“For I am about to do something new.” Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)
Over the past several weeks now the church has been able to operate in absentia. The doors to the church building may have been closed for those Sundays, but the Church is far from being closed. What it has meant is that there have many “home” churches opened for worship instead. God has been doing a New Thing. Thank you to Pastor and the team who have worked so hard at printing, distributing, recording and posting on the website, the Sunday services and sermons for each Sunday. We haven’t as yet been able to organise the video side of the streaming from the church website.
A reminder that your offerings can be made via direct deposit to:
Account name: Elizabeth St Peters Lutheran
BSB# 704 942
Hopefully by July we may be able to meet together again in the church with up to 100 attending at a time. This gives us a glimmer of light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, but let’s wait to see how things pan out in the meantime.
Church Council has not been able to meet together, but I have been staying in touch with council members via e-mail. Here are a couple of matters of interest to everyone.
God’s blessings to you.
“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not. As thou has been Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!” - Thomas O. Chisholm
(Based on Lamentations 3:22-23)
John 21:9 “When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them – fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.”
Jesus had been crucified, he had risen from the dead and appeared to the disciples on a couple of occasions. So now what? Things had gone quiet and some of the disciples were getting restless. Peter was especially so and said “Well I’m going fishing!” Sounds a bit like us sometimes – well me anyway. I’m not going to sit around here and stagnate. I’m going to work. I’m going to the shops. I’m going for a drive, wash the car, or mow the lawns.
From my count there were six other disciples with Peter, seven of them in total. So out in the boat they went. We are not told whose boat they took – maybe Peter had his boat moored by the Sea of Galilee – but they set out on a fishing excursion. Peter was a fisherman by trade and maybe he thought that he might as well get out and earn some money, along with his companions.
The story is very familiar however – a bit of déjà vu if you like. Out fishing all night and guess what? Not one fish. Sounds a lot like Luke 5: 1-11 when Jesus tells the disciples to go out deeper and what happened? In spite of not catching one fish the night before, the boats were so full now, that they nearly sank.
But here they were again, out all night fishing and not one fish. Dawn breaks and Jesus was standing on the beach, but they didn’t recognise him. How was that? Mary didn’t recognise Jesus at the tomb. The friends on the Emmaus Road didn’t recognise him and now once again these magnificent seven fishers don’t recognise him – well not until they follow His instructions and the nets were so full… That’s when the penny dropped for John. He remembered the big catch from before and he recognized Jesus. When he told everyone else that it was Jesus, Peter jumped ship (maybe attempting to walk on water again) and headed for the shore leaving the others to haul in the net full of fish.
So, being only a hundred yards from the shore they arrived finding breakfast waiting for them; fish cooking over charcoal - and where did he get that fish? If he was like me, he did his fishing at the local fish market. Or maybe Peter grabbed one of the fish as he jumped out of the boat? In any case there was more déjà vu here. “…fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.” (v.9). Remember the feeding of the multitude and the boy with the loaves and fishes (John6)? Remember the denial by Peter in the high priest’s courtyard - warming himself by the charcoal fire (John 18:18)?
Jesus had his subtle little reminders that it was him. Fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread!
Does Jesus do that for us sometimes? He has been with us in the past and helped and provided for us. Then other things happen in our lives. Jesus appears. We may not see him or recognise his presence with us, until… until we see something familiar again and we know the Lord IS with us.
What ever we may face today, look to the shore. Jesus may be there cooking breakfast for you, whatever the fish, the charcoal fire or the bread may be for you.
Thank you, Lord, for always being there for us, whatever we face today in our world, in our homes, at our workplaces, at our schools and in our church. Forgive us when we do not recognise your presence or doubt that you will be there for us. Help us always to remember you and be reminded of your presence with us no matter where we are. May we always call on your name and follow your leading.
In the wonderful, holy name of Jesus, we pray.
And all of God’s people said… Amen! Praise the Lord!
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
During these days of “separation” at Liz Luth, I want to give thanks to God for those who are keeping things going with our Sunday worship services – and of course those extra Easter services. Thanks to Pastor Greg, his son, Adam, Pauline and Lila Hill who have been recording the services and to Tony and Edith Zimmerman who have been updating the church website (www.stpetersluthernelizabeth.net.au) and attaching the recorded audio podcasts, so that as many as possible can participate together.
There’s a new Facebook page – St. Peters Lutheran Congregation, Elizabeth South Australia.
Thank you also to the Pastoral Assistants (Elders) who have been busy printing and distributing the service orders and sermons.
There may be others also working in the background to bring services to us, and maintain our property and services, that I have failed to mention, or I am unaware of, but thank you to those people also.
Church Council will not be able to physically meet in the immediate future, but the various committees are going about serving the Lord in their roles. I have been trying to maintain contact via e-mail. With some recent vandalism – a broken window on the Wishford Road side of the sanctuary – David Lorke undertook the organising of the glazier and reporting to the SAPOL. We hope that will not be a regular pattern in the future. This event did occur in daylight hours whilst people were present, so we must be thankful that no one was injured. At the last couple of Church Council Meetings, security cameras had been suggested for the property. These would need to be integrated with the current security system, as I understand it. At the moment we are also sorting how the connection to the NBN will affect the existing security system also, so all of this may take a little time. A work in progress.
Our AGM was scheduled for May 25th, but again this is very much in doubt of happening. What I am proposing is simply to have the Book Reports printed and distributed so that everyone does at least have a picture of what has happened in our church during 2019.
I believe God is certainly doing a “New Thing” in our church, but probably not in the way that we may have expected – or in a way that we can see happening right now. If nothing else, we certainly have a lot more time on our hands to be praying and being attentive to the voice of God as to how we can reach out to our local community. Please continue to pray for our pastor and the pastoral assistants and your church council.
This is a strange time for all of us and so unnatural. Yet throughout history there have been times similar to this for the church. May we again be reminded from Psalm 46 (Luther’s Psalm), that “God is our refuge and strength.”
God’s blessings to you all.
Brenton Chomel - Chairman
During these days of isolation when we are shut away in our homes, I have found it a wonderful time that (besides catching up with all of the household chores) I can take time to read and study more of God’s Word. This is especially true for the passages relating to the Easter/Passion events.
One of the themes that has come through to me in various passages is the fear that people felt during this time. This caused many of them to “Self-Isolate” and lock doors. Maybe there is also a sense of fear today as you self-isolate from the pandemic in our world.
We find Peter isolating himself from the situation during the arrest and trial of Jesus, when he was “warming himself” by the fire amongst the household servants and guards in the courtyard. He just wanted to blend in with the crowd and not be noticed, probably out of fear for what might happen to him if it was discovered that he was one of the followers of Jesus. And we all know that he denied being a disciple on three occasions before the annoying, give-away rooster crowed. How different was the Peter of the night in the courtyard, to that of the Peter of the day of Pentecost, which came later. Fear had overwhelmed him and he wanted to hide and be isolated from the perceived consequences of being a follower of Jesus, whilst still curious as to what was going to happen next to the Lord.
The powerful Roman Governor Pontius Pilate was also fearful. He was fearful of the backlash from those above him if he didn’t follow the biddings of the Chief Priests. In John 19:8 “…he was more frightened than ever.” Pilate didn’t want to be reported as a rebel against Caesar as they had insinuated (v.12).
After the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to take the body of Jesus. He was described as a “secret Disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders)…” (John 19:38). Nicodemus, another Jewish leader, assisted Joseph. You may recall that Nick had met with Jesus some time earlier “After dark one evening…” (John 3:2) to ask about being born again. Once again, some fear there of being seen with Jesus in daylight and possible consequences. It was much safer to speak secretly after dark.
I also sense some fear by the disciples Peter and John as they approached the tomb on the resurrection morning, after being told by Mary Magdelene that Jesus’ body was no longer there. John just stood at the entrance, looking in at the linen wrappings that had bound Jesus’ body and that the cloth that had covered his head, which was folded up neatly, separate from the other wrappings. Peter on the other hand just bounded in. In John 20:10 we may find one of the shortest verses in the Bible, “Then they went home.” We’re not hanging around here! They were scared! More fear! Mary Magdelene however, overcome with grief stayed by the tomb, but met with Jesus who comforted her in her sorrow. She found the disciples and told them that she had seen Jesus.
Now, it is an understatement to say that the resurrection was an amazing event. Jesus had been raised to life again – miraculous - super natural – but now we see some more super-natural events following the resurrection.
In John 20:19 we find that on “That Sunday evening the disciples were behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.” But then something super-natural happens. The doors were locked, right? “Suddenly Jesus was standing there among them!” Where did he come from? How did he get there? Well, how did he come to life again in the tomb? How did he escape the locked door (or stone) of the tomb? Same answer I would suggest. This is Jesus the Son of God. Nothing is impossible with him – not rising from the dead or entering a room where the door is locked.
His first words when he appeared were, “Peace be with you!” Peace, not fear! After their joy at seeing him, he said again, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
Thomas was not with them on this occasion and when the disciples told him about having seen Jesus he couldn’t believe it. You can’t blame him. This is just too much to take in. So much had taken place over the past few days. You and I would probably have been the same.
Well eight days later the disciples were together, again with the doors locked and this time Thomas was present with them. I don’t know what Jesus was doing in those eight days, and we don’t seem to be told. Maybe he was waiting for the time when they were all together, including Thomas. However, Jesus appeared suddenly again as he had done before (in a locked room), again greeting with the words, “Peace be with you!" Jesus gave Thomas the opportunity to check out his wounds and put his doubts aside and to believe. Thomas did believe. But here is something that is of great encouragement to us today in John 20:29, Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
We are behind closed doors (mainly out of fear of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus) and we haven’t seen Jesus like the disciples have. For some weeks now we haven’t been able to see Jesus in bread and wine as we are accustomed to doing on Sundays in Holy Communion, yet we should not fear. The peace of the lord is with us as we continue to believe. He is present with us in his supernatural way behind our closed doors, even though we may not see him, or touch him. Doors, and locks and stones against a tomb cannot hold him back. Keep believing, for the day will come when we will not need to hide behind locked doors and when Jesus will return so that we will be with Him forever.
Be encouraged. Do not fear. We are blessed, because we believe and know that Jesus is alive, even though we have not seen him.
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
“Breath on me, breath of God; so shall I never die, But live with Thee the perfect life, Of Thine eternity.” (Edwin Hatch – 1878)
And all of God’s people said… Amen! Praise God!
(Scripture verses from the NLT – Bold face and italics mine)
We all have our own idea of what suffering is. When we think of the suffering of Jesus over Easter, we might rightly think of the beatings he received and his crucifixion itself. However, in Luke 22:41-44 we read of the suffering Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives, which it appears was a regular place to pray (“…went as usual to the Mount of Olives.” V.39).
Here, only “…a stone’s throw…” away from the disciples, Jesus “…knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (v.41). An angel from Heaven was sent to strengthen him. Even so, Jesus “…prayed even more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (v. 44). This was spiritual suffering for Jesus. The physical was yet to come on Golgotha – the Place of the Skull.
In 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 Paul also addresses suffering and the way God comforts us. We like our comforts, especially in this 21st century. When we lose any of the creature comforts that we have become so accustomed to, we really feel like we are suffering. But Paul says in verse 5 that “…the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.” No, he isn’t promising more of the comforts of this world, but I would suggest the kind of deep spiritual comfort Christ himself received when he was visited by the angel from heaven in the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t think that God intentionally brings suffering our way, but why does God allow us to suffer at all? There may be many reasons for that, but here Paul offers three practical reasons that we might do well to consider during this Easter season – and during this time of uncertainty and isolation, when many may consider themselves to be suffering.
Whatever we are suffering right now, remember the deep spiritual sufferings that Jesus went through, along with the cruel physical sufferings that he endured on the cross to bear our sins. In any of our sufferings today, remember that God will shower us with his comfort through Jesus Christ. When he does that, remember to comfort others also, rely more on God than on ourselves and learn to give thanks to God in everything – even in our suffering!
And all of God’s people said… Amen! Praise God!
(All scripture quoted from NLT – New Living Translation. Italics and bold type mine)
Recently Chuck Swindoll (Insight for Living) posted a video on Face Book quoting the letter (above) written by Martin Luther to his friend Rev. Dr. John Hess nearly 500 years ago, during the “Black Death” plague.
Chuck went on to quote the words of St Paul in his letter to the Philippians 4:11-13:
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (NLT)
From these 3 verses he found three lessons (or sermon points) on contentment:
Do you want to be content, even whilst anxiety, uncertainty and discontent exists all around us? Do you want to be content even though we are unable to gather together each Sunday in the place we have set aside for worship? The promise is that we can do just that, but only through Jesus Christ who gives us the strength to do so.
In the words of one of our Bishops recently, “If Paul could do it in the first century, we can certainly do it in the 21st Century.”
And all of God’s people said.... Amen! Praise God!
A donation has been received to pay for the equipment required to run the live streaming of our services. This is a move towards a missional and serving church, reaching out to our own people, not only whilst we are separated physically, but for the future after we have passed through this storm. It also has the potential of reaching (God only knows how many) others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I will leave it up to Pastor and Adam and all the other techy people to sort it all out and let us know how it will operate.
To God be the glory!
And all of God's people said.... Amen!
When I was driving long distance coaches I used to make regular service runs to Mt Gambier. On Fridays the driver would drive down and back in the one day, but have a relief driver waiting at Tintinara on the way home in the evening. On one particular Friday I had a double-decker coach fully loaded out of Adelaide. We made it to Mt. Gambier pretty much on time in the afternoon. I had a couple of hours rest before starting the return journey at about 5:15pm. I only had a couple of passengers out of the Mount (in a 60 seater coach) and when I got to Naracoorte there was a young lad travelling unaccompanied to board the coach. His Uncle or grandfather (I’m not sure which it was now) was there to put him on and requested that the lad travel upstairs, as he had never travelled in a decker before. Normally unaccompanied children would travel down stairs and towards the front where the driver could keep an eye on them. On this occasion, because there were very few on board, I allowed this young fellow to travel upstairs as requested.
Well we got on our way, had a meal stop at Bordertown and I arrived at Tintinara right on the dot of 9pm, where my relief driver was waiting and shivering in the cold. Not a moment was lost. I jumped out of the driver’s seat and my relief jumped in and away we continued. Well, it was pretty dark by this time and the only lights inside the coach were the floor lights. I had been showing a movie and when the movie finished I said to my relief driver, “I’d better go up and check on this young lad to see that he is ok.”
Now what you have to realise is that in a double-decker the top half is pretty much cut off from the bottom half. You can never be too sure what is going on up stairs and vice versa. So here we are - picture this in your mind - we are hurtling along the Dukes Hwy in a double-decker coach at 100 kph. It’s dark apart from the floor lights and I make my way up the stairs of the coach with my flash light to check on this young fellow. Yes he was still there! He was sitting just behind the stairwell, so I ventured over to him and said, “I’m just checking that all is ok.”
His eyes were bulging as I spoke to him and he answered almost with a stutter– wait for this now – “Oh I’m fine! BUT WHO’S DRIVING THE BUS???”
I said: “Don’t worry! I have it on Auto-pilot!”
He asked: “Can you do that?
“Sure I do it all the time,” I answered. “Just hit the cruise control and away we go!”
True story!!! I had to ‘fess up of course in the end as to who was actually driving.
But you see many in the world – and maybe some of you today - want to know who is driving the bus of life? Who’s in control?
In Mark 4:35-41 the disciples asked a similar question when they were in the boat when a great storm came up on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was in the back of the boat asleep with his head on a cushion. Sounds sort of comfy and cosy - until he was awakened by the frantic voices of the disciples saying “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Kind of their way of asking, Who’s driving the bus? Jesus calmed the sea and asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
We may be afraid of what is going on around us in the world. We may be facing all kinds of hardships with health and work and finances and the uncertainty of the future. The fear of change and disruption is real. We are just like the disciples in the boat facing the storm in the dark – wondering who is driving the bus and what is about to face us around the corner?
I think the key sentence in this passage is right there in verse 35 when Jesus said, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” He didn’t say “Well let’s see how far we can go across the lake.” No, he was very determined and confident that they would make it across to the other side. There was no question about it. Other boats followed it says in verse 36. There is no other reference made about them. Maybe they turned back when the storm blew up. We do not know. But the boat that Jesus and his disciples were in kept on going – To the other side of the lake.
And so Jesus asks, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They seem harsh questions, and yet sometimes we may be tempted ourselves to question our own faith when faced with fear and uncertainty. Where is God in all of this? It is natural to do so. But Jesus is in the boat. Jesus is driving the bus, when it seems like no one is in control.
Psalm 46 is one of my favourite psalms. It is sometimes referred to as Luther’s Psalm that inspired the classic hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” You will also recognise some the words from Darlene Zschech’s very popular anthem, “Shout to the Lord.” Psalm 46 teaches us that we CAN trust in God because He is our Positive Protector, a Positive Presence and our Positive Power.
Out of the doom and gloom of the present age, there is some good news for each of us. There is HOPE and our world needs to hear that! God is with us! Is that too simplistic? When I pastored in Auckland my general theme was “Jesus Gives Hope” and I had a large bill board with those words in bold red letters emblazoned on it for people to read as they drove past on the busy Dominion Road. “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear.” (Psalm46:1&2) We are to TRUST Him. God is our hope. The fact is that we can make it through with Him. Trust Him!! We may not know what the future holds, but we can know the one who holds the future, sang the Gospel group First Call – we can know who is driving the bus. We can trust him. He is dependable.
Jesus wants to get us across to the other side and he will. Verse 1 of chapter 5 reads. “So they arrived on the other side of the lake...” They arrived! They left, they encountered a great storm along the way, and they arrived safely on the other side. Yes there will be storms and Jesus may seem to be sleeping in the back of the boat – or in the bunk of the bus, but his Word to us today is “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” TRUST HIM! Trust Him to get us there. That’s faith
Yes, JESUS GIVES HOPE! God is alive and well. You need to hear that! I need to hear that! Our world needs to hear that. We just need to trust Him.
SO!! Who’s driving the bus??? Yes sometimes we may find cause to question, who is control? But in hind-sight we can see the hand of God at work. Trust Him. He is trust-worthy. God is our refuge and strength. Trust Him to get us across to the other side.
His protection! His Presence! His Power! Today more than ever in any of our lives, we need to know that Jesus Gives Hope and people at St Peter’s Lutheran Church Elizabeth, whatever is going on in your life, YOU – CAN – TRUST – HIM!!!
God bless you today and on into the future!
And all of God’s people said – Amen! Praise God!