One of the great books in the Bible is the book of Job. It deals with two of the greatest predicaments facing the human race. The problem of human suffering and whether a person will live again after death.
Job is a good man who suffers greatly – he loses his children, his property and is afflicted with a dreaded disease. His friends visit him and try to help him by attempting to explain his suffering. Instead of helping and comforting Job they only make matters worse.
Whatever argument they put forward as to why Job is suffering, Job has a counter argument.
Job has his problems with God too, and he on occasions challenges him. But he does not lose faith in God. he still has confidence in his saving help. He declares, “I know that my Redeemer lives … I shall see God”.
Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.
Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:
14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17 It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we travelled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”
“Compassion” St Petri Sermon – 22nd July, 2018 – Pastor Robert Voigt
Jesus was moved with compassion – Matthew 9:36
Mark 6:34 (NIV)
34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
Matthew 9:36 (NIV)
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Psalm 51:1 NIV
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 NIV
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:14 NIV
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.” Matthew 15:32 NIV
Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes, Matthew 20:34 NIV
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 NIV
Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8 NIV
“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
“We hear again and again, from the unchurched and from local churches who are deeply engaged with the unchurched in their communities, that loving genuine relationships are the only remaining currency readily exchanged between the churched and the churchless.” – George Barna.
Pentecost Sunday – St Petri Lutheran Church 20/05/2018
Sermon – Bishop John Henderson “Pentecost Conversation”
John 15:26, 27; 16:4b-15
The Work of the Spirit of Truth
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning
I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, “Where are you going?”Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
‘I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.’
Dear friends in Christ,
There’s a conversation going on today between the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit.
You can listen to it by tuning in to this morning’s Gospel reading.
And tune in you should, because the conversation’s about you.
God sees what’s going on in this world and in your life. God is concerned for you. God knows that, left to ourselves, we humans fall into destructive spirals that will see the end of us.
God isn’t prepared just to sit silently by to watch us suffer. God is a God of engagement, conversation and dialogue. God wants relationships. That’s why God speaks to us through the Word, because God wants to communicate with us. The conversation begins in creation: ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’ God’s image is about relatedness, connection and community. We are relational beings. God creates us to gather, use language and, by nature, build communities. The Triune God makes us in that image.
But the image is now corrupted. We see it all around in the disruption and fracturing of relationships and communities. Sin reveals itself most clearly in the ways we deal with one another. Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ We can be legends in our own living rooms, but out in the community we discover who we really are. We see the sin that fractures and breaks the relationships for which God created us.
The first broken relationship is with God. In Genesis three Adam and Eve turned their backs on the divine conversation and perfect community they enjoyed with God. They decided to go it alone. That’s what sin is. Ever since God has been working to bring us back into the loving, communal relationship between creator and created which is our fulfilment.
Jesus is the centre of God’s work for us. He’s the divine-human Son of God, a standing invitation to bring us out of the darkness to re-join God in the light of a perfect relationship, to join once more in the divine conversation. God created you for that.
The conversation recorded in the gospels goes something like this. Jesus has finished what he came for. He was born, he lived among us, taught us, shared the Word and gave us the Father’s gifts. Yet we rejected him, judged him, and crucified him. The Father didn’t stop there, however. He raised his Son from the dead. Last week, if you were in church, you would have heard the risen Jesus talking about going back to his Father. He did that to clear the way for the Spirit to come and the conversation to go on. That’s why he sends the Holy Spirit. The Spirit puts us in permanent contact with God. In the Spirit we can participate in the divine relationship, just as God always wanted. That’s why God gathers his church – it is a community of believers joined together in a Spirit-led conversation with their Creator and Saviour God. It’s a foretaste of heaven.
The words Jesus speaks in today’s gospel reading are much more than history. He spoke them millennia ago and he still speaks them today. The word of God connects past, present and future, God’s eternal now. This very morning, Pentecost Sunday 20th May 2018, Jesus is promising to send us the Advocate, the Spirit of truth.
His actual word is Paraclete, and it’s to translate it into English. It literally translates as ‘One who comes near’. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit, the God who has come near. Our eternal, conversational, relational, creator God is as close to you as the air you are breathing, as close as the sound waves reaching your ears, as close as the light striking your retinas. As close as the thoughts inside your brain. The Paraclete continues what began in creation. God is with you, in this very moment, right now.
The Paraclete is the Spirit of truth. Not truth like a courtroom where judge and jury forensically distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. Not truth like a science lab, where through hypothesis, trial and error, sorting through the data, scientists test their theories.
This is more. It’s truth of purpose, identity and relationship. Who am I? Who are you? Who is God? How do I know that? Can I trust you? God, why did you make me in the first place?
These are the truths of the Paraclete. His message from the Father is fundamentally, ‘I know you, I love you and I want to be with you, and you with me. I will wait for you as long as it takes.’
Jesus shows us what this looks like in Luke 15 in the parable of the Waiting Father. Sometimes called the Prodigal Son. The parable tells of a father and two sons. Both sons are essentially prodigals. The love of the father binds the story together. Whatever shame they cause him and however much it costs him he loves them equally and patiently waits for both of them. This is our heavenly Father waiting for humankind to come back home.
In this morning’s gospel reading Jesus gives us three key words that are central to the Paraclete’s message. They might jolt us a bit, but we must face up to them for the relationship to be real. They are sin, righteousness, and judgement.
They jolt us because they are unpopular words today. We frequently block them out of our conversations because they sound negative and out of step with the times. We prefer to speak more comforting, affirming words like spirituality, love and peace. But we can’t have those things until we have dealt with our most pressing problems: sin, righteousness and judgement.
We have already talked about sin today. We have considered how God responded to sin by sending Jesus. Faith in Jesus Christ is our number one priority. Without faith we are without hope, lost in sin.
‘About righteousness,’ Jesus says, ‘because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer.’ A few minutes ago we said just that in the Creed. When Jesus’ returned to his Father he did not leave us alone. He opened the floodgates to the full indwelling of God. Our Small Catechism teaches the same thing: ‘the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Galatians 3 affirms, ‘the righteous shall live by faith.’
And finally, ‘about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.’ This is all the forces and powers of darkness that want to smother the light of Jesus and steal the children away from the Father. We call it the devil. There’s a dark mystery in that name and it’s just too dangerous for us to go there. Only Christ can do that.
The light of Christ expels the darkness. In him darkness is condemned. In the past, it’s true, we have sided with the darkness instead of Christ and so deserve judgement. But that hasn’t stopped God loving us. Christ takes our place. He takes our death. Just when darkness thinks it has won, God raises Jesus from the dead. He just won’t let the ruler of this world have you, as God’s Word says in Romans 8, ‘there is … no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’
So these three words – sin, righteousness and judgement – are how God begins his Pentecost conversation with you. Jesus explains that knowing each of one these words assures us of God’s love and salvation.
The Paraclete brings you the message he hears from the Father. And everything the Father has also belongs to Jesus. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons in one God, working together to bring you back to life, to relationship, to community, to be the person you were created to be.
Do not doubt that God loves you, has a permanent place for you and is right here, right now, closer to you than you are to yourself. You have received the Holy Spirit who will always be with you, guiding you into all truth, and showing you what is to come.
Praise God for all his love, and for sending the Spirit so we, and all believers, may have true, saving faith in Christ our Lord.
Sunday 6th May, 2018. St Petri Pastor David Preuss
John 15:9-17 Jesus calls us his friends
9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: love each other.
I’d like you to think for a moment of your most special relationship. It might be with your spouse, child, parent, a good friend, or even your dog? What makes it so attractive and special? Perhaps knowing you are loved and respected by them, you understand each other, you can do things and go places together, you can confide and share intimate details of your life, be yourself, there’s trust acceptance, a reliance on each other etc. But, as we all know, even the best relationships can turn sour, with disappointments, misunderstandings, rejection. Love can so easily turn to hatred, I hope that doesn’t happen to your good relationships. But I think you’ll all agree. We life in a imperfect world of imperfect relationships. And that’s why it’s so hard for us to comprehend a relationship that is perfect in every way: No anger, disagreements, or personality clashes: rather, perfect harmony at all times. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it.
But the good news for us today is: It is true. It’s the relationship God the Father has with Jesus. And even better news for us, is Jesus makes us recipients of the same perfect love he shares with the Father. This is what he says. VS 10, if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my father’s commands and remain in his love. What I find a little bit confronting about that statement, is the command to obey. We’re not emotionless robots who readily obey at the push of a button. We like to do what we want to do, not what others want us to do. And we certainly don’t always want to do what Jesus wants us to do. And so we sometimes baulk at this word Obey.
In our text Jesus really emphasises that we obey his commands in the same way he obeys the Fathers commands. He mentions it 6 times, and it’s always mentioned in conjunction with love, which is mentioned 7 times. There’s this inseparable connection between his love and obedience to him.
The trouble is “obey” is often seen in a different light than love. I.e. the boss says “you obey me or you’ll get the sack” sounds real lobbing doesn’t it? Closer to home, for me anyway, creep over the speed limit and you get hit with a $300 fin. Obedience can be forced from fear and threats. IN the discussions I’ve had with young brides preparing for marriage, it’s often been said “I Love him I really do, but I can’t obey, no way.” It’s seen as a negative, as unfair, as demeaning as burdensome.
So how do we reconcile the love of Christ with obedience to him? Or does obedience play no role in my Christian life, because I’m saved by grace, and that’s all that matters”. And Praise God, that’s true. I am saved by grace, It’s one of the outstanding teachings of our Christian faith. We can’t do a thing to gain our own salvation. So where does that leave obedience in our relationship with Jesus? That’s the probing question for today. I’ve mentioned some of the seemingly negative aspects of the word obey, but my challenge today is to convince you, as does this text from John’s Gospel, that to obey Jesus is the most positive response to his love you can possibly have, and it leads to the best possible relationship with him. It makes no sense whatsoever to say, I believe in Jesus, I really love him, but then totally ignore his directives for Christian living and do whatever we please. That’s not a good witness to Jesus. But if we allow Jesus love to keep flowing through us, we will radiate and reflect his love to others. Think of a solar pane. It works so effectively when it soaks up the sun. But when it’s clouded over, when the panels face away from the sun, when it becomes dark, it can’t function. Same with us, when we turn away from the love of the son, when our life becomes clouded over with other things. When we are tempted to move into the darker areas of life, you know what I’m talking about, away from what Jesus commands, we can’t be immersed in, or empowered by Jesus’ love. He never stops loving us, but sometimes we block out and ignore his love.
So it’s the love of Jesus, that inspires and stimulates obedience from us. If he was a tyrant, if he punished us every time we did wrong, if he was mean and unfair and exploited us, we definitely wouldn’t want to obey him, we’d be afraid of him, and that would be a very bad motive for obeying. But Jesus perfect love for us casts out all fear. It’s when we see the reality of the love of Christ, especially as we see him suffering and dying for us n the cross, that’s when we are moved to obey. He says “the greatest love you can have is to lay down one’s life for a friend. He’s referring to himself isn’t he. This is the essence of the Christian faith and the heart of Jesus love for the world.
This God who came to us in the flesh, and who has given his all for us, has chosen us to e his friend. We didn’t choose him, but he chose us. How incredible is that when we stop and think about it. We have been chosen by the divine, all powerful., all conquering, ever loving, healing, all seeing, all knowing forgiving, faithful creator of the universe, to be his intimate friend. His purpose is that we can bear much fruit, fruit that will last. Being filled with his love is what equips us to be as Luther puts it, “little Christ’s,” in an oft times loveless world. Taking time out to ring up, to encourage a person, visit those who are stuck at home, help them in their need, provide for the poor, befriend the lonely. Stop complaining about the world we live in and instead Pray fervently in the name of Jesus for the world. This is how we obey Christ and bear fruit here at St Petri, and everywhere else, by being a little Christ to the other.
Please don’t think of obedience to Jesus as joyless, monotonous, drudgery. Jesus says, I’ve told you these things so your joy may be complete. As one reads the New Testament one can’t help but be impressed by the disciples, who defied death, and endured various trials with and inexpressible joy that Jesus had risen from the dead. Paul and Silas were locked in chains, but you couldn’t shut them up from praising the Lord. They had a joy this world can’t give. This joy comes as we realize, the truths that the Father shares with Jesus, now belong to us. What a treasure we have.
One more thing. Jesus promises: “you can go to the Father and he will give you whatever you ask in my name.” That doesn’t mean we get everything we want, but we will get those things that are according to his will. And the closer we are in our relationship with Jesus the clearer his will becomes. In conclusion, the positives John speaks of regarding Jesus command to remain in and share his love, are inexpressible joy the joy of knowing he has chosen us to have an intimate Friendship with him, he’s given us the ability to bear fruit, and the promise that we can ask anything according to his will and it will be granted. When we obey Jesus, we remain under the protection of his love, rather than the danger of our rebellion!
And please know this, and I speak as an expert on disobedience. When we do disobey, we can always go to Jesus as a friend, confident he will forgive us. That’s the power of the cross. My prayer for each of us, is that we continue to be recipients of Jesus’ love. Please show me your warmest smiles as I tell you again” Jesus has chosen you to be his friend in the most perfect of relationships, forever. Amen.
Joining the Good Shepherd In his mission – St Petri Nuriootpa 22/04/2018
John 10:11-18 (v16)
11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.
16I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”
My wife Ruth grew up on a sheep-farm in the Western District of Victoria. Unfortunately, that does not help us much in understanding our text.
In Jesus’ time a flock of sheep might be a dozen or two;
today a flock is hundreds if not thousands
In Jesus’ time sheep were led; today they are chased, usually by dogs
In Jesus’ time a shepherd knew each sheep by name
He called their names and they followed him;
If two flocks meet and intermingle it is no big deal – no overtime…
Today sheep are amongst God’s silliest creatures, they just run and if two mobs are droved into each other – overtime big time…
In Jesus’ time shepherds were mostly hirelings, famous for their dishonesty who often lied and claimed wild animals had taken sheep they sold/ate
Today there are not a lot of wild animals on most farms at least not since the dog-fence was built
In Jesus’ day a ‘shepherd’ was also a title for the kings – good and bad
Today we might use the term for pastors or those who care for others it is not a term we would use for our politicians + other leaders
We need to keep all those things in mind when we hear Jesus say,
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
And then, Jesus invites us to join him in his mission to bring other sheep into his flock, so he can also be their good shepherd.
It is on this invitation that we will focus briefly this morning but first we need to spend a little time on what it means
to have Jesus as our Good Shepherd
1) We have a good shepherd who lays down his life for us unless we understand that, we won’t ‘get’ what Jesus has done for us
Unlike Luther, we then won’t have the ‘Aha!’ experience that changes our lives forever and makes us new people
So let’s spend a little time reflecting on what our good shepherd has done for us
2) Jesus says, I’m the good shepherd who lays down his life for sheep
A sheep is not worth as much as a shepherd – that is obvious
If the lion or the bear attacks, better sacrifice a sheep than lose a shepherd – even a hireling is a human being
And the good shepherd / Son of God is obviously worth much more than one of us silly creatures that he made – that is also obvious
The Muslims are surely right when they say it is offensive to suggest that God himself would die for the likes of us
Yet that is the foolishness of the gospel that we believe + bring to others
As Paul says in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians:
…we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Maybe we should celebrate Easter on April Fool’s Day every year!
3) You can’t skip Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to get to Easter Sunday
Our God is not safe – he is a fierce judge whose law condemns us
Our attempts to earn his favour dissolve in the fire of his wrath
Imagine for a moment that I could replay the moments of your life that you are most ashamed of – up there on the big screen
in glorious high definition and with booming high fidelity sound What do you think? Look around. How far away is the nearest door?
But with God there is nowhere to hide – for big things or small. He hears your secret thoughts! He sees the worst you have done!
What scenes played in your mind just now? What makes you cringe?
Jesus knows you are guilty! He knows you don’t deserve any grace – and knowing that he went to the cross, suffered + died – just for you and if you had been the only person on earth who needed forgiving he still would have done it – just for you!
Because Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for you it’s done and dusted. You are forgiven. The video has been erased.
No back-up copies have been kept. It is gone forever! You don’t have to do anything to pay for it. Payment has been made!
Just enjoy it!
4) You don’t need to impress to get in the good shepherd’s good books
It’s about faith – that is trust in the promises of God which is itself a gift of God created in us at baptism, nurtured as we dwell in the Word and come to the table
Faith simply receives the gift – it doesn’t earn it or create it. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more – or less
You don’t earn God’s blessing by the things you do. God’s favour already rests on you – because of Jesus
That’s what it means to have a good shepherd
5) Do your family, friends and workmates need this good shepherd?
When Jesus originally said, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold” he was talking about all the people of the world who were not Jews
His good news was not just for the Jewish people. Today we might take that as a reference to those who do not yet know Jesus
The good news is not just for those already in the church. Jesus has other sheep in Nuriootpa and the Barossa who are not yet in the sheepfold. They will listen to his voice and he will bring them into his flock
6) Jesus has a mission to the people of this community
He invites us to join him in his mission. The good shepherd doesn’t send us out to create our own mission, he invites us to join him in his mission
That is important because it means that it doesn’t depend on us. We are not running the show. We are just on the team doing our bit, speaking of what we know.
Secondly, we have seen how Jesus does mission. He hangs out with all the wrong people. Apparently, he is not afraid he will be tainted.
The words, “Neither do I condemn you” ring in one adulterer’s ears. He invites himself to dinner at the hated tax collector’s house
He restores Peter after his betrayal
He cleanses lepers, heals a mother-in-law, and raises the dead
all without insisting that they clean up their act first
At the heart of it all is his suffering, death and resurrection and the forgiveness that he brings without condition because he is the Good Shepherd for all people, not just us.
7) The good news is not a moral improvement program
It is not a clean up and reform society package.
It is not just alleviating suffering and caring for the disadvantaged though all those may be by-products of people coming to faith
It’s not about telling other people what to do whether your pet project involves law and order, same sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia
or gay rights, refugees, racism, poverty and the environment
– now I have offended everyone equally, at least I hope so!
My point is that none of these things is the good news, the gospel. That doesn’t mean that they are unimportant, or that we shouldn’t do them. But they are not the reason why we are here as the church on earth
Our first reading from Acts 4 shows this clearly a crippled beggar is healed and Peter and John are asked
by what name was this done. They respond “by the name of Jesus of Nazareth” and then add
“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
The second reading from 1 John 3 says that God’s command is
“that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.”
We are here because the Good Shepherd has other sheep
We are not just to make the world a better place or to protect God’s honour
We are not just to make sure we look after Christians until they get to heaven
We are here because Jesus our good shepherd suffered, died and rose again for us and for those who do not yet know him
We are his forgiven flock, set free from our sins so that we might bring Jesus and his good news to the people around us
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
And again, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”