“Now you see me, now you don’t”

Ascension Sunday
John 14: 2-3; 19-20; 16:16-24

Have you ever prepared for a big overseas trip? Before you leave a friend, family member or maybe even your travel agent would have sat you down to go over all of the things you need to remember: Passport, warm clothing money in a foreign currency, travel insurance, tickets, advice about where to go and where not to go, etc. You know it is all important, but it can be a bit overwhelming. And you know you will forget much of the advice. But somehow, when the time comes, the information will come back to you, and you will be glad you were told ahead of time what to expect.

In the case of Jesus it is he who will be going away. But he is the one giving advice to his disciples about what to expect when he is with the Father. He is concerned to tell his disciples, during his last meal with them before he would be betrayed and arrested, the things they would need know. And he had many things to tell them. For instance, the importance of serving and loving one another, the fact that he was going to die, and rise again, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and so many other things. Most of these things they would not have understood until later.

One of the things Jesus told his disciples on that night is that he would be leaving them and going to the Father. He was referring to his ascension into Heaven. This last Thursday was Ascension Day. I hope you didn’t forget to celebrate! But don’t worry if you missed it, because today is Ascension Sunday! It is a day on which we remember Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, and recall what Jesus told his disciples.

Jesus said: “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.’

It sounds like the opening of an illusionist’s magic trick. “Now you see me, now you don’t!” But this is no magic trick. We will see Jesus, then we will not see him, then we will see him again. And this is because, as Jesus explained to his disciples, he is ‘going to the Father.’

Jesus had said something similar a little earlier in his conversation with the disciples. In John 14:19-20 he said, ‘In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.’

Of course, the disciples wondered what Jesus meant by these words. So they began discussing what Jesus had said among themselves.  Jesus knew what they were talking about so he said to them: ‘Are you discussing what I meant which I said “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me?’

Then to explain his words, Jesus gave the disciples an illustration of a mother in labour (and it is an apt illustration for Mother’s Day!)   Jesus wanted to remind them that sometimes things will be difficult, even painful. But we need to focus on what is coming. Often an expecting mother in the pain of labour will vow never again to go through this. But the moment the baby is born her whole perspective shifts. All the pain has been worthwhile. So for a mother, the birth of a precious new baby is what she has been waiting for, and when the baby is born it makes all the trouble and pain worthwhile.

Now, I am very grateful that Jesus accommodated the theme of Mother’s Day by giving this illustration. But honestly, it doesn’t seem like he answered the disciples’ question about what he meant by ‘in a little while you will no longer see me …’  Have you noticed that Jesus often does that? He is asked one question, but then seems to answer another one altogether.  By this point I think the disciples were used to it. And something they had come to realise was that, upon reflection, Jesus really had answered their question. And this is the same thing here.

The disciples wondered what Jesus meant by ‘a little while.’ They were concerned about literal time. Just how long would Jesus be gone for? And where was he going? These would be the obvious questions any of us would have if a friend said to us that they will be going away for a little while. But Jesus answers the deeper question. The question they should have been asking. That is, what will it be like for us when you have gone? And what will you be doing? The disciples wanted to know about the ‘quantity’ of ‘a little while’. Jesus tells them about the quality of this little while. He tells them what it will mean for them that he will be ascending to the Father. And to do that, he turns to the illustration of a mother giving birth. Everyone can relate to that. Most of us are not mothers. But recent studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of all people have a birth mother. I believe the figure was somewhere around 100%!  So this illustration Jeus used is something we can all relate to. And if we have been lucky enough to know our birth mothers, we were probably told (perhaps on those occasions when we were not showing proper appreciation for our mothers) just how difficult it was to bring us into the world. So we know that giving birth is very difficult. But we also know that as soon as a new baby is born, it is all worthwhile. That is what the expectant mother had been looking forward to for all those months.

Well, Jesus is telling us that that is what it will be like for us. Things will not always be easy for us during this ‘little while’ in which he is away. In fact, they will often be very difficult. But for those of us who follow Jesus, it is his return to us that we wait for – that we are looking forward to. It is Jesus’ return that makes everything worthwhile. It may be hard for us to imagine now, but when that day comes, all the difficulties and pain of this life will seem like nothing in comparison to the joy we will then have.

This is the point of the ascension of Jesus to Heaven. It is not about Jesus being gone from us. It is about where Jesus is now and what he is doing for us now. And that is why we do not commemorate the Ascension as the sad occasion of Jesus leaving us. But we celebrate it as something very positive and exciting.

Jesus explains to his disciples that because he is going the Father, this is a good thing. It means that he is taking up his place again in Heaven. It means we can ask anything of the Father in Jesus’ name.  He tells his disciples to ask that they might receive, and that their joy might be complete.

Jesus is telling his disciples that while it might be difficult not having him with them physically, there are also advantages to his being away. Instead of focusing simply on the fact that Jesus is no longer with us on this earth, he asks us to think about where he is: Jesus is with the Father in the heavenly kingdom. Jesus has not left or abandoned us. He is preparing a place for us. We read in John 14:2-3 that Jesus told his disciples: ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself.’

Because Jesus has ascended to the Father, we know that he is speaking on our behalf, we know that he is preparing a place for us, and we know that he will come again.

The Ascension is not a reminder that Jesus has somehow left us. It is, instead, a reminder of how Jesus is with us now. It is a reminder of what Jesus is doing for us now. And it is a reminder that Jesus will come again to us to take us unto himself.

Happy Ascension Sunday!


Pastor Mark Worthing.
Port Masquarie.

The Ascension of Jesus.

The text: Acts 1:1–11

After He said this, (Jesus) was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky?’ (Acts 1:9-11)

The events surrounding the concluding weeks of Jesus’ ministry on this Earth are really quite fascinating and action-packed. This includes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the resurrection on the Sunday and the weeks after it until His Ascension forty days later.

Up until His entry into Jerusalem Jesus was out and about in all sorts of places: wandering here, there and everywhere. He made himself available to plenty of people, crossing all sorts of boundaries: geographical, cultural and religious. He made Himself available to bring the truths of God’s Kingdom to bear on people’s lives.

Sometimes Jesus was a bit harder to find. He would withdraw to solitary places in order to be alone; like when He heard news of the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13). But despite this, the crowds still managed to track Him down. They could still find Him in the end.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of what we call ‘Holy Week’ He very much placed Himself within reach. He went to the most public of places, the Temple, and taught there each day. He wasn’t hard to find at all. In fact, at His arrest, late at night in the Garden of Gethsemane, He told those who had come to arrest Him: ‘Every day I was with you in the Temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me…’ (Luke 22:53).

Following this, the Son of God allowed Himself to be pinned down in place on the Cross. He was very easy to find that day, lifted high on Golgotha for all to see. After that He was laid in a tomb. Now, it appeared, He wasn’t going anywhere anymore. His body could be found readily enough – if anyone cared to look.

Three days after He had died, the women disciples did care to go and look. They went to go and conduct the last rites for the body of Jesus. Only now, they couldn’t find His body. And they had no idea where to start looking. Mary told the angels at the tomb: ‘They have taken my Lord away … and I don’t know where they have put Him’ (John 20:13).

They would soon discover that they were not dealing with a misplaced body – they were dealing with the resurrection. What followed was a number of instances where Jesus came to find His followers; the same followers who had no idea where to find Him.

The chronology of appearances is not neatly presented in one Gospel account. Putting them all together we find that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene that Easter morning at the site of the tomb (John 20:16). Next appearance was to Peter, though exactly where and when is unknown. It was prior to Cleopas and the other disciple leaving for Emmaus – because they were the next ones to see Jesus, and that happened late in the day. These two disciples said to Jesus, before they recognised Him: ‘stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over’ (Luke 24:29). When they did finally recognise Jesus they rushed back the 11 kilometres to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples. As they were discussing it that night Jesus came and stood among them and appeared to them as a group – except Thomas who was not with them. (Luke 24:36).

Eight days later, Jesus appeared to the Disciples, once again in their locked room, together with Thomas this time (John 20:26). At some point after this night, the disciples leave Jerusalem and return to Galilee. They are back fishing and Jesus appears to them by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-14).

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, mentions that Jesus also appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6). It would be interesting to know more details about that incident, when and where it occurred, but that is the only mention we have of it in the New Testament.

As you gather together these scattered accounts you get the distinct impression that the post-resurrection Jesus is not so easy to find and track down. He is there one minute, and gone the next. There are 40 days between the Resurrection and Ascension and the recorded sightings of Jesus, in that time, are surprisingly few. The final sighting is at the Ascension itself and that concluded with Jesus being …taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hiding Him from their sight.

If the post-resurrection Jesus was hard enough to find and keep track of, then how much harder is the post-ascension Jesus? It is not surprising the Disciples stood there looking into the sky as He disappeared from their sight. I wonder what they were thinking? Were they wondering if they would ever see Him again in their lifetime?

And how about us? Jesus told Thomas: ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ (John 20:29). We are those apparently blessed ones who have not seen Him with our physical eyes. We have not had visible firsthand experience of the earthly ministry of Jesus. So where do we go to find Jesus? How hard is it for us to track Him down?

Do we stand looking into the sky, hoping for some kind of sign? Do we resign ourselves to simply having to live by faith – what some would call ‘blind’ faith – until that day when we finally see our Lord face to face? Or is it that it is the risen Lord who comes to find us? Is it that our Lord is out and about in all sorts of places: here, there and everywhere? Is our Lord making Himself available to us, crossing all sorts of boundaries in order to seek us out and find us and bring us into God’s Kingdom?

Surely the answer is ‘yes’ to that second bracket of questions. After all, it was Jesus who told His disciples: ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’ (John 14:18). And in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Ascension He told His disciples: ‘…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (28:20)

The ascension does not remove Jesus from us but places Him in a position whereby He can and does come to us. Listen again to how Paul describes the current location of Jesus in His letter to the Ephesians 1:20-23):

God raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the Heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.

The Heavenly Throne of God symbolizes His sovereignty. It is from there He stretches out His hand for His people. We hear about this in Psalm 47. The thought of God ruling on high did not discourage the Psalmist – as though God was distant and uncaring. Instead, He declares to the world: ‘Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy…Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises’ (v1&6). 

The Psalmist declares that it is from this position that God is ‘King over all the earth’; it is from this position that He ‘reigns over the nations’.

It is to this place Jesus has ascended and it is from this place He now rules. From this place, Jesus exercises all authority in Heaven and on Earth.

So standing there looking up at the sky wondering when Jesus would come back was not the most helpful of exercises for those first disciples. Similarly, if we live our lives as though Jesus is absent from us or if we find ourselves biding our time here on earth until we finally get our reward in Heaven, then that too is not particularly helpful. Instead, we clap our hands and shout for joy that our Lord and King Jesus is in the very place where He can effect His reign – the very place where He can stretch out His hand to help us and bless us and keep us.

We will struggle to find Jesus if we fail to see that the Ascension has placed Jesus in a position of power that is exercised in the here and now.

So it is, that we find Jesus in worship – though it is probably better to think of our worship as Jesus coming to find us. He comes to us through His word and He ministers to us through it according to our needs. He comes to us in His Holy Supper, strengthening us in body and soul with His presence in this special meal.

But we also find Jesus out and about in our world. He is not lying in a tomb where He is not going anywhere anymore. He is risen from the dead and is the living Lord who is here, there and everywhere. Jesus is there as the truths of God’s Kingdom are being proclaimed in His name. Jesus is there as sins are being forgiven in His name – a forgiveness that has come through His death and resurrection. Jesus is there as healing and hope and life are brought to so many people in so many ways.

The first disciples were told to be His witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). As the first disciples witnessed they discovered that Jesus wasn’t hard to find at all. He was out and about – here, there and everywhere. All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Him and they saw He was acting on it. As we bear witness to Jesus in our lives He won’t be hard to find at all; for He promised to empower us with His Holy Spirit and He promised to be with us always to the very end of the age. Amen. 

“The Bride says, Come!”

Revelation 22:12-21
I, Jesus, have sent my messenger to give you this witness for the churches.

            Christ has sent out His messenger as a witness of His Gospel, the Good News of His victory! And this is the message: Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! Now it’s a strange book that Revelation, sometimes seen as the most vital of all scripture, sometimes tolerated as a dusty book in a forgotten corner. And yet it is a record of a vision God gave St John for the benefit of all Christians, for the benefit of you. And we have now heard just the end of this vision of Christ, recorded by St John, and preserved by the Holy Spirit through His Church. But what does all this mean? It means come!

            Come and be washed; come and hear; come and pray in song; come to the feast; come into a new way of life, the Way of Life Everlasting. Come! Just as the parent calls for their almost toddler, “come, come on you can do it, one foot after the other, come!” Come to my arms and receive good things, or reject me and go your own way into danger. Then as that child grows and another is born, again the parent calls, “come, one foot after the other, come!” Now the first child, who has heard their parents’ words, can join in that call, to encourage and join in saying, “come and receive good things!” Here are the good things, yet if you reject them and go your own way you will be in danger.

            Children of the Living God, that is our life together in the Church, this beautiful yet battered Bride of Christ. And this is our Christian life, the life sustained by the Holy Spirit. That our Loving Father, God Almighty, called to the first humans, “come!” Yet they went their own way into danger. God called Abraham, He called Moses; they heard and witnessed to the Good News, calling to those around them, “come!” Yet by and large the Israelites rejected the witness and went their own way into danger; especially in the times of the prophets, those on whom the Holy Spirit Himself rested and empowered.

Then Jesus came. He came in the flesh to call out to all, “come!” Because of that call and its rejection Jesus suffered and died, yet He was not in danger, they were. For He rose on Sunday, today, defeating death by His death and by His Resurrection winning life everlasting for you. He then went to the upper room and His disciples witnessed this wonderful result of the Resurrection. Forty days later, last Thursday, He sent out these messengers as witnesses to the ends of the Earth. And today He continues to send messengers who carry His Gospel, that is what I am, what you, this church, has called me to be. That the pastor, whoever he may be, has been sent to point you back to Christ, His Word and Work; to say as an older brother to the toddler, “come, come into these loving arms and receive good things!”

            And so today we come into His arms, Just as this account from Revelation tells us. We come into Christ’s presence in His name, Alpha and Omega; just as He comes to us. We are washed in Baptism and in the absolution Christ returns us to that grace. You are spotless for He has taken away all your sins, preparing you to receive all good things. Yet those who reject His call wander into danger, like a toddler onto a road, yet wilfully. For Jesus is the only sure foundation, the root which gives life to those united in Him; He is the promised descendant of David with authority over all; and He is the only light in the darkness, the bright morning star.

For this reason, the Holy Spirit says, “come!” and the Bride of Christ, who is the Church of God you are a part of, says, “come!” Let you who hear join the Spirit and the Bride saying, “come!” Let the one who is thirsty come and receive good things, the water of life without price. Come be refreshed by Christ Himself, as He comes here for you.
But now comes a warning: if anyone not just rejects the Gospel but also changes God’s Word, whether adding or taking from it; they will suffer and loose their life. An older child can listen to their parents and pass on their words, but if the older sibling twists their parents’ word and convinces their younger sibling to follow them, then they are both likely in trouble.

            Jesus says, “Surely, I am coming soon!” Yet this is nothing to be afraid of, for as we heard last week and today after the absolution, He says to you “Peace be with you, My peace I give you.” And on that night before His death, He was praying (John 17). So intensely He was praying all night until His arrest, praying blood, sweat and tears for you. For the disciples, yes, for the Church His Bride, and for you. That we might be one, united in Him, that we might know Him and through us that He be made known to the world. As we pray His prayer today, we join with His pray that night, with the certain hope that God hears His own prayers.

So, we pray together with the whole Church for the rulers, for His Church, and for all in need. We pray as His Holy and Beloved Bride that Christ come and make things right, to fix and heal and hug, that all creation might receive the good things and be renewed. We pray with St John, with the whole Church, today in His Divine Service, even before our meals; we pray, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” Come today in Word and Sacrament, come everyday into our lives, and come on that final day and make things right.

            Unto that Day, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now to Life Everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Christ is King!

Ephesians 1:22
and [the Father of Glory] put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave Him headship over all the church.

            Christ is King! Hallelujah! King of kings, Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). All authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). So Jesus always has the final word and that wonderful word is, ‘peace’. For us who believe, baptised into His kingdom, who submit to His authority, this peace is rest, deep joy and fulfilment. For those who want the power for themselves, well, His peace is the end. Still Jesus is Lord. Forty days after His coronation with the crown of thorns He ascended to rule. Victorious over our enemies, sin, death and the devil; He stayed 40 more days teaching and preparing the Church for the sending out with power by the Holy Spirit. Then Jesus ascended to the highest position, above all things. Making all things new He is the head of all Creation. Christ is King! Hallelujah!

            But what does that mean? Christ is King? He’s not a king like a king of England or whatever, otherwise He would’ve stayed to conquer this earth. Yet our enemies are not flesh and blood, but the spiritual powers; we say ‘sin, death and the devil’ and we know there is no nation that has defeated them. Something different is going on here. As Jesus said to Pilate 40 days ago, His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). I mean just look at His coronation, no red carpet and fancy jewels there; something different is going on. And His people, 2000yrs ago a group lead by fishermen, dispersed from Jerusalem by persecution, jail and death; then spread from Spain to India within a generation but with no worldly power and at the mercy of local rulers. Even at the height of Christendom’s worldly power, those who submitted to Christ’s authority still suffered under those who sought power for themselves. And so too today.

Jesus is not a worldly king nor is His kingdom of this world, rather He is more, higher. Jesus is not just a king over people, raising taxes and fighting against other kings; Jesus is Lord over all Creation, from the very beginning, through time, all to the end; Lord over all things from those subatomic particles, to worms, to humans, to galaxies, to angels, spiritual beings, all things. Jesus rules over all.

            He rules over all, and we are with Him. Baptised into His body, the Church, we are not alone, and we are joined with Him in victory over sin, death and the devil. Jack today joins this congregation and all Christians, the whole of God’s family both here and those who’ve gone before; joins us with Christ submitting to His rule, His lead and His love. Jack, having received the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus, is now a willing part of God’s kingdom. When Jesus says that final Word, ‘peace’, Jack too will receive Christ’s full and eternal peace, joy and love in submission to the one who created him. And yet, I’m sure some of us have thought; ‘If Jesus is in charge of everything, why isn’t it different?’ ‘If I was boss, I’d make it so Jack never gets a cold, always has the best teachers, eats veges ‘cause I made them tasty now, and never suffers a broken heart.’ Why doesn’t Jesus keep us safe if we’re in His kingdom?

Well, one answer is, I don’t know, I can only know what Jesus has revealed, and that is that we are free from the powers of sin, death and the devil in Jesus, fully at the end and in part now. But another answer is this; Our King suffered torture, betrayal, and shame; He took on all your guilt, that’s what was on His mind on that cross; His body and spirit broken and this was at His coronation. If we are joined with His life, why should we expect any different. And yet, that was not the end. Just as there is an end to a cold, the working week, to pregnancy, there is an end to suffering; and what follows is the resurrection. From death to life, and not just this life again, but a life free from sin, death and the devil; that is the Life of Christ and this is promised to Jack and all who are baptised and trust The King.

And Jesus knew in this life we need help, this is why Jack is not just baptised into Jesus, into some ethereal body of Christ, but into this congregation. Why His parents and Godparents promised God and Jack to be with him and nurture him. That we like Paul might pray for Jack and each other, giving thanks for God’s wonderful gifts to them and thanks for God blessing us through their smiles and teaching us in their crying. Asking God the Father of the Glorious King Jesus Christ, to fill you with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation of His promises; that we all have our eyes opened to see God’s work in our lives and the world, to learn from the suffering and rejoice in the blessings, to see truth and know the hope we have been called to. God’s mighty power at work in us, healing us and defeating sin, death and the devil in our lives; making us whole, not broken and distracted like the rest of this world. Holding us together even as things fall apart as at the cross, the Holy Spirit with us through the valley of the shadow of death, as many things seek to distract us, to take us away from Christ’s side and to take power for ourselves. We need His help, the support of God’s angels, the encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ, prayer, and Christ with us. Here He is, were we are gathered in His name, the Holy Spirit at work in everyone of us, using God’s Word heard today, through the words of each other, even in the cries of children. And here He has promised to sustain you, not just by Word and prayer, yet also by His Body and Blood as He comes to us here and to His Church across the world, coming down from on high and present for us all together. Through the suffering, and the joys, Christ is King now and forever.

And so His peace which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Ascension Sunday

John 17:1
When Jesus had said this, He lifted His eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son, so that the son may glorify you.’

            We are coming to the end of some restrictions, my parents are looking forward to the day they can come down and see our son again, and some of you are looking forward to these reunions too. But we are also coming to the end of this Easter season, this season of joy, Christ is risen, Hallelujah! He has come to teach and prepare His disciples for His mission to the world, and yet 3 days ago He ascended to His throne in Heaven, ruling over all with authority. Now the eleven wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit before they go into the world, growing the church in our green season of Pentecost. The preparation is coming to an end, soon you will have to work and work hard for the Kingdom of Christ Jesus your Lord.

           To answer those who ask why are you a Christian? Where is your God? Even your own questions and doubts. To love those near you, to love Christians around the world and to show the love of Christ to those in need; how are the homeless fairing? How are the other countries around the world? What can you do to bring the love and hope of Christ to those people, and to our own backyard? Your work as a Christian, to speak God’s Word and to serve as did Jesus the son (1 Peter 4:11). That the Father’s name, His reputation, may be glorified, may be kept holy, by those inside and outside the church because of what you do and say; just as we pray in our Lord’s Prayer, ‘hallowed by your name’ (Matthew 6:9). Jesus here speaks with His Father and ours, ‘Glorify your son that the son may glorify you’.

            That night when He was betrayed, Jesus taught the disciples about who He was so that they may have peace. Jesus is God together with the Father, this is part of our understanding of the Holy Trinity; that the Holy Spirit will come to walk alongside us, to bring us into Christ, into the love of the Trinity; and that we love each other, keeping and guarding His Word, command and promise. A lot to take in, 3 chapters, about 100 verses, packed when we normally just hear 10 or so a Sunday. And that night, I don’t think they really got it because they scattered at His arrest. Yet Jesus after teaching and preparing them with the Word of God, turned His attention to our Heavenly Father; … God’s Word then prayer, I wonder when in the week we do that … but now is the time for teaching, soon is the time for prayer.

            Remember John wrote this gospel so that you might believe that Jesus is the promised messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have eternal life in Him (John 20:31). And here in this prayer, Jesus tells you, eternal life is to know the Father as the only true God and, just as John wrote, to know Jesus Christ whom He sent. This Jesus who prays for you, on your behalf, even though He knows you may reject Him as the disciples did that night, that you may forget His words, His promises. Thanking God for the eleven, He is also thanking God for you, that in you Jesus is glorified! You do know Jesus, baptised into Him by the Holy Spirit, you have been taught the faith and continue to hear the Word of God; you come and hold Him, taking Him into yourself in the bread and wine, Christ coming to refresh you as part of His body, Christ in you, you in Him; you keep His Word, His commands and promises, confessing the truth of what you have done, just like Peter recognising his sin yet not despairing but turning back to Jesus, confessing, repenting and receiving Christ’s mercy; even though we fail like the eleven, we trust Jesus Word, guarding it, keeping His commands, and we return to be strengthened to love again, to be prepared for the work He has for us; and in all this have peace and trust Jesus’ true prayer, that the Father answers when Jesus asked that He guards you in His name, so that we may be united to Jesus and each other, united in eternal life and strengthened, prepared to live it out.

            So as you go out today, as we prayer; the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts in Christ Jesus, through all trials and tribulations. Amen.

Rev Joseph Graham.

Final Instructions.

TEXT:  Mark 16:19, 20

  ‘After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.  Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.’


As the evangelists record, on the day of his ascension Jesus was with his disciples in Jerusalem.  He gave them some final instructions during a meal, then when they’d finished the meal, he led them out to Bethany.  He continued his instructions on the way and repeated his promise to send them the Holy Spirit.  They should go to Jerusalem, he said, to wait for the Spirit to come.  Then he raised his hands in a final act of blessing, and as they watched, he was taken up from them until a cloud hid him from their sight.

Jesus’ ascension is the final act in God’s great drama of salvation.  God the Father received his divine Son back to the glory of his right hand, and in doing this, he gave his stamp of approval to everything Jesus had accomplished here on earth.

In his letter to the Ephesians, St Paul points out that the Jesus who ascended that day is the same person ‘who descended to the … earthly regions’.  The Son of God descended from the glory of heaven to the lowliness of earth as the infant of a young woman.  He descended into the sin, sorrow and suffering of this world, for us.

God had seen us in our need.  He’d seen us trapped in the tragedy of our sin.  He’d seen that, try hard as we would, we could never bridge the gap that we’d created between us and himself by our sin.  The only way we could be spared the punishment that sin brings was for someone to take our place – to keep God’s law perfectly on our behalf, and yet to suffer its punishment in full.

That’s why the eternal Son of God came from heaven to earth, from glory to humility.  That’s why he gave up his life on Calvary.  And God accepted this sacrifice of his Son, and raised him to life again on the third day.

To convince people that the sin of all humanity’s been paid for, Jesus showed himself alive on a number of occasions during the 40 days after his resurrection.  In effect, he was saying to his disciples, and us: ‘I’m alive!  I’ve taken all your guilt on myself … all your weaknesses.  I’ve suffered all your temptations for you.  I’ve been punished most cruelly for you.  But I’m no longer dead!  I’ve conquered death and Satan.  I’ve cancelled out all your sin.  Just believe this and you’ll have life with me and my Father in heaven.’

Jesus’ resurrection proves to us that our sin has been paid for.  But to make us even more sure, our Lord ‘was taken up into heaven’.  Because he was completely satisfied with what Jesus had done, God the Father received him back to his right hand side … restored him to the full exercise of his divine authority and power.

As St Paul says, ‘He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe’.

That’s why Ascension is a festival of joy.  It shows us that God’s saving work for us is complete.  There’s nothing more to be done.  Our sin’s been paid for – all of it!  You are forgiven!  Christ’s work is perfect.  No matter how many times we may still fall into temptation – even though we try hard to fight against it – God’s taken all this into consideration.  Jesus’ death has covered it all.

By faith you can be at peace with God – in spite of your many weaknesses and failings.  By faith you have God’s own assurance of a place in heaven, where your risen Lord’s now gone on ahead of you,  You don’t have to work for it; and you don’t have to have any anxieties about whether or not you’re worthy of it.  In yourself you’re not worthy, and you never can be.  But Christ has removed all your unworthiness so you can now have the certainty of faith to say with St Paul:  ‘I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

Our text tells us that ‘after the Lord had spoken to [the disciples], he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God’.  What this means has been well described by St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.  ‘[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and domin-ion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but in the one to come.  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body.’

The fact that the ascended Christ is now at God’s right hand doesn’t mean he’s confined somewhere ‘up there’ beyond the stars!  The picture we often have of God the Father sitting on a shining white throne above the clouds is poetic imgagery.  Jesus himself described what’s meant by his sitting ‘at the right hand of God’ when he said: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’.  As ascended Lord, the God-Man Jesus Christ now fully shares in the rule of earth and heaven.

In a sense, his ascension was like a coronation, by which he was unmistakably declared almighty ruler over heaven and earth.  Within the eternal trinity of the Godhead, the ascended Christ now controls all things throughout Creation, according to his unlimited wisdom and grace.

Now … what does all this mean for you and me?

Think back for a moment to what St Paul wrote in Ephesians!  ‘[God] seated [Christ] at his right hand in the heavenly realms … and … placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church …’

Jesus Christ, the exalted ‘King of Creation’, who is both ‘Son of God and Mary’s Son’, as we sing in one of our hymns, now rules over all things in this universe.  He controls all the forces in this universe, and directs everything that happens in the interests of his church – and that includes you and me.

The ascended Christ is vitally concerned about his church here on earth, and about you and me who’re members of it.  He’s vitally concerned about his church because God the Father’s given him to the church as its Head.

There’ a wonderful reassurance in this thought for all of us who’re members of Christ’s church through faith.  We can have this very real assurance that our ascended Lord is directing everything that happens – on a global and national level, and in our community and our own personal life – he’s directing it all in our best interests.  We can confidently say with St Paul: ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him’.

In spite of continuing unrest in various parts of the world, in spite of shootings, in spite of increasing drug use, in spite of road deaths, in spite of AIDS, the ascended Christ is still ruling at the right hand of his Father – channelling our lives in our best interests.

So … if you’re sick or have some disability, don’t despair!  Christ is still in control;  God is working for your good!

If you have financial problems, or you’re out of work, or your income’s taken a dive, don’t lose courage!  God knows!

If your children let you down, or your marriage has broken up or is under stress, don’t throw in the towel!  Christ is on your side, and he’s still in control.

So often when trouble comes we give in to despair.  ‘What’s the use?’ we ask.  ‘Where’s God?  Why doesn’t he help?’

Your heavenly Father is always there, and Christ is at his right hand.  He’s in charge, and he rules everything in this universe in the best interests of those who’re his.  He only has your good in mind in the way he deals with you.  You mightn’t always see it at the time, but you will … with the wisdom of hindsight!

And beyond this life he’s prepared a place for you in the never-ending glory of his Father’s presence.

So …you can face each day confidently, trusting in the almighty rule of your ascended Lord and King.

However, Jesus’ ascension to God’s right hand doesn’t mean he’s left his disciples – ancient or modern – to our own devices, to flounder around by ourselves in a world that by and large is antagonistic to all he stands for.  Shortly before he parted from his disciples he assured them: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’.

True, he did withdraw his visible presence from them, but as the ever-present God he continued to be with them, and he continues to be with his disciples of all ages.

As those early disciples went out to preach his gospel in all the world they realised more and more how close the ascended Christ was.  Mark tells us:  ‘The disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by signs that accompanied it’.

Those men were very much aware of the presence of their Lord, and of his Spirit, in their lives.  On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to them, as Jesus promised.  They went out to preach and teach with new boldness … to witness and baptise. And as they did this, the ascended Lord himself worked through them.  He confirmed and strenthened their spoken word with signs – a lame man healed, Saul the persecutor converted to Paul the Apostle, lives changed, faith strengthened, deeds of love and service.  The mass conversion on Pentecost, and the spectacular growth of Christianity in spite of strong opposition – even persecution – all this testifies to the fact that the ascended Christ works mightily in and through his followers.

The same Lord is still close to each one of us today.  He’s put us into this world for a special purpose – just as the apostles had a special purpose.  His purpose for you is not that you should selfishly live just for yourself.  You’ve been called to live under Christ and serve him and witness to his love.  And he wants to work through you as he worked through his chosen 12.

There’s a story that tells of Jesus’ return to heaven.  The angels Michael and Gabriel were there to welcome him.  They congratulated him on his victory over Satan, and for having drawn so many disciples to follow him.  ‘But’, they asked, ‘what’ll happen now that you’ve withdrawn from the world?’

‘I’ve provided for that’. Jesus told them.  ‘I have Peter and John and the other Apostles to go out and preach in my name.’

‘But how will people of later ages come to know what you’ve done for them?’ Gabriel asked.

‘I’ve arranged for that, too.’ Jesus said. ‘ I’ve charged my people throughout history to be my witnesses and tell people about my love for them.’

 ‘But what if they let you down?’ Gabriel asked in awed tones.

‘I have no other way’, Jesus replied.

It’s just a story, but it makes a challenging point.  To each of us the Lord says, ‘Go into all the world, starting with your own home and community.  Go and preach and live my gospel, and witness to my grace.  And don’t be concerned about your weaknesses and inadequacies, because “I am with you …”’

As you respond to this call as a member of Christ’s body and of this St Peter’s congregation, you too will see the signs of your Lord’s mighty presence, and of his power at work in and through you and your fellow members: children and adults drawn into the body of Christ through baptism; some friend or relative who comes to new life in Christ; growth in your own faith and in the love that expresses that faith; prayers answered; lives changed.  These are the kind of signs that show the ascended Lord is still mightily active in his church, and in you today.

Rejoice that your salvation has been completed, and that you are a forgiven child of God, with an eternal destiny in heaven!  Rejoice that the ascended Christ rules over all in his powerful, loving way.  Rejoice that he continues to work in and through his church on earth to draw people to himself!  And rejoice that he works also in and through you, in spite of your all-too-human frailties!

Rejoice, the Lord is King!

 Your Lord and King adore!

Jesus, the Savjour reigns,

  The God of truth and love;

His kingdom cannot fail,

  He rules o’er earth and heaven.

He sits at God’s right hand …

  Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!

Rejoice, again I say, Rejoice!


Rev Robert J Wiebusch

Ascension power

It is a terrible thing to feel powerless. It is terrible thing to feel helpless in the face of something that threatens your happiness and health.

Imagine what it must be like for those parents with children who live in countries where there is continual hostility and fighting. (East Timor springs to mind this week.) Daily parents must fear for the safety of their children. They fear that one day a stray bullet will take the life of one of their children as they are playing or going to school. How powerless and helpless they must feel! They can’t do anything to stop the fighting. They have no where else to go.

On one Friday afternoon a teenage boy was seen walking home carrying all of his school books. Those who saw him said to one another, “What a nerd! He must be going to spend all his weekend studying.” A bunch of kids ran up to him, knocked the books out of his arms and tripped him so he landed in the dirt. He got up with tears in his eyes, picked up his books and went on. It seems he had cleared out his locker at school for a reason. That night he killed himself.

For a young person to do that, he must have been feeling completely helpless and powerless to bring about any change in his life. He could see no reason to continue his existence. How terrible it is to feel useless and powerless!

There are times when we all feel helpless.
We may feel helpless in the face of illness or surgery.
We may feel powerless to change the direction our children are taking.
Or we might feel incapable of changing our lifestyle, or our habits.
Many people admit they need a power beyond their own power to solve such issues. Some turn to astrology, fate, crystals, science, “someone up there” or some universal force to find a greater power than themselves.

The characters in the Star Wars movies refer to a power that holds the universe together. Humans can tap into this universal force when the odds are against them. When faced with the seemingly hopeless task of defeating a far greater enemy, they encourage one another with, “The Force be with you”. TV series and movies explore the possibility of the existence of powers, you might say supernatural powers, that are greater than anything we know – powers that are able to help us in our everyday problems.

Why am I bringing up all of this here this morning? The answer is this – today we heard from God’s Word about a single, continuous, unbroken power. In the brokenness of our world, there is a power that is far greater than all other powers;
a power that is real;
a power that meets us at the point of our need;
a power that is dependable and consistent.

It is the power that God has shown for us in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We see the power of God on the cross when out of love he gave up the life of his Son for our sake. God used his power to load all the sin of all humanity unto the shoulders of the One who died on a cross.
With power, God brought Jesus to life again when he raised him from the grave and then gave him all power and authority when Jesus returned to heaven.

The power that you and I possess, and even the power of the great forces that shape the world, are temporary and in comparison to God are very feeble indeed. God’s power, however, is permanent, and St Paul is at great pains to make sure we know it. He wrote this,
“He raised Christ from death and let him sit at his right side in heaven.
There Christ rules over all forces, authorities, powers, and rulers.
He rules over all beings in this world and will rule the future world as well.
God has put all things under the power of Christ,
and for the good of the church he has made him the head of everything”
(Eph 1:21-22 CEV (1) ).

It is important to note that Paul emphasises God’s power in the context of prayer. The apostle is praying for the people at Ephesus. He is praying that they might receive the Holy Spirit so that they will know the hope that comes from knowing Jesus. He prays that they might know the great and mighty power of God.

And where does Paul turn to see evidence of this power? He doesn’t turn to creation to find proof of God’s power – the power of the sun and stars, of volcanoes and cyclones, of tidal waves and earthquakes, of sunset and sunrise. If you have ever seen those programs on TV that vividly describe the force of any of these, there can be no doubt that these are indeed powerful.

Neither does Paul look for evidence of God’s power in the events of human history. There we find more often than not the corruption and misuse of power to bring misery and fear into people’s lives. You only need to look at a little country like Afghanistan where the power held by the opposing military forces has brought so much fear, death and grief to the people of the country.

God’s power is based on love. Because of his love for us God used his power to “raise Christ from death and seated him at his right side in the heavenly world.” Christ rules there over all other powers and authorities not as a cruel, distant and unfeeling tyrant, but he rules with love. The Lordship of Jesus is total. All things have been put under his feet (control). He rules the world and the church totally and completely. And in contrast to the way humanity has abused power which has resulted in cruelty and suffering, God’s power and God’s love go hand in hand. The apostle Paul sees the greatest sign of God’s power is his love.

When the disciples saw Jesus ascend to heaven until he was hidden from their sight by a cloud, they must have suddenly felt all alone. They had experienced this kind of feeling once before when Jesus was arrested, tortured and then killed on a cross. They felt helpless and weak against the authorities who could have come at any moment and arrested them. But Jesus came alive again and all was well for a while. But now he was gone again. This time they knew that this would be for a lot longer time. But this time their reaction is quite different. This time there is no fleeing, no hiding, no grief, and no remorse. Instead we are told “they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and spent all their time in the Temple giving thanks to God” (Luke 24:52,53).

Jesus was gone but they rejoiced. They knew that wherever they went and whatever they did; Jesus would be there with them. From that moment on the disciples were never beyond the reach of Jesus. Previously they could be separated from Jesus by a door or wall or a stormy lake. Now there was no barrier that could keep him from them. Now Jesus was always available and present with power to help, strengthen and comfort them when they needed it the most.

Jesus did go up, ascend and leave the disciples that day, but he left this earth so that he could be the ever and always present God. He is Lord of all and wherever we go on this earth, under the sea or out in the depths of space, he is there – he is there with power.

The power of Jesus isn’t like any power that we know on this earth.
His power redefines, changes our lives. It recreates us as his new people through the water of baptism.
His power is stronger than death – it gives eternal life.
His power forgives even our worst sins.
His power gives us new directions – daily it kills everything that is evil and corrupting in our lives and renews us as his chosen people.
His power gives us his body and blood in a piece of bread and a sip of wine.
His power gives us faith through the Word of God.

He is ready to use his power in our lives, our families, and our work places; he is ready to use his power when we are overcome with fear, worry, grief, and pain. Just before Jesus ascended to heaven he said, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). That means that Jesus not only has the power to be present in our lives as we come to terms with what is happening, but as Lord of lords and King of kings he has the power to do something about it.
When we learn that we have a serious health problem;
when we hear the news that someone close to us has died;
when we worry about money, our children, our job or lack of it;
when we are upset, hurt, guilty, angry or depressed;
when we have to make difficult decisions about the future;
we are reminded that the ascended Jesus is close by and ready to use his power.

When we pray we are praying to the one who is the “supreme Lord over all things”. We know that he has the power and the knowledge to answer our prayers in the ways that are the best for us. He is waiting to use his power on our problems. He is waiting for us to call on his name. The writer to the Hebrews encourages us, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4.16). Because Christ rules with grace and love, we know that he doesn’t treat us the way we deserve to be treated because of our sin, but rather he understands our predicament and gives us divine help and strength.

I can say with confidence that we don’t take seriously the fact that Jesus is Lord.
If we are serious about God’s power in our lives and certain that God uses his power everyday in our lives then we would honour, love and trust him more than we do.
If people are certain about the lordship of Jesus, then this church would be packed with worshippers every Sunday.
If people are sure that Jesus rules with love in the very ordinary affairs of their lives, forgiving their sins, strengthening their faith in times of trouble, then they would respond with praise and worship.
If we seriously believe that Jesus is not some distant deity, but walks this earth with us, then our lives would be real testimonies to the lordship of Jesus as people see in us love, patience, tolerance and understanding and a firm belief that Jesus can handle anything in our lives.
If we seriously believe that we are the children of our loving Lord what an impact this would have on the church. Nothing would stand in our way of serving our Lord with whatever time and talents and money that God has made available to us.

We thank God that Jesus is more than just a powerful king – that kind of absolute power could be too scary. But Jesus is our loving Lord. He knows our weaknesses and lack of commitment to doing what God wants us to do. That’s why he died for us. He is our loving Lord who empowers us to be his people and to make a difference in the church in the world.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy


Famous Last Words

Famous Last Words

Acts 1:8 (236)


image001You’re watching an exciting movie on TV, and one of the characters is about to die.  As he lies there on a hospital bed, he whispers some final words to his family.  You quickly turn the volume up, but can’t quite hear what he says.

They may have been words of farewell, words of advice, words offering forgiveness, or maybe words that told the rest of the family where the treasure was buried.

People’s last words can often be significant.  They can have some importance.  They can even be remembered and passed down from one generation to the next.

And that’s the case when it comes to a number of “last words” that some characters in the Bible have spoken.  We’re going to have a look at a few today and see what significance they have for us today.

We’re going to start with Moses.  Towards the end of his life God took Moses up on to a mountain, and while he was there God showed him the land that the Israelites were going to inherit.

Just before he died, Moses pronounced a blessing on his people, and the last words of his blessing were these: Israel, you will live in safety; your enemies will be gone.  The dew will fall from the sky, and you will have plenty of grain and wine.  The Lord has rescued you and given you more blessings than any other nation.  He protects you like a shield and is your majestic sword.  Your enemies will bow in fear, and you will trample on their backs.  (Deuteronomy 33:28,29).

In these last words of Moses, he acknowledged that Israel was very blessed because God was their Lord.  He had led them safely through 40 years wandering in the desert, and was about to give them a country where they could settle down, grow crops and plant vineyards, have victory over their enemies, and live in security.  They could be confident that God would continue to provide for them.  God was in control.

Famous last words from Moses: God was in control!

Another very well known Old Testament character was David, King David.  He had some “famous last words” as well.  We read in 2 Samuel 23:3-5.  Our Mighty Rock, the God of Jacob, told me, ‘A ruler who obeys God and does right is like the sunrise on a cloudless day, or like a rain that sparkles on the grass.’  I have ruled this way, and God will never break his promise to me.  God’s promise is complete and unchanging.  He will always help me and give me what I hope for.

David was chosen by God to carry out a specific task.  He was to make Israel a great nation, and bring honour and glory to God.  David didn’t do this perfectly by any means.  In fact, there are episodes in his life that can only be described as being very questionable.

But at the end of his life he could look back and see that through it all, it was only because of God that he and his kingdom survived.  It was because of God’s covenant, God’s promise that David was able to achieve anything.

Famous last words from David: God was in control!

You might remember three men by the name of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  They were three friends of Daniel, who were thrown into a fiery furnace because they weren’t prepared to bow down and worship anyone but God himself.  They were prepared to die and to remain faithful to God, rather than to obey King Nebuchadnezzar.

As they were about to be killed they cried out to the king: Your majesty, we don’t need to defend ourselves.  The God we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace.  But even if he doesn’t, we still won’t worship your gods and the gold statue you have set up. (Daniel 3:6-18).

There was no way that they were going to turn their backs on God, because he’d never let them down.  And even though it meant certain death for them, they were confident that God would watch over them

Famous last words from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: God was in control!

As it turned out, these weren’t their last words at all, because God rescued them, but they weren’t sure that he was actually going to, so we can still consider them being “famous last words”.

Then there was Simeon, a priest in the temple in Jerusalem.  God had promised him that before he died, he would see with his own eyes, the fulfilment of God’s promise of a Saviour.  Simeon would see Jesus.

So just after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple; Simeon took the baby in his arms and said: Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your Word.  For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all people; a light to reveal you to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon thanked and praised God that he was able to see what God had promised hundreds of years before.  He was prepared to die in peace, knowing that Jesus the Saviour had come. So “famous last words” for Simeon were that God was in control!

Not too many years afterwards a man called Stephen spoke some words too that have been acknowledged as being “famous last words”.

He’d preached a fairly strong sermon, and some people had taken exception to it because they couldn’t accept the fact that he’d said they were partly responsible for Jesus’ death.  They dragged Stephen out of the city and began to stone him to death.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed: “Lord, Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:59,60).  Stephen was prepared to face death, confident that God would give him all he needed to remain strong in his faith, confident that God would take him to himself in heaven.

Stephen’s “famous last words” – God was in control even in the face of a difficult and painful death.

And that was very similar to another situation.  When Jesus was hanging on the cross he spoke a number, seven in fact “famous last words”.  And the last of these was: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.  (Luke 23:46).

The work that he had come to do was completed, and he was giving up his life, so that we could have life after death.  In the face of what seemed like failure and tragedy, Jesus acknowledged that God was in total control.

This was no unlucky and unhappy ending to Jesus’ life and ministry.  It was the beginning of something new and exciting.  There was no misfortune or catastrophe here.  God was in control and everything was going to plan.  Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was just around the corner.

But these weren’t really the last words of Jesus.  Forty days after his resurrection, just before he ascended into heaven he spoke some “famous last words” again.  He had his disciples gathered round him and said: The Holy Spirit will come upon you and give you power.  Then you will tell everyone about me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and everywhere in the world.  (Acts 1:8).

Jesus was leaving, but the Holy Spirit was coming.  The disciples wouldn’t be alone.  Jesus was going but nothing was going out of control.  God the Father still had, and has, control over the work that Jesus began.  Through his Spirit, this work was going to continue.

And through his Spirit that work continues today in and through God’s spirit-filled people – you and me.  We look around and see what’s happening in our world, and even in God’s church at times, and wonder how we can ever be a positive influence, and what little good we can do.

But God’s still in control – and always will be.  That’s his promise.  That’s his “famous last words” if you like – words that he wants us to hold on to, to trust in, and to look on as being all that we need to continue to serve faithfully.

Have you ever thought what your last words may be?  They may be words of farewell, words of advice, words offering forgiveness, or maybe even words that let your family know where the treasure is buried.

Whatever you last words may be, you can be sure that as you face death, you can be absolutely confident that death is not the end of your existence.  Christ has overcome death, and nothing can ever separate you from his love.

But this assurance is yours not just as you face death – it’s also there for you as you face life, and all the difficulties and challenges that you have before you.

God was, and God is, in control.  Amen.

Bishop Mark Leischke