Roger's Postings

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Numbers 6:22-27.                    God's Blessing on another New Year               31/12/11

 (22)  The LORD said to Moses, {23} "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: {24} "' "The LORD bless you and keep you; {25} the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; {26} the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace."' {27} "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

 Well here we are again at the edge of another new year. It seems that they are coming and going all too frequently. But as they come and go so rapidly, it seems that about the only thing that really changes is the fact that we are getting older rather quickly. At the same time as we reflect over the year just gone, I am sure we all would say that there has been a great deal happen in the course of that time. A great deal for us to struggle and grapple with; as well as a great deal to enjoy: as individuals, families, workers and as a church.

 However, by an large, as we look back we have to say it has been a good year. Yes, sure, there have been some very rough patches along way; some ups and downs; some reasons to grizzle and grumble; and even some things to be heartbroken about. But when it comes down to it - it still has been a good year. There is a lot for us to be thankful for: we still have a roof over our heads, we get three good feeds a day, and have very good clothes on our back. And we all know that we have got a lot more than that. We have the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, which no one or nothing can take away from us.

 Yes we may have had sicknesses, problems and deaths; but in most cases God has been with us and has or is in the process of bringing us through them. Things by and large have gone rather favourably toward us, and we have enjoyed a reasonably good year.

 But why? Many today, would say that they have worked hard for it and deserve to have things go their way. Also, again we tend to think that it is the result of all of the technology and education that we have, that we are enjoying the good life; and that they will ensure that the future possibilities are limitless. Over and over again, we today look at our achievements and the good in life as being the result of what we have and are doing for ourselves. Even as Christians, we so often take our blessings for granted and give little thought to the one who really has given us all the good that we have.

 That being the case, I think it is quite appropriate that we have this reading as our text, as we contemplate the year that is drawing to a close and as we look to the year ahead. Now there is something that I am sure that you have picked up already as you listened to the text being read: That is that this text is the blessing that is used as we conclude our Divine Service virtually every week. Now to understand this blessing and what takes place as a result of its use, will, I am sure, change our thinking about life: And make us far more thankful and far more confident as we face the future.

 The first thing that we are reminded of here is that this reading is not some prayer of mankind. It is not some nice, wishful way that we conclude our service: something that we humans have made up to use in our worship. But it is that which God himself has commanded his priests to use; right from the time of Moses. God said to Aaron, this is how you are to bless the people.
And from that time, to this very day, that same blessing has been in use - because it is what God wants. So we need to realize that this blessing that we use is not idle words and wishes; but is that which God has given to us to use, through which he intends to bless us.

 Initially this blessing was given to prepare the Israelites for their great act of worship – which was their march to the Promised Land. It invokes and announces God's name and his protection on the people on their difficult trek toward the home God had promised to give them. Now we know from history that is just what God did, despite the Israelites continually choosing to go their own way and do their own thing; which brought great problems on themselves. However God was always using their mistakes for good and great blessing has flowed as a result.

 Now that blessing still serves the same purpose today for us. Still he promises his presences, protection and helps for us as we go on our way through this life, to our heavenly home. As God's representative, I, week by week place that blessing onto you; and God actually works what is spoken. What is said, really comes to be; and that God spells out quite clearly in the last verse when he says: So they will put my name on the people and I will bless them.

 Now this again is quite a startling thought. Every time I speak these words to you, I am putting God's name on you; and as you well know - where God's name is - there God himself is present and active. So in the blessing I am actually placing God on you: covering you with him and he wrapping himself around you; so that where you go - God goes also – everywhere - in every aspect of your lives. And he is there not just as a protective garment - but as that which brings blessing. He is there to be of help, benefit, assurance, forgiveness, friendship, everything.

 All this will happen for you because God promised that it will be so. He says; I will bless them. Not perhaps, maybe, or only if we are good enough. But, will. God will bless his people. God will bless us in this new year. And we can believe it – we can trust that it will be so - because God says so. We can therefore know that he will take care us no matter what the situation might look like on the surface.

 Now of course, we can turn our backs on it, ignore it and reject what God has to give. We can focus on the bad and then blame God - even though it is our own humanity’s stupid fault. We can pretend that all the good is a result of our own doing and so not see that it is God who has given us all that is good and beneficial; but that it is what he wants for you and me.

 Again of course, there are many times when we just can't see where or how this can be. We can look and instead of seeing blessing - see tragedy and trouble. How can there be any blessing in the loss of our loved one, or the floods, or whatever? God's blessing can often seem to be non-existent, until we have the opportunity to look back and see what God sees.

 Here, let us remember that this was also the case for the Israelites, for much of the time. On their march to the Promised Land they faced difficulties, failures and even disasters, but from the hind-sight of history we can see how God was at work through it all. Often yes, they had forgotten that God was present with them and that he had the power to do the impossible. But above all, that he has the overall vision as to what is best both for his people and for the nations of the world. Many times they chose to do their own thing and thought that they could get away with it. They thought that they could live free and easy – and would not be held responsible. So God allowed troubles to come their way. But all the while, did God forget them or leave them? Did he fail to see that they had enough food, water and shelter? Did he fail to get them to the Promised Land and make them a great nation? No, despite the failures of God's people, God still went with them and blessed them.

 And most importantly from that nation came the Saviour of the world. Despite Israel and its waywardness, God was still at work bringing about the salvation of the world. He sends Jesus Christ into our world, to die on the cross, so that we might have the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of life and salvation. He comes and takes our sin on himself, so that we can be given eternal life with God in heaven. So there in Jesus we have the fullness of this blessing, extended to each and every one of us.

 So, knowing that God and his blessings are with us, we can go forward with confidence into 2012. Knowing that God's name is on us and he has promised to bless us also, even if, and especially when, troubles and hardships should come our way we can step forward calmly and positively. Even if the world should be turned upside down by the stupidity of mankind, we can trust that through it all, our Lord will stick by us and seek to bring blessing to us. After all he is a loving God who dearly wants to bring good to us all – he wants to bless us richly. And above all, he has given us the certainty of salvation and eternal life.
So through this blessing today, at the conclusion of this Service – and as we start another new year; as well as throughout the coming year, let us remember that God's name has been placed on us and he has promised to bless us. Then as we gather here week by week to hear his Word and receive from him his very body and blood which he shed on the cross for us, and at the conclusion of each Service as we hear these words; "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." Be assured again and again that his blessings go with you.

 Remember also that through this blessing he is preparing, protecting, helping, forgiving and befriending us; and so much more, as we move on our way through this life toward our heavenly home. So this coming year then promises to be a good one and an exciting one, whatever happens, as God and his blessing goes with us. The Lord has blessed us this last year, and his continuing blessing goes with us in this coming year. To him be all glory and honour, now and always.   AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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