Tag Archives: death

Renew and energize your disciples Lord Matthew 28 First Saint Johns Lutheran Church April 17, 2017

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

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 the hope and joy of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ said … AMEN!

For us in a liturgical church, this season, starting on Ash Wednesday, for many people seems to be such a dreary day, I put ashes on your forehead, which in itself is certainly counter-cultural what the world would see as “weird” and then I quietly tell you from dust you came and dust you shall return. Not exactly a “whoopee do” moment. Then we spend the next 40 plus days sacrificing something, hopefully, and remembering our sins. In a world that is all about lurching from the next exciting/breathtaking event, again seems weird that we should invite such reflection when the world around us is all about denial and minimizing their sin. But we get it, we get the whole human condition, when we are serious about our faith, we are equipped by our yearly liturgical calendar to deal with all the conditions of life. We don’t live in a zippity-do-da world, that when the trials strike, we don’t just curl up in a cocoon and become a zombie. That is part of what being in the church, in the Body of Christ is all about. We know that we have a pastor and brothers and sisters in Jesus that are there to strengthen us and remind us of the glorious promises that we have in Christ. While the Words and promises of Jesus give us inspiration and strength, the resurrection of Jesus is what gives us the ultimate, slam dunk hope that it really isn’t about this world and the trials. It is about the New World of the resurrection that gives us the deep down peace and joy that we will live an eternal, perfect life of true living and fulfillment.

Palm Sunday is good, but we know what it’s leading to, it’s kind of a interval, but certainly not the end. Maundy Thursday doesn’t really get the notice it should. Maundy is Latin, mandate or commandment, when Jesus told His disciples “ESV John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.” How we minimize this in our church calendar mystifies me. That Jesus gives us this incredible direction, you will not find in any other belief system, to love one another. That He is telling them, again, this is it, I am laying down My life for those I love, for My friends, that He is also telling them, and us, His disciples, that we are His friends. I certainly have a friend in Jesus, but it is the most one –sided friendship you can imagine, He gives me everything, up to and including His life in order for me to truly live now and the eternal life of the resurrection. But there’s more, He puts an exclamation point on this by giving His disciples His Body and Blood, we who are His disciples now are fed Jesus’ Body and Blood to the strengthening of our body and soul. We receive this actual nourishment of His Body to build us up and make our relationship with Him as strong as conceivable.

Good Friday, that’s a tough day. To see Him who called us friend, who is there for us all the time, and we helplessly watch as He is mercilessly beaten, abused, and then brutally murdered. Completely innocent, completely holy and abused so ruthlessly, showing how we can be so debased and so cruel as a people.

It seems unnecessary to have such a brutal scenario. But we know our greatest fear is death, to blink into non-existence, to leave behind everything we’ve known and just stop living. In order for our greatest fear, terror, our greatest anxiety to be defeated it had to be met head on, how else could death be defeated but for someone to die and then be restored to life? We are all doomed to die, without Jesus there is nothing but death. No human being could overcome death, because by our lives, we are already dead in our sin and trespasses, we deserve death. But not Jesus. Jesus, He who is completely holy, completely without guilt, no sin. He is not destined to die, He has eternal life because He is eternal, God the Son. He could pay the penalty, overcome death, which none of us could ever do. In God’s economy, in order to have mercy on us, in order to keep us from eternally paying the penalty for us, God permitted His Son to be the paschal victim. He did all that was necessary mostly during this season in order to give us the promise of eternal life and life in this world of joy and promise.

In all this it is very little about feelings. Yes we have feelings, but the point isn’t about how you feel, why etc, what you “feel”, just doesn’t change anything. Sam Storms writes: “What you and I “like” is utterly and absolutely irrelevant. God doesn’t set his eternal agenda based on what we “prefer”. What we might “hope” to be true simply doesn’t matter. What does or does not make us “feel comfortable” has no bearing on the truth or falsity of this issue. The fact that we have an intuitive sense for what strikes us as “fair” or “just” doesn’t really matter, what actually is, is what matters to God.”[1] To our harm we let our “feelings” our opinions, the way we think things should be dictate way too much of what we think. In God’s providence, in His Lordship, His creation it is about what He thinks. It is going to be His way, whether we think it’s fair or not. Yet, He does so much for us. We live the sinful lives, He doesn’t, Jesus didn’t and doesn’t, yet who was made the way to God and eternal life? Jesus. Not about our opinion or our feelings, entirely about what Jesus did for us. What we like and don’t like is certainly about our “feelings”. We could walk away on Good Friday, decide “what’s the point”, give up, give in to our feelings of loss and depression and not wait for the true joy. Jesus’ resurrection isn’t a jump up and down the Patriots won the Super Bowl happy. That’s superficial, it’s there for a moment and then back to reality. It’s that time when you stop in your life, a smile spreads over your face. Not a goofy, giddy smile, but a smile of knowing, of contentment, a mature and thoughtful smile knowing that the shallowness around us is just passing. That there is true joy, contentment. Have you ever noticed that when you’re all giddy-up happy, it’s quickly followed by kind of a crash? You were all yippy, then just kind of settled down into a discontent of “why did I do that”? The temporary giddy-up is fine, so long as we don’t get hooked on it and require continuous shots of “happy”. It doesn’t last. It’s been a tough last few months for me. On Friday I had to be with a mother whose 22 year old son was murdered. A few weeks ago I did a funeral for a ten year old boy, the week before that my father died, a few weeks before that I had to be with a mother and father whose 22 year old son committed suicide. Throw in car problems, other assorted issues, the strain has been huge. If I was dependent on happy how do you think I would continue to function? Being a Christian means you have the support of brothers and sisters in Jesus and pastors who are there for you during the trials and encouraging you. I really appreciate how some people here stepped up to encourage and support. Ken stepped up and really helped with a lot of the worships of the last few weeks. How can I stand before people who’ve just lost a child and make them “happy” as the world thinks they should be? Amusing them, stand up comedy, platitudes? Do I just leave them there to deal with it, get over it? As difficult as you think your trials might be, imagine being the parents going through such trials. There’s nothing that’s going to make them “happy”. But as a pastor, I am going to do whatever I can to give them true joy. That is the whole purpose of the resurrection. Tertullian wrote about the resurrection: “It is by all means to be believed because it is absurd.”[2] There will be tragedies in our lives of varying degree, the longer the life the higher the chance and even more tragedies. We might think of Jesus’ being horribly murdered on Good Friday as tragedy, yet out of His suffering on that day, came the greatest promise that we can imagine and as a pastor that is what I get to share with people who have endured ghastly tragedy. By doing this I am going to help them to know joy. That our God is very much aware of what they’re going through. He saw His own son unmercifully brutalized, beaten, nailed into wood and left to suffer. God understands our horror when we have to endure tragedy, He is right there with you reaching down through the layers you experience in order to help you understand that there is a far greater promise that overcomes the horror. The horror is for a time, the promise of our eternal life, the joy that we have in Jesus right here and now gives us the joy, the hope, the promise that restores, renews and energizes us now. The world tells us just to accept tragedy and move on, to find happiness or turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex to overcome tragedy, because it doesn’t matter anyway. That is such a hopeless, appalling lie straight from Hell. We were created by our all-powerful – all loving God. He knows the horrors, but He also knows that it is not the end and gives us that promise, that there are more and greater eternal joys that He has for us in our eternal life and that restores and renews us in our life now. That is what the promise of the empty grave of Jesus is all about, that at the end of time all of our graves will be empty. Our bodies we will be resurrected, restored to a perfect life that we were always intended to have. Martin Luther wrote: “The resurrection consists not in words, but in life and power. The heart should take inward delight in this and be joyful.”[3] Happiness only lifts us up to drop us again, the joy, peace and promise of God the Father in the resurrection of Jesus, God the Son, gives us joy now, that when we have the tragedy of the death of someone we love, we know that when we are all in Jesus, this life and all its tragedies will be a dim memory as we live life together in the eternal, fulfilling, perfect life of the resurrection.

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

 

[1] Sam Storms “Ten Things you should know about Hell”   http://www.crosswalk.com/slideshows/10-things-you-should-know-about– hell.html?utm_content=buffere08f1&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_source=cwpg&utm_campaign=cwupdate

 

[2] Cal and Rose Samra “Holy Humor” p 59

[3] Ibid

Fear the world or fear God?

Seems like we’ve had it backward for a long time. Oh sure, the world can do bad, mean things to you. However, can it do anything worse than an all-powerful God who can not only allow your life to be tough here, but can just allow you to slide away from Him and into an eternal world of “wailing and gnashing of teeth”. (Matthew 13:42, 50)

Fear is just so prevalent in the world, despite all the technological advances, plenty of almost anything, fear is even more common. You see these people with their facial hair, tatoos, piercings, all intended to intimidate. What you find are these fearful little people who live in a constant state of anxiety.

The Blackabys’ point out “…Their fear hinders them from pleasing God because they waste their efforts appeasing other people…Fear causes us to stop and question what God has clearly told us to do.” (Experiencing God day by day p 34)

Just like all the other vices of the world, the ones that we are just so “free” in, (yea ask the next heroin user you see how “free” that person is. Same goes for alcohol, sex, money, power, yea sure “free”)

The question for me is how to I help people understand how real God is, how they should fear Him. “ESV Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Shouldn’t this focus people’s attention? This life is not all there is, there is an eternity. That eternity will be in Christ in the new world, the perfect life of the resurrection. Or it will be eternal separation and suffering. That is what existence is separated from God, if you reject Him, you are choosing separation, existence without the all-powerful protecting hand of God.

God does not will anyone’s death, He does not want anyone separated. But if you let your fears separate you from God, if you do not trust in His power, that He will save you from anything you are afraid of now, ultimately in the new world, then you have rejected life and allowed yourself to be separated, because of your fears and that you thought you could handle your fears alone.

I hope that you will pray that the Holy Spirit guide you from your fears, to show you true freedom in Jesus, that life won’t always be easy. But in Jesus we will ultimately overcome our fears. Say thank you to the Holy Spirit for guiding you from your fears and into Jesus.

One flesh

My sermon for the past Sunday was on “One Flesh”, it refers to the Genesis 2:24 and Mark 8 passages. Clearly these passages speak to the physical marriage of man and woman, but we seem to not remember that as Christians we are the part of the Body of Christ, that His Church is the Body of Christ, which we, who are saved in Jesus, are part of. As discussed in Revelation 21, 22, the Church is the Bride of Christ. Now I’m not trying to get cute or all weird, but it does seem to follow that because of that, because we take the true Body and Blood of Jesus, that we all become one flesh. Yes, the Bible passages are to be understood as a man and a woman becoming one flesh. They should both readily understand that and that Jesus’ command that “…What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) An aside, I have to tell you for those who are involved in facilitating divorce; judges, clerks, lawyers, I truly feel at least a concern. I do not know how people can participate in something that Jesus clearly condemns.

I was also reading Henry and Richard Blackaby’s devotional (Experiencing God Day by Day p 277) which starts “Christians do not live in isolation”. No we certainly don’t, and yet too many who call themselves “Christian” will simply not understand the idea of the Body of Jesus, Bride of Jesus, one flesh etc. We are too much about what are we getting out of this and not at all about what is the Body of Jesus about. I get it, most of us have difficult lives, pressing concerns and different demands that we do need to confront immediately. Certainly the media is beating us into submission, compassion fatigue and when things happen, over and over, in the Body of Christ, we just have to withdraw or be overwhelmed. Yea, I get it. However, we are, nonetheless, part of the Body of Christ. One flesh? Not now, but ultimately, in the resurrection, in the same sense of a married man and woman? Yes. But just because we are not in the same sense as Genesis and Mark describe, does that make it any less genuine? And now, in the shadow of the murders at Umpqua Community College, Charleston SC, Columbine, Lancaster, Pa, just for the United States and the horrific murders in Iraq, Syria, China, Africa on and on shouldn’t that be a signal pain in the Body of Christ, and if we are part of that Body shouldn’t we at least wince?

Maybe there is a fatigue going on, but if the persecutions of Christians throughout history that resulted in resolve and strength to the Body, shouldn’t that be apparent now? If so, how does that look? If your reaction is “wow that’s too bad” or “see that’s why we need gun control” or “every Christian should carry a gun” as the Lt Governor of Tennessee suggested, shouldn’t that suggest to the individual that maybe they’re not in communion with the Body of Christ as they should be?

The Blackabys write: “We depend on one another, and this influences everything we do. Jesus said that even when we pray, we are to begin by saying ‘our Father’ (Matt 6:9). We must do everything with our fellow Christians in mind. (1 Cor 14:12)” Yes, He is our Father. OK, that means children? Yes, it does. Is this another mystery of being in Christ along with the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, Resurrection? Yea, apparently. Does it mean that just because the concept seems obscure, it’s not valid? No, I don’t think so. The Blackabys suggest: “Ask God to place a burden on your heart for fellow believers.” I do think it’s necessary. Can you ignore such profound pain in your body and not feel it, dismiss it? I’m not sure what the “cure” is. Certainly we are always called to pray. We should remember Tertullian’s words, a Roman, in the middle of the persecutions of the early Christian. He said “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Certainly those who are martyred receive great reward, but for us still in our earthly life, to simply dismiss the suffering and murder of Christian brothers and sisters is not acceptable. As with everything in our Christian life we are always in prayer. We also are to be guided by the Holy Spirit, where is He moving us to confront or to help those in persecution? What are the opportunities He is presenting us and our local church with in order to witness to Jesus to a world that is lost and filled with death. A world that hates God and His people and believes that it is somehow serving a greater God by killing Christians. “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) Jesus’ words, we certainly trust His Words and this is face to face reality for many. The answers aren’t easy we are to trust in God. Paul certainly appealed to civil law for protection against the mob and unfair judgment. I’m not saying to roll over and play dead, but certainly we remember those Christian Martyrs  who gave up everything they had and witnesses to Christ and sacrificed their life. That is a witness to the world that the Holy Spirit uses to change lives and bring them to salvation in Jesus. Stay in prayer, pray for those who hate and abuse you, and know what the Holy Spirit is putting on your heart and act accordingly.

Our emotional responses

I guess this is a follow up on the previous diatribe, it’s not intended to be, not as high minded but something I feel I should raise. Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God day by day p 19) “…discipleship … Is learning to give Jesus Christ total access to your life so He will live His life through you…” Okay, I’m not sure about Jesus “living His life through us” I would see it more as Him guiding our life to be more like Him.  Blackaby goes on to write:”when others see you face a crisis, do they see the risen Lord responding? Does your family see the difference Christ makes when you see a need? What difference does the presence of Jesus Christ make in your life?”

” God wants to reveal Himself to those around you by working mightily through you…” I will say that when it comes to genuine crisis that I respond pretty rapidly and effectively. Over twenty years of being in a U.S. Coast Guard boat station, responding to many cases I have had to deal with many life threatening situations and I can only remember one time when I had an emotional reaction and I did get that under control.  Business, church, I think I do well in that area. If I do get a little assertive I think it is for the right reasons. I’d like to say it’s always Christ like, conforming to His nature, but I’m sure you would be, at least dubious and rightly so. I do need to respond in a more Christlike way and set aside the emotion, except for compassion. But the areas I really need help in is the petty nonsense.  I just get so fed up with the selfish, lazy (intellectualy and physically) attitudes. I expect others to be Christlike because I try to be and when I see the failure in others prayI respond in a manner that is most definitely not Christlike. I end up shooting my self in the foot by exemplifying unChristian behavior to those in the world who are certainly never going to be Christlike.

I need your prayers to help me to respond in the highest manner. Sometimes that response does require an emphatic demonstration that shows this is serious and vitally important. But if the other person just doesn’t even get it, what’s the point of getting in a twist? Pray that I can properly respond. To remain composed in a crisis, to respond lovingly to those who just don’t know better and in those times, which will be rare to be emphatic, but to not lose my composure. I do have to be strong. We just had Good Shepherd Sunday. The point being that Jesus stays strong and vigilant to protect us and isn’t going to stand for Satan’s nonsense or the nonsense of the world, He is there to protect the flock, His church, from so many dangers. As a pastor I am an under shepherd and Jesus uses me to protect the part of the flock I’m responsible for.  Help me do it in a way that honors Jesus. So that the world knows I, in Christ, am serious, determined even to death. But still compassionate and welcoming. And also so that my share of the flock will feel safe and secure in Christ. Thank you for your prayers.

Resurrection, true life for eternity Isaiah 25: 6-9 First St Johns Easter April 5, 2015

[For the audio 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 are looking forward to being resurrected in a perfect physical body in a perfect physical world said … AMEN!!

We’ve been doing a sermon series by Rev Dr Reed Lessing for Lent. I’ve really gotten a lot from this series, so I’m staring our Easter sermon noting what he says about Easter: “Home! The very word evokes feelings of love and laughter, security and serenity, warmth. It means mom and dad, fun and games, good food, deep sleep, a little girl from Kansas says it best, “There’s no place like home.””

Truly that is what Easter is all about. The world as a whole, all of us, we have become so camped on our home being heaven. It’s not! Sure there’s comfort when we lose a loved one to say that they are in heaven, and when they die in Jesus, we have the assurance that they are in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8 KJV) But that’s where we leave it, it has somehow become imbued in our understanding that we spend eternity in some kind of ethereal state sitting on a cloud strumming a harp. No! We will die. We will, unless Jesus returns before we die, we will go to heaven, but that’s not our final stop.

We are going to talk about the resurrection. We should be every Sunday. Why? We worship on Sunday versus Saturday, which was the Sabbath Day, because every Sunday is a little Easter, it reminds us of our ultimate destiny, destination. Because Jesus was resurrected, we too will be resurrected. Jesus returned to this world, in the same body He died in. This was to give us the promise that we will be resurrected just like Him. “ESV 1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

You really have to kind of wonder, why would Paul be so excited about being “changed” into some kind of diaphanous, wispy form. This idea comes from a belief system unrelated to Christianity called neo-platonism and also Gnosticism. Both of these belief systems teach that the physical is somehow evil, that because the Father is spirit, then we will want to be spirit. What’s the point of Hell, if we aren’t physical, how do we really suffer. Conversely, if we are spirit and are saved in the resurrection, how do we truly enjoy the resurrection? We can’t. We were made to be physical. If we are “going home” as Dr Lessing submits, is home really heaven. I’ve never been to heaven, I don’t remember anything about it. Sure I will be in Jesus’ presence and that will be tremendous joy, bliss. But that’s not what we were made for, that’s not how God created us.

We know how God created us. Despite what you hear in the world, we didn’t come from animals. The Book of Genesis tells us how we were put here, why we were put here and in what form we were put here. We were created in the Imago Dei. We are unquestionably special, unique, highly privileged by God because we were made completely uniquely in the Father’s image and in very physical, tangible bodies. Adam and Eve lived in perfection, in their created bodies, for many years. They then simply chose that everything God created for them wasn’t enough, that they were entitled to more, who was God to withhold even one thing from the? They waved God off and did what they wanted.

God wasn’t going to tolerate their defiance, He just wouldn’t, His nature is to be completely holy, to be completely just, be completely perfect. He was not going to tolerate their imperfection, their sin, in their defiance.

Yes, God booted them out into the cold, harsh world. But our loving God never leaves us alone. He never rejects us, He always makes a way where He, not you, will bring those He created back to Him.

Yea, we know those who just reject God and make it all about them. But even in our imperfection, we who have been brought to Jesus, are brought back to God’s intention for us. He promised Adam and Eve that there would be a deliverer, that Savior would be the payment for our failures, our sins and would put us back into relation with the Father. He did, Jesus. Jesus died a very physical, a very gruesome, gorey death, He died that death, not because of what He did, but because of what we did, because of our sin. Jesus, God the Son, was the perfect sacrifice for us who are so imperfect.

Randy Alcorn in his book, Heaven, writes extensively that we will be resurrected, we will be raised in very real physical bodies, just like we are now. This is my reason, this is my hope, the reason for the hope that lies within us. That is what being a Christian is all about, H-O-P-E. We are not lost and helpless like those who are without Jesus. We know we will be raised in a perfect body, in a perfect world, to live the life that we were always intended to live. Not in this sinful, corrupted, thoroughly messed up world and I defy anyone here, anywhere to try to make this world something that it isn’t. Sin is what has caused violence, disease, death, deformity. It’s all on us, do yourself and everyone else a big favor and quit blaming it on God.

Alcorn reminds us: “As human beings, whom God made to be both physical and spiritual, we are not designed to live in a non-physical realm. Indeed, we are incapable of even imagining such a place… An incorporeal state is not only unfamiliar to our experience, it is also incompatible with our God – given constitution… We are physical beings as much as we are spiritual beings. That’s why our bodily resurrection is essential to endow us with eternal righteous humanity. Setting us free from sin, the Curse and death.”[1] Alcorn rightly points out that because of our physical nature and when heaven is portrayed as a non-physical place, that our senses that do bring us pleasure, touch, smell, sight, hearing, won’t be a part of us, this really repels us at our core. Alcorn writes: “…when Heaven is portrayed as beyond the reach of our senses, it doesn’t invite us; instead, it alienates and even frightens us…”[2]

For most of us, we will spend our time in that “spiritual” form, but that is because we are the “church in waiting”, the world is still in tribulation and the “church in waiting” is still a part of that battle against sin and evil. In heaven, we will still be in prayer. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”. Our loved ones in heaven don’t know what we’re going through, they don’t need to, they know we are still being subjected to the spiritual struggle that goes on around us. But ultimately we have the promise of the resurrection. Paul writes: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:” (1 Corin 15:42) We have the promise that Jesus made to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25). We will be raised up in very real bodies, to live very real lives, but lives the way God originally intended for us to live, in a very real world. But this is a world not limited by sin, by physical defect, it is a world where the possibilities are limitless, not this world, that is limited by all our human failings. A world where as the beer jingle says “you can have it all”. You can’t in this world, but you can in the world that God has promised to all those who are saved in Jesus. A life that God intends for us, that Jesus promised us when He said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10) That is the world of the resurrection, a life of limitless abundance, no more pain, none of the disability of body and sin. It will still be a world of challenges, we are still expected to grow and achieve, move and accomplish, but in a way that builds us and strengthens us in Jesus.

Dr Martin Luther wrote: “Be thou comforted, little dog. Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.” You and I will have so much more than a golden tail.

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

[1] Randy Alcorn, “Heaven” p 16

[2] Ibid p 17

Death Cafes Mark 8: 27 – 38 First St Johns, York, Pa March 1, 2015

For the audio version please click on the link above.

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 death in this world is only the beginning of life in the Resurrection said … AMEN!!

I’ve got news for youse, in case you didn’t know it, the world just keeps getting weirder. Shawn Kumm writes about nice little dinner parties that are becoming popular. There’s all the trappings china, linen, small sandwiches, pastries, comfortable coffee house setting, these are known as “Death Cafes”. These started in 2011 by an Englishman named Jon Underwood. “The stated objective is ‘to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives”. I’d say to check it out, they of course have a website deathcafe.com. “Groups gather together to discuss death over refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake -.” Hey we’re all going to die, we might as well eat cake. Pastor Kumm goes on to say “but, ‘with no intention of leading people to any conclusion … or course of action.”[1] Well of course, because heavens, it’s the post-modern age, whatever we say goes, and we’re just going to have our nice little designer eternity, fit to our specifications. Folks, people really live these kind of deluded lives. We have a world that really is out of control. We can’t even stop the radicals in the Middle East who continue to burn alive, decapitate, bury alive, brother and sister Christians. Yet we have those who live deluded, self-obsessed, degenerate lives, sitting around and having little coffee parties, talking about death and coming to no conclusion, but being sure that things after death will be just fine.

In today’s reading Jesus tells His disciples, for the third time: “…the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed…” It’s as if the disciples, like those in their delusional little coffee klatches, simply remain in denial. To the extent that Peter, and yes I really do love that guy, he is a stand up guy and then drops the ball again. A few lines earlier, Peter is confessing exactly who Jesus is, “You are the Christ.” In Matthew’s Gospel Peter goes on to say: “…the Son of the Living God.” Everyone of those disciples that heard Peter’s confession, knew exactly what he was saying. This is Messiah, Mesheach, this is He who has been promised since the beginning of God’s revelation. He’s not another prophet, who were all men. This is God the Son, the Son of the Living God, David’s Son, David’s Lord, He who is the salvation of the world. Jesus has told them twice already, that He would die. Granted, He didn’t exactly fill in the blanks of what His death and resurrection meant to them, but regardless, their reaction was a sort of, … yea OK, but is it possible you might be overreacting just a little.

There’s Peter and he has stepped right up, inspired by the Holy Spirit, but let’s face it, many people have been inspired by the Holy Spirit and have fumbled the ball. Not Peter! I’d like to think that he knew where the inspiration came from and was not going to be denied. Jesus tells Peter in Matthew, “yup you got it, you have been blessed to know exactly who I AM.” But then Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, adds, for the third time, having said that and being recognized as the promised Messiah, men are going to take me, beat me, torture me and then kill me. Well Peter likes the Messiah idea, but ya … no, the killing thing, well that just doesn’t fit into his, still, worldly paradigm. The Messiah is going to physically lead all his followers, as His father David would, and drive out the hated Romans and establish God’s kingdom here on earth. Peter is just not at the point where he can understand anything but that Israel needs to be delivered in the here and now. He cannot grasp Jesus’ eternal perspective. Oh yes, the Kingdom of God is here, Jesus is saying I AM here, but the plan is that the Kingdom of God is not yet recognized.

While Peter gets who Jesus is, that He is the Son of God, Peter takes it upon himself to let Jesus know the being killed part just doesn’t work for him. That Jesus is going to stay alive and be the conqueror king. Jesus certainly will conquer. But not according to Peter’s agenda and drive out the Romans. Jesus will conquer death! He will overcome the true enemy of man, He will be the agent of God’s plan to reconcile man to Himself. He will be the propitiation, the payment, the Redeemer of all our sins. Those who are in Jesus will still be in the world, but now we will be saved from the world. We will now be delivered from the world of death, disease, suffering, evil and in our baptism in the Triune God, be adopted into the family of God, reborn into the Spirit. Still in this world, but now new creations in relationship with God the Father, redeemed by God the Son and guided in this world by God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus has to drive these things home. According to Mark’s Gospel, in chapter 10, they were on the road going up to Jerusalem. In just a few days will be the triumphant entry. Jesus will enter into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This is no small thing, he will be hailed by the crowd, cheered welcoming the Messiah, but not in the sense that Peter expects. They are welcoming Him who will deliver them from the Romans. In today’s reading Peter takes Jesus aside to set Him straight; He’s not going to be killed, Peter doesn’t say it, but when Peter criticizes Jesus, it’s to tell Him, “no, you’ve got it wrong, this is going to be the Kingdom where we all rule with you.” The Concordia Self-study Bible’s reads: “Peter’s attempt to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross held the same temptation Satan gave at the outset of Jesus’ ministry (Matt 4: 8-10).”[2] Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, being tempted by Satan: “All this I will give you, he [Satan] said, ‘if you will bow down to me.’” Peter is saying as much as Satan said: “Forget all that dying stuff Jesus, we can do what’s really important, rule the whole world. Don’t worry about salvation for all those people. What’s dying going to do? What’s important is ruling and running Your own agenda.” Of course what would that mean to them, to us, to people all down through history? Jesus didn’t die for us, He didn’t redeem us, He didn’t pay for our sins? The only thing affected is this part of the world and we are not saved in Jesus’ death. Jesus came to redeem us from death, from all the evil of the world, to redeem our sins and give us the promise of eternal salvation. He made that very clear to Satan in the beginning of His ministry and now as that ministry comes to an end Jesus makes it very clear to Peter and by extension us. Certainly Satan was not happy being stripped of his authority and surely Peter wasn’t happy that his vision of Jesus’ ministry wasn’t going to occur. Of course Peter, all the disciples, would be filled with the Holy Spirit and they would come to know how they were saved and they, like us, would know the promise and hope of Jesus in eternal salvation in the resurrection.

Sad, isn’t it? Those people at the coffee houses, who subscribe to deathcafe.com. They don’t have that hope and promise. They think they can talk death to death and they will have their very own designer eternity, probably sitting around a coffee house in their superficial, phoney, non-existent, little eternity.

Sorry to say, they will be lost and condemned. They refuse to be guided by the Holy Spirit to true life in the resurrection and think it’s all about them. So take out that journal this week. Really pray over what Jesus has said, remember that He is summing up His earthly ministry and preparing for His death. He doesn’t want to endure this, but through His love for us, that agape, sacrificial love He has for us, that His Body and Blood will suffer and be spilled as the sacrifice that will conquer all and give us the hope and promise of eternal life in the resurrected world. Write about what that hope means to you and how you can give hope to those you know through Jesus Christ.

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

[1] Shawn L. Kumm  “Concordia Pulpit Resources” Vol 25, Part 2, Series B, p 6

[2] Concordia Self Study Bible p 1518

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

The following is from christianpost.com dated March 4, 2015

NFL’s Benjamin Watson Urges ISIS Victims, Christians to ‘Stand Firm’ With Jesus in the Face of Death; Says Rise of Persecution Indicates Christ’s ‘Imminent Return’

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BY SAMUEL SMITH , CP REPORTER
March 4, 2015|4:49 pm
Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.(PHOTO: EAG SPORTS MANAGEMENT)

Benjamin Watson is a tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

Outspoken Christian NFL player Benjamin Watson recently issued a powerful Facebook post writing about the Islamic State and the rise of Christian persecution throughout the world, asserting that all Christians should be ready to die for upholding their faith in Jesus Christ.

“The images keep flooding our timelines and news feeds. Men being burned alive or beheaded by masked assassins. Stories of families on the run, fleeing their homes while they are pillaged and burned,” Watson’s Saturday Facebook post explained. “Their testimonies hold a familiar chord: ‘Convert, Pay or Die!'”

Watson, an 11-year NFL veteran who’s a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, wrote that although extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in Nigeria have risen to prominence and are out to destroy Christianity, believers should never deny Christ in order to save their lives.

Watson cited Luke 12:8 and further explained that Jesus specifically told his followers that those who deny Him in in the face of death will be punished.

“‘And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God’ Luke 12:8,” Watson wrote.

Although Watson admits that the idea of being killed over his faith in Jesus is a frightening thought, he wrote that it’s important to remember that some of the bravest followers of Christ were killed for refusing to denounce Jesus.

“The persecution of Christians is not a new concept. As early as the first century we read about the Spirit-filled boldness of Christians, like Stephen and Paul, who proclaimed the Gospel through beatings and imprisonment, torture and death,” Watson wrote. “We remember Christ’s disciples, most of whom were killed just like their master. Roman emperors like Nero executed Christians in the most ghastly ways, using them as torches to light the evening sky.”

Although Christians have been beaten, killed and tortured for thousands of years over their faith, Watson further emphasized that the light of Christ continued to spread because of the brave followers who stood firm in their faith.

“In spite of all this adversity, Christianity continued to spread because men and woman, empowered by the Holy Spirit, stood strong in the face of certain death; some being delivered and others falling,” Watson wrote. “As I sit here in a 21st century United States, I can’t help but wonder when we, too, will face martyrdom for our faith. On this very day nearly 50 countries have laws that restrict or outlaw Christianity, leading to the harassment, imprisonment and death of those who follow Christ.”

The post continued by listing the number of countries today that prevent Christians from practicing their faith, such as North Korea and China.

“On this day, in countries like North Korea and China, Christians gather for church underground to avoid being arrested by police. On this day, in Nigeria thousands mourn the deaths of their loved ones killed by Boko Haram in their quest to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. On this day, in Cuba, Christian ministries continue to risk their freedom as the country continues to feel the effects of Communist rule,” Watson continued. “BUT, on this day, Jesus’ words in Luke still ring true.”

Although many Christians live safe, well-protected lives in America and other countries that protect religious freedoms, Watson contends that persecution of Christians in America will come sooner or later.

“Rest assured, fellow Americans, if it hasn’t already, our day WILL COME,” Watson asserted. “My only hope in such trying times is the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the X factor. He will give us the strength, words, and vision when our backs are against the wall. Jesus promised the believer many things. Eternal life, abundant life, peace, purpose and forgiveness to name a few. He also promises that they, like him, WILL be betrayed, hated and persecuted, even to death. (Luke 21:12-19).”

When that day arrives, Watson encourages Christians not to tremble in fear when in the face of persecution because it’s a sign of the nearing return of the Messiah.

“[W]e must WAKE UP from our slumber, be on guard and stand firm. A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Watson added. “Spiritual unity in the body will help us weather the coming storms. We must REMEMBER that as terrible as things are and will become, they are simply signs pointing to one thing; His imminent return.”