Sunday, April 30, 2017

On the Road to Emmaus... Again!

Easter 3

April 30, 2017

Fr. Phil Eberhart

On the Road to Emmaus ... Again!

This morning we've just heard the gospel, as we do with the passion gospel, from the perspective of different voices, even with our own voices mixed in, telling the story of the journey to Emmaus on the evening of the Resurrection.

This morning I want to look deeply at what has happened - at what was said, both leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, during the event itself, and what happened on the road in our reading.

First a bit of a flashback to a moment of teaching from Jesus, about his body and blood - a moment that many disciples misunderstood and some left off following him. You remember the discourse?  Turn to John 6, if you have your bible or your phone handy.  John 6.

Let's take a few broad strokes to paint the canvas...

V. 4.  Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.

This was the Passover of the second year of Jesus earthly teaching ministry, the one before He would be in Jerusalem with his disciples the next and last Passover he would celebrate.  He is in Galilee probably on the natural hillside to the west of Capernaum, today called the Arbel.  A natural hillside or mountain, that provided a place like an amphitheater where Jesus could speak and be heard easily by many.

Once again the disciples are gathered with him as they prepare for the Passover together.  Even then the Jews spent the month prior to Passover in a season of preparation, much like our present day Lenten disciplines.

In this setting, people find him and flock to him.  He feeds them, some 5000 men it says, with the 'school boys lunch' of 5 loaves of barley and two small fish.  

7 items, feed 5000 men and their families, and they are instructed to gather up what remains - into 12 baskets full of bread pieces and fish scraps.  Interesting numbers here - 7 the number of perfection, fullness, completion and 12 the number of the tribes of Israel, just like the loaves of the Shewbread in the Old Testament Tabernacle.  The Bread of the Presence!  We will come back to that thought.

Also interesting that what we see here is a form of Eucharist -  Jesus action was to do what he did at the table on his last night ...

He took the loaves

He blessed the loaves

He broke the loaves

He gave the loaves and fish

Take - Bless - Break - Give ... remember those words.

The disciples were instructed to "gather up" the remains of the meal.  Herein was the visible sign of the miracle!

There was more left over than there was originally - a great deal more, in fact!  And people said (v 14)  “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

They saw him as the Prophet, the Teacher and potentially, the coming King - in fact some wanted to make him King by force.  What an advantage to have a king who could feed the troops on 5 loaves and two fish!!  No more need for provisions!!

Now we skip to the end of the chapter, about v.30.  The Pharisees and people are seeking a sign - a sign like the Manna from Heaven that Israel ate after the Exodus event, in the wilderness.  Jesus picks up on that and teaches that He is the NEW MANNA.  

[Jhn 6:33, 35 NASB] 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." ... 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.

And finally Jesus become explicit in his instruction - so much so that many take offense at his teaching:

[Jhn 6:33, 35, 48-51 NASB] 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." ... 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. ... 48 "I am the bread of life. 49 "Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 "This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh."

Here even his disciples get offended, as Jesus goes even further into the mystery of His Body...

[Jhn 6:33, 35, 53-56, 60 NASB] 33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." ... 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. ... 53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 "For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

 ... 60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?"

Many of those who were following him left at this point.  Thinking He was advocating some kind of cannibalism, which was abhorrent to the Jews, ( as it is to the modern mind).  This charge stayed with the disciples and the church for decades, because of their understanding of the Eucharist and its depth of meaning and mystery.

Now come with me to the Last Supper:  Luke 22

A year later, they are near Jerusalem and a room is found, prepared for them to celebrate the Passover meal (what we know today as the Seder meal) together, in remembrance, as is Jewish custom, of the Exodus event and the Jewish identity as the People of God.

[Luk 22:19-20 NASB] 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.

Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives the bread to them.

But something is different - He identifies the bread broken now with His body, and the wine given and drunk with His blood.  He is now become the "lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" 

Interestingly, in the gospel account the seder meal seems to be incomplete. The cup that is passed is the 3rd cup, the cup of Redemption. It's also clear that the disciples and Jesus leave the Upper Room at that moment to go across The Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane.  There Jesus prayed that "this cup might pass from" him.  Yet,  "not my will but thine be done" he concludes.

Now look at Jesus' final moments and words on the cross:
Final words were "Into your hands I commit my spirit."  Just before that,  "It is finished!"  But what was finished?   What were the words just before those?  Simply,   "I THIRST."  Jesus takes a drink of sour wine,  the fourth and final cup of the Seder meal,  the cup of thanksgiving; the Hallel Cup.  THE SEDER IS FINISHED.  Jesus has wrapped his own sacrifice forever into the ancient atonement sacrifices celebrated for millennia by his people.   The kingdom of God had been initiated and continues to this day in the Eucharistic Feast,  where God and man at table are sat down!

And all of this is confirmed - has God's stamp of approval - by the Resurrection!!  In his death Jesus enters with His own blood into the Holy of Holies, before the very Throne of God in Heaven, to present, once for all, his very blood as the propitiation - the payment for the sins of the whole world.  The Resurrection of Jesus, like the exit of the priest from the Holy of Holies in the Old Testament, indicated and indicates to us the Acceptance of God of the Sacrifice.  

Jesus walk in the evening with Cleopas and the other disciple, explained this mystery to them along with the mystery of the suffering of the Christ -- of Jesus of Nazareth.  

It is apparent that they were still stuck in the belief that Jesus was "just" a Prophet or a Teacher, great in power.  One we had hoped would "restore the Kingdom to Israel" but they did not understand still who Jesus actually was and the scope of His mission. 

Just one last piece here.  A piece of bread!  Once again Jesus sits with them and does what He does, what He did on the seashore, on the mountainside in Galilee, and in the Upper Room:   He takes, He blesses, He breaks and He gives.  The fourfold action of the Eucharist has become recognizable to them, and Jesus uses it to reveal Himself a final time - he opens their eyes to see him.

Let's pray:

Lord, open our eyes to see you again this morning in the taking of the bread, the blessing of the bread, the breaking of the bread and the giving of the bread.  You are the host of our meal at Your Table in Your Kingdom.  Come and be all that you are, both Host and victim, sacrifice and savior in our midst.  Help us, --  open our eyes to see You, present and visible to us in the bread as surely as you are here with us face to face. We want to see you, Jesus.

Open our eyes, Lord

We want to see Jesus,

To reach out and touch him

And tell Him we love Him.

Open our ears Lord

And help us to listen.

Open our eyes, Lord

We want to see Jesus!

Lord, in your mercy...

     Hear our prayer!


Sunday, April 16, 2017


Easter Day
April 16, 2017
Fr. Philip Eberhart

We live by FAITH!  Do you have IT?

Alleluia!!  The Lord is Risen !!  
       The Lord is Risen Indeed!!   
        Alleluia !!!

I want to welcome you here this morning for our Easter - Resurrection Celebration.  This day is the hinge on which all the rest of the year hangs!!  All the rest of our life, in fact!!

Paul tells us that those who come to Christ must 1. Confess with their mouth that "Jesus is Lord" (The first creed) and 2. they must "believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead!"

So this day and the belief that rests upon it, are the very foundation of our life in Christ.  Paul reflects this priority in his rebuke of the Corinthian church for entertaining some who say that the Resurrection of the Dead is not a real hope, or that Christ was not raised from the dead.

1 Cor 15 is very pointed!

If Christ is not risen from the dead, then we are still in our sins! 
     If Christ is not risen from the dead, we are lost and without hope!
          If Christ is not risen from the dead, we have believed in vain! 

But Christ IS Risen from the Dead!!   ALLELUIA,  The LORD IS RISEN!    The Lord is RISEN INDEED!   ALLELUIA!!

I know that saying it loudly does not make it so, but we say it loudly BECAUSE it is so!

Let me talk for just a few moments about the key of belief.  Faith.  It means actually thinking that all this stuff is real!!

The past few weeks I've been struck by the stories of faith and the lack thereof in the Bible.  It seems that from beginning to end we are all a mixed bag of faith and fear and doubt - even the disciples who were witnesses to the resurrection and the bodily appearances of Jesus, of Him eating with them and teaching them after his death.  At the Ascension, the gospel writer tells us that they were all there on the mountain with Jesus, "and some doubted!"

Faith is a key to so much.  It is the key to eternal life to be sure, but it is also the key to that eternal life as it bleeds over into our life in the here and now!  Jesus was limited not only by his own choice to become human, "to take the form of a slave", but in his earthly ministry he was hindered in places like Nazareth because of their lack of faith!

Did you know that your faith has that kind of power?  Power to limit the God of the Universe!!
Sure, God could just do stuff.  Like He created the universe, he has the power to create all things ...  from nothing!
He was quick to remind Job of his power and to set Jonah straight.  But all that power, in Jesus, came to be limited by OUR FAITH.

In our modern world, the greatest danger isn't our using "faith" as a dime in a celestial slot machine! 
Our greatest danger is not having faith at all, not "really believing that what we believe is really real!"  (Del Tackett, THE TRUTH PROJECT)

Do you believe that the events of the past week really happened?  Do You?

If you don't you are free to go home!  Jesus didn't coddle those who couldn't believe in what He was saying and doing?  Jesus challenged the disciples at every turn, and challenged them to their very core!!

Peter, after one such exchange in Jn 6, after many followers left Jesus company, was asked outright, "Are you 12 going to leave too?"
And Peter answered plainly, "Where would we go?  You alone have the words that lead to eternal life!"

This week would be a great week to go to the movies and watch "The Case for Christ."  It's the story of one man's struggle with faith, with belief that all this is really real!  I commend it to you.  The struggle is real!

The struggle hasn't changed.  One of the most moving parts of the movie, RISEN, is the point at which the Centurion encounters one of the guards from the tomb of Jesus!  He is undone - in a bar, drinking himself into a stupor, because he cannot explain what happened on that Sunday morning!! 

What do you do with these facts?  Turn with me to the Acts 10 reading in your bulletin...

1. Jesus was a real, historical person.  His reality and teaching was known to Cornelius, a Roman Centurion in Ceaserea by the Sea.
      "You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ"

2. Jesus was a man, approved and anointed by God, who understood himself to be the Messiah of Jewish promise.
      -- "he is Lord of all"

3. Jesus ministered in the Power of the Spirit for three years in Galilee and Judea.
      That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced

4. Jesus went about doing good, healing and teaching as it is written in the Gospels.
      how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
       We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem.

5.  Jesus was killed, brutally, at the hands of the Romans and the instigation of the Jewish leaders, precisely because they understood and rejected the claims Jesus made of his divinity and Messiahship.
      They put him to death by hanging him on a tree

6.  Jesus rose bodily from the grave after three days, as He said He would on numerous occasions.  That claim was common knowledge such that the Jews posted Roman guards at the tomb!!
      but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses,

7.  Jesus body was not in the tomb on Sunday morning!  This fact is rock-solid history. No other fact is established as clearly as this and it explains a great deal about the other facts of the case! 

8.  Jesus showed himself risen and alive, eating with and teaching his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection.
        and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead

9.  Jesus was taken up to heaven bodily at the Ascension -  At which point he charged his followers to GO!
       He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
          All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

So now the question remains... 

What will you do with these facts?

Do you believe that they are facts?  If so, WHAT?

Well, for me,  these facts inform everything!  All that I am, all that I do, all that I think and say.  All the hopes and dreams I have for my life.  All the ways I interact with people.  All my hope for eternity! 

Peter put it this way in his later, first letter:

[1Pe 1:3-9 ESV] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

And so let us 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 tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were 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.

If you are so moved, please repeat this prayer after me,  phrase by phrase:

I am no longer my own, but yours...

Put me to what you will,

place me with whom you will.

Put me to doing,

put me to suffering.

Let me be put to work for you

or set aside for you,

Praised for you

or criticized for you.

Let me be full,

let me be empty.

Let me have all things,

let me have nothing.

I freely and fully surrender all things

to your glory and service.

And now, O wonderful and holy God,

Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,

you are mine, and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

Let it also be made in heaven. 

Amen.  (J. Wesley)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Maundy Thursday - Rev. Deacon Ethel LeResche

Maundy Thursday 2017
Rev. Deacon Ethel LeResche

Let’s start by defining some terms: Maundy comes from the Latin “mandatum”—commandment

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” John 13:34

What is service?

Actually, let’s look at what service is Not:

 Pew dusting on Sunday morning at the “Service” while you watch people up front serving

 Or serving with a Grudging heart (alright, if no one else will do it, I guess I’ll have to.)

 Volunteering for selfish reasons

Any taint of self in the sacrifice pollutes it—and none of us is taint-less. We are so full of our own selves! We “serve” others because we want something:

 I give so people will see how successful I am!

 I am kind so they will like me!

 Look at me—I am holy!

 I am worthy of your respect!

 Love me!

I had a Vision. 

I was standing before the throne of God offering him a sacrifice. I held out a package I was holding in my hands and with great reverence I unwrapped it. In the package was my heart. It was rotten and decomposing—I gagged from the smell and it was crawling with maggots.

Just like the Israelites in the desert—we all start here, in the flesh. Every time I asked God to show me the definition of “service”, He brought to mind verses that talked about “sacrifice”. After arguing for a while, I began to see the connection. “Service” puts legs on “sacrifice”.

 Service is the sacrifice of the self for the sake of others

Psalm 51:16-19

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (my favorite)

5  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So we come to the Upper Room some one thousand nine hundred and seventy-nine years ago (or so). The sun is going down and the feast of Pesach is about to begin. Is there peace in that place? The disciples had argued all afternoon about who was going to sit where when Jesus established the Kingdom. Judas had already made his contract with the Sanhedrin to betray Jesus.

Then Jesus stripped down to his underwear and picked up a towel.

7  Jesus said to Peter, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”

What was Jesus doing? Not simply washing feet: not simply taking off his robe. He laid aside friendships to serve his peers. He laid aside his status as Rabbi, teacher, to kneel before his students. He laid aside his divinity to take up the position of a slave.

And then he commanded them to do the same or they would have no part of him (one translation says, we can have nothing to do with each other).

He was commanding them to lay down their own selfish desires, ambitions, fears—their lives. No other sacrifice would do.

How do we get from here to there?

Let’s look at Peter’s journey—clueless but enthusiastic

He didn’t want his feet washed. Neither do I. We all feel that sense of self-consciousness and embarrassment. It’s no more socially acceptable now than it was then. But in obedience, before understanding, Peter made a first step toward laying down his own interests.

And Peter showed courage when he followed the guards and Jesus after the arrest. But his courage failed him. He denied Jesus. Once is a slip of the tongue. Twice is fear. His adamant third statement is betrayal.

To save his own skin he betrayed his friend. He betrayed his teacher. He betrayed his LORD.

Scripture tells us “And he went out and wept bitterly.”

In the days that followed Peter changed. He laid down his fear, his self-image had been shattered. He was, oh, so very sorry. He became a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Truly repentant, truly humble and contrite. A broken spirit, truly able to love for the first time.

We pick up the story beside the sea in Galilee. Not only does Jesus restore Peter to relationship with him, he makes very clear the relationship between loving the One who is Love and serving.

Jesus served breakfast to his disciples.

15  After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” [love and service]

16  He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.” [love and service]

17-19  Then he said it a third time: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep” [love and service]

This follows immediately: Jesus said:

I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.”

[Peter controlled his own life, his own will, selfishly involved in his own desires, no matter how dressed up in holiness. But he laid that down in sacrifice and allowed the Lord to command the rest of his life, even to his death upside down on a cross]

And then Jesus commanded, “Follow me.”

It’s not easy to follow Jesus. It’s not easy to sacrifice ourselves to become the fragrant offering he requires. It’s radical. But it’s necessary.

In a few moments, we will join Peter in the Upper Room. As we offer ourselves as servants and take up a towel, let us take a moment to lay aside those things we need to put down.

Service is not an option nor is it an event. The Lord doesn’t actually need you to fix a pot of soup or even go to India. He wants your life, your broken and contrite spirit. He wants your love. Service is a way of life and a walk into the very heart of God.

Do you love him; feed his lambs. …… you love him, shepherd his sheep .......   do you love him, feed his sheep.

So what does that look like?  John Wesley says:



Monday, April 10, 2017

Palm Sunday - Fr. Phil Eberhart

Palm Sunday
April 9, 2017
Fr. Phil Eberhart

Behold the Lamb!

Welcome to Holy Week!

Seems just yesterday we were here receiving ashes and the invitation to a Holy Lent!  I hope yours was as exciting and fruitful as ours has been.  New revelation and new challenges are ahead of us.  

Next Sunday we will have two guests visiting, our friends from Israel, Yakov and Ruth Dolinsky, AND the director of our Rwandan outreach and development projects, Rev. Pius Nyakayiro will be here as well!  Yakov will be preaching on Sunday, so you don't want to miss next week!!

This morning's events, our liturgy of the Palms, our Triumphal Procession, our crying out Hosanna and then the juxtaposition of the Passion Gospel reading and our crying out "Crucify Him!" is a poignant reminder of the condition of our life and faith on this planet!  We are like the disciples, basking in the glory of the Triumphal entry on Friday of the week before Passover, and disappearing into the night when the Master is "picked up" by the Temple guards and then turned over to the Romans.  It wasn't just Judas, or Peter who betrayed Jesus or denied knowing him.  We are all part of the same story line in our daily lives ... and that is exactly the point of today's liturgy!

We are challenged today to hear, to read, and to find ourselves in the drama of the Gospel story of this week.  There are so many possibilities!  The good, the bad and the ugly!  It wasn't just a Clint Eastwood movie.  

The good...   Mother Mary, so faithful and ever present with her Son throughout this ordeal, in the courtyard of his trial, at his scourging, at the foot of the cross, with John the beloved and with Mary Magdalene.  Nicodemas, during the trial and Joseph of Arimathea after the fact, going to Pilate, giving the tomb and helping with the burial.  The Centurion's confession at the foot of the cross! 

The bad...    The disciples beginning with Peter, who denies Jesus outright, almost to his face!  The other disciples who simply disappear from the narrative, vanish into the night - back to the Upper Room I suppose to the relative protection of a closed and locked room for fear of the Romans and the Jewish leaders.  Fear is the one thing present in all.

and The ugly...    Judas.  The betrayal, the kiss, the payoff, the regret-filled death.  So sad.  So little understanding of Jesus and his purpose and person after three years together.  Just like the other disciples, only more of a zealot. Prompted to action, possibly to force Jesus' hand to take power.

Of course, the other voices we hear - The high priest, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and his soldiers, the servant girls in the courtyard, Pilate's wife, Claudia, a secret believer history tells us.  A host of voices we will see and hear as we read, over and over this week, the accounts of these days in Jesus' life and death.

I point these out so you are aware of all of the possibilities!  I urge you to take time each day to reread this morning's two chapters as well as the other chapters of the gospel writers that describe these days.

There is a lot to take in. Four different perspectives on the week before and the days of Jesus' passion.  The facts from 4 different narratives.  And the deep dive that John makes into the final words of Jesus, the time alone with his Disciples at the Passover, the institution of the Supper of the New Covenant, the Footwashing Lesson, His final promises as they go to the Garden of Gethsemane.

It has taken a host of movies to capture even this last week of Jesus' life.

And the challenge for us is to understand any of it!  The words of Jesus to Thomas as he is restored from his disbelief of the other disciples rings in our ears...  "blessed are those who have NOT seen, and yet have believed!"

The purpose of the Holy Week services is to help us enter in personally - physically - audibly - viscerally.

Many just skip Maundy Thursday (footwashing is wierd!)  (Jus sayin).  And Good Friday, how morose can we be?
Isn't it good enough to just do Palm Sunday and Easter?  Or how about just Easter?

Well you certainly don't want to miss Easter!  That is for sure!  But Easter is so much more powerful, if you've walked with Jesus through this week.

So, I invite you in the name of the Church to the Observance of this Holy Week!

Find yourself in the narrative - in the good, the bad or the ugly!  Are you the faithful.. or are you among the fearful?  Have you cheered Jesus and later betrayed or denied Him?   

Watch the movies!   The Passion of the Christ - and a new one, Risen!  Maybe the week after Easter!  What do you do with a Risen Jesus?  How do we NOW LIVE?  What are the ramifications of a Risen savior - an actual Messiah from God?

These are the questions of the week and of the month ahead, two months as we move toward Pentecost!  Put yourself in the picture, in the story, in the narrative, in the characters.  Faith or Fear?  Betrayal and denial or ?  How do we respond to the facts.  Is the Resurrection real or a figment of several imaginations?  How do we come to be here, in worship, over 2000 years later, if there was a dead Messiah?  How?  How do you explain the changes in the disciples from coward to martyr - 100% of them!  A Lie?!!  Are we all lunatics?  Or is Jesus LORD?

I invite you.  Come along.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

State of the Flock 2017

State of the Flock Address
Fr. Philip Eberhart
February 5, 2017

Welcome, my friends, to the Annual State of the Flock Address for 2017.

I think that many of us awoke on January 1, just about a month ago, happy that 2016 was in the rear view mirror!  In looking back over the year, both personally and professionally, for our family and for the church here, it was a year of change, renewal, almost a year of "reset!"

For the Eberhart's personally, almost all are aware of the remodel of our house, that was accompanied by an almost clean sweep of appliances and systems, including our heating and A/C, our washer/drier, our dishwasher, and of course, the death of my long time friend, the BOB - Big ol Burb.  Alongside all of those changes, came an accident at Val's work which broke her wrist and jammed her elbow and arm at the shoulder.  We are still engaged in that fight as many know and pray for daily or weekly.  For us the year, contained much upheaval and change.  It felt as though we had a big "reset" button on the house that Someone pressed!

This past year has also seen significant changes here at REZ as well, especially in our staff.  On the last Sunday night in June we had the only triple ordination I've ever seen, with Michael, our friend Jerry from Florida being priested and Ethel ordained a deacon.  Along side that our Reverend ladies, Margie and Barb were received as  priests by Bishop Bill on behalf of the ACNA and began to function fully along side myself, Edward and now Michael.  Over the past year the Lord has been forging us into a team to lead REZ.   You can see the new flow chart in your Report booklet outlining the many ministries and roles that each of us have.


We feel certain that God has brought us all together here at REZ for special purposes in His Kingdom.  Over the past year part of the task has been to eliminate the feel that this is all the Fr. Phil show - the "one-man-band" that it has been for so many years.  As I have been working more and more with Bp. Bill in our Diocese and in our City over the past couple of years, God has seen to it that the players have increased alongside me to bless this congregation and continue to grow it both in depth and in breadth.

Probably the greatest things that have happened this past year are these changes and the addition of truly amazing people who are willing to engage in ministry as volunteers in this parish.  I, Mary and Bonephas remain the only "paid" employees of this parish, while we have a very active ministry staff of priests and a deacon who volunteer their time throughout the week and are very active in the ministries of this church.  I wanted to say that very loudly for all to hear.  We have been given an extraordinary pool of talent both in the clergy and in the laity at this church.  The changes have been challenging at some points, but our focus is singular:  We want to exalt Jesus Christ and to draw near to His presence here at REZ;  We want to bring God's people to maturity, recognizing their own value and giftedness, taking their places in ministry as the Body becomes whole and sound; We want to be the Love of God, extended to the World, both near and far.  

I am reminded of a line in one of my favorite Pentecost hymns:  "tell of how a hundred people, turned the whole world upside down!"

When I talk about our church to people on the outside, in our diocese or across the city, I describe us as a "hobbit" church, small in stature, but with a great big hairy foot print!  You all completely amaze me!  In a few weeks you will have an opportunity to see all that we have our feet and fingers in, around the city and around the world.  When you step back from it and look, it is really amazing what God has accomplished through this small faithful band of friends.

Part of my role in this talk is to remind us of who we are and to challenge us to new things!

In years past we've talked a good bit about the Acts 2:42 formula as a template for the life of our parish:
  >  The Apostles' teaching
  >  The Fellowship
  >  The Breaking of Bread
  >  The Prayers

Each of these parts are faithfully represented in our life at Resurrection from the central part the Word of God takes in our services and preaching and teaching, to the depth of fellowship and belonging that we all feel to and for one another, to the hospitality of the Lord's table and extending that, of our own tables, to the powerful presence of Jesus that we feel as we pray in various ways and venues in this church!  The outcome of hitting that target is that we are in a place where love is the hallmark of our life together;  Where prayer happens at the drop of a hat;  Where funds are shared generously, as each has need; And finally, where people come to meet and encounter the presence of Jesus in His people, day by day.  All of these things are realities, in this, my favorite church!

And today God is calling us further up and closer in!

The prayers and the life-verses from Scripture apply to us as the Body of Christ!  Welcoming the Presence of Jesus Christ in the midst of His People is our goal here, the goal of all of us as clergy and we hope, all of us as worshippers together.  Jesus said that the Father seeks those out who will worship "in Spirit and in Truth."  We have always stiven, and continue to do so, to let the life of this parish run on those twin 'tracks'.  The leadership of Jesus through the power of His Spirit and the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well as truth about our life together and the world around us.

Over and over in these last days, as we pray,  we have been hearing the prayers of St. Paul and his directions in Ephesians for this church.  Let me just read a couple of his prayers for the churches in Colosse and Ephesus, and the directions he gives to the church in Ephesus...

Prayer #1 is from Colossians 1:

We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.

 We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,[c]
 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom[d]and forgave our sins.

Prayer #2 is from Ephesians 1:  Similarly, Paul prays ...

I pray for you constantly,
 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom[f] and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.[g]
19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

Prayer #3 is from Ephesians 3:  Going deeper, Paul continues his prayer ...

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[e]
15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[f] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen

And finally, the WHY of all the prayers:  from Eph 4...
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5   There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,6    one God and Father of all,who is over all, in all, and living through all.
However, he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ. 
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ."

What we are called to, friends, here at Resurrection Anglican Fellowship, is nothing less than completing the work of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ and seeing Him present and exalted in our midst as His Body the Church in our day.  Over and over, you have put up with me harping on saying these things happen through our Willingness, our Availability and finally, our Obedience.  This simple trinity form what I call our REZ BE-ATITUDES!  The apostolic prayers of Paul and the promise of the Gifts of Christ in our midst, call us to a mature faith, a complete Body, which sees each of us operating in the Gifts of Christ as our motivation and mode of life in Him!!  
Over the next year we will be striving to live into and bring our life together into alignment with these Biblical directives and prayers. We live in times which require our best, friends.  We believe that we are much nearer to Jesus' return in our days and we are seeing many of the things that describe those days, the "last days", in Jesus teaching and throughout the Old and New Testaments, coming to us on our news channels!  I believe that we have been given a kind of time-out, a period where prayer and Christian living can lengthen the days, giving time for us to further the Kingdom of God in our nation and around the world.  
So let us continue to pray with and for one another; continue to pray for our partners in the Gospel around the nation and around the world.  Let us continue to reach for the Gifts of Christ in our midst and to live from a mature faith in Jesus Christ, as Paul prays, that He might be manifest in and among us, "until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ."
When that happens among us, Paul tells us, "we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."
And we say, Amen, Lord!  Let it be so among us, and come quickly, Lord Jesus!!

Respectfully submitted,
Fr. Philip Eberhart

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Epiphany I - God's Missions Movement

Epiphany 1
Jan 8, 2017
Fr. Phil Eberhart

God's Missions Movement

With acknowledgement of Rev. John Stott, and his article in Path Light:  The Bible in World Evangelization, pp. 3-7.

I want this morning to prime the pump - to whet the appetite for the course we are embarking on beginning next Sunday morning in our Adult Forum Time called Path Light, Toward Global Awareness.  This is going to be a 5 week study of the paths that God uses to "get the Word out!"  

This sermon is taken from the very first article in the book, by Rev. John Stott.  I will be quoting directly from the article in some parts of the sermon this morning.

Epiphany is the season of light - specifically the Light of the World as it is revealed to the World, the whole world.

During this Epiphany we are going to be studying the ways that the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is taken to the world by ... us!  If you remember the video a few weeks back ...  "WE are the plan!"

And the plan - God's Plan - for US is entirely found in The Bible!  Here is the first Stott quote:

"The Church's commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible!"

The more we are convinced and convicted that the Bible is actually TRUE, the more likely we are to actually GO! Our hope here this month and next is to begin to understand our Christian movement as a missionary one!  We are sent from a missionary God!  We'll develop that a bit.

So first of all, the Bible gives us our MANDATE (first M) for Missions... for World Evangelization.

In our world today we see two opposite and equal poles that have developed in the world: on the one hand, a radical fanaticism has developed, which sees its job as conversion by any means possible, including violence, warfare, ... any means possible!  We see it on the news almost daily.  

The other, opposite pole of that pendulum is a religious pluralism that claims that all religion is the same!  It asks us to COEXIST in the famous bumper sticker.  Can't we all just get along, because all religion is the same... it takes us all to the same place!  Right?   Um... no.

Even a cursory study of the world's religions will reveal that to be an out and out lie.  No such claims are made by any religion, except the Johnny-come-lately pablum that is being fed to those who so want it to be true!  

Both poles severely resent and openly oppose any kind of evangelism.  The one because it represents departure from its aims, the other because it means that there are exclusive claims among the religions of the world.

Let's look at our MANDATE in that light.

Abraham was called by God.  Abraham didn't invent Judaism!  This is revealed by God.  And the promise to Abraham, when it was revealed to Him in Genesis 12, was that "all nations will be blessed through you."  God has always had the whole earth in view, from the very beginning.  Our Mandate is the whole bible!  From beginning to end - from Creation to Maps!  "The Spirit and the Bride say come!"  God is the Spirit and We are the Bride!  With one voice the invitation is made to the whole world, "COME!"

We pray it ... "...So clothe us with Your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of Your Name!"

Our MANDATE is clear to anyone who will see!  We must "hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" this Word of God and we will "hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the Missio Dei - the Mission of God - the MANDATE of God to US, his people, from Abraham to REZ!  The Mandate has never changed.

So lets look to the Bible also for our MESSAGE (2nd M).

It's the whole story!!  We encapsulate it every Sunday when we say The Nicene Creed.

We believe... in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth!  

From before time in eternity, God the creator has been a missionary God. The Psalmist tells us that Creation itself speaks without end!  This God chose Abraham some 4000 years ago - chose him and made a covenant with him to "bless him, and his family, and through him all the families of the earth." (Gen 12:1-4)

Paul tells us in Romans that we who believe, we who have faith, are counted as Abraham's descendants!  The People of Christ are the descendants of Abraham. The Old Testament prophets are prolific with words about the coming Messiah - words which Christ claimed and endorsed while here on earth in His incarnation.  Jesus equally had the whole world in view as He was "sent from the Father."  Likewise the apostles and the church took up this view as they were filled with the same Holy Spirit and sent to "Jerusalem, all Judea, to Samaria and the Uttermost Parts of the Earth!" (Acts 1:8)  As I've preached before, the movement of the Spirit of God is ever outward!

Jesus claims "all authority in heaven and on earth" - and on that basis commissions us to GO!  To spread the news, the Good News, the "Euangelion" of His coming and of His death, His resurrection, and ascension!  The news of His soon return and the ACCESS to God that we have as believers.  We have become the Bride who says COME!

Quoting Stott again:  "The Church of God is a multinational, missionary community, under orders to evanglize until Christ returns."

Not only has God given us the Mandate and the Message, He has provided for us THE MODEL! (3rd M)
He has given us not only the What but the HOW!  "We learn how to preach the Gospel by considering how God has done it!"

What we learn as we read how God has done it is about His Humility - the humiliation of coming as a baby, being born in a cattle stall, living in abject poverty as a refugee, and growing up as a worker in the world.  The mystery of the Incarnation is the key to understanding the HOW of God!  Stott calls it "the climax of the self-communicating God!"

The Word became flesh!  And made it's habitation among us! (Jn 1:1-14)  

The same principle of Incarnation is seen in the giving of the written Word of God!  100% God AND 100% Men! The divine communicated through the human!  The principle is "identification without loss of identity" and it is the "model for all evangelism, especially cross-cultural evangelism." (p. 5)  So often failure in evangelism, means that we have failed to identify with those we are going to!  Jesus fully identified with us, in every way tempted as we are, yet without sin. The Kenotic Principle of Philippians 2 applies clearly.  He humbled himself - emptied himself-  and became a man, even to the kind of death he suffered!  Likewise our MODEL is a radical self-sacrifice, all the while maintaining the love that God pours out, into our hearts, as we have access to Him, to His presence and to His power.

That brings us finally to the 4th M - MOTIVE POWER!  Our only way forward is by the Motive Power of the Holy Spirit!

We cannot bring change of life!  Our fight is not against flesh and blood!  Paul tells us up front (Ro 1:16) that the Gospel IS the Power of God for salvation, to the Jew first and then to the Greek!   Our power is not found in our strategies or our methods, nor in our willpower or determination!  Our power is found in the Gospel preached!  The Word of God spoken!  It is the Word of God that is the Power of God.  It is in fact called the Sword of the Spirit!   Not even our sword!  Our job is to simply speak it.  To let it loose in the world!  

One more Stott quote:  "Without the Bible we have no gospel to take to the nations, no warrant to take it to them, no idea of how to set about the task, and no hope of any success!"

But with the Bible God gives us the mandate, the message, the model and the motive power we need to GO - to Go with God's Word and tell the world.  "So let's seek to repossess it (the Bible) by diligent study and meditation.  "Hear, Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly Digest".  "Let's heed its summons, grasp its message, follow its directions, and trust its power.  Let's lift up our voices and make it known."

Amen and Amen!

Our closing prayer today is the opening collect you will hear next Sunday:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.