Fifth Sunday after Easter

True happiness.

Text: Matthew 5:3-10 (NIV)

True happiness8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

No doubt, some of you have watched Survivor. This immensely popular TV real life game show is watched by millions of people around the world.

Imagine putting 16 people together from different backgrounds – trying to survive together and at the same time competing against one another for individual survival. After each round, the participants meet together to cast their votes to see who will be dismissed from the group. It can be for any number of reasons such as –
I think you’re not pulling your weight; you cheated by having some kind of contraband; you are too old, too selfish, too uncooperative; or simply, because I don’t like your face.

The ultimate goal is to not get voted out. And the way to survive is to make sure that there are people on your side – alliances are made – and broken – leaving behind a trail of betrayal and suspicion. This is real life played out in a game show. That’s perhaps the reason why Survivor has been so popular – it brings out the best and worst in people – more often the worst than the best. The winner is not the person who is kind and considerate, but who makes friends, uses them and then turns against them. The winner is not the person who is the better or the nicer person but the one who is ruthless and hurtful, who has no feelings for the others.

One person who was asked about his view of the show hit the nail on the head when he said, “It’s sorry that our society is this way, but the people who are conniving and back-stabbing are the ones who make it. Unlike the movies where the scriptwriter controls the plot and good triumphs over evil, in Survivor, no one controls the plot and how things eventually turn out. It is a sad commentary on the way the world is.”

As we think about what it means to be happy or blessed we might say —
Blessed are those who earn six figure incomes.
Blessed are the famous.
Blessed are those who don’t have anything to worry about.
Blessed are the powerful.
Blessed are those who have the determination and ruthlessness to eliminate everything that hinders the fulfilment of their dreams.

Our view of happiness depends so much on our circumstances and environment. A young woman might think that true happiness is to find the right man, to marry and have a family, only later to find herself thinking that true happiness would come if she could divorce her abusive husband.

Teenagers may think true happiness is getting their first car, but it’s not too long before they think that they would be truly happy if they could have a certain car that was sleeker and faster.

Happiness is a common desire. Yet, so few people seem to have true happiness that we put happiness in the same category as four-leaf clovers and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – that which is elusive, unattainable, and impossible. Happiness is a goal that we all strive for, but when that goal is reached, we realise that there is always something else that we think would make us truly happy.

I’m sure you can think of things that you would like to see changed in your life so that you can be truly happy. So we go about arranging and re-arranging our environment and circumstances so that we will be happy. On this basis, people have assumed that, if they are unhappy, it is because of this wretched washing machine, this wretched heart, this wretched person I am living with… They believe that they will become happy by changing their lot in some way.

Seeking happiness becomes a never-ending quest. Happiness, we assume, must be fun and laughter and expressing our own personalities by “doing our own thing”. In order to be happy, we think, we must be free from suffering, sorrow and hardship. It’s no wonder that we can’t ever say that we have reached our goal – true happiness. There is nothing wrong with the desire to be happy; there is everything wrong with the way we often go seeking it.

And that’s exactly what Jesus is talking about today in the Sermon on the Mount when he talks about true happiness. He says,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

We would hardly regard ‘the poor in spirit’ as “happy” because they are aware of how much their sinfulness is out of control; their faith often wavers; they lack the spiritual resources to cope with the upsets in life and easily become depressed and miserable.

“Blessed are those who mourn.”

They are the least likely to be called “happy” because they are upset by the injustices in our world; they grieve for the starving, the homeless, refugees and those suffering in wars; they are distressed over their own stupidity and sinfulness; they are sad because of what death has done.

“Blessed are the humble,”

Those whom the world regards as the least likely to be “happy” because they are always busy doing things for others; they are gentle in their dealings with others, refusing to do anything for their own personal gain at the expense of others;
they don’t push themselves forward and are satisfied helping others.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

These people can hardly be called “happy” because of their deep sense of what is right; they are passionate about justice for the underdog and won’t rest until something is done. They are unhappy about the treatment of refugees, unnecessary logging, the treatment of prisoners. They are also those who are “unhappy” with their own lives and want to live more as God intended them to live.)

“Blessed are the persecuted.”

Being persecuted can hardly be called a “happy” experience. Persecution is an unhappy event when you are suffering because you are a peacemaker, or because you have shown mercy and compassion on someone whom everyone else thinks doesn’t deserve it, or because you are pure in heart – you know what is the right thing to do but no one else sees it that way.

Can you see that Jesus’ definition of what it means to be blessed doesn’t depend on us and what is happening around us? The Beatitudes present us with a whole new idea of what it means to be happy and blessed. True happiness has to do with knowing God, belonging to God’s Kingdom, being a part of God’s family. You might say that this is hardly a popular view, especially when worldly happiness depends so much on money, a house, the right car, and being free from sickness, death and anything that upsets our “happiness”. But Jesus was one for making true statements. True happiness is to be found in God. The fact is that we don’t find happiness by seeking happiness. We find God, and discover a deep level of happiness.

Or it is better said that God finds us.

In the middle of all the difficulties we have living out our Christian faith in our daily lives; when we are sad and upset; when we are despondent and depressed;
when others reject us and ridicule us for our faith or for sticking up for what we believe is right; when we are trying to show mercy and love or bring about peace and we are told to butt out; God meets us, he strengthens us, he comforts, he helps us endure, he gives us the courage to move on.

A woman was the victim of abuse as a child. She understood what had happened – she didn’t like it – she had been angry but God had helped her through her anger and now she prayed for her father. She also helped her brother to come to terms with what had happened and to rebuild his relationship with his father. She had suffered a great deal and yet she would say that she was blessed. The inner and outer scars will always be there, but she was happy because God was with her. He had helped her though it all and now God was using her to be a peacemaker.

George Matheson was a great preacher and hymn writer who lost his sight at an early age. He thought of his blindness as his thorn in the flesh, as his personal cross. For several years, he prayed that his sight would be restored. Like most of us, I suppose, he believed that personal happiness would come to him only after the handicap was gone. But then, one day God sent him a new insight: The creative use of his handicap could actually become his personal means of achieving happiness!

So, Matheson went on to write: “My God, I have never thanked you for my thorn. I have thanked you for my roses, but not once for my thorn. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of the cross itself as a present glory. Teach me the glory of my cross. Teach me the value of my thorn.”

George Matheson had found God’s kind of happiness—the kind of happiness that is not only a future hope, but also a reality in the here and now.

That’s the kind of happiness that enabled the apostle Paul to write to the Philippians from his gaol cell, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4).

That’s the secret of true happiness!
You may be suffering a great deal from sickness; you may be persecuted for doing what you consider the right thing; you may be upset about your own sinfulness or the weakness of your faith; you may even be upset by those who have failed to show love toward you; whatever the case, you can still be “happy” in the knowledge that you are one of God’s precious children, that he sent his Son to die for you, and that when all is said and done, there is a place for you in heaven where there will be no more unhappiness.

This is the kind of “blessedness” or “happiness” that no circumstance or person can take away from those who trust in Christ.

Amen.

Your Sunday Bulletin : January.

crosstalk

                   

                                   29th January 2023
                                        Epiphany 4
 
                    Today’s service will be held @ 9am240_F_76080180_liQGKxJWSP7v8T8VjQObFV8OCVG9RLU3
         If you are in Port Macquarie you are very welcome.
        Service will be lead by: Pastor Mark Worthing

                               The theme
                  The Beatitudes- True happiness
Sunday 29th January
Epiphany 4pastorm
Worship Service led by: Pastor Mark Worthing
Holy Communion: Pastor Mark Worthing
Communion Assistant: Joan Rayward
Communion Prep.: Dr. Gordon Watson
Bible Readings: Joan Rayward
1st Reading: Micah 6:1-8 The Lord’s case against Israel
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 God chooses the weak
Gospel: mark2Matthew 5:1-12 The Beatitudes – life in God’s kingdom
Prayers led by: Alexandra Dewar
Stewards: Barb Wakefield and Roy Herbig
Music: Daryll
Audio/ Computer: Narelle Clarke 

Next Sunday 5th February
Epiphany 5pastorm
Worship Service led by: Pastor Mark Worthing
Holy Communion: Pastor Mark Worthing
Communion Assistant: Tony Koch
Communion Prep.: Joan Rayward
Bible Readings: Allan Bruhn
1st Reading: Isaiah 58:1-9a The Lord desires kindness and justice
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 Christ crucified – God’s power and wisdom
Gospel: Matthew 5:13-20 You are salt of the earth and light of the worldmark2
Prayers led by: Geoff Rogers
Stewards: Juta Cooley and Allan Bruhn
Music: Narelle
Audio/ Computer: Sue Smith

In our thoughts and Prayers:praying
John McLean,
Rosemary Conran,
Kathy Mitchell,
Renate Radmacher,
Jenny Montgomery,
Tony Koch,
Aileen Huf,
Bob Rayward,
Carole Rogers.
Christine Kurteff
Sherry Thompson.
Don McLean.
Roger Reichelt

Prayer Chain:
Anyone interested in being included in the Prayer Chain, please contact Janelle
Francis any time on 0407391534

bible

Bible Study:
Wednesday. 7.30pm. @ Kemp St

 

New Members:church4
A Reception of New Members is being planned for February. If anyone isinterested in officially joining St Peter’s, please speak to Pastor Mark.
Confirmation:
Pastor Mark will be conducting a confirmation class this year, beginning in
February. If you know of any young people with links to the congregation who
may be interested, please talk to pastor.

Stay connected with : Lutheran Media Livestreaming.
https://www.livestream.com/luthworship

Church Council Executive:
Chairperson: David Pfeiffer 0428 667 754
Vice Chairperson: Roy Herbig 0417 041 325
Secretary: Sue Smith 0403 397 214
Treasurer: Garth Schultz 0412 487 466
Contact: Treasurer Garth Schultz at stpeterspmq.treasurer@gmail.com

Pastoral Carers:
Rev. David Thompson 0414521661
Joan Rayward 65820898
Jenelle Francis 0407391534
Pr. Mark Worthing. Ph 65833444. Mobile 0428557663
St. Peters Lutheran Church. 13 Kemp St. Port Macquarie. 2444. P.O. Box 5655


Roster:vavuumChurch Cleaning:
January: Barb Wakefield and Juta Cooley
February: Carol McLean

 

 

Morning tea:cuppa
IT’S ON AGAIN AFTER SERVICE
Morning Tea:
29 January Sherry Thompson
5 February Joan Rayward

Catch-Up Coffee:
First social coffee gathering for the year will be at SEASALT, Park Street, Port Macquarie, opposite K-Mart. Friday, 10th February at 10.00 am.
RSVP to Carol McLean, 0427832156 by Sunday 5
th Feb.

Annual Meeting:meeting
Sunday 26th February after service.
All reports need to be returned to the Secretary ASAP.
 

Ladies Fellowship:
Our first Ladies Fellowship meeting of 2023 will be held at the church at
12pm on Wednesday, 8 February. Please bring your own lunch and drink to
have over our fellowship and help plan our year ahead! Hope to see you there
and don’t forget your Lutheran Women’s magazine for FEB/MAR 2023 for
our Bible Study and Devotion. Hope to see you there!

Frontier School:
Frontier School of Mission will be offering two intensives in Port Macquarie
next semester. Foundational Christian Beliefs (Feb 20-24) taught by Pastor
Mark, and Missional Discipleship (March 20-24) taught by Dr Tania Nelson
and Pastor Nathan Hedt. Members of St Peters are welcome to take one or
both courses, but are also welcome to audit them or simply sit in on some of
the sessions to see what FSM is doing and meet and welcome some of the
students.
Also, as many of the students will be on tight budgets, if anyone has a room
they would be interested in billeting during these weeks, or an old caravan
they might consider parking behind the manse, please contact Pastor Mark.

Volunteers:
Scripture Union is looking for volunteers to assist with running an after school
kids club at Westport Primary. Please see Pastor Mark for a flier if interested.

Name tags:
Please contact David Thompson if you have lost or need a name tag.

LCA Stamps for Mission
Don’t forget to save your used postage stamps and bring them to church and
put them in the box provided in the entryway. These used stamps will be sent
away to be cleaned to support LCA International mission programs and
projects.

LCA Tract Mission:
The Ladies Fellowship has generously selected and purchased a variety of
tracts for all occasions that can be used as an outreach resource for all our
members, friends and family. Please take a minute and peruse the display
and pick up some of these inspirational messages and notes for whatever
circumstances you or your loved ones may be facing or going thru at the
moment. We plan to keep the display stocked as new themes are announced.
 

Sermons:8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0
All past sermons are available to read on our web page.
stpetersptmacquarie.com
Stay connected with : Lutheran Media Livest reaming.
January Birthdays:
29 Geoff Rogers
 

birthday20 Karen Packer
22 Alex McGufficke
23 Kaye Molkentin

 

Web page. 
People who visited the website in the last week, including
35 Aust.
3 USA.
6 China.
1 Hong Kong.
1 Nigeria.
3 Germany.

 

We now have 99 followers.globe

2018:  2,515
2019:  1,864
2020: 2,496
2021:  2,036
2022:  2,660
2023:  165


Statistic:sitting

Sunday Service 22nd January. Attendance was 50

 

 

St Peters Chess Club:chess

Thursday 7 pm. @ the manse
Everyone welcome
All ages and playing levels welcome.

 

Notice:
Please send all information, comments, devotions, prayers to be included in the news letter to rherbig@tpg.com.au by Thursday in order to publish on Friday Thank you , Roy.
St. Peters Lutheran Church. 13 Kemp St. Port Macquarie. 2444. P.O. Box 5655.
stpetersptmacquarie.com

The Church and the Privacy Act:
1 The Church collects personal information about you before and during the course of your membership of the church
2 We may include your contact details in membership lists or other church publications. If you do not agree to this
You must advise us immediately.
3 Some of the information we collect is to satisfy the church’s legal obligation, and thereby to enable it to discharge It’s
duty of care.

Weekly Devotion:

When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they
will keep my name holy (Isaiah 29:23a).
Read Isaiah 29:9–24
I have really struggled with this text, trying to understand what is happening
here. The words used depict a situation that is not pleasing to God. Even the
way the people worship God is not acceptable – it is only based on human
rules, and the hearts of the people have strayed from God.
Some of you may remember the ‘worship wars’ that prevailed within our
church as new songs replaced old hymns and new forms of liturgy were developed. And the next thing we knew, sermons were no longer delivered
from the pulpit (my pastor even walks around when he preaches), and some
pastors stopped wearing those dress things we were familiar with. Then, of
course, we had the pandemic, and online worship was the order of the day,
opening up new vistas for mission and ministry within our communities.
We have developed new rules to suit new times. Our prayer must be that our
worship is acceptable and pleasing to God.
The exciting part of today’s reading is not about how far we have drifted
from God – evidenced in so many of the challenges that exist in society today – but rather, the promise, the hope, that with redemption comes transformation.
I long for the time when we see our children keeping God’s name holy and
standing in awe of our God, not to mention gaining understanding as they
seek instruction. May we as Christians be winsome and welcoming, so that
we see more people finding redemption and being transformed by God’s
saving grace. And may we continue to find new ways of sharing Christ’s
love within our community.

Lets Pray;
Transforming God, help us to be good ambassadors for you. You came to
us as a child of lowly parents. Open our hearts to see beyond the outside
trappings of worship and our church life and find new ways to share your
love. Grant us generous spirits so we can celebrate differences and rejoice
in changes and inclusiveness. Amen.

prayingSomething to think about:

think

As the year begins, I set my foot on a new pathway and move away from all
that has been holding me back. Negative thoughts and experiences are fading
from my reality. In their place, I fill my mind with thoughts that make me feel
good about myself as well as others. I welcome all the glorious gifts Life has
in store for me.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will
When the road your trudging seems all up hill
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worse, That you must not quit

Quiet Time
“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come
back to your work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at
work will cause you to lose power of judgment…Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more of it can be taken at a glance,
and lack of harmony or proportion is more readily seen.”

Hope is like a light shining in a dark place; we cannot have hope without
faith.
Peace passes all our human understanding; for peace, we need quiet minds
and open hearts.
Love places the needs of others above our own needs. God’s love for us does
not impose conditions or expectations. It’s a free gift for all.
Joy comes to us in unexpected ways when we most need it. We can delight in
all of the good gifts that God gives us every day, particularly God’s precious
son.

Our children need our presence more than our presents.
We can be sure of this:
The babe of Bethlehem, David’s son, is David’s Lord.
The son of Mary is the son of God. He was born at Bethlehem was named
Jesus — the one who came to save his people from their sins.
The only demands he makes is that we joyfully accept him in faith.

A good way to stop a red-hot argument is to lay a few cold facts on it.

Digging for facts is better than jumping to conclusions.

Dear Lord, do not make us like porridge, which is difficult to stir and slow
to serve. But more like Corn Flakes, crisp, fresh and ready to serve

He who loses money loses much, He who loses a friend loses more, But he
who loses faith loses all.
A small boy in Sunday school was asked what a lie was. He said, “A lie is an
abomination in the eyes of God.” Then he added, “And our very present help
in times of trouble!”

My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do
the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first
group; there was less competition there
The world’s best antidepressant has 4 legs, a wagging tail and comes with
unconditional love.

John Wesley was an incredible servant of God. His motto was “Do all the
good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the
places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as
you ever can.”
Once we assuage our conscience by calling something a “necessary evil”, it
begins to look more and more necessary and less evil.

Don’t always assume the other person has equal intelligence — They might
have more.
It has been estimated that in spite of all the combined efforts of all the
churches and missionary agencies put together, it is taking 1,000 Christians
an average of 365 days to win one person to Christ. This is not good
enough.

How can you remind yourself that nothing can separate you from Jesus’ love?
How can knowing this truth change the way you respond to life’s challenges?
“Courage is the finest of human qualities because it guarantees all the others.”
Winston Churchill.
Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves
on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is to small to be made into a
burden.
Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.
Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a centre of fear.
No matter what the circumstances, we always have
something -to be- thankful for.

Wi-fi went down for five minutes, so I had to talk to my family.
They seem like nice people.

A preacher made a statement in Hyde Park, “You must love the Lord with all
your heart.” A Heckler relied. “That’s rubbish. Science has proved that the
human heart is just a pump.” The preacher asked, “Are you married?” The
man said. “yes.” “Then go home and tell your wife you love her with all your
pump!”


The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

What do you mean we don’t communicate? Just yesterday I faxed you a
reply to the recorded message you left on my answerphone.

In the midst of your darkest moments, how do you typically respond?
Why is it so difficult to be honest about your struggles?
God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips,
and acts with a hand that never fails.
When God measures a man, he puts the tape around the heart instead of the
head.
God is more interested in making us what he wants us to be than giving us
what we think we ought to have
.

History is littered with examples of men who would become gods,
but only one example of God becoming man.
Genius has limits. Stupidity has no limits.
The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in
the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
Curious people ask questions. Determined people find answers.

Some people succeed because they are destined to, But most people succeed
because they are determined to.
Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and
hurry off as if nothing had happened.
God doesn’t command sinners to go to church, but he does command the
church to go to sinners.

For every problem under the sun there’s a solution or there is none.
If there’s a solution go and find it. If there isn’t never mind it.
A commitment is doing what you said you would do, long after the feeling
you said it in has passed.

Evangelism:
Jesus was born in a borrowed manager. He preached from a borrowed boat.
He entered Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, he ate the Last Supper in a
borrowed upper room and he was buried in a borrowed tomb. Now he asks
to borrow the lives of Christians to reach the rest of the world.
If we do not speak, then he is dumb and silent.

A missionary called John Vassar knocked on the door of a person’s home and
asked if she knew Christ. She said, “It’s none of your business!” and slammed
the door in his face. He stood on the doorstep and wept and wept. She was
looking out of her window at him weeping. The next Sunday she presented
herself for church membership. She said it was those tears.

Great faith is a product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of
great tests. Great triumphs can only come after great trials.
A belief is something you hold. A conviction is something that holds you.
People generally have too many opinions and not enough convictions.
Don’t criticise too quickly.
Even a clock that doesn’t work is right twice a day.

The most aggravating thing about the younger generation is that I no longer
belong to it. (Albert Einstein)
I finally got my head together. Now my body’s falling apart.

A preacher was completing a temperance sermon:
With great expression he said, “If I had all the beer in the world. I’d take it
and throw it into the river.” With even greater emphasis he said, “And if I
had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.” And
finally, he said, “and if I had all the whisky in the world, I’d take it and throw
it into the river.” He sat down. The song leader then stood very cautiously
and announced with a smile, “For our closing song, let us sing Hymn 365:
“Shall we gather at the river?”

We can never fully impact others to change if there is no evidence of change
in our lives.
The real problem of your leisure is how to keep other people from using it.
The best thing for grey hair is a sensible head.
God without man is still God. Man without God is nothing.
A steering committee is a group of four people trying to park a car.

 
A women was at work when she received a phone call telling her that her
daughter was ill. She left work and went to the pharmacist to buy some flu
medicine. Unfortunately, having done so, she returned to discover She’d
locked her car keys in the car.
She looked around for a rusty coat hanger, found one, but didn’t know how to
use it. So she bowed her head and prayed for help. Within seconds a scruffy
man appeared. She was so desperate she told him her plite and asked him, ”Do
you know how to break into a car with one of these?”
“Sure” said the man, and within a minute had opened the car door.
The woman hugged him and thanked him profusely. “Thank you so much,”
she said, “You are a nice man.” The man replied, “Lady, I am not a very nice
man. I just got out of prison today. I was in prison for car theft and have only
been out for one hour.”
“Thank you, Lord,” shouted the woman, “for sending me a professional!”
 
It’s what we do when we don’t succeed that determines whether we
will succeed.
Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things
turn out.
You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice
you have.
 
Measure wealth not by the things you have, but by the things you have for
which you would not take money
“I have disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I
wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I
had not given them a single cent, they would have been rich; and if they had
not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed.

 

The greatest undeveloped territory in the world lies under your hat.

A newly converted hippie was intently reading the Bible while waiting for
transportation and every now and then he would exclaim, “Alleluia, praise the
Lord, Amen” as he read on. A skeptic heard him and came and asked what he
was reading. He answered, “I am reading how God parted the Red Sea and let
the Israelites go through — that is a miracle!” The skeptic said, “Do not
believe everything the Bible tells you. The truth of the matter is that the body
of water was really only six inches deep — so it was no miracle.” The hippie
nodded in disappointment but kept on reading as the skeptic was walking away
feeling proud that he had set the hippie straight. All of a sudden the skeptic
heard the hippie let out a big “Alleluia, Praise the Lord.” At this the skeptic
came back to him and asked, “What is it this time?” The hippie said excitedly
in one breath, “ This one is a real miracle, God drowned the whole Egyptian
army in six inches of water!”
 
A renowned rabbi was travelling on a train. Three impudent youths decided
to intimidate the Jew. They each made fun of the rabbi.
“Good morning , Father Abraham!”
“Good morning, Father Isaac!”
“Good morning, Father Jacob!”

 

But to their surprise, the rabbi replied:
“I am none of these. I am, however, Saul, the son of Kish, who was in a
three-day search for the lost donkeys, and I am glad I’ve finally found them!”

“A mother’s love is everything. It is what brings a child into this world. It is
what molds their entire being. When a mother sees her child in danger, she is
literally capable of anything. Mothers have lifted cars off of their children and
destroyed entire dynasties. A mother’s love is the strongest energy known to
man.”
“When your mother asks, ‘Do you want a piece of advice?’ it’s a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.”
 
It is better to know some of the questions than to know all of the answers
The sad thing about trouble is that it often starts out as fun
Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.
Conflict: A friend of mine who is a pastor said this: “Whenever the conflict
gets too much in my church I go and visit the local kennels. There’s a whole
group there that’s always pleased to see me!”
 
A boy asked his father, “Dad, what is the size of God?”
The father looked up at the sky and saw a plane. He asked his son, “What is the size of this plane?”
The boy replied, “It is very small. I can hardly see it.”
Then the father took him to the airport. As they approached a plane, he asked, “Now son, how big is this plane?”
The boy replied, “Wow Dad, it’s huge”
The father then said, “God’s size to you depends on how close or far you are to Him. The closer you are to Him, the greater He will be in your life!”

 

plane


You can’t control the length of you life—

but you can control the width and depth.
You can’t control the contour of your face—
but you can control it’s expression.
You can’t control the weather—
but you can control the atmosphere of your mind.
Why worry about the things you can’t control when you can keep yourself
busy controlling the things that depend on you.

A Christian leader told a group of laymen who came to see him one day for
some advice. They wanted to know of a diplomatic way to get rid of their
pastor. The man sensing that they were not being fair, gave them some
suggestions:
1 Look your pastor straight in the eye while he is preaching and say amen once
in a while. He’ll preach himself to death.
2 Pat him on the back and tell him his good points. Before you know it,
He’ll work himself to death.
3 Rededicate your own life to Christ and ask your pastor for a job to do.
He’ll die of heart failure.
4 Get your church to unite in prayer for him. Soon he’ll become so effective
that a larger church will take him off your hands.
If your pastor faithfully preaches God’s Word and tries to live an exemplary
life, do all you can to support and encourage him. Of course, no pastor is perfect and sometimes a careful rebuke may be needed (1 Tim.5:20), but pastor
carries a big responsibility(Heb.13:17), and a faithful man of God is worthy of
loving respect and generous financial support (1 Tim.3:1; 5:17-18.
By the way, when did you last say to your pastor, “I’m grateful for you and all
you’ve done for me”?

But My Child
Lord, they don’t appreciate us!
But my child, who ever told you they would?
All the work we do, they just don’t understand what this job involves!
But my child, for whom are you working
There’s not enough money!
But my child, are you hungry? Have you nothing to wear?
There’s just not enough time to get everything done!
But my child, who is making out your work schedule?
I’m tired Lord, help me to keep going!
But my Child, will you never learn to rest in me?
Too many of those who bear your name no longer feel any urgency to serve!
But my Child, do I require you to carry their load or do their work?
Lord the lost don’t want to hear! They want to be left alone!
But my Child, what if you were yet lost and did not want to hear?
Lord, will you help me through the day?
But my Child, have I not helped you through all the days since you became
mine?
Did you not expect me to be here today?
My Child, all things are mine to give and all things are yours in me.

Ten people talked three million Israelites out of entering the Promise Land —
That’s how dangerous a vocal minority can be.
“I hope you didn’t take it personally, Reverend,” an embarrassed woman said
after a church service, “when my husband walked out during your sermon.”
“I did find it rather disconcerting,” the minister replied. “ It’s not a reflection
on you, sir,” insisted the churchgoer. “Ralph has been walking in his sleep
ever since he was a child.”

Take time to THINK…It is the source of power.
Take time to PLAY…It is the secret of perpetual youth.
Take time to READ…It is the fountain of wisdom.
Take time to PRAY…It is the greatest power on earth.
Take time to LOVE and BE LOVED…It is a God-given privilege.
Take time to BE FRIENDLY…It is the road to happiness.
Take time to LAUGH…It is the music of the soul.
Take time to GIVE…It is too short a day to be selfish.
Take time to WORK…It is the price of success’
Take time to DO CHARITY…It is the KEY TO HEAVEN.

Resiliency is an important factor in living. The winds of life may bend us,
but if we have resilience of Spirit, they cannot break us. To courageously
straighten again after our heads have been bowed by defeat, disappointment
and suffering, is the supreme test of character.

Perseverance is the most overrated of traits: if it is unaccompanied by talent,
beating your head against a wall is more likely to produce a concussion in
the head than a hole in the wall.
When you talk, you repeat what you already know. When you listen,
you often learn something.
The grace of listening is lost if the listener’s attention is demanded,
not as a favour, but as a right

It’s not how much of my money I give to God, but how much of his money I
keep for myself.
Or as sometimes put more bluntly, It’s all right to give God credit,
but He can use cash too.
You know, they say you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead,
and have it waiting to your credit when you get there. (R.G.LeTourneau)
There is always free cheese in the mouse trap.

When you go to church this Sunday and you feel that old temptation to point
out what’s wrong with the place: the coffee’s luke warm, the lights are too
bright, the temperature is wrong, the music is too loud and, of course, you
don’t know the songs.
Remember in that moment, there’s a Ukrainian church gathering in subway
tunnels to worship while bombs blast overhead. No coffee, no instruments, no
leader pushing them to worship, they’re down there in real time and in real
life worshiping the King above Kings as their world is crumbling down.

A minister waited in line to have his car filled with fuel just before a long
holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars
ahead of him in front of the service station. Finally the attendant motioned
him toward a vacant pump. “Reverend,” said the young man, “Sorry about
the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a
long trip.” The minister chuckled. “I know what you mean.
It’s the same in my business.”


If the request is wrong, God says, “No.”

If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.”
If you are wrong, God says, “Grow.”
But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right ,
God says, “GO.”
Anyone can make a mistake; only a fool will persist in it.
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will
make one.

Think about this;trust
How does the thief on the cross fit into your theology? No baptism, no
communion, no confirmation, no speaking in tongues, no mission trip, no
volunteerism, and no church clothes.
He couldn’t even bend his knees to pray.
He didn’t say the sinner’s prayer and among other things, he was a thief.
Jesus didn’t take away his pain, heal his body, or smite the scoffers. Yet it
was a thief who walked into heaven the same hour as Jesus simply by believing.
He had nothing more to offer other than his belief that Jesus was who he
said he was.
No spin from brilliant theologians.
No ego or arrogance.
No Shiny lights, skinny jeans, or crafty words.
No haze machine, donuts, or coffee in the entrance.
Just a naked dying man on a cross unable to even fold his hands to pray.”
For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believed in him would not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
I read this today and was reminded of the simplicity of the Gospel.

John McLean.

As has often been said, ‘The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence
– it is greener where we water it.’ In fact, ‘If the grass looks greener, it’s
probably AstroTurf!

The good opinion of honest men, wherever they may be born or happen to
reside, is the only kind of reputation a wise man would ever desire.
A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in
temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.
Our grand business in life is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do
what lies ahead.
The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.

Just because you are doing a lot more doesn’t mean you are getting a lot
done. Don’t confuse movement with progress!
The driver is safer when the roads are dry,
The roads are safer when the driver is dry.
Two women were discussing the virtues of their mates. “Yes, my Harry is
just the best,” said Louise. “I remember before we were married he said he
liked a cigar after a good meal, but he hasn’t smoked in years

 

But just as quantity wins respect and honour for a church, it is qualitythat provides a church with safety and Protection.

He who chops his own wood warms himself twice

A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was
short of time and couldn’t find a space with a meter. So he put a note under
the windshield wiper that read: If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment,
FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.
When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this
note. I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose
my job. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you;
that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.

A six-year old girl had been so naughty that her mother decided to teach her a
lesson. She told her she couldn’t go to the school fair.
Then when the day came, her mother felt she had been to harsh and changed
her mind. When she told the girl she could go to the school fair, the child’s
reaction was one of gloom and disappointment. “What’s the matter? I thought
you’d be glad to go to the school fair,” her mother said. “It’s too late!” the
little girl said. “I’ve already prayed for rain, storms and thunder!”

Knowing that the pastor was very fond of cherry brandy, one of the Church
Elders offered to present him with a bottle on one consideration — that the
pastor acknowledge receipt of the gift in the church paper.
“Gladly” responded the good man.
When the church magazine came out a few days later, the elder turned at once
to the “appreciation” column.
There he read: “ the pastor extends his thanks to Elder Brown for his gift of
fruit and for the spirit in which it was given.”

After service one Sunday morning a mother commented, “The choir was awful this morning.”
The father commented, “The sermon was too long.” Their seven year old
daughter added,
“But you’ve got to admit it was a pretty good show for 20c”
Brains and beauty are God’s gift; Character is your own achievement.

I can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because the thorn
bush has a rose. — It’s all up to me.
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders,
but they have never failed to imitate them.
Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the
temperature of the heart.

Jesus:
It has been said that Socrates and Aristotle each taught for 40 years, Plato for
50 years, but Jesus for only three. Yet his influence far surpasses the combined
130 years of teaching by these men who are acknowledged as the greatest philosophers of all antiquity. He painted no pictures, yet the finest paintings of
Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci received their illumination
from Him. He wrote no poetry, yet Dante, Milton and others of the world’s
greatest poets were inspired by him. He composed no music, yet Haydn, Handel, Beethoven and Bach reached their highest perfection in hymns, symphonies and oratorios composed in His honour. Jesus is quite simply the greatest
teacher who ever lived.

Bible:
They lie on the table side by side. The Holy Bible and the TV guide.
One is well worn and cherished with pride. Not the Bible, but the TV guide.
One is used daily to help folks decide. No, not the Bible, but the TV guide.
As the pages are turned, what shall we see?
Oh, what does it matter, turn on the TV.
So they open the book in which they confide. No, not the Bible, but the TV
guide.
The word of God is seldom read. Maybe a verse before they fall into bed.
Exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be. Not from reading the Bible,
from watching TV.
So then back to the table side by side, Lie the Holy Bible and the TV guide.
No time for prayer, no time for the word, The plan of Salvation is seldom
heard.
But forgiveness of sin, so full and free. Is found in the Bible, not on TV.

Overwork.
For a couple of years I’ve been blaming it on lack of sleep and too much
pressure from my job, but now I’ve found out the real reason:
I am tired because I am overworked.
The population of this country is 58 million. 24 million are retired. That
leaves 34 million to do the work.
There are 20 million at school, which leaves 14 million to do the work. Of
this there are 7.5 million employed by the government, leaving 6.5 million to
do the work. 2.7 million are in the armed forces, which leaves 3.8 million to
do the work.
Take from the total the 3,770,000 people who work for local authorities and
that leaves 30,000 to do the work. At any given time there are 20,000 people
in hospital, leaving 10,000 to do the work.
Now there are 9,998 people in prison. That leaves just two people to do the
work. You and me.
And you’re sitting here reading jokes.

The hinge of history is to be found on the door of a Bethlehem stable.
It was Christmas and the judge was in a merry mood as he asked the
prisoner, “What are you charged with?”
“Doing my Christmas shopping early,” replied the defendant.
“That’s no offence,” said the judge. “ How early were you Shopping?”
“Before the store opened,” answered the defendant.

Men and Women are able creatures; we have made over 32million laws and
haven’t yet improved on the Ten Commandments.
Guidance means I can count on God.
Commitment means God can count on me.
Intentions may be written in pencil, commitments should be carved in stone.

When we learn Something new, the connections between our brain cells are
increased.

The principal hindrance to the advancement of the kingdom of God is greed.
It is the chief obstacle to heaven sent revival. It seems that when the back of
greed is broken, your human spirit soars in regions of unselfishness. I believe
it is safe to say there can be no continuous revival without `hilarious` giving.
And the I fear no contradiction; wherever there is `hilarious` giving there will
be continuous revival. (O S Hawkins)
Biblical charity is more than giving that which we could afford to do without.

Never stop learning how to learn.

The ultimate measure of a
person is not where they stand
in moments of comfort and
convenience, but where they
stand in times of challenge
and controversy.
The first half of our lives
we’re romantic. The second
half we’re rheumatic.
The most significant achievement of our age is not that man stood on the
moon, but rather that God in Christ stood upon this earth.

Father was approached by his small son, who told him proudly,
“I know what the Bible means!”
His father smiled and replied, “What do you mean, you ‘know’ what the
Bible means?”
The son replied, “I do know!” “Ok,” said his father. “So, son, what does the Bible mean?”
That’s easy, Daddy. It stands for ‘Basic Information Before Leaving Earth’.”

 

Three vicars were having lunch together. One said, “You know since summer started I’ve been having trouble with bats at church. I’ve tried everything — noise, spray, cats — nothing seems to scare them away.” Another said, “Yes, me to. I’ve got hundreds living in my belfry. I’ve even had the place fumigat-ed, and they still won’t go away.”
The third said, “I baptised all mine, and made them members of the church…. Haven’t seen one back since!”

A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside.
The pastor said to him, “You need to join the army of the Lord!”
My friend replied, “I’m already in the army of the Lord, pastor.” The pastor questioned, “How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?”
He whispered back, “ I’m in the secret service.”

Do you know the difference between education and experience? Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don’t.
Robert Frost wrote. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”
What road are you on?
A gang of eight year old boys found a dead bird. Feeling that a proper burial should be performed, they secured a small box, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased. The minister’s son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said, “Glory be unto the Faaaather, and unto the Sonnn…and into the hole you goooo.”

think

Change the way you think of things and the things you think of will change.
The best vitamin for making friends is…..B1
Humility is to receive praise and to pass it on to God untouched.
Humility is like underwear. We should all have it but not let it show.
God created the world out of nothing, and as long as we are nothing, he can make something out of us. (Martin Luther.)

Humility is to receive praise and to pass it on to God untouched.
It is not a great thing to be humble when you are brought low, but to be
humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment
Two men are being chased by a bear when one stops to put on his trainers.
The other man yells, “You idiot! You can’t outrun a bear!” The first man gasps, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you!:

A woman approached the minister after the sermon, and thanked him for his talk. “I found it so helpful,” she said.
The minister replied: “I hope it will not prove as helpful as the last sermon you heard me preach.”
“Why, what do you mean?” asked the astonished woman.
“Well,” said the minister, “ that sermon lasted you three months.”

One summer evening during a violent thunderstorm a mother was tucking her son into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice, “Mummy, will you sleep in my bed tonight?” His mother smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. “I can’t dear,” she said. “I have to sleep in Daddy’s room.”
A long silence was broken at last by his shaky little voice. “The big sissy.”
The new father, beside himself with excitement over the birth of his son, was determined to follow all the rules to the letter. “So, tell me, nurse,” he said. “what time should we wake the little guy in the morning?”

When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life in a manner so that when you die the world cries and you rejoice.
While on a long car journey, a couple stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. The woman unfortunately left her sunglasses on the table, but didn’t miss them until they were back on the motorway. By then, they had to travel to the next junction before they could turn around.
The man fussed and complained all the way back to the restaurant.
When they finally arrived, as the woman got out of the car to find her sun-glasses, the man said, “While you’re in there, you may as well get my hat,too.”

The wheel was man’s greatest invention… until he got behind it.
A small boy is sent to bed by his father.
Five minutes later… “Da-ad…” “What?”
“I’m thirsty. Can you bring me a drink of water?”
“No. You had your chance, Lights out.”
Five minutes later: “Da-aaad…” “What?”
“I’m THIRSTY. Can I have a drink of water?”
“I told you NO! If you ask again, I’ll have to discipline!” you!”
Five minutes later… “Daaa-aaad…” “What!”
“When you come in to discipline me, can you bring a drink of water?”

There was a preacher who entered his pulpit one Sunday morning and said:
“Oh Lord, give thy servant this mornin’ the eyes of the eagle and the wisdom of the owl; connect his soul with the gospel telephone in the skies; illuminate his brow with the Sun of Heaven; possess his mind with love for the people; turpentine his imagination; grease his lips with possum oil; electrify his brain with lightnin’ of the Word; put perpetual motion in his arms; fill him plumb full of dynamite of Thy glory; anoint him all over with kerosene of salvation, and set him on fire. Amen!”

If you are suffering from tooth decay you should consult your dentist.
If you are suffering from truth decay, you should consult your Bible.

If you had a bank that credited your account with $86,000, that carried over no balance from day to day, allowed you to keep no cash in your account, and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day, what would you do?
Draw out every dollar every day, of course, and use it to your advantage! Well, you have such a bank, and its name is TIME!
Every morning it credits you with 86,000 seconds. Every night it rules off as lost whatever of this you failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balances, it allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow.

Martin Luther King said,
‘On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?”
Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And
Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?”
But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”

When criticised, try to remember an important truth from John Bunyan:
“ If my life is fruitless, it doesn’t matter who praises me, and
If my life is fruitful, it doesn’t matter who criticises me.”
Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish one’s growth without destroying one’s roots

When life seems dark, choose joy. Let your smile be a win-dow of hope reflecting God’s love and the light of his pres-ence in your life.

If we discovered that we had five minutes left to say all we wanted to say,
every telephone line would be occupied by people calling other people to
stammer that they love them.
Why wait until the last five minutes

Discussion is an exchange of knowledge;
Argument is an exchange of ignorance.
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak;
Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
A young man said to his father at breakfast one morning, “Dad, I’m going to get married.” “How do you know you’re ready to get married?” asked the
Father. “Are you in love?” “I sure am,” said the son. “How do you know you’re in love?” asked the father. “Last night as I was kissing my girlfriend goodnight, her dog bit me and I didn’t feel the pain until I got home.”

A local priest and rabbi were fishing by the side of the road. After some discussion they thoughtfully made a sign saying, “The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it’s to late!” and showed it to each passing car.
One driver that drove by didn’t appreciate the sign and shouted at them: “Leave us alone, you religious nuts!” Shortly afterwards they heard a big splash. They looked at each other and the priest said to the rabbi, “You think we should just put up a sign that says ‘Bridge Out’instead?”

The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted it on the tray, “Take only one. God is watching.” Moving further along the lunch line was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. One child whispered to another, “Take all you want, God is watching the apples.”
A Rabbi said to a precocious six year old boy: “So your mother says your prayers for you each night? Very commendable . What does she say?” The little boy replied, “Thank God he’s in bed!”

The only ones among you who will be really happy arethink
those who will have sought and found how to serve.
A teenage boy has just passed his driving test and asked his father when they could discuss his use of the car? His father says he’ll make a deal: “You bring your grades up from C to a B average, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.” Done! After about six weeks, his father says: “Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t had your hair cut.” The boy says, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair, and there’s strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.”
“Yes,” replies his father. “But did you also notice they all walked everywhere
they went

 

A minister was being constantly criticized by a member of his congregation.
After six months of this the poor man could stand it no more. He went out on a hot summer’s afternoon for a drive in the countryside. He wound down the window and after about an hour of driving began to feel much better. Driving down a narrow country lane, however, he was horrified to see a car careering towards him out of control. As it approached, he realized with even greater horror that the lady driving the car was the very woman who had been
harassing him.
As they passed within an inch of each other, the woman shouted the word “PIG!”
Months of built-up tension got the better of the minister and he shouted back, “COW!” Then he drove around the corner and hit the pig.

A new bishop was visiting the homes in the village. At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks on the door.
Therefore, he took out a business card and wrote “Revelation 3:20” on the back and stuck it under the door.
The following Sunday he found that his card had been returned to his office door. Added to it was this cryptic message, “Genesis3:10.”
Reaching for his Bible to check out the verse, he broke up in gales of laughter
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked: so I hid.”

Let us not get tired of doing what is right, for after a while we will reap a
harvest of blessing if we don’t get discouraged and give up. Galatians 6:9
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.

Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half is composed of those who have nothing to say and keep on saying it

During the minister’s prayer one Sunday, there was a loud whistle from one of the back pews. Gary’s mother was horrified. She pinched him into silence, and after church, asked: “Gary, whatever made you do such a thing?” Gary answered soberly: “I asked God to teach me to whistle…And He just did!”

Yesterday is gone. Today is here. Tomorrow isn’t promised.
Enjoy the blessings that God has already provided and prepare yourself for what He has planned for you.

If you’re grateful for what you have and you focus on the positives, it has
tremendous benefits for heart health, mental health, and reducing stress.


Stories of Life is an annual writing competition that calls on Australian writers to share a personal story of faith in one of three categories: under 18 years of age, open category under 500 words, and open category under 1500 words. The best 50 stories are published each year in an anthology and many are also recorded and read on different Christian radio stations. The deadline for this year is the end of July. If you have a story to tell, ask Pastor Mark about
Stories of Life, as he is on the steering committee and is one of the editors. He would be happy to help you get started.

Two elderly couples were chatting together. One of the men asked the other. “Fred, how was your visit to the memory clinic last month?”
“Outstanding. They taught us some of the latest techniques for remembering things. It was great.”
“What was the name of the clinic?” asked the other man.
Fred’s mind went blank. Then he smiled and asked, “What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?” “A Rose?” “Yes!”
He turned to his wife: “Rose, what was the name of that memory clinic?”

M-O-T-H-E-R
“M” is for the million things she gave me,
“O” means only that she’s growing old,
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me,
“H” is for her heart of purest gold,
“E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
“R” means right, and right she’ll always be,
Put them all together, they spell
MOTHER A word that means the world to me

covid

Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of
Ice cream fall from the cone

Ever notice that anyone driving slower than you is an idiot,
but anyone going faster than you is a maniac
Action:
Did is a word of achievement Won’t is a word of retreat
Might is a word of bereavement Can’t is a word of defeat
Ought is a word of duty Try is a word for each hour
Will is a word of beauty Can is a word of power.

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How?
because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it.
Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison.
They would not have endured that if it weren’t true.
Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks.
You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years?
Absolutely impossible.” Charles Colson.

If a matter is not serious enough to pray about, then it is not serious enough to worry about; and if it is serious enough to pray about, and we have prayed about it, then there is no need to worry about it.

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was diffi-cult to change the world, so I tried to change the nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation. I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realise the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realise that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town, Their im-pact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

What You Give to God, He Multiplies
Hattie May Wiatt, a six-year-old girl, lived near Grace Baptist Church in Phil-adelphia, USA. The Sunday school was very crowded. Russell H. Conwell, the minister, told her that one day they would have buildings big enough to allow everyone to attend. She said, ‘I hope you will. It is so crowded I am afraid to go there alone.’ He replied, ‘When we get the money we will construct one large enough to get all the children in.’
Two years later, in 1886, Hattie May died. After the funeral Hattie’s mother gave the minister a little bag they had found under their daughter’s pillow con-taining 57 cents in change that she had saved up. Alongside it was a note in her handwriting: ‘To help build bigger building so that more children can go to Sunday school.’
The minister changed all the money into pennies and offered each one for sale. He received $250 – and 54 of the cents were given back. The $250 was itself changed into pennies and sold by the newly formed ‘Wiatt Mite Society’. In this way, her 57 cents kept on multiplying.
Twenty-six years later, in a talk entitled, ‘The history of the 57 cents’, the min-ister explained the results of her 57-cent donation: a church with a membership of over 5,600 people, a hospital where tens of thousands of people had been treated, 80,000 young people going through university, 2,000 people going out to preach the gospel – all this happened ‘because Hattie May Wiatt invested her 57 cents’.
The theme of multiplication runs throughout the Bible. What cannot be achieved by addition, God does by multiplication. You reap what you sow, only many times more. What you give to the Lord, he multiplies.

A couple was invited to dinner by their elderly neighbours. The old gentle-man endearingly preceded every request to his wife with “Honey”, “Darling”, “Sweetheart”, “Pumpkin”, etc.
The neighbours were impressed since the couple had been married for almost 70 years.
While the wife was off in the kitchen, the neighbour said to the gentleman,
“I think it’s wonderful that after all the years you’ve been married, you still refer to your wife in those terms.” The elderly gentleman hung his head. “Actually, forgot the old lady’s name about ten years ago.”

Compassion:
A little boy about ten years old was standing before a shoe store on the road-way, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, “My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in the window?” “I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” was the boy’s reply.
The lady took him by the hand and went into the store and asked the assistant to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could get her a basin of water and a towel.
He brought them to her. She took the little boy to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried with a towel. By this time the assistant had returned with the socks
Placing a pair on the boy’s feet, she bought him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, “No doubt. My little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?”
As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears in his eyes, answered the question with these words: “Are you God’s wife?”

A kindergarten teacher was walking around observing her classroom of children while they were drawing pictures. As she got to one girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.
The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”
The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”
Without looking up from her drawing, the girl replied,
“They will in a minute.”

A smile is a light in the window of a face which shows that the heart is at home.

Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.

Life:
Perhaps when we grow very old, our bodies get worn out, or certain parts break down, like … an old car.
None of us can be sure of how long we live… I think we should try not to think too much about dying but
Think about all the nice things around us that make life so precious to us all.

A vision without a task is a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery.
But the two together are the hope of the world.
A young and foolish pilot wanted to sound cool and show who was boss on the aviation frequencies.
So, the first time he approached an airfield at night, instead of making his
official request to the tower, he said: “Guess who?”
The controller switched the field lights off and replied: “Guess where!”

 

Two boys were walking home from church after hearing a strong preach-ing on the devil. One said to the oth-er, “What do you think about all this Satan Stuff?”
The other boy replied, “Well, you know how Santa Claus turned out. It’s Probably just your dad.”

Home is where the heart is….
Because of the shortage near a military base where he was stationed, a young doctor and his wife and three children had to live in cramped quarters in a
hotel. A friend said to the doctor’s six year old daughter, “Isn’t it too bad that you don’t have a home?”
“Oh we have a home,” the youngster quickly replied, “We just don’t have a house to put it in.”

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You
sit still and trust the engineer.
You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.

Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love.
Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked
that means pain.
There are two things we can do when this happens.
We can kill that love so that it stops hurting.
But then of course part of us dies, too.
Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.

‘Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time.’
Trust God and learn to live one day at a time.

An old dollar bill and an even older $20 arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired.
“I’ve had a pretty good life,” the $20 says. “I’ve been to Vegas, the finest restaurants in New York, and even on a Caribbean cruise.”
“You did have an exciting life!” the dollar says.
“Where have you been?” the $20 asks.
“Oh, I’ve been to the Methodist church, the Baptist church, spent some time with the Lutherans…”
“Wait,” the $20 interrupts. “What’s a church?”

“Do not resist growing old— many are denied the privilege.”
“One of the pleasures of old age is giving things up”
Abraham waited for 25 years. Joseph waited 13 years.
Moses waited 40 years. Jesus waited 30 years.

If God makes you wait, you are in good company.!!!!

If you’re ever headed the wrong way in life, remember the road to Heaven allows U-turns

Known by the Almighty:
Though you are one of the teeming millions in this world, and though the world would have you believe that you don’t count and that you are but a speck in the mass,
God says, “I know you.”

Our lives as Books:
There are people in the world around us who have never opened or read a
Bible. — But are they reading us.
Are they able to say of us to others “That man, that woman reminds me of Jesus?”
Do we let our light so shine that men may see, not us, but our Father in
Heaven?
This is the real test.

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.
(James 3:18)
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1.)

Something to think about:
Mr. Smith,
I am pleased to inform you that I have made arrangements to pay off all your debts in full. I cannot proceed without your consent, however, and I ask that you contact me as soon as possible to receive your gift.
Your loving Servant. Jesus

Kindness:
You never really know the true impact you have on those around you.
You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them.
You never know how much your kindness turned someone’s entire life around.
You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk.
So! Don’t wait to be kind, don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change.
Just be kind. Because you never know how much someone needed it.

Time:
We don’t need to fear that there is not enough time, but we only need to remember to appreciate the time God gives us.

Sacrifice.
In 1937, a man by the name of John Griffiths found a job tending one of the railroad bridges that crossed the Mississippi River. Every day he would control the gears of the bridge to allow barges and ships through.
One day John decided to allow his eight-year-old son Greg to help him. He and his boy packed their lunches with great excitement and hopes for the fu-ture and went to work. The morning went quickly and at noon they headed off for lunch, down a narrow catwalk onto an observation platform about 50 feet above the Mississippi. John told his son stories about the ships as they passed by. Suddenly, they were jolted back to reality by the shrill sound of an engine’s whistle.
Looking at his watch, John realized to his horror that it was 1.07 pm, that the Memphis Express was due any time and that the bridge was still raised.
He calmly told Greg to stay put and then ran back to the controls.
Once there he looked beneath the bridge to make sure there was nothing
below. As his eyes moved downwards he saw something so terrible that he froze. For there, lying on the gears, was his beloved son.
Greg had tried to follow his dad but had fallen off the catwalk. Immediately, John realized the horrifying choice before him: either to lower the bridge and kill his son, or keep the bridge raised and kill everyone on board the train.
As 400 people moved closer to the bridge, John realized what he had to do. Burying his face under his arm, he plunged down the lever. The cries of his son were instantly drowned out by the noise of the bridge grinding slowly into position.
John wiped the tears from his eyes as the train passed by. A Conductor was collecting tickets in his usual way. A Businessman was casually reading the newspaper. Ladies were drinking afternoon tea. Children were playing. Most of the passengers were engaged in idle chatter.
No one heard the cries of a heartbroken father.

A LITTLE EXTRA FROM THE PAST.

paul

change

Never Argue with Children.
A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small. The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it is physically impossible. The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah.” The teacher asked. “What if Jonah went to hell?” The little girl replied, “Then you ask him.”

Storms
Did you know that an Eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before
it breaks?
The Eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come.
When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the Eagle is soaring above it. The Eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.
When the storms of life come upon us – and all of us will experience them – we can rise above them setting our minds and our belief toward God.
The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God’s power to lift us above them. God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment in our lives. We can soar above the storm.
Remember, it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, it is how we han-dle them.
“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like Eagles” Isaiah 40:31

Beginnings:
Begin difficult things while they are easy, Do great things when they are small,
The difficult things of the world must have once been easy:
The great things must have been small ..,
A thousand mile journey begins with one step.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Some-body would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that
Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Goliath

hope2

Now that’s rediculious!!

pipes

crosstalk

                   

                           7th November 2021
                    24th Sunday after Pentecost 
                    Todays service will be held @ 9am240_F_76080180_liQGKxJWSP7v8T8VjQObFV8OCVG9RLU3
         If you are in Port Macquarie you are very welcome.
               Service will be lead by: Dr. Gordon Watson
                                       The theme;
“If

 

              Sunday 7th November
              Pentecost 24
Worship Service led by: Dr. Gordon Watsongordon5
Holy Communion: Dr. Gordon Watson
Communion Assistant: David Thompson
Communion Prep.: David Thompson
Bible Readings: David Thompson
1st Reading: 1King 17:8-16 Elijah and the widow of Zarephath
2nd Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28 Christ’s sacrifice takes away sins
Gospel: Mark 12:38-44 The widow’s generous offering
Prayers lead by: Derryl Huf
Stewards: Joan Watson and Dale Ampt
Music: Narelle
Audio/ Computer: Tayte Schultz

                    Next Sunday 14th November
                     Pentecost 25
Worship Service led by: John McLeanjohnmac
Holy Communion: David Pfeiffer
Communion Assistant: Dr. Gordon Watson
Communion Prep.: David Thompson
Bible Readings: Jenelle Frances
1st Reading: Daniel 12:1-3 The time of the end
2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:11-14(15-18)19-25 Let us confidently draw near to God
Gospel: Mark 13:1-8 Signs of the end of the age
Prayers lead by: Dr. Gordon Watson
Stewards: Don and Carol Mclean
Music: Daryll and Lloyd
Audio/ Computer: David Pfeiffer

Notice:

syringe2

                  

                           St Peters Lutheran Church:
Condition of entry.pipes
The Use of QR COVID Safe Check-in is a requirement.
Masks must be worn at all times.
COVID Marshal 12-09-2021

                        

 

In our thoughts and Prayers:praying
John McLean,
Rosemary Conran,
Kathy Mitchell,
Renate Radmacher,
Jenny Montgomery,
Tony Koch,
Aileen Huf,
Bob Rayward,
Helga Mathies,
Clive Reeve.
Carole Rogers.
Christine Kurteff.

bible

 

Bible Study:
7.30 Tuesday night @ Kemp St.
Stay connected with : Lutheran Media Livestreaming.
https://www.livestream.com/luthworship

Church Stewards:
Please make sure all attendees sanitise, sign-in and supervise 1.5 m rule.
Roster:
Church Cleaning:
November: Corrine McLean
Cleaners please wash hands before and after cleaning and wear gloves.

Roster: Morning tea:cuppa
NO MORNING TEA DUE TO C19

Catch-Up Coffee:
Friday, 12th November, 10 am.at Rivermark
Interested people please contact Carol McLean 0427832156

Ladies fellowship:
Meeting Wednesday 10th November. 12pm at the Church.
Please note the AGM will be held with this meeting.
BYO lunch and drink and don’t forget your mask.


Sermons
:8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0

All past sermons are available to read on our web page.
stpetersptmacquarie.com
Stay connected with : Lutheran Media Livest reaming.


October/November Birthdays:
birthday
24 Lloyd Reichelt
24 Jasper Schultz
29 Ben Clarke

 

Web page. 
People who visited the website in the last week, including
32 Aust
globe19 USA
2 UK
2 Canada
1 Austria 1
1 Ecuador
4 Phillipines.
We now have 87 followers.

2018:  2,515
2019:  1,864
2020:  2,496
2021:  1,735


Statistic:

Sunday Service 31st October Attendance was 29
sitting

 

Notice:

Memorial Rite for Those Who Have Died In the Faith of Christ
(You are invited to come forward at the beginning of Sundays worship service and light a candle from the Baptismal candle remem-bering those dear to you with whom you are now united in Christ in the church triumphant.)

 

Living Waters:
Please remember to bring your Living Waters Art for display on this Sunday

Notice:
Please send all information, comments, devotions, prayers to be included in the news letter to rherbig@tpg.com.au by Thursday in order to publish on Friday Thank you , Roy.
St. Peters Lutheran Church. 13 Kemp St. Port Macquarie. 2444. P.O. Box 5655.
stpetersptmacquarie.com

Responding to Sexual Abuse Complaints:
A confidential service for responding to complaints of sexual abuse/harassment by church employees has been set up. Trained advisors are available to help.
Write to the Supervisor P.O. Box 519. Marden SA. 5070, or use the free call number 1800644628
The Church and the Privacy Act:
1 The Church collects personal information about you before and during the course of your membership of the church
2 We may include your contact details in membership lists or other church publications. If you do not agree to this
You must advise us immediately.
3 Some of the information we collect is to satisfy the church’s legal obligation, and thereby to enable it to discharge It’s duty of care.

 

 

Stories of Life 2021 Book Launch:
When Pastor Mark was visiting us back in June, he encouraged all of us tothe lab write our story of faith and submit them for the chance of being selected for publication. This book is being launched on Thursday evening, 4 November via Zoom from SA.
Five members from our congregation took up the challenge and submitted their sto-ries and ALL five stories have been selected for the book! Congratulations to Aileen Huf, Jenelle Francis, Ivan Francis, Tony Koch, and Sherry Thompson. The 2021 Stories of Life, Labyrinth, will be available to purchase for $20 and has over 50 stories to inspire and encourage our faith.
To save postage, Pastor Mark has offered to bring them with him when he visit in January. If you require the book before then, you can order and pay $8 per book postage (if same address, $8 first book and $2 thereafter). Please advise David Pfeiffer if you wish to purchase a copy or copies and want to wait for the January delivery.

 

St Peters Chess Club:chess

Thursday from 6 – 7.30 pm.
Everyone welcome

Weekly Devotion:

Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! (Psalm 119:5).
Read Psalm 119:1–8
Are you everything you would like to be? More importantly, are you every-thing God would like you to be? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Most of us long to be better, to be as God wants us to be, and we are so aware of our shortcom-ings. Can we be blessed by God when we keep failing to measure up?
The opening verses of Psalm 119 have two parts. The first describes those who are blessed. They ‘walk according to the law of the Lord’ (verse 1b); ‘they do nothing wrong’ (verse 3a). Do such people actually exist? If they do, the psalmist says in the second part, ‘I wish I was one of them’. He acknowl-edges that he falls short. ‘Oh, that my ways were steadfast’ (verse 5) is the aspiration he expresses. I don’t know about you, but I identify with that sec-ond part. I long to be blessed.
It’s hard to read the Old Testament without reading it through a ‘Jesus lens’. Jesus says that these are blessed: the poor in spirit, the mourners needing comfort, the meek, the ones hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merci-ful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted because of righteousness (Matthew 5:1–10). The Jesus lens tells us more. It tells us that he gave his life to pay for all shortcomings, even for the very worst. To you and me, he says that he loves us unconditionally. And because of that, we are blessed. That’s the essence of the Reformation message on which we re-flect tomorrow. We are blessed; now, we are called and equipped to live the blessed life.
The psalmist knew the two-part battle. I’m sure you do too. You are a child of God, so you are blessed. Live as a blessed one!
Prayer:

Bless me, Lord God. Shine the cross of Jesus before my eyes. Help me to

                 Something to think about:think

A father was approached by his small son, who told him proudly,

“I know what the Bible means!”
His father smiled and replied, “What do you mean, you ‘know’ what the
Bible means?”
The son replied, “I do know!” “Ok,” said his father. “So, son, what does the Bible mean?”
That’s easy, Daddy. It stands for ‘Basic Information Before Leaving Earth’.”

A woman was mailing an old family Bible to her brother in another part of the country.
“Is there anything breakable in here?” asked the postal clerk.
“Only the Ten Commandments,” answered the woman.

Can you say today that you have learned to be content in whatever state you find yourself? If you cannot, ask yourself, “What am I doing and why am I doing it?”
Are you able to say, “I’m doing it because the Lord has called me and because of the love and relationship I have with him. Whether it succeeds or fails is of no consequence to me. What is important to me is that I’m doing what the Lord has called me to do.”
That is the secret of contentment.

Jesus begins his work.

MATTHEW 4:12  Jesus, having heard that John had been imprisoned, withdrew8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0 into Galilee.
13And having left Nazareth He went and lived in Capernaum by the seaside in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali,
14in order that it may be fulfilled what had been said through Isaiah the prophet:

15 Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

way of the sea across from the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

16 The people dwelling in darkness and gloom have seen a great light

And among those dwelling in the field of the shadow of death

A light has risen for them

17From then Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” 18Then walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and Andrew, his brother, casting a large fish net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And Jesus said to them ‘Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of people.’ 20And they immediately left their nets and followed Him. 21And moving on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with their father Zebedee, repairing their nets, and Jesus called them. 22And they immediately left the boat and their father and followed Him. 23And Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom and healing every sickness and every infirmity among the people.

Apparently, as seen from space, Las Vegas is the brightest city in the world. In New York City, Times Square is home to the ABC ‘SuperSign’ a whopping 3,685-square foot screen with wavy LED ribbons. The Eiffel Tower in France is illuminated by 20,000 bulbs. Closer to home the light towers of the MCG have a total of 844 2000 Watt lamps. Each have an individual angle that is computer generated to provide maximum coverage of the arena without any shadowed areas or dark spots. A few years ago, Sydney’s cloudy night sky was seemingly turned into bright day when the city ushered in the New Year with 7 tonnes of fireworks including 1000 that were launched from the Opera House sails, as well as glittering waterfalls of fire that cascaded over the harbour. This paled into insignificance when compared to Dubai’s Guinness World Record effort in which over half a million fireworks were used spanning 94 kilometres of the Dubai Coast, costing nearly $7 million.

All this light in the world – it is not true light. The world is still in darkness—the darkness of greed, selfishness, broken homes, violence, theft, destruction, substance abuse, injustice and exploitation…and everything else that comes with worshipping the self as number 1. And so these man-made lights are a symbol of the extravagance and decadence that place the self on a pedestal to be served with whatever society wants to be served with.

A few years ago it was questioned by one mainstream newspaper why millions habitually flock to parties and what they actually celebrate when the same selfishness characterised by injustice and violence and family and social breakdown continues and calamity and strife surround us on a daily basis. Really isn’t this the picture we hear of from the prophet Isaiah cited by Matthew today?

The people of the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali are dwelling in darkness and gloom—God’s chosen people, the Jews, as well as Gentiles, were in darkness, error, unrighteousness—that 3 letter ‘s’ word that dare not be mentioned: sin. The people are ‘living’—that is, barely existing—in the state of sin, and therefore dwelling in the field of the shadow of death. That was the situation of the human race during the time of Isaiah’s prophecy. It was the situation when Matthew wrote…we see that with the opening verse of our text: John the Baptist had been imprisoned by Herod because John was faithful to God’s Word and reproved Herod for unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. On Herod’s birthday, Herodias’s daughter Salome danced before the king and his guests. Her dancing pleased Herod so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired. Prompted by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Although Herod was appalled by the request, he reluctantly agreed and had John beheaded in prison. What had John the Baptist done? Faithfully proclaimed God’s Word.

As our nation celebrates its greatness and the achievements of its people today, how much room will be made for public thanksgiving to God for His blessings? For all our greatness as a nation, the Australia I see is the land and the people Isaiah and Matthew spoke of centuries ago—a country that is desperately in need of the light of Christ. A country that rejects God’s Word—lost, stumbling, consumed with the decadence and self-worship of the Western world that will do away with anything that stands in the way—even God Himself.

It’s a chilling thought, but we too have inherited that condition—the condition that has the potential for us to be the next tyrant who we are sickened by. The condition that makes us all enemies of God because it shows itself in all the ways we know of or deny that are contrary to God’s will expressed in His Word. We were among the people of Zebulun and Naphtali who sat in gloom and darkness, even in the very shadow of death, needing rescue. So behold, the gospel, for you this day:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

way of the sea across from the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

The people dwelling in darkness and gloom have seen a great light

And among those dwelling in the field of the shadow of death

A light has risen for them

That light is Jesus and His Gospel. The first words Jesus proclaims in our text is: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus is talking in a geographical sense. In the person of Christ, heaven has come to earth. Wherever Jesus is, God’s kingdom is present and at work. Every other religion requires us to ascend to God through our good works. God shows his grace in that even though the world is darkened by sin and in bondage to it, blind to the true God and unable to free itself, God came down with love in the person of Christ, to bring freedom from the bondage of sin and dare I say it—ourselves. He came to trample over death with His own and make a mockery of the demonic realm of darkness with His redeeming work on the Cross.

Matthew tells us today that this Christ went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom and healing every sickness and every infirmity among the people. This is the light that has risen for the people. These healings are a witness that Jesus is indeed the Son of God with all authority over the created order, over sin, death and Satan, and the authority to forgive sins. The forgiveness of sins which is the greatest of blessings even in the depths of our brokenness and despair because it is only through forgiveness that we enter into God’s presence as His holy children and have peace and life with Him forever.

All of this is an undeserved gift to a people helpless to help themselves. So repentance is the only appropriate response to such lavish love; a love that none of us deserve but a love that is given without condition, a love that does not count our wrongs against us but counts them against the Christ who was crucified in our place to take our sin from us and exchange it with His holiness and righteousness. A love that welcomes the least into the family of God through His Son to be co-heirs with Him. Entry is through faith alone in the promise that there is a righteousness apart from the Law; the righteousness that comes through faith in this Messiah, Christ the light of the world.

Jesus says to us today: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Where is the Kingdom of Heaven? Wherever Jesus is, the Kingdom of Heaven is present—God’s gracious rule. Where is Jesus? In His holy word and sacraments. Just as He taught in the synagogues, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, Jesus is truly present again today, preaching and enacting the gospel through the readings, the liturgy, this sermon. Preaching the Gospel to you that will not return to Him empty but accomplish everything He desires it to do. He is the host of the holy meal we are about to receive, speaking His word that does what it says, making ordinary wafers and wine His true body and blood that He places in your hands, so that as you eat and drink there is no mistaking that the forgiveness and redemption that He won for the world He gives to you and you receive personally through faith in His promise: given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

You too have seen this great light shining in the darkness. It is not spectacular in the way the world understands spectacular, but it is far more powerful for this light has freed you so that you are no longer captive to your sinful nature but captive to Christ, who made you His very own in the waters of holy baptism. What a gracious God we have to come into our world and give us these holy gifts to bring us into personal relationship with Him! And in these waters, you too were called by our Lord to be His followers in your daily life and work. Just as Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John who immediately follow Jesus, not because they have a better faith or greater willpower or have sinned less than others, or for any quality within themselves. They are able to follow Jesus because He calls them to do so. The words that Jesus, God Himself utters: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of people” are not just words, but words that do what they say they will do…because what Jesus says, happens. We are reminded of God’s words in the creation of the universe: “Let there be light…and it was so; let there be…and it was so; let there be…and it was so.” Here in our text the Lord of creation brings about a re-creation in these fishermen through His speech: “Come, follow me”—the same re-creation He works in your life.

Not only has Jesus won forgiveness and salvation for undeserving sinners, but in His task of building His church, chooses to use them in this work, leading and guiding them in the harvest of souls. And so the people you live and work with see a great light when they see how you live God’s word in your life. Just before our text today was Matthew’s account of the devil’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Without food for forty days Jesus is hungry. The devil knows Jesus has the power to turn the stones around Him into loaves of bread and tempts Him to do it. But Jesus answers: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Jesus isn’t talking about simply existing. He doesn’t say ‘Man does not exist on bread alone, but live on bread alone; real living. And so when you live—really live—meeting with Jesus Himself through His word, receiving the Holy Spirit He sends through the Scriptures, you have peace and contentment and strength no matter what your situation is because the Spirit is at work bearing His fruit. People see that in your life and they know there’s something different about these ‘churchy people’ as we’re often referred to. They see the light of Christ at work because you are a little Christ, to borrow Luther’s terms, in the darkness of the world around. When others see how you say grace at Maccas because you want Christ to be present and bless the food for you, when others see you come to church on a Sunday instead of sport or sitting on the header or sleeping in, when others see how you interact in a patient and forgiving way to those who have wronged you, when others see how you care for others, when others see how you respect authority, when others see how you cherish God’s name rather than using it habitually, when others see how you handle a crisis or live in integrity, when others see you feasting on the Word of God to really live, they see Christ the light of the world, living in and building His church among you.

It is not because of any effort on our part, but this only happens because Jesus has first preached the good news to you, and as he continues to preach to you and teach you through the scriptures, he continues to inspire and enable you to serve others and witness to him. Again today, He is in this church right here and He sends forth His gospel to make you everything He wants you to be, so that even as we live in the shadow of the valley of death of this life, His eternal light lights our way and—by his work in us and through us—shows the world a glimpse of the incredible love of its Saviour. Amen.

Behold the Lamb of God

The Text: John 1:29-42

‘God’s lamb who takes away our sin’

 

There were two different people on a particular week who came to talk to their8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0 pastor about some issues with in their families. In both cases the situation was a big fight with one of their grown up children.

The first person was a lady who was struggling with guilt about the whole thing, because she had lost her temper, things had gotten out of hand, and she had said some things she should’ve have.

The second visitor was a man, and his situation was the reverse in that he wasn’t struggling with the guilt of having lost his temper, but with the anger at his daughter over how she could’ve said the things she did to him.

In both cases the things that had happened ate away at these people whether it was sin they had committed, or sin that been committed against them. In both cases their question was, how can I get rid of this sin in our relationship and the effects of it?

And in both cases the pastor be a little John the Baptist and point to the ‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’.

Sin is like rubbish that clings to our souls.

And the problem with rubbish and waste, is that the longer it hangs around, the worse it gets and the more problems it brings. Rubbish and waste not properly dealt with can make people sick, it can spread disease, if you leave too much of it in the backyard it will even attracts nasty creatures like rats.

Do you remember the pictures from England during the strikes of Margaret Thatcher’s time when she had stand-offs with the unions? Piles of rotting rubbish on the streets of London. Rubbish needs to removed for us to be healthy and live in a functioning society.

Now sin is spiritual rubbish. It needs to be taken away or it is unhealthy, and it even attracts nasty visitors. The spiritual rats are the devil and his demons. Have you noticed how they’re sometimes called ‘unclean spirits’ in the Bible?

Sin is the devil’s raw material, it’s all he’s got to work with. The devil’s strategy is to use our sin against us. So when we sin, he tries to bring it to our minds and accuse us with it, He says, ‘And you call yourself a Christian, how could you do that?’

That’s the accusation of the devil in our conscience, where he uses our sin to bring us guilt and shame, which are spiritually unhealthy, as well as in every other way. But he also uses the sin that has been committed against us, by making us angry about it and not being able to let it go.

He does this by bringing the sins of others against us to our minds so that we think, ‘how could that person do that to me?’

And so he gets in there and rummages around in the garbage of our lives, stirring it all up and making an even bigger mess.

So how do you get rid of rats?

You can set rat traps and such things, but then eventually if there’s still rubbish and waster laying around, more rats will come. If you really don’t want them around, you’ve got to get rid of the rubbish.

Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work, but in the first place he does it in a way we wouldn’t necessarily expect. He deals with the devil by removing the garbage of sin.  God gets rid of the rats by removing the rubbish from our souls.

‘Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’

Now let’s think for a few minutes about this this picture of the lamb.

What is John the baptizer trying to bring to mind when he calls Jesus the ‘Lamb of God’?

Well the short answer is that it’s to do with sacrifice.

But the longer answer is that this picks up on a very rich series of images from the Old Testament which all roll into Jesus being the Lamb of God.

So first we might think of Abraham and Isaac. Where Abraham is tested by being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. Remember Isaac’s question to Abraham? Dear little Isaac says, ‘Dad, look here’s the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’ And Abraham’s wonderful faithful response was, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering…”

Which God did! Abraham is stopped by an angel from sacrificing Isaac and all of a sudden there’s a ram nearby caught up in a bush which was their sacrifice.

Then we might think of the Passover in Egypt.

When all the Israelite families were to take a lamb without blemish, to sacrifice this lamb and to put some of the blood on the doorposts.

The blood was a sign that God would pass over their houses so that the plague coming on the Egyptians would not touch them.

We might think of the lambs sacrificed at the Temple later on, making atonement for the people.

Then there was the scapegoat. Where once a year on the great Day of Atonement, Aaron the priest was to confess the sins of the people over the scapegoat, and it this goat would bear the sins of the people and carry them away out into the wilderness.

And then finally we remember the prophecy of Isaiah that we hear every Good Friday about the suffering servant of the Lord who was promised to come,

Surely he has born our griefs, carried our sorrows…

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before it’s shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth…’

All of this is in the background and flows into the loaded statement John makes when says about Jesus, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’.  Jesus is the once for all sacrifice for the sin of the world, he is our substitute, he gave his life for ours.

The story is told of a tourist who visited a church in Germany and was surprised to see the carved figure of a lamb near the top of the church’s tower. He asked why it was there and was told that when the church was being built, a workman fell from a high scaffold. His co-workers rushed down, expecting to find him dead. But to their surprise and joy, he was alive and only slightly injured. How did he survive? A flock of sheep was passing beneath the tower at the time, and he landed on top of a lamb. The lamb broke his fall and was crushed to death, but the man was saved.

So the figure of the carved lamb stood atop the church in memory of this miraculous escape, but even more to remember that in Jesus just such a life-saving event has taken place.

Now let’s just point out a few of the specific words in this sentence that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  

First notice Jesus is the lamb… of God

In other words it’s just as Abraham had said, God will provide the sacrifice.

‘For God so loved the world that he sent his Son.’ John 3:16

Amazingly, the sacrifice for our sins is not provided by us, but by God himself.

Next, notice again what this lamb does with sin?

He takes it away.

This word is different than the one for forgive. It includes forgiveness but it’s bigger than that. This word is to do with taking something away, getting rid of it, removing it, even carrying it and bearing it. Now if that is what the Lamb does, then it means we don’t do it. Which is what we tend to think.

That to deal with the sin in our life we must just be better, try harder, pray harder, believe harder, pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. 

But it doesn’t work and we don’t need to be the ones to deal with sin because that what Jesus the Lamb has come for.

And notice what this Lamb takes away, it’s not sins plural but sin singular. In other words it’s not just the symptoms of bad behaviour here and there – ‘sins’ – but this is the much deeper disease of ‘sin’ singular.

And it’s not just for one group of people or one type of person, but for the whole world.

This is the once for all sacrifice.

If this Jesus can remove the sin and garbage of the whole world, how surely can he take away the sin in our life? And he does, he removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west.

Sin happens by us and to us, and the rubbish accumulates, and we hide it away, we try to forget about it. But it doesn’t go away, the symptoms of guilt and shame or anger and bitterness keep arising, reminding us there is a deeper problem. We need to bring these things to the Lamb of God for them to be taken away.

Where do we go to have our spiritual rubbish removed by the Lamb of God?  If all this still sounds a bit theoretical or spiritual to you and not terribly practical, I want to show you just how relevant and practical it is for our lives today.

Where do we go to have our spiritual rubbish removed by the Lamb of God? Well you get a hint by thinking about where we use those words.

We use them here in worship don’t we?

‘Jesus Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.’

Specifically we sing that or pray those words right before we receive Holy Communion.

Why do we do that? Why do we in worship pick up on these words of John Baptist and pray them right before we receive the body and blood of Jesus? It’s because it is here in worship, culminating in Holy Communion, where Jesus the Lamb of God invites us to come to him to have the rubbish removed from our souls.

And again that goes for the rubbish we are responsible for creating, and for that which has been dumped on us. When we say ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us’, what we’re praying is that just as he has taken away the sin of the whole world by his death on the cross, so now as we receive his body and blood given and shed on the cross, would he take away the sin in our lives, the rubbish clinging to our souls.

Let’s consider: is there any rubbish hanging around the recesses of our heart, scrunched up and stuffed away? Are we reminded it’s there every now and then by some wave of guilt or outburst of anger? What is the rubbish in our life that we need the Lamb to take away?

What’s so amazing is that not only does Jesus take away the rubbish, but he gives you immeasurably more valuable stuff in return. Imagine a council who paid you to take away your rubbish. He takes the ‘yuck’ stuff, and in return he gives you his purity, his holiness, his freedom and his peace.

‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’

Let us pray…
Jesus Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, so take away our sin and destroy its power in our lives, in our families, in the church. Amen. 

The Baptism of Jesus

The Text: Matthew 3:13-17

 

Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV)allanb

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so that we might rejoice in the way you use water for your holy purpose of cleansing and adoption through baptism into your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

It’s a known fact water can make dirty things clean, but it can also make clean things dirty.

Take for example floodwaters. They can cause damage and leave a lot of mess behind. The stinky silt and mud sticks to the ground and makes walking through it hazardous. Running floodwater digs away at foundations, fences, and roads; leaving holes and chasms. Anything touched by floodwaters is usually ruined.

The irony is; what do we often use to clean up after such a mess left behind by water? We use more water! We use water to wash away silt and mud. We use water to wash our muddy clothes and cars and properties. So, water can bring mess and muck, but water can also be used for cleaning.

In our text for today (which happens in the wilderness alongside the river Jordan), John the Baptist was using water to clean God’s people. In fact, ‘to baptise’ means to wash or purify something, but instead of sitting there in his camel-hair dinner jacket doing everyone’s dishes and dirty laundry, he was washing and purifying people in preparation for the coming Messiah.

But before you get a picture of John washing people’s hair or scrubbing behind people’s ears, he was using water to wash their sins away.

You see, the invitation John gave was for people to repent and be baptised, that is, to turn away from, and confess their sinful thoughts, words, and actions, and have those same thoughts, words, and actions washed away by water so the people would be holy for the coming of the Messiah.

This washing with water continued an old biblical teaching where there were two ways to wash or purify something in order to make it pure for God’s holy purposes.

The first method of cleansing was passing it through fire. But if it was going to burn in fire, then the alternate way of washing with water was to be used in order to purify it.

It makes sense that, since we humans don’t go so well in fire, the obvious way for us to be washed and purified is washing through water. Therefore, John was following God’s instructions to wash the people of their sins with water. It was a spiritual washing using the physical means of water used together with the teachings of the Word of God.

So the picture we have is: here’s John, reminding people of their sins and urging them to repent and be baptised so they could be clean and holy for the time when the coming One arrives who will take away the sins of the whole world: but then the next person to step forward to be baptised is…the man Jesus!

Now, remember, John and Jesus were related. John knew all about Jesus. When the pregnant Mary (with Jesus in her womb) met the pregnant Elizabeth (who had John in her womb), the baby John leaped inside her. John knew Jesus to be the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, and here he stands in front of John to be baptized. This puzzles John!

You see, this baptism was for those who have sinned, for those who repent of their sins, and for those who need to be washed of their sin. But Jesus isn’t a sinner. He had nothing to confess. He has no sinful thoughts, words and actions. Although he is fully human and so is like us in every way, the only (and very significant) difference is; Jesus wasn’t born with the taint of sin that infects everything we do. 

So, what’s John to do? This baptism was a baptism of repentance, but Jesus doesn’t need to repent because he has nothing to repent of. Even though John had refused to baptise the self-righteous Pharisees (who didn’t think they needed repenting), here stands the only One who truly has nothing to repent of!

John realises Jesus doesn’t need to be baptised because he’s already clean, pure, and holy. He’s already been set aside for God’s holy purposes. He’s already bearing the fruit in keeping with repentance because he was already bearing the right fruit! So, in fact, if anything, John needs to be baptised by Jesus, and he tells him so!

But Jesus tells him to leave it this way for now. It’s fitting and right that he be baptised in order to fulfil all righteousness—to make everything right and fulfil the will of God, right there in the water of baptism. There in the Jordan, Jesus fully identified with us sinners, and in those very waters began his ministry of taking the sin of the world upon himself, so that his sacrificial death on the cross would pay the full penalty of it.

How does this happen? Remember—water makes dirty things clean and clean things dirty.

Therefore, if these baptismal waters were washing away the sins of sinners to make them clean and holy, what would you expect to happen when the pure and holy One is placed in the same water?

Well it’s here when Jesus was baptised that the great exchange took place. In baptism you’re washed of your sins, and those sins are taken by Jesus. The sinful people like you and me become pure, clean and holy, while the pure, clean and holy One of God becomes the bearer of our sin.

But you might argue that you weren’t baptised in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptised, so how can baptism using ordinary water from out of the tap work the same way?

Well, remember, it’s not just the water which does this great and mysterious exchange, but it’s water used together with the Word of God, and our faith which trusts the Word of God when it’s used this way.

In this way, every baptism which uses water together with the Word of God, which is received through faith, is now part of this great exchange of sin. Faith trusts what God promises in this action of baptismal washing. Here in baptism our sins are washed away because Jesus takes on all our sins of thought, word, and deed and receives the punishment we deserve for them on the cross.

Therefore, although Jesus stands sinless before John the Baptiser and so didn’t need to be baptised, it was through his baptism for the sake of all righteousness where Jesus becomes the greatest sinner of all; not because he was a sinner himself, but because he bore the sins of the whole world, including yours and mine.

So here he takes his place, being baptised among sinners, and will later take his place and die between sinners on the cross. Here God comes down to us to make things right and good through the work of Jesus Christ, which begins here at his baptism.

He continues to enact this cleansing work among us as we’re reminded of our baptism when we speak his holy name at the beginning of worship, when we repent of our sins and hear his gracious and undeserving words of forgiveness, and when he welcomes us at his holy banqueting table as forgiven and holy people of God through faith.

Here we celebrate the fact God’s goodness, love, mercy and righteousness is greater than our capacity to sin!

But wait, there’s more!

You see, something else happens which changes John’s baptism of repentance into something new.

We hear the heavens open, and the Holy Spirit comes down from the newly opened heavens to rest on Jesus in the form of a dove.

Here the Holy Spirit came down and rested on Jesus, reaffirming he is the loved, chosen, and well-approved Servant and Son of God. He is now the font of the Holy Spirit, which means we come to the incarnate Jesus Christ to receive his Spirit so that we may live a life of righteousness. We do this so that, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we’re able to do the good, perfect, and salutary will of God.

At the same time, the voice of God the Father (who completes the Holy Trinity miraculously present at this world-changing baptismal event), declares this Jesus to be his priceless Son, with whom he’s deeply pleased.

Amazingly, much of the same sentiment is conveyed to each of us in our own baptism, as he adopts us as his holy and dearly loved children, speaking his words of love and pleasure over us as we fulfil his will; his holy will and command that we would be baptised and continually learn from his Words and ways on how to live as his holy children.

So here, when Jesus was baptised, baptism itself was changed. It’s no longer a simple washing, but it’s a means of the Holy Spirit which brings about forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe it, as the Word and promises of God declare.

For this reason we can rejoice and thank God for all the gifts we receive from our baptism into Christ Jesus, so that we can say or even sing:

“Jesus loves me, this I know,
for his washing tells me so.
Baptised ones to him belong;
we are weak, but he is strong.”

And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus who has made us right before God through baptism. Amen.

New Years Day

Dear friends, we are among those who have been called to be children of

david3
David:0414521661

God, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of us.

Let’s join in a word of prayer:
Loving Father God, we are together to continue in our celebration of the human birth and life  of Your Son, and to  worship You.  We praise you for the gift of salvation received through his birth, life, death and resurrection.  Guide our time together as we celebrate our fellowship with our Christian family this morning. Gracious heavenly Father, hear our prayer for the sake of our risen Lord,  Amen.

Just a week ago, we rejoiced in the coming of Emmanuel. We marvelled that the Creator God of all the universe, the sustainer of worlds without end, would seek to join in our humanity.  We pondered how God entered humanity in the same way that each of us enters life.  He chose a young virgin Mary to be his mother. And chose a carpenter, Joseph, to partner with her in the rearing the God-child.  Yet, it depended upon these two saying ‘yes’ to God’s love.

Christ came not only to share our humanity, but to transform it. On account of sin, people were degraded. They were dominated by its power and under its control. But God has a brighter prospect for his people. Things are different now because  Christ Jesus was born into humanity on that first Christmas morning.   

That first Christmas came and went, and only a handful of people knew about it. We sometimes forget this in our sense of Christmas excitement. After all, we have shared the stories of people who did see, people whose lives were changed, a mere handful of people, perhaps fifteen or twenty, out of hundreds of thousands in the world.   All those people in Bethlehem, so crowded that there was no room in the inn for the Saviour to be born there.  

And, apparently, none of the rest of them knew a thing about it. The Saviour of the world was born in a stable, and it appears they didn’t even hear about it. Except those to whom the shepherds shared the miraculous visit of angels and birth of a saviour, as they returned to their flocks.

Now the first excitement of the Christmas event is passed for us too.  The Christmas dinner is now our leftovers, the presents are put away, and we are preparing to pull down the decorations for another year. Even so, this week,  we consider the Eastern astrologers and mystics known as the Magi.  How they identified this child as the longed-for King and Messiah.  And then we take in the visit of the Magi to Mary and Jesus settled into a house, while, I suspect, Joseph was off plying his trade to support his family.   We discover that the news is out.  At least to those in the court of Herod.  A brutal foreigner positioned King over Judea by Caesar. 

We celebrate the news of the birth of the saviour as such wonderful news.  Good news proclaimed by angels, confirmed by shepherds, and now noted by gentile travellers.   But this good news  of a world redeemer quickly turns into a vicious, heartbreaking story.  Although the Prince of Peace has come to the world, the world did not accept him.  The world was—and still remains—a hostile foe to peace and goodwill among people.

I see the hand of Satan in this.   Rather than receiving a joyous welcome throughout the land, powerful people resented his arrival from the beginning.  They plotted to destroy him, even as a child, to rid the world of his presence. Matthew tells of Herod’s hatred for anyone who might threaten his domain.  Especially the Messiah.  Herod’s hatred reached such a proportion that he determined to destroy all the young boys born in Bethlehem.  To prevent the Messiah from reaching manhood.

History witnesses that Herod was only the first among many who saw Christ as a threat to be removed.  First, during his life.  Than later, during the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles. 

And even today, against the family of Christians in the world. Who are praying, helping, teaching, and presenting the Good News of a Saviour who is with us always.  

In our time, countless people see Christ as a burden upon them rather than the one who frees them from their burdens;  a hindrance to full life rather than the giver of meaningful, lasting life.  Their voices join the chorus of rejection through the ages, rather than acceptance of Emmanuel, God with us. 

We are reminded this morning that salvation begins in the heart and mind of God. If fallen humanity is to be brought ultimately into the presence of God as redeemed and changed.  It can only be because God has chosen to effect this miracle by his saving intervention into  human history.

Notice the initiative and action of God in all this.  Hebrews proclaims it is ‘by the grace of God’ that Christ experienced death for us.  It is through the wisdom of God that such a death is effective for humankind. God made it possible because He chose to. This sacrifice was part of God’s compassionate plan for the redemption of all people.  

Thank God, no attempt to remove the salvation of Christ from life can ever succeed.  God will not allow anyone to corrupt his plan to dwell among us and be as one with us.  Matthew tells of loyal, faithful Joseph.  The one who heard an angel in his dream and obeyed.  How he moved quickly to protect his young family, slipping away in the night to the safety of Egypt.

Joseph becomes the instrument for saving the life of God the Son, whose time had not yet come to be sacrificed for our sins. God always seems to move in his quiet, powerful way to preserve his presence with us.   Almost always against the most ominous foes.

Herod was unable to destroy the baby Jesus.   Pilate was unable to contain Christ Jesus to a tomb.  Roman might was unable to annihilate him in the early Church. Other hordes through history could not drive him into oblivion.   In every generation, new threats emerge, but the Christian Gospel message prevails.  As Jesus said, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.’

Once the Holy Spirit of God is at work in the world, He remains.  Even if just below the surface, hidden no deeper than the human heart.  Constantly throughout history there have been Marys and Josephs who have been instruments of Christ Jesus.  Those who risked life-and-limb proclaiming the presence of Emmanuel. 

The presence of Jesus in our lives is the gift of a loving God.  Jesus brings his peace to be received, not laws to be obeyed.   Once we are inwardly at peace through his abiding Spirit, we learn to live peacefully in the world.  When we are at peace within ourselves, we can then become a witness of Jesus, the Messiah and Saviour.  A witness for those around us who are struggling. 

As the author of Hebrews explains, ‘In bringing many to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.  Both the one who makes holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.’

And yet the Gospel divides created humanity between those who believe in Jesus as the Saviour, and those who choose not to believe.  A broken world held captive by happy endings and easy religion.  That is the harsh reality of Christmas. 

Thank God that he provides for us.  That he forgives us, and makes provision for our redemption in the human birth, life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Christ Jesus.  We can join Isaiah to  ‘tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done according to his compassion and many kindnesses.’ Through Jesus, we share the same Father, and we become children of God.

May the grace and peace of God, which passes all our human understanding, keep our hearts and minds in the calm assurance of eternal salvation in our living Lord, Christ Jesus.   Amen.

Don’t miss out!

The Text: John 1:1-14

It seems like none of us has missed out on Christmas. That’s good.20180311_103505 (1) Unfortunately some people have to work on Christmas day and that means that while the rest of us are kicking back, relaxing and having fun they have to miss out. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to work during Christmas or perhaps you’ve been away overseas during Christmas, but it can be a bit of a downer to be away from all the action at Christmas when everyone else is enjoying themselves. Perhaps you don’t miss your dad’s overcooked turkey, or your mum’s passion pop, or the bad jokes tucked away in the bonbons but apart from those things we like to be a part of it on Christmas day, even if it’s just with a couple of people or our own immediate family.

We don’t want to miss out. Thankfully our country and many others around the world pretty much legislates that most people won’t have to miss out on Christmas by making it a public holiday. There’s no cricket today because it’s Christmas – the cricket starts tomorrow. There’s no trading on the Stock Exchange – that’ll open again tomorrow or on Monday. Most shops are closed, you can’t get your car fixed… Most things are called off well in advance because we all know that the 25th of December is Christmas and we don’t want to miss out on Christmas. 

Most people, however, did miss out on the first Christmas celebration. There were a handful of shepherds, some wise men, Mary, Joseph and presumably some animals but apart from that most people missed the first Christmas. But that’s OK, it was a pretty exclusive event, no one even knew what Christmas was at that stage, so it’s understandable that most people missed it. And at the first Christmas something extraordinary happened – the one who created the earth came to live on earth. Jesus, the Son of God, was born as a baby. This is the guy who made… everything – including many of the things we enjoy at Christmas – food, drink, fun, laughter, joy, happiness, families, culture… life itself. Jesus, referred to in our reading today as ‘The Word’, was there at the beginning with God: he was God and through him all things were made. So there in Bethlehem born in a manager at the first Christmas was not only the creator of life but the source of life itself. 

It would have been great to have been there, especially with all the angels and everything else. But thankfully Jesus gave people plenty of opportunity to get to meet him and get to know him later on as he grew up and became an adult. It wasn’t a flying visit that the creator of life made to earth – he came to stay, to dwell among us and be one of us, to eat and drink and celebrate with us. And so the author of life who was the light of the world lived among us, walked in our streets, worked like we work and mixed with the people of his society.

But so many people missed it – they had the chance to get to meet Jesus in person, the creator of the world but they didn’t recognise him, or they didn’t appreciate him. Our reading from John says that ‘the true light that gives light to every person was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.’ There may have been many people who bumped into a guy called Jesus from Nazareth but they missed the Christ.

It’s a bit like being around in the 60s but not attending a street parade for the Beatles. Apparently Adelaide still holds the record for the biggest ever street parade for the Beatles – pretty much everyone was there. And so if you were alive back then and living in Adelaide but weren’t there for the street parade people are inclined to ask you – ‘Where were you? Why did you miss it?’ Can you imagine if you got to meet someone who had lived in Palestine during the time of Christ? Or if they lived in Nazareth or Jerusalem and had ample opportunity to meet Jesus face to face. Wouldn’t you ask them, ‘Did you get to see Jesus?’ I mean, he was the big event of the time. Surely you wouldn’t want to miss that. But miss him they did, and Jesus passed through the streets often completely unacknowledged as the creator of the world. The author of life, the light of life – the Christ – was there but people missed him.

How lucky we can consider ourselves not to have missed out. We’re here today not just because of Christmas but because of Christ. Jesus has revealed himself to us, even though we’ve never actually seen him in the flesh, and we have faith. That was the point of his coming – that people would realise that the source of life had come in Jesus and he had come to give us that life. Knowing the source of life is the whole purpose of life and in fact Jesus himself said this in a prayer to God the father: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Knowing Jesus means not missing out on life. It means not missing out on eternal life but it also means not missing out on life right here and now. Knowing the author of life and the source of life is the best way and the only way to get a grip on what it truly means to be alive, to appreciate the gifts we have been given. Knowing the author of life means that our life has meaning and purpose, we’re not just accidents or statistics. By knowing Jesus we have been given the right to be called children of God.

And yet, if you ask most people, it’s the people who believe in Christ and who follow him, who are the ones missing out. Being a Christian means no fun, can’t do this and you can’t do that. Rules, rules, rules, going to boring church, telling lame jokes, listening to cheesy music, disengaging with anything relevant in popular culture, hiding from anything that might be against your beliefs or a bit too rough or a bit too risqué, living your life feeling guilty, begging God for forgiveness and then waiting for Jesus to take you to heaven. Surely it’s the Christians who are missing out, many say, so thanks very much but I’ll give believing in Jesus a big miss.  

What do you think – have they got some good ammunition there? Are we as Christians getting deeper into the essence and meaning of what it is to be alive and showing that in the way that we live, or are we missing out? Now every Christian is different and we’re not all going to be the life of the party or the motivating, energising champion of the church leading the way by sucking the marrow out of life. But it’s worth asking yourself – does my faith give me more life, or less? Do I feel like I’m getting deeper into what it means to be alive, or do I feel like I’m missing out. Or perhaps you’re caught in the middle – you’d like to take your faith to a deeper place but it’s risky. What might you become? What might you lose? What might you be missing out on? 

Jesus, the author of life and the source of life, did not come to rob us of fun, or of pleasure, or of our personality. But he did call us to prioritise him in everything else that we treasure in life. Jesus came so that we might know the fullness of life. He came that we might be granted God’s forgiveness, God’s peace and the promise of life after death and all that those things mean for the here and now. He came to make us children of God. So the gift of life is there – don’t miss out!

The birth of Jesus Christ

Luke 2:1–20

 

If any of you grew up in the Church and were ever in a Nativity Play as children, you’ll know that one of the first things to be organised were thechurch4 groups of angels and shepherds.

A few of the more confident children might score the roles of Mary and Joseph, or the Wise Men, but the rank-and-file average Sunday school child, slotted in line, year after year, as a faithful angel or shepherd. They were the backbone of the Nativity Play.

The fact that these two groups – angels and shepherds – were side by side in the Christmas story, is worth thinking about, because they were quite an unlikely pair. A Pastor once visited a Childcare Centre next to his church to read the Christmas story with the children. A little girl brought this into even sharper focus for him. Because before he began he asked if anyone knew what a shepherd was? One of the little girls said, ‘Yes, a shepherd has wings and flies through the air’.

What was going on? She had confused angels and shepherds, so close was the association between them in her mind.

It is really incredible that these two groups—shepherds and angel—should be so closely connected in our minds. Because…

On the one hand, you have the angels.

From the Bible we learn that angels are part of God’s creation, they aren’t eternal, they are created beings, and yet they are heavenly beings. God’s angels are untainted by sin and evil – they are pure and holy. They live in the presence of God, continually enjoying His glory, filled with the “light” of heaven. Their whole purpose is to adore and praise the Triune God, and to be His messengers and servants for God’s people on earth. Angels appear right through the story of the Bible.  But it’s worth noting that there seems to be an explosion of angels around the birth of Jesus.

Then on other hand, you’ve got the shepherds.

For a start, they’re only human beings living on earth. But more than that, in the world of those days, being a shepherd was some of the lowliest and most humble work a person could do. Notice in our text they were living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Can you imagine what they would have looked like and smelt like spending their life out with the animals in the fields? This was probably not the sort of life vocation parents aspired to for their children.  They are the sort of people we would think of as “a bit rough around the edges”.

Have you ever noticed too, that we never find out these shepherds’ names! They’re sort of presented to us as “no-bodies” in the eyes of the world. They’re perhaps on the bottom rung of social ladder.

So there’s a sense in which these two groups: the angels and the shepherds, represent the highest of heaven, and the lowest of earth. Those who are pure and holy, and those who are unclean. Those who live in the light, and those who live in the darkness.

So what about us?

 Let’s say we were casting roles for our nativity play tonight with all of us in the cast. In which role would we fit? Shepherds, or angels?

Perhaps we’d like to think that there are at least some angelic-like aspects to our lives. It may be that, in reality, we tend to be a bit more shepherd-like. Most, if not all of us, may have a few rough edges as a result of things which may have happened to us and things for which we ourselves were responsible.

How has this past year been for us? Like the shepherds, have there been things happen which made us feel like we’re at the bottom of the heap too? Issues with health, family, work, relationships?

The dark corners of this world are a constant threat to our peace and security.

Or, has it been our own failures and mistakes which have reminded us that we’re far from being an angel? The darkness that lurks in our own heart—things, perhaps, which even make us cower in fear like those shepherds in the field?  

The shepherds were living in the darkness of night, exposed to the elements with their flocks. Our deepest problem is that, apart from God’s grace, we live in the darkness of our sin exposed to death.

But at Christmas, being a shepherd is the best possible place to be… Not because the shepherds reach their way up to heaven to be with the angels, but because the angels are sent from heaven to earth with good news for the shepherds.

In our fear, in our sadness, in our sins, let us listen to the words of the angel from heaven:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”

For all the people. That includes us!

Jesus is born as our Saviour.

Christ, the Son of God, comes into this world as one of us. He is the King of angels, but He was born with the poor and lowly and laid in a manger, in a cattle shed. In Jesus God assumes our human flesh with all its rough edges, except He was born without our sin.

Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live on our own. He died the death we deserved – all to be our Saviour. All we can do is receive this good news of great joy! Jesus is the reason angels and shepherds can be side by side. Jesus brings heaven and earth together, because in Jesus, humanity is reconciled to God.

We are reconciled to our Father, God. That’s why the angels sing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favour rests.” (verse 14).

Those God favours are those who are found in Christ, having received the good news of great joy. Sin and evil want to divide and drive apart, but God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in the business of bringing together, bringing peace. And that is good news of great joy.

What Jesus has done, cannot be undone. And so heaven and earth continue to be joined together even this very night.

You might remember singing in the well-known carol:

‘Sing choirs of angels,

Sing in exultation,

Sing all ye citizens of heaven above,

Glory to God, in the highest…’

‘Sing choirs of angels’.

We sing these words tonight, not in some imaginary way, as if we have travelled back in time to the fields surrounding Bethlehem, We acknowledge the presence of the angels here and now because the reconciliation Jesus has brought between heaven and earth, between God and humanity, is a permanent change which still today protects us from our old shepherd-like rough edges and the dark corners of our lives.

We worship together with heaven. We glorify God together with the angels, As we gather in worship, heaven and earth are brought together all because of the Saviour who was born for us.

That’s why Sunday by Sunday we sing ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased…’

And again, ‘together with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven, we adore and praise your glorious name’.

God may not give shepherds wings to fly through the air like the little Child Care Centre girl suggested, but He does transform shepherds into something close to angels. Have you ever noticed what the shepherds do at the end of the Christmas story? They return glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, which is just what the angels had been, and are doing.

The coming of Jesus our Saviour, that good news of great joy, is something which did change the shepherds. May that good news of great joy that is our Saviour’s birth for us, do its work in our lives once again this Christmas.

In the name of Jesus, Amen. 

Joseph’s predicament

The Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Today’s focus is going to be on Joseph and his part in the coming of our Lord8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0 Jesus. So let’s begin with a little Bible quiz about Joseph—just three quick questions…

  1. 1. Do you remember what Joseph’s trade was?

He was a carpenter. We think of Jesus as a carpenter, but that’s mainly because we know Joseph was a carpenter. In the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark, people ask of Jesus, ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?’

  1. 2. Here in today’s Gospel Reading is the first time we hear of Joseph. Do you remember the last time we hear of him in the Gospels?

It’s in the Temple twelve years after Jesus’ birth, when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus because, as Jesus says, he was in his true Father’s house. We hear of Mary right up to the crucifixion, but the last we hear of Joseph is when Jesus is twelve years old, which leads most people to guess that Joseph probably died some time after that, perhaps because he was older than Mary. But we don’t know that for sure.

  1. Now for the last quiz question. Do you remember how many things Joseph says in the Gospels?

It’s a trick question actually. The answer is…none; not one recorded word from Joseph. Joseph comes across as the ‘strong, silent’ type and we’ll return to this later in the sermon. 

For these sorts of reasons, Joseph is an intriguing and even mysterious character. But what we want to see today is that his role in God’s plan of salvation is no less significant because of it.

So, as we think more about Joseph, let’s look first at his predicament; second, at his task; and third, at his response.

First, what is Joseph’s predicament? His quandary? His dilemma? In simple terms, Joseph’s predicament is that he is pledged to be married to Mary; Mary is pregnant and the one thing Joseph knows for sure is that he is not the father. So what to do? 

If we probe a little deeper we can discover there’s actually two possible ways of reading this situation, both of which could leave Joseph in a difficult spot. The one we most commonly hear, is that Joseph assumed that Mary had been unfaithful to him. Now this may have been difficult just on the personal level. But more than that, according to the law and social custom, it would’ve created big problems for Joseph to take Mary as his wife if it was known she had been unfaithful to him. So divorce seems to be the inevitable end. The problem, then, is that this sort of thing could be punished quite severely according to the law. So Joseph is in a predicament. He is a righteous man, and comes across as a kind and merciful man. So what is he to do?

Well, he arrives at a less than ideal solution but the best he can work out—arranging the divorce, but doing it quietly and so not creating more problems for Mary. Quite a predicament! This is the most common way to read this situation, and I think is the most likely. But there is another possibility that is worth considering, which is how many in the early church understood this story.

According to the alternative understanding of this story, Mary told Joseph about the visit to her by the angel and the news that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit, and that Joseph believed her. So he wasn’t suspicious of her, but he believed her. One of the things to remember here is that Joseph wasn’t a modern materialistic sceptic. He was a faithful, believing first century Jew who would’ve been much more open to God’s miraculous intervention than people today would be.

So if this understanding of the story is correct, then the predicament of Joseph is that he is overwhelmed by the magnitude of what is happening and what he is being called to do. He perhaps feels unworthy about caring for the holy child. So again, what to do?

Okay, divorcing Mary and running away from the situation may not be the best option. But it’s the sort of thing a lot of the prophets felt like doing when God called them into his service. So whether Joseph is suspicious of adultery, or he is overwhelmed by the presence of God’s holiness, he finds himself in a predicament.

Now let’s pause, because there’s a connection here with our lives today.  

As people of God today, as married people, as Christian families, we find ourselves in our fair share of predicaments, don’t we? And if we take our faith seriously, if we want to hear what God has to say to us and live according to his will, this doesn’t necessarily mean we have less difficult situations. In fact it can mean we have more of them.

Let me give you a very simple example, which perhaps some of you are facing right now. Let’s say Christmas lunch this year is scheduled for 12:30 at the rellies’ place. This part of the family isn’t involved in the life of the church. The problem for you is that it’s a two hour drive to their place. Church is at 9:30. So by the time we finish and get on the road you’re thinking: “Hmm, are we going to make it? Are they going to be upset if we’re late?” And so on…

Now at one level this may not sound like a big deal. But still, this small example can simply illustrate for us that our faith constantly raises these predicaments, dilemmas, and difficult situations. Many of you are facing your own particular ones right now, no doubt. In these experiences it can simply be good to remember that even the ‘holy family’ of Joseph, Mary and Jesus was not exempt. God’s interaction in their life is disruptive and confusing, at least at first.

Do you think it’s hard being late to lunch because of church? Imagine explaining that you’re late to lunch because an angel had just visited you! And in fact it gets a lot worse after this for the holy family, because they are forced to flee to Egypt to escape Herod. But notice too, that God does not leave Joseph in his predicament. God intervenes through his angel and reassures Joseph, comforts him, and assures him who this child is and where he is from. God’s enters into Joseph’s predicament.

Now we are not promised such extraordinary angelic interventions in all our difficult situations. But let us be open to God’s coming into them, to lead us through them, and to work all things for good according to his purposes.

So that is our first point: The predicament of Joseph.

Now we move onto the task of Joseph. What is Joseph actually called to do?

The reality is that biologically, Joseph was not needed. We confess from this text and from Luke’s account that we believe… ‘In Jesus Christ our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit…’ The Christian church has always confessed that the conception of Jesus was a miracle. The church confesses that the Son of God became a human being in this world not through the normal processes of a man and woman coming together, but through the power and work of the Holy Spirit in Mary. Biologically speaking, Jesus had no human father. So what is the task of Joseph?

You could say Joseph is called to be a foster-father of sorts—to adopt and care for and protect Jesus as his own. He certainly does a good job of that especially in the flight to Egypt. So Joseph is sometimes called the guardian of Jesus. Notice too that Joseph is addressed by the angel as ‘Son of David’.

So, there’s something going on here to do with the fulfilment of the covenant that God made with David—that by Joseph becoming Jesus’ legal father the rightful King will come to his throne. But connected to this in the text, we read of a very specific task Joseph is given, which is the naming of Jesus: ‘Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him… Jesus…’

Now, you’ve probably noticed that names seem to carry a lot more significance in the culture and time of the Bible than they do for us today in our culture. But even today we still often spend a lot of time thinking about what to name our children, don’t we? It’s fairly important to us. Just imagine if someone tried to restrict this freedom. Imagine if the government tried to tell people what they could and couldn’t name their children! We seem to instinctively know there’s something very important about names, and so there is a certain honour and gravity in the giving of a name.

So Joseph’s task is to name the child, not using a name of his own choosing, but with the name the Lord supplies: ‘You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’

Let’s think a little about the name Joseph is to give the child. The name ‘Jesus’ comes from two Hebrew words, which together mean ‘the Lord saves’. Notice the emphasis in his name—Jesus comes to save. This is who he is; this is his work; this is his mission. He comes to save his people. He comes to save you.

Jesus does other things. He teaches, he heals, he works miracles, and so on. But everything else serves this main purpose of being the Saviour. This is no small point. Just about everyone is willing to acknowledge Jesus in some way—as a great teacher, as a spiritual guru, or as a nice guy. But the only way to truly know him is as the Saviour.

The reason that it’s difficult to acknowledge him as Saviour is that it also requires realising your problem is much deeper than you think. So, for example, if all we need is a bit more information and guidance, then Jesus the teacher will do. But if our problem is that actually we are broken from the core; if our condition is terminal, then we need a Saviour. And notice what he saves from!

Many people of that time were hoping for a saviour—a saviour from the Romans, a saviour from their enemies, a saviour from all the problems out there. But the angel says he comes to save his people from their sins. Salvation is about delivering us from the problem inside of us—in our sinful hearts.

Jesus comes to save you from your sins. He does this by taking your sins on himself on the cross, and so removing their power. And he’s not only Jesus, the Saviour. He’s also Immanuel; God with us, God for us. So that’s the awesome task of Joseph—naming Jesus.

Now finally and more briefly, let’s note the response of Joseph, which is the obedience of faith. ‘When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.’

One of the striking features of both Mary and Joseph in the Christmas event is that when the angel comes with the news of Jesus’ birth and gives instructions concerning it, to use the words of the old hymn, they simply ‘trust and obey’. With Joseph it stands out even more because of what we said earlier about there being no record of anything he said. All we have is his action. Joseph hears, trusts, and does what God has called him to do. At the beginning he was in a predicament and he was unsure and unclear about what to do. He had to work it out as best he could and choose a course of action.

But with a clear word from God to him, there’s no great deliberation, no argument, and no second guessing. He simply hears, trusts, and obeys.

So what about for us?

It’s true that there are situations we find ourselves in in which it is not always easy to know what God would have us do. Things can be unclear to us, and so we are called to use our Christian wisdom to find the best course of action we can. But perhaps there are not as many of these as we think there are, and in our lives there are often situations which we make more complicated because we have trouble simply obeying the clear and simple word of God.

There’s a time for deliberation and discernment. There’s even a place for wrestling with God, and asking our questions, and pouring out our hearts’ struggles to him. But there’s also a time for simple, trusting obedience. This obedience does not put us right with God. We stand right before God by faith in Jesus Christ. But from our faith flows a joyful obedience.

So as you face predicaments in your Christian life, remember Joseph, and, as Joseph did, trust God to intervene and lead you through them. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, remember Joseph, the one charged with giving the child the name and all it means, Jesus, the Saviour from sin. And as you believe in Jesus, your Saviour, may a simple and joyful obedience to God’s will overflow in your life. Amen.

Jesus & John the Baptist

The Text: Matthew 11:1-12

 1After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.8f5d0040f261ddb1b3f281e00e1385f0

2When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

4Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

7As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written:

‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’

11Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

In today’s text, Matthew tells us that John is in prison. He had been arrested by Herod because John had condemned Herod’s adulterous relationship with his brother Philip’s wife. John was simply being faithful to God’s Word. John the Baptist showed his love for God by not compromising his word, and he loved Herod too―really loved him by pointing out the hard truth to him and calling him to repentance, in accordance with God’s own definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13―that love rejoices in the truth.

Okay―people don’t like to hear the truth that hurts―but being imprisoned for speaking it? It wasn’t meant to turn out like this for John, was it? Maybe that’s the reason for John’s question of Jesus: “Are you the one to come, or should we wait for another?” The reason behind John’s question has resulted in quite a deal of debate and uncertainty among scholars for a long time. Was John doubting that Jesus was really the Christ? After all, John has faithfully prepared the way for him. Yet instead of the situation getting better it has only become worse. John had proclaimed that the Christ would come to bring judgment on evil―and now languishing in prison as a victim of injustice perhaps that is what John is longing for Jesus to do for him.

Or perhaps John was uncertain or confused because his proclamation was of a Messiah coming to bring judgment. He had heard in prison of the works Christ was doing―but where was the swinging of the axe that had gone below stump level and was already at the roots? The only works John had heard were those of forgiveness, healing, and mercy―would another follow Jesus, who would perform these works of judgment?

Or could it be that John’s question is not one of doubt, but really a question of trust―expecting confirmation and verification for what he already knows? The fact that John sends a delegation to Jesus with his question and awaits an answer from him proves his faith in Jesus. I’m not so sure it need be an either/or answer. Could it not be all of these thoughts are running through John’s mind while he waited and waited in prison?

It seems like we wait and wait too. Come Lord Jesus we pray. We don’t like waiting, especially in today’s society. But today’s text doesn’t just leave us with the questions. Jesus gives his own response. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say: “Yes, go and reassure John that I’m the Messiah.” But Jesus says: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” This is the best assurance possible, for what Jesus says is the direct fulfilment of what God promised through Isaiah in today’s Old Testament reading. Jesus is the fulfilment of what has been promised from of old. He has been doing precisely these things since the beginning of his public ministry. He has preached in the synagogues. He has cast out demons. He has healed many from their sicknesses including a lame man and a blind man. The miracles point to his authority and power over all things, even to release people from their sin and the kingdom of darkness, and to be victorious over the power of death itself. It’s no wonder Jesus tells them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.”

Perhaps at some point or other we can all relate to John the Baptist as he waited in prison. Just like John, everything we might expect or hope for from God is not always fulfilled in the way we’d like, or with the timing we’d like. Maybe it’s an illness that we or a loved one suffer, or the troubles of our family. Maybe it’s a time of difficulty we’re going through, or maybe it’s wondering about an uncertain future. We might feel trapped and isolated with burdens nobody else could understand. We might feel imprisoned by our frail bodies or our own sinful human natures.

Yet the season of Advent focuses our attention on God who did not abandon his creation but stepped into it in the person of Christ and was born in that stable at Bethlehem. However if Advent were just a reminder of what had happened in salvation history then it becomes emptied of so much hope and power. Neither is Advent only about hoping Christ will come again one day. In The freedom of a Christian, Luther says

“…it is not enough…to preach about Christ just by telling what he did and said, simply as a story or as historical facts. Just knowing these things doesn’t necessarily make any difference to how a person lives.

Instead, Christ ought to be preached about in such a way that faith in him is kindled and kept burning, so that he is not only Christ, but Christ for you and me; so that what we are told he is and does takes effect in us. Such faith is produced and grows in us when we are told why Christ came, what he has brought and given us, and what good things we have when we have him.”

Together with our remembering and hoping, this is why the season of Advent is so special. Jesus came for us. He was born, truly human, for us. Born there in a stable surrounded by dirt and animals and their waste, Jesus came to us to know what it means to be a person and live in vulnerability and weakness and brokenness. He overcame temptation for us and lived perfectly for us. He came to rescue us and bring us true freedom by calling us into God’s Kingdom.

No one knows when he will come again but he tells us where he comes now with his re-creative power at work. He tells us where he comes in the midst the suffering of this world to bring the Good News to the blind, the lame, the sick, and the poor. Through the Holy Scriptures he continues to teach us, just like he taught his disciples in verse 1. He raised us from the dead and brought us his new life and resurrection power in baptism. He continues to bring freedom and release through the holy meal he serves his people which is not just bread and wine but his own flesh and blood. As he ministers to us through these ways, he calls us to wait―and to wait with him. As we do wait for his return we can rejoice that he will never leave us. As we wait with our Advent King and gather around him to be served by him, we proclaim to the world that he has trampled over death and lives today, and that he uses his authority to bless unworthy sinners with the abundant grace of God, so that there is hope and strength, joy and refuge in even the darkest places of human experience.

Blessed are those who do not take offence at Jesus’ words! For those who cherish Jesus’ words rather than taking offence at them can only do so because they have first been blessed by God. And those who have been blessed by God so that they do not take offence at the words of his Son—but hold firmly to them in faith—will see John the Baptist and all the other saints of all times and places, as we gather around the throne of the Lamb in heaven.

Amen.