Author: Rosie Edwards (page 1 of 8)

Grace Plus Equals Minus Grace – Vicar Shaun Manning

Vicar Shaun Manning – Message Sunday 27th January –  Grace Plus, Equals Minus Grace

St Petri Lutheran Church, Nuriootpa

3 Epiphany

Galatians 1: 11-24

Paul received the Gospel through a revelation of Jesus Christ

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing to you is no lie.

Then I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only heard the report: ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they praised God because of me. 

I haven’t always been a Lutheran…
My introduction to the Lutheran Church, around 7 years ago now, was the beginning of a major shift of my personal spirituality and theology. There were many things that grabbed my attention, or should I say, focused my attention in those first few services. The emphasis on Christ in both His Word and Sacrament was rather clear, though this was something that I could only articulate several months later.

(Mention the placement of the Pulpit, Altar, Band, Organ and the presence of a Cross and Crucifix). Compare to previous church experiences.

There was however one particular phrase that struck me, in those first few sermons that I heard, due not only to its wittiness but it’s truth. “Grace plus, equals minus grace” the Pastor uttered several times throughout the sermon…
This is a truth that I was very interested to unpack with the Pastor over the coming months and funny enough, I’m learning, un-learning and re-learning what this means in all sorts of areas of life and my relationship with the Lord, to this day.
In short, it simply means that anything added to the Grace of God through the Gospel of Christ, destroys it.

Intro

The Gospel, what we know and understand as the ‘Good News’ of Christ, is the most profound message all of time. I don’t think there would be many Christians either from this lifetime, the time of the New Testament or anywhere in-between, that would disagree with this statement. The Gospel of Christ is the core and foundation of the Christian Faith.
It is, however, very prone to being perverted. And the consequences of perverting the Gospel, are that other Gospels are formed and proclaimed. Gospel’s that are man-made and hence are Christ-free Gospel’s. This Gospel, is not ‘good news’ whatsoever. For what ‘good news’ is it that we must be do something in order to receive the grace of God?
This is the very issue we have here in our text this morning. In the verses preceding our text today Paul writes to the Galatians that he is “astonished” that are abandoning him and the Gospel he brought them and turning to a different gospel (v.6).
He continues in verses 7-9…

not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! [1]

Problem in the text (Law)
This is the context we find ourselves in, in our reading this morning. Paul is dealing with two things with the Church in Galatia, a perversion of the Gospel and a rejection of him as an apostle of Christ. Yet both of these are related since they reject Paul partly due to his Gospel message. Paul, an apostle of Christ movie.

The particular ‘gospel’, so to speak, that is permeating in the Church at Galatia is that of ‘Judaizer’ theology and it is therefore no Gospel at all. This thinking taught that Christ, Israel’s Messiah, and the forgiveness that He offers through His atoning death on the Cross can only be received only if the non-Jewish world first become Jews by observing the circumcision and the Law. In other words, to be a recipient of the Gospel of Christ, one must do something.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what the Galatians took a hold and hence why Paul begins to plead with them. He pleads that they would to turn away from this new ‘gospel’ and turn back to what he had first proclaimed to them. Hence, in the opening verses of our reading today:
11 
For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. [2]

The Galatians have both perverted and accepted this new Law filled ‘gospel’ that is of human origin and source hence is not of Christ. “Grace plus, equals minus grace”…

In the verses following, v.13 to the end of the chapter, Paul then briefly explains his life over pre and post-conversion. Explaining that he was being a devout and zealous Jew prior to Christ coming to him on the road to Damascus, Paul is hoping to repel their false idea of the need to observe Jewish law in order to become true recipients of Christ’ forgiveness. For Paul it was his devotion to Judaism that led him to persecute the church of God and Paul found out the hard way, on the road to Damascus when Christ told asked him why he was persecuting Him? “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” in Acts 9. By persecuting the Church Paul was persecuting Christ Himself.

Similarly, since the NT church, including the Church of Galatia was propagating and accepting a ‘false gospel’ that is of human origin and of human source, they are consequently rejecting the Gospel of Christ and therefore Christ Himself.

Problem in the world (Law)
Sadly, this reliance on human sources and on things that originate not with Christ but with mankind is just as prevalent. This tendency toward human rather than God derived things, is firstly due to our fallen nature.

Example #1 – God’s forgiveness vs human forgiveness

Example #2 – Attitudes to converts of the Faith, i.e. St Paul, prodigal Son, older brother etc.

But interestingly, God, Heaven and the Angel’s rejoice of one sinner who repents but yet we at times, hold our applause, like the Galatians; well at least until they begin to show the fruit of this Gospel.
This is what Paul exposes in the Galatians in verses 22-24 where he states that:
“22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.”

The rejoicing and glorifying of God by the Judean churches because of Paul’s conversion, was exactly what the Galatians should’ve been doing though weren’t doing themselves.

Surely, Paul or even any of us must do something in order to receive or maybe even start doing now to truly receive this grace and inherit eternal life…
Is what the Galatians began to think and sometimes even what we think from time to time…

Example #3 – appeal to Law rather than Gospel.
This need to do something in order to receive Christ is most certainly untrue from our text but also our existence. It therefore undermines Christ and His forgiveness. There is absolutely nothing that we can or are capable of offering that can merits God’s grace and favour.
Paul, more than anyone, knew this and hence here is pleading with the Galatians to return to the true Gospel. As we have seen, he done this by revisiting his story and in particular his conversion story.
“14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me”[3].

 

It is almost as if Paul is saying that despite his persecution and attempt to earn the favour God through law-observance was actually in opposition to the church of God and hence to God Himself.

  • Jesus’ insistence on John baptising Him

  • Jesus washing the disciples feet

  • Jesus rebuke of Peter’s comment re’ His death and resurrection, “Get behind me Satan, who have mind the things of man not the things of God”.

But despite this rebellion God was pleased to call him through his grace and reveal his Son to him, the same one he had been persecuting. To make this point even stronger, Paul mentions that all of this was set apart by God before he was even born. So we have a God who has revealed Himself to Paul despite rebellion, persecution and even despite taking his first breath.
This Son who had been revealed to Paul by God is the same One who had said he came “not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it” (Matt. 5:17). This quote of Christ is also exemplary of how one is to pervert the Gospel in it, if one is to misinterpret it. This is done when one says this quote and uses Christ’s fulfilling of the Law as an example for us to follow.
Christ’s true and primary reason for taking on flesh and to fulfill for us what the Law of God requires of us on our behalf, is as our substitute and representative.
Like Paul, we are all undeserving of this grace and cannot add anything to it. For to think that we can or should we be to undermine it entirely.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Paul writes to church in Rome (5:6).

 

Several years ago we read and unpacked this verse and theme in the newly formed Youth Group at Ferryden Park. One of the boys raised his hand and said something along the lines of “You know Shaun, knowing how much I don’t deserve God’s love and can’t do anything to make him love me more, makes me wanna love him back”…
This reception is a great indicator that the Law-free Gospel has been proclaimed in the sinners ear and heart. Although it doesn’t come naturally to us to uphold this Law-free Gospel of Christ, but we must certainly reject this human derived gospel that treats Christ as merely an example and the things of God as something to be achieved. We are only recipients who can offer back only our thanks and praise to God. The Gospel that Paul proclaimed was the true one, since it is not of human source or origin but from Christ Himself, who is both human and divine. Interceding for us as a human before the throne of God and proclaiming from the throne of God, His love for us sinful humans.

As St Paul pleaded with the Galatians, if you hear a Gospel that is contrary to the one received and given in Christ, reject it and rebuke it. Doesn’t matter who preaches it or tells you about it. Don’t let any Pastor, Priest or Christian leader pervert the Gospel and put anything in the way of Christ and His Law-free Gospel.

It is so appealing and we will always gravitate toward this Law-filled Gospel, so I announce God’s forgiveness to you this day if you have perverted the Gospel or believed a perverted Gospel, as have I. Times where we think our Baptism hasn’t been enough. Where we think that the forgiveness received at Holy Communion is not enough. This is where St Paul says we partake in death and Resurrection of Christ and all that He has achieved for us. And if you think that you don’t, recall how you may think of a person who has been baptized but doesn’t attend anymore. I hear too often that people’s Christian Faith is in contention because they come to church often etc. What really defines one as a Christian? Their obedience or God’s grace?

As the Lord Jesus’ disciples may we keep our church and teaching free from being perverted and making God’s grace achievable or retainable by our own efforts.
“Grace plus equals minus Grace.”

[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ga 1:7–9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ga 1:11–12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ga 1:14–16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

 

 

 

 

Gifts of the Holy Spirit – Pastor Robert Voigt – Audio Sermon

Sunday 20th January – Gifts of the Holy Spirit 

Pastor Robert Voigt – Audio Sermon  Ephiphany 2

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 NIV

Now about the gifts of the Spirit (pneumatikōn), brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.  4 There are different kinds of gifts (charismatōn) , but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.   11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  –  1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV

Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.  –  1 Corinthians 12:31 NIV

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.  – 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”  – John 14:26 NIV

 

Baptism of Jesus – Vicar Shaun Manning – Sunday 13th January

Sunday 13th January – St Petri Lutheran Church

Baptism of Jesus Sermon – Vicar Shaun ManningBaptism of Jesus

The Gospel:  Luke 3:15-17, 21, 22     (NIVUK)

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’

This is one of very few narratives that are found in some form in all four Gospel accounts.

So here we are in the 2nd week of Epiphany, a time and season where we celebrate the revelation of God the Son to us. Last week was the visit of the Magi, where we learnt that our Lord Jesus has come to be Lord to both Jew and Gentile, all people in fact.

Today is a new revelation in which we don’t get indirect speech about some New Testament writers’ explanation of who Jesus is but a record of God the Father speaking to directly the matter… ‘This is my beloved Son’. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t have a habit of speaking so direct, but He does here, at Jesus’ baptism and also at His transfiguration that will be celebrated just before Lent.

So, just before our particular text in Luke where Jesus comes to get baptised (similarly in Matthew and Mark), John the Baptist has been preaching and calling people to repent. To turn away from themselves, turn away from their sin and turn back to God. To repent means to literally turn around and go back the other way. This is what God, through John, was calling people to do. John was preaching and offering a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This is a baptism that not only do the crowds take up but Jesus Himself.

But hang on a second… was not Jesus sinless? If Jesus was God’s Divine Son, what sins does He have to repent of? So why then does He get baptised? We will look to figure this out in today’s sermon.

And so, our text begins… after preaching repentance and baptising…

v.15 As the people were in expectation, and all of them questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he was the Christ.
John exercising and preaching with such authority the crowds begin to think that He is this expected chosen one of God, the Messiah that has come to redeem His people. But…

v.16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire…”

John clears all speculation that he is not the one, but the one they’re after is coming. John actually says a similar thing earlier, that he was called to prepare the way for the Lord. John himself is not the Lord. Here he goes even further, I am not worthy to untie even his sandals. John’s criteria of the Lord being mightier than him is that his baptism is only with water, but the Lord will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. For us to understand our Lord’s Baptism and its significance we must clear up a few things. As John says, the baptism he offers and the baptism that Jesus offers are two separate things. In other words, the Baptism that is granted to us Christians is not the same baptism that John offered and consequently Jesus received. In our text John is doing the baptising. At your baptism and the baptism offered here at St Petri, it is actually the Lord Jesus who is doing the baptising. Before we move on, I wonder how many of us can truly resonate with John in our hearts… do we really consider ourselves unworthy? Jesus later calls John the greatest in the kingdom of heaven but yet John considered himself unworthy to untie his sandals… Even St Paul considered himself the chief of sinners… I mention this because this belief is central to true Christian spirituality… unworthy sinners, in need of God’s grace and forgiveness… we must never grow old of this because it is here we God’s does He greatest work… hence John says “I must decrease so that he may increase”…
Back to our text… so John, wanting to depict who this Jesus is, goes on to say…

His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear the threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire”.
It took me some research to find out what a winnowing fork is… It is an ancient method used to separate the grain from the chaff. Grain is what is good and useful, what the farmer is looking for… and on the other hand the chaff is not used and typically serves no purpose and is thrown out. John uses this imagery to give us some insight into who this Jesus actually is. He is the Lord that has been given all authority on heaven and earth. It is He who has the keys to heaven and to hell. This has allusions to the fact that one day our Lord will one day separate the sheep from the goats. It is a scary thought to think that not everyone is saved, that not everyone is going to heaven. This is why John was so adamant on preaching repentance of the people, he is wanting them to be saved from the coming wrath.
And I mean even the ones who did come to be baptised, how are they to be sure that they really are repentant? Likewise, with us? Luther wrestled with this so deeply that he came to hate God. Never being able to please for he never trusted that he was truly sorry.
What is the solution? How are we supposed to know if we really have been repentant?
Here is our answer…

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The who One has a His winnowing fork in hand, steps into the dirty waters where everyone was bring their sins. Steps into those waters with those who are chaff and deserve to burn and stands in their place before His Father. Even the repentance that was called upon by John cannot be achieved, so Jesus repented truly, once and for all for us. Jesus wasn’t repenting of his sins at His baptism, for He had none to repent of, He was repenting our sins for us. St Paul says that He who knew no sin became sin for us. So, when thinking of your own sin, don’t look to how sincerely sorry and repentant you are… rather look to Christ. The One who repents and pleads for you always. If you need affirmation of such things come and talk to your Pastor, so that you may hear God’s love and forgiveness declared to you. That is the bread and butter of Pastoral Ministry declaring forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name, so take advantage of it.

Jesus stood in solidarity with the sinners who came to repent at the Jordan River. He also stands in solidarity with you and me, as our King and Brother who lays down His life for us. Jesus did all this so that along with Him the Father would be pleased with us also. And those of us who have been baptised have received this right, to be children of God. Our Father, for Jesus’s sake, declares that He is well pleased with us. So, may we learn what this means to live as dearly loved children of our Heavenly Father, calling upon Him through Jesus Christ. It all starts here, as baptised children who have come to receive the gifts of our Father. And through our work as a Church, Pastor’s and laity, we are called from this same One, who has authority over heaven and earth to make disciples by baptising and teaching… so that the world may become truly loved children of our Heavenly Father along with us.

By aligning Himself with us, repenting our sins for us… This Baptism of Our Lord has further significances… DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS BAPTISM MEANT FOR JESUS? Doing His Father’s will. Jesus goes to be tempted, to teach and serve His people and to ultimately lay down His life for them, for you and me.

Also with us, by being adopting into his family by Baptism… DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR BAPTISM MEANS FOR YOU? Doing your Father’s will in this life, different though similarly to Jesus. Serve and love one another here. See your job, husbands, wives and children, family and friends as gifts from your Father and not your own to do as you will with. We are called to reach out to the widowed, the orphaned, the poor and needy. As dearly loved, baptised children of the Heavenly Father through what Christ has done for us, we now, with the help of the Holy Spirit live as Christ to others. Are we going to master it this side of the grave? Most definitely not. Jesus is the only one who lived His Father’s will out truly and so we cling to Him and not to our efforts. This is why we come back Sunday after Sunday to receive forgiveness, because we’ve blown it again and to receive His help and guidance which He grants through His Word and His people. This is why it’s important to come to church and to listen to His Word preached. Not because it is the right thing to do or we are wearing fancy clothes…. but because it is needed for our daily Christian lives. It is where God looks to guide us, renew us and lead us to live as His people.

And if you’re looking for a blueprint on the Christian life, look no further than the Lord’s Prayer. It is actually Jesus’ prayer, meaning it belongs to Him. But through what Christ has done for us we now have the right to call God Father also and as dearly loved children call to their earthly fathers; asking Him to help keep His name holy, that He would bring His heavenly kingdom to earth. As children calling and relying upon Him as the provider of a daily bread, that He would forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others who sin against us. We pray that our Heavenly Father would lead us not into temptation and protect from the evil one. This is why Jesus pleaded and repented for us at the Jordan River and lived His earthly life in obedience to the Father… so that His Father may be our Father too.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus, the One who repents and pleads for you always. Amen.

Epiphany – Pastor Robert Voigt – Sunday 6th January, 2019

Sunday 6th January – Epiphany

Pastor Robert Voigt,  Audio Sermon at St Petri Lutheran Church

New Year’s Eve Message – Vicar Shaun Manning – 31 December 2018

New Year’s Eve – Audio Message

Vicar Shaun Manning at St Petri Lutheran Church, Nuriootpa

Christmas Eve Message – Vicar Shaun Manning

Monday 24th December – Christmas Eve

St Petri Lutheran Church – Message by Vicar Shaun Manning

Luke 2:1-14

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
  and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

So here we are on the Eve of Christmas, on the eve of one of the most joyful times of the year. Regardless if people celebrate the real meaning of Christmas or not, it is a time when people seek to be with the company of family and friends; get together, eat, exchange presents and even sing songs.

Not too long ago, whilst on school placement for my pastoral studies, I heard a story whose setting is also Christmas Eve. It’s family context also isn’t too unfamiliar to many of our Australian homes today. Other than the fact that we don’t typically have White Christmas’s here.
Anyhow, it’s starts off on a cold and snowy Christmas Eve, inside a warm house, the Christmas tree was cheerfully ablaze with lights and surrounded by dozens of presents.

The wife of the small family and the children were dressed and ready to leave for a Christmas Eve service at their local Church. “Come with us,” they urged their husband and father, for they loved him.

“Not me,” he snapped. “I don’t believe in all that religion garbage.”

For many years, the man’s wife had been trying to tell him about Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers. How God’s Son had become a human being in order to save us and show us who God really is and they way to heaven.

“Nonsense,” the man always replied.

The family left for church and the man was all alone in his cozy country home. He glanced out the window at the cold snowy scene outside. He turned himself by the fire. But as he turned, his eyes caught a movement in the snow outside. He looked. Cats! Three young cats walking slowly past his window.

“Silly cats,” he thought. “They’ll freeze for sure!” The man put on his hat and coat and opened door… “Come here, cats! Come inside where there’s warmth and food. You’ll die out there.”

He walked outside. “Come back! Don’t be afraid, I want to save you.”
But the cats ran away in fright, the cats were gone, it was too late.

“Well, I did everything I could for them,” the man uttered to himself. “What more could I do?”….

Now the story continues further but we’ll leave it there for a moment…

In comparison to this story, presumably in some Western first-world country, our Gospel text paints a slightly different picture.
Joseph and Mary’s Christmas Eve was in Israel, in the 1st century; hence their Christmas Eve looked much different than ours typically would also.

The Emperor of the time has issued a decree and so everyone needs to go to their home town. Hence for Mary and Joseph, being in Nazareth at the time, needed to travel back to Bethlehem. With the assistance of Google Maps I discovered that the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is 70 miles, or a 112km. This is similar distance if one is to travel from Nuri to Waikerie… a roughly 22 and a half hour walk.

This is in an age and time where modes of travel are even harder for ones of low status like Mary and Joseph, and also one must remember that Mary is heavily pregnant. (How they got there specifically, we don’t know for sure but lets just say that it wasn’t by motor vehicle, metro bus or a helicopter).

But as if things couldn’t get much harder.
When they finally arrive in Bethlehem but there is no where for them to stay, so they presumably get a small place in a close by stable. Whilst here Luke describes for us here that Mary gives birth to her firstborn son, wraps Him in swaddling cloth and lays him in a manger.
Not your ideal Christmas Eve to say the least…
nor a great time to fall into labor is it?

When one looks on the difficult, mundane and very human circumstances of Jesus’ birth, it’s easy to lose sight of Who He is and what His birth means.

But this is the whole point of Christmas and Luke presents this nativity scene in line with this truth. Luke paints the true picture of God in Christ who descended to our lowly and fallen world. Christ the eternal Son of God, who partook in the Creation of the World, has become human. John puts it this way “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… He came to which was His own but his own knew him not”. The same world He created He has now literally stepped into and become a part of but all we could offer was a manger.

It makes one wonder about the depth of our state if God is having to intervene to such great depths. Just like if the Federal Police involved or if someone is being summoned to the Supreme Court, something major has happened. So how much more serious is the issue if the One who positioned the universe, composed all matter and gave life to everything, has had to step in and do something?

We paused on our story earlier, with the man pondering on what He could do to save these cats. After opening the door and enticing them to come in and be saved, he says to himself “well I did everything I could for them? What more could I do?… He interestingly considered that the only way he could reach and save them, would be if he would become a cat himself. “Surely then I could show them who I am and what I was trying to do”. As he ponders this, he returns back to his warm fire and hears the church bells ring in the distance. He paused for a second and listened. Then he got down on his knees and wept.

Why did he weep? This is an understandable reaction of someone who experiences God’s love, especially for the very first time. The man had been encountered with the Gospel, finally understanding why his family had enticed him to come to church for Christmas, year after year.
Isn’t it true that we are lost if God doesn’t intervene?
In the state we are in, we cannot come to God on our own accord but need Him to come to us. And He did, and He does also now.

Around halfway through the Gospel narrative we hear of the shepherds.
These shepherds have encountered the glory of the Lord, God’s holiness in the field and are terrified.
None of us can stand in the Holy presence of God, for without God’s help we are totally unholy, aren’t we?
The angel of the Lord says to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid, I bring Good News of great joy for all people”. The angel continues by explaining what the Good News is… “For unto you is born this day… a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you… you will find…”

How would you finish this sentence yourself? Jesus is the King and Lord, so how would you think royalty would typically make its appearance? Think of when Prince Harry and Kate came to Dubbo earlier this year. There was media everywhere, security and crowds following them everywhere they went, and dozens of roads being closed off. This is not overly surprising is it? This is how we expect earthly royalty to be greeted by the hosting nation. However, what do you think the sign would be if, not the Prince of United Kingdom, but the King of the Universe was to make his appearance? So, you’ve just heard that the Lord of the Universe and Saviour of the World has come… what sign would you look for? what would be the sign that you would think God would send? Surely something magnificent and glorious and definitely not… “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

The Wise Men who catch wind of the King who is being born and then head to where they would expect a King to be born, in a palace and hence they head up to Jerusalem. We often do the same don’t we?
How do expect God to work out His plans in the life is His people?
We look and expect a different King, don’t we?

If you’re anything like me, you would expect the Creator to come and work in some glorious and ostentatious manner, but He typically doesn’t. In particular, when we think of tonight, He goes about His work of reconciling us to Himself, through this baby lying in a manger in Bethlehem.

But this is just who God is, and who He has always been. Walking amongst Adam and Eve in garden, coming to visit Abraham his home, meeting Moses on the mountain and being present with His people in the Temple in Jerusalem. He has now come ever so closer and even took on the flesh in which He created. St. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Philippians… “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

 

This divine Son of God became human in baby Jesus; traded in His throne for an earthly manger; He exchanged robes of splendour for swaddling clothes; He left the songs of praise from a multitude of angels for the recognition of a few shepherds. He has done all this for you and for me. Not because it was nice, but because it was necessary. Necessary for us to be restored to right relationship with God. And this could not have happened if God didn’t become one of us.

 

This is who God was, has always been and is also now. By looking for Him to operate in a way other than Christ, we end up missing Him and who He truly is. Although we may celebrate, we find it difficult to accept that our Lord became a human and died a cross, don’t we? It is also tough to believe that He works through His Spirit through the Word, ink and paper, that the Holy Spirit through the proclaimed Word creates and strengthens faith or that kneeling at the alter receiving bread and wine that our Lord’s body and blood are really present. Look at me, not even wearing a fancy stole but yet God still uses this imperfect creature, right now… to bring Good News of great joy.

Just as God stepped into a dark and sinful reality at Christmas, so He comes to you and me today.

He comes and steps into our broken and hurting lives and offers us hope through His Spirit and Word, peace through the forgiveness of our sins in Absolution and joy in the Good News of the Gospel which we share together as God’s people. He does all of this magnificent work in the lives of all people everywhere even to us here in Nuri.

 

The angels knowing what a miracle has just worked in the birth of Christ, and so they exclaim “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased”. So who is God pleased with? You? Me? Pastor Adrian? The answer is no. These words of affirmation belong to Christ. They were said to Christ at His Baptism. Christ shares that same affirmation from Father with us, when he became one of us, assumed human flesh and now through our Baptism has united us with Christ. United us with His death so that we share in His resurrection. And this brings peace to earth for those with whom He is pleased. And the good news is that He is pleased with any of us who don’t have to earn the right to receive His love, but who receive His love for us by faith.

 

This Christmas may God grant once again the joy, peace and hope as we hear and meditate on the Good News of His love that He has come in lowly means, that He does come to us here and now and that He will come again to take us to be with Him in the Highest Heaven.

Though I’m sure there are presents still waiting for you to receive this Christmas,
this season is truly about the gift that you have already been given.

Amen.

We Didn’t Expect That- Audio Sermon – Pastor Noel Due

Sunday 16th December

St Petri Lutheran Church- 3 Advent

How Far to Come Close – Jonathan Krause

Sermon, 1 Advent, Sunday 2nd December, 2018

Audio Message recorded at St Petri – Jonathan Krause

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down …  Isaiah 64:1

HOW FAR TO COME CLOSE?

Swords and spears …………..………….. rakes and shovels

War ……………………………………………..  Peace

Barren lands …………………..….…….….  blossom with flowers

Weak, trembling and worried ……..  Cheer up! Don’t be afraid!

Blind …………………………………..… .……  see

Ears of the deaf ………………..…..………  healed

Lame ……………………..…………………..….  Leap like deer

Desert ……………………………………….…..  Water will rush

Sorrows and worries ………………………. Celebrate and shout

Old man & barren woman …….…….   Baby

Pastor …………..…………………………………. Lost for words!

What is ………………………………………………..  What will be

God ………………………………………………………  Me

Tear open the heavens ……………………..  and come down

 

God has come close to us.   What next?

Let our lives radiate faith active in love.

How far must we go to come close?

Australia’s Median Household Wealth:  $292922

If you are on the single Age Pension  … you are in the top 7% of richest people in the world!

If you are are first year teacher in SA … you are in the Top 1% or richest people in the world.

How much do Australians spend on  Christmas decorations  $1 Billion

How much do Australians spend on food at Christsmas $20 Billion

How much do Australians spend in six weeks up to Christmas $50 Billion

What about the Boxing Day Sales after Christmas?  another $18 Billion

Australian spending in 9 weeks of Christmas and sales $68 Billion

UN:  Cost to end world hunger:  $41 Billion

They will pound the swords and spears …
… into rakes and shovels
(and hoes)  Isaiah 2:4

“In the first year, you gave me    the seeds, tools, and training …”  

“In the second year, you taught me how to harvest and gather the seeds.” 

“Then in the third year, I can help someone else.”

How far will you go to come close?

Young women and young men, together with the elderly, will celebrate and dance, because I will comfort them and turn their sorrow into happiness.

Jeremiah 31:13 (CEV)

A Reckless Love – Dr Steen Olsen

A Reckless Love Mark 12:38-44
St Petri Nuri 11/11/2018

38  As [Jesus] taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39  and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! 40  They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41  He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42  A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43  Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44  For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

What if Jesus came here this morning to watch how much each of us put in the offering plate?

The cheek of the man! Who does he think he is?  Doesn’t he know that is confidential?
He is breaking the Privacy Act!

A few years back in my first parish we managed to buy a modest church from the Exclusive Brethren.

At the dedication someone put a cheque for $2,000 in the offering – a vast sum in 1979!
[At the time a pastor’s salary was $7,570pa + car allowance of $1,050 and 4.7¢/km]
I just managed to intercept the treasurer running out the door, shouting at the top of her voice
“Who is this generous man?” – She was so excited

 

1) Jesus also observed many rich people giving large sums – that is as it should be!
Those who are wealthy should also pray for the gift of generosity – nothing wrong with that!

It is also not surprising that a poor widow should want to contribute something – that is also right
It is surprising that she should give everything she had to live on.  What is mind-blowing is Jesus’ comment is that
“this poor widow gave more than all the rich people.  ”What sort of reckless love is this demonstrating?

2) This woman is not tithing.  She is not saying, “10% for God, 90% for me!”
She is not at all concerned about doing her Christian or religious duty.  She is not worried about fulfilling the law of God.
Her life is not about obedience – it is far deeper than that.

3) We begin to understand the widow by contrasting her with the Scribes Jesus says that they are
all bound up in honour, respect, position and power.  And along the way they make a show of praying long prayers and rob poor widows no wonder “they will receive the greater condemnation.”

But these are among the respectable church people.  They are the sort of people we want to count as our friends
It is easy to look from afar and criticise

The Scribes have their lives in order they do their duty and fulfil their obligations they are a bit like me!

The widow is reckless.  She gives away all she has to live on
Does she die of hunger? Or perhaps head down to the Salvos?

We are not told what becomes of her and it is not important for the story.  It would take us down wrong paths, discussions about social welfare and the like.

4) This poor widow has no one to rely on but God.  Her faith is that God will not fail her
Perhaps it is a ‘hope against hope’ and she has reached the point of desperation there is nothing else she can do except throw herself on the mercy of God

Perhaps she recognises what the rich often miss, that our lives are totally dependent on God, even when things are going wel.

The poor widow didn’t make a donation, she offered her life.

You have probably heard the story about a pig and a hen:
Early one morning a pig and hen were walking down the streetThey to an open café that had a sign in the window “Bacon & Eggs”
The chook said, “I famished – let’s go in and eat.”
The pig replied, “No way birdbrain! It’s ok for you. You are only being asked for a donation. For me it is total commitment!”

Rom 12:1-2 – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

5) So who do you personally identify with? Think about it. The Scribes or the poor widow?
Do you see something of the Scribe’s attitude in your own life?  Concern for self, how others look at you?
Are you more concerned about yourself than showing mercy to the needy?
When I look in the mirror I see a Scribe lurking beneath the respectable exterior. all is not well with me, and if I am honest the condemnation of which Jesus speaks is richly deserved.

6) Does the poor widow remind you of someone you know?  When I look in the mirror, I have to confess that I see too little of her.
I would like to be more like her than I am.

Today it reminds us of the end of The Great War, exactly 100 years ago sadly a second conflict meant The Great War became the first WW
They went to war & millions sacrificed their lives, also a reckless love  Over 400k Australians enlisted out of 5M and over 60k were killed 1 in 7 they gave everything for others, including life itself – no small offering

But the poor widow also reminds us of someone else – the one who is telling the story – Jesus
Like the poor widow Jesus foolishly-lavishly gives every last bit of himself for us
By human standards Jesus death was insignificant – one among millions of unjust executions but like the widow’s mite it is more significant than all the rest.
Jesus lived and died for others  He totally depended on God  When he died he took our sin upon himself …
So we are forgiven, even for being Scribe-like  That is good news, because we can’t do anything about it ourselves…

7) You can’t make yourself like the widow by an act of your will like making a decision or a commitment
just as we can’t control things around us and make sure everything goes well for us so we can’t make ourselves better people we are totally dependent on God and his promises

8) The good news is that by his Spirit at work in us, Jesus empowers us to be more like himself – and like the widow dependent on God concerned for the poor and needy trusting that God will provide,
that his plans are always good and for our blessing.  What that means for each of us will vary depending on God’s call to us and the circumstances he places us into.
We may not be called to lay down our lives for others in a war or even to give away all our possessions
But we are being empowered to be more like Jesus who died for us, so that we might be forgiven and live in him

This is the reckless love of a Christian we don’t know exactly what the future holds
even our best, most careful plans can go wrong and the shadow of the cross falls over them.
But in the spirit of the poor widow who laid down her life as an offering to God we too can trust God and let our lives be an offering.  Amen.

 

Reformation Message – Bishop David Altus – Sunday 28 October

Sermon, Reformation

Sunday October 28, 2018, St Petri

Bishop David Altus

 

Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

 

Every year at this time we get a reminder about what a Lutheran congregation stands for.

Do you know what you stand for and do you value it?

In life generally we’d rather know than not know what people stand for, even if it is only so we can shoot them down! We look at our political parties and leaders and ask “what do you stand for?” – that I should trust you and vote for you? When our AFL team doesn’t do so well fans lament that “We don’t know what our club stands for anymore.”

Someone  said: “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything”

  • So what do you stand for St Petri?
  • Why you here?
  • What matters, and matters most to you?
  • What are you known for and want to be known for?
  • What is worth “going to the wall over together?” Is it the walls of the church and which way round they are? Or what happens here inside them, or outside them?

People often want me to make more of a stand on moral or political issues to set society straight or to take stand on issues in the church – as long as I stand on their side!

 

Martin Luther was known for three words:  “Here I stand”

He said those words to the face of an emperor, and to his church. An emperor and church who had put on the table the books Luther had written and demanded a retraction. But Luther said “I can’t and I won’t recant!”

He stood there and would not budge because of what he had discovered in the gospel – the good news of God’s grace, God’s undeserved kindness and love for him and everyone in Jesus Christ. Grace that justified the unrighteous Luther.

He had first discovered that good news in passages like Romans 1:16-17 and it led him to say with St Paul  “I am not ashamed of the gospel”. He devoted the rest of his life and put his life on the line for that Gospel.

 

All of us have numerous experiences in life where we have felt ashamed. We can be ashamed of our thoughts words and actions and ashamed of our bodies. Ashamed of ourselves and each other. Ashamed of our public persona and our inner private world.

Some feel ashamed of our church right now, divided as we seem to be on some things. Some have left because of that. Some would have left if the recent decision went the other way a few weeks ago at Synod.

Luther felt ashamed before God and he feared God.

  • He retreated to monastery to live a “religious life”
  • He tried doing good things 24 hrs a day
  • He tried confessing his sins until he was blue in face and exhausted

Nothing set him free from doubt about himself and his goodness and doubt about God and what God thought of him. Nothing worked, except Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

The good news of Christ is the power that blew away his shame and guilt, any uncertainty about where he stood with God, any uncertainty about entry to heaven when he died.

The Gospel of what Jesus did when he lived and died for him blew away like dynamite (that’s the Greek word for power here) – it blew up and blew away any self-doubt, any self-righteousness, any pride in his own goodness and standing before God.

Being set right, being able to stand and walk and run and live in God’s presence freely now and forever is a gift, he discovered.

  • God gives what he expects and wants for, and in us.
  • God gives his own rightness so we don’t need to be “self”-righteous.

We see it and I believe it when we look at the cross and Jesus dying for me.

To the proud that good news says “you can’t earn or deserve it”

To the crushed and broken it says “you don’t have to earn or deserve it”

The gospel of being saved by God’s grace alone, received by faith alone, in Christ alone.

  • Lutherans live and breathe that Gospel.
  • We stand and we walk in its power.
  • We die in its grace and hope.

That’s what enabled Luther to stand in front of his church and state when they challenged and condemned him. He was willing to go to the wall and die for it just as St Paul was.

 “Here I stand” – what else can I do, he said.

Our Lutheran confessional writings, the teachings we believe express the gospel clearly tell us that the church stands or falls on the gospel, on what we teach and believe about Jesus and God’s justifying grace to us in him. Full stop. Nothing else

 

The danger existed in Paul’s day and Luther’s day and in our day right now in our LCA to add a law to the gospel, thinking:

“We will only be a genuine church of Jesus if we ordain women”

Or “We will cease to be true church of Jesus if we ordain women”

As important an issue as this has been and will continue to be,

  • Don’t let this issue become either a new law or a new gospel.
  • Don’t let it overshadow Christ, as convicted and conflicted about this and other issues as we are.
  • Don’t make it the unforgivable sin – either way.
  • Don’t let it be what defines the church.
  • Don’t break the church that Christ died for any further than it already is.

Luther had many issues with his church but never thought of leaving it. He thought a lot about reforming it from the inside out – and he endured the pain for that until he was kicked out… for proclaiming the gospel.

What we go to the wall over, argue over, leave the church over even, says a lot about what we stand for. What might those things be for you?

Buildings? (I know you have a meeting about buildings today)

Music and songs?

Theological issues?

Moral issues?

They are all important, but one day we will “hit the wall” when we all go to our graves.

What will we stand on then, what will matter most or at all as we are about to meet God who gave us life and to whom we are accountable?

On Tuesday I will stand at a graveside. You won’t be there, but you will, because I will be representing you at the funeral of NSW bishop James Haak who died suddenly last weekend in North Adelaide aged 59.

What we stand for and what he stood for will be made crystal clear at his funeral. I expect to hear from Bishop Henderson the gospel. Our confidence and hope in the face of death is not that James was male nor female, a pastor, a bishop even a family man or all round nice guy.

James died a righteous man because he died in Christ, and that’s all.

Our confidence is in Christ alone, who gives us God’s grace alone, and we will stand there at his grave with faith alone in God’s word alone.

That’s what I expect to here on Tuesday or I will be posting some theses of my own on the front door of LCA HQ at 197 Archer St on Wed morning!

The power of God will be at work in grieving hearts in the face of sin and death as Bishop John proclaims what Lutherans expect him to proclaim. There is nothing else that will be able to cut it on Tuesday than the gospel.

At the recent synod after the debate and vote and after reflection by delegates expressing sadness at division in church, it was Bishop James Haak who proposed a motion, which Synod passed almost unanimously and without debate: ‘that Synod acknowledges the deep hurt and harm to individuals and groups that has been occasioned over the past years in the course of the debate regarding ordination; repents of the hurt, and seeks forgiveness and reconciliation with one another’.

 

Repentance – that’s the call in the first of Luther’s 95 theses that started the Reformation.

Standing begins on our knees, in repentance, looking for and depending on God’s grace to us individually and together. Recognising our own need for the gospel and receiving the gospel, as has happened here today.

 

And standing on the gospel is not standing still. You can’t stand still when you experience the power of the gospel. You have to live it and express it and share it. It has its inbuilt power to want others to enjoy it too.

At same time as Martin Luther made his discovery and went to the wall and world over it, another Martin (of Basle) also discovered the gospel and he wrote: “O most merciful Christ I know that I can only be saved by your blood. Holy Jesus I acknowledge thy sufferings for me, I love you, I love you”. Then he took his witness to Jesus and hid it in a cavity of his cell wall in the monastery where it stayed for 100 years, while others around him were striving to find their own way to God. He enjoyed it himself but hid the dynamite of the gospel.

By all means say with Martin Luther “here we stand” by grace alone, faith alone, in Christ alone.

Stand firm, but don’t stand still, and don’t be ashamed of the gospel, it is God’s power to save you and all who believe it. Our privilege is not only to live in that Gospel but to share it.

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