Roger's Postings

Friday, December 09, 2011

Isaiah 61:1-4;8-11.      Jesus is still the Good News we need!   11/12/11

(1)  The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, {2} to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, {3} and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour. {4} They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. {8} "For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. {9} Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed." {10} I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. {11} For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

 Then thinking about this reading here this morning in preparation for this sermon, I came across two pieces of information that are rather thought provoking in this connection. The first came as a result of listening to the media again this year in the lead up to Christmas. People are often asked what Christmas means to them; and of course you can very quickly guess what the replies would be: the giving and receiving of gifts, Santa, holidays, parties and most significantly, family time. Then when asked whether the Christian significance meant anything, very few responded positively, while others would say something like; we know it is about Jesus and all that, but we aren't all that serious about it. Generally the focus is on the less important aspects of Christmas. Now I am sure that we not all that surprised by those reactions. We know that this is fairly typical of much of the present thinking surrounding Christmas.

 However the second piece of information is far more interesting and encouraging; and it relates to an article that came in the mail. That, connected to other comments made on the same subject in recent years is very thought-provoking. I quote - "One of the most significant developments in the last decade or so has been the increasing realization that modern world views rest upon distinctly vulnerable foundations. Modernity is dead." "Modernism told us that religion was going to come to an end. However, religion has suddenly appeared on the landscape again." "We must have the courage to declare that modernity - with all the alleged fatal challenges it brought to bear against the Christian faith - is dead. It is killed off by its failure to live up to its own promises.”

Now there I believe we have some encouragement, as well as a challenge put before us by God. For what this article was saying then is that the ideas and basis for much of our modern thinking is false - it hinders our growth, instead of helping. And this is not just with regard to our Christian faith, but for everything. The whole homosexual debate; the economic world view of growth rather than sustainability, and many others, could be added to the list.

Now, without looking very hard I believe we can see what the writer means. This age of reason and self-indulgence has given us a declining morality; deep depression in many people’s minds; and many other problems. But none more terrible than the fact that now we have nothing solid and stable on which to base our lives: loneliness and poverty of spirit; feelings of being imprisoned in our freedom; and much more are the results.

People can argue all they like against this, but the facts speak for themselves. The modern world view is unsustainable: it is dead – it is just a matter of how long we are going to go on pretending and arguing that it is not. And that goes for you and I, as well as all those out there who at this point are still blind to the truth. If the modern world view, which pretends there is no God, is dead; what does this mean for us and our approach to life today; surely the things we are thinking and doing with regard to Christmas alone would be significantly different.

To add to that we have here in this reading from Isaiah, a clear reminder that Jesus is the answer to all the issues of life that we face in this world - if only we would give him a chance. For instance: Jesus has and is the Good News for the person who has a lack of money and possessions. Money does not bring one happiness and contentment; nor does having a whole host of material possessions. They can't buy that which is important in life; despite what we are led to believe. The sum of a human being is not in the amount of wealth that they have accumulated, or the power they have over others, or the rights and freedoms they have.

No, the importance of life is in the fact that we are loved and cared for - no matter what. We need to know that we belong: and that salvation, security and peace of mind lies, not in the things of this world or even in what we do or fail to do; but is in Jesus Christ. A right- relationship with God and eternal life cannot be bought, but is a free gift to everyone through our Lord Jesus and his death on the cross.

 Now again we are reminded here that Jesus has help for the broken-hearted and freedom for those held captive. And sadly this is a big problem in our present day society: there are many, many people today who feel caught up in a situation, whatever it might be, and see no way out. There are those who are stressed out and under great pressure; broken and hurt; and can only see more of the same in front of them. There are families torn apart and relationships that are in tatters; and much more.

And for all of these people, Jesus has help. He cares in and about every situation. And instead of telling them, that they have their rights, and encouraging them to have a positive self-image, or to work harder, and all the rest; instead he says to them that they are loved and forgiven: instead he tells them that they belong: that eternal life is theirs; and that no one and nothing can take it away from them. He reminds us all, that he has come to win and give salvation to every person through his death on the cross: that there he has placed us all back into a  right relationship with our God; and that our every real need that we have has been taken care of. The answers for us are all still there in Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

 So what is wrong? Why don't we now see all this? Why isn't there this massive transformation for us all to see? Why – because we are too busy listening to the lies of our modern society. We are too wrapped up in following Joe Bloggs next door. We are too intent on being our own person and have things our own way. We worship our modern education and technology: we heed our psychologists and our financial economists. In other words we are blindly following the blind, and then we grizzle and complain when those things trip us up.

 In our Gospel reading today, John the Baptist reminds us to not look to any self-styled human being for our answers - even in Christian circles: it is Jesus Christ alone who is the way and the truth and the life – the Light of the world.

So this Advent season again, we are encouraged to turn back to him: To turn back to that which is most important in life. With Christmas coming up, let us be encouraged to see to it that Jesus is more central than our presents, family gatherings, Christmas dinners, or what ever. Because the joy, peace and goodwill of Christmas will be all too fleeting and shallow if we put those things before taking time to reflect and celebrate the greatest of all gifts – Jesus Christ. To put work, cooking, visiting or whatever before worship of Christ and our receiving all that great help that he has to offer, is participating in and perpetuating the death of our modern society: we will continue to be encouraging the downward spiral that is taking place.

 No, Jesus is still the answer and he comes again to us, and through us to our community, with Good News. His love, care, help and forgiveness is what makes this world tick; and it is there that we have that which our society needs in order to go on and find the peace, happiness and security that it needs and seeks after, but cannot find. It is all there in that gift that has come into our world many Christmas' ago: but who also comes to us today, seeking to bring his love, help, healing and hope to us all: seeking to again get us and our country back on track.

 So may our Lord Jesus again find a special place in our lives this Christmas and in the days beyond, so that true joy may abound for us all. Then to him again will go all glory and honour, forever more.  AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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