“I did not know He was lost.”

Luke 9:29
As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.

Where is God? It’s a question many people have asked. Where is God? Before my time there were ‘seeker services’ churches for people asking that question. And still today people will ask, ‘Have you found Jesus?’ Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door of one of our old lecturers, Herman Sasse, and asked him, “Have you found Jesus?” The short old man with coke bottle glasses, fiddled with them a bit and replied, “I did not know He was lost.” Indeed, He is not lost; just sometimes we find it hard to see Him hidden in this world.

Where is God? Is He up the mountain? Mountains those great big things that tower over the landscape, looking down on the plains and valleys, great monuments of earth. They are an obstacle, it takes great effort to climb them and pass them. In the early days of NSW, the colony stayed on the coastal side of the Blue mountains. Yet in time British explorers climbed these obstacles, taking great effort especially when they ignored the Aboriginals advice. They came out to these western plains and trudged through the scrub, under the scorching sun, up into what’s now the Goobang national park; crested the hill after much effort and what they saw was a revelation. At the top of the mountain, they had reached their goal, the finish, and revealed before them was the Western Plains. At the top was the goal and a revelation, but did they see God?

At another mountain long before, another man climbed to another goal and another revelation. Moses was called up to Mount Sinai to speak, face to face, with God. The goal was a way of life, indeed The Way of Life, and the revelation of God’s Glory, Power, and Love. After Moses’ mountain top experience, His face shone with the Glory of God. Not that colloquial bright eyes and smile, no His face was changed in dwelling with God for those 40 days in the light of His glory. His face was changed. Now Light enables us to see, to know, to understand, yet if there’s too much light then we cannot see; don’t stare into the sun. But God’s glory is different to the glory, the light of our sun; just as God Himself is different to His creation. When Moses came down from the mountain after seeing God, He was changed and something of God was with him, his face was one with God’s glory.

On a different mountain a thousand years later, there was a different prophet, leader, warrior. Elijah, ancient Israel’s greatest prophet whose acts are recorded for us in the books of Kings and Chronicles; Elijah stood on mount Carmel against the demonic worship of Baal. There were 400 priests of Baal standing against him, mustered together by Queen Jezebel who sought to change the way of life of God’s people, to turn them away from Him, who is Lord of all, toward the worship of Baal this storm god of Phoenicia. But God Almighty is greater than all the spiritual powers and lord over all things in His Creation. And Elijah was God’s fighter, fighting against evil in the world; he prayed the all storms stopped for 3 years with nothing Baal the so-called storm god could do. And on that mount Carmel, in a contest, God against god, Elijah against 400 prophets of Baal, truth against lies, good against evil; God sent down fire from heaven, a bright flash of lightning, to consume the altar while Baal slept powerless, and Elijah defeated the agents of evil.

Then another man, a Son of Man, a chippy (a carpenter) and a few fishers, climbed The Mountain to The Goal and Revelation for all Humanity. Jesus, Peter, James and John went up onto the mountain to pray. As Jesus was speaking with God His face changed, and the Glory of God which Jesus had hidden in Himself was revealed to those on the mountain top. Moses and Elijah spoke with God, they spoke with Jesus. About His exodus, His death, about the destruction of death and the freeing of all it’s captives; for that is what the Exodus is: freedom for the slaves of Egypt, for the slaves to sin and death and the devil. Exodus is freedom from sin, and freedom to new life and the promised land. Peter saw Moses, Elijah and Jesus; Awestruck by God’s glory he says, let’s build three tents, tabernacles, three temples; thinking, God is here on The mountain! And he was right, so as Peter was speaking God Himself made a tent, a tabernacle of cloud. Just as He had done so often before, on Mount Sinai and on the Temple, the cloud of God’s glory came over the mountain top. And God spoke on the mountain in revelation, “This is My Son, listen to Him!”

Yet the cloudy temple did not stay on the mountain heights. God’s glory again hidden in Jesus, the God-man, came down from the mountain and a large crowd came to meet Him. He came down from the Revelation, to this fallen, broken, hurting world. He came down and just like Elijah centuries before, He threw down the demon, brought the boy New Life, and restored him to his father. He threw down the demon, defeating the devil; He brought the boy New Life, defeating death; He restored him to his father, defeating the separation of sin. As God’s people have always done, Jesus too spoke with God the Father and fought sin death and the devil. As God’s people have always done, Moses spoke with God seeing His glory, and Elijah fought the enemies of God and all Creation. But where is God today? Is He only up the mountain for us to reach Him after putting in all our effort? No, Jesus, God Himself, was with the disciples before the mountain, up the mountain, after the mountain. Jesus went to the mountain to pray, as we gather here today for the same; yet Jesus doesn’t stay here in this building, at this time, on this zoom call. No, Jesus goes down the mountain, out into the world; just as we leave this building, this time, this zoom call. And does Jesus go out to sleep like that pathetic storm god Baal? No, He goes out to fight sin, death and the devil; just as we are called to struggle against temptation, harm and evil. For you are God’s child, you are God’s people, you are The Holy Nation, the Royal Priesthood. You are Christ’s Church. This is what God does, what He has revealed.

Now, I said before that mountain tops have goals and revelations. I’ve spoken of the Revelation of Christ’s divinity; of God’s presence everywhere, at times in obvious glory at times hidden; and of the revelation of our fight against our true enemies. But I haven’t spoken of the goal. God’s intended goal for all humans is what Peter saw on that mountain, our union with God in glory, in light, in love. Jesus is not just our Saviour, not just our Lord, not just God and Man as one; He is also our goal. What we are made to be. For where is God? He is in you. You are Christ’s Church, you are His body, and the goal of our Faith is our Glorious Resurrection in Christ; which you have now, hidden today yet Revealed in all glory at the end.

            The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto that Glorious Revelation. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

How well do you measure up.

Luke 6:35
Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

            Who you are matters. And what you do matters. If a parent doesn’t parent the child they gave life to things aren’t right, if the police don’t police there can be death, and if a child rejects their parents, rejects those who gave them life, something is terribly wrong. We all know that stereotypical teenage rebellion, where the teenager refuses to listen to their parents, rejects their teaching and way of life, and goes after something else; or when they finish school, they leave cutting ties with the rest of their family and living a new and different way. Unfortunately today sometimes it’s even the parents who reject who they are to their children and run off. But who you are matters and what you do matters.

            Your Christian Faith matters. Itis not, ‘God’s done it all so you can relax’ rather it’s ‘God’s done it all now you can live!’ It’s as if you are a dead man, or woman, God comes and raises you to new life because of course you can’t do it yourself; yet now you are alive, you can choose to act like a living person, or choose to act like a dead one again. The Christian Faith is ‘God’s done it all now you can live!
Yes Christ has defeated sin, death and the devil; and yes the Holy Spirit unites you to Him saving you; and yes Our Heavenly Father dearly loves you and wants the best for you and all His Creation. The Most High God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked, we know this and confess this, and this is why He is kind to you and adopts you. For we know that Jesus forgives those who crucified Him, and St Stephan, truly living as a son of God, forgave those stoning him as he saw Jesus standing in the Highest. The Most High God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, that is why He sent His only begotten Son to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). You who are ungrateful, wicked, sinners; God saves you from your ungratefulness, from your wickedness, from your sin. He saves you so that you may be grateful, righteous and complete, that you may live as His children.

This is why Jesus Himself says, then you will be children of the Most High. When you listen to Jesus, the Word of God, and trust His teachings; when you love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and lend without expecting any returns. Then your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Highest. But are you not already children of God? In Holy Baptism He adopted you into His family, the Church; He united you to His Son, and so as part of Christ’s body you too are called God’s son (Romans 6; 8:15). So then what does it mean to be children of the Most High?

            You have been adopted, no one can take that from you; yet here is a question, “are you really your father’s son?” or are you ‘a son of a gun’? Is my son Nathaniel really a father’s son, or is he more a son of his mother? As it happens at the moment, Nathaniel is more a son of his father and Karissa more a daughter of her mother; but they still have a lot of growing up to do. Now you have been adopted by the Most High God, Creator of Heaven and Earth; you are His child. Do you live like Him or do you still live like the family you came from? He has adopted you, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked; this might even be your lived experience for you who came to Faith later in life. Now Jesus calls you to live like your adopted Father, to be kind to the ungrateful and wicked. To be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful. And He is merciful, we know this because we know Christ. WE know because of His example.

            So here is His challenge for you who are adopted in Christ. How well do you measure up to Him? Do you trust your Heavenly Father like Jesus trusts Him? Do you love your enemies so much that you are willing to die for them, to forgive them with your life as Jesus does? Do you lend not just your possessions and your time, yet also your entire life to those around you not expecting any returns; just as Jesus does? Today I leave you with a question, as the baptised children of God, newly forgiven, spoken to and strengthened by Him today, will you live as a child of the Most High God?

            As you answer that question, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the Resurrection of all God’s family. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

“Resurrection: the Lord Jesus stands forever”.

1 Corinthians 15:17, 20
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is empty; you are still in your sins. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

            If your mother hadn’t born you, you would not have family, you could not stand, you would not have life. But your mother did bear you, you are born and here you live; this truth stands forever. Now, there are many today who do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead, that He didn’t awake and rise from His final sleep.

But that’s not what we’re talking about today. There are also those who don’t believe that at the end of time, all who have died will rise again in their bodies. Instead, many believe that the soul resting in Heaven and the body left in the grave is the end, functionally that there is no New Creation, no final victory over sin, death and the devil. But then what is Easter? Those who reject the final fulfillment of Christ’s Resurrection, the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, question whether Jesus’ death has truly dealt with your sins, whether He stands in victory over sin, death and the devil or not. And when you sin, or worry over our own death, or fall to temptation; you live as though there was no Resurrection, as though you are still dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), as though you are not baptised into Christ.

            But He has baptised you (Ephesians 5:25-27), your mother has born you, and Jesus did rise and stand victorious from the grave. This is truth stands forever. You are baptised, united with Christ in this, His death and rising from death, you now live and stand in His Resurrection (Romans 6). This is something that can never be taken away from you, you are baptised, it’s a historic fact. Just as Christ’s rising from the dead is a historic fact. And we can’t change the past, we all know that.

Yet you can, now, choose how to live, how faithful you will be, but you can not change what has happened; your birth, your baptism, and Christ’s Resurrection still stand. They last forever. And this is one of the things we mean by that first Lutheran slogan, “The Word of the Lord stands forever!” (1 Peter 1:25; Isaiah 40:8). His Word to you in your baptism stands forever, His Word to you in the Absolution stands forever, His Word to you in the Gospels, in Holy Communion, in the Aaronic Blessing stands forever. That Word of forgiveness, life everlasting and holiness for you stands forever. This is our sure and certain hope, I am baptised.

            But what does baptism mean? What does it mean to be united to Christ in baptism, to be raised with Him and be united with Him in His Resurrection? And what do those words mean, raised and resurrection? Well, raised or rise in Greek and Hebrew mean just that, ‘to rise’ also rouse from sleep or to awake. But resurrection is the funny one, to most it’s always refers to rising from the dead; and yet it sounds a lot like insurrection. Resurrection, insurrection; resurgence, insurgence; now Insurrection refers to a standing against, Resurrection is a standing up. And the word, resurrection/standing up, is used both for Jesus at Easter, and more so for the dead at the end of this age.

So then what does it mean that Jesus stands up; and that at the end of this age, when death is destroyed, that all the dead will stand up? What does it mean but that He and all will stand while those things that seek our fall, sin death and the devil will not; that Jesus stands forever, He lasts forever, but sin, death and the devil stand no more. His standing, His Resurrection, is His victory over sin, death and the devil. And our union with Christ’s life in Baptism; our union, our participation with His Resurrection; is how we are no longer slaves to sin; how death has no power over us; and how, though they protest and assault, the demons will not defeat us who are in Christ.

This is why we ‘work out our faith in fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12), why we like all Christians from Pentecost to today, devote ourselves to the apostles teaching, fellowship, Holy Communion and prayer (Acts 2:42). That when the evil comes we stand in the full armour of God, looking to Him and relying on the gifts He gives (Ephesians 6). And this is why when you fail, when you fall, you come back to receive again from God His service, His Divine Service, to stand you up again, to participate again in His Resurrection longing for the end when those united with Christ receive His blessings in full. So what is baptism? What does it mean? It means union with Christ and the promise of His Resurrection, His victory over your sin, your death, and your devils here today and everyday in Christ.

            You cannot change the past, and yet we know what will last. For Jesus stands forever, sin, death and the devil do not. And Jesus stands forever for your sake, that you might stand with Him in victory today, and at the end stand together with all His kingdom as the kingdoms of sin death and the devil fall to lay in the dust forever. God has baptised you, it cannot be undone, The Holy Spirit draws and unites you to Christ in His Resurrection, His victory is yours today. This is the Good News, the Gospel for us to speak, by God’s Word of promise, you are forgiven, purified, and provided life everlasting in Christ.

            And so, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and until we all stand forever with Him. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Is a person a fisherman if he or she never goes fishing?


Luke 5:10
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Fear not; from now on you will catch men.”

Fishing, it’s a hobby some of you love; to go fishing with friends and family, cast a line, have a chat and see what you catch. Now there are many different ways to fish, the good old fishing rod, the line, the net, the trawling and trolling; but at its core fishing is about lowering something into the water to pull something precious out, letting down nets into the deep to catch the fish. And yet Jesus says today to this fisherman Simon, called Peter, from now on he will catch men. What’s going on here? What’s this connection between fish and men? Why does Jesus, God Almighty, choose a fisherman to be His disciple, even four fishermen? And what does this account of fishing have to do with you?

            To answer our first question, we’ll look at the other words God has spoken to us today, from the call of Isaiah. From Isaiah chapter 6 we heard God come down, like a fisherman down to the water, to show Himself to Isaiah. Like a fisherman He lifts Isaiah up into His presence, Although His throne is a bit fancier than a deck chair. Isaiah lifts his eyes to the Lord and cries out, ‘I am a man of unclean lips, and live among a people of unclean lips.’ Isaiah lives deep among a people who live in darkness away from God’s light; they do not speak or hear God’s Word, but dirty their lips with lies, hate, and gossip. Like an ocean fish Isaiah lives deep in this darkness. Yet God sends down a burning coal like a hook to catch him, to touch his lips and bring him up and our of a life of sin; of course the same happens in Holy Communion, He Himself coming down to forgive your sin in touching your lips and bringing you up into His life. So even for Isaiah, God is a fisherman, He goes down to the water and pulls sinners up out of the depths to live with Him.

            Then why might Jesus choose fishermen to be the first and core of His disciples? He had seen Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, before after His baptism by John in the Jordan river (John 1:35-42). … Hmm, that’s another time with water He went down and came back up. And in Luke’s account today He asks Simon, Andrew’s brother, to use his boat to teach. Now here’s another interesting thing the Holy Spirit has preserved for us to help us know Jesus. Jesus stands in a boat, that ancient image of the church, and proclaims the truth to many people, you could say He casts the Gospel out to the crowd like a net. How many people does He catch? Don’t know.

Yet then He turns to Simon Peter, who’d been fishing in the dark before Jesus had arrived, fishing without God, and had caught nothing. Jesus guides Simon where to fish, and shows His power to Peter. Simon Peter can’t handle it himself, not even with His brother Andrew’s help, he calls out to James and John to come help with the catch; but still the catch is so great they struggle to bring it to shore. Here, the Holy Spirit in His wisdom has shown us what it means to be fishers of men, and why the first disciples were fishermen. They knew what it meant, the hard work of casting out, the need for God’s help, the need for community to live with each other and help each other, and now Jesus reveals how big the catch will be! Peter and Andrew, James and John, will preach to nations, casting the net wide and with each other’s help and the Lord’s catching many people into life. Many more came to help down the centuries and down to today.

            So, what does this mean for you? It means, we all confessed with Isaiah, with Simon, and with each other the truth of who we are. We fail to love as Christ loved, we don’t always speak good truth to others, we sin against who we are in God. I am a sinner with unclean lips. Basically, we can’t do it by ourselves, just like Simon’s failure in fishing the night before without Jesus. We need help. And God sends it. He comes down to us today in the reading and hearing of His Word, in the Absolution, and most specially in Holy Communion; He comes down to catch you, and to clean you, to heal you and to bring you to Himself. It’s the Divine Service, It’s God’s fishing trip.

And that’s one thing you can catch and take away today, but He didn’t just forgive Isaiah, He didn’t just say, ‘fear not’ to Simon. He sent them out. Isaiah was sent out to help people see their need, their sin and failure, and to promise the coming Messiah the coming Good News. Simon Peter was sent to cast the net of that Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, His victory against our real enemies. And you too are called into God’s service, forgiven and made New by God’s merciful grace. You are called to join Isaiah, Peter, Paul, all Christians and Jesus Himself, in going down to bring others up. Maybe you are not called to preach to nations as the Apostles did, maybe not to cities and great crowds as the Martyrs, maybe not to whole congregations, to priests and popes as Luther and countless faithful pastors have; yet you are called to cast out the net of the gospel even if it is just to encourage the faith of your family and friends and each other here today.

So, relying on God’s strength, encourage each other today and go out forgiven to help with the fishing.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now until we all reach the Promised Land. Amen.