Tag Archives: resurrection

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

Faith and Preparation or Worry? Luke 12 First Saint Johns Church Aug 7, 2016

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the faith that God has given them said … AMEN!

Our epistle reading today in Hebrews is often referred to as “the catalog of the heroes of faith”. It’s also referred to as the Faith Hall of Fame. People dealing with issues that have been pressing down on their heart. Abram and Sarai have gone decades beyond child bearing years, and they both have heavy hearts, they know that God is aware of their desire, a good desire. It can be a selfish desire. Abram keeps referring to the fact that he wants an heir of his own body to pass all of his wealth to. He has no idea who this child will be, no less that he will ever have a child, but the idea of leaving his wealth to a servant, not someone who will carry on his name weighs on him. God knows the motivation for Abram’s desire and plans that Abram will have that child, but in God’s own time. Abram is about 80 years old, Sarai about 60 years old. God has already done so much for Abram, but as well all do, Abram has put that aside and is looking for the next part of God’s promise. How many times do we do that in our life? I try to keep track of the times that God has answered my prayers, moved me along to where He wants me next. I do that because I’ve come to realize that I forget way too easily about God’s answers to prayer and I remember way to well the prayers that God didn’t answer that I feel He should have. When I look back I realize why God did one thing and didn’t do another, but it’s still very much in my head the other things I think He should have done. I too often take for granted what I have, as if God owed me the answers, but get way too caught up in waiting for other answers, or getting “no” as an answer. God moved Abram from Ur to Canaan. Abram already had wealth and God added to it and gave him land where he could provide very well for himself and the growing number of his family and servants. Abram had power, he had wealth, he had land that God designated just for him. He had no other worries, but he wanted that son and despite the things that had been done for him, Abram decides that God hasn’t been sufficiently faithful. God makes a covenant with Abram, He tries to give Abram every reason to trust in God’s will and not his own. “Do not be afraid Abram. I am your shield: your reward will be very great.” That promise is to all of us who are in Jesus. He went on to promise Abram that his offspring will be greater than all the stars in the sky. God certainly fulfilled that promise since all Christians, Jews and Muslims claim to be descendants of Abram, billions of people. But very shortly after God makes these promises with Abram, after He gives Abram this covenant, this contract, what does Abram and Sarai do? They take matters into their own hands. At that time it was common practice for masters to have children with their slaves, especially if their wife hasn’t had any children. Children were valuable at that time, something we shouldn’t forget, they were the parent’s source of provision in their old age, and it was important that their family continue. So they decide that Hagar should have Abram’s child, which was not part of God’s plan. Instead of being the answer to prayer, Ishmael’s presence caused problems. The Arab people of today claim to be descendants of Ishmael. The descendants of Ishmael, the Arab people, and the descendants of Isaac, the Jewish people have had continual conflict since then. Violating God’s plan didn’t solve Abram’s problem and created problems for hundreds of millions of people since then.

The writer of Hebrews lists out those in the Old Testament who have been notable for their faith. We know all these people who were written about were faithful Jews and are now being presented as great examples of the faith for Christians that God gave them. They all trusted God’s Word, His promises and directions, even under very difficult circumstances.

Dr J Vernon McGee points out that we all want a blueprint. I’ve had this happen to me repeatedly; “ok pastor, tell me what I’m supposed to do and I’ll do it”. Doesn’t work that way, what God trusted to Abram, what he trusted to Enoch, Noah, David, Daniel, Isaiah, Samuel, on and on, these were all very different people, very different times, places and circumstances. The “rules” Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, those are a baseline, what we are expected to follow, but it is always and only through faith that we live our life out according to the Lordship of Jesus. The attitude for is “I followed the rules, so now give me what I want”. The fact is we can’t see what is truly important, we don’t really understand what God wants for our life and how His will is what is genuinely important and will give us the life that is always the best for us. As McGee points out, he likes to have a neat, clear set of directions, makes our life easier. “But in this chapter we are going to find people who went an altogether different route [which is God’s route]. They walked by faith, and that is the way God wants us to walk today.”[1]

Always to eternity in the eternal life of the resurrection. It’s pretty difficult for us to imagine eternity when we just want what we want right here and now. Jesus said: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We would so quickly settle for crumbs, things that won’t last, things that will lose their shine in a very short time and will end up just being junk. So many people do that with their lives. Trade the Father’s good pleasure for the things that are eternally important, for power, wealth, big homes, drugs, alcohol, sex. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” All of us make idols out of the things that we think we should have and they lead us nowhere. Jesus tells us: “Instead, seek his kingdom,” God’s kingdom is promise to all of us who are in Jesus and “all these things will be added to you.” They will be part of all that God is pleased to give us. This doesn’t mean that as soon as we think that we should have these things, well there they are right there for our faithful following. Certainly God does provide as Jesus is telling us all through this pericope. But that He will provide for us on the journey, that He will do what is necessary for us to follow His will.

There was always a “ready boat crew”, the people who would be expected to go on a call at any time, night or day. If one of us was on that crew we would just sleep in our clothes. If the buzzer went off, or if someone came in the room in the middle of the night, there wasn’t time for fumbling around for our uniform, we would just slide off the bunk into our strategically located boots and then rush down to the boathouse to get underway to rescue those in danger. Jesus is telling us that for His people, those He died for, that we should “stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.” Be ready to serve, be ready at any time to do what was necessary, Jesus said even in the second or third watch, between about 8pm and 6 am. Not that we should obsess over being ready, sit around constantly worried, but to be aware that He can come at any time; “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” A note for those who think they can predict that time, well Jesus said you can’t. A note for us to be prepared and when we trust in Him, when we have the faith that He gives us, that we are focused on Him and His will. That means we’re not all about what we want next, what will make us happy, what idol we can serve, but being focused on His return and His will for us.

No matter what our circumstance God does provide for us. It will be at a time and in a way that we can never anticipate. Since we can’t anticipate it, our worrying about it doesn’t make one bit of difference and it is always in His hands and as Christians we know in our heart that it will always be to the best result. Even in those times where it doesn’t seem so, our true life is not in this world, Jesus is our Lord and Savior in this world, He is our Lord and saves us to the eternal life of the resurrection. Where He gives us life and life more abundant. The Father knows what we need in this life and we do receive it, but true life is in the resurrection and we who are His need to stay prepared, dressed for that, no matter what our circumstances are in this short and difficult life.

We can get caught up in our “needs” here and spend all our time worrying about it, or as Peter Chrysologus writes: “All this is what that treasure brings about. Either through alms-giving it raises the heart of a man into heaven, or through greed it buries it in the earth. That is why he said, ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ O man, send your treasure on, send it ahead into heaven, or else your God-given soul will be buried in the earth. Gold comes from the depth of the earth – the soul, from the highest heaven. Clearly it is better to carry the gold to where the soul resides than to bury the soul in the mine of the gold. That is why God orders those who will serve in his army here below to fight as men stripped of concern for riches and unencumbered by anything. To these he has granted the privilege of reigning in heaven.”[2]

Worry, anxiety, covetousness are not the ways that the world will see Jesus in us. The world all around us has no hope, no promise, anything they put their faith in will never last and gives no promise of their future. Our Lord Jesus died for us, high and lifted up on a Cross, He surrendered His life for us to give us the way to eternal life, the very visible promise of our life in Him, the world does not have that hope and promise. Ambrose writes: “Jesus indicates that grace will not be lacking for the faithful in the present or in the future, if only those who desire the heavenly do not seek the earthly. It is unseemly for the soldiers of the kingdom to worry about food. The King knows how to feed, cherish and clothe his household, and therefore he said, ‘Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.”[3]

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

[1] Dr J Vernon McGee  “Thru the Bible Commentary Series Hebrews Chapters 8 -13

[2] Peter Chrysologus quoted by Arthur Just editor  “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III” pp 211-212

[3] Abrose Ibid p 211

Passion for Jesus, desire and drive to serve Him and others for Him

In  a business context I can understand the following quote in Forbes: “They should be doers, not managers. You need people who are hungry to prove themselves and to help you win by feeding off your passion and their experience.” (Forbes Magazine Sept 7, 2015 p 39)

I’m taking this quote a little out of context, but it really is applicable to the church, especially in terms of “passion”. We have the ultimate Savior of the universe, who in His “passion” died for us in order for us to have the assurance of eternal life in the New Earth, the Resurrection. Frankly, Christians, the church, the whole Christian community really does need to act in that passion. Now I’m not talking about phoney Pentecostalism “passion”, just a show put on to convince others that you are somehow singled out by the Holy Spirit and a show more for your own pleasure then genuine worship of God. I am talking about passion in doing what we are called to serve Jesus. An intensity, a desire, more of a passion that a man would express, pushing for what is important, having the integrity to stand up for what is right. That certainly is missed in the church, we really see passion in terms of what we want to please us. This is not what we are called to do in Jesus. As I said, that passion, in a business sense, is how to we make this sale, how do we achieve our quarterly goals, how do we serve best those who are stakeholders in what we do, how do we make the best product or provide the best service, truly believing in what you do.

Too often in the church of the last century passion has been more in terms of what will be “pleasing”, entertaining, having people leave with a big smile on their face because the pastor told them, no matter how sinful and unrepentant the person is, that they’re just fine and God really is just a wishy-washy people pleaser. We know that it’s not true. God expects us to live and act in Christian integrity. He expects us to step up to serve Him. I preached on Elijah, 1 Kings 19, this Sunday. Elijah was certainly put through a lot to serve God. I am sure that for too many who call themselves “Christian”, if they were called on by God to do what Elijah was asked to do, well, they’d pull the usual phoney move and decide that they need to go to another church.

These “people-pleasers” of the last century have really set the church up for failure. Taking the easy way out, being managers instead of leaders. Making sure the numbers are still up, but not doing the job with the integrity required in order to proclaim Jesus and what He wants in His church. This sort of “country-club” type of “Christian”, everything’s pretty, aesthetically pleasing, pleasant to the ear, then we go on with our regular life, church worship having essentially no impact. These “managers” are not there to prove themselves in Jesus, they’re there to make sure that the boat isn’t rocked. If no one gets mad and leaves then they’ve succeeded. Really?! seems to me that in John 6:66 (interesting that this verse should have this number, “Then Jesus said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has granted it to him.”66 From that time on, many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him. 67 So Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” 68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.…” Hmmm, Jesus had a whole lot of people walk out on Him! Case could even be made that he was down to much fewer at the end. Only about 4 were with Him at the Cross. But Peter, John, Mary, a remnant of disciples knew what was genuine, had integrity and they stuck with Jesus even though it was obviously not the popular thing to do anymore.

There are times and places when you do have to “manage”, make sure things get done. Pastors do have to be managers sometimes, there is church business they have to attend to. But our Savior was passionate for us, He wasn’t there to be a people pleaser, and He let a whole lot of people know that. We pastors cannot be in our positions to just entertain or indulge, we are called on to proclaim Jesus and to be His disciples and all that means. To be hungry for Jesus, for His Kingdom and for the eternal life in the resurrection. If we are hungry for that, shouldn’t we be instilling that hunger in others? Too often pastors are simply about lulling people into a nice, warm feeling of security. We should have a passion, meaning acting with integrity, striving to proclaim Jesus at every point, a passion to do our best to help anyone we know, to know true life and true salvation in Jesus. To truly read and study His revelation, the Bible. To help others to genuinely present Jesus to all they know, really a manly passion of what is right and truly salutary in Jesus and to stand under the stress that people in the world and yes, in the church will put you under to compromise with the world and divide your loyalty between the world and the church of Christ. We look for those opportunities to serve to help in a material way, but to remember that we are not social workers, that we are always first and foremost to serve the Creator, Sustainer, Lord and Savior of the universe, to point people to Him so they will know true life in the baptized life of Jesus and will move from their and act accordingly. Anything else is indulgence and people pleasing and not doing anyone any good. It’s managing, but the result is into condemnation and not challenging them and lifting them up which is passion and Christian leadership. What we all need to have “life and life more abundant.”

How should that look at your workplace? How should that look in every area of your life? Are we truly about church being one thing and then as soon as we’re out the door, on to the more important(?) things. Or are we men of integrity truly striving to serve our family, our church, our vocation and always, most importantly our Lord and Savior, with true passion, strength and integrity.

All are welcome to talk about this more Wednesdays 10am, the coffee shop at the corner of W King and Beaver Sts in downtown York, Pa. The church is at 140 W King, you’re welcome to park right behind, walk about half a block to the coffee shop. I always buy first timers their coffee.

Serving and Faith Luke 7: 1-10 First St Johns May 29, 2016

[for the audio of this sermon click on 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.

The observance of Memorial Day is about those who have served in the United States military and have died as a result of that service. I had ancestors who fought in the Civil War. One returned home after suffering serious injury, he lived a few more years, but his life was definitely shortened by wounds in military service, therefore someone who should be remembered and honored on Memorial Day.

The United States’ highest military honor is the Congressional Medal of Honor. It’s not a requirement, but the Medal of Honor is usually presented posthumously, that is the recipient died as a result of the action they took to be awarded the Medal of Honor. According to Wikipedia the Medal of Honor has been awarded to 3,471 members of our military. “The first Army Medal of Honor was awarded to Private Jacob Parrott during the American Civil War for his role in the Great Locomotive Chase. The first African American recipient was William Harvey Carney who, despite being shot in the face, shoulders, arms, and legs, refused to let the American flag touch the ground. The only woman Medal of Honor recipient is Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War surgeon.[1]” Of the number awarded there are only 76 living recipients.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to any member of the military who is so qualified. The next level are the service crosses; the Distinguished Service Cross for the Army, the Navy Cross for Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, the Air Force Cross. Interesting how our second highest military honors are crosses. The posthumous rate for the crosses is not as high as the Medal of Honor, but is still significantly high. How appropriate is it that for many who sacrificed themselves to often rescue or protect others, that they should be awarded a cross, the symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for all of us.

One particular mission in Afghanistan early in the War on Terror resulted in a few people being awarded the Navy Cross. Probably more than any time in the military history of the United States Special Forces, all branches of the military are required to have a Special Forces unit, have been utilized in the War of Terror to rescue civilian and military persons and to also perform covert U.S. operations and  to assist host countries in various military operations. There is a Special Forces prayer that is quoted in Lt Col Oliver North’s book “American Heroes in Special Operations”. The prayer is: “Almighty God, Who art the Author of Liberty and the champion of the oppressed, hear our prayer. We, the men of Special Forces, acknowledge our dependence upon Thee in the preservation of Human freedom. Go with us as we seek to defend the defenseless and to free the enslaved. May we ever remember that our nation, whose motto is “In God We Trust”, expects that we shall acquit ourselves with honor, that we may never bring shame upon our faith, our families, or our fellow men. Grant us wisdom from Thy mind, courage from Thine heart, strength from Thine arm and protection by Thine hand. It is for Thee that we do battle and to Thee belongs the victor’s crown. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. AMEN”[2]

In one of the first actions in Afghanistan, Navy SEAL Petty Officer Neal Roberts, was part of a unit to be inserted by helicopter into a mountain top area known as Takur Ghar to engage Taliban. During the approach the helicopter was hit by ground fire, engine fluids started pouring over the inside of the helicopter. Petty Officer Roberts lost his footing and went out the back of the helo: “…His buddies watched him fall about ten feet to the snowy outcropping below.” As the Chinook wheeled away from the mountain, the rest of the team watched helplessly as Roberts came under heavy enemy fire. The last they saw of him, was returning fire with his squad automatic weapon, attacking a superior force and going it all alone…”

“A drone was sent to observe and sent back video of Petty Officer Roberts fighting off the enemy for nearly an hour, first with his automatic weapon and then his sidearm until he expended all his ammunition and grenades. He was finally overrun and killed, becoming the first Navy SEAL to die in the war on terror …”[3]

I have interacted with a lot of military and also civilian public safety. They realize that they don’t work a 9-5, punch in/punch out job. They’ve seen and had to deal with situations of life and death and sometimes inhuman acts done against people. Death is a reality to most of them and unlike most people, they are very aware of their own mortality. Too often their attitude towards God, is often, like most people today, think that they’re doing good works and that will punch their ticket to heaven. Many though want to know about God, I’ve had many uplifting encounters with military and public safety people. Often they want to know how God can permit such violence and injury. This has given me the chance to talk to them about sin. God gave us free will, which means that we are free to sin and we do, quite often. For those who are not Christians they are dead in their sins, they don’t know anything other than sin. They might bargain with God and try to do works they think will earn their way. My answer is that we can’t make a bargain with God. He provided one way, Jesus! That’s a great thing. Too often I see people floundering around trying to make their own way to God and they know in their heart that it doesn’t work. We need to be in relation to God through baptism and in Jesus. Anything else is our own works and ends in failure in trying to reach up to God. But there is no mystery about it, Jesus, God the Son, told us very plainly: “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” Our way to God is obvious, it is not a struggle to be saved. Being saved might be a struggle, but in Jesus we are helped through our struggles and helped to maintain our faith through His grace, that we are living in His will.

In the same sense a Roman centurion is not your garden variety pushover. He had enormous power and authority. He certainly could have been U.S. special forces today. A Roman centurion could pretty much act as he felt necessary, for the most part was trusted to do what was necessary and his word would have much more influence than others. The centurion in this pericope would have been classified as a “God-fearer”, someone who was not Jewish, but who acknowledged the God of Israel as the supreme Creator, Sustainer of the universe. The Hebrew name was yirei Hashem[4]. They did not convert for various reasons, but they recognized the monotheism of the Jewish God. A Roman did not reach the level of centurion by getting involved with charlatans. Certainly an important point of this pericope was to show that Jesus’ power and authority was recognized outside of Jewish circles and was a precursor of the rest of the world recognizing Jesus as God as His disciples/apostles went out into the world. The centurion saw Jesus as having authority as the Roman did. If it was Jesus’ will to have something done Jesus had only to give the word. Chrysostom writes: “…the reason he had not brought him in [his house] was itself a sign of his great faith, even much greater than those who let the patient down through the roof. Because the centurion knew for certain that even a mere command was enough for raising the servant up, he thought it unnecessary to bring him.”[5] Chrysostom also notes: “While on previous occasions he [Jesus] had responded to the wish of supplicants, in this case he rather springs actively toward it.”[6] Obviously the Jewish leaders in Capernaum saw His authority also, they seemed to have no problem intervening with Jesus on behalf of the centurion. For those who deal with the very real world of life and death, they don’t necessarily know Christ as Savior, I’m sure the centurion would have reservations about making that level of commitment, but they usually know the real thing, their life often depends on it. Often as they go along in life they are led by God to know true salvation, again they finally see the authenticity. We honor those who have made a sacrifice for us, we continually hold our Savior Jesus in our heart and in our prayers as He who made the ultimate sacrifice for those who are His to have eternal life in the resurrection. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

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

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Medal_of_Honor_recipients

[2] Lt Colonel Oliver North USMC (r) “American Heroes in Special Operations” p 8

[3] Lt Colonel Oliver North USMC (r) “American Heroes in Special Operations” pp 44-45

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God-fearer

[5] Chrysostom “The Gospel of Matthew Homily” quoted in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Matthew 1-13” Manlio Simonetti p 161

[6] Ibid

Our Power as Jesus’ disciples in the Holy Spirit Acts 2: 1-21 May 15, 2016 First St Johns

[for the audio of this, please 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 those who pray come Holy Spirit, come, they said … AMEN!!!

Grace is the most important thing that separates Christianity from the other world religions. All other “religions” impose requirements that their believers must achieve to have, not the assurance of salvation, but the chance to be saved. Grace for a Christian is that God has done everything necessary for us to be saved. As long as we faithfully follow Christ, by being baptized, attending worship, taking His Body and Blood, hearing His preached Word from Scripture, you are saved, solely in Jesus and by what He has done for us. There is nothing we can ever do in order to “earn” grace, receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus.

Another thing that distinguishes Christianity from other world religions is that God, the one and true God, has actually been in the world. God Father and Son are now in heaven. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in glory as our great high priest to pray for us and intervene for us. But Jesus was very publicly in the world, all His major acts, His miracles and teachings, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension, all events that were done in public for all to see. Again unlike the other major religions of the world.

God the Holy Spirit remains in the world, with those who have received salvation in Jesus: ESV 1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, ESV 1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The Holy Spirit is part of us in order to guide us, in order to continually point us to Christ. On this day that we remember as the Day of Pentecost, we often refer to it as the birthday of the church of Jesus Christ, the place where His disciples grow and reach into the world. The word Pentecost is from Greek, “pentokoste hemera” meaning the fiftieth day, which is the fiftieth day after Passover. It was an ancient Jewish holiday known as the festival of weeks. It would certainly be reasonable to construe that the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), jointly chose this day to, again, bring to public attention, a major move of God. On this holiday there would be Jews from all over the known world in Jerusalem to observe the holiday. As was read this morning; Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Cretans, Arabians. As it is today, all these people continue to speak much different languages. We see in our first reading the reason why they spoke different languages. Then, as now, there were a bunch of smart guy people who decided they should put themselves at the same level as God. Just relatively recently the world had been destroyed because of the presumption of man. Now man would be separated from each other by language in order to keep them from conspiring together to try to do what Satan tried, to usurp or put themselves on an equal footing with God. Yes, I know, they could not possibly have achieved this end. But the point is that neither Led Zepplin in our time, or these ancient people could build a tower, or a stairway to heaven, but the arrogance of man will often bring quick and direct action from God. At some point God decides to let man just wallow in his sin and let it drag man down to death. Certainly God could have let them build the tower and then it would inevitably collapse, due to their ignorance, and kill many people. Mercifully God chose to save a lot of lives, but to also separate those sin-filled presumptuous people and hopefully keep them from collaborating on more presumptuous, arrogant acts that would also end up in physical or, worse, spiritual death, either way creating separation between God and man. The people continued to sin and act arrogantly. Certainly we see their acts when God Himself comes into the world to give them an opportunity to direct them from their evil, self-destructive ways. God the Son came into the world in order to proclaim as visibly as possible who He is and that He is the only way to life and eternal salvation in Him. As we know, people chose to reject that plea.

That does not mean that the Godhead retreated into heaven and left man to try to figure it out for themselves. Yea, we see a lot of attitude from people, but God continues to do whatever it takes to bring us to Him. And He always does all those things in a very public, very obvious way.

Jesus gives His disciples, then and now, such touching and compelling words of encouragement in our Gospel reading. He’s leaving them, He knows that, they don’t. “ESV John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. ESV John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

The Greek word that is used here for “Holy Spirit” is para,klhtoj( in older translations of the Bible you will see the Holy Spirit referred to as paraclete, the Greek means “helper, intercessor”. John is the only one who refers to the Holy Spirit in this way, it’s not used in the Book of Acts. In the same sentence Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit directly, pneu/ma to. a[gion( while we give it what seems a rather benign meaning, “spirit” the Greek word meaning blowing/breathing, and also wind. This may sound rather charming, it’s very much intended to be very powerful, in terms of the breath of life, yes, life giving. Tell me what the word “pneuma” says in English, here’s a hint, has to do with tools, … pneumatic tools. If you’ve ever used pneumatic tools, you know a compressor pumps hard to build up a lot of pressure so that the tool, that’s connected to the compressor, can perform various tasks, ever been near a jack-hammer working? We’re connected to the Holy Spirit.

The disciples don’t have a lot of context for what Jesus is telling them. They are probably thinking, “aren’t those nice, comforting words”, but at best have a vague idea of Who/What the Holy Spirit is, but on the Day of Pentecost, they would have a very powerful/lifegiving demonstration of Who the Holy Spirit is and just a slight idea of the kind of power the Holy Spirit is capable of.

Raniero Cantalamessa writes: “Origen informs us that the pagans of his day used to challenge Christians by saying: how can one man, who for good measure lived in an obscure township in Judea, fill the world with the perfume of the knowledge of God, as you Christians say, referring to 2 Corinthians 2:14? Origen’s answer was that Jesus can do this because he has consecrated a large number of disciples with the Holy Spirit and sent them through the world, and these devote themselves to saving the human race by living in purity and righteousness and by teaching the same doctrine as Jesus. Thanks to them, ‘the precious oil sprinkled on the head’ of the true Aaron, who is Christ, runs down ‘onto the collar of his robe’, referring to Psalm 133:2, that is, it spreads throughout the body of the Church and, through it, to the whole world.”

“We are those disciples sent throughout the world to spread the ‘sweet smell’ of Christ! To succeed, we too must ‘shatter’ the alabaster vessel of our human nature: we must mortify the works of the flesh, the old Adam which acts as an inner barrier to the rays of the Spirit…”[1]

We have mini-Pentecosts today! Ok, we don’t have 3,000 people being baptized at once. But in each baptism that is done here, we see the power of the Holy Spirit being demonstrated, that someone is being born again in Christ. When we accept someone into membership of the church as we do today, we add a new person to the Body of Christ, His church. It is the power of the Holy Spirit descending on that person, that person, having been indwelt by the Holy Spirit at baptism, is now a living example of the Holy Spirit. They are a container of the immense power of the Spirit, we all are as confirmed members of Christ’s church. As possessors of such power, the question becomes what do we do with that? How do we disciple those who are new in that power, so that both you and they will live that life of power in the world. We have too many cold and timid “Christians” today, we need to be renewed in the pneumous, the immense power of the Holy Spirit to stand as strong and equipped disciples who point the world to Jesus Christ.

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

[1] Raniero Cantalamessa  The Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus p 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only God’s will in the New World of the resurrection Revelation 22: 1-6, 12-20 First St Johns May 8, 2016

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who look forward to the eternal, perfect life in the resurrection and the new world said … AMEN!

I’m not that big into eschatology, end times, I’ve never really understood the point. When God decides to let the clock run out, it’s going to happen, whether I’m ready or not. What does fascinate me, and what it’s all about as Christians, is the eternal world, the new heavens and the new earth. One of my professors in seminary Rev Dr Louis Brighton, is a well known scholar and expert on the Book of Revelation. Dr Brighton is a professor emeritus at Concordia in St Louis, but he regularly did lectionaries on Revelation and I took advantage of taking in his expertise, especially concerning the resurrection. Between Dr Brighton and Randy Alcorn, I have come to a real understanding and appreciation of the resurrection that I never really had as a lay person. The resurrection is the ultimate reality.

We live our lives as Christ’s people, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We take the Body and Blood of Jesus and are saved, sustained and strengthened to live our lives being nourished by His true Body and Blood. We are confirmed in His church, the Body of Jesus. These are the things the Holy Spirit leads us to do in our very short, difficult, sin-filled life on earth. If we die before the return of Jesus we, who are in Jesus, will go to heaven, will be the church in waiting for the promised resurrection. I know today the word promise is used a little too loosely, promises made but easily forgotten or a quick excuse because our promise is too often insincere and hastily made. So with Jesus we should read the word promise as iron clad/lead pipe guarantee.

There were Jews who believed in the resurrection as part of Jewish doctrine. It was a basic source of disagreement between the two main schools of Jesus’ time, the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who did not. The Sadducees tried to trap Jesus making a fallacious argument about a woman who had seven husbands “who would be her husband in the resurrection?” Really?! You reject the resurrection because of someone’s marital status in this earth? If you regularly present Jesus to people you will hear a lot of silly arguments and I have no doubt that this was one of many that Jesus heard. His answer made it clear that God had intended our resurrection from the very beginning of time. God knew that we would reject Him and we would have to be removed from the first earthly paradise, Eden. We know that there is a perfect life for us because of the first perfect creation in Eden. Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees emphasizes what our true life will be: “ESV Matthew 22:31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ESV Matthew 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” ESV Matthew 22:33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.” Jesus answers them a little more tartly in Mark’s version of this pericope: “”Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? … ESV Mark 12:27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”” Not exactly the oh so delicate Jesus the world likes to make Him. Basically, “you don’t know what you’re talking about because you obviously don’t know Scripture.” Luke has the scribes commending Him: “ESV Luke 20:39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.”” God did not create us to simply pop out of life, He created us so that we would have life and life more abundant. For those who are in His will He did create an eternal world, completely in accord with His being the God of the living.

Jesus took this reference from Exodus 3:6, way back to the second book of the Bible. This is important because the Sadducees believed that only the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible were the only valid books of Scripture. Jesus is making it emphatically clear in a way they could not dismiss that it is all about the resurrection. God does not create us in order for us to simply blink away. He creates us in order to live our life in Christ that makes us truly prepared for eternal life in a new world that will only be suited to those in Jesus, because He will be the very present source of that eternal life. As Dr Brighton writes: “…whatever kind of physical life his people will live and experience in their resurrected bodies, God will richly supply their earthly needs as he did with Adam and Eve in the first paradise before the fall.”[1]

Don’t misconstrue, the world is not going to be one big garden with us sitting around eating fruit. God provided Adam and Eve all they could want in their own context. That is what He will do for us in our own context. There has been 5,000 years of recorded human history and the resurrection will be the culmination and inclusive of all that history.

Between Matthew and Revelation there are 41 references to the resurrection.

For those who like to tell us how unfair we are in saying that only those in Jesus will be resurrected, refer to Jesus’ words to John: “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it and his servants will worship him.” (Rev 22:3) What is accursed? … Everything! Sin made everything in creation, yours, mine, everyone from Adam and Eve to you and me. We are not “good”, we are all accursed, but in Jesus we are saved, we are justified and righteous. Dr Brighton writes: “The theology of the incarnation itself suggests that, as a result of Christ’s redemptive activity and his own bodily resurrection, those in Christ in his resurrection will be restored to God’s original design for humanity’s bodily state and so also the present earth be restored to its original, divinely intended state as the home for God’s resurrected people.”[2] Sorry, but there can’t be a diversity of opinion and “lifestyle” in the new world. There was only God’s will in Jesus through whom all creation came into existence in the original world. There can only be God’s will in the new, resurrected world. Sure there’s a lot of other “opinions” and lifestyles and diversity in this world. But that’s not how God intended in His original creation and it will only be what God intended in the new restored, resurrected world.
Jesus promises John who writes that promise to us: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” “Coming soon” in the context of eternity, even two thousand years after the promise made means pretty much right away. In eternity we will clearly understand how quick and tenuous our short lives were and how even two thousand years in eternity is “soon”. God is a just, completely holy God, we expect that from Him. The problem is we expect Him to be just according to our perspective which is inevitably wrong. We are only just in Jesus. Yes in the final judgment we will have to answer for the things we failed in, we sinned in. The difference between those of us in Jesus and the rest of humanity is that our Great High Priest, Jesus, intervenes for those who know Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus tells John: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Rev 22: 15) Who does that include? Yes, all of us. But in Christ we are cleansed in His Blood, His sacrifice for all who know Him as Savior. For those, who He describes as dogs, who rejected Him, who denied who He is, they are on the outside of the new, resurrected world. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Rev 22:14) In Jesus our robes have been washed, in His blood.

The resurrection is entirely in God’s will, it will be the restoration of His creation according to His will. His will can only be in terms of His justice, His holiness, His righteousness. Only those who are in Christ will be able to share in that eternal world that is only in God’s creative will. We should do everything we can to emphasize that to all who we meet and point them to the only possible way to that new resurrected world that is only in Jesus. For those who reject and ignore us, we should mourn for those who are doomed and continue to hold them up in prayer that God will have mercy on them and lead them to the only hope and promise that is in Jesus. Go back and read the account of the resurrection in Revelation, it is between chapters 21 and 22. Journal how it will be all about Jesus and not about how the world thinks it should be.

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

[1] Dr Louis Brighton “Revelation” p 631

[2] Ibid p 632