Roger's Postings

Friday, December 08, 2017

Mark 1:1-8.                                         Necessary preparation!!                                               10/12/17

(1)  The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. {2} It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"-- {3} "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" {4} And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. {5} The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. {6} John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. {7} And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. {8} I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Well here we are in the midst of another Advent season: Another year of preparation for Christmas; of things to do and be a part of, and be distracted by. On top of that it seems as though we have just come from last Christmas, as the days and years keep flying by. So, we get caught up in going with the routine of life, without really thinking too much about what it really is all about. We simply do what we have to without a lot of thought as to what it really is all about.

It is here in the midst of all of this that we are reminded of Christ's coming into our world to help us: to rescue us from the hopelessness and sin that we face in this world, and to save us from an eternity in Hell. Along with that reminder of God coming to be with us and rescuing us, is that call to prepare ourselves for his coming. We are to get ready for not just ‘Christmas’, but for the Lord's coming.

But so often it is here that we switch off. We have got enough to think about: enough to be involved in; without having to do anything about our own spiritual house. Yes, we know it is important, but later on; next year; some time. But not now! As for more preparations - what next! We have got enough on our minds already! Then we wonder why Christmas and Christianity has lost its meaning for us.

Now look, if you were going to go on a trip around Australia, you very much know that you have to prepare carefully: The vehicle and caravan to be checked over thoroughly and packed with everything necessary for whatever might happen; and many other things. None of us would even remotely have thought of doing all of this the day before. We all would be getting prepared and organised well ahead of time.

The same goes for you ladies - with Christmas coming up and knowing that you are having a house full over Christmas, and as busy as you are with everything else: how many of you still wouldn't take great pains to getting the house tidy and lots of other preparations done. I am sure for many of you, you would have sleepless nights before letting any of those things go undone. And I could go on with many other examples as well.

But when we are reminded of Christ's coming to us, I wonder if the same priority is given to our preparations for him. Now if you knew Jesus was coming - for real this Christmas, and that he was going to come and spend some time with you personally: that he would then go with you as you go about your everyday life as a real life person. What sorts of changes and preparations would take place in your life; as busy as you are with whatever?

For instance, would you be happy with; or more importantly would our Lord be happy with, some of the language you use; or the business deals you do; or the little white lies you tell; or perhaps your missing Church on Sunday morning because it is only a reading service or because you have got a game of sport to play, or you want to do some cooking for some other friends who are coming to lunch. If the Lord Jesus were standing alongside you everyday, wouldn't there be some changes take place in the things you say, do or think?        I'm sure there would be.

Yes, if we knew for sure Jesus was coming to us this Christmas, I am sure many of us would have a dramatic change of heart. We would have a different attitude toward, who and what, was important in life: Our priorities and lifestyles in many cases would be considerably different. The importance and greatness of our Lord and what he has to say to us would become a far greater priority to our everyday life than it is at present. Yes, to know that he is coming to be with us for real, would mean for all us that there would be great changes to our lives.

Now of course we know John the Baptist’s message was that Jesus is coming. Christmas also reminds us of his coming into our world to be with his people. Here we need to remember that is a past event - in other words - Christ has come: he has entered our world. But he also has given us the promise that he is with us now, always: that his Spirit is with us now and every day of our lives. Yes, that is right: The Lord Jesus is now with you and goes with you as you live, work and play, every day. He is with you even though you may not be able to see him.

Woops! Yes, he is with us for real every day. Also remember that reading we had a few weeks ago, where we were reminded that Jesus is there in the hungry, thirsty, sick and imprisoned. At the same time wherever there is another Christian, there also stands the Lord Jesus Christ. As well, we have the baptismal font and the Lord’s Supper as constant reminders that our Lord is with us every day; that he is always near at hand.

So yes, in light of what was said earlier, woops! We have mucked up, rather badly haven't we? As the OT reading suggested; ‘we are like grass,’ and our own glory has again faded and deserted us. We are again brought to the realization that on our own we are in big trouble, because we ignore God's presence with us again and again: that we fail over and over again. The present world crisis is further evidence of this.

But in coming to this realization that we have failed, we are again turned away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus, and given hope for the future. In our failures, our lives are re-directed back to where they should be. Our thoughts are turned back to the Gospel: back to the Good News of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection: back to the importance of God for all of life. We are reminded of our baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and that there, all of our failings and all sin is washed clean, and that we are made a member of God’s family.

So, having that assurance of the absolute certainty of forgiveness, we can go forward again to live and be the people that God would have us be. We are reminded also, that at our baptism God's Spirit enters our lives and goes with us always to help, guide and direct us in our living as his people; but in particular he is there constantly seeking to point us to the Lord Jesus Christ and his presence and activity in our lives: and that all of this is more important than our money, material possessions and earthly pleasures.

Here remember also that John is hinting quite strongly that this Jesus is truly the great one in life. He is more important than anything else in life. Alongside of which we are completely unworthy to be in his presence. As John says we are not even worthy of untying his shoelaces. Yet he comes into our world to lift us up and make us worthy once more to be in his presence.

So, this repentance – this preparation for the coming of Jesus, entails us turning away from our inward focus on our own lives. We have and are nothing that enables us to be in his presence. So, we turn away from ourselves to the help and hope that this great one has to offer. So, our Christmas preparation entails turning away from ourselves and our self-centredness. It is the earnest desire to receive the only help and hope that we really have in this life: Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and hope that he extends to us.

That is the message of Christmas: God come to be with us and to save us: to live with us and bring eternal life to us. Surely that has to be the best thing that has ever, and can ever, happen to us.  There we have something that is really special: a real Christmas gift. A truly great guest comes into our lives, homes and communities. Now if that is not more important than shrinking finances, the Christmas dinner, sport or anything else, then I don't know what. That would surely have to be the best thing that could ever happen in our lives.

And since it has happened to us - that Christ is with us – let us go out from here and make this Advent season what it is intended to be: a time of preparation – of, in a sense, a cleaning up of our spiritual house; of remembering that which is truly important in life. And in particular of a re-focussing of our hearts, minds and lives on the Lord Jesus Christ; and a re-affirming of the importance and reality of his presence and activity in everything we say and do. It is there that we will find the real joy of Christmas and the peace and goodwill that we all need.

So, I pray that our gracious Lord will be with you and go with you now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Monday, December 04, 2017

Mark 13:24-37.                  Watch – Christ is coming!!                                            3/12/17

24 “But in those days, following that distress,

“‘the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

Here this morning in this reading God is reaching right into this world of ours today. Here he is seeking to both challenge us and encourage us in the midst of a life that is full of uncertainty and troubles; doubts and complacency.

There is so much going on in life that it is hard to keep up with it all. So much information: so much spin; so much bull-dust. Then there is the constant push to overturn all our old ways of thinking acting and doing things. Things that have been wrong throughout history are now promoted as good and right. Even the very concept of God and his reality is being ridiculed and openly denounced in our society.

Whichever way we turn we are being hemmed in and seemingly crushed. Certainly, the future seems more and more uncertain and dark. Nothing is stable any more. Many are giving up and just living for the moment.

Now many would say that I am being negative and cynical. We need to ‘go with the flow’ and embrace the future. It is all in our hands. And more.

However, when we are prepared to open our eyes and watch carefully we can see that things are far from being as rosy as many would like to think. Also, when we look to God and his Word then we are left in no doubt as to the perilous future that is before us.

God is very clear about the fact that he is coming back to judge the world and then take those who are faithful to join him in his eternal paradise. All who look to him and the help and hope that he extends to us through Jesus Christ will have a sure and certain future in front of them, irrespective.

The point is made here that God and his Word here can be relied on. It will not pass away. When everything else is gone there is only going to be one thing left that can be trusted. We need to hear this point loud and clear, at this time when God’s Word is ridiculed, changed and ignored. The Bible in its entirety is God’s divinely inspired, written and inerrant Word.

No matter what we think, this Word alone stands secure and immovable. Even when churches, and even notable theologians and pastors, change, and wilfully misinterpret it, it does not change. When we think that we can take seriously and believe only that which suits our own way of thinking, this Word in its entirety is still the only truth.

So, no matter what we might think, what God tells is what is right and true; whether it suits our thinking or not. When God say the end will come; the end will come. What he says with regard to whether we get to go to heaven or not it is what he says in his Word that will be the criteria that is used, no matter what we might like to think. He has a lot to say in this regard, that is very clear. So, Be on guard! Be alert!

Here remember that this world is coming to an end sooner or later. Jesus makes it quite clear here that we don’t and won’t know when that will take place, but it will happen. He also tells us here, that the lead up to it will not be very nice. There will be traumatic events take place.

Elsewhere he tells us there will be a great falling away from the Church in the lead up to these things. People will disregard his Word and seek instead what their itching ears want here. There will be many who will get so caught up in the things of this world, that they will take there focus and reliance away from Jesus Christ and the importance of his death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. In so doing they may very well lose out on that which is most important of all.

Then on that last Day He tells us, he will come in all his glory and he will judge the living and the dead; and he will use his Word, what we have in the Bible, as his criteria in making his judgements. There will be no escaping. Without trust in Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that he has made possible we will be in trouble.

Now, the temptation for us all is to think that we still have time. These major catastrophes are not here yet. The end could be years away. But here we are reminded that we do not know the day or the hour. That also applies to our own personal lives. None of us know how much longer we have here on this earth. We may be dead before this day is out, through an accident or whatever.

So, this then would be our last day; our last change to be ready and certain of our eternal future. We need to Be on guard! Be alert! We do not know when it will be. So, every day; every moment, we must live as if it is our last.

“Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

With all of this in mind then, let us begin this new church year with this sobering reminder. Let each of us continually watch and pray. Let each of us seek God’s help to ever stay close to him; looking to and trusting in him alone. Let us encourage one another to be regular in our worship so that we do not lose sight of the wonders of God in Christ Jesus.

More than anything else we need to be ever surrounded by our Lord Jesus. Yes, remember that we of ourselves are deeply sinful and self-centred, and so cannot make it through life on our own strength and effort. In recognising the absolute unworthiness that we are will ever keep us looking to Jesus and his death on the cross for our hope and our life each and every day. It will stop us from being complacent in our attitude toward our Lord and in our regular gathering in his presence.

Then as we gather week by week here in his presence he will constantly reassure us of the forgiveness of sins that he has won for us so that we can be sure that heaven awaits us. In fact, as we gather at the altar rail he already is joining us to his heavenly banquet and all the host of heaven. In this way we are ever kept mindful of and close to Jesus Christ and the sure hope that he has for us. In this way we are kept ever watchful.

Also, as we gather with him around his Word, we are encouraged to heed all that it says, so that we are kept on our guard and ever alert. In this way he keeps us from getting caught up in complacency and the dangers of being led astray, that are ever before us and around us. It is so easy today to think, just giving a little here and a little there is not going to hurt us. Yet God’s Word clearly tells us that is not the case.

As we are constantly bombarded by so much that seek to take our focus away from the centrality of Jesus, we need to be ever alert. The devil is working hard at the moment turning our focus away from this central message. Even in the churches he is turning our focus to ourselves and what we think and do. Thereby we need to be ever watchful and on our guard.

The end is nigh. We know not when. But we know the dangers of it coming sooner than we might long to think. The signs all around us in our society are not good. And God’s tells us that many will be caught out sleeping, and will lose out altogether. So, watch!

So. listen again to what our Lord tells us here.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

To him be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore Underdale Lutheran Parish

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Ezekiel 33:7-11.                 You have a responsibility!                             10/9/17

Also Romans 13:8-14, & Matthew 18:15-20.

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.

10 “Son of man, say to the Israelites, ‘This is what you are saying: “Our offenses and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?”’ 11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’

I am sure that most of us have heard the saying that: 'the only problem with the church is the people in it." Now in one sense, it is so true. It often seems as though we are continually facing the situation where someone or other has done something wrong: whether that be within the congregation, in the family, or out in the community or business world. Somebody or other has fouled up somewhere. Irrespective of where, it almost always reflects badly on the church somewhere or somehow.

Now none of this should really surprise us. We live in a sinful world where even we ourselves are constantly failing to be the people that we know we should be and are constantly falling. All of us are far from perfect. So there will always be problems and failings. But it is how we deal with it all that is important. It is here that our readings this morning have some very important advice for us.

The first point that comes out, is that each one of us have a responsibility in this matter; each one of us needs to listen to what God is telling us here. No matter where we stand in regard to the issue at hand – whether victim, perpetrator, or spectator. So often when it comes to a problem in the church as well as outside in the community we merely want to sit back and criticize from a distance.

Even when we ourselves are involved it all too often is seen as the problem is out there. It is the other person’s fault; he wronged me; he calls himself a Christian and yet he does this or that; or look what so and so has done, and so what I did is not so bad; he or she is not as good as they should be or claims to be; and we could go on and on.

Yes, we are always quick to see and criticize the faults and failings out there – in the other person. But how often aren't we doing this for very selfish reasons. By highlighting their failures, it doesn't make me look so bad. Deep down, probably, thinking it takes the focus off of our own failures and blame.

But each of our readings remind us that when we think about failures and the things that can and do go wrong, then we must first of all look here, to ourselves. We are to see what our responsibility is in the situation. We are to think about what and how God wants us to behave and act, whether it is our fault or not.

In the second reading, we were reminded of what should underlie our whole approach to life and to the failures and problems that we face. "You shall love your neighbour as yourself. “Love does no wrong to a neighbour;" even when they have wronged us. Love always thinks of the other person first - not self. It thinks of how and what is needed in order to help that person in the situation whatever it is. It thinks about what Jesus would have done. And instead of trying to destroy that person before others and God, our concern is to be, to build them up. In particular to bring them into a right understanding before God.

That is why we are told in the first reading to warn those who do evil of the consequences of their actions - they will die because of their sin. We are to warn them of the need to change their ways. And if we don't and we fail to give that warning then we are told that we will held responsible for their death. Out of love for that person and seeking their welfare before God we are to show them their fault.

At the same time out of love for God and that person we are to seek to live life in accord with God's will - so others will not be tempted. Here remember also our second reading mentions being subject to governing authorities. They have an essential role to play in governing for the welfare and good of our society. They need our prayers, support and challenges so that they do what is best, and not just what is popular.

So continually these readings this morning are speaking of our responsibility; of what we are to do in the face of the difficulties and challenges of life. Instead of pointing the finger, we are urged to get alongside one another and build relationships. Especially our relationship with God Almighty himself.

Now secondly here, we need to remember that life is not simply about how good our lives are. As much as that is important. It is not our goodness or failings that determines our rightness with God. Yet so often that is the impression that Christians so often seem to give.

We praise people for the good they have done, and so often give the idea that this is what will get them to heaven. Or on the other hand we condemn a person who has done something wrong and evil. Not even giving them a chance to know of the forgiveness of sins that there for them through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

This is where all of us need to focus our attention - on the Lord Jesus and what he has done for us. There alone in him we find what is needed in order for us to be able to face life in our troubled world. There in him we find the where with all to be able to get on and work in the midst of the failures of us all.

God had and has given us a way to live that is good and right, and which would ensure that we have none of the troubles and disasters that we are constantly facing. All of which off course, are of our own making as human beings. We have ignored what God has to say and give us, and have instead chosen to do our own thing.

So constantly we all bring on ourselves and one another all these terrible things that we face in this life. No matter how hard we try it is always there; and there is no way out of this awful mess that we face. It is a hopeless situation with only one conclusion death and destruction and finally, all hell.

Except for the fact that God in his love for us sent is only begotten Son into our world to give us a way out. He takes the punishment that we deserve on himself, and therefore, for God’s forgiveness to be extended to each and every one of us. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross God now accepts all those who believe in him to be fully forgiven and accepted as his very own perfect people.

 Then in response to what he has done for all our sin and failures and all the rubbish that comes our way, there we find also our responsibility as we now go on living in this sinful world. We give thanks to him for all the good that has been extended to us and that is there in our lives. We respond to his love and forgiveness by obeying our authorities and keeping his commandments.

When another sins against us, as people who have been saved by Jesus Christ, we seek to show them their fault and lead them to confession and forgiveness Because of Jesus we now think of our actions and reactions toward good and evil all in terms what it does mean for our relationship with God.

When we think of the wrong that we or others have done we think of rejection he must feel; and then seek and encourage forgiveness. As our Lord has forgiven us we now seek to extend that same love to others. Thinking always of our need for the help and forgiveness that only comes from God.

In all of this we need to remember that our Lord is present with us, each and every moment of our lives. He is alongside of us all the time. In particular, 'where two or three come together in His name.' As we gather together as fellow Christians, he is there to help us to get over our petty differences. He is there to help us beyond simply pointing fingers and looking down on others for their failings. He is there to also help us forgive even the most serious hurts.

When there is major conflict and differences of opinion he is there with his Word to lead us to the truths that he would have us uphold and live by. Even there he gives us the strength on those occasions when we need to reject a person who does not listen to our warning and the need to be guided by what God has clearly told us. He is always there with us and for us; helping us to live, love and forgive as he would have us. He is also there ready to forgive us when we fail and fall.

So let us be determined to go from here today remembering all our Lord has and continues to do for us. Let us not merely concentrate on others faults and condemn them; but help them to overcome them and to build their relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Instead of merely focussing on the goodness of people or more particularly theirs and our lack of it, let us keep in mind the greatness of our God and what he has done for us through our Lord Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. This is now the responsibility that is ours. So may God go with you in this regard and bless all you do in Jesus name. To him be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Friday, September 01, 2017

Matthew 16:21-28.          Standing at the crossroads!!                          3/9/17

(21)  From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. {22} Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" {23} Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." {24} Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. {25} For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. {26} What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? {27} For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. {28} I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

This reading here today places us all at the crossroads of life. Do we here also want to take the easy and glorious road through life; just as Peter is suggesting to Jesus? Or will we listen to our Lord when he tells us that we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him? Are we going to listen to our Lord or are we going to allow Satan to direct our lives for us?

Might I suggest; by what I see around about, Satan has by enlarge, enticed much of the church today to follow the easy road. We don’t want to face the road and the theology of the cross and suffering: we want the easy and comfortable road that allows us to enjoy health, wealth and happiness: we don’t want to be challenged: and we don’t want to live a life of suffering, ridicule and rejection. In other words, we would much rather travel on the wide and easy road that leads to Hell, along with the bulk of the people around us.

Sadly, there are so many that seem to be wanting to gain the whole world no matter the cost. ‘We have to have all that the world is telling us that we need, or else we will not be truly fulfilled and happy.’ We don’t stop and think that a sinful, selfish world will only give us more and more heartache and disaster, no matter how hard it tries. At the end of the day we also need to consider what Jesus says here is the end result of this pursuit: this person forfeits his soul.

But I guess the challenging question then in this regard is: do we really care? It would seem that for most people, they have this idea that they can ‘have their cake and eat it as well.’ They seem to think that they can live as they please; allow Satan full reign; and yet at the end God will still allow them all into heaven. It doesn’t matter what God himself says about these things, as long as we think we are OK, then we are. Sadly, this kind of thinking has come right into the heart of the church and all too often into our own lives.

For so many, they are no longer at the crossroad, that have gone down the road that is broad and easy; the freeway of life; and there is little chance of them being able to get off. Jesus and the cross is not central; denial and suffering are not a part of the equation. They want life, but they want it their way; and are heading down the road of forfeiting their soul.

This being the case we need to carefully consider what our Lord is saying to us here. The first thing that he says is that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Here again then he makes the point that it is absolutely essential for us and for our salvation that he dies on the cross. This is no incidental issue. He must die so that forgiveness of sins and eternal life can be ours.

God’s Word is quite clear, that because we have chosen to do as we please, instead of heeding what God has told us, we have brought all kinds of difficulties and disasters on ourselves. Because we have sinned we will surely die. However, God in his love for has done through Jesus Christ what is necessary for us to have a way out. All who trust in him alone then has the certain hope of salvation and eternal life.

Then at our baptisms we were joined to Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection and so can be sure that we have been placed on the road to eternal life. If we stay on the road that he has laid down for us, we can be sure that we will find life, even though we will suffer and have to carry our cross through this life.

It is here then that we need to take careful note, for Jesus says that if we now as Christians, want to save our life: in other words, to have a comfortable, easy road where we do as we please, we will lose it. We will be turning our life off of the road that he has set for us and turning to the broad free way to Hell. Jesus here speaks in the strongest possible terms: we cannot have the way of the world without losing our life.

Instead he says whoever loses his life for me will find it. Whoever is prepared to give up getting their own way and doing their own thing, and then allow Christ’s life and what he says is good and important for us, to be what is all important for us; then we will find life. We will have that sure and certain hope that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

So we can deny ourself and take up our cross and follow him. Now in many ways this is a positive statement: it is something that we can do. It is so, because first of all, our Lord Jesus is suggesting that we follow where he himself has been before. We know that we would dearly like to be where he is now; in heaven with his Father. But at the same time we know that as we stick with him in the things he has told us are important, we are on the road to get there. As we follow the path he went down and that he tells us we are to go, we know that it will not always be easy. In fact, he promises that ours will also be one of denial and cross-bearing.

However, as we do follow we have his sure promise that he will never leave us or forsake us and that lo he with us always. In fact, he promises that he will help us carry our burdens, as well as help us in our living as his people. Also as we follow him we know that we live under the joy of the Gospel: The Good News of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us in his life, death and resurrection. We know that there is forgiveness of sins there for all the mistakes that we make along the way.

So we can go forward in the midst of the difficulties and struggles of life. We can live boldly and confidently in the midst of what at times looks like failure. We can put aside our selfish fears and live for the benefit of others. We can take all the mud that is thrown at us and know that he will use it for good. We can follow the road ahead and know that because of Jesus Christ the destination is sure.

Also we can and will seek to live as we are encouraged to in the second reading from Romans 12.

(9)  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. {10} Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. {11} Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. {12} Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. {13} Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. {14} Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. {15} Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. {16} Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. {17} Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. {18} If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. {19} Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. {20} On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Yes, we recognise that this is not the way our world or our sinful selves want to live; but we deny ourselves and take up his cross and follow the Lord Jesus, because that is what he has called for from us. We know that it is good for us and for our society for us to do so, even though we so often struggle to do so. Because of the love and salvation that he has extended to us, this is what we now seek to do, despite our inability to always do so.

Let us remember that it is there in and with him, as we go down that sometimes difficult and dark road, that we find that there it is, what life is all about. There it is that we find real meaning and purpose and there in the Lord Jesus we find life eternal. Yes, with all this in mind we find that we have gone over the crossroads and are down that road that our Lord leads us on. Let’s not turn back! Let’s not listen to Satan’s lies! But instead deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. To whom belongs all glory and honour, now and always.  AMEN

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Friday, August 25, 2017

Matthew 16:13-20.          The true Church revealed!                           27/8/17

{13) When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" {14} They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." {15} "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" {16} Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." {17} Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. {18} And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. {19} I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." {20} Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

Here today through this reading God confronts us with the heart of what it is that constitutes the true Christian Church; and thereby that which is central to each of our lives as Christians. This message clearly ‘flies in the face’ of much of the contemporary thinking around about us, through which the gates of Hades is seeking to overcome us. In this regard there is no doubt that the gates of Hades are making serious in-rounds into the churches around about us and perhaps even into our own lives.

Here the challenge is clearly laid before us as to where we stand and upon which we need to be built. It all is based around the question that Jesus asked his disciples: "Who do you say I am?"

Now before you start thinking that this doesn’t apply to you, for we know that it is Jesus that is what it is all about. Most ‘christian’ churches would say that Jesus is the centre of their beliefs. We all ‘believe’ in Jesus, so what is the big deal?

However, just as in Jesus day, so also today what is it that we believe about him? There are all kinds of false and misleading views being ‘peddled’ around today about this Jesus. Much of what is focussed on, is only one part of who he really is, and not that which is central, and which God himself has revealed as that which is the basis of the Church which he is building; and which opens up heaven for people.

It is not good enough to say that he was simply a great prophet or teacher or example. It is not adequate to look at him simply as a great miracle worker or leader of the church. He does not die on the cross to simply show us how we are to live sacrificial lives for others. He is not one who just shows us that God is a loving God who is accepting of all, irrespective of whether we take him seriously or not.

 Peter and the disciples state that this Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is on this statement that Jesus says his Church is built and which enables people to be truly blest. It is on this reality that the Church and people’s lives stand or fall: heaven is opened or closed. Here remember, this is what God himself has revealed. This is not something made up by Luther or someone else trying to be pedantic or difficult. This clear and precise statement of what is the basis of God’s Church is revealed by God for us to know and have clear in our minds.

So any other view that goes outside of this, comes from the views of human beings, not God. In fact, as Jesus says, it comes from Satan, instead of God. They might sound good and pious. They might very well appeal to the egos of itching ears and be able to draw the crowds.  But they are not that which is revealed by God Almighty himself. It is devilish and evil.

Now since that is the case, let us look a little closer at what is actually revealed to us, as that which is central to the Church. The clear statement given is that Jesus is: the Christ, the Son of the living God. That is, he is the Messiah: the one that God had continually promised throughout the Old Testament times as the Anointed One that God would send to save his people from their sins.

 So this is not just a prophet, teacher, miracle worker, example or any of those other things that are so often focussed on. Here is the promised Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world: whose death on the cross for us and for our salvation is absolutely central to what the Church is about. The statement of the keys of the kingdom of heaven fit right into that understanding.

Here we have that which humanity finds very difficult to come to terms with. We like the idea of Jesus as king and all of that, but as to his suffering and death, this surely cannot be. Even Peter could not come to terms with this, and Jesus has to say to him Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

You see, we don’t like hear about our sin and the need for repentance; that is a turning our focus away from our desire to do what we want to do, instead of taking God and his Word seriously. We don’t want hear that this rebellion results in death and eternal separation from God. We don’t want to think about the fact that this is the source of all the troubles and heartaches that we have in our world today.

But it is only through the Christ; the Messiah, and his death on the cross that we have any hope at all. Apart from him there is no forgiveness, life and salvation. There alone then we have that which is central to our lives as Christians and as a Church. There is no other way.

But here let us not forget the second half of that statement either. This Christ is; the Son of the living God. Here we have the very clear statement that this Jesus is The Almighty God’s very own Son come into our world to do that which was necessary for our salvation. Here in Jesus Christ is the Lord Almighty himself: the Lord over all heaven and earth: the Judge eternal; and much more.

Here then in not someone that we can ignore or take for granted. He is not one we can twist and manipulate to please ourselves. Nor can we presume upon him to allow him to let us do as we please, thinking that it doesn’t matter, because he is after all a loving and all accepting God. That certainly is not what he has to say.

But why would we want to anyway? This Jesus Christ; God’s very own Son came and died in our place; so that God’s wrath wouldn’t fall on us. He overcame sin, death and the devil, for us and for our salvation. Surely then he is and will be our Lord. He will be the One we ever look up to and trust each and every day of our life. He will be the one we seek to help and guide us in each and every aspect of our lives. He and his death on the cross will be that which forms the centre and basis of our church and our lives.

So this revelation that was given to Peter and the disciples that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is now that which forms the basis of our church and our lives. In that we will find that Rock that we need in order give our lives, and the life of our world, the solidity and safety that we sinful human beings need. This rock is not some big stone, but a huge, immovable rock mountain that stand sure and strong, in the midst of the battles of life that pound at us each and every day of our lives.

Here in connection with this Christ, the Son of the living God we find that we are blest with every spiritual blessing that we could ever want. There we have the sure hope of eternal life with our God and Saviour. As we live in the shelter of that rock we now have the protection that will ensure that the gates of Hades will not overcome us.

So that being the case we can now go forward boldly and confidently, knowing that we stand built on the rock; this central teaching that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. We do not need to fear that we are on the wrong track as a church or individuals. This Christ, the Son of the living God does not change, yesterday, today or forever.

Any church or message that does not focus on and stand secure in this reality is nothing but a fraud and a deception. Any church or individual that focuses on Peter and their own faith or works is a deception. Any church that wants the miracle-working Jesus and not the Jesus on the cross is a misleading and dangerous church. Anything that points to a Jesus other than the promised Messiah; the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world; the Son of the living God come into our world is to be avoided. These are all the tricks of Satan to leads us away from that which is all-important.

This is what God says is for real for his Church. This is what God would have as the confession of each one of us and as a church as a whole. For there alone do we find the blessings that God would have us receive. To him be all glory and honour now and always.

So now I conclude with Jesus’ question to each one of you: "Who do you say I am?" "Who do you say that Jesus is?”

Surely he is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

That being the case, go then and live in light of him, and may he be that rock that holds us safe and secure. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Friday, August 18, 2017

Romans 11:1-2a; 29-32.                 Mercy alone: for all are disobedient        20/8/17


(Rom 11:1-2)  I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. {2} God did not reject his people,

(Rom 11:29-32)  for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. {30} Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, {31} so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. {32} For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Today in this reading God addresses an issue that is often on our minds: who is out of God’s kingdom and who is in, and what is the criteria for this. Where does that person or that church stand in their relationship to God and his acceptance of them? Are we all going to be in heaven? These are fair questions and ones that needs to be on our minds from time to time. The interesting thing, here, is the answer that is given in response to this question. The last verse sums up the answer that he has built up over the last couple of chapters in the book of Romans: For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Did you hear that? For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. God has bound all of us; shut all of us up together in our common disobedience toward God. All of us stand under the same judgement. Not one of us can stand up and say, ‘We’re OK Jack. This doesn’t apply to me.’ Hear this loud and clear: all of us are disobedient and deserve nothing but the wrath of God.

That being the case let us not fall into the trap of many of the Jews, and of many people today. You see, many of the Jews had become so ‘high minded’ in their thinking that they were God’s people simply because they were Jews; and after all, they were doing very well in living according to the rules of the church of the day as well. They didn’t need Jesus. They had no need of God’s mercy. They were in; and everybody who was not with them was out.

So we find that God gives them over to their disobedience; and troubles and heartache abound. He then extends his mercy and the Good News of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, to the Gentiles; many of whom became Christians because they believed in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for the forgiveness of their disobedience. They believed that it was through Jesus alone that life and salvation had been won for them.

So God through Paul has these words to say to them and us: Did God reject his people? By no means! God did not reject his people,

…. for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you.

Of course, we don’t go far down the track before we find that many of these Gentile people, like the Jews, soon fell back into trusting that they were God’s people because they could speak in tongues; or were pretty good at living the Christian life; or had some good experience; or some such thing. But their trust was no longer in God’s mercy but in themselves and what they were doing or experiencing.

Now is it any different today? Where, even do we stand, in this regard? Have we too come to the point where we trust in ourselves; our faith or knowledge; our experiences; our having our life under control; or in something other than Jesus Christ and the mercy that God has extended to us through him? Have we become so ‘high-minded’ that we are in control? We can change what God has said to suit ourselves and what we want.

Certainly our world and many parts of the ‘church’ have all kinds of ‘self help’ programs; promotion of positive thinking and meditation practices that can help us overcome all kinds of difficulties. They have entertainment and fun ways of ensuring that we can hide from the disciplines of life; and many other things that seek to help us to get and have our life under our own control. If and as we live by these things we will be OK, is the thinking.

Yet the reality is far from this. The more we think we have our life under control, the more our disobedience becomes evident and the more our world crumbles around us. The more we allow ourselves to be distracted from our focus on Christ and what he has done for us; and place it on what we do, the more we find that either our pride or our failures come to the fore and destroy our lives. Our disobedience thereby ensures that we find no hope in ourselves and what we do.

We can see this coming to the fore in this gay marriage debate. Having chosen to go against what God has to say in his Word, many then become so arrogant and bloody minded that they cannot even see that they are seeking to foist their view on everyone else, no matter what the cost or the damage that is done to society. We don’t want to believe in God, but instead trust that we can do life far better by ourselves, and are reaping the consequences.

As a result, we can come to no other conclusion than, not one of us is any better than any other: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Not one of us can be ‘high minded.’ Not one of us can condemn another or look down on another. Not one of us can make life for ourselves. We are all disobedient.

No matter how hard me might try to be good and loving and all the rest, the more it all unravels and the more that troubles and disobedience abounds in our lives. We just cannot make life for ourselves without reference to Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. It is only when he is taken seriously that we can find true hope and certainty.

At the same time, we are then called on to remember that God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. God does not reject his people and turn his back on them. His desire is for all to be saved. His call is still there for us all to repent and believe the Good News. The gift of his Holy Spirit is still there for all: it is irrevocable. That includes all today who are seeking to promote so much that is clearly contrary to God and his Word.

That means that he does not go back on his word and his promise. He does not change his mind in any way in this regard. His promise is sure. Even though we so often turn away from him and go back to disobedience, he remains unchanged in his thoughts with regard to us. He still holds his mercy out before us and to us. He wants us; and seeks to help us in every way, to turn back to him and his grace.

But at the same time he leaves us in no doubt that if we continue to be disobedient and no longer seek to avail ourselves of his mercy, then we can expect nothing but his wrath. If we continue to want to achieve life by and for ourselves then he will leave us to stand before him in our disobedience and therefore face an eternity in Hell.

However, we can be sure that as we avail ourselves of his mercy: God's gifts and his call; then we have every reason to go forward with confidence. Yes, daily recognising that we have been sinful and fallen back into disobedience, but then turning to our baptism and recognising that we there died with Christ and were raised to life with him. We have been forgiven, so can once again look to him, learn from him and seek his help and his gifts to continue to live in light of his mercy: Regularly spending time in his Word and weekly worship so that he can train us to look away from ourselves to him and his mercy.

As we in this way look to him and trust in all that he has done for us and has to say to us, then we not only can go forward confident in his grace; but we have the assurance that others will notice this goodness and mercy and want it for themselves as well. There we have the main mission strategy for our congregation; to live in God’s mercy to such a degree that it shows and that our families and others around us can see this great wonder of God and want to avail of it for themselves.

So does God reject some and favour others? No; all have sinned and live in disobedience. It is those who reject and no longer avail themselves of his mercy that are in trouble. However, these he gives over to even greater disobedience so that they might perhaps recognise their dire situation and once again avail themselves of God's gifts and his call which he has irrevocably made available to them.

For our part let us ever thank God for the mercy he has extended to us; and may our one great desire in life be to ever look to the source of this mercy and trust in his goodness toward us; and then to point others to him to whom all glory belongs; our great God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To him be all praise and honour forever and ever. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish