Seventh Sunday after Easter 20th May

TEXT:  Ezekiel 37:1-14

 

I felt the powerful presence of the Lord, and his Spirit took me and set me down in a valley where the ground was covered with bones. pastor1 He led me all around the valley, and I could see that there were very many bones, and that they were very dry.  He said to me, ‘Mortal man, can these bones come back to life?’

I replied, ‘Soverieign Lord, only you can answer that!’

He said, ‘Prophesy to the bones.  Tell these dry bones to listen to the word of the Lord.  Tell them that I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to them: I am going to put breath back into you and bring you back to life.  I will give you sinews and muscles and cover you with skin.  I will put breath back into you and bring you back to life.  Then  you will know that I am the Lord.’

So I prophesied as I had been told.  While I was speaking, I heard a rattling noise, and the bones began to join together.  While I watched, the bones were covered with sinews and muscles and then with skin.  But there was no breath in the bodies.

God said to me, ‘Mortal man, prophesy to the wind.  Tell the wind that the Sovereign Lord commands it to come from every direction, to breathe into these dead bodies, and bring them back to life.

So I prophesied as I had been told.  Breath entered the bodies and they came to life and stood up.  There were enough of them to form an army.

God said to me, ‘Mortal man, the people of Israel are like these bones.  They say that they are dried up, without any hope and with no future.  So prophesy to my people Israel; and tell them that I, the Sovereign Lord, am going to open their graves.  I am going to take them out and bring them back to the land of Israel.  When I open the graves where my people are buried, and bring them out, they will know that I am the Lord.    I will put my breath into them, bring them back to life, and let them live in their own land.  Then they will know that I am the Lord.  I have promised that I would do this – and I will.  I, the Lord, have spoken.’                                                                                                   (TEV)

 

‘The Lord and giver of life.’  That’s what the Nicene Creed calls God’s Holy Spirit.  It’s a good description – one that comes straight out of the Bible.

This ‘Lord and giver of life’ is the subject of a graphic vision recorded in the 37th chapter of Ezekiel.  Our text takes us into the heart of this vision, and shows us what can happen when the Spirit of God goes to work.  In a striking way, this vision of God’s Spirit in the valley of dry bones shows what we mean when we confess that he’s: The Lord and Giver of life.

The Hebrew word for Spirit is ruach.  It’s one of those Old Testament words that’s wonderfully expressive.  The word ruach means ‘breath’.  The Spirit of God is the breath of God.  In the beginning, God formed Adam out of the dust, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  That’s when Adam became a living being.  Unless God breathes life into a person, there’s no real life there.

Many people who think they’re enjoying life to the full are simply walking corpses because they haven’t received the Spirit of God’s breath of new life.  In some ways they’re like Matchbox cars.  Put them on a downhill slope and they run alright;  but they come to a stop when they hit the bottom because there’s no motor in them.  The Spirit of God is the motor of your life!  He makes you actually come alive, instead of just looking alive!

The Holy Spirit ‘breathes’ life into a person by pointing that person to the breathless body of the crucified Christ, and then to the living, breathing body of the same Christ, who was raised from the dead to never-ending life.  The Holy Spirit points you to the Christ who died for you, to pay the wages of your sin.  He’s your only way to forgiveness and salvation.  The Holy Spirit breathes the name ‘Christ’ into your ear, and brings you to spiritual life through faith in him.  And then he keeps Christ right at the centre or your life.  He’s the Lord and giver of life!

The Hebrew word ruach also means wind.  The Spirit of God is like the wind, Jesus once said: invisible, but powerful.  You can’t see the wind, but you can see what the wind does to trees and house roofs in a cyclone … or to a candle when you blow on it.

You can’t control the wind, and you can’t limit the Spirit of God.  Like the wind, he goes where he wants and does what he chooses.  He gives his gifts and powers where he chooses, and not necessarily where some people in their presumption try to program him!

You mightn’t be able to see the wind, but you know where it’s been because you can see what it’s done.  You mightn’t be able to see the Spirit of God, and you mightn’t necessarily see the extraordinary signs of his presence that some Christians insist on.  But you can always see where he’s been at work in the lives of ordinary people like yourself.

The Holy Spirit’s like fire.  Wherever he is, life starts to crackle.  Like fire, the Holy Spirit refines away sin.  And like fire, the Holy Spirit has to be treated with respect.  You daren’t grieve the Spirit of God with persistent unbelief.  That’s the one sin our Lord said would not be forgiven!

Jesus called the Holy Spirit the ‘Counsellor’, the ‘Comforter’ – the great strength-bringer.  He breathes new spiritual life into the dead bones that litter this world.  He creates a new breed of strong and enduring people – people who know how to take the discomforts of life wthout giving in to despair.  The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of real life!

In a vision, the prophet Ezekiel was taken on a tour of a valley where the bones of dead soldiers were scattered everywhere.  It may have been some place where the Babylonian army had smashed the resistance of God’s rebellious people.  The prophet looked at the bones of his countrymen with a heavy heart.  As he looked, the Spirit asked him: ‘Can these bones come back to life?’

 ‘Sovereign Lord, only you can answer that’, the prophet replied.  But then God commanded Ezekiel to proclaim new life in those dry, bleaching bones.  He did so, and they sprang to life.

The people to whom Ezekiel described this vision knew very well what he meant.  Their nation was dead, and they felt dead themselves, living in exile in a strange country.

‘Can these bones come back to life?’ they were asking.  ‘Yes’, Ezekiel said to them, ‘they can be restored to life again.  The people in exile can be set free.  They can return to their homes.  The Spirit of God – the Lord and giver of life – can put flesh and sinews back on those dry bones.  He can, and he will.’

The people to whom Ezekiel told this vision knew they couldn’t restore themselves to life – life that’s more than just walking around like the living dead.  Ezekiel said that when the Spirit of God goes to work it’s like coming back from the dead.  It’s receiving a heart of flesh instead of a heart of cold stone.  It means coming to life, as life was intended to be – warm, vibrant, and loving.  This is possible only through the Lord and giver of life: God’s Holy Spirit.

I wonder if your life seems dreary at times … whether you feel you haven’t got much to live for.  If so, you’re asking the question of our text: ‘Can these bones come back to life?’  The answer’s a ringing ‘Yes’!  The Spirit of God gives life to dry bones, and he’s already done that for you: put warm flesh and sinews on what might seem to you to be nothing but a skeleton.  He did that in your baptism.  He’s the Lord and giver of life!

‘Can these bones come back to life?’  Do you ever feel that it’s a battle to hold onto your faith, to keep on believing?  Take fresh heart!  The miracle of Ezekiel’s vision can happen to anyone!  No matter what low point you may reach in your life, no matter how weathered the bones may be, the strong, life-breathing Spirit of God can join bone to bone, and bring you to life again, in Christ.  He can change what may seemto be impossible deadends in your life into roads that are bright with joy, and promise, and service!

‘Can these bones come back to life?’  Has the spiritual life the Holy Spirit implanted in you somehow become paralysed?  Have you lost your energy to live for and serve Christ and his church?   The Spirit of God can change that!  He can inject new life and energy through his dynamic gospel word about the living Christ.  Through this word, he can change you into someone pulsing with new joy and new spiritual vitality.  Those creaking limbs of yours can become supple and flexible again!

‘Can these bones come back to life?’  This is a question that’s often asked at the graveside of someone who’s been near and dear.  Ezekiel’s vision gives a confident ‘Yes’ to mourners. As St Paul wrote to the Romans: ‘If the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the grave will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you’.  Those dry bones you see lowered into the grave or committed to the elements will live again in a new and glorified life.  Ezekiel assures you of that!

The Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life.  He gives his gift of spiritual life to a person in much the same way as a baby’s born.  In fact, rebirth or regeneration is the theological term that’s often used to describe this process, whether it takes place through baptism in infancy or through a meeting with the living Christ in his word, later in life.

A baby’s life normally begins in the setting of other people – father, mother … family.  The new life that comes through God’s Spirit also generally begins in the setting of people – the church.  A lot of people today see the church as simply some sort of human ‘establishment’ or ‘institution’.  Some criticise the church because it’s made up of people just like themselves!  They can only see the flaws and hypocrisy in other members!

The church has its weaknesses because it’s made up of people like you and me.  But the church is the creation of the Spirit of God.  Wherever the church is, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ the great sin-bearer, and offering his sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, there the Spirit of God himself is at work, bringing new life to dry bones.

By his Spirit, God brings new life to the dry bones of individual sinners.  By his Spirit he links people with that new life into fellowship – the fellowship of faith in his church.  Those dry bones become a vital part of the Body of Christ as they begin to move and function together in him.

This is your call, and this is your role in the church and in your congregation.  Christ’s people aren’t just like carrots in a garden: each one distinct and each one growing separately. They’re like branches, growing together out of and drawing nourishment from the one Vine, which is Jesus Christ himself!

‘I am the vine, you are the branches’, Jesus once said.  In a vine, each branch grows from the trunk and produces fruit for the overall good of the whole vine.  In the church, when the sap rises in those branches, when dry bones come to life again, things happen!

When the Spirit of God brings this kind of life to you, Christian love takes on a new dimension.  Confidence takes over from fear.  Doubt gives way to Spirit-given conviction. Uncertainty gives way to hope.  Lethargy gives way to action, sluggishness to service.  Indifference turns into a vital concern for people – their welfare, their faith, and their spiritual life.  You live as you’ve never lived before, giving and extending yourself in loving service to others … and to Christ.

That’s why the Spirit of God has called you to follow Christ and has sealed this call in your baptism.  That’s why he’s built you as a living stone into his church and into this congregation.  It’s why the church exists.

And so Ezekiel’s challenge to you today is to let the Spirit of God continue to rejuvenate you and fill you with a new measure of his life.  Let the Spirit of God use you in a mighty way to build up and extend the whole Body of Christ, and particularly this congregation.  Take his call seriously, and God will take you seriously, and work in and through you in a mighty way!

The unbelievable happened there in the valley of bones.  The unbelievable can always happen where God’s Spirit goes to work in and through people who’re committed to Jesus Christ.  The very fact that you’re here – a sinner, now a saint – is unbelievable when you stop and think about it!  And this kind of miracle can keep right on happening every day, as through the power of his word, the Spirit of God frees you more and more from the death-grip of sin, and makes your new heart of flesh beat with a new life, a new love, and a new power to serve.

The Spirit who brings new life to dry bones can and will do this because he’s the Lord and giver of life.  Amen.

Robert J Wiebusch

Sixth Sunday after Easter 13th May

TEXT:  Mark 16:19, 20

  ‘After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.  Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.’                      

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As the evangelists record, on the day of his ascension Jesus was with his disciples in Jerusalem.  He gave them some final instructions during a meal, then when they’d finished the meal, he led them out to Bethany.  He continued his instructions on the way and repeated his promise to send them the Holy Spirit.  They should go to Jerusalem, he said, to wait for the Spirit to come.  Then he raised his hands in a final act of blessing, and as they watched, he was taken up from them until a cloud hid him from their sight.

Jesus’ ascension is the final act in God’s great drama of salvation.  God the Father received his divine Son back to the glory of his right hand, and in doing this, he gave his stamp of approval to everything Jesus had accomplished here on earth.

In his letter to the Ephesians, St Paul points out that the Jesus who ascended that day is the same person ‘who descended to the … earthly regions’.  The Son of God descended from the glory of heaven to the lowliness of earth as the infant of a young woman.  He descended into the sin, sorrow and suffering of this world, for us.

God had seen us in our need.  He’d seen us trapped in the tragedy of our sin.  He’d seen that, try hard as we would, we could never bridge the gap that we’d created between us and himself by our sin.  The only way we could be spared the punishment that sin brings was for someone to take our place – to keep God’s law perfectly on our behalf, and yet to suffer its punishment in full.

That’s why the eternal Son of God came from heaven to earth, from glory to humility.  That’s why he gave up his life on Calvary.  And God accepted this sacrifice of his Son, and raised him to life again on the third day.

To convince people that the sin of all humanity’s been paid for, Jesus showed himself alive on a number of occasions during the 40 days after his resurrection.  In effect, he was saying to his disciples, and us: ‘I’m alive!  I’ve taken all your guilt on myself … all your weaknesses.  I’ve suffered all your temptations for you.  I’ve been punished most cruelly for you.  But I’m no longer dead!  I’ve conquered death and Satan.  I’ve cancelled out all your sin.  Just believe this and you’ll have life with me and my Father in heaven.’

Jesus’ resurrection proves to us that our sin has been paid for.  But to make us even more sure, our Lord ‘was taken up into heaven’.  Because he was completely satisfied with what Jesus had done, God the Father received him back to his right hand side … restored him to the full exercise of his divine authority and power.

As St Paul says, ‘He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe’.

That’s why Ascension is a festival of joy.  It shows us that God’s saving work for us is complete.  There’s nothing more to be done.  Our sin’s been paid for – all of it!  You are forgiven!  Christ’s work is perfect.  No matter how many times we may still fall into temptation – even though we try hard to fight against it – God’s taken all this into consideration.  Jesus’ death has covered it all.

By faith you can be at peace with God – in spite of your many weaknesses and failings.  By faith you have God’s own assurance of a place in heaven, where your risen Lord’s now gone on ahead of you,  You don’t have to work for it; and you don’t have to have any anxieties about whether or not you’re worthy of it.  In yourself you’re not worthy, and you never can be.  But Christ has removed all your unworthiness so you can now have the certainty of faith to say with St Paul:  ‘I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

Our text tells us that ‘after the Lord had spoken to [the disciples], he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God’.  What this means has been well described by St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.  ‘[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and domin-ion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body.’

The fact that the ascended Christ is now at God’s right hand doesn’t mean he’s confined somewhere ‘up there’ beyond the stars!  The picture we often have of God the Father sitting on a shining white throne above the clouds is poetic imgagery.  Jesus himself described what’s meant by his sitting ‘at the right hand of God’ when he said: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’.  As ascended Lord, the God-Man Jesus Christ now fully shares in the rule of earth and heaven.

In a sense, his ascension was like a coronation, by which he was unmistakably declared almighty ruler over heaven and earth.  Within the eternal trinity of the Godhead, the ascended Christ now controls all things throughout Creation, according to his unlimited wisdom and grace.

Now … what does all this mean for you and me?

Think back for a moment to what St Paul wrote in Ephesians!  ‘[God] seated [Christ] at his right hand in the heavenly realms … and … placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church …’

Jesus Christ, the exalted ‘King of Creation’, who is both ‘Son of God and Mary’s Son’, as we sing in one of our hymns, now rules over all things in this universe.  He controls all the forces in this universe, and directs everything that happens in the interests of his church – and that includes you and me.

The ascended Christ is vitally concerned about his church here on earth, and about you and me who’re members of it.  He’s vitally concerned about his church because God the Father’s given him to the church as its Head.

There’ a wonderful reassurance in this thought for all of us who’re members of Christ’s church through faith.  We can have this very real assurance that our ascended Lord is directing everything that happens – on a global and national level, and in our community and our own personal life – he’s directing it all in our best interests.  We can confidently say with St Paul: ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him’.

In spite of continuing unrest in various parts of the world, in spite of shootings, in spite of increasing drug use, in spite of road deaths, in spite of AIDS, the ascended Christ is still ruling at the right hand of his Father – channelling our lives in our best interests.

So … if you’re sick or have some disability, don’t despair!  Christ is still in control;  God is working for your good!

If you have financial problems, or you’re out of work, or your income’s taken a dive, don’t lose courage!  God knows!

If your children let you down, or your marriage has broken up or is under stress, don’t throw in the towel!  Christ is on your side, and he’s still in control.

So often when trouble comes we give in to despair.  ‘What’s the use?’ we ask.  ‘Where’s God?  Why doesn’t he help?’

Your heavenly Father is always there, and Christ is at his right hand.  He’s in charge, and he rules everything in this universe in the best interests of those who’re his.  He only has your good in mind in the way he deals with you.  You mightn’t always see it at the time, but you will … with the wisdom of hindsight!

And beyond this life he’s prepared a place for you in the never-ending glory of his Father’s presence.

So …you can face each day confidently, trusting in the almighty rule of your ascended Lord and King.

However, Jesus’ ascension to God’s right hand doesn’t mean he’s left his disciples – ancient or modern – to our own devices, to flounder around by ourselves in a world that by and large is antagonistic to all he stands for.  Shortly before he parted from his disciples he assured them: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’.

True, he did withdraw his visible presence from them, but as the ever-present God he continued to be with them, and he continues to be with his disciples of all ages.

As those early disciples went out to preach his gospel in all the world they realised more and more how close the ascended Christ was.  Mark tells us:  ‘The disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by signs that accompanied it.

Those men were very much aware of the presence of their Lord, and of his Spirit, in their lives.  On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to them, as Jesus promised.  They went out to preach and teach with new boldness … to witness and baptise. And as they did this, the ascended Lord himself worked through them.  He confirmed and strenthened their spoken word with signs – a lame man healed, Saul the persecutor converted to Paul the Apostle, lives changed, faith strengthened, deeds of love and service.  The mass conversion on Pentecost, and the spectacular growth of Christianity in spite of strong opposition – even persecution – all this testifies to the fact that the ascended Christ works mightily in and through his followers.

The same Lord is still close to each one of us today.  He’s put us into this world for a special purpose – just as the apostles had a special purpose.  His purpose for you is not that you should selfishly live just for yourself.  You’ve been called to live under Christ and serve him and witness to his love.  And he wants to work through you as he worked through his chosen 12.

There’s a story that tells of Jesus’ return to heaven.  The angels Michael and Gabriel were there to welcome him.  They congratulated him on his victory over Satan, and for having drawn so many disciples to follow him.  ‘But’, they asked, ‘what’ll happen now that you’ve withdrawn from the world?’

‘I’ve provided for that’. Jesus told them.  ‘I have Peter and John and the other Apostles to go out and preach in my name.’

‘But how will people of later ages come to know what you’ve done for them?’ Gabriel asked.

‘I’ve arranged for that, too.’ Jesus said. ‘ I’ve charged my people throughout history to be my witnesses and tell people about my love for them.’

‘But what if they let you down?’ Gabriel asked in awed tones.

‘I have no other way’, Jesus replied.

It’s just a story, but it makes a challenging point.  To each of us the Lord says, ‘Go into all the world, starting with your own home and community.  Go and preach and live my gospel, and witness to my grace.  And don’t be concerned about your weaknesses and inadequacies, because “I am with you …”

As you respond to this call as a member of Christ’s body and of this St Peter’s congregation, you too will see the signs of your Lord’s mighty presence, and of his power at work in and through you and your fellow members: children and adults drawn into the body of Christ through baptism; some friend or relative who comes to new life in Christ; growth in your own faith and in the love that expresses that faith; prayers answered; lives changed.  These are the kind of signs that show the ascended Lord is still mightily active in his church, and in you today.

Rejoice that your salvation has been completed, and that you are a forgiven child of God, with an eternal destiny in heaven!  Rejoice that the ascended Christ rules over all in his powerful, loving way.  Rejoice that he continues to work in and through his church on earth to draw people to himself!  And rejoice that he works also in and through you, in spite of your all-too-human frailties!

Rejoice, the Lord is King!

Your Lord and King adore!

Jesus, the Savjour reigns,

The God of truth and love;

His kingdom cannot fail,

He rules o’er earth and heaven.

He sits at God’s right hand …

Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!

Rejoice, again I say, Rejoice!

Amen.

Rev Robert J Wiebusch

30th Anniversary of St Peters.

 

Text:  Psalm 26:8
‘I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where  your glory dwells.’

                                                                                                                                          

A lot has happened in the 30 years since this fine church was officialy opened and dedicated.  Most people who died before 1998 wouldn’t have known much about drones and solar panels, desalination plants and even Lutheran bishops in Australia! pastor1 And one could go on adding to this list, showing the tremendous changes that have occurred in both church and society in that time.

One of the significant changes here at St Peter’s in more recent years has been the way pastoral ministry has been provided, largely by visiting pastors.  And it’s my privilege to be with you again for a few weeks, and for this special anniversary service.

I’m sure that all of you would echo the words ascribed to David in Palm 26:  ‘I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells’.  That’s why you’re here today.

The ‘house’ David was talking about was the tabernacle – that portable tent-church the Israelites used during their 40 years in the desert.  At Sinai God had told Moses how the tabernacle was to be built.  The materials it was made from came largely from from the wilderness – acacia wood and animal skins.  These were overlaid with gold and silver, brass and linen, all given by the people.

The tabernacle proper was like a large tent.  It was surrounded by a courtyard that had rich curtains all round it.  A gold-plated wooden frame gave strength to the back and side of the tent.  Ten embroidered linen ‘curtains’ were draped  over this, with a goatskin covering over the top.

Inside there were two parts:  the sanctuary or ‘holy place’, and – curtained off at one end – was the ‘holy of holies’, where the Ark of the Covenant was placed.  This was seen as God’s  special dwelling place.  It was where showed his presence as a ‘glory cloud’ whenever the Israelites made camp.

This portable ‘church’ was the first thing the Israelites set up when they made camp.  It was where God met his people in a special way.  He’d promised:  ‘There I will meet with you and speak to you … and the place will be consecrated to my glory.’

Right down until Solomon’s time this tabernacle was the worship centre for God’s people.  Here God revealed his gracious presence among his people.  Here the people brought their sacrifices, and their prayers and praises.  That’s why David could say: ‘I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells’.  David knew that in the tabernacle he was close to God, and so he truly loved this tent church.  He said in Psalm 122: ‘I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord”’.

I hope you can say the same about this fine church where we’re gathered for worship on this anniversary Sunday.  Of course, you don’t have to have a church building to worship God.  Over the years, I’ve led people in worship in many a secular hall or private home.  Jesus promises:  ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them’.  And what a promise that is!  God, the almighty, holy Creator of all things, is pleased to be with us, his people – even though we’re sinful!  He doesn’t overlook us. He’s not ‘too good’ for us, too ‘high and mighty’, or ‘too busy’.  He comes to us where we are.

He came to us as one of us when his eternal Son took on our human flesh and blood as the Son of Mary.  In his life as one of us he felt the pain of our sorrow and sin.  He identified with us to the point of taking our guilt on himself, and then dealing with it once and for all on a cross.  That’s your God:  not far off,  but with you in your kind of life, remaining with you, and constantly coming to you in a special way as you gather round his word and sacrament.

Like many other congregations, St Peter’s started life without a ‘church home’ of its own.  It began in 1981, and in its early years members gathered for worship in various schools, and in churches of other denominations. But the God who came into this world in a borrowed shed in Bethlehem was just as much present with his people in borrowed surroundings as he’s with us now.  But just as God took delight in the tabernacle of old, and then the magnificent temple in Solomon’s time, so he also delights in the church that the members of this St Peter’s congregation have erected and maintained to his glory, and which is the focal point of your corporate life and worship.

I’m sure that, like David, you love this house of worship because it, too, is a ‘place where [God’s] glory dwells’ … where God reveals himself in a rich and gracious and powerful way.  Again and again God’s come to you here, to make himself known in his grace, to reassure and strengthen you, to bless you with his love, to motivate you, and build you up for your life of service and witness.

Here at this font children have received the gracious cleansing of Holy Baptism and been sealed into God’s family.   Here the word of God has been proclaimed and taught, and its central message of God’s love has been expounded again and again.

You’ve heard the judging word of God’s Law touch your conscience, to show up your spiritual bankruptcy … and you’ve heard the sweet and comforting word of the gospel that I bring you again now: that in Jesus Christ God forgives you.  Your sin is wiped out.  God accepts you and recreates you in Jesus Christ, and makes you new in loving service.

The glory your God reveals to you here in this dwelling place isn’t just the fearful glory of an all-powerful Judge, but the glory of a Father who sent his only Son to a cross for you.  That’s the word you hear from this pulpit again and again.

Here, too, you’ve had a visible sign of God’s glory among you over the past 30 years – a sign just as powerful as the cloud that filled the Holy of holies in the tabernacle.  You’ve had the precious body and blood of your Lord Jesus himself, given to you in the Holy Supper, and in those blessed moments of communion our gracious and saving God has come to dwell with you and within you.

Young people have affirmed their faith here before this altar.  Some have farewelled loved ones here – family members or friends whom God’s called to their eternal home.  They’ve experienced the powerful and sustaining presence of God at this sad time, as well as the support of Christian friends – brothers and sisters in their church family.

So …as you look back on these experiences, you surely have every reason to say with David: ‘I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells’.  You love this church, not just because it’s your church, but because it, too, is the place where God’s saving glory in Jesus Christ is made known, and where the Christ who came into our world in Bethlehem, and who will come again at the end of time, comes to meet you in the here and now.

‘I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells.’  These weren’t just empty words for David.  They reflected his whole life.  He regularly came into that tent church in worship.  In fact he contributed to the worship of God’s people through the many psalms he wrote.  They’ve become part of the hymnal of the Old Testament, and we still sing or say them in our worship today.  And David dreamt of the day when he could replace the humble tabernacle with a magnificent temple that would be a worthy tribute of worship to God.

Our attitude to the house of God also shows up in our actions.  Our attitudes and actions will very plainly show how important it is for us that this church is a place where God’s glory is revealed.  As you recognise more and more just what a gracious and saving God you have, and how richly he provides for you with spiritual food in his word and sacrament … just as he provided food for the Israelites on their desert trek … then you’ll constantly be found in his presence here in worship.  It’ll be your delight, as it was David’s, to be in regular communion with your loving God in his special dwelling place among you.

You’ll hear with joy those words of absolution Sunday by Sunday, assuring you that God forgives you and sees you as one of his holy children.  You’ll thrill to that close and tangible link our Lord establishes with you as he gives you his body and blood in the Holy Supper.  You’ll celebrate here with joy in your heart.  You’ll open your heart to the word of your God.  You’ll listen as he speaks his gracious words of life to reassure you in your need … to strengthen you in your hope … and to empower you for service.

You’ll also maintain your church and its grounds as beautifully as you can, because this too is an act of worship. Perhaps you’ve never thought of wielding a broom or a duster, or arranging flowers as an act of worship, but it’s also a way of honouring God.  It shows what God’s worth to you!   It shows God himself, and it shows others around you.  An unkempt church tells a community that the people who worship there don’t care all that much about God.  A church that’s lovingly maintained tells people that its members love their God.

In the New Testament, of course, ‘church’ is more than buildings.  It’s people.  And the more you know and appreciate the saving glory of your God … the more you receive from him, the more you’ll want to share with others.  You’ll share in worship with one another; you’ll share in caring for and supporting and nurturing one another, and in bearing one another’s burdens.  You’ll share your insights into God’s word with each other.  You’ll share your faith and convictions with others, and you’ll invite them to come in with you and know and feel the saving glory of our God.

And so this building will continue to be a powerhouse of the Holy Spirit, and a dynamic focal point for worship, witness, nurture and caring for you who’re part of the famiy of God in this congregation.  And it’s as this happens that the true church of God – the one ‘holy Christian church’ that we confess in the creeds, will continue to be built by the Spirit, stone by stone, brick by brick.

As St Paul wrote in Ephesians, in this church, you are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.  And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.’

May God grant you this, in Christ!  And may this building of bricks, timber and tiles also continue to be a ‘tool’ used by the Master Builder – the Spirit of God himself!

Amen.

Robert J Wiebusch

Fifth Sunday after Easter April 29th

  • “I am the true vine”

    John 15:1-8. Can’t bear fruit by ourselves! 10/5/09“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. {2} He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. {3} You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. {4} Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. {5} “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. {6} If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. {7} If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. {8} This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.20180311_103505 (1)Today I have brought along a branch off of our grape vine at the manse. It is a branch that I cut from the vine this morning: part of a vine that I am sure has produced good fruit. Now at the moment this branch looks alive and well. Well, as good as can be expected at this time of the year: but in reality, now that it has been cut from the vine, it is good for nothing. It is dead – fit only for burning or mulching into compost. There is no way that I can leave it out in front of our church and think that next summer we will get fruit from it. Now that this branch is off the vine, it is dead – fit only for burning. There only one way that this branch could produce fruit next season and that is if it were still connected to the vine. By itself now, it can do nothing but die. We know that don’t we; this branch is now useless. It would only have survived if it remained in connection to vine.Now our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to learn an important lesson from this illustration. Jesus is saying that the same principle applies to our lives as Christians as it does to this branch. Now if that is case then we had better do a lot of serious thinking. Have you taken note of the attendance figures of this congregation over recent years and related to that the number of members that we have on our books? Have you thought about how many times you yourself have missed church in that same period of time? Now sure, attendance every week does not necessarily mean that we are Christian, just as missing the odd Sunday mean that we are not a Christian. But it is indicator that we need to do some serious thinking as individuals and as a congregation, in light of these words from Jesus.

    The main word in this reading is remain; or abide – 8 times in this short reading. So, here Jesus is trying to make a very important point. He says there is a close connection between remaining and bearing fruit: that is, having peace, hope, love, joy and more. Jesus is trying to really impress on us the importance of our remaining connected to him, if we want to live and be happy and fruitful. He says, apart from him – if we think we can live without him, ignoring him much of the time – we in reality do nothing but die. To remain means to dwell; to be present with continually; to not wander away or have broken contact with. This is what Jesus here encourages us to do in relation to him: Particularly if we want to live and bear fruit in our lives. This illustration of the branches and the vine makes the point so well for us.

    So who are we to think that we can have only occasional contact with our Lord and still be strong and healthy – happy and content? Surely, we cannot expect to only have little connection to our Lord in worship but still be able to bear the fruit in our lives that we, and God, would want? Who are we trying to kid? It seems that we often have this idea that as long as we say that we believe, then that all that matters: then everything should be rosy for us; and everything should fall into place for us. After all, we think we are baptised and so are a part of God’s family, therefore everything is well. Now as long as we keep some contact; some faith; we will be right. Well think again!

    Look, what happens to a branch that is broken, even if it is still connected; is it possible for it to be as healthy as if it was completely connected? The greater the break, the worse off the branch would be. What happens to a branch that is only just hanging by a little bit bark and not much more? It barely gets enough sap stay alive, far less grow and bear fruit. On top of that, it is in far greater danger of being broken off completely. Yet many us seem to think that as long as we have a small connection with our Lord and his Church, we’ll be right. Who are we trying to kid? Ourselves it would seem.

    If it were you or I that were caring for that vineyard, we would cut that branch off completely and burn it. We would get rid of it because it is of no value, but is simply using up valuable resources. However, not our Lord, he still sees great potential in us; he still sees the possibility of much fruit. So he prunes the branch: perhaps he might even have to prune it very heavily, for its own good; so that it can live and produce: So that we can still live and produce the fruit that he seeks from us.

    Now sure, we do not like the troubles and pains that come our way, and we often blame God when things go wrong. But the broken branch has an important message for us. If we are not pruned, there will not be enough sap and nutrients to keep us from withering, and we may not even survive, far less produce any fruit. If we are not pruned, when the storms of life come, we will soon be torn away from the vine and die. But if we are cut back, we will be able to withstand the forces that come to bear against us. And with time, the Lord can even strengthen that broken wound and even enable us to bear the fruit that is so important.

    But now back to the main point: the importance of our remaining connected to the vine – our Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this branch dead, even though it still looks green? It has severed all connections with the vine. It cannot get the sap and nutrients that it needs to stay alive. Even though at the moment it does not look too bad, it is in reality dead. Because it is no longer connected to that which gives it its life and vitality, it is dead. There is no way that it can get what it needs for itself to be able to survive, so it will wither and die, even though it looks alive at the moment.

    The point here being, that we need a good supply of sap in order to be happy, healthy and fruitful; and that we cannot get by and for ourselves. This only comes from our remaining in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those nutrients that we need come to us in the form of God’s Word and the Sacraments. They are the key ingredients for us as Christians and we need a constant supply of this for our well-being. That is why regular attendance at worship is so important: That is why Bible Study and home devotions are essential. There we get what we need to give us the strength and vitality that is necessary for our survival as Christians: There we are given what is needed for us to find love, joy, peace and all the rest for our lives. There in the Word and Sacraments we find the love and forgiveness that we need, extended to us by our Lord. And only then are we truly able to love and forgive – bear the fruit that is an essential part of our Christians life.

    That all comes as we remain connected to our Lord Jesus. As we hear, and are extended, God’s love and forgiveness, we come to know that without him we are nothing; that we are dead. But primarily that Jesus Christ alone is the source and only means of survival and happiness. It is there as we regularly attend worship that we are fed with his Word and his Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper and receive the nutrients that we need to stay alive and healthy as Christians. There we are enabled to go out and produce the fruit that our Lord seeks from each of our lives.

    Yes, there are many who might look green and healthy at the moment, but do they see Jesus as their life giver – every day? Do they see the importance of remaining in Jesus – knowing that in him alone they have life? Do they believe that it is the Word and Sacraments that are the important means that our Lord uses to feed us and keep us alive and healthy? To ignore him and what he has to give us, and to think that don’t need him is disastrous: It is to cut ourselves off from all the goodness that our Lord has to give to us; and that can lead to only one ultimate end – to be burnt in the fires of hell.

    But on the other hand, in living in that constant relationship of love, trust and friendship with the Lord Jesus means life and fruitfulness – it means stability, strength, peace and hope. Above all, it brings great glory to our God who is the source and being of everything that is good within us.

    Here then is an important message for us to consider now and in the days ahead; and this I ask you to not take lightly. Look prayfully to this illustration of the vine and its branches and see what Jesus wants us to always keep in mind. As we remain in him may we produce that fruit that is so good and necessary. In so doing, may all glory go to our Lord Jesus Christ who is our source of life and vitality. For to him alone belongs all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.
    Pastor Roger Atze

Rosters Sunday 21st April 2019

*** Thank You everyone for your participation.
*** Please arrange a replacement if unable to fill your place.
*** If you would like to be included on the roster please email davidpfeiffer1@bigpond.com
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
HI FIVE …. JESUS IS ALIVE

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Altar Colour:
 White or Gold
Stewards: Barbara Wakefield &
Alan Bruhn
Pastor: Tim Koch
Communion:
Pastor Tim Koch
Joan Rayward

Aileen Huf

Prayer: John McLean

SUNDAY 21st April 2019 Bible Reader: Kelvin Mirtschin

FIRST READING:   Isaiah 65:17-25 God’s new creation
SECOND READING:    1 Corinthians 15:19-26 Christ is the first to rise from death
GOSPEL:  John 20:1-18 Mary finds the tomb empty and Jesus appears to her

Bible Reader: Kelvin Mirtschin

Morning Tea: Helga Mathies

Church Cleaning: Corrine & John McLean

Mowing: Don Mclean

Audio & Computer: David Pfeiffer

Organist: Aileen Huf

Fourth Sunday after Easter April 22nd

The Good Shepherd

Sermon for Easter 4 (Good Shepherd); 3 May 2009
Bible reading: John 10:11

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Today our Lord Jesus shows us a most precious illustration of how God relates to his people.20180311_103505 (1) He comes to us as a shepherd, to gather us together, to defend us from all harm, to put his life on the line for us. Here at Bethlehem, we have this fabulous stained-glass window portraying Jesus the Good Shepherd – it really is a sermon in visual form.

Many of us remember the parable of the lost sheep from childhood – a passage closely related to our gospel. And after lunch today, go and dig up your old Baptism or Confirmation certificates – I bet many of you will find an illustration of Jesus caring for little lambs and children there.

The bible mentions shepherds in a number of places; way back even in Old Testament times. Adam and Eve had two sons initially, and one was a shepherd.

Many years later Moses saw the vision of the burning bush. What was he doing at that time? He was tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Yes, Moses was a shepherd about to embark on a much more challenging task. With staff in hand he would shepherd the people of Israel out of slavery to the safety of the Promised Land.

David was a shepherd before he became King of Israel. He who wrote that most treasured of Psalms, The Lord is my Shepherd, knew the life of the shepherd: protecting the sheep from predators and thieves; leading them to where the best pasture grew and finding water for them to drink in the arid countryside of Israel. Like Moses, he eventually defended God’s people at a time of great political instability in the region.

Later on Israel had other leaders – priests and kings who were supposed to be shepherds over Israel, seeing to people’s spiritual and physical wellbeing. Sadly they neglected the people’s needs. The corrupt ones frequently took advantage of the weak for their own gain. Through the prophets God condemned these false shepherds and promised to step in himself to shepherd the sheep of Israel.

… he came to save the whole world. That’s why he is indeed the GoodShepherd.

In time Jesus came to do just that: God born as a human being to gather and save the vulnerable people of Israel – an event, incidentally, announced to shepherds on the first Christmas. And his concern was not just restricted to Israel; he came to save the whole world. That’s why he is indeed the Good Shepherd.

If we are to make one conclusion from today’s reading it is surely how much God loves his people.

We often hear that message: God loves you so much. But it doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on people’s lives. People are tired and indifferent to this most basic message of the church. And yet we are still convinced that this little sentence is the best message ever. We do whatever we can to share it effectively through a variety of media. It’s like green grass to a hungry flock, or clear water on a hot day.

Why then, has it come to be so impotent in its effect? Why has something so nourishing for the human soul become so insipid to many?

Basically it’s because people know little about the quality of this love. We can tell the world about the enormity of God’s love until we are blue in the face. Until they understand the human predicament, and the quality of God’s love for the world, the message falls on deaf ears.

In John 10, Jesus shows us the unmatched quality of God’s love in such simple terms even little children can grasp it – “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” That’s God’s love in a nutshell.

You see, the Good Shepherd is not in it for money. In fact it cost him everything – even his very life. Neither did he come down from heaven to the dangerous valley of this world under compulsion. He came willingly.

No-one takes [my life] from me, says Jesus. I lay it down on my own accord. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again.

He didn’t follow the lure of popularity or prestige. He lost friends for speaking the truth. He even battled Satan and the forces of evil while in the fragile frame of human flesh. Who else could stand such an array of attacks for the sake of love? Jesus shepherds us not because we deserve it, for we all, like sheep, have gone astray. The world is either hostile or apathetic towards God’s extending arms of love.

Our hostility and apathy is the reason why we become lost, lonely, or tangled in the thorns of our sins, which separates us from the love of God.

When we follow our own impulses we consequently find ourselves in shadowy valleys of trouble: off side with our parents; in trouble with the police or the law; ostracized by those we had hoped would be our friends; caught in the brambles of addiction or self-hate; pestered by doubts – frightened at the uncertain and ever darkening future.

In love, Jesus came to gather a scattered humanity back from such a situation, and return people to God.

The King of Love my Shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am his, and he is mine forever.

So do you ever doubt that you are among God’s elect, one of his dear sheep? Read the words of the Good Shepherd again, and hear with assurance that Jesus has gathered you into his flock. Nothing can his power withstand. None can pluck you from his hand.

Or do you think you are here because of a decision you made for Christ? The readings today dispel the proud delusion that thinks being a Christian is all about our devotion to God. It’s not. It’s clearly about his devotion to us.

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 
—1 John

And for those of you who imagine God as distant, aloof, static, silent, watching and waiting to see what you will do, the Good Shepherd shows that he is right here in the thick of things with us. He gets his hands dirty and risks his wellbeing coming after us.

Jesus seeks us out. He wanders with tireless determination over hill and plain, through hazardous terrain to find us, to gather and protect us. He stood in the breach when death closed in like a pack of wolves, and he took the punishment for our wayward folly.

That is the meaning of God’s love friends. And David’s Psalm, which was written long ago, makes so much more sense in the light of Jesus’ words:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Here, we not only acknowledge God’s providence for our daily needs, but we also trust him to lead us in right paths of living as he calls us to follow his voice and no other.

The life-giving water of baptism has become a clear and refreshing pool of goodness and mercy to refresh us all the days of our life.

Even the darkest valley of death cannot harm us. Easter has made sure of that!

Our Lord’s words, his vicarious suffering and death, these are his comforting rod and staff.

So safe are we in his presence, we can feast before our enemies – gathering together as onechurch, one flock under one Shepherd as we share in the one bread and one cup together in the Lord’s Supper. Sweet fellowship divine!

But what has taken place in our hearts to open our ears, to bring us to an appreciation of this good news? Did someone say to us, ‘Hey, you’d better hop to it and get in line, the shepherd’s coming’? No. A harsh shepherd would only drive us further from God. A harsh shepherd would be more in line with the false shepherds who have harassed God’s people from ancient times.

Rather it is the tender nature of this shepherd that wins us. He is strong, but he uses his strength for us, not against us. He has trained our ears by the Holy Spirit to hear and recognise and love his voice.

We want nothing more than to be near this one who is full of grace and truth – like those sheep in Bethlehem’s stained-glass window. We live in an age when people are searching for spirituality. There is no higher spirituality than to believe the Gospel. The gospel makes us want to follow the Good Shepherd all the days of our life – to cherish and emulate his great love for us.

… people will notice God’s unique love at work in your lives and be drawn to the Good Shepherd

And others will see that: Others who are strays; or those who have never known Jesus Christ but are beginning to hear his voice bit by bit. Today people are searching for love and community. It can’t be found in hours spent glued to cell phones or chat rooms; or in front of the mirror after a gym workout; or fantasizing in cyberspace about power or pleasure; or in any other soul-destroying pass time.

But people will notice God’s unique love at work in your lives and be drawn to the Good Shepherd. They will come to hear with willing ears the gospel through the church, providing the church continues to tell it. They will gladly part company with the pervasive brambles of individualism and consumerism in exchange for the safe arms of the Good Shepherd, and the joyful community of his everlasting flock. Amen.

Pastor Simon Cooper

Third Sunday Easter read 15th April.

We are witnesses

Sermon for Easter 3
Bible reading: Luke 24:48

I’m not sure I’d be prepared to die for my country … but I hope that I’d be prepared to die for my Lord. I’m not sure that I’d be prepared to die killing people … but I hope that I’d be prepared to die bringing eternal life to people.20180311_103505 (1)

The Christian faith is built entirely on Jesus Christ who was prepared to die bringing eternal life to people. Since the death of Jesus Christ it is estimated that 40 million disciples of Jesus have been martyred because they were not prepared to stop following Jesus, they were not prepared to stop confessing Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they were not prepared to stop witnessing, and telling and teaching others about Jesus.

A Christian who is killed because of their faith in Jesus and confession of his name is called a martyr. Eleven of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ died as martyrs. Little did they know, as they gathered with Jesus to celebrate the resurrection, that they would all die for seeing and believing and living and telling that truth. Little did they know, as Jesus said to them in the Upper Room: “you are witnesses of these things”, that it meant far more than that they had seen Jesus, and they would tell others that Jesus was alive again. “You are witnesses of these things”, would come to mean, ‘you will die for telling others that Jesus died and rose again’. The word martyr, means to witness, to see and hear and tell of the resurrection. But since that led to being killed for speaking out, the word martyr gradually took on the meaning of one who dies for confessing the faith.

I have never met a martyr who has been killed for their faith. I once met Pastor Richard Wurmbrand who was imprisoned for 14 years for confessing his faith in Romania. I once heard Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man, speak in Adelaide, after being released from many years in Chinese prisons for spreading the Christian faith. I have been inspired by reading the stories of countless Christians who were killed for witnessing to Jesus. But they all lived in other countries. I’ve never heard of a Christian being killed for telling others about Jesus in Australia. It is so easy to tell others about Jesus in Australia. They may not believe what we say. They may not even like what we say. They might even ridicule us for saying it. But they will not put us in prison. They will not kill us. We can be witnesses to Jesus without being killed for it. So why are we so slack at witnessing?

Jesus’ disciples had all deserted him when he suffered and died. They huddled together in fear, even after it was reported by the women that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

Then Jesus stood among them and said, Peace be with you. They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. … Look at my hands and my feet … Touch me and see … and while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, do you have anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. … Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

Jesus is so patient with his frightened disciples … Jesus did not condemn them. He forgave them.

Jesus is so patient with his frightened disciples. They had deserted Jesus. They were burdened with guilt. They were torn between fear and joy at seeing Jesus. But Jesus did not condemn them. He forgave them. He showed them the wounds of his crucifixion. He ate in their presence. He explained the Scriptures to them, how he had to suffer and die and rise from the dead. Jesus nursed his disciples to faith.

Faith in Jesus may not come easily to you. Perhaps you have trouble believing that Jesus could be raised from the dead? Perhaps you find it hard to believe that Jesus suffered and died and rose again from the dead for you, to forgive you, to give you a new life, to give you eternal life? Perhaps you are so used to the ways of this world, that you can’t believe Jesus’ resurrection brings a whole new way of living, for you and for the whole world?

A man came home from work to find that his wife had hung a plaque on the wall that said: Pray changes things. The man took it down. His wife was astonished and asked, ‘Don’t you like prayer?’ ‘Sure, I like prayer,’ he replied, ‘but I don’t like change.’

The resurrection of Jesus changes things … changes everything. Life is no longer a rat race ending in death.

The resurrection of Jesus changes things … changes everything. Life is no longer a rat race ending in death. Life is no longer the round eternal: going to work to make money, to build a bigger home, so you have to go to work to pay for it, before you die and lose it.

The ways of this world are littered with failure. Wars solve little or nothing. “Money can’t buy me happiness.” Relationships often fail to satisfy. Church seems dull, and less and less people see it as a place to find meaning.

I’ve been speaking to a few of my relatives. They are very godly people. But their grandchildren have little or nothing to do with the church. Yes, some of my cousins’ children are active Christians, but others have no contact with the church. Parents and grandparents worry for their descendants, living without faith and God and the church – living as though Jesus has not died and been raised to give them eternal life – living like the rest of the world. In Australia, Anzac Day has become more important to us than Good Friday.

Jesus stood with his disciples in that upper room on the day of his resurrection and showed them he was really alive – and this changed everything. He said: “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be preached to all nations in my name, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And I’ll give you the Holy Spirit.”

The resurrection isn’t just a doctrine we believe. The resurrection of Jesus is a new life we share in, and are empowered to go out to call every one else to share in, beginning at home. Studies suggest that too many people who sit in church and hear the story of the resurrection and confess the creed, are not changed by it, and don’t speak about it in their homes.

A chap started going to church and his mates said: ‘I suppose that now you’re going to church you’ll start acting different!’ ‘No, I’m still the same old bloke,’ he replied.

To believe in the resurrection is to be changed by it, to live like Jesus, and daily point people to Jesus by our lives and words.

We are witnesses. We’ve met with the risen Lord …

“We are witnesses”, said Peter and John and the other disciples as they preached the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They saw it, they spoke it, they lived it, they died for it. The resurrection changed them so much that even the skeptics said: “we can see you’ve been with Jesus.”

We are witnesses. We’ve met with the risen Lord in Holy Communion. We’ve seen him at work in Baptism. We’ve heard him speak to us through his word. Holy Spirit, help our lives and words call others to follow Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pastor David Christian