“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!