hesitation, the priest reached gently for his wallet in the breast pocket of his coat. It was then the thief caught a glimpse of his collar.  “Are you a priest,” the thief asked?  “Yes I am, my son” said the priest. 

“Well, put your wallet back,” the thief said. “I don’t rob priests. I may not be Catholic, but I am a Christian.”  

At that point, the relieved priest put his wallet away and pulled out two cigars with shaky fingers.  He offered one to the thief.  The thief responded with indignation, “Oh no, I couldn’t do that. Smoking is so wrong.  I can’t believe a priest would do such an evil thing!”

Sometimes people have convictions about certain things, but fail to deal with other things that really matter in their lives and their relationship with our Saviour Christ Jesus. (Observation by Scott Kircher 6/19/2012)

So, Paul seems to echo the words of Christ, recorded in Matthew Chapter 7,  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

(Mt 7:1–2 NIV)

When we stand before our God in heaven, Scripture reveals that we will need to give an account of ourselves.  I have a sense that we will not be standing in judgement, because Jesus took all our wrong actions, attitudes, and words to the cross.  But instead, this will be a recognition for us of all that was wrong, and all that we are turning over to God, as we leave that behind to be part of a perfect eternity.

When Paul asks the question ‘why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer?’ I suspect he says this to encourage us to respect each other in the Christian Community out of love for one another.  And not just to avoid judgment ourselves.

With this epiphany rising up in our spirit every time we are tempted to condemn others, we can take hold of the words of Jesus to us today.  When Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Or “seventy times seven” in another version.  A response that I am convinced was intended to indicate we shouldn’t limit our forgiveness.  In just the same way we want God’s forgiveness never to be limited.

We are facing decisions about our future as we endeavour to discover what our Worshipping Community is passionate about.  We will certainly encounter situations where our intuitions and  passions will drive us in different directions, even as Christian brothers and sisters.  So we keep in mind that we are not to condemn one another as we all try to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

We should rather try to understand each other, with forgiveness over the attitudes we misperceive, the words we often misunderstand, and the ideas that we sometimes find difficult to accept.

Paul wrote in Romans to the Church of his day, and to all Christians, throughout time.  The early Christians were in dispute over eating food that could be purchased in the market place, especially meat.  As Gentile Christians, they were not required to observe kosher.  Even so, they would be purchasing meat and other foods in the markets of Rome that most likely would have been presented first at the altar of some false god or goddess.  So to eat it would remind them of their previous life and practice of pagan worship.  And this would burden their conscience. 

I have read that many of these early Christians preferred to eat only vegetables, rather than take a chance of eating sacrificed meat.  Others celebrated their freedom in Christ Jesus to accept the purchased food to be eaten with joy and thanks to God.

In the same way, the Jewish Christians disputed with the Gentile Christians about days of worship. 

The Jewish Christians worshipped on the Sabbath, and again on the Lord’s Day.  While the Gentile Christians saw no obligation to worship on the Sabbath, but gathered for worship on the Lord’s Day. 

Paul encourages the freedom of the choices that the early Christians made, and warned against condemning each other, which would have fractured their Christian unity.   

What Paul was most passionate about was proclaiming Christ Jesus and the Kingdom of God with the Good News of Salvation.  As we find in his letter to the Church in Colossae, ‘do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.’  (The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). Col 2:16–17)

I have an intuition that what Christ Jesus wants from us during the times ahead is to exercise our ability to bring forgiveness and understanding where misunderstanding would attempt to create barriers between us.  

As we consider our future, and discuss openly our thoughts and feelings, let us dismiss every cross word and angry thought in the light of the Gospel that shines through with the love of Christ Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  

It reminds me of a poem by  Annie Johnson Flint:

“God has not promised Skies ever blue,

flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;

God has not promised days without rain,

joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

“But God has promised strength for the day,

rest for the weary, light for the way,

grace for the trials, help from above,

unfailing compassion, undying love.”

 – Annie-Johnson Flint

As we share in God’s blessings today, may the grace and peace of our Triune God keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   AMEN.

Rev David Thompson.

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Romans 13:8-14

There is deep, deep darkness. The surrounding fog presses against you. It is weighty, and so thick that it muffles the sounds nearby.

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David: 0428 667 754

You become conscious of someone speaking. At first their words are disjointed and muffled, then they gradually become clearer and connect.It’s the weather report, all the way from the station studio delivered right next to your bedside cupboard. The alarm has gone off! Surely not already! You bravely expose your arm to the crisp coolness and reach for the clock radio, fumbling for the snooze button to give you just five more minutes. Instead you knock the clock radio to the floor. Looks like it’s time to get up after all. Time to get dressed. The morning hours have arrived; the day is soon at hand.

In our text today Paul uses profound imagery of night and day, light and darkness, to call the church to readiness for the great day of Jesus’ return. He says in today’s text: “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” Night is followed with day. Just as our morning alarm sounds in the darkness, signalling that it will not be long before the day arrives, motivating us to get dressed and open the curtains so that the morning light will flood into the room, Jesus’ return to judge the living and the dead will be soon, just like that.

Paul also uses ‘night’ and ‘day’ and ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ in another sense. The darkness that is associated with the night represents the world and the present age that scoffs at God’s commandments.Just as the night is filled with darkness, so too this present age is lost, stumbling and falling in the deeds of darkness that Paul mentions: carousing and drunkenness, sexual immorality and debauchery, dissension and jealousy.

While God’s children live among those of the night they are to live as children of the day. That means there will be a struggle. At least, God-willing, there should be a struggle. For as long as this world remains and this age lasts, the works of darkness go on continually. Though we belong to Christ the night is still a power that seeks to make us sons and daughters of darkness again, constantly pressuring us to join in the works of the world. As children of the day; of the light, we are called to put aside, to rid ourselves, of the thinking and the works of the world. Paul’s appeal to awaken from sleep and lay aside the deeds of darkness is a repetition from chapter 12, where we heard Paul’s impassioned appeal a few weeks ago, for the church to not to be conformed to “this age”. Paul shows us the urgency of this today. He says the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber. Jesus has already been handed over, crucified, dead and buried to deliver us from this present age with his holy and precious blood, and now he is with us here as he serves this holy and precious blood to you, his baptised people. The hour has already come.

Joined to him, we have access to his resurrection power now, to fight against the sinful flesh and not be conformed to the world. And so we are briefly carried back to chapter 6 where Paul asks: “What then, shall we continue to sin so that grace may increase? By no means! We who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

When the alarm goes off in the morning and we wake up, we get dressed, ready for the day ahead. That is an intentional action, and we put clothes on appropriate to the situation. Paul tells us what to wear as children of God: “let us put on the armour of light” and “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is what baptismal living means. It is as if we were to go to the wardrobe and reach out and put Jesus on, covered by him, surrounded by him, motivated by him in all we do so that others see Christ, not us.

Paul’s call for the church to ‘wake up and get dressed’ comes in the midst of teaching about love in the Christian community. God’s people who are to put on Christ don’t belong to a new age with new values, they belong to the people of God from of old, with values from of old, like “Love your neighbour as yourself”. That’s God’s command from Leviticus 19:18 which Paul quotes to the Christians at Rome hundreds of years later, and to us here, today. Indeed, loving our neighbour as ourselves is the very way of living radically differently from the world, and our world desperately needs to know this love.

At the end of WWII some American soldiers on duty on the outskirts of London on Christmas morning came to an old gray building with a sign that said: “Queen Anne’s orphanage”. To see what sort of Christmas party might be going on inside, the soldiers knocked on the door. An attendant told them that all the children in the orphanage had lost their parents in the London bombings. The soldiers went inside, and seeing no tree, no decorations and no gifts, they gave out whatever they had in their pockets—a coin, a stick of gum, a stubby pencil. One soldier saw a boy standing alone in a corner. He went to him and asked: “My little man, what do you want?” Turning his face up to the soldier, the little boy answered: “Please Sir, I want to be loved.”

Witnessing to God’s own love in the midst of a loveless world is what God has saved us for. It is in the light of the future day of salvation that Paul reminds the church to love our neighbour as ourselves. The situation is urgent. The night is nearly over, the day is almost here. The world needs to see authentic love, love that is different from the world’s idea of love. Love that first comes from God. That is why in today’s text Paul’s preaching on love is intertwined with his preaching on the commandments. Paul’s preaching of love does not overthrow the law but upholds it; his preaching on God’s law does not stifle love but defines it. God’s law and God’s love are not two separate tracks, but they are one and the same path. The one who actively loves does the Law as God intends. In fact it is only by loving—loving our neighbour, but loving God even more—that one puts the Law into practice as we love our neighbour in the ways God desires: by not committing adultery but honouring our neighbour’s spouse as if they were our own, even with our thoughts. It means not murdering, even with the daggers of hurtful words and the knife of un-forgiveness. It means helping our neighbour in all their physical needs, as Luther explains. Love does not harm to a neighbour. We love by not stealing but helping our neighbour maintain what is theirs. We are not to covet, nor scheme to get something from our neighbour as though we were dissatisfied with the abundance God has blessed us with.

The obligation to love is new every morning like the light of another day. Paul explains that the only debt left unpaid is to love. For that is what God in Christ has done for you. If ever anyone presented their body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, Jesus was that man. If ever a life was an unbroken unity of love, it is the life of the Son of God, who became obedient unto death, laying down his own life even for his enemies. He did not retaliate against them or persecute them but prayed for their forgiveness. Because of Christ you can be sure that God’s mercies are new every morning, and great is his faithfulness—his undeserved faithfulness.

God is still here, bringing his love to you. He is still here serving you, through his holy supper, giving you that same holy and precious blood that he shed on the Cross. Through this meal he brings forgiveness and peace from God to you. Through this meal you have the assurance of God’s love for youa love that is not based on your performance, obedience, or capabilities. It is a love that will never change or be swayed by latest trends, public opinion or personal benefitsbut a love for you that is unconditional because it depends on the life and righteousness of Christ, who is committed to his Father’s will for you and who fulfilled it perfectly. It is a love that means when Jesus returns on the last day, he will usher you into his heavenly kingdom. That day will be a good morning, and there will be no evening or darkness to follow. On that day he will make your body like his glorious body and you will shine like the Son—not the blazing light in the sky, but he will make you shine like the Son—Jesus, his Son. That day is nearer now than when you first believed; the everlasting day of blessedness and glory which will have no end, which, through faith in Christ, you will share in forever. Amen.

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Exodus 3:10-12a
The Lord said, “I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”  But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  God answered, “I will be with you”.

The call committee appointed by the congregation to seek out a new pastor was having great deal of difficulty finding a pastor for their parish.  So they did what some congregations do these days, dhuffthey sent out an email asking for expressions of interest from any pastor who might be see himself as a possible candidate to be called to the congregation.  There wasn’t an overwhelming number of responses but the committee met to work through those they did get.

One member of the committee read out one the letters:
“To the members of the call committee: 
It is my understanding that you are seeking a pastor and I would like to express my interest in filling that vacancy.  I can’t say that I preach very well.  In fact, I tend to stutter when I speak and get stuck for words.  I do have a lot of experience since I am almost 80 years old.  I have only just recently had an encounter with God.  I heard a voice which told me personally that I was the one to be your pastor.  One never knows when God will appear right before your very eyes.  As far as people skills go, I do tend to lose my temper every once in a while.

I’m also inclined to want things done my way, and can get impatient and cranky if it’s not taken care of right away.  Once I even killed somebody.  But since I know you are gracious people, I know you will believe me when I say that’s all behind me now.  Although I am kind of reluctant to work with you folk, I will turn up in a few weeks to lead you into a brighter future whether you call me or not.”

Silence fell over everyone in the room. 
An old bloke with no seminary training, who is arrogant, temperamental, hears voices, an ex-murderer as their pastor?  Hardly the right kind of person.
Finally, someone spoke. “By the way, who did you say wrote that letter?” 
The answer came, “It’s signed, ‘Moses’.” 

Of course, the setting of this story is fictional but it does go to show that no committee would have picked Moses to be the leader of God’s people.

What can we learn from God’s call to Moses?

  1. When God calls, he calls ordinary people. 
    Moses was the least likely candidate to receive a call from God, especially such an important call. 
    He wasn’t all that young anymore (about 80 years old); he wasn’t an especially pious man. 
    He did have a good education, but he had lived out in the wilderness looking after sheep for the past 40 years, hiding from the authorities because he had killed a man in a fit of rage.
    He certainly didn’t regard himself as a leader. 

Moses wasn’t looking for a closer relationship with God.  He wasn’t interested in a special, risky task for God. So, God takes the initiative.  The call was all God’s idea. It was a gracious call that took the gifts and abilities that Moses had, along with his weaknesses, and used them all for the good of others.

In fact, God did this kind of thing on a number of occasions in the Bible. 
Jeremiah was still a young lad. 
Mary was just a young girl. 
Amos was a shepherd.
Gideon was a wheat farmer.
David was a shepherd boy. 
Peter, James and John were just ordinary fishermen. 

When I went to the seminary (remember this was a long time ago) I was surprised to see in my class blokes who were more than twice my age.  They had given up their careers and come to the seminary.  One evening over a glass of red the topic came up why these “old blokes” had decided to go back to study.  One had been a farmer.  He had left school as soon as he could and taken over the farm from his father.  There were good seasons and bad seasons – that’s how farming is but as he went around the farm on his tractor ploughing or harvesting or whatever, a kind of uneasy feeling came over him.  At first he didn’t know what it was and hoped it would go away.  He was an elder and lay reader in the small local congregation and someone said one day, “You ought to be a pastor”.  Suddenly that uneasiness took on a focus.  He described how he argued with God.  “I’ve got a farm.  I’ve got a family. I’m not a scholar.  I hated school”.  It took a while, but God finally got his attention.

Age, gender, status, qualifications are not important.  When God calls, he calls the person who is most suited to do the job. 

That day in the wilderness, on an average ordinary working day, something happened.  A bush burst into flame.  A voice came from the bush.  God was grabbing Moses’ attention.

God reaches down and grabs the ordinary lives of ordinary people for extraordinary purposes.
Is it possible that God is trying to get your attention? 
Is God calling you to do something very specific, very different, something out of the square?  Maybe it’s not something so out of the ordinary, so way out there, but for you it’s a challenge.
When God calls there is nothing unkind or harsh about it; he’s not being unrealistic or hard to gone on with; behind every call there is always God’s love.

  1. When God calls, he has a very definite purpose in mind.  
    That day in the wilderness, God wasn’t interested in just a friendly chat.  God introduces himself, “I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”  And then he revealed something of the pain in his heart as he told Moses how his people were being cruelly treated.  He had heard their cries for help.  Now he was sending Moses to lead the people out of Egypt to a new home.

When God calls, he has something very definite in mind.   
He has called you to be his disciples.  Do you sense that God is calling you to do something very specific as his disciple? 
What is God’s special call to you?  Don’t think for one minute that he doesn’t have something special for you to do in his Kingdom.
Is he calling you to be a peacemaker, a reconciler in the sandstorms of anger, jealousy, ill feeling, and anxiety?
Is he calling you to be life-giving water in the wastelands of the lives you come across in the classroom or office or wherever love and kindness and mercy and understanding are needed? 
Is he calling you to be his word of comfort to someone crossing a wilderness of sickness and grief? 
Is he calling you to be the voice of those who have no voice – the homeless, the hungry, the refugee, those caught in slavery to addiction of every kind.
Is he calling you to lead someone to the promised land of eternal life through Jesus? 
In what way is God calling you to be Moses-like and speak for God to others?

  1. When God calls, we object.
    When Moses heard what God wanted him to do, he said,
    “What?Who?  Me? 
    People won’t believe me. 
    I’m no one special. 
    No-one will listen to me.   
    I’m not a leader. 
    I’m a poor speaker and I can never think of what to say”. 
    What a list of objections.  Moses tried all the excuses he could think of and not one of them is original.  God had an answer for them all.

Moses would have done anything to dodge God’s challenge. 
When we start to do this, I suggest that we need to stop for a moment and remind ourselves that through dodging God’s call, we may miss a valuable moment to make a difference in a person’s life, or make a valuable contribution to the life of this community.

We may not always see the reason why God is calling us to do a specific thing, but be assured that when he calls us then it is for some very good reason.  When God calls, love is always behind his calling.   

  1. When God calls, he reassures. 
    Moses was given assurance that God would help him speak, find the right words and what to do along the way.  God never promised that this would be an easy assignment, however, he promised to always be present to help. 

When God calls are you ready to listen to the guiding of the Holy Spirit, take up a challenge, to step out in faith, even though you could easily give ten good reasons why you can’t? 
Even though you think you are the most unlikely person for a particular task, are you game enough to take up the challenge trusting that God will help you and that the person doing the asking is Jesus in disguise? 
Even when the task seems too big or too hard are you able to get past your initial fear and hesitation and step outside your comfort zone?

We may not understand the reasons why God calls us to take up certain tasks, but one thing we do understand – it’s not beyond God to call you or me to do something that we wouldn’t have thought of doing in our wildest dreams.

And at the moment when we’re busy thinking up all kinds of excuses, we can be assured God has very good reasons for placing that challenge in front of us.  Remember at the back of every one of God’s call to do something is his love.

He knew that Moses would be able to handle the job – with his help. 
When God calls us, he knows that we can handle the challenge – with his help.  When God calls, he also promises, “I will be with you”.   And you can be certain of that promise.  Just look at Jesus and the cross.  There you see God’s commitment and promise to us in the flesh. There you see God’s promise of forgiveness and renewal for the times when we fail just as Moses and all the others failed.  Even when we blunder badly fulfilling the task of being his disciples, and we know that Moses did this often, we also know that we have a Saviour who is ready to forgive and set us right again and refocus as we get back on track.

When God calls, as difficult as it might be to say, may our response be,
“I don’t think I’m the best person in the world to do what you are calling me to do.  There are plenty of others better than me. But at this moment I believe I am the person you are calling to do the job and I know you will help me do it.”

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

Twelth Sunday after Pentecost

The text: Matthew 16:13–23

 

What kind of person do you warm to? Someone who brags about their achievements and never seems to mess things up? Or someone who makes mistakes, but is quick to admit them and stands by you when the going gets tough? We can more easily identify with someone who is very human, can’t we?20180311_103505 (1) Someone who displays weaknesses common to many of us, and yet remains an inspiration to us. We may often wonder about the kinds of people Jesus calls to serve him.

They seem to us to be the most unlikely of candidates to achieve great things for Christ. Simon Peter was the most unlikely of candidates to lead a religious revolution. He’s been called ‘the apostle with the foot-shaped mouth’. Peter was eager and enthusiastic, bold and outspoken, with a habit of revving his mouth while his brain was still in neutral. Our four gospels are remarkably candid about the faults and failures of the first leaders of the Christian church. Their weaknesses and shortcomings aren’t smoothed over by some public relations expert.

Rather, the candid recording of erring disciples by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is part of the evidence for the reliability of their narratives about our Lord. Both their strengths and weaknesses are revealed to us to give hope to all of us. In a sense, there are no great Christians, only the great grace of Christ, which is either eagerly embraced and used to make a life Christ-like, or is sadly neglected and underused. Our world isn’t looking for perfection from those of us who bear Christ’s name – it is looking for reality, for people who quickly admit what they’ve done wrong instead of blaming others for what’s happened. No Christian is a finished product. We’re all learners with a lifelong learning process still ahead of us to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’, as St Peter urges us out of his own experience.

When Jesus called Peter to be his disciple, the life of Simon Peter the fisherman changed dramatically. He became not only the most prominent of Christ’s followers, but also later became the leader and principal spokesman of the fledgling Christian church. He’s a fascinating Christian because of his fallibility, and yet impetuous enthusiasm. Peter wasn’t born a giant of history, but became one through his lifelong love for Christ and his desire to cling to Jesus Christ, no matter what happened.

One day, when many of Jesus’ disciples deserted him, Jesus asked his 12 apostles: ‘Will you also go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:67–69). In other words, Peter’s saying that he could not contemplate following anyone but Jesus. There’s no other option worth considering!

Christ called Peter to follow him when he was having no success in his work as a fisherman. When he obeyed Jesus, Peter had an extraordinary catch of fish. He instantly realised that he wasn’t just having good luck in fishing. Rather, in Christ, he was in the presence of a power beyond his comprehension. His immediate response was one of unworthiness. He fell down before Christ and said, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’.

But Jesus didn’t depart. It was precisely such a person as Peter, a man who knew his own weakness and sinfulness, but could at the same time recognise and acknowledge the presence of God’s power that Christ wanted. Leaders are involved in the middle of the action. They are curious and love asking questions as did Peter. His readiness for adventure means he had the potential to be a great leader. He had the habit of opening his mouth when he should have opened his ears instead. From time to time, he didn’t fully understand what he himself was saying.

One such occasion was when Christ was transfigured in all his heavenly glory before his eyes. After Peter spoke, St Mark bluntly tells us that Peter didn’t know what to say! His great confession of faith in today’s gospel is all too soon followed by Peter’s unguarded and unthinking tendency to protest what Jesus says. As the proverb states: ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread!’ Jesus had just lavished great praise and blessing on Peter for his profound, Christ-centred confession of faith. Jesus then addresses Peter as a minister and says, ‘On this rock [that is, on this ministry] I will build my church’. Then Jesus adds the hope-filled, comforting and encouraging promise that the Gates of Hell can never overpower Christ’s church.

This promise has sustained and empowered the martyrs and missionaries of the church ever since. All the organised opposition and hostility towards Christ’s church will never wipe it out. Christ guarantees his bride, the church, will remain forever.

The first Director General of the BBC, Lord Reith, was visiting a group of people, preparing a radio program. One of the group members told Dr Reith what the program was all about. It was to be about ‘giving the church a decent burial’. ‘Young man’, Dr Reith responded, ‘the church of Jesus Christ will stand at the grave of the BBC’. We might add ‘and at the grave of every other secular organisation!’ Christ’s church is like an anvil that has worn out many hammers.

Jesus gave to Peter and the ministers of his church the ‘Office of the Keys’, that is, the authority to forgive the sins of those who repent. Peter would especially treasure his own forgiveness by Christ, and his rehabilitation at Easter after Peter had so cruelly denied he ever knew Jesus. Prior to his denial of Jesus, Peter was super-confident that he alone would never deny our Lord. No thoughtful Christian will want to point an accusing finger at Peter, because the depths of his failure to be faithful to his Lord is matched by the depth of his repentance when he realised what he’d done. When Jesus turned to look at him, Peter went out and wept bitterly. Peter repented because Jesus prayed for him.

A sense of our own vulnerability to letting Christ down is essential. If we don’t recognise and acknowledge our own vulnerability, and plead constantly for Christ’s help, we too set ourselves up for failure.

An alcoholic had been sober for a number of years. He was asked what the secret was to his recovery. He replied, ‘As simple as it sounds, it was the hardest lesson for me to learn. Every time I crave a drink, the last thing in the world I want to do is pray. I will do anything not to pray. But I finally discovered that when the pressures build up to get drunk and go on a binge, if I will force myself to pray for five minutes, the temptation will fade away. But you don’t know how hard that is. When a man needs a drink, the last thing he wants to do is pray about it’.

Peter learned that same lesson in the Garden of Gethsemane when he failed to join our Lord Christ in prayer. In his two letters, where he shares with us all the marvellous things he learned from our Lord, Peter writes, ‘Keep sane and sober for your prayers’ (1 Peter 4:7). He starts his first letter off with the marvellous difference Christ’s resurrection can make for all of us. He writes, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy, he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:3–5).

In St Peter, the New Testament gives us a portrait of a disciple who, through weakness, was made strong. In our weakness, we too can discover Christ’s strength and the inexhaustible sufficiency of his grace. Jesus says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The life of St Peter reminds us that church leaders are weak and human like every other Christian and need the prayers of their people for their ministry to be truly blessed by Christ. When Christ called Peter the ‘rock’, he was referring to what Peter would become. Christ views all of us in light of what we can still become by his grace alone. Thank God for that mercy! Instead of sacking us when we fail, our Lord Jesus longs to forgive us and recommission us for his service.

What a marvellous incentive that is – to continue in the work of the Lord knowing that in the Lord, our labour is not in vain. Amen.    

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

The text: Genesis 45:1-15

 

“Orphans Lead the World” is the surprising title of an article in a medical journal. The writer studied the lives of politicians who had the greatest influence on our history. He was soon struck by the astonishing dhuffdiscovery that most of them were orphans: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, George Washington, Napoleon, and Queen Victoria were all orphans who didn’t let the situation of disadvantage with which they began life to deter them from achieving great things for others. These orphans were determined to not let the emotional deprivation they had suffered in their childhood stop them from being positive men and women. They wanted to live in such a way that they would improve the lot of others.

As a teenager, Joseph was deprived of the comforts of his family. Joseph however let God use the unfortunate circumstances of his life to bring immense blessing to countless men and women in a foreign land. His positive attitude to the negative events in his life has inspired countless Christians to follow his example. The story of his life is one of the most inspiring stories ever written. He is one of the Bible’s most commendable characters, and his actions remind us in many ways of another Joseph’s stepson – Jesus. The events of Joseph’s life capture the imagination of those who read about him in Genesis 37-50.

Children easily identify with the story of Joseph and his unkind brothers. They can understand the brothers’ jealousy of Joseph when their father favours and spoils Joseph. As a 17 year old, Joseph should have known better than to tell his brothers of his egocentric dreams. As far as they were concerned, he was “too big for his boots”, and deserved to be humiliated. The brothers sold him to slave traders. An Egyptian official called Potiphar bought Joseph. Potiphar sensed his God was blessing what Joseph did and he made Joseph manager of his entire household. Because of Joseph’s faith in God and his positive attitude to his situation, God blessed Potiphar’s work. Just when everything seemed to be going well for Joseph, trouble comes from an unexpected person – Potiphar’s wife. Joseph says a resolute “no” to her advances. “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” he told her. When she sees that nothing can change his mind, she accuses him of betrayal to her husband, who has Joseph put in prison.

In prison, Joseph could easily have become bitter because of the unfair and dishonest way he’d been treated. But Joseph believed that though life is often unfair, it is nevertheless good. “Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more.” Joseph saw how God richly blessed his time in prison. God hasn’t abandoned him there. Instead of being obsessed with his own misfortune, Joseph shows genuine care and concern for his fellow prisoners. “Why are you looking so sad today?” he asks two prisoners. Joseph kept his positive outlook because he believed God had a good and gracious purpose for his life. This liberating conviction saved Joseph from giving in to bitterness or resentment. Instead of blaming God for what happened to him, Joseph’s indestructible faith enabled him to confess, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.” God is doing the same for Christians in our country today.

The more important the work God has for one of His people to do, the longer the preparation. Jesus was 30 years old before He began the most important work ever, that of our eternal salvation. Joseph saw the two men whose dreams he’d interpreted released from prison before him. In God’s good plans for us, times of waiting are never fruitless. “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” In God’s good time, God gets Joseph to interpret the dreams of Pharoah, King of Egypt. Joseph is promoted to the second highest position in Egypt from where he saves the lives of many people by preparing for a major drought.

Joseph sees that God’s plans for his people are larger than every player, including himself. He believed that God meant him for something much better than an affair with Potiphar’s wife. God can use our loyalty to Him and commitment to His Kingdom to bring blessings to future generations. No act of faithfulness is insignificant as far as God is concerned. A cup of water given to a thirsty child will be recalled and praised by God in heaven. Joseph looked beyond the hassles of daily lie, beyond sibling rivalry, untruthful accusations of sexual harassment, and alienation from his brothers, to see in his life the caring hand of God. He remains sure that God’s hand is on him “for good”. He trusted God’s loving-goodness despite what sometimes seemed like the opposite. God lets us enter suffering, that through it, He might bring about some greater good. God has all the threads of our lives in His hands, even when we’re least aware of it.

There were no external miracles in Joseph’s life. God works through the ordinary events of life to create His saving master piece for us. From Joseph’s fractured family, God created an indestructible nation. God didn’t let family conflicts and disagreements thwart His loving purposes for others. The time has come when Joseph can no longer hide his true identity from his estranged brothers. His brother Judah has profoundly changed for the better. Judah would now do everything he could to prevent his father Jacob from suffering again. “For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father (Genesis 44:34).” And Joseph is deeply affected by the change in his brother. Joseph’s revelation of himself is one of the most moving scenes in the Bible. His words reveal Joseph at his noblest: “I am your brother, Joseph.” What wonderful words of forgiveness and reconciliation!  

There will be no more recriminations. The past stays in the past, pardoned and wiped clean. All that matters now is a new relationship with each other. “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; He has made me a father to Pharoah, and lord of all this house and ruler over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 45:7-8).” To allay the anxieties of his brothers, Joseph maximises what God has done and minimises his own contribution. Joseph is convinced that without God, he would never have achieved anything good.

Everything good we have received comes from God. There are no accidents. Whatever happens to us happens within God’s plans and purposes. Not only is God at work in everything that goes right in our lives; God won’t let painful things happen to us unless He can bring good from them. Our ultimate source of hope is that God can bring good from our evil. “But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as He is doing today’ (Genesis 50:19-20).”

What God lets happen to us is better than our plans or what we want for ourselves. If we have to change our plans, it may be because God has something better in store for us.

A teenager was sitting under an oak tree looking out at a watermelon patch, wondering if God was right in the way He planned things. He thought that surely God had got things wrong. A big oak tree had tiny acorns, when it would have made more sense to have big fruit like a watermelon. Just then an acorn fell on his head! Then he understood that God’s wisdom is vastly superior to any human wisdom. Our lives aren’t at the mercy of impersonal forces like fate, luck or chance.

The death of our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest example of how God has brought the greatest good from the greatest evil. Like Joseph, Jesus too was rejected by His brothers and sold for silver. From our Lord’s tragically cut-short life, we are eternally blessed. “What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will He not with Him also give us everything else? (Romans 8:31-32)”

The story of Joseph encourages us to really believe and live each day in the light of this truth: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

 

Amen.

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

“FAITH TO WALK ON WATER” –MATTHEW 14:22-33.

KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS”

A man took his new hunting dog out for his first hunt. He shot a duck that fell into the lake. The dog ran on top of the water, picked up the duck and brought it back to his master. The man was flabbergasted.

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He couldn’t believe what he had just seen. He shot another duck. While he starred in disbelief, the dog again ran on top of the water and retrieved the duck.

Hardly daring to believe what he saw, he invited the neighbour for a shoot the following day. Once again, each time he or his neighbour shot a duck, the dog would run on top of the water and retrieve the duck. The man said nothing- neither did the neighbour. Finally, unable to contain himself any longer he blurted out, “Did you notice anything strange about my dog”? The neighbour rubbed his chin thoughtfully and finally said, “Come to think of it I did. Your dog can’t swim”. This just goes to show that some people can’t see a miracle even when it stares them in the face.

Political joke- Joh Belke Petersen was premier of Qld. Joh-Bob Hawke and the Pope had a meeting on Fraser Island. The meeting finished and the helicopter that was to take the three men back to the mainland was late. So the Pope decides to walk to the mainland. Joh then does the same. Then Bob Hawke set out but unfortunately drowns. The Pope turns to Joh and says, “Didn’t Bob know where the stepping stones were?” Joh replies, “What stepping stones?” Despite what some of his most fervent supporters might think Joh couldn’t actually walk on water.

The fact is that people can’t walk on water-as anyone who has tried will know. We don’t have webbed feet. Walking on water requires skills/powers that we humans simply don’t have. Yet for a short time, Peter was able to walk on water.

The Scene: After the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus wanted to be alone to pray. He sent the disciples ahead by boat. The wind blew up. Then a full blown storm hits. This was not uncommon for an inland sea surrounded by mountains.

It was about dawn- before 6 am when Jesus walks towards the boat-no stepping stones. By the way why was Jesus walking on the water? Mark Twain was visiting the Holy Land and decided to take a boat ride on Lake Galilee. He asked the man how much that would cost. The man figured that Mark Twain was a wealthy American and said $100. Mark Twain said,”forget it. Now I know why Jesus walked on the water” The disciples are terrified. They think that Jesus is a ghost. Then Jesus speaks to them,” take courage. It is I- don’t be afraid.” Tell me! Would you have reacted any differently? Wouldn’t you have been frightened in that situation? Would you have had Peter’s courage? “Lord if it is you tell me to come to you on the water?” Would you have asked that question? And then when Jesus says “Come” would you have had the courage to go?

They say that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. That’s Peter isn’t it-bold- impetuous-over confident. There was no doubt that Peter believed it was Jesus. And that he actually walked on water. Just imagine how Peter felt-on top of the world-elated- pinch himself to see if he was dreaming.

Then what happened? Peter looked away from Jesus. He “felt the wind. He saw the water whipped into huge waves. He saw that he really was outside the boat-he was really walking on water. Then he made a crucial mistake. He took his eyes of Jesus-panicked. He thought to himself, “What on earth am I doing out here on the water? He had a sinking feeling- and that is what happened-down he went. It was a very short time from elation to panic.

Perhaps you have had those times when you were “Riding high”- when things were going well. So much so that you started to get “big ideas” about yourself and your abilities. You were going “great guns” “hot shot”. I think that something like that was going on in Peter’s mind. “Look at me guys-I’m walking on water”. The implication –Peter was better- showed more faith than the other disciples who stayed in the boat. Then Peter got that sinking feeling and down he went.

A similar thing can happen to us when we develop a superior attitude- or get too big for our boots. Suddenly with a crash- your worlds comes tumbling down. All those securities- all those things that propped you up have come crashing down. And you are feeling helpless. You feel like you are drowning-going under. Everything is closing in on you. Have you ever felt like that? What did do you do?

As Peter went under the water he yelled out to Jesus, “Lord save me”-brief prayer- a prayer of desperation-conviction. Jesus was the only possible source of help. What do you do in desperate straights? Who do your turn to in those life threatening situations?

Peter prayed, “Lord save me”. And Jesus did. He reached out, grabbed his hand and said, “O man of little faith why did you doubt?

What can we learn from this story? There are times when the storms of life threaten to overwhelm you. There are times when the waves of sorrow-doubt-strife-affliction-trouble threaten to swamp you. Remember help is at hand. And it is only a prayer away. So when you are in a situation like Peter-when you are being overwhelmed-give the Lord a call. Turn to Jesus and He will help you. The Psalmist says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you”.

Now that is a promise from Almighty God. You can’t do better than that.

So in those times when you feel in danger from being overwhelmed by troubles-pressures- when your sins threaten to sink you-when you seem to be falling deeper into a hole. Then Look to Jesus-keep your eyes on him. Ask him for help. And He will help. He will take you by the hand just like he did for Peter. He will assure you that because you have turned to him in faith, he will respond. He will save you from whatever is threatening you.

Now it is most unlikely that Jesus will invite you to walk on water. But there may be times when he will ask you to step out in faith- to put all your trust in him. The important thing then is to remember that Jesus is by your side. He will be right there to lift you when you fall-to save you when you feel overwhelmed.

BUT! You will never discover that unless you take the step of faith. Peter would never have discovered whether he could walk on water unless he stepped out of the boat. That is the way it is with God’s promises. You will never discover whether they are true-unless you take the step of faith. You only find out of God keeps his promises by taking the step of faith.

You may ask, “Isn’t that taking a risk?”Isn’t that too risky”?

Well it all depends on who is making the promise. Is the person who makes the promise reliable-dependable?

Remember! It is Jesus who makes this promise. His Word is reliable. You can trust his Word-promise. How do we know that?

The Cross and the open grave are proof that Jesus does keep his promises.

So when Jesus calls you to step out in faith, remember that he is by your side. His hand is already in yours.

And above all- “KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS”.

Pastor Haydn Blaess.

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

JESUS FEEDS THE FIVE THOUSAND –MATTHEW 14:13-21.

            “THE LORD CAN DO A LOT WITH A LITTLE”

            Have you ever been asked to do something that seemed impossible? Suppose you and 5,000 people were in the middle of the Simpson Desert. It was tea time. You were asked to feed the crowd. The nearest McDonalds is well over 1,000 kilometres away. You ask everyone to pool their food. But all you can muster up is five small bread rolls and a tin of sardines. What would you do?pastorh2

            You would probably shrug your shoulders and give the person who told you to feed the crowd a look that clearly indicated you thought they were out of their mind and say something like, “You’ve got to be kidding! That’s impossible! Who do you think I am? Jesus Christ?

            That might have been something like the way the disciples felt when Jesus looked at the crowd of 5,000 men (20,000 total) –and said to his disciples, “YOU feed them”-“you give them something to eat”. The disciples no doubt felt that was totally unreasonable of Jesus to ask such a thing of them.

            How had this situation come about? Jesus and the disciples had gone to a remote area for some rest. Jesus had just heard that his cousin John the Baptist had been executed by Herod. He was looking for some timeout with his disciples. But the crowd had found out where Jesus was going and followed him. Jesus had compassion on them and healed the sick among them.

The disciples being practical men noticed that it was getting on towards evening. And as it was a remote spot they suggested to Jesus that he should send the crowds away to get themselves some food.  In the circumstances, it was a logical-practical-realistic suggestion.

Then Jesus dropped his bombshell.” They do not need to go away”, he said, “You give them something to eat “.  Just imagine how you would have felt if you were one of the disciples. You would have been stunned. Jesus seemed to be totally unreasonable. Perhaps Jesus didn’t realize how serious the situation was. We had better brief him – make him aware of the real situation. Tell him how little food they had been able to find. “We only have five bread rolls and two small fish”, they said. Jesus doesn’t bat an eyelid. “Bring them to me”, he ordered.

            Now the disciples knew that they couldn’t feed the crowd with the limited amount of food they had. And Jesus knew that they couldn’t. So why that strange command? Why ask them to do something that was clearly impossible?

Most of Jesus’ miracles had a teaching element to them. Jesus never performed a miracle for its own sake. Every miracle Jesus performed was a demonstration that he had ushered in the Kingdom of God. And in this present case the disciples were about to learn an important lesson. They learnt that without Jesus they were helpless.  But with Jesus “all things were possible”.

Now they undoubtedly thought of themselves as being practical-down to earth men. But when they were presented with this practical problem they couldn’t manage it themselves. They had to have help from the Lord.

The disciples at first tried to avoid the problem by sending them away. But Jesus wouldn’t let them off the hook. There are times in our lives too when we try that strategy. We try to avoid-ignore them problem- hoping that it will go away.

The lesson that Jesus taught the disciples is intended for all of us. It boils down to something Jesus once said, “apart from me you can do nothing”. We all need God’s help throughout our life. We simply aren’t always smart-strong-capable enough to deal with Life’s problems. Like the disciples’ we need to learn to rely on Jesus and his power to meet the challenges of life.

Ephesians 3:18 says, “God is able to do far more than we can thing or imagine”. With God’s power-guidance- with Jesus’ help-support we can move from the realm of “impossibility thinking” to “possibility thinking”.  What was impossible for the disciples by themselves became possible when Jesus added his resources.  We may not always have the resources-abilities to help people facing difficult problems. But we do know someone who does have the resources-Jesus. Bringing people to Jesus can be the very best thing we can do for people-especially when the problem is beyond our capacity to deal with. As it was the case with the disciples.

And if Jesus could meet the needs of all those people in the wilderness almost 2,000 years ago couldn’t he also meet the needs of people today? How many of you believe that?  “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”.

            And yet there is another side to this miracle that we need to look at. The disciples were important to Jesus’ plan. He didn’t say to them, “Get out of the way-you are all useless. I’ll do it myself”.  He could have said that but he didn’t. After he had blessed the food he gave it to the disciples-who had the important task of distributing the food.

Certainly the resources-food- came from Jesus but the disciples had their part to play. Jesus worked through the hands of the disciples that day.

            And he still does. This pattern of God working through people continues today. The Lord still wants to use us as his partners in his work-junior partner’s maybe-but partners never the less. The Apostle Paul says “You are God’s co-workers” (1. Corinthians 3:8) It is surely a great privilege-honour for us to be regarded by God as his co-workers.

That is why he challenged the disciples by saying, “You feed them”.  This showed two things.1. Their dependence on Jesus’ power. 2. It showed that God had an important part for them to play-to be involved.

            Just before his Ascension Jesus gave them his commission-his instructions to go and make disciples- baptizing and teaching. And from the time of his Ascension, Jesus’ followers have carried on the work of the Lord. So each one of us likewise has an important part to play. A poem by a lady called Annie Johnson Flint sums the position well, “CHRIST HAS NO HANDS BUT OUR HANDS TO DO HIS WORK TODAY”. Do you agree?

Now I know that can sound a bit like bragging- as if God is absolutely dependent on us. And in a sense those words aren’t true. If we don’t act God will find some one else.

But this much is true. Our Lord has chosen people-people like you/me to carry out his work. And if God’s people fail then there is the possibility that God’s work may fail. But it won’t be God who has failed, but we who have let him down.

            The Story of the Archangel Gabriel asking Jesus about his plans for the world to know of his love.

            THEME: “ JESUS CAN A LOT WITH A LITTLE “

            When Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd they told him they only had a little- five small loaves and two fish. And it certainly was a little amount to feed the vast crowd. Yet with that little amount provided by the disciples Jesus was able to feed the large crowd –they in face had more than enough- there were even left-overs-12 baskets full.

            So what does that say to you?  I believe that Jesus is saying, “Come to me just as you are-ill-equipped-weak-fallible. Bring to me whatever you have-however little-however ordinary. And I will bless it and use it greatly in my service-in the work of my Kingdom.”  REMEMBER! “A LITTLE BECOMES A LOT IN THE HANDS OF JESUS”.

Prayer: Lord use me to accomplish your purpose in this world. Amen

Pastor Haydn Blaess.

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

THE PARABLES OF THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE PEARL.

                                    MATTHEW  13:44-46.

           

            Have you ever dreamed about discovering some hidden treasure? I used to enjoy reading stories about pirates sailing to islands to look for buried treasures-books like Treasure Island. pastorh2Even today people are fascinated by stories of sunken ships that were supposed to have carried cargoes of silver-gold-jewellery. When I was a young boy I once found a shilling-in the late 1940’s a shilling could buy you a lot of lollies-and that is what I spent it on. And I hid them so my sister wouldn’t find them. I was going to eat them all myself. And I think I did.

            Other people looked for treasure on Land. Gold was discovered in Australia in the early 1850’s. People rushed to the gold fields-hence the expression “Gold Rush”. People came for over seas-America-Europe-England, even China. Sailors deserted their ships-farmers left their farms, leaving their wives behind to manage while they went off to make their fortune. Shop assistants-tradesmen-clerks­ left to try their luck in the goldfields. They gave up just about everything they had to search for gold. For prospectors- gold was the only thing mattered-counted.

            Read parables. Jesus told these two parables to teach us about the importance of the Kingdom of God.

  1. In the 1st parable Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a man finding a valuable treasure buried in a field. We aren’t told how he found it or what he was doing when he found it. But somehow, quite unexpectedly he comes across a treasure he wasn’t even looking for. Now that might sound a bit odd to us. Why would you bury your treasure in the ground?

But that was not unusual for those times. Remember there were no banks-safety deposit boxes. In unsettle times people would often put their valuables in a jar-box- wrap it in cloth and bury it in the ground. If the owner died or was killed no one else might know about it and it would just lie there until someone found it.

            You can imagine the surprise-excitement for the man who had discovered the buried treasure. After he gets over his initial surprise, he reburies the treasure. He has no rights to the treasure as it is on someone else’s land. So he quickly rushes off and sells everything he has to get the money so he can buy the land.

He considered the treasure was so important that it was worth sacrificing everything else he had. He gave up everything else to obtain the treasure.

            What does this mean? Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of Heaven is such a treasure.  It is worth more than anything else in the world. Later Jesus tells the story of a Rich young man who wanted to follow Him. Jesus tells him to sell everything and follow him. But the young man could not make that sacrifice. The Kingdom was not important enough for him. It was not his priority.

            In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,”seek first the Kingdom”. He says, “Lay up treasures in heaven”. In other words he was saying, “work out your priorities-focus on what is really important.

            In what way is the Kingdom a treasure? The kingdom is a total package. It includes everything we could possibly need for this life and the life to come. It includes-God’s love-grace-forgiveness-acceptance-the Holy Spirit-guidance-eternal life. That is why it is such a great treasure. That is why it is so valuable-important.

            Some questions we need to consider.

+Do we in fact regard the Kingdom as a valuable treasure?

+Do we appreciate being in the Kingdom?

+What  value do we place on our faith?

Is it a priority for us?  Would you have acted like that man who found the buried treasure?  The point is this: if we are prepared to sacrifice all that we have to gain an earthly treasure, what should we be prepared to do for the Kingdom?  

            The second parable is about a merchant who after years of searching finds the perfect pearl. You get the impression that he had been searching for such a pearl for the whole of his life- that is was a life long ambition to find such a pearl.

Pearls were highly valued in the ancient world-sometimes more so than gold. They were found in the Red sea-Persian gulf-Indian ocean.

Now the merchant’s dreams had come true. He had hit the jackpot. He found a pearl of extraordinary perfection-beauty. He had found the pearl of his dreams. Now this was not the only pearl in the world. There were many others. But this pearl was unlike any other he had seen. It was one of unsurpassing beauty-value. None cold compare with this special pearl.

The implication is that there may be many other attractions in the world-many other desirable things-other alternatives. But they are not a patch in comparison with the Kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven surpasses them all. By comparison they are of little value.

The pearl is an object of great beauty. There is also beauty in the Kingdom that we seldom think about. Beauty has its source in God-it comes from him and ultimately points back to him.

But I am not just talking about “physical beauty”-“good looks”-“outward appearance”.  I am talking about the beauty of “character”-“truth”-“love”, a beauty that comes from a vital/living relationship with God. This kind of beauty shows itself in such things as “serenity”- a person who is at peace with themselves and others because they are at peace with God. It is what we might call a “Christ –like beauty”. It is what we sing about in the hymn, “Beautiful Saviour”. It is an inner beauty that shows itself in our outer character. And this “inner beauty” is more valuable than outward appearance.

            These 2 parables have some common features.

  1. There is the idea of finding something of tremendous value.
  2. There is the thought of selling things of lesser value to obtain the object of great value.
  3. No cost is too great when it is a matter of gaining the Kingdom.

These parables teach us that the Supreme value of the Kingdom is worth more than anything else in life. It is worth sacrificing­-giving up everything else in order to obtain it. St Paul said, “Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up every thing else and regard it as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him”. (Philippians 3:8-9, CEV).  

            Many centuries before Jesus told these parables God offered Solomon anything he wanted- riches- success-fame-long life. Instead of these material things he asked God to give him wisdom to rule wisely. Solomon understood something of the values of the Kingdom. He asked God something that was better than material things. Likewise in these parables, the man who found the buried treasure and the merchant who found the perfect pearl aimed for the best- the thing that was of the most value.

            What is it that you really value? Are you focussing on the lasting values of the Kingdom? Or are you focussing on things that ultimately fade into insignificance? That is the question you need to ask yourself and think about.

Let us thank God that Jesus makes it possible for us to be a member of his Kingdom. He paid the price so that we could have the prize.

Pastor Haydn Blaess.