30th Anniversary: Pres Neville Otto


30th Anniversary

If a Christmas tree can sing, can these walls speak?  If they could talk what would they say as we celebrate and give thanks today for our pastor and for this building, this place of worship?  Well they’d have some stories to tell about you and the people who have gone before.  They’d tell about how the church was built and about the people who have worshipped here.  But they’d tell something more.  They’d have heard the story of Jesus and they’d have seen the Holy Spirit at work in people.

They’d talk about the Palm Sundays here and the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  Perhaps they’d like to quote Luke 19 when we hear that the crowds of disciples raised their voices in praise as Jesus entered Jerusalem.  Luke tells us that “some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus “Teacher rebuke your disciples!”  And Jesus replies “I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  There you go, perhaps the bricks, the walls can talk.

As we celebrate the affirmation of Pastor Brenton’s Call, and thank God for him and his family among us; as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of this place of this building we know that we are living stones with good news to tell.  1 Peter 2:4-5: “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Today we celebrate and give thanks.  We thank God for Pastor Brenton and we thank God for this building, this place of worship.  For those who came from Gil and supported this new congregation; who have built it and for those who have used it for worship and teaching and service, for the growth of Gil through the planting of Dubbo.  But above all today we give thanks to God that he builds us as living stones through the gospel that you have called pastor B and other pastors to proclaim and enact.  We are living stones built up in Christ and we are living stones who are sent out to live and move and have our being in him.  To proclaim the good news to the poor.  To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

The people who originally heard the news proclaimed by Isaiah were a people in need of hope, in need of rescue, in need of God.  The people of Israel had lost their temple because they had turned from the living God to their own selves, to their own false gods.  The people of Israel had been exiled out of their land and their temple had been desecrated and destroyed.

But here Isaiah announces God’s new hope.  Good news is at hand..freedom is coming.  Theyear of the Lord’s favour is here.  And God rescued the people of Israel and brought them home and gave them a new church..a new temple.   By nature, that’s how we are too.  We are all sinners and deserve God’s punishment in time and in eternity.

But the wonderful thing is that God sent his own Son to do something abut this.  We look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth as God yet true human again this Christmas.  Why? Because he came for us.  Luther said “What good would it be if Jesus were born a thousand times if he is not born for me?  Jesus came for each one of us and for all people.  Will we receive him?  He came to die for us and to take God’s punishment for sin which you and I deserve.  Jesus took our punishment in our place and through him we are forgiven.  But more than this Jesus was raised by the Father to new life and by the gift of the Holy Spirit this new life is given to us at baptism and renewed in us through the Word, the absolution and given for us in the Supper!

Dear friends that the reason we celebrate and give thanks this day.  What would these walls say if they could speak?  They’d tell of our stories, good and bad, happy and sad.  But more they’d tell us of Jesus who comes to us in all our needs.

As we look at the font, how many stories can you tell of baptisms here?  As you look to the altar think of those who have shared the Lord’s Supper at this table and who now celebrate with you at the heavenly feast.  Think of the marriage vows shared and the blessings of God on couples who have come here.  The young ones who have stood here and confessed their faith in Jesus as they confirmed their faith.  Think of the pastors who have promised in their vows to proclaim Jesus to you.  As you look to the cross think of the stories of the funerals conducted here when the gospel was proclaimed and when even at death people rejoiced because of the life won by Christ?  Dear friends the anniversary of this building is to be celebrated.  We thank God for those who have gone before us and those still among us who made this church possible.  We have many stories to tell but above all the one reason we give thanks and we celebrate today is because of what God has done and what he does by his Spirit bringing us to Jesus.  He is the one who frees us from the power of sin, death, and the devil.  He is the one who not announces but ushers in the year of the Lord’s favour by his presence.

Luke records in chapter 4 the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when Jesus reads the words of the prophet Isaiah which we’ve heard today.  READ LUKE 4:14-21.

Today again in your hearing the Scripture is fulfilled as Jesus comes to us.  To meet us in our lives with their troubles and with their joys.  Jesus is here among us.  And we give thanks.  We thank God for 30 years and we know that each year when Jesus has proclaimed, where he is present it is the year of the Lord’s favour for us.

We are blessed this day by the presence of Jesus and we celebrate our pastor and the ministry he has.  We are blessed this by the presence of Jesus and we celebrate all that he does through the Word in this building.  For all these people and these things we thank God through Jesus.

And above all this day we prepare for the journey ahead together.  We go from the font and with the Word in our ears and in our hearts.  We go from the altar with bread of life in us.  We go as living stones with the gospel in our mouths and and lives to proclaim the Saviour, Jesus Christ who birth, suffering, death and resurrection brings life.  This is the year of the Lord’s favour.  Amen.