Roger's Postings

Friday, February 09, 2018

2 Corinthians 4:3-6.                                         Gospel veiled???                                              11/2/18

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

This morning our focus is on the transfiguration of our Lord up on the mountain, and its implications for us here today. Jesus revealed himself to three of his disciples so that they could catch a glimpse of who this Jesus really is. That was then recorded for our benefit after Jesus had died and risen again from the dead.

This was done in order that we can be certain of the fact that this Jesus truly is God come into our world for the express purpose of dying on the cross. So that we might have forgiveness of sins and the assurance of eternal life with God in all eternity. This Jesus Christ is truly then Lord of life for us here today.

However here is where the problem then is for us today. If Jesus really is Lord of all, how come our churches today are in such a dire situation as they are? Why is it that we have so many around us that do not want to ‘pitch their tent’ in the presence of God’? Who want to be with him as much as possible? Why do they want to live in darkness instead of the glory of Christ?

This reading here this morning from 2 Corinthians gives us a clear indication as to what is going on. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Ouch!

The minds of so many today are being blinded to the truth. They cannot and do not want to see that which gives light to life for us. They are so caught up in the things and attitudes of this world that they are blind to reality. They are so ego-centric and narcissistic they cannot see beyond their own lives and thinking that they have no idea as to what is truly good anymore.

Very much that is the god of this age. The idol of me, myself and I, is so worshipped and adored by the world all around us. This idol is now also having a big influence in the churches as well. What I think, feel and want is placed way above even what God almighty is and says. We in the western world have put this idol up on a pedestal as sacrosanct. Surely if I think something is right and good, God must surely think the same things. If he created me the way I am, then surely, I am right. How disastrous!

The really sad thing is that our thinking is so veiled that we cannot even see how wrong and bad this thinking is. This self-glorification of ourselves has so clouded our thinking that we cannot even see the problem. Any half-thinking on our part surely shows how much this narcissistic thinking is destroying our society. The mess in each of our lives is an ever-present reminder of the sin that is there.

So, our society is perishing rapidly and we don’t want to see it or acknowledge this is the case. We accept all the technology because of the good that is there, but turn a blind eye to its many disastrous and tragic fruits. We are rapidly dying as a society, but are desperately try to pretend that we are developing into a better one. History is fast repeating itself.

However, here today we are reminded that there is a clear and bright answer to this for those open to receive it. For our reading reminds us that: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. God therefore has and is a Light that can overcome the darkness that is in our world. It is ever there, if only we would not close our eyes to it.

This is where it is interesting. Just as when we come into a very bright light, we will often close our eyes. The light is too bright for our eyes to immediately cope with, so we close them. The same goes for the glory of our Lord; our sinfulness cannot bear to take God seriously for it hurts too much.

We know the punishment that we deserve, so we close our eyes to the problem. We pretend that God is not there, or that he is a loving God who accepts us irrespective. At best, we will just take little glimpses here and there; not get involved too much; not listen to carefully. Then we might be okay.

But in this regard God has given us another way for us to see the glory of God, in all of its fullness. He shows us very clearly who he is and what he is like. He shows us that he knows our problem and does something about.  He proves that he is with us and that he cares. In this way we can look up to him without his glory being more than we can bear.

Jesus and his disciples did not stay up there on the mountain. They came down from the mountain and travelled through mess of this life to Jerusalem and the cross. Because of the sin of each one of us there is all kinds of problems and disasters to face in this life. Because of our disobedience toward God and his Word, this will be for as long as this world stands. Without Jesus coming down off the mountain we would also have had to endure God’s eternal punishment for our sin.

That is why he comes down and goes to Jerusalem. There he allows himself to take the punishment that we deserve on himself. He becomes the Sacrificial Lamb which takes away the sin of the world. He does what is need for us to see the glory of God in all of its fulness.

So yes, there on the cross he comes right down into our sinful world and gives us a way through and out of the mess we have made for ourselves. There he takes our punishment on himself so that God can now look on us without his glory burning us up. There we can see the extent that he is prepared to go to so that we might have forgiveness and salvation.

Then three days later he rises again so that we can know that he is truly of God and that his death for us was valid. So now we too can know that in connection with him we too will rise from the dead to be with him in all his glory to enjoy the very best forever more.

So now as we look to and are connected to Jesus Christ through baptism and faith we are able to go forward with boldness and confidence. For in him we now can see the glory of God, in the death and resurrection of our Lord. We can face the troubles and hardship of life with a sure and certain hope.

So, God in this way has made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. We who are truly Christian are enabled to now have that certainty of knowing that there is a clear way through the mess of this life, to then be able to enjoy the rest of eternity with our Lord in heaven.

The face of Christ on the Cross is our enduring confidence of God’s glory. There is the glory that enables to stand in the midst of a world that refusing take it seriously and is thereby living in darkness. Though the unbelieving world is heading to eternal darkness, we already are living in the light of Christ.

This sure and certain hope then helps us here today in the midst of the world that we are living in today. We know that: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  But with Christ we can hold our heads up and seek to do the best we can in the face of it all.

Even though many have openly turned their backs on God; and many within the Church not heeding what he says in his Word, we can continue to hold to Christ and his Word and know that we are safe. When many worship the idol of me, myself and I, we can look to our Lord and know for sure that that is where our hope for the future lies.

Even when many in the church try to change and ignore what God has said, we can know that it is Christ and the cross that is central. When the focus is on society and what I think, we are careful, and instead continue to know that it again is all about Christ and what he has said and done for us that is all important.

So, what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. Our aim is to give all glory to Jesus Christ and acknowledge that his glory is very closely associated with his death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

So, to conclude, here today we are reminded of the importance of the recognition of the true glory of Christ.  He has revealed himself as God and as one who on the cross, ensures forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to us. May God continue to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. In the midst of a world where the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, may we not succumb.

Christ is not hidden from us. His Word and Sacraments are our constant assurance and confidence that there alone in Jesus Christ is our hope and our certainty. So, to him alone then be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Isaiah 40:21-31.                 The Triune God is still God.                                          04/2/2018

21 Do you not know?    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?  Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?  Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Here this morning we have another important message for our society and in fact the whole world. And it is a message that we here need to consider as well. Do you not know?  Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? That God is for real. That he is the only great and eternal God who controls all of history. No one and nothing can compare with him.

With that in mind consider this very carefully; for our future depends on it. We only need to think about what is happening around us in our own country. People left, right and centre have thrown belief in God out of the window. Others, though the say they believe in him, they make no effort to worship him or take him and what he says seriously. Only a very small percentage attend Church on a regular basis.

It would seem that we want to make God in our own image. In other words, to be a God who fits into our own way of thinking or caste him aside completely. Even in the churches there is the temptation to make him and what he says, fit into our way of thinking. In this way we are making ourselves the centre of the universe instead of God Almighty himself.

At the same time many of these people will read their horoscopes, tarot cards, clairvoyants and the like. They dabble in yoga, mysticism and semi spiritual endeavours, thinking nothing of it. They treat the dollar and technology as though it is where life is really at. And above all else, the me, myself and I is what is so important today. So, what I think, do, feel and say is where life is really at.

Yet what is happening to our society as a result. Very quickly we are seeing a growing breakdown in community. Selfishness, greed and corruption are becoming more and more prevalent: more and more people are hurting, lonely and depressed: drug abuse, suicides, road rage, deviant behaviour, and the like are on the increase: and we could go on.

Sure, you don't need me to tell you the way things are, and that they are getting worse. But here let us remember that there is a direct connection between our attitude toward God and the health of our society. Again, that comes right down into the church as well.

Here I would like to remind you that this is a very similar situation to that of the people of Israel, years before this was message given. They had turned their backs on God. Yes, they still claimed to be God's people – they felt safe and secure with the temple and God’s presence with them.  But they no longer took him seriously.

There was no thought to seeking to live as he required. They chose to ignore much of what he had to say to them and how they should live. In fact, they thought that they could live and do as they please, and it would all be okay. As a result, things started going all wrong for them, and they began to face the kind things we are in our society. But instead of changing, they kept going further and further. So, things went from bad to worse, till they lost their country and were sent into exile.

There they faced the harsh reality of what they had done. But even there they blame God for letting them down and for bringing this disaster on them. It is everyone else’s fault but their own.

But here God through Isaiah tells them: come on, don't you know? Haven't you heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Look all the along the line you had been told that God is for real. You know that you are dealing with a great, all-powerful God. A God who is way beyond this world and yet has control of history. He is a God who cannot be taken for granted. Who is far greater than any human being, who is here today and gone tomorrow. So, he cannot be compared with what we have and see around us.

This true God is almighty and all-powerful. So instead of sitting there and complaining against God and blaming him, and saying that he doesn't care and has forgotten them. He reminds them that Lord is the everlasting creator, who never gets tired. He doesn't fall asleep on the job. He is not to blame. He wants what is best for them, even if that means their having to suffer for their rebellion, so that they wake up and turn back to him.

He also tells them that if only they would look again to him there is hope for the future. He can again make them strong. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. So    just lift your eyes and take the Lord seriously again. He will save them and restore them. And we know from history that is just what happened.

Now we here today, need to listen to this important message. Our church needs to take heed. Our country needs us to help it to see this message also. Our future depends on it.

History has reminded us again and again that God is in control. Nations have arisen; but when they have lost sense of the things that are important, they either have destroyed themselves from within or where taken over by others. They and their great rulers were reduced to nothing. Let us be sure that the same thing will happen again if we are not careful.

The almighty dollar will not sustain us and give us all that we need. Technology does not have all the answers and their time will come. Pandering to our ego alone will not give us the happiness that we long for. They do not compare with the Lord and what he can and does give. They are nowhere near his equal.

We need to continually remind ourselves that our Lord is the everlasting God – the creator of all things. He gives power to the weak; strength to the weary – and he lifts up the broken- hearted. He gives forgiveness for our failures and rebellion against him. In him there is salvation. He gives life here and in eternity. So, he is our only real hope, now and forever.

And how do we know? Surely, we too have heard time and again of God's love for us. We have been told about Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection. Through our baptisms he has connected us to everything that he did for us through the cross and empty tomb. In Holy Communion Jesus gives us himself - his very body and blood which he shed on the cross. He has given us this so that we can be sure that he loves us, forgives us and has won eternal life for us with himself.

The Bible is God’s Word and can be relied on. Archaeological science clearly indicates that it is reliable and that it has been handed down for thousands of years without change. Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection from the dead is also clearly attributed to in history. The beauty and intricacies of nature attest to how wonderfully our world is created: way beyond what could ever happen by chance and evolution.

So, yes, God is the Almighty Lord over all; and we know that he loves and cares for us all, and has done what is necessary for our salvation. We also know that his ways for living in relation to him and each other is God and right. But we also know that sin – our selfishness and desire to live by and for ourselves, has created all the troubles, heartaches and tragedies that we experience in this world.

So, the call here this morning is not to take the Lord for granted any more - leaving him in church merely for when might need him. But that he truly is over all and truly the only one who is God who is to be taken seriously. Let us turn back and look up to him as the Lord of life: as the eternal, all-powerful, all- loving and forgiving God that he is.

Then to him be all praise, honour and glory for ever and ever.   AMEN

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Saturday, January 20, 2018

1 Timothy 6:6-10.                             Godliness with contentment!!!                                  21/1/18

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Here this morning as we celebrate Harvest Thanksgiving we reflect on the many earthly gifts that God has given to us. There is so much for us to be thankful for. We in this nation are in some ways living in ‘the lucky country’. We are very well off and have luxuries that for many in our world it is simply beyond their wildest imaginations.

Yet, on the other hand this wealth has become our ruination. We have come to focus solely on this wealth and materialism, that it is fast leading to our downfall. What does God say here in this reading? The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

That which is good – and virtually that is everything that we have, is good and wonderful – but it has become evil for so many – perhaps all of us. The desire has become to have more and more – no matter the cost. Here again we are prepared to bend the rules and do what it takes to have more. Seemingly hopeful that it will make us happy.

Our obsession to have more and more is causing all kinds of problems and disasters. We have pierced ourselves with all kinds of griefs. The focus is on the ‘goodies’ and not the giver. It is the things, that are seen as central to our well-being, and so has become our downfall. We feel that we are entitled to have all that we want; so, when we don’t have it or it doesn’t give us the enjoyment and contentment we believe should be there, we despair.

Even though we have so much, we are not content. No matter how much we have, it is not giving us the happiness that we long for and are promised that it will give us. We then go chasing this that and the other, hoping against hope that one of the ‘goodies’ is going to be the answer. In the end we despair and give up on life altogether, existing from day to day, trying to blot out our grief and failure.

So what Paul says here is readily seen in our world today: Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

When are we going to wake up that it is not the things in themselves that will make life for us. They are blessing, they are good, but something more is needed. Only when we have this other ‘something’ that the ‘goodies’ have their appropriate place and become blessings rather than curses. Then whether we have much or little we have the contentment and happiness that is needed.

Here in this reading we are pointed to this something. But godliness with contentment is great gain. This is strongly stated as the answer to life and our attitude to what we have in life. Only here we gain what is really needed for life, everything else is a bonus; and everything else finds its proper place. Godliness with contentment is what is need at the heart of life for each and every one of us.

Here we are reminded that these two things are important as we look to the gifts that we have in life, whether they be many or few. Godliness together with contentment is what is needed. We can’t have one without the other. If you have one you will have the other.

So first of all, what then is this godliness? The Word in itself gives us a major clue - godliness – ‘God in us.’ It cannot be God-like, for not one of us in our very best efforts can come anywhere near being Like God. If we are to simply strive to be like God, we will continually come up short and so be more grieved, discontent and unhappy than ever. Our selfishness and sin will mean that we are unable to be like God. We just cannot achieve that by our own efforts. Then we are left devastated

So, for us to be godly, we need to have God in us. For that to happen we need to repent – we need to recognise that we are sinful and unclean and to then seek God and his help. God cannot live in us if we are constantly seeking to live by and for ourselves. God and sin cannot dwell in the same place. It is one or the other.

Now thankfully God in his mercy sent Jesus the Christ into our world to take God’s wrath against us and our sin, on Himself to the cross. There he was punished in our place, and made forgiveness of sins and God’s acceptance possible. So there alone in Jesus Christ is our hope and any chance of being godly found.

Then we also find that he has given us baptism so that we can be joined to Jesus Christ and all that he has won for us. There at the baptismal font he washed us clean from our sin and made it possible for himself live within us. There he gave us His own Spirit to help us to believe in him and to give us all the help we need in order for this godliness to be there in our lives.

This Spirit is there constantly seeking to remind of Jesus Christ and all that he has done for us, and that he is with us always. His main resource for this is His Word and the Sacraments. As we avail ourselves of these means we are reassured, over and over again, of this godliness that is now ours.

In this way God is in us and we thereby have the fullness of all that God is and all that we need for this life and the next. We also then have the assurance that God knows what is good and right for us, here in the midst of this sinful world that we live in. He knows what is good for us and what is harmful for us. Whether that be wealth or poverty.

If it is wealth and plenty, he is there in our lives to guide us to thankfulness and the wisdom to use this wealth for good. As well as to not be obsessed by and focussed merely on it. Instead to use it all in the way that he would have, rather than for our own selfish purposes. Then these gifts are a wonderful blessing for all.

If on the other hand we have little, we still know that God is with us and will sustain us through this life. He will see us through and give us the strength to cope with life as it is. We know there is a purpose for it being as it is, and in the end, we are still richly blest with eternal life in heaven. So, we can be content.

So together then with godliness, contentment is right there as a gift also from this God in us. With God in us working for good, we can be content in all circumstances. We can rest assured that he is taking care of everything for ours and others eternal welfare. Instead of striving and grieving for what we might think we need, he is there with us see us through whatever is before us. We are also content that our eternal future is in his hand so we can go forward boldly and confidently no matter whether we have little or plenty.

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. God will see to it that all the rest will be taken care of. So we have much to be thankful for.

So, as we look around us at all the good and wonderful things we have in our lives we put them all in their proper perspective. We see them as gifts of God there for good, rather than object that we have to have in order to have and enjoy life for our own status and wellbeing.

The amount that we have does not equate with happiness and contentment in themselves. Nor do they indicate that we are blest by God in having them. If they are our obsession and desire and the acquisitions of our evil schemes, they will lead to downfall. If they become our ‘god’ we will reap the rewards of ruin and destruction.

Instead let us strive to have godliness with contentment so that these things can be blessings instead of curses – good instead of bad. Because this godliness with contentment has come into our lives, let us see to it that we do not bury it, push it aside and reject it, by focussing on the things rather than the giver.

God in us is the most important thing in life for us, so may his Spirit ever lead us and guide us to be where we are reminded of this over and over again. For it is so easy for us to be distracted by the things and the world around us, to think that is things that make for life and happiness.

Jesus Christ and his guaranteed presence with us is the only thing that is of true importance and assurance of peace, hope eternal life. So, to him then be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Matthew 2:1-12.                               Which star do we follow???                                        7/1/18

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’ 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Today we have a challenging, yet encouraging and pointed message for us here. At a time when we in this nation are particularly prone to following the ‘herd mentality’ and doing what the mega stars do, we have a reminder to be very careful in this regard. A small percentage of our population is determining the direction of our nation, and this is doing irreparable damage.

This is even impacting on the church and those who claim to be Christians. We can readily see that so many in this country are turning their backs on the church. Many still claim to ‘believe’ even though they don’t worship; but one needs to seriously question those statements. One needs to look at who they are following and being led by.

Now here in this reading we have these ‘wise men’ coming from the east to search out for a baby, who they believed would one day be a great king. Now we do not know what motivated them to do this, other than, receiving a strange sign from a star that had appeared. We of course, know that it was God himself, who had in some way made this known to them.

But we can readily see that they were not following the ‘mob mentality’. They were searching for something more important. Nevertheless, they go straight to Jerusalem and the palace, thinking that this would be where a future king would be born. Future kings generally come to inherit the position. But this was not the case.

At this news from the ‘wise men,’ the king and the whole of Jerusalem was disturbed. What is going on here? Is there going to some major upheaval and conquest for power? Is there going to be something happen the upsets the normal run of the happenings that make up for a settled society? This is not the way things normally happen.

But in the midst of this thinking, the question arises as to whether this new king might be the Messiah – the one Promised by God that would save and rule over his people. So, there was a search of the Scriptures to see where this Messiah would be born. And sure enough, they came up with the answer that Bethlehem would be the birth place of this king.

With that Herod sent the ‘wise men’ to go and search for this one who may become king at some point in the future. He however has ulterior motives. His ultimate star and guide, is his own position and power. He wants to eliminate anyone who is a threat to what he sees as important. As history went on to show, many innocent young lives were lost. His ‘star’ was to be protected at all costs. Too bad if many children had to die in order for him to have what he wanted.

So, with the leading of the star and God’s Word as found in the Scriptures, the ‘wise men’ set off for Bethlehem to look for this new great King. There they found what they were searching for, and they were overjoyed. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

These were very significant and valuable gifts. Not just financially. For Gold was very much associated with it divinity and longevity. Frankincense was a symbol of holiness and righteousness; and was used extensively in worship as a thank offering. Whilst myrrh was used for embalming of a body after death. All very fitting for this Jesus and what his life here on earth had in store for him.

So, we see here in the wise men that they did not merely follow the ‘mob’ mentality – the wide and broad road that leads to destruction. They sought after a king who would be the one who brings significant and lasting change for good. They looked beyond themselves and their society for that which would be of help and hope to them.

As well as that, they were prepared to listen to what God’s Word has to say and accept it as is says. Rather than ignore it as some outdated and irrelevant nonsense that can be ignored or changed. Instead they heeded what it said and found Jesus and where overjoyed in doing so.

They had their epiphany – seeking the one who was to go on and be the King of all kings, and Lord of all lords. They received the revelation from God that here was the one who was to be the Lord and Saviour of our world. This Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was to be that which turns life around for us all. Here is forgiveness, salvation and eternal life with God now made possible for us.

Here we all have that which enables us all have life, hope, purpose and a new and better way to live and act. Here now God is with us always, so that the mess of our everyday world, that follows the ‘mob’ mentality, is not the end of the story for us. There is a better future ahead for all who look to and live with this Lord Jesus.

Now in light of all of this, the question needs to be asked of each of us today: whose star do we seek to live under and follow? Are we happy to do our own thing, following the ‘mob’ mentality today? Are we happy to listen to and accept whatever today media says, as if it is all good and right? Do we simply follow and do what the popular people in our society today are doing?

Even within the church are we happy to go along and change things so the we simply fit in with the society that we are living? Changing what God has clearly said in his Word so the we can fit in with the homosexual and women’s rights movements? Do we listen to what God says about regular worship or are happy to simply worship when and where it suits us? Again, who and what is guiding us in this regard?

These are significant Questions that we need to think carefully about. There are many who claim to be ‘christains’ and there is seemingly no attempt to live in, with and under him. We can see by the drop-off in church attendance that many are following the popular thinking that this world. So what the society has to offer is far more important to us than God and what he has to say to us is. There are many today who are going along with the view that life is all about what I think, say and do. Even though we may put a veneer of religious and Christian thinking over it, it is still all about me, myself and I.

Yet here again the revelation is laid before us that it is Jesus Christ who is all important for us and for our future happiness. Ignore that to our peril. For it is there alone in the revelation of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection that true salvation and hope is found. Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation is found nowhere else.

When we are baptised, we are connected to all of this. We then are a part of this Jesus Christ and all that he is and all that he stands for. There we know that we have all that is important for this life and the next.

But there also then, we place our hope and our faith. We trust that he is Lord and that he has given us all that we need. But it also means that we now will live, in, with and under him. He will be all important to us. What he says and how he would have us live is what will be our endeavour. He will be the star that guides us through life.

With this in mind let us also look to God’s Word and let it guide us in all that we think, say and do. There we can led to and find things that are of infinitely great value for us as we live out our lives every day. Take it as written rather than try to interpret and change it to suit the popular ideas of the day.

We know how foolish it would be if someone gave us a cheque for 10 million dollars, for us to put it in our drawer and never cash it, use it, or think very little about. Well here in Jesus Christ we have revealed us that which is of infinitely greater worth.

We too have been led to Jesus, so may we all be overjoyed and worship him. Let us too open our treasures and present him with gifts that befit one who has done great things for us. Let us too allow ourselves to be guided by him, to live and do as he would have us. For He is King of kings and Lord of lords, yesterday, today and forever.    AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Luke 13:6-9.                        “Another chance’ for another year!                          31/12/17

(6)  Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. {7} So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' {8} "'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. {9} If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"

Here we are again at the end of one year and the beginning of another. They continue to roll on, one after another. The older one gets the quicker they seem to go; and perhaps the more that we give little thought to their passing.

Yet here again we do give some thought to the past year – whether it was good or bad. Things to be thankful for, and challenges we think we could have done without. Things done that we shouldn’t have done, and things not done that should have been. New life come into our lives, and others that have passed on. So much has happened in the course of this past year.

Overall each one of us will have different perceptions of the year past. But I am sure that we all have much to be thankful for and we have our disappointments and sadnesses. That is life for us all.

The same then goes for the year ahead. We know not what it has in store for us. As much as we might be looking to this coming year with longing and hope, we know that it too will have its ups and downs; its joys and sorrows.

To top it all off, we have here a reading that cuts right to the bone. Yes, it is only a parable – a story – and we might like to pass over it very quickly. Yet here we have a message from God that is vital for us to ponder over, and find encouragement in. As we contemplate the end of one year and the beginning of another, we have here an important message for us.

As God has looked over this past year in our lives, what does he see? A nice-looking tree, seemingly fresh and green; or an old withered, gnarly tree, but still alive and going. But where is the fruit? Nothing much to show for another year in this world. Lots of activity, but nothing much worthwhile achieved. What is the point of letting them continue on? Why should they use up valuable space here on this earth?

But no, what do we hear instead: 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it.  If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' How amazing is that! Another chance for another year. No, more than that he will tend and feed them and do all that He can in order for that fruit to be there next year.

With that in mind we need to consider the question; What is this fruit that he is looking for?

Now straight away most would say that it is all about ‘good deeds’ – it is about love and care and all that kind of thing. So how can he say that he could not find any fruit on the tree. Obviously, he is not talking about me. But even many of those completely outside of the church can be just as ‘good’ as those on the inside. We like the idea that this fruit, is the things that we do.

Then at least we do have something to show in our lives. Yet the Scriptures are quite clear that our best is as a filthy pair of underpants. Anything less than perfection is not acceptable. So even on that score we are left with no fruit to speak of.

On top of that we are reminded in the Bible of that real struggle we have to produce the good deeds that are required. What does Paul say in Romans:  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Our sinful, selfish human nature is constantly messing things up. So when we look to ourselves there is no real fruit to speak of.

So where does that leave us. In big trouble. Definitely needing the chop. However, this is not what God had in mind, so he seeks to dig around us and feed us with the fertilizer that we need. He seeks to do in and through us, what we cannot do ourselves.

First and foremost, that is that he came to die on the cross so that we might be forgiven. He draws us to himself through baptism so that he can join us to himself so that we can have new life and all that we need in order to bear fruit.

Then through Holy Communion he gives us his very body and blood so that we can be reassured again and again the he forgives us for our failures. But there he also gives himself so that we can be sure that he is right there with us as we go through life every day. Through his Word he continues to feed us with all that we need in order to stay connected to him so that he can work in and through us to produce his fruit.

I guess, then the question has to be, do we want this feeding and nurturing that God has for us? Or do we want to close ourselves off from and push away this wondrous help that he has made available to us. Do we want to produce this fruit that is good, or do we want to continue to live as we please, irrespective of the outcome?

Surely though, this parable is very clear that if that is our choice, then we best be prepared for the end result. The axe is ready, and the fire is sure. If there is no fruit the message is clear.

But to the question then, what is this fruit that he is looking for? Surely then in light of all of this, it is repentance and faith. It is a recognition that we are not the people that we should be and that from within ourselves we can do nothing to right the situation. No matter how hard we try, we cannot and will not be good enough. We need help from outside of ourselves.

That then means we will look to the one sure hope that we have. And that, is all connected up to this Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. We will look to God as our one sure hope for us as we go forward. He alone is the way and the truth and the life. He alone has the forgiveness and the wherewithal for us to be the people that he would want us to be.

So that is where faith comes. We will trust that he alone can make us be what he wants us to be. He alone can truly forgive. He alone can help us to stand. And he alone can work the fruit that is needed. That is what he has promised; and so we will look to him and trust the he will do it.

He wants to and will lead us then to regularly gather in his presence. He will give us what we need through Word and Sacrament to remain strong. He will be with us as we go about our daily lives. He will continually remind us of all that is good and helpful for us. In connection with him we will flourish and bear fruit.

So, the only thing that can go wrong will be if we choose to reject and turn our backs on this food and nurture that he has for us. He is here, and he has all that we need, so it would be stupid of us to not avail ourselves of it all. So also we need to ensure that the devil, the world and our sinful selves, do not distract us and keep us so busy that God is not able to do what he has promised to do.

So, as we conclude this year and set out into the year ahead may we be ever mindful of this parable and the truths that it imparts to us. In and of ourselves we are barren and fruitless. But as we turn away from our selves and look to Jesus Christ we will find all the nurture and food that we need in order to be able to go forward boldly and confidently. As we look to him and seek to remain in him, we are already bearing the fruit that he is looking for. Then he will help us to do those other good deeds; such and love and care for others. He will work that all in and through us. To him then will be all glory and honour, now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Friday, December 29, 2017

Galatians 4:4-7.                                 God’s adopted children!!!!                          31/12/17

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Today here in this reading we are reminded again of another great gift that has been given to us, as a result of Christmas. Something that is truly remarkable, and life-changing has been extended to us. Here is a gift that really does make a difference to each and every day of the rest of our lives.

Now I hope, and I am sure, that you all got some special gifts on Christmas day. Some would have been very nice and brought you some happiness. Others that you will use in the days and perhaps even years ahead. Some that were nice and quickly eaten or used and soon forgotten. Above all you would have appreciated the thoughts and the relationship that was there in the giver of those gifts.

There is something special about the giving and receiving of gifts that goes beyond the day and even the gift. The on-going relationship that goes with the gift is special and the giving and receiving enhances and maintains that relationship.

Here this morning God is reminding us a special gift that he has for us that does the same thing; but in an even more valuable and significant way. As a result of Jesus’ coming into our world all those years ago, he made it possible for us to be adopted into God’s family. That is God’s gift to us as a result of Christmas.

Now what an amazing gift that is for us. God choosing to do what was necessary for us to be a part of his family forever. Surely this is the very best that could happen to us. This is life changing and life giving for our lives. If we take that seriously life will never be the same – for the better.

To begin with, we know that because of our sin and selfishness, we have brought all kinds of troubles and hardships on ourselves and one another. But even more significant is that this rebellion against God has destroyed our relationship with him. We are thereby not able to come into his presence or be able to hold our heads up in our relationship with him.

Our relationship with him has put us in a place of slavery before him. We have to perform and do what he says to in any way please him. Not one of us can do what he has called for us to do in his Law. Our sinful, selfish nature will continually turn away from what he says and wants and put the focus on ourselves and what we want and do. But in end we are still nothing before him – there is no chance of us being able to earn an inheritance from him. So, we are in trouble.

Thank God however that he did not leave it at that. Instead, when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Now there is a sentence that is packed full of importance and significance.

It begins by stating that even though we had and have continually messed up, get had set about doing what was necessary for things to be made right once more. Already from the beginning he had a set plan and time to do what was necessary for things to be made right again. And all those Christmas’ ago that set time had fully come.

In the birth of Jesus God sent his Son into our world. So, the plan was that God himself would come to do what was necessary for us to be restored back into a right relationship with himself. To uphold his holiness however he had to take care of sin and its consequences. Punishment had to be served out for our rebellion. There had to be a perfect sacrifice take place for this to happen.

So, this Jesus, God’s Son, was born of a woman. He then, while he lived here on earth was fully human, just as we are. In Philippians chapter two we read that he made himself in every way just as we are, except for sin. The sacrifice for sin ha to be a perfect human being.

Then fully as a human being he was able to place himself under the Law. He subjected himself to live under and in accord with the Law, just as we are required to. However, at every turn, Satan sought to derail this plan and cause him to in some way sin. In the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane we have just two of these many attempts. However, he did not succumb.

In this way he was then able to offer himself as that sacrifice which takes care of God’s holiness and justice. He then was able to redeem those under the law. He gave his life on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve on himself. He thereby paid the price necessary for us to be bought back from death and hell.

All this he did so, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Did you hear that? He did all of this so that we might be able to be adopted back into God’s family. Jesus came at Christmas for the very purpose of enabling us to be restored back into a right relationship with God himself. How amazing is that?

At our baptisms then this adoption takes place. As we are brought to the baptismal font we are washed clean of our sin and joined to Jesus Christ and all that he did for us through his life, death and resurrection. There we were baptised into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit: joined into God’s family and all that it is a and all that it stands for.

So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Our relationship with God then is not one of being in slave-ship. Doing things because we have to do them and so that we can remain in his ‘good books’. We are not simply employees who are there to carry out his bidding.

No, we are God’s children. Part of his family, which means that we are in a close personal relationship with him and he to us. We are able to talk to him as “Abba, Father.” As we would talk to our loving parents. But even more than that we are ‘in the family’. We are a part of all that that family is and stands for. Not just in status, but in its very being. We are God’s children. That is truly amazing and great.

But that also means that: since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. We have a part in all that God is and all that he stands for. Being a part of his family ensures that we have a certain inheritance in heaven where we will enjoy the very best of everything, for all eternity. So if we don’t turn our backs on this God we have in store for us that which is better than we could ever imagine possible.

What a Christmas gift! But do we really want that? Do we really want that relationship and inheritance? Or do we simply want that ‘goodies’ but not the God and the family that is all a part of it?  Do we think that we are all grown up and don’t need to listen to and be a part of the family – that we can still live by and for ourselves?

No, surely this is the very best that could ever happen to us. Surely, we know our weaknesses and failings, and so want all the help that being a part of the family can impart. Surely we don’t only want the ‘goodies’ but especially the God who is the giver. And surely seeing as to how good, great and loving that he is we will want to listen to and follow what is good for the family. We will want to do what he wants.

That then means we will take to heart what we are told here also. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Because we are God’s children and because we know our weakness we will long for the Holy Spirit to help and guide as to living in the family. We will avail ourselves of all the opportunities available to receive this help. So regular worship will be an important part of life, as will other opportunities to read, hear and study his Word.

We will want to be in the presence of our parents and the rest of our family as much as we possibly can. There we will listen to; following the example of; and be encouraged and encouraging of one another, in the course of the family’s life. What is important to the family is what will be important to us. We will listen to and follow the directions of what is given to us for our good.

Yes, all this and more is a part of this great Christmas gift that has been extended to us. So, let us not put this gift on the shelf and give little thought and attention to it. Instead let us continually remind ourselves and one another of how great and important this gift is. Then make the most of that gift each and every day of the rest of our lives.

We have been adopted into God’s family; and so we are now a part of that which is truly the best that could ever happen to us. Jesus Christ and his coming all those years ago now means so much for us here and now as we live our lives every day. In connection with him we can now live with boldness and confidence. To him then be all glory and honour, now and forever AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish