Sunday, July 24, 2016

Prayer as Symphony: The 1 Church Initiative

10th Sunday of Pentecost
July 24, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart




I think we can all agree that prayer is one of the biggies of the faith.

One of the scripture that is dear to my heart and our church is Acts 2:42
"And they continually devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
So prayer is one of the big four!!
>  The Word of God embodied in the teaching of the Apostles...
>  Shared or Common life, the Greek word Koinonia - 
>  Shared meals, including the Holy Communion or Eucharistic meal
>  and Prayer, or more specifically "THE PRAYERS"

Prayer here is the reflection of many of the things that Jesus did and taught, you will remember...
Jesus own prayer life was significant enough to get a response from his disciples:  "Teach us to pray!"
His response was a model for prayer, we call it the Lord's Prayer.  Perhaps a bit of a misnomer, since the Lord's Prayer is the one for us in Jn 17!  The Model Prayer, though Jesus probably never intended a word- for-word recitation, is prayed today by millions, perhaps by billions, and I doubt that the Lord is sorry for that!  It provides a prayer cover around the world that gives him "honor, and prays for His Kingdom
to come and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven!"  In fact we will use it that way toward the end of our time here today.
We read of Jesus condemnation of the temple practices of his day with these words:
"My house will be called a house of prayer, for all nations."
And Jesus' practice, his regular habit of prayer, was passed on to the disciples clearly from the outset in the book of ACTS:

[Act 1:14 ] These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

[Act 2:1 KJV] 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Why were they there, all together in one place?  Obedience to the command of Jesus at his Ascension, to wait for the 10 days till Pentecost in the Upper Room in Jerusalem -  they had been in that place together in prayer for 10 days!  Think of it.  Thinking and talking about the life of Jesus, the death and resurrection, His teachings while alive and especially in the most recent 40 days as he appeared to them.  Imagine what that 10 Days Together must have been like!  Then came Acts 2:1!


[Act 2:42 KJV] 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and [the] fellowship, and in [the] breaking of bread, and in [the] prayers.
We see here in these verses and those that follow elements we all look for in growth and revival in our churches: 
1.  A deeply shared community, what Bonhoeffer called, "Life Together."
2.  The preaching of the Word with miraculous signs attending the outreach;
3.  Shared resources for every day life; and 
4.  the addition of new believers, daily, as the Lord added to His church those who were being saved.

All of this was in the context - the milieu - of daily prayer - together.  Look at the very next chapter:

[Act 3:1]  Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.

It was at that place and time, that the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful became the cause for the apostles' being dragged into court - into the same Sanhedrin that JESUS had stood before only weeks or months before this.

The young church automatically reacted with unified prayer together, having come 'under fire' from the authorities.  We read in 

[Act 4:24 NASB] And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM,

The power of God's response was enough to physically shake the place where they were meeting! 
He filled them with boldness and the power of the Holy Spirit.  How much more do we need to come together today in single-minded prayer: the physical manifestation of the unity that Jesus prayed for in his High Priestly prayer for us in Jn 17?

Every one here has probably read Jn 17 or sat through a sermon on Jesus' High Priestly Prayer - the one prayer that remains visibly unanswered to this day!   The reason I say visibly, is that I believe that there is an invisible unity, that we have with other believers on the basis of our baptism and life EN XRISTO /  in Christ!  

We are in a day now where I believe that God is calling His Church to a new level of unity, of agreement!

I want to bear down for a couple of minutes on this point and then we are going to pray.  Let's talk for a moment about unity, single-mindedness and agreement.

The word in the Greek text that is translated "agreement" is sumphoneo:    sum = together / phoneo = To sound...  to sound together.  Of course we get the word SYMPHONY from this Greek root.

Another interesting feature of our biblical languages is how they agree amongst themselves.  In my study for today, I came across an interesting fact:  The words for Intercession in both Hebrew and Greek:

Hebrew word is paga;  the Greek word is enteuxis.  

When you look at the roots of both of those words, they mean to "strike the mark."  Like when you shoot an arrow or throw a javelin, and it hits its mark.  It's actually the opposite of the word for "sin"!  Hamartia = to miss the mark!

Now let me paint a word picture for us with these concepts in mind.

Have you ever been to the Denver Symphony?  Or to a band concert at your kids' school?   What happens before the symphony?  All kinds of noise - a cacophony
!  What the biblical writer describes at the end of the book of Judges:  "And each man did what was right in his own eyes!"

Today the Lord of the Church is stepping to the podium!  

My wife, Valerie, is a violinist, good enough to have played principle chair for the 2nd Violins in a small local symphony in Brazos County, Texas some years back.  She described to me what happens during this time prior to the concert.  Each person is absorbed in their own preparation, tuning their instrument to a tuning fork - tuned to TRUTH -  Our individual parts and preparation cannot be shirked!  But there is a cacophony during those moments.  But then the maestro comes on stage.  The cacophony may lessen a bit, but at some level it continues, until the maestro step up onto the podium and "strikes the mark."  He takes the baton and strikes is on the music stand in front of him.  tap tap tap tap tap.

What happens?

Silence!  "Be still and know...!"

All eyes are on the Maestro, instruments are at rest, positioned in your lap.

As the Maestro begins he raises the baton.  When that happens the instruments move from rest to attention!  In the position to play their individual part, in coordinated time, under the clear direction of the Maestro. When the down beat happens, the sum-phoneo begins.  That is agreement!  It's what Jesus referred to when he said in Matt 18:19, "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven."  

This agreement isn't about the number of people saying the same thing or doing the same thing --  this agreement is about each of us submitting our "thing" to the Lord - the Conductor; this agreement is about reading off the music sheet, not doing your own thing;  this agreement is about training and practice, apart and together, to sound in harmony under the direction of our Great Conductor, Jesus Christ, the Head of the Body!

Our problem is that we seldom agree.  We love to "do what is right in our own eyes." "to play our own tune" /  "to beat our own drum!"

The Maestro is on the podium, my friends!  He is striking the mark, tapping the baton to get our attention. To call us to silence before Him!  Each of us has a part that is important to play, but we must be playing our part in tune and in time - His time.  Calling us to AGREEMENT -- to SUM-PHONEO.

We are introducing a model of "prayer together in agreement" today.  Its name is the 1 Church Initiative.

It's actually Jesus' initiative - his desire and prayer for us.

Our response is to pray.  The 1 Church Initiative is a structure for 24/7/365  day Prayer.  Each church or ministry takes a watch on the wall, a 24 hour watch, the same day each month. Ours at REZ is going to be the second Saturday of each month.

During that 24 hours we will come together for an opening prayer time together AND we will pray in our War Rooms individually.  We begin at 6 PM with the First Watch, and proceed hour by hour through the 8 watches of the night and day, ending at 6 PM the next evening.  Our first opportunity is Saturday, August 13th through Sunday, Aug 14th.

It's a simple strategy to create a covering of Intercession - of striking the mark - for ourselves and our churches, for our neighbors, co-workers and communities, for the state of Colorado and the nation.  

Our need for prayer is self-evident and prayer is the most powerful force in the universe.


Let's pray:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer as Symphony: The 1 Church Initiative

10th Sunday of Pentecost
July 24, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart




I think we can all agree that prayer is one of the biggies of the faith.

One of the scripture that is dear to my heart and our church is Acts 2:42
"And they continually devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
So prayer is one of the big four!!
>  The Word of God embodied in the teaching of the Apostles...
>  Shared or Common life, the Greek word Koinonia - 
>  Shared meals, including the Holy Communion or Eucharistic meal
>  and Prayer, or more specifically "THE PRAYERS"

Prayer here is the reflection of many of the things that Jesus did and taught, you will remember...
Jesus own prayer life was significant enough to get a response from his disciples:  "Teach us to pray!"
His response was a model for prayer, we call it the Lord's Prayer.  Perhaps a bit of a misnomer, since the Lord's Prayer is the one for us in Jn 17!  The Model Prayer, though Jesus probably never intended a word- for-word recitation, is prayed today by millions, perhaps by billions, and I doubt that the Lord is sorry for that!  It provides a prayer cover around the world that gives him "honor, and prays for His Kingdom
to come and His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven!"  In fact we will use it that way toward the end of our time here today.
We read of Jesus condemnation of the temple practices of his day with these words:
"My house will be called a house of prayer, for all nations."
And Jesus' practice, his regular habit of prayer, was passed on to the disciples clearly from the outset in the book of ACTS:

[Act 1:14 ] These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

[Act 2:1 KJV] 1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Why were they there, all together in one place?  Obedience to the command of Jesus at his Ascension, to wait for the 10 days till Pentecost in the Upper Room in Jerusalem -  they had been in that place together in prayer for 10 days!  Think of it.  Thinking and talking about the life of Jesus, the death and resurrection, His teachings while alive and especially in the most recent 40 days as he appeared to them.  Imagine what that 10 Days Together must have been like!  Then came Acts 2:1!


[Act 2:42 KJV] 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and [the] fellowship, and in [the] breaking of bread, and in [the] prayers.
We see here in these verses and those that follow elements we all look for in growth and revival in our churches: 
1.  A deeply shared community, what Bonhoeffer called, "Life Together."
2.  The preaching of the Word with miraculous signs attending the outreach;
3.  Shared resources for every day life; and 
4.  the addition of new believers, daily, as the Lord added to His church those who were being saved.

All of this was in the context - the milieu - of daily prayer - together.  Look at the very next chapter:

[Act 3:1]  Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.

It was at that place and time, that the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful became the cause for the apostles' being dragged into court - into the same Sanhedrin that JESUS had stood before only weeks or months before this.

The young church automatically reacted with unified prayer together, having come 'under fire' from the authorities.  We read in 

[Act 4:24 NASB] And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, "O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM,

The power of God's response was enough to physically shake the place where they were meeting! 
He filled them with boldness and the power of the Holy Spirit.  How much more do we need to come together today in single-minded prayer: the physical manifestation of the unity that Jesus prayed for in his High Priestly prayer for us in Jn 17?

Every one here has probably read Jn 17 or sat through a sermon on Jesus' High Priestly Prayer - the one prayer that remains visibly unanswered to this day!   The reason I say visibly, is that I believe that there is an invisible unity, that we have with other believers on the basis of our baptism and life EN XRISTO /  in Christ!  

We are in a day now where I believe that God is calling His Church to a new level of unity, of agreement!

I want to bear down for a couple of minutes on this point and then we are going to pray.  Let's talk for a moment about unity, single-mindedness and agreement.

The word in the Greek text that is translated "agreement" is sumphoneo:    sum = together / phoneo = To sound...  to sound together.  Of course we get the word SYMPHONY from this Greek root.

Another interesting feature of our biblical languages is how they agree amongst themselves.  In my study for today, I came across an interesting fact:  The words for Intercession in both Hebrew and Greek:

Hebrew word is paga;  the Greek word is enteuxis.  

When you look at the roots of both of those words, they mean to "strike the mark."  Like when you shoot an arrow or throw a javelin, and it hits its mark.  It's actually the opposite of the word for "sin"!  Hamartia = to miss the mark!

Now let me paint a word picture for us with these concepts in mind.

Have you ever been to the Denver Symphony?  Or to a band concert at your kids' school?   What happens before the symphony?  All kinds of noise - a cacophony
!  What the biblical writer describes at the end of the book of Judges:  "And each man did what was right in his own eyes!"

Today the Lord of the Church is stepping to the podium!  

My wife, Valerie, is a violinist, good enough to have played principle chair for the 2nd Violins in a small local symphony in Brazos County, Texas some years back.  She described to me what happens during this time prior to the concert.  Each person is absorbed in their own preparation, tuning their instrument to a tuning fork - tuned to TRUTH -  Our individual parts and preparation cannot be shirked!  But there is a cacophony during those moments.  But then the maestro comes on stage.  The cacophony may lessen a bit, but at some level it continues, until the maestro step up onto the podium and "strikes the mark."  He takes the baton and strikes is on the music stand in front of him.  tap tap tap tap tap.

What happens?

Silence!  "Be still and know...!"

All eyes are on the Maestro, instruments are at rest, positioned in your lap.

As the Maestro begins he raises the baton.  When that happens the instruments move from rest to attention!  In the position to play their individual part, in coordinated time, under the clear direction of the Maestro. When the down beat happens, the sum-phoneo begins.  That is agreement!  It's what Jesus referred to when he said in Matt 18:19, "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven."  

This agreement isn't about the number of people saying the same thing or doing the same thing --  this agreement is about each of us submitting our "thing" to the Lord - the Conductor; this agreement is about reading off the music sheet, not doing your own thing;  this agreement is about training and practice, apart and together, to sound in harmony under the direction of our Great Conductor, Jesus Christ, the Head of the Body!

Our problem is that we seldom agree.  We love to "do what is right in our own eyes." "to play our own tune" /  "to beat our own drum!"

The Maestro is on the podium, my friends!  He is striking the mark, tapping the baton to get our attention. To call us to silence before Him!  Each of us has a part that is important to play, but we must be playing our part in tune and in time - His time.  Calling us to AGREEMENT -- to SUM-PHONEO.

We are introducing a model of "prayer together in agreement" today.  Its name is the 1 Church Initiative.

It's actually Jesus' initiative - his desire and prayer for us.

Our response is to pray.  The 1 Church Initiative is a structure for 24/7/365  day Prayer.  Each church or ministry takes a watch on the wall, a 24 hour watch, the same day each month. Ours at REZ is going to be the second Saturday of each month.

During that 24 hours we will come together for an opening prayer time together AND we will pray in our War Rooms individually.  We begin at 6 PM with the First Watch, and proceed hour by hour through the 8 watches of the night and day, ending at 6 PM the next evening.  Our first opportunity is Saturday, August 13th through Sunday, Aug 14th.

It's a simple strategy to create a covering of Intercession - of striking the mark - for ourselves and our churches, for our neighbors, co-workers and communities, for the state of Colorado and the nation.  

Our need for prayer is self-evident and prayer is the most powerful force in the universe.


Let's pray:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Prayer as Call and Response (Call2Fall Sermon)

Call2Fall Sunday
July 3, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart


PRAYER AS CALL AND RESPONSE
      click here to listen to the audio sermon


On the eve of our celebrations tomorrow on the 4th of July, Independence Day, our hearts naturally turn to the inherent nationalism that rests in our bones as Americans.  We sing America the Beautiful and our hearts soar like one of the scenes from Arial America, as a helicopter flies over the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains here in Colorado!  Over the fields in Eastern Colorado or in Kansas or Oklahoma as they are being harvested!!  

We know that our heritage and this land is a gift from God!  And on this Sunday of all Sundays we give thanks to God for the fact that we are fortunate enough to have been born into such a place on the earth!  It is a unique place and a unique time in the history of the planet!!

But our days may be numbered.  Now why would I say something like that?  

We all know the fact that our land is one that has a unique heritage, even a blessed and godly heritage.  If you go to Washington DC that fact is absolutely inescapable!  We hear all the hoopla about our Atheist friends trying to remove all references to religion and God from public life.  I think about my last tour of Washington DC and I laugh!!

No 10 Commandments?  but what about the ones depicted on the doors into the Supreme Court chambers?

 No matter how much our secular friends squirm there are repeated depictions of Moses, the lawgiver (among others certainly), but Moses is a central figure in the 
friezes inside and outside the courtroom itself.  You simply cannot escape the weight of history here and the place of a Judeo-Christian ethic and faith at the core of all that the founders believed and were intentional about propagating.

Thousands of quotes from Washington to Jefferson, Adams to Lincoln and on down the years, have our Presidents giving credit to the Almighty for help given, for direction, for provision, for protection.  In our day historians try their best to expunge the religious heritage of our nation, but they are trapped in their own foolish endeavor, and can be proven foolish by any 8th grade student who is paying attention as he or she is walking around the National Mall. 

Friends, we live in a land that is rife with Christian history, Christian markings and symbolism, Christian intention.  But history, markings, symbolism and intention only take us so far.  Today we are in a culture that has turned away from that history, from the marked path, from the symbols and intentions of a Christian heritage.  The question is what now?  How can we turn the tide today?

We've heard for at least 4 decades the quote of promise at the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 7:14
   "If my people, who are called by my Name, will humble themselves and pray, seek my Face and turn from their wicked ways; Then will I hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and heal their land."

Friends, this was a directive given to Solomon at the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.  The point of this is that its not about our nation, its about us!  Did you hear that:  "MY PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME"

As Christians we are the MY PEOPLE God is talking to.  We are the people in this land that are Called by His NAME!  We cannot stand and point the fingers at the politicians, and the press and the culture, because we are the Salt and the Light for those institutions.  I saw a quote the other day from President Garfield:

As a Congressman, James Garfield had stated at the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1876:

"Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.


If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature...

If the next centennial does not find us a great nation... it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces."

In short, the decline of the nation is because the Christian Church has ceased to be salt and light.  We have acquiesced to the culture in so many ways that we are completely indistinguishable from the culture around us.  Think about the nature of Salt or Light:  They are both radical influences in their particular ways.  Salt is a preservative and an influence of taste; Light is the instantaneous and complete dissolution and expulsion of darkness:  Where there is light, darkness doesn't exist!
The problem isn't with the darkness being dark, it is with the absence of the LIGHT!

Nehemiah, when he began his enterprise to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, began in repentance for his own and his father's sins!  Our rebuilding enterprise must begin in the exact same place!  According to the formula in 2 Chron 7 we must ...


HUMBLE OURSELVES - nothing signifies that like bowing our knees.  I've placed these two kneelers here at the front for just that purpose, but you may come and bow here on the floor, or at your pew.


PRAY!!  It's time! Friends, its time.  We need to pray ... pray like never before, for God's divine mercy on our lives, the lives of our children and the future of this nation. Our politics and political power plays have failed us.  The politics of this nation on both sides of the aisle reflect the state of those who have voted!


We need to Seek God's Face and Turn from wickedness.  Those two things are completely done by US who are Called by HIS NAME.  It is our job to Seek God's Face and to Turn From OUR wicked ways.  Those who are salt and light can no longer disengage from this culture, and continue to live in it.


You ask, "But how do we change all this?"  WE don't.  HE does.  Our side is the HUMBLE YOURSELF - PRAY - SEEK GOD'S FACE - TURN FROM YOUR WICKED WAYS.


His side is that He will HEAR FROM HEAVEN - FORGIVE OUR SIN - HEAL OUR LAND!  This second part is above our pay grade!  In other words we cannot maneuver or manipulate ourselves out of this mess!  We have to follow the map!  Humility, prayer, desperately seeking God and turning from our own sin in true repentance.  That is our part.


So shall we get to it?  I would like you to join me on our knees this morning as we conclude the sermon time with prayer.  Your response is HEAR OUR PRAYER:



A General Prayer of Repentance (Call2Fall)

General Litany of Repentance 


Heavenly Father,

Lord, You are good; Your steadfast love endures forever, and Your faithfulness to all generations
(Ps 100:5, ESV).

We come on bended knee to acknowledge our utter dependence upon You, our Creator, God, and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ. You are God of the Old and New Testaments. Your Covenant of love with us who believe is sealed by the blood of Your Son. Your promise to bless us if we believe, honor and obey You and to judge us if we do not, continues in force (Ps 95:6-7; Rom 5:8-9; Heb 8:10)

 We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

Lord, today, we unite with fellow Christians across America, from many denominations and backgrounds, falling to our knees before You, asking You to help us humble ourselves, not only today, but every day. Hear our prayers, forgive our sins and heal our land (2 Chr 7:14)!

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

We have been proud and arrogant, as individuals, families, churches and as a nation. You have singularly blessed us, but we have taken Your blessing for granted (Jas 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5-6)

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

 You are worthy of our love and devotion. Instead, we have forgotten You and ignored Your word. We have not esteemed You as Almighty God, nor have we honored, served and obeyed You as we ought (Ps 18; Rev 4:11).

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

Few of us are walking in pure devotion to You, worshiping wholeheartedly, praying without ceasing, and daily feeding upon Your word. Too few of us have given ourselves enthusiastically to do Your will and labored diligently to finish Your work. Rather we have forsaken You, the Spring of Living water, and imbibed the stagnant waters of our modern culture (Pr 12:24; Jer 2:13; Mt 4:10; Jn 4:34; 1 Th 5:17; 2 Tim 2:15).

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

You call us to be a light, to live holy lives, to walk in Christian love and carry the gospel of Christ to the nations. Instead, we have withheld the grace of Your gospel from our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, allowing far too many to face a Christ-less eternity. You command us to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, yet our youth are abandoning the faith in unprecedented numbers. While we ignore Your command to preach the gospel, those who serve false gods zealously proselytize, trapping millions in eternal darkness and confusion. We have been complacent, apathetic, lazy, disobedient, and unfaithful to Your call (Mt 5:14-16).

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

You charge us to be salt to our culture, to preserve truth and all that is godly and pure. Yet we have allowed the rot of godless media and entertainment to fill our homes. Instead of permeating our culture with vital Biblical truth, instead of filling our homes, churches, schools, businesses, halls of government, and thus our nation with eternal truth and reality, we have allowed them to be infected by lies and spiritual darkness. Instead of changing the world, the world has changed us. We seem impotent. Having failed to be the salt of the earth, we are fast becoming good for nothing except to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men (Mt 5:13).

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

Lord, the living faith of our Forefathers, their love and devotion to their children, and their commitment to future generations compelled them to sacrifice their lives for us. Yet we have become the “me generation.” We elect leaders, not for their righteousness, but their promise to give us benefits. Absorbed with our own lives and material possessions, we have lost sight of all that is important: God and family, our neighbors, our fellow countrymen and the people beyond the seas whom You love and for whom You gave Your Son (Pr 29:2; Ex 18:21).

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

Now, our nation is under judgment; natural disasters pummel our cities and countryside; we face war on two fronts; rogue nations hate us and international terrorists have penetrated our borders. Economic collapse cripples entire regions, millions are out of work; preachers and politicians are put on display for their acts of corruption and immorality; our leaders mortgage our children’s future to build political monuments to themselves. Our jails and prisons are filled to overflowing. Our children are enslaved by unthinkable sins, sex, drugs and alcohol. Abortion and sexual immorality have become protected rights, and legislators, judges and governors impose homosexual “marriage” upon their citizens. Our schools teach that “marriage” between a man and a man is morally equivalent to holy matrimony between a man and woman; evil is called good, and good is called evil. The curses you warned would come to a disobedient people have all come upon us (Dt 8:11-20; 28: all; Is 5:20)

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

Unless You, Lord, intervene and bring revival to the Church, Awakening to the nation and spiritual reformation to our culture, our once God-blessed nation will go the way of ancient Carthage, Greece, and Rome. Persecution will surely become our lot (Ps 85:6; 94:17; Mt 5:13b).

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

Lord, we cry out to You today. Hear our cry. Help us to seek Your Face. Show us Your Face, and help us to turn from our wicked ways (2 Chr 7:14).

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER

Lord, Heal our Land. Show us mercy! Forgive us our sins and cleanse us! Revive Your churches. Set our pulpits aflame with righteousness. Purge compromise from our pews and cause Your word to go forth to every city and town in America. Make Your people salt and light again. Raise up godly leaders in church and state and grant that we might lead quiet and peaceable lives in godliness and honesty. Help us to return wholly to You and return, Lord, to us. We pray in the Name of Jesus, knowing that Your word declares, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." (2 Chr 7:14; Is 40:8; Joel 2:15-18; Mal 3:7a; 2 Cor 7:1; 1 Jn 1:9)

We say:  Lord, in your mercy...
HEAR OUR PRAYER


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Call2Fall Sunday [Prayers for our Nation, Leaders, National Life, and Election]

Prayers for National Life
[Source: Book of Common Prayer]




For our Country

Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage:
We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a
people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land
with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners.
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and 
arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and 
fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither 
out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of 
wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority 
of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, 
and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy 
praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, 
fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer 
not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ 
our Lord. Amen.




For the President of the United States and all in Civil Authority
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We
commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided
by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant
to the President of the United States, the Governor of this
State (or Commonwealth), and to all in authority, wisdom
and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the
love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful
of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.





For Congress or a State Legislature
O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and
gracious, and whose law is truth: We beseech thee so to guide
and bless our Senators and Representatives in Congress
assembled (or in the Legislature of this State, or Common-
wealth), that they may enact such laws as shall please thee,
to the glory of thy Name and the welfare of this people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



For Courts of Justice
Almighty God, who sittest in the throne judging right: We
humbly beseech thee to bless the courts of justice and the
magistrates in all this land; and give unto them the spirit of
wisdom and understanding, that they may discern the truth,
and impartially administer the law in the fear of thee alone;
through him who shall come to be our Judge, thy Son our
Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.




For Sound Government     The responses in italics may be omitted.

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we
may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to
other nations of the earth.
Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors
of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative
authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their
duties.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our
laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and
foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to
fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding
and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and
justice served.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to
accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they
may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for
the well-being of our society; that we may serve you
faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as
head above all. Amen.




For Local Government
Almighty God our heavenly Father, send down upon those
who hold office in this State (Commonwealth, City, County,
Town, ____________) the spirit of wisdom, charity, and justice;
that with steadfast purpose they may faithfully serve in their
offices to promote the well-being of all people; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.



For an Election
Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers
and privileges: Guide the people of the United States (or of
this community) in the election of officials and representatives;
that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of
all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your
purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.




For those in the Armed Forces of our Country
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and
keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home
and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly
grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give
them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant
them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Answering the Call of God

June 26, 2016, 9:30 a.m.
6th Sunday of Pentecost
Fr. Phil Eberhart


ANSWERING THE CALL


This morning I have to admit, my mind is on this evening!  An exciting and historic day for us here at REZ as we ordain two, Michael and Ethel, into their callings as priest and deacon.  Michael has been with us here for 5 years!  At a rehearsal yesterday he was talking about coming here and finding his home back in his Anglican upbringing.  He said to me, he remembered coming to me and telling me he wanted to be a priest... and I said, "VIOLA!!  And now your a priest!"  Only 5 years!

Seems like a long time when you're waiting.  Ethel felt her call to ordained ministry at an early age and so this evening will be the fulfillment of the dream of a lifetime!

I felt called into the ministry when I was 10, shortly after coming to Christ at my own bedside.  And "VIOLA!"  52 years later, I feel like I'm just beginning to plumb the depths of what it means to be "called to ministry" - or to "be a priest."

My point here this morning is that our scriptures this morning, the scriptures for the day are all about what is happening among us this day!  I'm floored once again at the providence of God and his oversight of His Word as it lives in our midst, even for us as a small group this morning.

Yesterday at a meeting of clergy and candidates with our Bishop, one of the newest candidates in our diocese, a man from Nigeria, simply introduced himself as David, a man who is "on Call!" to the Lord Jesus.  I will go wherever He sends me!  

We are all "on call!" to Jesus.

If we have given Him the place He deserves and demands in our lives, then we are "on call!"  

That is the force of our three REZ BE-ATTITUDES!

>   BE WILLING!

>   BE AVAILABLE!

>   BE OBEDIENT!



Jesus spends a good deal of time in his teaching trying to get across to his disciples the nature of this "call."

Our gospel this morning is one of the most pointed, filled with difficult meaning and challenge.  Jesus appears to be almost heartless in His responses to some of those who say they will follow Him:

"I will follow you wherever you go!"   Brave words coming from someone who knew nothing of where Jesus was going!  And so Jesus responds with a warning.  Sometimes we are like Peter, and we let our mouths run on without engaging our brain!  We are moved by sentiment and we don't understand the weight of the words we are saying!  Peter, on the evening of the last supper, told Jesus he would Never Leave Him... but we know how that turned out.

What Jesus is saying in his response here:  "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."  What Jesus is saying is that before you say things like "I will follow you wherever you go!" it is good to consider the facts of where Jesus is going!

"This world is not my home," the song goes, "I'm only passing through!"  Jesus followers who are doing what HE DID, almost always come face to face with this sense of "homelessness" in this World!  Jesus said to be a friend of this world, was to be an enemy of God!

Jesus said at another time that one who builds a house, considers all the costs of doing so.  One who builds a tower considers the costs.  One who goes to war, looks at the numbers he has and the numbers he is going up against!

This is why the first Be-attitude is BE WILLING!

Willingness is what happens after you have considered the sayings of Jesus from today's Gospel!
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." 
"Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
 "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."


Willingness is the quality of having counted the cost and said "yes!"  Willingness is understanding the nature of "call" from God, that it is
all consuming, like the sacrifice on the altar (living sacrifice) and that it is our "reasonable act of worship" in light of all that God has done
for us in Jesus Christ.  "In the light of His mercies."

The last two lines of our NT reading from Galatians speak to this very thing as well:  
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

So once the flesh is crucified, as Paul said earlier in this same letter, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me..."

And so willingness must issue in the second Be-Attitude:

BE AVAILABLE!

Availability is about the conversion of our calendar!  When the Roman soldiers came to Christ and were baptized, they would take
their sword with them into the river and hold it up, out of the water as they were baptized, reserving it from the water.

What have you reserved from the water of your baptism?  For some of us its our checkbook!  For most of us its our calendar!

Face it, we are busy in America!  We've got people to see and places to be!  We are important, at least in our own minds!
And as a result we are often negligent when it comes to both the relationship we have with God in Jesus Christ and when it comes to the mission, the call of God on our lives.  I'm talking to people who have voluntarily submitted their lives to Jesus, and answered His Call!  I don't have these expectations for those who have not made that decision!  Not at all.

Availability is our handing over our calendar -  has anyone here ever worn a pager?  Do you have a cell phone today?  I call it my "leash."
Whenever anyone wants my attention, they yank my leash!  Even for me, Availability to God is a challenge!!  As much of an oxymoron as that is, I am just as susceptible to my attention being diverted from what is important, by the "tyranny of the urgent!"

I appreciate the image I saw once in a book by Steven Covey.  Choosing what you fill your day with is like filling a jar with stones and water.  If you fill it with water first, that's all that it holds, but if you have important things that you need inside (the big rocks) you need to put them in first. Then the smaller stones - then the sand and then the water!  

Availability is the quality of having chosen, of having prioritized, which are the big stones!  "If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit".  Another translation speaks of "Keeping in step" with the Spirit in our lives.

And finally BE OBEDIENT!

Actually this is a decision that is made from the outset.  This the the finish line!  And we have to have the finish line in view, as we run the race!

Yesterday, as Bishop Bill spoke to the clergy and candidates for orders, he said that this quality of obedience was the prerequisite to "hearing God's voice!"  

So many time, I hear from people that God doesn't speak to them!  I can't hear God speak!  What are you talking about, "God told you!??"  Don't you think that sounds a little crazy?!!  

Probably, from the world's viewpoint - you're just hearing voices - funny farm stuff, right?

But for you to hear God's voice, there has to be a point of decision in your life, when you say to yourself, to your heart and mind, to your life and your circumstances, I want to live my life in relationship to the Lord of the Universe - to the Lord Jesus Christ.

You know what the meaning of LORD is right?    its...  LORD!  We Americans don't really have a construct for LORD in our worldview.  Perhaps Boss, or Employer or in the military, C.O.  The point is this is someone who has a measure of control over your day!  Control over your actions.  Control over your calendar and appointment book.  Paul uses the military as an analogy of the Kingdom, in fact, in writing to his disciple, Timothy:

[2Ti 2:3-4 NASB] 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.

Friends, we must make the decision of obedience as a part of the process of becoming willing!  As a part of the exercise of our availability!  We must have the obedience of our hearts in view.  It is the finish line to which we run!

So once again the sermon is about what I have named The REZ BEATITUDES!

BE WILLING -  BE AVAILABLE - BE OBEDIENT

This is the essence of following God's Call, whether you are a man or woman on the street or a Bishop in the Cathedral!  Whether you stand at your own table in your home, or at the Table of the Lord in the Temple!  Its all of ONE PIECE!

BE WILLING - BE AVAILABLE - BE OBEDIENT

AMEN.

Let's pray. This is one of my favorite prayers for the church and we need to pray it often:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:
Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.