Tag Archives: Easter

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

Jesus Ascends, our high priest, Ascension Day 2016

[For the audio version 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. Amen

Starting at Ash Wednesday, through Lent, all of the Holy week remembrances. Sunday morning we celebrate “He Has Risen! He has risen indeed hallelujah.” It can be tough for us to observe all the important milestones of the Lent/Easter season. They are packed together and they kind of come at you, bang/bang. It’s not over either, another big one, Pentecost where the disciples are really grabbed by their collars and  moved right out into the fray.

Luke seems to give us the most complete account of this time. He might have been there and he certainly had access to people who were right there. He doesn’t stop in his Gospel, his next book, Acts, picks up from where he stopped. Acts still has them standing there gaping into the sky. Hey, I don’t blame them, even in this technologically advanced age, we don’t see people being levitated out of sight into the sky. That they wouldn’t be standing there gaping would surprise me, because I would be. Seems a little disjointed between the end of Luke’s Gospel and the beginning of Acts, but either way the disciples are now being moved on, in the Holy Spirit. Sure they would have liked Jesus to be with them physically, who wouldn’t want to hang with Jesus. But it’s, obviously, physically impossible. The entire world is about to find out about Jesus, He can’t be everywhere all the time, physically, and it is now time for a new chapter. It is time for the Holy Spirit to appear and because He is God/Holy Spirit, He can be everywhere. God Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all equally God, they are all omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, but in Spirit, we can be that physical temple of the Holy Spirit. He can dwell in all of us, as Spirit. And He will be what physically drives the disciples, Paul and new Christians to bring the Gospel of salvation in Christ to the rest of the world.

Backing up to Easter morning, they thought that He was gone, they were despondent, defeated. Luke 24 starts out by telling us that the women are visiting the tomb, having no expectation that they are there to properly prepare Jesus’ Body, something they were unable to do because of the Passover Sabbath. Jesus wasn’t there! How could that be? There are two men there, angels, telling the women that Jesus has risen. Just as He told them He would, but of course who would believe that? But it’s true! Now they have a second chance, He has risen, He has returned. Luke doesn’t go into detail about what was said in the forty days after the resurrection. Jesus had explained that He would be killed, but then He would be resurrected. Obviously, they weren’t listening then. But now so much has happened, and the Body is gone and two angels have told them straight out what has happened, who knows maybe it’s the same two angels who pop up while they’re standing there staring into the sky. Now that Jesus had their undivided attention, He would have mine, I’ve never known anyone to be resurrected and yet He is right here. So now He has their undivided attention, He was crucified and now He’s alive. That has to be enough to keep even the attention of the most attention deficient person. During the forty days He has probably told them what will happen next, that He does have to leave, again. But this time He is leaving as the Lord of creation, He is going to the glory of being seated at the right hand of the Father. Just as you see in the stained glass window above me. He has been to the deepest depths, beaten beyond recognition, no food/water, tortured, naked, nailed into and lifted up on a rough wooden cross and then a spear drive through Him. All this to be the payment for our sins. Reduced to the lowest humiliation, our creed says He even descended to Hell. Certainly not condemned, but to free those who are now free in Him.

We see that Jesus leads His disciples to Bethany and some translate the word “Bethany” as the House of Obedience. It certainly does seem appropriate. Another writer describes Bethany as a “miserable” village. So Jesus isn’t giving them some “white glove” treatment. Certainly the disciples are going to find being obedient, is going to cause some misery. While the disciples are going to be getting further orders, seems as if Jesus is making a point? This is the last time you will see me and as I said, He probably has told them what is about to happen. Gives them some final instructions and rises into the air helped by angels. They don’t seem upset in any way that He’s leaving, He gives them a final blessing, they worship Him and “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” It does seem as if the disciples have a much more profound understanding of what is going to happen. Nonetheless they are still human, they may have returned to Jerusalem joyously. Jesus no doubt gave them promises and assurances. The disciples had seen Jesus do miracles, teach with a wisdom that is beyond what they had known from any human. They saw Him die on a cross, they saw Him resurrected, now they see Him rise far into the sky, into heaven. Augustine writes that “Jesus ascends in his body so that the person of Jesus, divine and human nature is not separated.”[1] He is now the Great High Priest, very God, very human as the writer of Hebrews tells us: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” That great high priest has to be man, but He is also the all mighty God the Son. Our Lord and Savior. Leo the Great submits that because Jesus has returned to heaven, both God and man, the disciples have further assurance of the fact that they enter into heaven along with Him. So surely, at this point they will return to the upper room joyously. But even a day can make a big difference, and there has been a lot of attention put on the disciples. So when we see them again, a week from Sunday, they will be hunkered down in fear. They have had the assurances of Jesus just ten short days ago, but they still do not have the Holy Spirit as they will on Pentecost, so their joy only lasts so long, they probably don’t know exactly what the next step is, ten days is a long time when you are waiting, and their joy is back to fear. But with the Holy Spirit in them, they will charge out, not just in joy, but in determination, guided by the promised Holy Spirt who will lead them to various places in the known world, and who faithfully leads us today where the Lord had destined us to serve Him.

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

[1] Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture p 391

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

Sharing thoughts and music for Easter and Good Friday from Paul Burkhart

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

thorns

Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

by on March 30, 2015

This week is Holy Week. And though we are in the final days before the highest annual joy of the Christian Calendar–Easter–these days are meant to be marked by the deepest and most difficult times of meditation on suffering and death. The inner tension is to be cranked up high so that when Easter comes, we feel a tangible relief in our worship and adoration. And so, this week, we dive deep into the Darkness and Death that grips the world, to prepare for God’s overcoming in raising Jesus.

First, though, we need a soundtrack for this week. 

To that end, my I suggest my two favorite pieces of music for this time. First, is Mozart’s Requiem. The final piece he wrote before he died–itself a meditation on death. This is the most powerful performance I know of this astonishing piece:

The second is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, intended for use in the Russian Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday, the day of silence following the Crucifixion. It’s meant to hold us in that dark, yet shimmering tension between twilight and dawn. Here is my favorite recording I’ve been able to find:

Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

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Now for other helps in this time.

Last week, Jesus called Home a church planter and writer whose words have impacted many. Her name was Kara Tippetts, and her blog Mundane Faithfulness became a place in which she walked the world through her process of dying. Her heart was so beautiful. She wrote a powerful letter upon her death that we should all read this week.

Ann Voskamp, one of the most beautiful writers alive today, wrote a stunning tribute to Tippetts. It will move your soul. It so beautifully brings us into this Holy Week, meditating on the lament and beauty of pain, suffering, death, and life, and how Kara reminded us how to die well.

Speaking of dying well, I can’t suggest enough Rob Moll’s book The Art of Dying. It strengthens, encourages, and teaches us how to reclaim this ancient Christian discipline.

Last week, The New York Times posted this beautiful reflection by Jo McElroy Senecal on the process of watching loved ones die. As a counselor herself, she brings an insight into what this does to us and how we grow in a world so full of Death.

As seminarians, we need to feel the depths and woundedness of our humanness, and that even means connecting with and inhabiting the space of non-Christians. The greatest contemporary writer on Death that I know is Julian Barnes, in his memoir Nothing to be Frightened Of. In it, Barnes–not a Christian–gives insight into the fear and pain of facing death without God. And as future ministers, if we have nothing we could say to how he processes this, we should figure it out.

Ben Myers, professor at United Theological College in Sydney, has this brief post on the Cross, that brings us into the heart of its mystery, brokenness, and beauty.

Lastly, I will leave you with this quote by G.K. Chesterton, from Orthodoxy:

When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay (the matter grows too difficult for human speech), but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

May you all have a fruitful Holy Week.

photo credit

About

Frequenting the coffee shops of Philadelphia while employed in social work and finishing up a Masters of Divinity from the Newbigin House of Studies at Western Theological Seminary. He serves Liberti Church as a deacon and seminary intern. Paul blogs at the long way home and tweets as @PaulBurkhart_.

Set your mind on things above

Set your mind on things above
First St Johns Easter Apr 20, 2014

for the audio version of this sermon click on the following link or copy and paste into your browser

HE HAS RISEN! HE HAS RISEN INDEED! HALLELUJAH
Help us Father to set our minds on things that are above, that are greater, inspired, stronger. In Christ we have all that is great, that is good, that is truly the best and the brightest. It has been those who are in Christ through history who have driven us forward, made us strive for the greater things. Not just in terms of achievement or the material, but have shown true love, true agape love, self- sacrificing, striving for the greater good of all mankind. While most strive for their own benefit, their own glory, let us look to those who strive for the glory of Christ, who truly set their minds on things 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 strive to glorify Jesus Christ in their lives said … AMEN.
Bruce Howell reports: “A few years ago, a letter appeared in the national news that was sent to a deceased person by the Indiana Department of Social Services. It read : Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.”
Well, there has only been One who, in worldly terms, has had a change in circumstances, who really changed our circumstances, the resurrected Lord, God the Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus called it; at the last supper. He is telling His disciples many things, among them what is going to happen immediately. “ESV John 16:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy…22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” The next day is going to be very difficult, by any standard very traumatic. Jesus knows how this plays out, but the disciples have no other expectation, then to observe the Passover. Jesus knows differently, that this is going to be very difficult, very traumatic and also triumphant. John writes about this final time together, before the cross, for three chapters. Jesus is trying to get the most important things before His disciples before His crucifixion. He is only leaving them alone for three days, until Sunday, but Jesus knows that the shock, trauma that they are about to experience is going to leave them floundering. Jesus needs to leave them with words that are of the highest, the strongest, the best in human experience and chapters 14, 15 and 16 are chock filled with those things that Jesus wants to carry them through the stunning events that tomorrow will bring. In particular; “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13) And Jesus does just that. Jesus is about to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy written about 500 years before Jesus: “ESV Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” Jesus will be high and lifted up in about twelve hours, in a way that the world sees as shameful, the humiliation of the Cross, but what the world deems shameful, in its narrow, fearful, self-centered view, Jesus uses for the ultimate good of all mankind. That love that Jesus just refers to, in the Greek agape, refers to the highest form of love, not the sloppy, sentimental love we always refer to, but that great love that makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save many. This is Jesus’ love for us, while God loves the world, in a way that cares, wants what is best, it is His, those who are saved in Christ, that the Father loves in a way that He would allow His own Son to be that sacrifice. On Good Friday Jesus is high and lifted up before the entire world, in a way that the world sees as shameful and the world rejoices because they reject Jesus, they deny who He is. But as Jesus promises, soon, very soon, your hearts will rejoice. And the disciples did rejoice, but first they are going to be shocked and distraught, completely at a loss to understand how things could evaporate so quickly. Jesus’ sacrifice is in full view of all, the world sees it as rejection, Jesus knows that it is the victory, the sacrifice that will atone for all the sin of the world. When that earthquake strikes on Sunday morning, which leaves the temple guards shaken with fear and like dead men, completely stunned and powerless, the angel whose appearance is like lightning (Matt 28), all to announce that there was much more than Jesus’ ugly death and that ugly cross, sin is ugly and the payment of sin is usually ugly and disfigured, but now is the glorious resurrection. Death can be inflicted by man, man is sinful and filled with death, so inflicting death is nothing unusual, but rising from the dead, the resurrection, can only be accomplished in one way, by God, man can only give death, God only can give life. When God gives us that resurrected life it is perfect, it is eternal, it is glorious. The tomb, the earthquake, the angel, resurrected life, only comes from God only comes by us remembering Peter’s words, to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
That Jesus was dead and rose is fact, those who were witnesses had nothing to gain from it and were compelled to go out and proclaim the resurrection. Even a complete antagonist like Saul of Tarsus was completely convinced. Jesus’ brothers James and Jude, who wanted to put Jesus away because they felt were His embarrassing actions, both would write epistles proclaiming who Jesus is to the world. We are told to set our minds on “things above”… What could be more above, more compelling then He who died in order to save us? He who was resurrected in order to give us the promise of our own resurrection in Him to all eternity? He who is and always has been perfect/He is God. He paid the penalty for us, we are sinners, we are in need of a Savior. People have told me that they want a “just God”, and we do, how could a perfect, Holy God be less then just. If the penalty had not been paid by Jesus, if we had to stand before the Father in our own righteousness and not the righteousness of Jesus, come on, how do you really think that will work out in terms of justice? We have assurance, the promise, the lead pipe guarantee that we are saved in Jesus. We will come before the Holy, just, perfect Father in the righteousness of Jesus. We are so caught up in the phoniness, the mediocrity, the evil of the world, that we think we cannot rely on anything. But here is the Good News, the Gospel, we can trust in the resurrection, we can trust in the promise that we will be resurrected like Him. Yes, for those of us here, we will go to heaven first, to wait for the glorious return of Christ, but our ultimate destination is a perfect, glorious resurrection, where we will live in this world, that will be made perfect, we will live in the real presence of Jesus, but it will be into a life that will truly be life; “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). Randy Alcorn quotes theologian Wayne Gundem: “Christians often talk about living with God ‘in heaven’ forever. But in fact the biblical teaching is richer than that: it tells us that there will be new heavens and a new earth – an entirely renewed creation – and we will live with God there.”
There is no love in the world, there is no compassion. The world we live in is nothing but phoney mediocrity, a lazy/lamblike attitude “…EH whatever you want … eh it’s all good…” No it isn’t! It’s phoney, it’s death. There’s no love there, no compassion, “…EH, whatever you want, however you want to do it…” That’s not love. What is the opposite of love? Not hate, but indifference. “I don’t care how you mess yourself up, so long as your “happy”. Don’t strive, don’t push, don’t do the ultimate, don’t make the ultimate sacrifice, that’s for suckers. Just slog along in the mediocre muck of the world … EH whatever you want to do…yawn.” That wasn’t Jesus, He was strength, courage, idealism, He was perfect. The world, the weak and sinful takes the easy way out, throws money at it, like it did with Judas. Expects someone else to do the dirty work like it did with Pilate and then just sits back and ridicules. That is not what Christ is about, it is what He did. He courageously stood up for what is right, He was there for the truly weak and He made the ultimate sacrifice, by paying for our sin, by being our righteousness with God the Father.
When you leave here today, when you eat the kid’s chocolate bunny and eat your big Easter ham, then kick back to relax, instead of doing the “what do I have to do on Monday” thing, letting anything I have said this morning go by unnoticed. Really consider what the world would be like if we were left to the attitude of the world, “hey whatever makes you happy” and think about what the courage, strength, sacrifice of Jesus is really about. How can you live that life in Christ, how about your son, daughter, grandchildren, how can you be that Godly husband to your wife? Truly live and proclaim a life to all you know that says Jesus was resurrected, Jesus did overcome all the evil of the earth and I am greatly blessed because I have the promise of eternal life and I live this earthly life, not in the mediocre, phoniness of the world, but in the strength, truth and courage of Jesus Christ.
HE HAS RISEN, HE HAS RISEN INDEED!
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.