Roger's Postings

Friday, December 09, 2016

Matthew 11:2-11.                                            Advent a time of expectation                     11/12/16

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, what a sight! To stand up here and look at all of you sitting there in the pews. All sitting back with an air of expectation. Although I am not sure what the expectations are: perhaps it is a chance for a rest and to let your mind wander; or, how many mistakes will the pastor make today; or how many flies can we count on the ceiling. Others of course, and most of you I hope, are listening to hear what God has to say. Whatever, you all have come with some expectation or other.

At the same time, you are all, I imagine, looking forward to Christmas with certain hopes and expectations. For the children it could well be the presents under the tree. For others it may be a break from work and its pressures. For others again it may be the family get together and the good feed. We pray that for many it may perhaps be the expectation of some peace, hope and joy as they reflect on Christ and his coming to be with us and what that really means for us.

Here this morning we are reminded that Advent is a time of many expectations. As Christians it surely has a great deal to do with the Lord Jesus Christ and his coming into our world to be with us. Firstly, as a baby in Bethlehem and then all the way through to his death on the cross and his resurrection. But also it is a time to reflect on his coming to be with today. Then also to his final coming at the end of time. From each of these events, I am sure, that we have certain expectations.

John Baptist in this reading was looking to Jesus with certain expectations. He was looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, or Saviour, that was promised by God long ago. Then when this Jesus came to him at the Jordan River he knew that there was something special about this man. But, was he this Promised Messiah. As time went on he heard all these reports about how this Jesus was doing some pretty       marvellous things and that people were flocking to him.

All this prompts him to send the question to Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” To which he received the reply; what do you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.          

Here remember that it was this Jesus doing all of this. Wherever he goes, these things are happening, Fantastic things are happening. Things that only God himself can do.

So yes, here is the expected Messiah: the one promised that would come doing away with sickness, pain, poverty and death. In connection to him true happiness is there for those who do not fall away. Here then, is the one that was to usher in God's rule and be the King of this kingdom of God and of heaven. This is what John the Baptist was looking forward to with great hope and expectation. Now here he was - has come - doing everything that was expected of him.

As he walked this earth he gave glimpses of God's almighty power: showing that he can heal sick, give life to the dead; and who has good news for the poor. Along with that he showed us where to find real happiness, peace and hope. As he walked this earth he showed that he definitely was from God and that he has come be with us to help us.

Then to show us the extent of his love and help, and the real purpose for his coming, he goes to the cross and dies in our place. He takes the punishment for our sin on himself so that we can now have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. He then rises from the dead three days later just as the Scriptures said he would, so that we can know for sure that here God himself has worked all these things for us so that we can be a part God's family forever. All so that inner peace and joy can be ours in abundance.

So now our expectations of Jesus Christ and his coming all those years ago are grounded in a reality that is sure and certain. We can look back there and know for sure that God has truly come and done what was necessary for our salvation and eternal life. As we look to his life, death and resurrection we can have confidence to live today and to face his coming again at the end of time.

With that confidence in the fact the God has come in Christ Jesus, enables us to have clear expectations now as we live out life today. Even though life may be rough and tough for us, we can have a sure confidence that God himself is with us in the midst of it. Jesus Christ himself is present with us every moment of every day. This is what he has promised us, so we can be sure that this is true.

To help us to remember this he has given us Holy Communion, where he gives us his very body and blood so that we can be sure that he forgives us, and so also lives in us as we go about our daily lives. With him living in and with us we know that; yes, we too then will share in his suffering, but he will be with us to see us through. Because he is with us he will use us and our suffering for good.

With him with us we too can now have the confidence to listen to him and what he tells us through his Word, the Bible. Because the Scriptures that were written hundreds and hundreds of years before, told us of his coming and his death and resurrection, we can now be sure of what he says to us today through his Word, the Bible. There we know that we have encouragement and directions for living that are right, good and helpful for us as we live out our lives in the midst of a sinful world. So with that we can get on with life with confidence and certainty.

Through his presence with us today, we can then face the future with the expectation that there too he will see us through to the end, and then take us to be with himself in eternity. When he comes again to usher in the new kingdom we can face that day with confidence. For as Judge who has died and rose again for us, and who lives with us now, he also enables us to trust in him and his sure promises. So we can be confident that he will see us through and so take us to be with himself in heaven.

So now we are able to have expectations that are sure and certain. As we look to Jesus Christ who has come, is come now and who will come again, we can be sure that all will work out for good. In connection with him we can reliably expect that everything will work out as he has promised.

Unfortunately, too often however, we look with expectation elsewhere. We look in the wrong direction and then wonder why things are not so good. We look to humanity and our technological achievements, for our salvation. We look to money and status to get us where we want to go. We look to our achievements to give us the elixir of life, so that one day we might have eternal youth. We look for happiness and peace within ourselves and what we think should be.

But in all of this we are left sadly disappointed: looking in hope, but in the end finding only despair. And even worse still, beyond death finding only Hell.

We need to remember that it is in Christ alone that we are to put our hope and trust in. For it is in him alone that we will find all these things that we really need. So let us look with eager expectation to the time when our Lord finally does away with all sickness, poverty and death for all time. Looking forward to when he welcomes us into his heavenly home, where we will enjoy his company without fear or want for anything. Ushered in by Christ himself; allowing all who trust in what he done for us through his life, death and resurrection to join him for all eternity.

So this Advent season again, may our expectations find a sure and certain hope that will not         disappoint us or let us down. As we look to Christ and his presence with us we can have the same certain assurance that Christ is for real and his heavenly kingdom is ours, just as John the Baptist had in our reading.

May these days and weeks ahead again, reassure us of the peace, hope and joy that is beyond understanding. May that assurance then sustain us through thick and thin. Yes, these expectations in Christ are guaranteed. So may we now look forward and go forward with great confidence and a sure hope. And may our Lord bless you and grant you the joy that lies in these expectations.

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

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Romans 15:4-13.                                                Good News for all!!                                           4/12/16

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
    I will sing the praises of your name.”

10 Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”

12 And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is hope as we go forward as God’s people and that hope is available to all people; if only they would have it. With that we are able to have the courage and endurance to face life in a world that is having great difficulty; but desperately trying to pretend that all is well. Along with that we can have a joy and peace that overflows in our lives.

At this time, as we are approaching Christmas once more, this is a very important message for us to hear and share with those we come into contact with. For despite the fact that this is the season of joy and happiness, for many it is the opposite. Again the other night I heard of the fact that there is a huge increase in in loneliness, depression and troubled relationships at this time of the year.

Despite all the nice adds and rhetoric around the Christmas tree and dinner and the like, the reality is sadly far different. We are told that Christmas is such a wonderful time for us as we enjoy our gifts, relationships and merriment. Yet the reality for many is far different.

The financial pressures for many means that they will be dependent on the Welfare agencies for their basics over Christmas. Broken and divorced families result in tensions over access and who we will and won’t be sharing it all with, and the untold loneliness and hurt that results. The extra work requirements at this time adds to the pressure and lack of time to do what needs to be done. And the list could go on.

Then to make matters even worse Christ is taken out of Christmas and the result is a lot of hype about nothing. For without him the peace, joy and good will is empty and shallow. Christmas becomes a time that we have to work hard at making it what we want it to be; and it just doesn’t work out. The more that we make it about what we do, the more frustrating and divisive it all becomes. There is then no meaning in Christmas other than a few ‘nice’ sentiments.

Yet again, we as a society want to desperately portray it all as a good time and that all is well. We don’t want to admit that life for most people is far from rosy. We put a nice glossy coat over it all, and pretend that all is well. The reality however is far from it.

 This then adds to the dilemma for most people. Since all this is so good, and everyone is wearing their plastic smiles, it must be only me that is the problem. Everyone else is having a good time, and everything is going well for them, so my problem then is even worse. Either I am a failure or everyone is against me, or my problem is worse than the others. So inside the hurt is even worse.

So welcome to today’s real world. This is the harsh reality of life in our sinful world. It is all around us, and even in our own lives. Not only is this real life, but the Bible tells us also that this is the reality of a world that has chosen to disobey and ignore God. Take Christ out of Christmas and this is all that is left. Sin brings untold grief into our world in abundance; and there is no escaping it. As much as we might like to pretend that this is not so; this is reality.

But as we are prepared to acknowledge this reality and the hopelessness that is encapsulated in it, we suddenly are confronted with a whole new story. As we give up on pretending that life is so good, we find that God has some real, Good News for us. And Christmas is all about this Good News that suddenly gives us all hope, peace and joy.

This Good News is that God himself has come into our sick and broken world to give us hope and salvation. He comes right down to where we are in our brokenness and then takes it on himself and goes to the cross to take the punishment that we deserve for it all on himself. In turn he assures us of forgiveness and the certainty of eternal life in heaven, free from all sickness, troubles and death.

So now we can know for sure that we are loved, even though we are up to our eyeballs in muck. No matter who we are or how big the mess might be, God is with us for sure, and promises us that this is not the end of the story. Rich and poor, healthy or sick, religious or not, Jew or Gentile, all are confronted with the same reality and the same hope. It is there for all who do not turn their backs on it.

What a wonderful assurance that is for us as we face the realities of life. God is with us, not necessarily, to take the problems away, but to be with us through it all. He mostly does not suddenly take the problems away, because they are the consequence of and reminders of humanities sin. And we need constant reminders that disobedience and rejection of God has its consequences. We know what happens when life goes well for us, we become more selfish and give God less and less of our time and thinking.

We need troubles and hardships to turn us away from ourselves to look to the great and glorious promises that God has for us. We need to look to him who is not just the creator of all things, but also the redeemer and saviour, and there know for sure that he does have a plan for us all, no matter what sort of mess we make for ourselves and our world. As we recognise that the realities of life in our world are not good at all, we do now have One who we can rely on in the midst of it all.

Here let me repeat that opening verse of our reading: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. So we have God’s word written down from ages past to help us to know all of this. It was written by God’s inspiration to teach us all of these things. There he tells us why we have all these problems and his answers to them.

But most importantly to teach us that he is there so that we can know that we are loved, forgiven and assured of eternal life in heaven. He teaches us there that we can look to him with certainty and know that in connection with him, the troubles and death of this world is not the end of the story.

In the Bible we have that which will enable us to endure in the face of all the rubbish that surrounds us. As we look to him and what he promises we can ‘hang in there’ and know that it will all work out for good. In that too, we find great encouragement that enables us to keep going forward with a sure hope that will not let us down.

Here we are clearly reminded that it does not matter who we are or what our status in life might be, this Good News is available to all. It is not simply for those who were the Jews, or those who have been born and bred in the Church. It is not just for the ‘good religious people’. 

No, again the Scriptures themselves say: “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.” Jesus coming, life, death and resurrection was for all people. He came into our mess to be with us all and help us all, no matter how rugged life may be for us. No one is excluded; except for those who refuse to believe it.

Again it says: For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

So the reliability of Jesus and his coming for all people is verified again and again throughout the Scriptures. He is true, and his coming for the benefit of us all, is guaranteed. So the message of Christmas truly is a great and joyous one. It is a message that is important and helpful for all who are struggling under the pressures that surround us at this time.

So no matter what our financial, relationship, emotional or whatever struggle it might be; we now can know for sure that God is right there with us and for us in the midst of it. We have one who cares for us no matter what. We have one who has provided a way out the other side for us. We can trust him and so endure and be encouraged in the midst of it all.

So now our peace, hope and joy is no longer dependent on our making or living up to the expectations of others and our world around us. It is not some plastic facade that we place around us. Instead it is found in the rough and grime of life, knowing that God himself has come right down into our mess and has provided life and salvation to each and every one of us.

So: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. To him be all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Friday, November 25, 2016

Matthew 24:36-44.                          Jesus – coming, ready or not??          27/11/16

{36)  "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. {37} As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. {38} For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; {39} and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. {40} Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. {41} Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. {42} "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. {43} But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. {44} So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Today we begin the season of Advent - the time when we focus on the preparation for the coming of Jesus. Usually this is about when we start looking forward to and thinking about Christmas and preparing for it. From here on the children’s excitement begins to grow. The parents become more frustrated with all the things that have to be done. The workers and businesses don't even have time to give much thought to what Christmas really is all about, because of all of the things that have to be completed before the holiday season.

It is into this context that our reading here has some very sobering thoughts for us this morning. Just as Christmas may well come and go without our giving much thought to its real meaning; so also there is this warning that we don't have a similar attitude to the second coming of our Lord. For here our reading is quite clear on this matter. Jesus is coming again - ready or not!! And it will happen when we least aspect it. So we are encouraged to watch out - to be ready, because we do not know the day or the hour of his coming.

Now I am sure that we all have heard this message before. However, we have also had those who have stood up and given dates of when this is going to happen: which, naturally, have come and gone without it coming to pass. At the same time, we know that we will hear many more of these prophecies as time goes on. Of those who try and tell us that they know when this shall all happen, we must be wary.

But at the same time we must be careful that we don't fall into the same trap as in the story of the ‘boy who cried wolf.’ Having been told time and time again that the end is here and it has failing to be so; we then don't even think about it all. So when it does come [and it surely will] we get caught out. The end will come - be can quite sure about that. But we are clearly told, that it will be at a time that none of us know.

Neither should we be like the owner of their house, who knowing the danger of someone breaking in and burgling their home, installed a burglar alarm system. So he was ready and prepared. Then he sat back and gave no further thought to the matter. He just went on enjoying life, thinking all was well. A number of months later he came home one evening to find that his home had been ransacked – he’d been cleaned out. You see, he forgot to check the batteries and so the alarm didn't work. His complacency was his downfall.

Now in many ways we too are in danger of falling into the same trap. ‘She's right. I have been brought up in the Church. I have been baptized and so are a member. And look, I am still young yet. I have got a lot of time in the future to think more about these things.’ So we become complacent and ‘let our batteries run down;’ We get so involved in our business, family or leisure life that we haven't got time to think about the end; as if the end will only happen when we are ready for it, anyway.

It is so easy for us to be like those in the days of Noah; they all had their business life to get on with; their eating, drinking and being merry. Only a crackpot would build such a huge boat, miles away from the sea. Anyway, look we live up here on the top of a big mountain range. She'll be right! But for them, the end of their world came their way as the water went over their heads. For us too, the danger is there, that we will get so caught up in our living our pleasurable life, that we will give little thought to what God has to say to us here.

Let us remember again that the end will come for us too, whether we are ready or not. Whether that will be our unexpected or expected death, or the second coming. Nothing is surer. It will happen. So let us be ready and prepared for when it does come. And to be ready means that there is an expectation of it happening at any time. It could be this day - this week - this year. Yet it might not happen for many years. But always to be ready and prepared for it take place now, for we never know. That means ever being ready to face the Lord and judgement day.

Now, if that were to happen at this very moment or any time unexpectedly, would you be sure that you would be going to heaven? Would you? Could you be so sure? Absolutely sure? There are many today, even in our churches, who say that they are not sure. While others again will of course say; ‘Yeah we'll be right. We live a reasonably good life. If God is a loving God, he won't turn us away.’ We have a world full of people who simply think that when they die they will go to heaven, even though they have not taken Jesus Christ seriously.

Once again, however, if we think that it is what we do and are doing that has a bearing on what happens at the coming of the Lord, then we are in trouble. No amount of goodness or lack of it, on our part; or our church membership and even knowledge of the Bible, will make any difference. If we rely on anything other than Jesus Christ and his death on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, then we don't need to worry about being uncertain; We can be quite sure that we will not be going to heaven; but instead, hell. Nothing can be surer.

Jesus Christ alone, stands as the one sure hope of eternal life with God. In his coming that first Christmas and at each one since; we are reminded that our God comes to us; into our world. His very own Son came in order to die in our place. He allowed his Father to punish him on the cross, so that we might be forgiven. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, then being the one thing that opens up the way of salvation for us.

Each of our baptisms join us into this Jesus and his death and resurrection for us. Our constant gathering in his presence reassures us and reaffirms this message in our hearts and lives so that we can be forever sure that it is he alone who has won a place for us in his kingdom. So now the way is clear for each and every one of us. Our goodness or lack of it, counts for nothing.

As we cling to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in him and his work of bringing salvation to us, we are assured that judgement day is not something to be feared. Now we have that assurance that Jesus stands with us ready to usher us through. So the only question, for us is; do we believe and trust that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour. That answered in the affirmative, we are ready and prepared.

But that of course does not mean that we can now sit back and take life easy; thinking that since we are baptized and are members of the church - so all is well. We can now get on with the business of our life, doing whatever we want to. That would be falling into the same trap as the householder who was burgled. Complacency could very well mean that in time we will, like so many around us, forget about Jesus Christ and the importance of the salvation that he has made possible for us and for our children. It is so easy for us to get into the situation where we lose sight of what is important.

In our living for the moment, Satan very easily drags us further and further from the Lord and our reliance on him. That is why the second reading makes the strong point about living in light of the fact that the end may be very near and that we are to make every effort to live the Christian life every day. God wants to ensure that we never lose sight of Him who enables us to stand on that great and glorious day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Be ready. Be prepared. The Lord is coming, ready or not. Believe on the Lord Jesus and the second coming will not be a problem. Let us then, make every effort to live in light of this wonderful assurance, and at the same time encouraging one another to stand firm and ready. Then we will not get caught out, like so many around us will.

May this Advent season be blessed one for each one of you. Not by letting the cares, hassles and pressures of this time of the year get to you. But by preparing your hearts, minds and lives with and for the continual presence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. May the blessings of Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit then be with you always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Friday, November 18, 2016

Colossians 1:11-20.          In Jesus – everything finds its purpose!        20/11/16

11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

As we conclude another church year our focus is again drawn to the centre of all things: to that which is most important of all. Here it is made clear that this centre is way above and beyond anything and everything else and yet gives meaning and purpose to everything that we see around us.

Here this morning in the baptism of another young person into God’s family, we are reminded of just how important this event really is. Particularly now in this day and age where our world, despite all the promises, is unravelling and losing its identity, purpose and hope. We are desperately trying to find something to hold life together for us and help us to make sense of what is going on.

It would seem that we today are more and more closing our minds down and simply living for the moment because it is all too hard; and in the end there is nothing firm and concrete for us to hold on to. Even though we simply live for today and the pleasures that we can have, we know deep down that there has to be more to life than this.

Here we need to recognise also that religion and even ‘church’ is not simply the answer. Any organisation or man-made religious philosophy adds to this frustration and meaninglessness. Any system that is focussed on ‘me’ and the rules that we make for ourselves and don’t live up to, increases this disillusionment.  

That is why here we are taken right back to the only thing that is really right and good; and which gives meaning and purpose to everything. Yet too often we get turned off with talk of Jesus, because people have simply used of him and his name to further their own ends and ideas, rather than taking him and what he says seriously. Never the less, he is for real; he is true and what he says is good for us.

The evidence for Jesus Christ and his death on the cross and the truth of the Bible is there for all who would care to see it. There is far more reliability in the Bible than there is for almost anything else. The truth is there, guaranteed. It has stood the test of time and history more than anything else.

Unfortunately, we don’t want to heed it and what it says, because we want to be free to do what we want to do. We don’t want God, or anyone else for that matter, telling us what to do. Even though it is ever so clear that we continually get it wrong and bring troubles and disasters on ourselves. We are hell-bent on continuing down that path. Even that, the Bible tells us is and will be the case for those who choose to reject what he has to say there. Sadly, the end result for them is an eternity in hell instead of heaven.

So with all of this in mind, we all need to listen again to the message that we have here in this reading. It is only with this understanding that we will see everything as it needs to be seen, and that we will truly appreciate it all as was intended. Only then will everything be in harmony as it should be and give meaning and purpose to our lives.

The main point of this message here is that it is only Jesus Christ that gives value and purpose to any and all of these other things. It is only in him that they all fit and hold together. It is only in him that each and every part has its meaning and purpose; and it is by and for him that all this exists and holds together; not us or anything else.

In this reading we are told that it was by him that all things were created – everything: By him and for him. The Father worked through his Son Jesus to create everything in the splendid form that it is. So every other thing and being – other than God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are here as something that has and finds it’s reason and purpose in the Lord Jesus Christ – nowhere else. So to find where each part fits we need to look first and foremost to him who had a hand in placing it there.

Unfortunately however, that is where most of us come unstuck. We have taught ourselves that we are descendants of monkeys.  We live and act as if much of this world stands separate: that it has no real connection to God or the Christian life. We think that we have to control and manipulate it because it is there purely for our benefit. But not that Lord Jesus Christ stands supreme over all, and that it is only in and under him that it all exists effectively. Creation in whatever form it comes then finds its proper use and purpose as it focuses and works for the glory of its creator.

The same goes for our church and the Christian life. We need to see that Jesus Christ and his death on the cross is central to all that we say and do. This is not just the case in our Sunday worship, but in everything that we do as his people. It has much to say with regard what we believe and practice. In everything Jesus Christ is to be seen and upheld as being what life is all about: He alone is to be glorified.

We will give him that glory not just because he is God and was there at creation and that he is supreme over all things, but also because God through Jesus Christ has restored that relationship that existed at beginning of time but was broken by our disobedience and our desire to do our own thing. Through his death on cross Jesus destroyed that barrier that sin places between God and us. Then his rising again from death gives new hope and new life to all who would have it and the God who stands supreme behind it.

And even though we live in a world suffering as a result of sin we now can have the certainty of knowing that we have been reconciled to God: that we are presented to God perfect – without blemish and fault; not because of ourselves – but the Lord Jesus Christ – to him be glory and honour now and always.

Now then, life begins anew for all who believe: all who trust that Jesus has done everything necessary and that through our baptism we have become part of his body, the church: his family. In and through him we can now find that everything holds together and has a purpose. Now it is possible for us to live as we should be living, [even though we often fail]. Now we can see that life is not meant to be centred on ourselves or on any created thing. Now we are able to see that everything around us is not be used and destroyed simply for our own ends; but instead our whole life can focus on our Lord Jesus and give glory to our God for all he has done.

Now we can also look to his Word, the Bible, and know that we have good directions for our lives. As we listen to what he has to say there and then seek to follow that way, we find a peace and joy in knowing that we are doing that which is good and right. There we find how to leave peaceably and well with God and each other. With that help we are able to love each other in a way that is good and healthy.

As we look to Jesus and what he has done for us through his death and resurrection; and as we seek to follow what he says, we then find that life has meaning, purpose and hope. As we do our work, play or whatever, we do so in a way that we can give glory to our Lord and is good and helpful for us and our life here on earth. Even our money and material possessions; our sport and leisure are gifts to us to be used in order to help us and others keep our focus on him who gives us all our good gifts.

And yes, even as we face difficulty and tragedy we do so knowing that is a result of sin, but also of the fact that our Lord Jesus has defeated its power to hurt and harm us. Even there he uses these to turn us ever back to looking to him as our helper and friend and as the supreme being in whom everything now is held together.  

Therein we will find that it all works together in harmony and it all finds a meaning and a purpose that is good and wholesome. Then, not only will the glory go to where it belongs, but we ourselves will find a far greater sense of peace and belonging; and yes much joy and happiness.

So now especially, we will heed this message and see to it that what we believe and take what he says seriously. Our desire will now be to centre on and focus on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. There now is something that is good and helpful for us as we go forward in life. Then we will also allow this Jesus Christ to be supreme in everything.

So as we complete this church year and then begin another let us remember this important lesson - that it is only in connection with our Lord Jesus Christ that everything holds together. It is all created by him and for him. To him then, be all glory and honour now and always.  AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Luke 21:5-19                        Stand firm, and you will win life!!      13/11/16

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Today we are reminded by Jesus that the things of this world will come to an end sooner or later, no matter how grand or significant they may seem at the time. At the same time, it addresses then, what our attitude needs to be in the face of these things. Here I would encourage us to not just think of the end of the world, but also the end of our time on this earth when we die. For the same thoughts and thinking apply.

When these things will happen, none of us knows. It could well be sooner than we think. They all are preceded by difficult, horrific and tragic events. Even in old age we face difficult times leading up to death. Just because we are Christians does not lessen the impact of these events. In fact, it can even heighten them as Jesus reminds us here. However, he reminds us that we are to stand firm in the face of it all, knowing that this is not the end of the story.

If we continue to stand firm in the forgiveness and strength of our Lord Jesus Christ we will in the end win life – eternal life in heaven with the very best of everything – guaranteed by God Almighty himself. In connection with him we can face the difficult times ahead, no matter how tough they will be. He will see us through and then he has life in all of its fullness ahead awaiting.

So with that in mind let us look a little more closely at what lies before us so that we can be prepared and be able to stand firm so that we can win this life.

The reading starts off with the disciples admiring the grandness of the temple and its seeming permanence and thereby the security that it provides. Here surely is a sign of God’s presence and blessing which is lasting and secure. However, within seventy years it was totally destroyed, never to be rebuilt.

Today, we also look to the structures and achievements of humanity and think they will give us the life that we long for. Money and science can give us all that we please and be what helps our world to live forever and to achieve all of our desires. Our world today has placed its trust and hope in this whole area; thinking that this will give us the future that we long for.

Even in our own personal lives we also are tempted to look at our bank balance and material blessings as that which is going to enable us to live as long as we possibly can, happily. When we get sick our medical technology will give us a pill or procedure that will get us going again. In fact, soon we are promised by science that they will enable us to live forever. We have got it all. What do we need a god for?

Yet Jesus tells us all of these structures and achievements will come crashing down sooner or later. Even though we don’t want to believe it, we know deep down that these things will not keep us going forever. An honest look at life clearly show that sinful humanity does not and never will have all the answers.

As well, as we get older we soon find a growing list of aches, pains and sickness. When one disease is cured another suddenly comes to the fore and causes more misery; and we still will end up dying. But many of us, I am sure, have this sense that the things of this world are letting us down badly, despite their grandiose promises.

To our questioning as to when all these things will happen, both personally and with regard to the end of the world, Jesus says: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Watch out that you are not deceived. There are many guru’s and charlatans who are proclaiming their answers and cures. Humanity and the ego are holding themselves up as that which will be able to see us through and get us by. Our education system is teaching us to think that we can solve all the problems and be able to achieve the security and the happiness that we long for. Watch out, there is deception in much of it.

Today even in the religious sphere there are those ‘prophets’ who are setting themselves up as having the answers to these things. There are those who are claiming miracles and prophecy in the name of ‘christian’ but they are not led by the Holy Spirit because they are not centring their message on Christ and him crucified. Even though many flock to the miracles and wonders, we are to watch out so that we too are not caught up and deceived. Jesus is quite clear that we are not to follow them.

Jesus also says that before the end comes: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

Here too we see these very things today, and many use this to try to tell us there is no God. However, because we live in a sinful world these will happen and will continue to happen right up to the end.

Interestingly, the more that we as a nation are turning our backs on God and not taking him seriously, the more we are seeing a growing sense of despair and hopelessness all around. The media is desperately trying to push the view that everything is getting better and more loving and all rest as we move further and further from the truth of God’s Word. However, the results are becoming more and more the opposite.

 Jesus goes on: “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. Already in this country we are seeing more and more a growing rejection of and even persecution of those who seek to hold to the truth. More and more laws are being passed which will make it very difficult for a Christian and a Christian organization to hold to and practice according to the truth of God’s Word.

But even within ‘christian’ circles those who hold to the truth rather than bend and soften God’s Word to suit the social norms of the day, are being given a hard time. The Bible speaks quite clearly on issues such as homosexuality, but one will be roundly criticized by others within the church, when one speaks that truth. By way of example: On many occasions through my ministry I have been criticized for mentioning hell. Whenever we speak an unpopular truth we are finding greater resistance and rejection. So as we go forward we will be persecuted even more for being a faithful Christian.

In fact, Jesus says: Everyone will hate you because of me. So the future is not going to be easy. Already these things are becoming a growing reality around us. So be aware of these dangers and challenges so that we do not be deceived, give way, or give in to the growing pressure. Sadly, many will fall along the way.

In the face of it all Jesus calls us to stand firm. Stand firm, and you will win life. Instead of focussing on the things of this world and placing our trust in them we are to look to Jesus Christ and the cross and there find all that we need in order to be able to stand firm.

If we try to stand against all those pressures under our own strength and ability, we would certainly fail. However, Jesus himself comes to us and assures us that he is with us and for us. We can not only stand; but stand with confidence and strength. Also with him, the outcome is certain. He will ensure that we have life in all of its fullness. Eternal life in heaven is guaranteed.

So remember and be continually reminded that we are baptised into God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He forgives us of all sin, so that we can be certain that there is nothing stopping him from being with and in us. So he is as close to us as our breath, even in the worst of situations. Jesus also gives us his very body and blood in Holy communion to reassurance of the very same thing.

As we regular gather in his presence around his Word he continually reminds us of all that we need to know in order to not be deceived and led astray. His Word will constantly remind us of his truth that will keep us and sustain in the hour of trial. There he again will remind us over and over the he will be our strength and shield: he will also reassure us of the blessings that he has in mind for us beyond those awful last days.

So as we see and face these signs of the end times, we need to lift our eyes to Jesus Christ and the cross and know for sure that he will help us to stand firm so that we can win life. Be ever aware of the dangers and temptations, so that we do not become complacent and fall. Instead of looking to the structures of this world, let Jesus Christ and his cross be that which we look to and trust so that we can ever be confident and sure.

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

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish

Saturday, October 08, 2016

2 Timothy 2:8-15.                             Endurance in tough times!!!                                        9/10/16

8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with him;

12 if we endure, we will also reign with him.

If we disown him, he will also disown us;

13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarrelling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

How do we keep going when we are under immense pressure of one sort or another? Many times in life we are faced with situations that crowd in on us and have us wondering if ever there is a way out. When it all seems too much, with no end in sight, we find it hard to keep on going. Our focus gets caught up in our dilemma and we can see little else but the problem.

Even in the church and our Christian lives these same issues are there. In the face of a church that is losing its way and continuing to decline; Is there a future for our church or will it just decline into almost nothing? In our own lives and the lives of our loved ones, is the ever increasing pressure to let go of God and have less and less to do with him, going to win out in the end? Will we too get swamped into accepting all kinds of teaching that have departed from God and his Word? Sometimes, or often even, it all seems too hard. Too overwhelming.

Here again this morning God is giving us some very important advice. Remember! Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. In that find that which enables us to lift up our heads and get on with life no matter how tough things might be.

Look to God come into our world as a human being and dying in our place and then rising to life once. There, find a hope that will enable us to stand in the midst of whatever. Because here is a God who has come into our very midst so that we can have a real and certain hope in the midst of the disasters that we face in this world that has been devastated by our selfishness and sin. He came into our world so that we can know for sure that he cares about each one of us, no matter who we are.

When it says that he descended from David, we are reminded that he came firstly as one who was promised by God himself, hundreds of years beforehand. This one who was to come would be the one who comes to save and establish God’s kingdom as a sure and certain thing. Many very specific promises were made that came true with Jesus and his coming many years later.

He came into our world and did miracles that only God himself could do – many of them. All so that we can be sure that this Jesus truly was God come into our world. Not only did he do many miracles but he taught us many things again which only come from God. So already they could see that this was the promised one that God would send.

But then he went and died on the cross, again just as was promised hundreds and hundreds of years before hand. But why would God come and die, the most cruel of all deaths on a cross? Again because God is true to his Word. He told humanity that if they go against his commands we will die. So sin has to be punished. But God in his love for us, chose to die the death we should have, so that we might be forgiven and have a sure hope for the future.

So his death on the cross is absolutely critical for us if there is to be any hope for us to be with him in heaven for all eternity. His death also helps us now as we face life in this world with all of its problems and disasters. Because of his promises we know that he loves us, forgives us and has eternal life for us.

But then so that we can be completely sure that this is all for real and that he is true to his Word, he rises from the dead three days later. There, is our absolute proof that this Jesus is who he said he is. There we can find all the encouragement that we need in order to know that there really is life beyond our present situation. That which just does not happen in our world has happened so that we can know that God has a positive future in mind for each one of us.

So in order for us to be able to endure in tough times Jesus death and resurrection is essential. Without it we would be left, in one form or another, trying to dig ourselves out of the mess; only to know that there surely will be more troubles to follow. In the end it is all futile. Then we have to face the judge knowing that we have failed to be the people he would have us be. Then eternal punishment awaits, from which there is no hope of relief.

Thank God that he came into our world, and died and rose again, so that this does not have to be the case for us. In connection with him there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. In him there is life and salvation. In his Word, the Bible, we know what is true and good.

At this point we then keep in mind Paul’s point when he says: Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;

 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

So the call is to die with him so that we can have the certainty that we may live with him. Surely this means that we give up on ourselves and what we want. We die to the life that is touted by so many in our world today, who suggest that life is all about ‘me’ and what I think is good and right. It is to die to the idea that I can live well without taking God seriously. It is to die to any hope that we might have of being good enough to be acceptable to God on our own merits; and thereby to turn to God and receive from him the forgiveness of sins and life that he has for us.

In our baptisms we were joined to Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection. That is, to each of us personally, the benefits of his death and resurrection are joined to us. Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are ours. His death and resurrection is now ours too. Now daily we are to die to sin and our selfish way of life and daily remember that we too will rise to be with him in heaven.

The second call is to endure. That is hold fast to him and what he says, and to not give up on that. Again at a time when we are encouraged to look everywhere but God for our help: to think positively about what we can do and what our money can buy us; to look to alcohol, drugs and other things to try to bury our troubles; here we are called to endure.  

To endure is to stand firm in the face of whatever the situation is; no matter how bad. To look to Jesus Christ and know that with him and in him we have a light at the end of the tunnel. In the face of adversity to remember [as Julie’s psychologist said the other day] God is as close to us as our breath. He is with us and he will help us through; and he will bring blessing out of even the worst of situations.

So we ‘keep on keeping on’ no matter what, knowing that in the end we will also reign with him. We will be joined with him in heaven, to there enjoy the very best of everything, forever more. The sufferings of this present age are nothing compared to the glory that we will be a part of for the rest of eternity.

However, if we turn our backs on him and refuse to allow him to be Lord of our life here and now, we cannot be surprised if he disowns us in eternity. If we put ourselves at the centre of our life instead of Christ, we are reminded that we are facing disaster. We cannot think that we can live as we please here on earth and that then God will allow us into heaven in the end.

On the other hand he says; if we are faithless, he remains faithful. So yes, we may, and often will, struggle in looking to and trusting in him. We may be overwhelmed by the situation at hand and struggle to even look to him. But here he reminds us that he, nevertheless, is faithful; and so will see us through. Even though our faith is weak, he will continue to be there with us and for us. This is surely a great encouragement to us all.

He then goes on and says: Keep reminding God’s people of these things. So the call is for us to encourage one another to be mindful of all of this as we face the tough times of life. The support and encouragement of fellow believers is invaluable at these times. Not just practically and physically, but especially to remind them of God’s presence and the promises that he has for us here. We are here as God’s people to help one another in the good times and the bad.

With all of this, we are then able to endure, no matter how tough the times may be. God will help us through. He will bring blessing to us and through us to one another. But most importantly of all, with him and all that has done for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection and his many other promises, we have the sure hope of being brought safely into his glory to forever enjoy the very best of everything. There to then give him all glory and honour forever.

So may we ever look to him and trust him, enduring through the tough time. To great God, father, Son and Holy Spirit, be all glory and honour now and forevermore. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish