Category Archives: Christian discipleship

Repent and be saved 1 John

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are not just about confessing and receiving forgiveness, but also about true repentance on their part said … AMEN!

Every Sunday we start worship with “Confession and Absolution”. We start with confession, we want to start our worship in a way that we’ve dealt with the sins of the past week, that we recognize that we need to start this time of worship truly opening up to God, knowing that we have failed, that we have offended Him through the week, and we want to deal with that before we start, we want to know we are worthy to be in God’s presence. We are sinners, but we are affirmed and forgiven in Christ, that we can come into the Father’s presence knowing that we are worthy, in Christ, to be in His presence. All that we’ve done in the past week to separate us from the Father, we come before Him now completely forgiven in Jesus. But there seems to be an element that is missing. You are completely forgiven in Jesus. I’ve had this discussion with the local parish priest. One of the issues Luther had was the idea that we are not completely forgiven in Jesus, that there still is this one extra element on our part in order to seal the deal and that is penance. As usual, when something is at issue, we lurch from one silly extreme to another, and we simply ignore that element which is in dispute. “If Jesus died for my sin and I confessed my sin, as we are told to do in James: “ESV 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” We are told to confess to one another, but there is still a little something missing. You’re not any less forgiven, you are completely forgiven, but… there’s a lack of intent on our part, when we omit our repentance. That we are truly sorry for our sin, that we want to do better. In our liturgy for individual confession, there is a place made for that. On page 292 in your hymnal, you will find “Individual Confession and Absolution”… wonder how many of you knew that was in there? The penitent can, if they wish, list out the sins that they are confessing, that are most weighing on their heart. Then: “They conclude by saying, I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.” Generally that part gets omitted from our “corporate” confession, because we want to be good Lutherans and emphasize that we are forgiven and absolved in Jesus and we are! But that one little aspect of genuine repentance on our part, true regret for the things that we have done that are an offense against God, that do separate us from a truly, completely, holy God, we sort of omit them and decide that we’ve been forgiven, we can just move along until the next time. Gosh, I’ve done what I could, so let’s not dwell on it. What’s missing? Any thought of genuine sorrow and … how am I going to live my life in terms of not committing that sin, or any others in the future? The old man is always in us, our old human nature is always going to lead us to sin. We all know; “none are righteous no not one…” by the same token treating it as “drive by” absolution; I’m covered until the next time and I will just get forgiven then, that’s not being faithful in Christ, that’s not showing any desire to grow as a true disciple of Christ. What the rest of the world is about, “go along to get along”, then we wonder why nothing ever really changes in our life, why we always seem to be stuck in this spiritual adolescence. We’re all guilty of it, but it is how we deal with it. Judas and Peter, both deeply sinned against the Lord. Judas’ was straight out betrayal. But… Was it the unforgivable sin? No, not really. Peter also betrayed the Lord. A little girl confronts him and he almost hurts himself saying he has no idea what she is talking about, or who this Jesus guy is. One was forgiven… Peter! Peter is on notice, the angel tells the women go to the disciples and Peter, why is Peter singled out? Ya, Peter you messed up, your sin was very grievous, you denied me. My disciples are called to proclaim me and you ran away, the big tough fisherman, ran away like a frightened little rabbit. But who does Jesus take aside on that day on the beach and says “Feed my sheep”. Jesus is making sure that Peter knows he is being given an enormous responsibility. And Peter is obviously repentant. Judas? What did he do? Did he stay faithful in that room, in that period after the resurrection, waiting for the Lord to come back, trusting Jesus’ words in His resurrection? No! Judas didn’t even see the resurrection, he ran away too, but in a weaker way. He didn’t try to go back to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, to show repentance, genuine or not so genuine. He takes the issue into his own hands, he decides for himself that there is nothing left and he goes and hangs himself. Peter goes to Jesus in repentance, hangs his big head in front of Jesus and gets whacked right in the head… right? No, Jesus gives Peter a little poke, but much more importantly Jesus reorients Peter right away, gets him back on track; “Peter feed my sheep, get out there, do what you’re called to do, what you’ve been prepared to do for the last three years and bring My Word, My guidance, My Lordship and salvation, My resurrection to everyone the Holy Spirit guides you to, so that they will know “life and life more abundant”, go and build My church, with the other disciples, those who are here and those who to come, that all may be saved in true baptism, with My Body and Blood in My Church, My Body on earth, composed of all those who are saved in Me and who come together in My Church to reach out into the dark, sinfilled, death filled world. Bring the hope and promise of My Lordship and salvation to a hopeless world, with no promise other than death.

How did all that come about? Peter was repentant, he came back to lead, to wait on Jesus’ resurrection, trusting in Him, and not in his own opinion. Judas decided, by himself, he was beyond forgiveness, maybe too proud to go to Jesus in repentance, to truly trust that Jesus would forgive him and restore him. Judas, not Jesus, decided that Judas was irredeemable and the only result could be his death. That Jesus’ forgiveness did not have the power to forgive, at least not this sin. This was a really bad sin, so Judas decides on his own, that Jesus can’t help him and that he will now take matters into his own hands and decide the issue, once for all, to all eternity. Judas was guilty of the horrible sin of betraying the Lord, he was truly despicable. He was furthermore guilty of his lack of faith, that Jesus couldn’t redeem even this horrible treachery. Peter, in faith, humility and repentance returned to Jesus and was restored by Jesus. How many of us take the Peter way out, truly repent and look for restoration in Jesus? How many of us take the Judas way out, decide they aren’t going to repent, maybe they think repentance or anything else they do won’t be sufficient in order to restore us in Jesus? I’d say the majority of, even Christians, just decide to resolve the matter their way and not to trust in Jesus’ forgiveness. What way do you think truly works out?

Repentance is from the Greek word meta,noia the Greek word means: “a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done” you also see it translated a “change of direction”, I’m not following this route anymore, this constant sinful practice that I pursue as much as daily. That I am going to change that practice. Now, how do we really change? In our own strength? No… Jesus is faithful to us, the Holy Spirit does dwell in us and has been pushing us to realize our sin, to bring us not just to confess the sin, to acknowledge it, to put it out there to be forgiven. The Holy Spirit is also moving us to change our direction, another definition of meta,noia to go in a different way, a way that is 180 degrees the opposite of where we’ve been going. In a way that changes from offending God, to pleasing God. We can only do this through “repentance”. This is a concept that we as the church don’t emphasize, that doesn’t mean the church doesn’t condone repentance, it just doesn’t emphasize it, that we should be doing what we can and trusting in the Holy Spirit that He will lead us to true change and away from those things that do cause us to sin.

Here are some examples of, let’s say non-genuine repentance, in the sense I’m saying sorry, but I’m not really saying I’m sorry, no less making any meaningful personal change. The first one is not attributed, but is certainly illustrative: “I am very sorry if I called you bloatie, and booger faced, buttface, jerk, stupid, numskulls, what were you thinking if you had a brain, fur face, Lord bless me you stink so bad you make me faint, I’m sorry.”[1] Not genuine repentance, it is taking a further shot. Just wanted to make sure that was clear for everyone. In case we are not clear on this concept, allow me to give another example of what repentance is not, this is from Ty: “I’m sorry for kicking you with a feather. Kicking is not okay, because it hurts people. Also don’t forget about the time when you were a baby-crying little devil, but I liked you and now you still are a crying little devil who gets away with everything…”[2] Again, not genuine repentance. One more from Liam: “Miss P made me write you this note, all I want to say sorry for is not being sorry cause I tried to feel sorry but I don’t.”[3] I can see a great career in law, international diplomacy or corporate finance for Liam here. We don’t really come in true repentance, to church, to those around us, to ourselves in terms of doing anything for any meaningful change in our lives. We engage in drive through confession, expect to be given a clean slate when we pull up to the window and then decide to worry about it the next time, next week, next month, next Christmas, that we’re in church and have to deal with the pastor standing up in front of you and saying, “we rise for Confession and Absolution”. In your prayers let’s not make it just about confession, but Lord please change my heart, move me to change to be more pleasing to you and to those around me.” For Him who chose death on a cross, all of what He endured for us so that we would be forgiven and in relationship to God the Father. From now on, what did the Holy Spirit put in your mind to see forgiveness for and what did He put in your mind to lead you from your sins, to repent after He has forgiven you?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom        He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

 

[1] https://www.ranker.com/list/funny-apology-notes-from-kids/ashley-reign

[2] Ibid

[3][3] Ibid

Equality by Friedrich Nietzsche he didn’t believe there was, Jesus does!

This is being written on December 23, when cyber-space is filled with all kinds of Christmas greetings. So if you really don’t want to deal with anything else you may want to avoid this blog. However, you may want a little break from the Christmas stuff, you might find this interesting.

“Equality is a lie concocted by inferior people who arrange themselves in herds to overpower those who are naturally superior to them. The morality of ‘equal rights’ is a herd morality, and because it opposes the cultivation of superior individuals, it leads to the corruption of the human species” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Hmmmm, interesting, this is from the one who is practically the inspiration for the egalitarianism of today. The humanist, “progressive”, secular – “God is Dead”-movement, etc, this is actually what the “progressive” humanist leaders of today truly believe. They look at you and lie about how equal everyone is, they are lying. Their education comes in faux areas like “feminist literature”, they thing they know something because they know who Nietzsche is, but because of their very shallow learning and experience, they really don’t go any deeper into the subject.

Having said that, in stark contrast and in the Christmas spirit, we remember Luke 2: 10, the angel is speaking to the humble shepherds, out in the fields alone, not equal to anyone, the lowest on the rungs of the social scale: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good new of great joy that will be for all the people.” In terms of human history, this is the first time that this idea was ever uttered. That something was for “all the people”, no less that God was for all the people. While there was a slip – back in human history making Jesus more for some people and less for others. None the less, for those who teach and preach Jesus, we know that in God the Father’s eyes, we are completely equal, equally sunk in our sins, in our lives, our accomplishments. The secular, the humanist, believes that there are those who are our superiors, and we need to heed them. Christians may not be the best at it, but we know that now and in the future judgment, we will all be equal in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Luther’s Reformation of Beer NOVEMBER 3, 2017 BY GENE VEITH

 

Not only did Martin Luther reform the church.  He also reformed beer too.  Specifically, the Reformation gave us beer brewed with hops.

So says Nina Martyris, who takes the prize for an influence-of-the-Reformation-on-its-500th-anniversary story with The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too : The Salt : NPR.  She is drawing on a book by William Bostwick, the beer critic for TheWall Street Journal:  The Brewer’s Tale: A History of the World According to Beer. 

So how did Luther give us hoppy beer?

The story begins with another prominent figure in religious history:  St. Hildegard of Bingen.  Recently canonized by Pope Benedict XVI and made a “doctor of the church,” this 12th century abbess was a talented musical composer, an innovative playwright, a mystic, a theologian, and an influential herbalist.  She taught against the use of hops, saying they “make the soul of a man sad and weigh down his inner organs.”

So the church said that beer should no longer be made with hops.  More to the point, the church established a  monopoly on gruit — as Bostwick explains it, “the mixture of herbs and botanicals (sweet gale, mug wort, yarrow, ground ivy, heather, rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon)” that took the place of hops.  Beer made with this gruit was also subject to a heavy church tax.

But with the Reformation, brewers celebrated their freedom from the tyranny of the pope by renouncing gruit!  Instead, they turned to hops!  Just as Luther recovered the Gospel, as taught in the New Testament church, after it was covered over by accretions of human teaching, the Lutheran brewers recovered beer with hops, as brewed in older days, despite the accretions of human innovations such as mug wort, heather, and ivy!  (My analogy.)

There were other financial advantages to making beer with hops.  The flower was plentiful.  And beer made with that ingredient was not taxed at all.  Furthermore, says Bostwick, hops are a preservative, making it possible for beer to be a trading commodity.  The making and selling of beer thus became part of the new commercial growth that accompanied the Reformation, fueled mainly by the “work ethic” associated with the doctrine of vocation.

Furthermore, Reformation beer had different effects than Catholic beer.  I’ll let Nina Martyris, via William Bostwick, explain it:

Another virtue in hops’ favor was their sedative properties. The mystic Hildegard was right in saying hops weighed down one’s innards. “I sleep six or seven hours running, and afterwards two or three. I am sure it is owing to the beer,” wrote Luther to his wife, Katharina, from the town of Torgau, renowned for its beer. The soporific, mellowing effect of hops might seem like a drawback, but in fact it offered a welcome alternative to many of the spices and herbs used by the church that had hallucinogenic and aphrodisiacal properties. “Fueled by these potent concoctions, church ales could be as boisterous as the Germanic drinking bouts church elders once frowned on,” writes Bostwick. “And so, to distance themselves further from papal excesses, when Protestants drank beer they preferred it hopped.”

Can we still see this, sort of, in obnoxious beer drunks who get loud, start fights, and “make poor sexual choices”?  Are they not always drinking tasteless mass-produced beer with few hops?  Whereas those who drink hoppy beers in brewpubs find themselves relaxing, becoming calm, and engaging in good conversations?  Or not?

The reporter asks Bostwick if the Reformer could be considered the patron saint of beer:

“Luther might blanch a bit as a good Protestant at being called a saint,” points out Bostwick, “and there’s already a brewery saint called St. Arnold, who saved his congregation from the plague by making them drink beer. In the interests of Protestantism, I wouldn’t call him a saint, but he was certainly a beer enthusiast, and many a beer bar and brewery today has a picture of Martin Luther on their wall. So let’s say that while we certainly don’t genuflect to him, he’s known and appreciated.”

Well, Luther’s kind of Protestants still have the category of “saint,” though I’m not sure about “patron saint.”  (Can anyone address that?)  All Christians, he said, by virtue of their salvation by Christ, are simultaneously sinners and saints.

But remember Luther and the Gospel the next time you taste hops in your beer.

God’s promises to us in prayer

The last Tuesday of the month is out monthly prayer breakfast at First Saint Johns Lutheran Church. It is a time to lift up prayer for each other, for the church that God has put us in, for our community, any other needs that people bring up. Everyone is welcome, it’s a great breakfast and a really great time of fellowship in prayer.

It is also a time for a little teaching. We can all always use a little more guidance in our prayer/devotional life and I found he following is from Martin Luther which will be a topic of conversation:

“Good prayer that is heard by God has two prerequisites. First, we must consider God’s promise that he will hear us. By reminding him of his promise, we can dare to pray confidently. For God hadn’t asked us to pray and hadn’t promised to hear us, then all people praying their requests together wouldn’t be able to receive even the smallest item.

So no one receives anything from God because of the quality of the prayer, but only because of God’s goodness. God anticipates all of our requests and desires. With his promise, he prompts us to pray and desire these things so that we will learn how much he cares for us. He cares for us so much that he is prepared to give us even more than we are ready to receive or to ask for. Because he is offering us so much, we can pray with confidence.

Second, we must not doubt what the true and faithful God promises to do. He promises to hear our prayers – yes, he even commands us to pray. He promises this so that we might firmly believe that our prayers will be answered. As Christ says, ‘That’s why I tell you to have faith that you have already received whatever you pray for, and it will be yours’ (Mark 11:24; Matthew 21:22). Christ also says, ‘So I tell you to ask and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. The one who searches will find, and for the person who knocks, the door will be opened’ (Luke 11:9-10). By trusting in these promises and obeying thee commands, we can pray with confidence.” (Through Faith Alone  365 Devotional Readings from Martin Luther October 30)

As in everything in our relationship with God it is about Him guiding us in prayer, it is about Him leading us in everything. We can certainly lift up inspired, high prose in our prayer, but that’s not really the point. Often we would do well to wait in prayer for the Holy Spirit to move us to understand what we really should be praying for and get on God’s track for us instead of us trying to force our prayer and struggle. God truly is waiting to God us in all parts of our life. That is faith, trusting His leading instead of fussing about what we’re supposed to do.

Rebuke, Exhort! Don’t minimize and “tolerate”

St Paul wrote the largest amount of the content of the New Testament. Certainly the Gospels are specifically about the life and teachings of Jesus. But on the road to Damascus Jesus personally knocked Paul off his donkey and made Paul focus on who Jesus is and what being a Christian is all about. From there the Holy Spirit took Paul in hand and led Paul to be one of the greatest missionaries of Christianity and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Christian teacher. Many people like to minimize doctrine, but without Paul’s writings on doctrine we would have very little understanding of our Christian faith, a lot of what we accept as normal Christian practice, we would have to guess about, without Paul.

Paul founded a number of churches during his mission trips and he spent a lot of time and ink teaching people the important aspects of being a Christian. His “epistles”, letters, were written to people in Corinth, Thessalonica, Rome, Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, Colassae, and undoubtedly other groups in the Roman Empire. These were to address issues the churches were dealing with, or to pass on to them important aspects of being a Christian. In addition to Paul’s epistles to the churches, he also mentored, at least two pastors, Timothy and Titus. His letters to them were how to be pastors and how to lead congregations in the difficult times that these churches, all Christians, were going through at the time of Paul’s letters. Much of what Paul writes about is directly applicable to the Christian church and Christian pastors today.

Paul was not a shrinking violet, he had to contend with an immense amount of adversity during his ministry which culminated in being beheaded. As I said, Paul was probably the greatest missionary and pastor in Christian history. But if you really read Paul’s writings most Christians today, would be taken aback by Paul’s straightforward, even abrupt pastoral style. He wasn’t playing around, things had to be done in the church and in confronting a pagan and hostile society. Again so much of what Paul had to deal with we see today. While I’m not telling people to go out and be contentious, look for fights, or not try to be winsome and inviting, I am saying that there will be many times where you have to be straightforward in proclaiming the Gospel and not worry about who will be “offended”, or upset. As Christians and certainly not pastors we are not here to patronize people, or play to the crowd. As a pastor I took vows, to my death, promising to proclaim the Gospel. Many will be offended as Jesus tells us in KJV Matthew 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” The adolescent whining you will often hear while proclaiming the Gospel is just a convenient way for people to not deal with the truth. They will be held accountable for their silly little posturing, but we can’t let them intimidate us into shutting up about Jesus and that’s what they’re shooting for.

Believe me if they had interacted with Paul, they would think that someone like me is a little candy cane. Paul wanted to make it clear to churches, like Corinth and Thessalonica, that the Gospel is not about kid gloves. It’s about people’s eternal life, that is the ultimate issue, even if people don’t recognize it. It’s not up to us to candy-coat it or treat it like entertainment. It’s up to us to proclaim it with great knowledge, great compassion, integrity and urgency. Treat the Gospel in a way that is with utter respect as to its importance, not the way most people treat it which is a secondary issue and why worry about it, God will work everything out. I get that attitude all the time and it is just not true.

 

Paul writes to Timothy, one of his disciples who he is mentoring as a pastor. Timothy is in Ephesus, he is a young preacher and it would seem that he was contending with a lot of different people who were teaching false doctrine. Paul tells Timothy: “ESV 2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Paul is telling Timothy you know what is important, you know what you need to do, don’t stop doing it just because there are some people who are opposing you and trying to shut you up. We see that in too many young pastors today, “I don’t want anyone to get mad, I don’t want to offend anyone”. I look at it in terms of; “am I worried about upsetting this guy here, or God”? If it’s a choice, I’m sure not going to upset God. Paul makes it clear that it’s about what is in Scripture.

To underline that he goes on to write in the strongest terms: “ESV 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Paul is serious and he’s telling Timothy; by all that we hold as holy, you need to go out and teach that. Don’t pull punches, don’t tell people what they want to hear. That’s not your call, your call is to tell people what God has given us in Scripture. Anything else would be to “suit their own passions”, which isn’t God’s intention, is it? Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort. These are not make nice words. Paul’s words are telling Timothy to make sure people understand these words are serious. Don’t let people get away with it if they’re trying to sell nonsense. We see that today with so many false teachers, it’s no less today than it was 2,000 years ago. Today when you’re faithful to Paul’s teaching you’re going to catch all kinds of flak as to how mean, judgmental, unloving, whatever phobic and whatever other adolescent prattle you hear from people who don’t want to hear God’s word and want to wallow in their nasty little sin. But they still expect God to come through for them and save them, do things their way. Bizarre, but people today truly expect everything their way and that includes God. After all, to quote the prattle from false teachers, God just wants us to be happy! Huh!? God wants us to become mature Christian disciples. That’s much more than “happy”.

Titus was probably an older man, another of Paul’s disciples and he was the pastor of the church on the island of Crete. Ever hear the expression “Cretans”? Not a flattering expression. Titus apparently had to deal with some pretty crude actors.

Paul gave Titus the same direction. Don’t be bashful, preach the truth of the Gospel: “ESV Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” The last part “Let no one disregard you.” Don’t be brushed off or ignored, don’t let people patronize you, and wow you see a lot of that in the world today dealing with Christians. No! This is the truth, you may not like it but don’t be cavalier about it either, this is serious, treat it as such.

Paul goes on to write: “ESV Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Yes doctrine does matter, don’t play around or minimize it, preach it. “7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,” Have Christian integrity, stick to what you know is the truth, be faithful and strong. But do it with dignity too. Don’t look silly and get all emotional and flakey. Assert the truth and move on. People too often don’t treat Christians seriously, make them take you seriously know what you’re talking about. Now more than ever we need to take those words seriously and stop putting on shows of “tolerance” or accommodation. “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) There is no other truth! You may disagree with me, but you have to take Jesus’ words seriously.

As Christians we get a lot of just straight out stupid messages from the world. Too often we make the mistake of trying to dignify them, of being too gracious. Paul, Timothy, Titus and us, we don’t have that luxury. We need to be serious strong disciples and evangelists and witness in a way that we will be taken seriously. It’s not always going to result in conversion, but, Paul told both his disciples, don’t be bashful, rebuke wrongful teaching. Don’t get defensive about someone telling you you’re being judgmental. Say what you want and try to use weenie words to avoid the truth, I’m telling you the truth, and it is judgmental. If you disregard the truth of Jesus Christ : “ESV John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” I’m telling you the truth, if you chose to ignore it or minimize it you’ve “judged”, “condemned” yourself, not me.

Idols hmmmm, really? Tells me to remember who’s really in charge!

I am the pastor of First Saint Johns Church in York, Pa. First Saint Johns (FSJ) was completed in 1875, as you can see from the featured image, the altar, and the rest of the sanctuary are very nice and very reverent.

There are those who I have showed the sanctuary to and felt that there was just “heavens, too much idolatry”. Rather amuses me. I’ve been in a lot of sanctuaries where you might truly wonder what the space is actually used for. By looking at this picture, there should be little doubt what or, better, Who this space is about. It’s all about Jesus and the people who built his sanctuary 140+ years ago knew it.

The altar is especially interesting in that it shows the most important aspects of who and what Jesus is all about. Underneath the flat part, called the mensa, is a lamb, shows that Jesus is the Lamb of God. Next is a crucifix, reminding us that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Next is Christ ascending to glory in heaven. The top stained glass window shows Jesus as Lord of all creation, at the right hand of God the Father.

The stained glass windows on the sides have various Christian symbols and at the top is one of the apostles.

People have actually told me how idolatrous this is??? Yet I can go into an old Quaker, Calvinist, etc churches and honestly wonder what’s going on there. I can go into a lot of “community”, “independent”, etc and see no indication that I’m in what purports to be a “Christian” sanctuary. There is a lot of symbology on the altar and on the stained glass at FSJs. A lot of visual reminders of what we believe and Who we hold important. Over the ascending Jesus is the motto “Sola Deo Gloria”, yea wow, “To God only the glory”, yikes that’s a first commandment buster, right?

Why do people really object to this? Why do they prefer to have a “church” that is essentially void of anything that is Christian? I would submit that especially with all the “big-box” non-denominationals, that it’s really more about those in the church preferring to kind of push aside all the Jesus stuff. Yea, they sing about Jesus and kind of preach about Him. But it’s not really about Him, if it was why is there a problem about having a lot of visual reinforcement.

My answer. In the world today it’s all about me, what’s good for me. Well Jesus is good for you, the only and ultimate good. But too many people don’t see it that way. Today’s culture says: I don’t want to be reminded of all that Jesus stuff, if I’m here I’m worshiping what I want, “ooo that gory crucifixion stuff”. Well that’s a whole big subject, and well we just shouldn’t have to do that, just make me happy God. I showed up, I should get the big payoff. Doesn’t work that way folks. It is all about God and not about you. That’s why we have all these reminders to reinforce that in us when we are in true worship, lifting up and praising God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

People who built these great old churches understood that and when I stand in front of the altar here I know exactly what and especially Who it’s all about. It’s why we at First Saint Johns are serious about what we do and why we do it, it’s for Jesus who sacrificed all for us and we will be His for all eternity. So instead of mouthing silly platitudes and not thinking about what is important, let’s all do some serious thinking about what and Who is ultimately important. I have all these beautiful and compelling reminders here, maybe it’s time for you to think about why this is all important.  Sanctuary 140th anniversary

If it is of God… Acts 5:29, John 20:19

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We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who join Thomas saying to Jesus “My Lord and My God!” said … Amen!

We now have this pretty interesting conflation, two different perspectives have started to see Jesus as something much more than what was imagined. The leaders of Israel seem to be rethinking what they did to Jesus. Thomas straight out asserts Who Jesus is “My Lord and My God!” Gamaliel was a very important man at the time. Luke, the writer of Acts, singles Gamaliel out by calling him “a teacher of the Law held in honor by all the people. The Jewish Encyclopedia says: Gamaliel was the son of Hillel who is still one of the leading authorities on Jewish law and is quoted by many people today. He was the head of the school Hillel in his time succeeding his father. “Gamaliel, as it appears, did most toward establishing the honor in which the house of Hillel was held, and which secured to it a preeminent position within Palestinian Judaism soon after the destruction of the- Temple. The title “Rabban,” which, in the learned hierarchy until post-Hadrianic times, was borne only by presidents of the highest religious council, was first prefixed to the name of Gamaliel.”[1] Much later on in Acts, Paul seems to take special pride in being a student of Gamaliel’s. (Acts 22:3) He gets a lot of notice in Acts, during the early church. If he is proceeding with caution against the embryonic Christian church, then he must have some idea that Jesus is who He says He is.

The amazing things that have happened, certainly culminated in the Resurrection of Jesus, leaves little doubt as to Jesus’ claim to be God. Gamaliel had to have been part of the court that condemned Jesus. I would guess that Gamaliel fell right in line with the majority consensus. Caiaphas proclaims to the leadership that this man, Jesus, must die to save the nation. No thought is given that there might be something a lot more compelling with Jesus, that He might be who He said He was. The concern was with the preservation of the status quo; Israel, it’s leadership and maintaining their way of life. As highly regarded as Gamaliel was, he certainly followed the party line. While we know that there were members of the Sanhedrin who objected to the illegality of the proceedings to try Jesus, Gamaliel wouldn’t have been one of those objectors. If he had objected the Sanhedrin might have at least backed off from condemning Jesus to die and might have even decided to do something else regarding Jesus.

The paradigm has clearly changed for the leadership in Israel. They thought that they were dealing with a nuisance that would burn itself out. They tried, and for the first time in history, killing a man didn’t make Him go away. It seems Gamaliel is hedging his bets a little, but it’s pretty clear that he sees Jesus as a lot more than being an ordinary man. Gamaliel compares Jesus to Theudas and Judas the Galilean. It seems though that Gamaliel is taking Jesus a lot more seriously than Theudas or Judas, neither one of them rose from the dead. It seems that the leadership is trying to prevent a panic. They’re trying not to acknowledge it, but clearly there is a new archetype and they know that they can’t just make the problem, Jesus, go away. They hope that they can, but now they have something much bigger than they expected while trying to avoid setting the rest of Israel off, that Jesus is who He says that He is.

The difference is that while Gamaliel is trying to hedge, not set off a rush to Jesus and still not taking Him seriously. He seems to know the truth, but as so many people do for so many bad reasons, Gamaliel is trying to save his position in Israel. The disciples, as Luke writes, know the truth, they know that there is no other option, they are beaten and we know how brutally Jesus was beaten. Maybe the disciples weren’t beaten as badly, but you know that they suffered more than enough that they shouldn’t be back out on the street rejoicing and teaching and preaching about Jesus. They knew the truth and saw there was no alternative to Jesus, the Sanhedrin was still trying to play its political game with its own people, the Romans and irrational as it sounds God, even though Gamaliel certainly had some perception that Jesus and his disciples were more than the garden variety revolutionaries of previous years.

Clearly John is continuing to emphasize that Jesus is much more than what most people seem to want to believe. Thomas declares it: “My Lord and my God!” Jamieson writes: “He is overpowered, and the glory of Christ now breaks upon him in a flood. His exclamation surpasses all that had been yet uttered, nor can it be surpassed by anything that ever will be uttered in earth or heaven.”[2] This is not some gratuitous acknowledgement, Thomas was completely overwhelmed and was utterly sure who Jesus was. Meyer writes : “ It is a confessionary invocation of Christ in the highest joyful surprise, in which Thomas gives the fullest expression of profound emotion to his faith, which had been mightily elevated by the conviction of the reality of the resurrection, in the divine nature of his Lord. The ὁ κύριός μκὁ θεός μου was the complete and highest confession of Messianic faith,” This is the first time when someone really addresses Jesus as God. For those who like to question who Jesus was and whether He claimed to be God, here is where someone is declaring who Jesus is. It may not be bragging if it’s true, but it’s more credible when someone else is declaring the fact. And again, there are plenty of places where Jesus is readily understood by those He is talking to as to who He is. If it wasn’t true, wouldn’t Jesus lift Thomas off his knees and set him straight? If it wasn’t true Jesus wouldn’t have just let Thomas’ comment ride.

We are His disciples. We see Jesus is making it very clear that Jesus has the authority to and intends for us to take what the disciples then and we who are His disciples now, that we aren’t to just go back home as if it’s all ending. He makes it clear to His disciples then it’s only beginning. He tells them, and us, that the Father sent Him. He has been sent to us to take His word, His life, what He has done for us dying for our sins and then resurrected to give us eternal life, that it isn’t for us to keep to ourselves. Matthew 28:18, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, Mark 16:15, Matthew, John, Luke and Mark all report that Jesus came to send us to tell the entire world about the salvation that Jesus gives us. In John He reinforces this message by giving them a preview of Pentecost. “He breathed on them.” The Greek word the hagios pneuma, the Holy Spirit, pneuma meaning the movement of air, the breath of His Body. He is giving them the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and for them to understand that they constitute His church. As He does by giving them the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:9, He is empowering His church to not just bring the Good News to the world, but that Jesus is empowering His church to save people to the Kingdom, but to also make it clear to those who aren’t saved and that His work is done through His disciples in His church.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6494-gamaliel-i

[2] Jamieson-Fausett-Brown Bible Commentary on website  http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/john/20.htm