Tag Archives: Body and Blood of Jesus

Jesus the Bread of life, His flesh saves and sustains us.

John 6:5 we have all these people and Jesus has told us we have to find food to feed them. 5,000 men, plus women, children! Where do we come up with all that?

Everyone gets fed, we pick up what’s left, hey food’s too precious, we can’t leave anything behind. Interestingly there are twelve baskets left, one for each of us disciples. That night we’re rowing across the Sea of Galilee and there’s food under our seats, giving us enough energy to keep going. He provides, even when we have no idea what we’re going to be dealing with. Who can do that? Yes, Jesus and He is God the Son.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. He told the Jews who were hounding Him that He was the Living Bread that came down from heaven, the manna that kept their ancestors alive in the desert. But now the Bread of Life is His flesh. The flesh that He sacrificed on the Cross, His true flesh for our spiritual and physical sustenance. His disciples knew exactly what He was saying, and He didn’t try to convince them otherwise. Most of them picked up and left, probably a little freaked out.

“Do you take offense at this?” Why would they be offended by what’s supposed to be a figure of speech? Sure a metaphor might bother you, but what would really bother you is hearing someone say that you have to eat His flesh in order to have eternal life.

It will be a little longer, but Jesus solemnizes, makes a new covenant, based on the eating of His flesh and drinking His Blood. No metaphor intended, hey read the Greek. He is the Bread of Life, He gave His Body, shed His Blood on the Cross for the atonement of our sins. He continues to give His Body and His Blood for our sustenance to eternity, to nourish our eternal life. For those who have been born again and are the eternal sons and daughters of God, we need divine sustenance for our born again body. That can only be through the miraculous sustenance provided by His Body and Blood we receive from His undershepherds, your pastors to sustain us to eternal life.

I am holding on to you John 16 First St Johns May 1, 2016

[please click on the above for the audio of this sermon]

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 know that the great I AM is holding on to them said … AMEN!

I AM holding on to you, I AM holding on to you, in the middle of the storm I AM holding on I AM. For those who are convinced that I’m a stodgy fuddy-duddy, who just can’t get contemporary Christian music, I assure you that is completely inaccurate. I will compare my library of “contemporary” Christian music going back over twenty years to yours any day of the week.

One of the newer artists is David Crowder, the last Winter Jam we went to he was there and he really is great. I think he gets it a lot better than a lot of Christian musicians and yes, sad to say, there is a lot of junk out there.

One of his newest songs is titled “I Am”, if you listen to the song without really “hearing” it, it will sound as if me, you, the desperate sinner whoever that is, is almost frantically proclaiming that he is holding on. Sort of like me on a real roller-coaster. I don’t like roller-coasters, and when I am on one, I am probably thinking about how much “I am holding on”. But that’s not the point of the song and it is a really good illustration about our relationship with Jesus.

When Crowder says I AM holding on to you, who is the I AM? …  Yes, Jesus. In the middle of the storm I AM holding on to you. We have that assurance all the way through as to who it is that is really holding on. Jesus says, in our reading, “…whatever you ask of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you.” Now that is a huge assurance that in Jesus when we ask we will get what we need. More than that, when we think we’re asking in Jesus’ Name and we’re not, we’re asking for something that is not going to build us in Jesus or glorify Him or witness to the world for Him, we won’t get it. Why? Because He is holding on to us, even when we have a bad idea or motivation, He is holding on to us to protect us from ourselves and the world. Between John 6: 35 to 51, Jesus refer to Himself four times as “I AM the Bread of Life”. I AM the Good Shepherd, I AM the door, I AM the water of life over and over. The people listening to Him all knew exactly what He meant, Yahweh told Moses that His Name is I AM. They understood His reference to the bread that Yahweh provided for their ancestors in the desert. They understood their need for that physical bread, and also the bread that “strengthens and preserves us in body and soul to life everlasting.” That Jesus was saying I AM the bread. He was telling them that He is God the Son, the only one who could give them what they need to preserve them in their daily lives, but also for spiritual nourishment, to strengthen, preserve and prepare them to life eternal in the resurrection, as He was going to be shortly resurrected. The difference being our resurrection will be in the perfect world of the eternal earth.

Crowder writes “this is my resurrection song”, saying again that it’s about what Jesus did, He who died in order to save us from our sins, who was perfect, perfectly holy and God the Son, the only One who would be sufficient to pay those sins and in doing so gave us the hope and promise that we need in order to know that we are saved. Not just saved but also given the very visible, tangible evidence of our salvation. The perfect Son of God, tortured, mocked, humiliated, killed so that our sins are completely paid for. Not what we did, but entirely what He has done and continues to give us the assurance that He has provided everything necessary for us to live in this world in Him, and as it says in the Revelation reading: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” That is, we will be in the very presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the resurrected, perfected, eternal world.

Through all of our readings today, it is being made abundantly clear, who’s we are and in Whose hand we are and will always be.

Luke tells about Paul who is headed east, toward Asia. The Holy Spirit gives Paul a dream of a man in Greece, Macedonia, asking Paul to cross from Asia Minor to bring the Gospel message to Greece. Paul’s journeys have been entirely in faith to Jesus who knocked him off his horse on the road to Damascus. While Paul was taking the initiative to spread the Gospel, it’s obvious when we look at all he had to endure that it was the great I AM who was holding on to him, guiding him in his ministry. Paul had the things that he was told by the apostles in Jerusalem, by men who had been Jesus’ disciples during His incarnational ministry. He had his encounter with Jesus, he certainly had his experience of being raised to the third heaven. But the Holy Spirit was leading him into places that had never heard of Jesus. Paul didn’t have a New Testament to show people and help them to see who Jesus is. But Jesus was holding on to him, even in new places where Paul had to trust entirely in Christ. There were no churches, no clergy, no funds to live on, no Bibles, no radio, internet or television. Just Paul and maybe Timothy, Barnabas, Mark, maybe Peter caught up to him. Much more powerfully it was the great I AM who promised to hold on to him, did hold on to him and lead him to where he needed to be to build those churches, establish the Christian leaders who would be the catalyst of Christianity to grow around the entire world.

Finally He gives them the ultimate hope and promise; “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” It’s not up to us to overcome the world. We’re not going to be able to overcome the world, Jesus will. The world will ultimately become so corrupted, sin-filled, beyond the possibility of any kind of rehabilitation or redemption that it will be destroyed. Yea, I guess many people would wag their finger saying how mean that will be of God. “Why can’t God just leave us alone and let us be happy?” You hear people regularly ask. Because the world they envision, filled with destruction, despair, anger, intolerance will become an intolerable place to live, even to those who think that complete independence from God will form some kind of utopia. It won’t, the world today, all around us, is filled with despair, hopelessness. We see people substituting that hope with greed, drugs, sex, alcohol, things that separate us, divide us, even cause us to confront each other in anger, violence and destruction. The only thing that will unify us, bring the world together is the peace and hope of Christ, who through Him all creation came into existence. Jesus’ promise in our reading that yes, we will have tribulation, but in the things that He has promised us, we will have peace, we will have true life and life more abundant, our life in this world and especially in the life of the resurrection. The great I AM is holding on to us.

Crowder’s song may sound like the desperate floundering of someone who is just barely holding on, but it really is about the assurance that no matter what we’re going through, being led to some unknown to witness to Jesus, to serve others, going through the storms of life, that the great I AM is holding on to us and not the other way. He holds on to us even when we try to pull away, when we ask in His Name He is faithful to keep holding on, always for our good in Him.

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

Together or individually, which do you think works? John 20: 19-31 First St Johns April 3, 2016

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 strive to be excellent together with all those in Jesus’ church said … AMEN!!

“We hang together or most assuredly we hang separately”. The church metaphor is to the extent that we hang together spiritually, each conceding part of how we think things should be and agreeing that the church is the Body of Christ and that we are all served best when we act as the Body of Christ and come together to serve Jesus and each other. We hang separately when we try to have things our own way, decide the church is all about us, and let the whole thing implode, hang separately, because we put our desires ahead of everything else.

Today’s opening thoughts in your bulletin put it this way in terms of being there for the group, in our case the church, the Body of Christ: “Thomas will forever be known as a doubter. In reality, he should be remembered less for his doubts, which the rest of the disciples also shared, and more for his failure to be present when Jesus first revealed Himself risen from the dead. No one grows in faith by failing to assemble together with the people of God around His Word and His Table. God grows our faith and deals with our doubts not with distance but with the intimacy of Jesus’ presence through the Means of Grace. The Spirit works through the Means of Grace, and there our doubts give way to faith and trust in Christ’s death and resurrection.” Just to make sure we are in agreement, “The Means of Grace” are … Baptism, you can’t even understand or accept what we are about in the church if you’re not born again in baptism. The Lord’s Supper, you cannot take the Body of Christ for the nourishment of your body and soul, if you are not part of the Body of Christ as a confirmed member in Jesus’ church. The preached word, what the pastor says in his sermons is not going to make sense to those who have not been born again, have not been strengthened by Jesus’ Body and Blood and have not come together as the Body of Christ in order to serve each other and those in the world. We can make it up as we go, or we can fuss and decide our way is the best way, instead of trying to build, grow and mature, we chose to tear down and destroy, for the sake of our own personal gratification.

When people start deciding it’s all about their personal opinion, like Thomas, and not about the group, yes the team, team implies working together for the same goal, for the church that goal is to be there as a witness to Christ so that others might come to know Jesus as their Savior. When the church is no longer on that course and has decided that it is personal preference, the Holy Spirit can’t guide something that’s not moving in one unified course. It becomes DIW, Dead in the water. It’s still floating, but it’s not making way. In my time as a pastor, I’ve observed a rather strange construction, that the world has talked us into, because I can find nothing in the Bible to justify it. Instead of letting, even helping, the church push on people, challenge them, encourage them to grow and mature, there are too many people who think “team” means the lowest common denominator. Too be sure, a team and the church for that matter, is only as strong as its weakest link. To many people, the logic goes this way, instead of trying to strengthen the weakest link, we weaken all the other strong links. No! An excellent team, and this goes for the church too, is certainly to care for, strengthen and encourage the weakest part of the team. But that doesn’t mean to give up on the mission that the Holy Spirit puts in front of us in order to somehow let the weakest part of the chain let the entire construction come apart. This often includes people who are here, but frankly just don’t care. Paul cut Mark loose because he failed him once, Paul wasn’t going to let his mission for Christ suffer because he couldn’t rely on Mark. If Thomas was concerned enough to be with the rest of the disciples, then when they told him what the rest knew was the absolute truth, Thomas would have been a lot smarter keeping his opinion to himself, instead of getting all pompous and patronizing with his unfounded “opinion”. Ever hear the phrase; “felt like a penny waiting for change.”? I can imagine that is exactly how Thomas felt when he was confronted with the very presence of the resurrected Lord. Thomas does make quite a confession: “My Lord and my God!” Thomas knows he was very wrong and to his credit makes an absolutely unconditional whole-hearted confession who Jesus is to him and that ought to be the confession of all of us, all the time. As an excellent team, we certainly care for the weakest. But just as in a military unit, you don’t put the weakest in the place where they are going to fail. The weak, the wounded, the fearful are put somewhere that they don’t get other people hurt. They certainly aren’t making important decisions, or expected to perform important functions, they and the rest of those concerned know enough to keep them where they aren’t going to destroy the rest of the unit, or cause others to fail in their important functions. We certainly don’t let others drag the team, the church, down to mediocrity and compromise. You may not want to go out and reach the world for Christ, but you better not make it difficult for others who do want to perform the mission of the church. An excellent team and that is what the church should strive to be, we have a Savior, a Father and Holy Spirit that exceed the highest levels of excellence, a Savior who took on all the evil, the degeneracy, the weakness of a cold, dark world and overcame it to give us the assurance of new life in the resurrected life of the resurrected perfect world. Can we strive to be anything less than excellent for Him who strove in all excellence for us? An excellent team, the church, pursues excellence and I have no doubt that the apostles were guided as an excellent team, by an excellent coach, that coach being,… the Holy Spirit. Can’t get more excellent than that. Seems I’m always running into people who love to tell me how they don’t need the church, they can do it all by themselves. Really? Are you about being that public witness to Christ, doing whatever you can to pass on Christianity, the love of Christ to the next generation? If they were at all serious about what they were saying, they would realize how much they need Christ’s church. But far too many are just not serious about Jesus, so why would they be serious about His Body, the church? Seems there are also plenty of those same people in the church. They say things, but they are just not serious.

One of my last big cases in the Coast Guard a 60 ton fishing boat was DIW about 50 miles off the coast, it’s generator failed. That is a very bad situation for any boat. It was February, the air temperature was about 17 degrees and the wind was about 30miles per hour. The seas were about five feet, not bad, but definitely a difficult situation. Try to picture this. There is no power in the boat. They are using the radio on batteries, and the batteries soon died. It is black, there is no light around you, it was about 11pm when we reached them. There is no heat, it’s cold and getting colder. You can’t go anywhere. Five foot seas and whatever the current was is pushing you around in a completely arbitrary manner. There is no one else around you. You are trusting that the Coast Guard has the means to reach you. But you’re still out there waiting, and in that time all kinds of other things can happen. If you go in that water, no one is going to reach you in time. Now if the Coast Guard is sitting around and everyone is debating about how this should get resolved, everyone has an opinion, from Group Boston who was in control of this case, down to the crewman on the boat, how do you think that’s going to end? That boat is going to be lost, the more we debate and discuss, the more those arbitrary winds, waves and current are going to take that boat. To the point where we just won’t be able to find it, by the time we decide with all the pushing and pulling that boat is going to be somewhere else and even the best navigator is going to be very challenged to factor in wind, waves and current to have an idea where that is. That is what the church is experiencing these days. Our generator is the Holy Spirit. But too often we take Him off line, decide that we’re going to debate and discuss every piddling point, not trust in those who have been trained to figure out how the church should function and while we’re doing all this hemming, hawing and debating, there is a very cold, dark world that is being pushed around by all kinds of negative waves, winds and currents, and if the church ever figures out what it’s about, it can’t seem to find where the world is and how to reach it  in time. This is the absolute truth, just to extend the illustration. We went out the door of the station at 10 pm. On military bases, 10pm is taps. That means that while we were walking down to the boat house, taps was playing on the station speakers. The name of the boat, was the Grim Reaper. Because we acted as a team, from Group Boston, about 15 miles away, the station leadership and the boatcrew we found the boat fairly quickly and managed to get it towed back, even in some challenging conditions. Five guys went home that morning, got a hot meal, went to sleep in a warm bed. It’s only because everyone trained for long hours, day and night for years, learned the facts, not their opinions, were not just there to rescue, but were eager to rescue, knew their roles in the process of saving, and did what they were trained and expected to do. That is what the teamwork of the church produces. We reach out to people who are very much dead in the water, they have no clue where they should be, what they should be doing. They are being beat down by the wind, waves and current of the society around them. They are in the middle of darkness, cold and the chaos of all the stuff going around them. Sure, you can be a Thomas, the rest of the team huddled behind locked doors and windows, cowering at every sound, every bump; “harrumph, harrumph, I don’t care what you guys think. Jesus wasn’t here, it’s all about me and I’m not going to believe anything you have to say, so harrumph, harrumph, I’m going to do things my way, and we’re all going to cower together completely DIW hoping that we will survive.” That’s no way to live, and it’s certainly not going to help you to survive in a cold, hopeless world.

Thomas decided that it was about him and what he saw, or didn’t see. Jesus gave him the option; “do you really need hands on proof? Go ahead, touch Me.” Thomas realized he needed to trust his brothers and we need to realize that we need to trust and rely on our brothers and sisters in the church, the Body of Christ.” Let’s make up our minds to keep Thomas’ confession on our hearts and to put excellence in what we do in the Body of Christ as Jesus’ team, His disciples.

The community of God’s people, saved by grace, functioning through grace, through the church where we seek to lift up Christ for ourselves, for each other and for the world, collectively, through grace to expand Christ’s church, so that all will see the church and the hope and promise of Christ through His church. While we are individually saved by grace, “the ideal of grace is not lived in isolation, but in community, the church.” The church striving in excellence and grace in Christ for mutual support and encouragement, can only effectively influence the world in that excellence and grace that Jesus gives us.

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

Meekness and following the world’s lead Matthew 5:5

The world tries to shut the church up, by saying something to the effect: “Doesn’t Jesus say “the meek shall inherit the earth”? So that means you should just shut up and mind your own business because that what meek means.” Yea, No! And the last thing on earth we should be doing is listening to the worldly/secular about the Bible. They take a few isolated phrases (oh yeah, judge not blah blah blah…), think they really know what they’re talking about and throw those phrases around. As always, the secular is about an inch thick and a mile wide. Problem is too many in the church, who also don’t know what they’re talking about, who call themselves Christians but don’t read the Bible, don’t truly serve, just cave in to the secular do what they’re told and even have the chutzpah to tell others in the church what they should and shouldn’t do. Liberal Christians dismiss way too much in the Bible, have this sort of half-baked, groundless spirituality and try to sell that as real Christianity. This folks is the height of dishonesty, if you don’t really know what you’re talking about then do everyone, yourself included, and keep your mouth shut. Presuming to teach the church about Christianity is the height of arrogance, is called the sin of presumption.

Now I’m going to quote the Blackabys at length because this is the best explanation I’ve seen of what “meekness” according to Jesus, in the Greek, the original meaning actually is talking about in Matthew.

“The word Jesus used had a different meaning. His picture of meekness is that of a stallion that has been brought into subjection to its master…The stallion has lost none of its strength or endurance; it has simply turned these over to the control of the master.” (Experiencing God day by day Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby p 235) Meekness is in terms of submitting to God and His will, not the world’s. We have the power of Christ, yes we are supposed to be winsome, welcoming, encouraging. No the other extreme of the image of the church being “well you better just get everything together right now and be the perfect person, yada, yada!!” Well that’s wrong too, seems there’s always this middle that Jesus wants us in and we  either think we’re supposed to be just weak and stupid or we let the world convince us that we’re being bullies by proclaiming Christ. The middle is often too hard for people, yea even Christians. Most people like nice and cozy black and white. My experience in the corporate world, the military, government, school, church, there is no such thing as a black and white. There’s this place where you are supposed to leave yourself open to the Holy Spirit’s guiding and most of the time it’s not some nicey/nice vacuous cream puff. It’s hard to stand up for what’s right, I get it, but like the old saying “if it was easy everyone would do it”. Being a Christian isn’t easy, Jesus told us there is a narrow road, a narrow gate to salvation. Because the Holy Spirit guides us we know what that is and that is what we have to tell the world, even when obnoxious bores are telling us to shut up. They will, because they can’t tolerate the truth, they live in their own little fiction which leads to destruction and they don’t want to know the truth and they don’t want anyone else to either. “Meekness is not submitting to everyone around us, it is taking our direction from God. Meekness means a life submissive to the Holy Spirit…” Read the Bible, when people were standing for God they were not bashful about it. If anything they were very much asserting the truth of God, the truth of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection, the truth of the Bible. And yes quite often, be it an Old Testament prophet, Peter, Paul, John they were not bashful and they were very assertive. I’m not saying for anyone to go out of there way to be obnoxious, but again that big gray area. You must know what you’re talking about, be serious about it, get past this gloopy, sweetey Christianity, assert that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, that we do need to understand that and repent of our sin. We need to be baptized, not our decision, but because the Holy Spirit has led us, we need to be instructed in the faith so that we can function as knowledgeable Christians, we need to regularly attend worship and grow in our fellowship and Christian maturity, we need to regularly receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus and we need to be open to the leading of the Spirit to witness to those around us about Jesus.

It basically means to be mature, strong, knowledgeable baptized sons and daughters of God, we call that being a “disciple” of Jesus. Just as anyone else in the Bible is. To be any less is to cave into the world, and to be faithless to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ saved us, He is the ultimate truth, the world is a lie, especially when it presumes to teach us something that it doesn’t even understand. This idea that a Christian is supposed to be a malleable cupcake for the world to push around is just not Biblical and it certainly is not going to serve anyone.

The Lord God is my strength and shield 2 Corinthians

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 know that God is their strength and their song, said  … AMEN!

How many times have you just thrown it in God’s face, just like the Prodigal Son? That was exactly what he was doing to the “Father”. Even now in the Middle East to do what he did, tell his father to hand over his share of the inheritance, is still a gross insult. Basically saying drop dead old man and hand me over all your stuff. Way over the top. We really miss that in western culture, this kid was totally out of line. We are certainly all sinners, but what this kid did was just so over the top, just a creep. Yet we are all like him. We’ve basically told God go away, we don’t need You, hand over what is “ours”, as if we have anything that is “ours”. Neither did the prodigal son, right? His father was still alive, the son wasn’t entitled to a thing, and yet …

And yet God is our strength, when we do something weak and nasty like the prodigal, we don’t get punished, we get grace. Bear in mind, there are consequences, it may not be God punishing us, but our sinful behavior always incurs consequences. If I go to someone right here, haul off and slug you right in the head, what’s going to happen? You’re going to call the police. God may not be punishing me for battery, but the police will because a complaint was filed after I belted the person. But in repentance I am still forgiven by the Father.

As Christians, though, we can be as obnoxious as this prodigal is, but it is in God’s strength that we are saved, we are forgiven, we are not only forgiven, but we are still, in Jesus, inheritors of eternal life, there will probably be consequences, but ultimately He still saves us. In God’s strength, He makes us His children in Jesus, He gives us forgiveness in Jesus, He gives us eternal life in Jesus. Some see that as weakness. “I saw what he did and he should be taken away and punished! There can’t be any reward for him! Don’t you know what he did? He deserves to be punished, the sooner the better!”

Is that what happened to the prodigal? After he put his father through all that he did? Insulted him, took his money, went off to a foreign land and spent every last dime? He must have caused his father unimaginable anxiety and pain, how many sleepless nights do you think that father had worrying about what happened to his son? How many fathers do you think might have said: ‘Eh, whatever, can’t believe what that kid did, maybe if he gets whacked around a little he might learn something and if something else happens, oh well.” But our Father in heaven doesn’t do that. In what is an enormous, unimaginable amount of strength, God endures so much because of our gross insults, our shameless flouting of His grace, His kindness, His many/countless gifts. What did the father do when the son came home? He could have taken him out back, beaten the tar out of him and no one would have said boo about it. Many would have expected it.

But no! The father shamelessly runs out to the son, kisses him, calls for a fine new robe, a new ring, and!!! The fatted calf, the most delectable meal they knew! Based on the description Jesus gives us, the Father was a very important and wealthy man in the community. Men in general do not run out to greet anyone. They would have to gather their robes up into their belt, which would leave their legs exposed, unless there was an emergency, men of such importance did not run. Reminds me of a Simpson’s line: “You were running? Unless there were lions chasing you down the road, you don’t run.” It would have been the same for the father in this story. Yet there he was, in a most undignified manner, running out to this contemptable, unfaithful young man, who himself admits he is not worthy to be called his son.

This had to be embarrassing for the father, I have no doubt the next day at the city gate some of his peers, at least, gave him a little ribbing, even downright derision, “what was that little demonstration yesterday? We are the leaders of this city, let’s conduct ourselves with a little dignity”.

That’s something we get way too caught up in ourselves, isn’t it? Our etiquette, proper demeanor. That’s something God doesn’t get too caught up in, our dignity. A lot of times, as in this story, He doesn’t get too caught up in His own, especially if it means the difference between saving us or letting us condemn ourselves. Isaiah was called to some undignified acts, David Peters paraphrases Isaiah 20: 1-3; “In the year that Assyria captured the Philistine stronghold of Ashdad, the Lord told Isaiah, ‘I want you to take off your clothes and walk around naked and barefoot.’ Isaiah did as the Lord commanded and walked around naked and barefoot for three years.”[1] Peters points out that God asks His people to suffer hardship and embarrassment because God in His dignity lowers Himself to us in order to pull us out of the hopelessness and despair we are lost in, in our sin. He doesn’t have to tuck up His robes under His belt and run out to take us in and clothe us and give us wealth and food as He did with the prodigal son, but He does it not just to save us, but to fulfill His promise that we would have new life. Paul tells us; “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Through Jesus and only through Jesus do we become that new creation and then makes us “ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” Through Jesus, because of the indignity that He suffered on the Cross, we are put in relationship with God. We are no longer that old man, that lost, sin filled, pathetic hopeless being wandering around, obsessed with the things we think are important, our dignity, our opinion, our self-importance, our obsessive love of self. No! Instead we are a new creation. God the Father has put aside His dignity to run out to us to save us, to reach down from His infinitely high throne in order to save His lost, rebellious defiant creation. Not only does He save us, but He makes us His new creation and He adorns us with new clothes. Remember, a new robe was an extravagant thing in that time. Clothing was very expensive, the material was expensive and each robe was made by hand, a new gold ring was extravagantly expensive, the fatted calf was a costly, precious delicacy in a world where getting enough to eat everyday was a challenge. The Father takes His new creation, what He makes us in Jesus, gives us hope and promise, takes away the indignity of our sin and adorns us to the epitome of what we could expect. How then could we not know in our heart that God is our strength and our shield, even when he could be very righteously angry with us? And because of that, how can we not sing, give thanks and exalt His name because of what He has done for us by giving us His ultimate sacrifice, giving us His perfect, completely holy and sinless Son to die as the only sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. If that doesn’t make you want to sing and shout, then you have no appreciation for that Father who runs out to meet His lost child and is so elated, that His child was lost and now His precious child, you and I are with Him again in the eternal world of the resurrection that His Son Jesus gave us by overcoming death in His resurrection.

Jurgen Moltman writes: “In him the despair that oppresses us becomes free to hope. The arrogance with which we hinder ourselves and other people melts away, and we become as open and as vulnerable as he was.

What initially seemed so meaningless and so irreconcilable – our hope and Christ’s cross – belong together as a single whole, just as do the passionate hope for life and the readiness for disappointment, pain and death.

Beneath the cross of Christ hope is born again out of the depths. The person who has once sensed this is never afraid of any depths again. His hope has become firm and unconquerable: “Lord, I am a prisoner – a prisoner of hope!””[2]

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

[1] David Peters  “The Many Faces of Biblical Humor:“ page 200 Location 4873  Kindle version

[2] Jürgen Moltmann, “Prisoner of Hope,” from The Power of the Powerless, English transl. Copyright © 1983 by SCM Press Ltd., reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

One Flesh, One Body in Jesus Mark 10: 2-16 First St Johns October 4, 2015

[for the audio version of this sermon click on the above link]

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 know they are of one flesh with their spouse and of One Body with Christ said … AMEN!

The world does continue to push on the Body of Christ. That is the way it has been and will continue to be. I’ve said this before, but there were more Christian martyrs in the twentieth century than in the previous 1900 years of the Christian church, combined. The twenty-first century, is beginning to seem like it will exceed the previous one.

We remember brothers and sisters in Jesus who were singled out in the shootings at Umpqua Community College. Another incident that hits close to home for us.

Since I saw the readings for this Sunday and especially since Thursday when reports of the tragic events in Umpqua came out, I have really felt led to remember that yes, Jesus was certainly quoting God in Genesis that a man and woman become one flesh when they are married within the church. We who are in Jesus are part of the Body of Christ, This is not “one-flesh”, but it certainly does say to us that when those who are in Christ, are part of the Body of Christ as those who died in Umpqua are, that we feel something of what they were subjected to. I wish I could really convey what this means, and this is more than empathy. We’re all human, we all have some empathetic understanding of what it means to be killed or to die. But for us who are part of the Body of Christ this treatment that we are seeing of Christians has to transcend just this feeling of just human empathy. When we become aware of those who are part of the Body of Christ who die because of their witness to Christ, there must be an emotion that runs through the entire Body, exceeding empathy that understands the communion we have with those who have died witnessing to Jesus. When we take communion, the true Body and Blood of Christ, we are making a statement that we are very much a part of the Body of Jesus. The Body of Jesus is His church. You can’t be in communion with Jesus unless you are in communion with His Body and His Body is His Church, us, all brothers and sisters in Jesus. I am not making some call to action either. I’m not trying to sensationalize this like some others are. I’m certainly not endorsing Ron Ramsey’s call for Christians to get gun permits. The church has gone through periods like this before. The Acts church was sorely persecuted, starting with Stephen who was taken out and stoned when he stood before the Sanhedrin and proclaimed that Jesus is Messiah, God the Son. The church is going through persecution. Our society today has turned against Christ, Jesus told us that there would be those in the world who would murder Christians thinking they are serving God. Clearly we are seeing a realization of that prophesy. Our society is straight out teaching that the church is somehow evil, the enemy. I’m not saying that anyone, who is credible, is saying that Christians should be killed, but it is clear that in the United States the church of Jesus, the Body of Christ is being portrayed as somehow evil and the enemy. I really have pondered over what I am trying to convey in this sermon. Really wrestled with trying not stir people into a frenzy, create fear and feelings of chaos. That is not how we are supposed to feel as Christians. We are told not to be fearful, we are told that God is in control. God is in control and we should have no doubt that all we see around us is under His control. Christians have suffered martyrdom all through history. We have to come to grips with that realization, that just because we here in this part of the world, are so incredibly privileged, that we are not immune to what is going on around us. That we do need to have a revitalized realization that we are part of the Body of Christ, and that those in this country, in Umpqua, Charleston SC, Columbine Colorado, even right next door in Bart Township, and certainly those Christians in Iraq, China, Africa, India, Syria, are suffering for the cause of Christ. It will probably sound outright bizarre that we trust that this is all to the glory of Jesus. I really don’t want to think that way. But it is hard for me to dismiss. Too often we have seen an amazing growth of the Church because of those who suffered martyrdom. Many who might not come to know eternal salvation in Christ, have been saved because of the sacrifice of others.

The church in eastern Europe suffered severe persecution up until the fall of communism. Now we see a remarkable revitalization of the church in Russia and eastern Europe. Hundreds of Muslims are becoming Christians in what was the communist part of Germany twenty years ago. The church in China is still being actively persecuted and yet there are estimates that there will be more Christians in China than any other country in the world in the next twenty years. Tertullian, a father of the church, said that “The more you mow us down, the more numerous we grow”, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”. Tertullian was a Roman who died in 225 AD, he saw some of the most vicious persecutions of Christians in history. These persecutions started under the Roman Emperor Nero in 64 AD and lasted until 313 AD when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire. In all these persecutions from Rome up to the present day in China and eastern Europe, Christians have never responded with violence. Jesus was completely innocent and holy and He suffered a violent death, even praying that God the Father would forgive those who persecuted Him because they did not know what they’re doing. Today, there are those being indoctrinated in our society to hate Christians. We cannot respond in hate. Jesus showed love and forgiveness even while He was undergoing the agony of the cross. For us to respond in hate and violence would be sin, and would be an unfaithful witness to the church, the Body of Christ. We are about forgiveness, we are about life. We must respond in true love and forgiveness in order to faithfully witness to Jesus. He died in order that our sins would be forgiven and that we would be saved who are lost in our sin. Certainly we have seen that martyrs all through history up until right now have died so that, as Tertullian said, their blood would be the seed that others might be a part of the church of Christ, to be a part of the Body of Christ, to be saved because others have died. Jesus modeled true courage for all who are in Him. We must show that courage now. We must be in prayer for those who hate us because of our faithfulness to Jesus and His church. Many continue to be led away from true life in Jesus and even if we suffer it must be so that others will come to know Christ and be saved to life, life more abundant in Jesus, eternal life in the resurrection. One of the things that our different prayer groups here have committed to, is to keep a list of those they know who have not been saved in Jesus. I ask all of you here today to put together a list of those who you know who are not saved in Christ. Some of those might be people who you consider to be hostile to you personally. All the more reason why they should be included. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount: “ESV Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It will not be easy, but certainly Jesus did not take the easy way out for us.

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

Church is important Douglas Morton of Institute of Lutheran Theology

This is a big issue to me, I hear so much nonsense, to the effect “I’m too smart for church”. Yet when someone needs it, they expect the church, the people, the worship etc, to be AJ perfect, even though they haven’t done anything to contribute to it. It is important to be a part of the Christian community and that culminates every Sunday morning in worship. For too many people in our society today, it’s the only time when (at least Lutheran worship), it’s about God and not about them.

There  is so much to be done, and there is nothing more important than witnessing to the love, strength, comfort, power of Jesus Christ and the eternal life of the resurrection that He promises. But to be in communion with Christ, you have to be in communion with His Body which is the church. We are His for eternity beginning with being part of His Body in worship and service. The following is from Douglas Morton, take some time to consider what it is to be part of the Body of Christ in worship, service and the prelude to life and life eternal and abundant in Jesus.

Institute of Lutheran Theology, Douglas Morton
Yesterday at 11:06am ·
“You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian?”
True. Nor do you have to breathe to be human. However, we know what happens when we don’t breathe.
The Gospel is the message of sins freely forgiven in Christ. This Gospel gives us life. It’s also what we are to find and breathe in when we “go to church.” Below are four ways this Gospel comes (or should come) to us with its fresh air in the church service.
First, in “church” we come in contact with the word of God. If this doesn’t happen in your congregation, then find another. I’m not saying the church service is the only place we come in contact with God’s word. What I am saying is that the church service is the important place for this to happen. Here we listen to the Scriptures. God’s word often permeates the hymns. The pastor proclaims this word to us in the sermon. We hear both law and Gospel; the law to show us our sins and the Gospel to show us our Savior, who freely takes away our sins. We can get the law in many places. God has even written it on our hearts. However, the Gospel is foreign to us. It must come to us from the outside, in a word from God. Thus, “church” is a great place to hear this Gospel.
Second, in “church” we come in contact with two visible ways (often called “the visible word”) God proclaims his forgiveness for us. In Baptism, we meet the God who puts his name on us – “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” – and marks us as his own. In the Lord’s Supper, we meet the whole Christ in his body and blood broken and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
Third, in “church” we hear God’s audible word of pardon for our sins. This voice comes not in an “immediate voice from heaven,” but in the voice of another, our pastor. Certainly we can hear this absolution elsewhere, from other people. However, many church services begin with a confession of sins. Here we admit before God that we have sinned and need his forgiveness. Then comes absolution, where God speaks his word of pardon to us through the voice of our pastor.

Finally, in “church” we gather with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We share with each other God’s love and forgiveness in the Savior. This sharing is called the “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.” There is something wonderful and refreshing about being around others who share with each other the Gospel of sins forgiven in Christ.
The Gospel word is the only word that gives us breath, and thus spiritual life. We live in a world that often suffocates our faith in Christ. In “church” we gather around the fresh air of the life-giving Gospel. The Holy Spirit uses this Gospel to create and sustain our spiritual breathing, thus sustaining our spiritual life.
By the way, “I’d much rather use the words “Worship Service,” or better yet, “Divine Service,” than “church” or “church service.” The “Church” is God’s people. These people come together in the service. Here God serves each with the Gospel that creates and sustains faith. And in faith, we respond with thanksgiving and a life of service.
The Gospel of sins freely and totally forgiven in Christ is the most important air we will ever breathe. Find a Christian congregation that proclaims this Gospel in all of its wonders. Gather regularly with others to breathe in this life-giving word of forgiveness in Christ. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot of fresh air to inhale.
Douglas V. Morton, the writer of the above article, is the Director of Certificate Programs and Director of Communications at the Institute of Lutheran Theology, an Independent Lutheran Seminary, in Brookings, South Dakota (http://www.ilt.org). He is also Senior Editor of the school’s magazine, The Word at Work and on the Faculty in the Certificate Programs. He is coauthor of From “Vesper Chimes” to ‘The Way International” and The Integrity and Accuracy of The Way Word. He has also written for the Journal of Pastoral Practice, The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach, and for The Word at Work. You may contact him at dmorton@ilt.org.