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Pastor at Resurrection Anglican Fellowship in Greenwood Village, CO

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Advent 1, 2020: The Challenge of "Wokeness"

 Advent 1, 2020

November 29, 2020

Fr. Philip Eberhart


THE CHALLENGE OF WOKENESS

 

Welcome to the New Year, Church!   I am sooooo looking forward to being OUT of 2020 that maybe I'm rushing it a bit.

From the title this morning, "The Challenge of Wokeness" you may think that this is going to be a political sermon... again.  But let me allay your fears today and let you know that this "WOKENESS" is about an actual awakening that both needs to happen, and at some level, is happening in the Church, BIG C!

For many, many years I've preached this first sermon of Advent, on the same need and the same opportunity.  The last words of our Gospel reading from Mark this morning say it all, "KEEP AWAKE!!"

Friends, the times that we live in today, what with all the stuff, the pandemic, the societal unrest, the riots, the wokeness, the political games ... all require of us that we live with our eyes wide open.  It was said of one group in the Old Testament that they "knew the times in which they lived."  Today that is perhaps the greatest gift we can ask for from the Holy Spirit, that like those Men of Issachar, we might know the times that we are part of and how to respond to them.

The command of Jesus to KEEP AWAKE is not just a random wish that the Church would be more aware of its sleepy state.  The fact is that we've been lulled to sleep over decades, especially here in America, by the culture and by the very prosperity that we believe we deserve to enjoy!  "In the lap of luxury" is a phrase that conjures up a certain picture of us being coddled and spoiled, like a new baby with three sets of grandparents who live within 20 minutes!!  

We have spared ourselves no luxury!  There are certainly pockets of poverty, and we help those who are struggling along the way, but the overall picture of America and wealth is that we are at the top of the heap, even those who are at the bottom of the American wealth pyramid, are in the top 1 or 2% of the world.  Why do you think that the "huddled masses yearning to be free" are "teeming on our shores?"  America is still the Land of Opportunity, of Freedom ... and of Sleepiness!

WOKENESS, in this sense, is a heightened awareness of the forces that are at work in our systems, yes it does mean awareness of racism and injustice, but it means a great deal more in this context.  We are in a WAR.  We, THE CHURCH, are engaged in hand-to-hand combat, just like the picture painted for us by Paul in Ephesians 6.  We need to be awake, in full battle fatigues, and ready to engage as a team in the warfare of the spiritual world that is raging for our culture today.

WOKENESS here, is having our eyes wide open to the UNSEEN that Paul speaks about as he recounted his own battle fatigue to the Corinthians.

 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 

16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.


Our WOKENESS is our understanding of what is real.  Of the nature of the world we live in, of it's brokenness and need;  awareness of our position and role as THE CHURCH; engagement with the purposes of God in the midst of the times that we find ourselves living in; AND an awakened WISDOM that comes from THE FEAR OF THE LORD.  We must understand WHOM it is that we approach and deal with through Prayer, the power of our weapons of warfare, the need for the armor of His Righteousness.

WOKENESS means additionally that we are aware of our own weakness and lack of strength in this fight.  THE BATTLE IS THE LORD'S!  It has always been His and will always be HIS ALONE.  We use the word JUST sometimes mistakenly in regard to prayer!  "Well, all we can do is just pray." Never do that again!!!

Friends, in this challenging time, PRAYER is the primary Weapon of our Warfare!  It is not something that is secondary - its our BIG GUN!  Inside the Kremlin in Moscow sets a cannon that was fired once - its so big that the firing once, broke it.  It stands nearly 15 feet above my head.  That is the size of prayer, though not its effect!!  Our big gun WORKS.

I carry a quote with me from Peter Kreeft:

"I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers to God make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those effects down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives!'

So friends, this morning on the Church's New Year's Day, I challenge you to be WOKE!  TO STAY WOKE.  TO ACT AS ONE WHO IS WOKE!  AND FULLY SO.


LET US PRAY:

#109. For Watchfulness                                                               Lancelot Andrewes 

Thou, who with thine own mouth hast told us that at midnight the bridegroom shall come: Grant that the cry, “The bridegroom cometh!” may sound evermore in our ears, that so we be never unprepared to meet him, or forgetful of the souls for whom he died, for whom we watch and pray. And save us, O Lord. Amen.


#97. Preparation for Personal Prayer 

Holy Spirit, breath of God and fire of love, I cannot pray without your aid: Kindle in me the fire of your love, and illumine me with your light; that with a steadfast will and holy thoughts I may approach the Father in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who reigns with you and the Father in eternal union. Amen.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Nov 1: I Am Your God; You are My People

Nov 1, 2020
All Saints Sunday
Fr. Phil Eberhart 


I am your God,  you are my people! 



I have to start by saying that life throws us some curve balls once in a while!   I wasn't planning on preaching from Zoom this morning but exposure to an active covid case requires us to quarantine,  for everyone's safety.   No symptoms after 9 days, so we think that we're ok. 

This morning we're also welcoming Fr Edward back in the saddle again here at Rez.   He has come off his sabbatical and will be preaching again in a couple of weeks. 

My shoulder surgery also got postponed as a result to Dec 31.
So... Happy New Year!

This morning is our All Saints celebration and our Covenant Renewal Sunday.   At the back table and on the back of the bulletin is our
2020 Giving estimate sheet.  

(Click above in the RezPadre blog) (cut and paste the form into your email window,  fill in the blanks and email to ... pamebake@comcast.net)

During the breakout time today we will take that 10 minutes to fill the sheet out.  We've got a table at the front for the dedication prayers... you may place the sheet along with phones, wallets, purses e.t.c.   anything you want prayed over and dedicated to the Lord.  If you're on Zoom have those items handy and we're going to hold them in our hands for that prayer. 

We are living in a time right now of high anxiety as our nation surges toward what is an unprecedented election and the final two months of 2020, ... Thank you,  Jesus! 

Someone said that the worst thing about the fall time change this year is that we got another hour of 2020!
_____________

Renewing Covenant is something that the people of Israel did and do every year and that is the point of the yearly schedule of feasts that the Hebrew nation celebrates to this day.   The remembrance of their history and heritage as God's Chosen people is brought to mind and celebrated as it is recited again by young and old. 

Rez by contrast is a blip on the screen,  in our mere 20th year,  born officially in May of 2001 and on a journey of life together since that time.   But the best part of this day is remembering all that God has done,  the many,  many faces of His people, called Rez, and of His extraordinary faithfulness to us on this journey. 

The emphasis today must be on God, who is the maker and keeper of his promises concerning us.  The original promise to Abraham and his people was "I shall be your God and you shall be My People! "

Today we respond to that promise again in an unbroken line of those God calls "My People"... what a story we have to tell of His unfailing love and faithfulness to us all. 

It's not about our faithfulness but His!   I was struck as I listened again to our gospel reading from the beatitudes.   These are the parameters of blessing in the Kingdom of God...

Being 'poor' in spirit,  not spirituality arrogant or self- sufficient. 

Being one who mourns,  I think not for the dead but for the lost,  including ourselves and our own state of constant need. 

Being the meek, the gentle,  the kind. 

Being hungry and thirsty for His righteousness. 

Being the merciful. 

Being the pure in heart. 

Being the peacemakers. 

Being the persecuted. Reviled for His Name's sake. 

"Rejoice," Jesus said! 


If we live out these BE - Attitudes we will experience the blessed-ness of being God's People!   We're going to stand out in a crowd.  Not because of outward differences, but inner ones.   

People wonder why?   What's going on with you.  There's hope, when despair is all around.  There's love, when hate is everywhere.  There's peace when violent discord is the order of the day! 

Believe me,  we will stand out if we're truly God's People! 

Peter told his listeners to "Set apart Christ as Lord,  and to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that us in you! "   

"Let your light so shine,"  Jesus said,  "that all may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven!"   This is our part of the equation.   This is the "be my people" part of the equation.  And when we're living that out day by day we're going to see the "I will be your God" part manifested before our eyes as well.

Let's pray a prayer to begin the renewal process now and we'll move through the process in our prayers and offering time this morning. 


Heavenly Father,  in you we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit,  that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you,  but may remember that we are ever walking in your sight;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.    Amen.



Sunday, October 25, 2020

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER...

 21st Sunday of Pentecost

Sunday, Oct 25
Fr. Philip Eberhart

My Cup Runneth Over...


Welcome this morning to our consideration of Psalm 23 as we move toward our renewal of covenant next weekend on All Saints Day, Nov 1.  Next week is a big week!  Our covenant commitment ingathering will be during the service on Sunday, and we will bless the articles we present to the Lord on our extended Altar table down front here.  

Since we are still both live and virtual, we will have a letter sent this week, outlining our last couple of years financially, that our leadership team for finances and the building have put together.  It will also include a page you can bring with you or send by email to Pam Bradbury.  We will have blank sheets here at the church, in the bulletin, next week for you to fill out during the Break Out time next week and bring to the Altar.

What I want to talk about this morning is our attitude of gratitude, even in the midst of all the trials and tribulations we find ourselves in, we must say, with David, "My Cup Runneth Over!"

How do they say it?  GOD IS GOOD...  ALL THE TIME!   AND ALL THE TIME...  GOD IS GOOD!

Even in the "valley of the shadow of death"  -  even in the time of Pandemic and societal confusion ... I WILL FEAR NO EVIL.

Paul tells his young protege, Timothy, that God has not given us a spirit of Fear...  at every turn when Jesus greets his disciples in surprising circumstances he greets them with the words...  FEAR NOT!   DO NOT BE AFRAID!

This morning I want to ask again, on what basis does Jesus make such a request?  Or is it a command?   FEAR NOT!!  Sounds like an imperative to me - a command from the one who holds all things together (Col 1)

On what basis are we to FEAR NOT?

I AM WITH YOU... My Rod and My Staff will comfort you.

Three things are the basis of our fear-less-ness:

1>  God's abiding PRESENCE...   the angels when speaking of the Messiah, named Him IMMANUEL, which means GOD WITH US.
     Jesus said, I will never leave you or forsake you.  It is the Presence of the God of the Universe in His Son, Jesus Christ, inside of us that gives us the overflowing joy of knowing HIM, WITH US, in every circumstance.  Bad or Good.

2>  The Rod of the Shepherd as an instrument of gentle discipline and protection.  Sheep are sometimes stubborn in going their own way!  The Rod of the Shepherd is that which God uses to gently move us according to His Will and to guard us against the enemies of our soul, even when "they are us!"  Hebrews 12 speaks of the loving discipline of the Father for the son he loves.  There can be no love without discipline!  The Rod of the Shepherd is the primary proof of God's unfailing love in our lives - when he uses his Rod (often our circumstances) to "get our attention" and direct our steps back onto the path of righteousness "for His Name's Sake."

3>   The STAFF of the Shepherd is also used by him, but in different ways.  It is the long rod with the crook on the end.  Jesus, the Gospels tell us, was moved with Compassion because the people of Israel were like Sheep without a Shepherd!  The staff of the Shepherd is the instrument of his compassion in our lives -- not unlike the ROD above, God uses the staff to gently direct our steps into His Ways.  Into the ways of Shalom that are mentioned at the head of the Psalm.  It is always His intention that we experience His unfailing love, his HESED, in real ways, and the STAFF is the primary tool for God to show his compassion in our lives.

FEAR NOT!  

I AM WITH YOU!

MY DISCIPLINE AND COMFORT ARE CONSTANT!

YOUR CUP RUNS OVER!


So as a result of these things, our attitude is one of gratitude.  WHEN the Lord is our Shepherd...  these things are all true, and we are safe, we are With HIM and He is WITH US -  Nothing can separate us from His Love (ROM 8).

Psalm 23 is a set of facts about our life in God's love.

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.


So what is our response to all this?

Out of gratitude we acknowledge Him as our Great Shepherd - our GOOD SHEPHERD who has laid down his life for the sheep.

Out of gratitude we give our lives over to Him,  "We are His People and the Sheep of His Pasture"

Out of gratitude we lay down our lives for Him and for others.

Out of gratitude we live in ways that reflect and mediate His Presence to others around us, day by day.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  All that is written above is true of Him and it is true of US.


Let us pray...


God, give us a heart of gratitude for all that You have done.  Let us live lives of thanksgiving for bringing us to this day.

to borrow the words from the Great Thanksgiving:   "we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days."  Let us so live in love, Lord Christ that, all may know You are the Living God who loves us and who has given Himself for us.  In Your Great Name, we pray, Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen

Sunday, October 11, 2020

I AM...YOUR...GOOD SHEPHERD

Oct 11, 2020
19th Sunday of Pentecost 
Good Shepherd Sunday
Fr.  Phil Eberhart 


I AM ... Your... Good Shepherd 


Today we're doing several things here at Rez...

We're baptizing Caitlin... and we welcome the Early Clan to Rez for this service and celebration,  as well as those joining us through Zoom. 

This is also the first Sunday of our fall covenant or stewardship series,  aptly named WHEN THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD.  Our study guide for the journey,  by the same name is available through our Amazon Smile account.   I encourage you to get the book and read it this month as we're preparing for our  All Saints Sunday Covenant renewal. 

Today,  I've titled my message
I AM... YOUR... GOOD SHEPHERD. 

Jesus claimed the title,  in fact both titles in that title!   He is both The Great I AM and He is Your Good Shepherd!   Repeatedly throughout the Gospels we hear Him talk about his I Am statements

I Am the light of the world...

I am the living bread from heaven...
     The bread of life! 

I am The Door...

I am the Way,  the Truth and the Life..

I am the RESURRECTION and the life

And,  I am the Good Shepherd!

And today I want to personalize it a bit more...

I AM  YOUR  Good Shepherd! 

We often need reminding that that relationship is ours for the asking.   The image of the Good Shepherd isn't an image of a far off 'presence'...
What I call the Bette Midler god ... watching from somewhere out there! 

While there's comfort at times knowing that we are never outside God's watch care,  more often we need The Good Shepherd,  who is with us,  day and night,  the leader and guide,  the doorway, the protector from the beasts that ravage the flock.   The One whose voice we hear and recognize and follow. 

Jesus took all this on himself in the description in John 10.  He does a deep dive into the role of the shepherd that he plays in our life..

He is our protector,  the gate or doorway through which we enter the sheepfold... an image for the Kingdom of God.  There is no other legitimate way in! 

Once in,  we come to recognize the voice of our shepherd and it's that recognition that enables the rest.   We're enabled to follow,  by that recognition.  We're secure in that recognition and can go where he (the Good Shepherd) leads us on the outside,  in safety and security.   It's about always hearing and heeding His Voice!.

He is our provider.  The Good shepherd provides safe pasture for his flock. 

Jesus takes cues from his ancestor King David the shepherd psalmist. 
The Lord is my shepherd... it's personal.  It's individual and it's corporate... it's both I and it's US.

But I want to dip in for a minute to the psalm and a particular phrase of promise... I Shall Not WANT.   It's a Hebrew word that is used interestingly in the OT, about 26 times. 

Of the receding waters after the floods of Noah's day...  Gen 8

Of the diminishing numbers in Abraham's intercession for Sodom and Gommorah... for the lack of 5?
Gen 18

In Ex 16, of the equity of God's provision in the harvest. 

In Deut 2, of the Lord's miraculous provision during the 40 years in the wilderness.

In 1 Kings 17, of the unending supply of flower and oil in the widow's vessels,  foretold by Elijah.

And many times in the Wisdom literature of psalms, ecclesiastes and song of songs as well as the major prophets of Isaiah,  Jeremiah and Ezekiel. 

Over and over 26 times this same word is used to describe God's faithful provision for his people and his land.  I SHALL NOT WANT.  There is no Recession in the Kingdom of Heaven! 

And my friends,  it's personal.  It's personal provision - not always prosperity or riches,  but equity as we share life and resources together in the Body of Christ,  the Kingdom of God!  

Let's pray this morning for this reality to set in.  To become part of our lives individually and part of our life together.  THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD... I SHALL NOT WANT. 

Oh God of Creation,  You are the one who both watches over us and dwells among us.  You are OUR Good Shepherd, and you are the Great I AM.  Open our eyes to see and hear you from day to day,  leading and speaking so we can follow.  Open our hands to receive all that you want to so generously give us,  both spiritually and physically,  for our life and godliness in your Kingdom.   Apart from you we can
Do nothing, but in you we can say truly... THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD;  I SHALL NOT WANT.

in Jesus name.    Amen. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Day of Return

September 27, 2020

Erev Yom Kippur - Kol Nidre

Fr. Philip Eberhart 


The Day of Atonement & The People of God


This morning,  our time,  coincides with the sundown beginning of the holiest day in the entire Hebrew Calendar... Yom Kippur... The Day of Atonement. 

Once a year the High Priest would enter into the Most Holy Place with the blood of a spotless lamb to offer sacrifice for the sins of the nation and obtain another year of the Lord's favor for Israel. 

The portrayal on our wall over here is the presentation of Christ's own blood on the heavenly altar after his resurrection,  before the throne of God the Father,  to make atonement for the sins of all humanity and give us a way back to God.  [See attached file]

The Day of Atonement in Jerusalem was the holiest,  the highest point of the yearly feasts of the Lord,  the appointed times for God's people to come to meet with God, there receiving His forgiveness and favour for the year ahead. 

Yesterday was the holiest Sabbath of the year,  the Sabbath of Return,  Shabbat Tshuvah.  I hope that some caught parts of the live broadcast of The Return from Washington DC.  We were here, several of us from Rez and others from other congregations,  watching the whole 12 hour day!  I've included the link here for you to view it. 


Let me just read a couple passages that are relevant here. 

Hosea 6

Prayer of Teshuvah

Come, let us return to Adonai.
For He has torn, but He will heal us.
He has smitten, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us.
On the third day He will raise us up,
and we will live in His presence.[a]
So let us know, let us strive to know Adonai.
Like dawn His going forth is certain.
He will come to us like the rain,
    like the latter rain watering the earth.

Covenant Loyalty More Than Sacrifice

“O Ephraim, what shall I do for you?
O Judah, what will I do for you?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud
    or like dew rising early, vanishing.


Joel

Call for Teshuvah

12 “Yet even now”
—it is a declaration of Adonai
“turn to Me with all your heart,
with fasting, weeping and lamenting.”
13 Rend your heart, not your garments,
and turn to Adonai, your God.
For He is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger, abundant in mercy,
    and relenting about the calamity due.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent,
and may leave a blessing behind Him
—so there may be a grain offering
and a drink offering for Adonai, your God.

Blow the Shofar

15 Blow the shofar in Zion!
Sanctify a fast;
proclaim an assembly.
16 Gather the people;
sanctify the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
    even those nursing at breasts.
Let the bridegroom come out from his bedroom
and the bride from her chamber.
17 Between the porch and the altar
let the kohanim, ministers of Adonai,
    weep, and let them say:
    “Have pity, Adonai, on Your people.
    Don’t make Your heritage a scorn,
        a byword among the nations.
Why should the peoples say,
    ‘Where is their God?’”[g]


Today is the day of Return.   For the past 6 weeks our prayers have been from the litany of Ash Wednesday,  the Litany of Penitence!   Mother BARB will lead us again today in the litany one last time.  Our appointed scriptures this morning are equally important,  Ezekiel,  Psalm 25, Philippians 2 and Matthew,  asking the questions of obedience and humility of us.   Jesus gives us the ultimate example of both in his self-emptying before God His Father and his obedience to the death of The Cross on our behalf.   We're simply asked to "let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus! "

Can we do that?  Can we come to God empty of self,  empty of strife and ready to be filled?   Have you had enough of what you can do? 
Have you finally reached the end of your rope?  Of your ability to manipulate... to figure it out?  I heard someone say yesterday that God spoke loudly,  "Cease striving!"
Do we even know how to BE STILL AND KNOW THAT GOD IS GOD?  NOT US! 

God hasn't abdicated His Throne and left us in charge!   We need to shut up and kneel down.   Every knee will bow and every tongue confess!  Maybe we should be the first in that line!  Let's camp out there to get in line early! 

Let's let our knees bow and our tongues confess... today.   Shabbat Tshuvah,  the sabbath of return! 

Join us in earnest this morning as we stand to confess our faith and kneel to confess our sins before the Almighty God!  Listen to one last invitation before we pray...

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
Adonai is the eternal God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not grow tired or weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
and to one without vigor He adds might.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
31 but they who wait for Adonai
    will renew their strength.
They will soar up with wings as eagles.
They will run, and not grow weary.
They will walk, and not be faint.

Let us bow before the Lord our Maker. 

Most Holy God...
We humble ourselves before your presence this morning.  We bow our knees,  we bow our hearts before You.  Our souls in silence wait.  We're still before You,  in order to know that You are God...
[Quiet time] 

Confession of Faith in the Nicene Creed

The Litany of penitence

Prayers for one another (break outs) 

Confession of Sin and Absolution

The Peace

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Fr Phil - "Unless You Forgive..."

15th Sunday of Pentecost
Sept 13, 2020
Fr Phil Eberhart 


Unless You Forgive...


What was the most significant thing Jesus said?   Lots of choices, aren't there! 

Let me rephrase that.   What was the most significant thing that Jesus said... from the cross?   All the 7 have meaning to be sure,  but one thing Jesus said set the course for the river of blood that he shed for us that day. 

"Father,  forgive them for they know not what they do! "

All through our readings this morning we're given the keys to the Kingdom!   Nothing 'unlocks' and releases the presence and power of the Kingdom of God on this planet like the power of FORGIVENESS! 

Jesus himself warns us over and over again of the danger of unforgiveness!  Of holding onto a hurt or offense from another person;
Of even allowing another person to hold onto something against you! 

You must take the responsibility and the initiative to forgive or to seek forgiveness and reconciliation from another.   

There is little in life that affords the power of forgiving another or of being forgiven.  It is rooted in the "fear of the Lord " and it grants us that deep,  deep wisdom that comes from obedience to this single command. 

But forgiving is hard!   It's not part of our human nature!  Indeed! 

It comes from the equipment of the Holy Spirit,  His fruit-filled Presence empowers us to live in obedience to this command,  almost as a first-fruit and prelude to the rest of the life and love and power of the Spirit- filled life! 

We wonder at the difficulties that we often have in accessing the Grace of God in our life,  but when we look down at our hands we are bound by and holding on to the chains of unforgiveness as our very own right! 

That,  my friends,  is a RIGHT we must relinquish.  We must give it away to Jesus!   In order to access the flow of Christ's own forgiveness from the Cross,  we must choose the pathway of total forgiveness, and give our "rights" to Jesus! 

That was the mistake of the servant,  the 'unjust' servant,  in our parable from the Gospel this morning. Having been forgiven a debt of  "billions" he then turns on another servant who owes him a "hundred" and throws him in prison for non payment! 

Jesus ends the parable with yet another stern warning...

That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sistersfn from your heart.”

Jesus is not kidding... not beating around the bush here.   

Forgiveness is the key to the locks on our lives and the life of our churches and of The Church,  
Big "C".

The number one reason that people leave a church or leave The Church in our culture is offense.  Someone, usually,  said or did something to offend or hurt them and now they're unwilling to go back, unable to let go of hurts and trapped in a prison of their own making.   We play a "blame game" to shift the responsibility for our captivity,  but the truth is that God is serious about this stuff. 

Oh... and by the way... God gives us grace to forgive!   God's will for this is so strong that He gets directly involved,  and hands you the power to forgive at the very moment of the offense or injury!  And that Grace always remains, until you take hold of it and enact the forgiveness! 

But I warn you about trying to pick up another's offense!   Have you ever been offended FOR someone else?  It happens when something or someone offends someone we love! We "pick up" their offense.   You know the danger there?   NO GRACE!  God does not give His Grace for you to take up another's offense! 

That's part of the problem with all the crusading that's going on today in our culture.  Offense is rampant in every quarter,  but little of it is our offense.  We are offended for another or for a group or even a race.   There's no Grace available for this and so we go on, as Paul warns us,  "biting and devouring one another,  and thus destroying one another! "

The emphasis in the Word is on our personal response to offense and on the requirement of God, based on His forgiveness of us and His supply of Grace in the moment of offense,  for US to be forgiving towards others.  Immediately!  Instantly!  No holding onto offenses,  period!  Let them go... now.  As quickly as they come,  and come they will,  from every quarter,  if we're looking for them,  we must appropriate God's Amazing Grace to forgive.  We must enter the flow of the blood of Jesus from his hands, head and side on the cross as he said,  Father forgive them! 

Let's pray, if you'll bow with me...

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that every one might come within the reach of your saving embrace. Your blood flowed to effect our forgiveness and to enable our forgiveness of others.  So clothe us with your Spirit, that we may reach forth our hands of forgiveness to those who hurt us,  and thus be freed to love and serve them, bringing them to know and love You for the honor and glory of Your Name.  Amen. 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

ACTUAL TRANSFORMATION (ROM 12:1-2) Fr. Phil Eberhart

 Fr. Phil Eberhart 

13th Sunday of Pentecost

Aug 30, 2020


Actual Transformation 


I want to begin by reading our two key verses from a couple different translations.  First Romans 12:1-2 from the pen of JB Phillips...

With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

And now from the pen of Eugene Peterson...

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

One of my chief joys in life right now is watching and bragging on my children.   It's not lost on me or Val how filled with God's grace and mercy our life together has been,  and we lay that at the feet of those who regularly pray for us and our girls.  We're not lucky,  as Oakley would have told us,  we're blessed! 
We're blessed by Him because we're being blessed by so many of you. 

I want to consider the subject of transformation this morning and it occurs to me from the two renderings of these verses that the end goal of transformation is maturity!  Simply put, God intends for us to grow up! 

That is probably captured best in Ephesians 4 by Paul. Listen...

until all of us come to ... maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, ...15 But ... we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ!

The measure of the full stature of Christ!!  

There is the standard for our transformation! Earlier in Ephesians Paul calls the Church "the Fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:23)  Think of that - The Body of Christ is the physical manifestation of the God of the Universe, the FULLNESS OF HIM WHO FILLS ALL IN ALL.  And that is the goal of our transformation process here, maturity in the faith and in our knowledge of God.

So let's look at Ro 12:1-2 in that light, in light of the goal:

A few weeks ago Sharon gave me a prayer shawl and it was accompanied by a scripture that she felt exemplified my work here on this planet...  a very humbling scripture I might add:  I want to read it from the Amplified Bible: 2 Cor 3:18

 And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.  

This rendering captures the continually "progressing" nature of the work of transformation.  Over the past years I've talked about the process of METAMORPHOSIS that a pupa caterpillar goes through on its way to being a butterfly!  That is the kind of work, the kind of miracle, that is in view here.  It's fraught with struggle; it's hard to grow up; and once you're beginning to be grown up, it hard to - what do the kids call it today - it's hard to "adult!"  Now it's a verb!!  ADULTING! Moving away from your parents covering and protection, risking failure, trying again and again - all the things that make for coming to a greater and greater maturity.  How do we say it?   YOU LIVE AND LEARN!!  Usually when we say that it means we've learned something from a bad thing that has happened to us!

Turn back to Romans 12

1.  It's "IN VIEW OF GOD'S MERCY"  - WITH OUR EYES WIDE OPEN TO HIS MERCIES
     What mercies?  Just a few verses ahead of this one...
Ro 11:30   Just as you once were disobedient and failed to listen to God, but have now obtained mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient so that they too may one day receive mercy because of the mercy shown to you.  

We heard this last week!!
God's unsearchable wisdom has bound us in our disobedience together so that He may have mercy on us all together.  
So what is our response to this?

2.  Make your life a sacrificial offering to Him - every day - a "living" sacrifice.  I've joked before that the problem with Living Sacrifices is that they always crawl off the Altar!!  But it occurred to me as I wrote this that that is what God intends!  A LIVING Sacrifice is a sacrifice that comes off the Altar and lives sacrificially!  Remembering that you have been sacrificed already, and live your life in that reality!!
How does Gene Peterson put it ... Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.
 
Your life is to be lived as a sacrifice.  An offering to God -- your whole life.

3.  This is your "reasonable" worship.  It is the intelligent response to all that God has done!  It's just what any sane person would do!

4.  Don't let the world "press you into its mold."  Anyone here ever feel pressed into a mold lately?  Only every day~~
     We're peculiar if we don't conform.  We're seen to be defective of late.  Not quite clear thinkers!  We need to be told what to do and how to do it, like little children.  But it is our breaking out of the mold that is exactly what is called for here.  We have a different mold!!  the Imago Dei - the Image of God through Christ Jesus.  The world wants us to stay caterpillars, God designed us to be butterfly's!!

4.  TRANSFORMED ,  changed in nature and changed in form -  METAMORPHOSIS  - from the inside Out!
    The caterpillar enters into its chamber ~ its CHRYSALLIS.  
    How many have watched the movie WAR ROOM?   The prayer chamber, the prayer closet - the place of prayer and meditation
The Psalmist asks, "How shall a young person make His/Her way pure?"  The answer?  "By taking HEED THERETO ACCORDING TO THY WORD."  He goes on to say "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee!"  [Ps 119:9,11]

5.     BY THE TRANSFORMATION OF YOUR MIND. 
our whole world is steady or shaken by what we allow into our minds!    GARBAGE IN --> GARBAGE OUT - the old programmer's addage.
In Romans 8, Paul compares and contrasts the MINDSET that we can display -  Kata Sarkos (according to the flesh) or Kata Pneumatos (according to the Spirit) - one set on death  - the other on life!  Our MIND SET is what makes the difference.  Focused attention - "Fixing our eyes on Jesus," the writer of Hebrews says, "the Author and Perfecter of our Faith."

6.  THEN...  God's will becomes plain to us.  GOOD, PLEASING AND PERFECT WILL.  Wow!  What a place to live!!  Sounds like Heaven...
Hmmm.   Heaven... ON Earth ~   ON EARTH AS IN HEAVEN.  

This is ACTUAL TRANSFORMATION - WHAT JESUS TAUGHT US TO PRAY FOR DAILY!  "THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN."  

This is the work that we are called to - this is the means to reach the end goal of maturity in Him - ACTUAL TRANSFORMATION happens as we, day by day, live lives of sacrifice, letting our worship of God infuse every moment of every day - our attention captured by His Word and His Spirit, the means of Grace and the Hope of Glory.  Thy Kingdom come (in me) and Thy will be done (in me) as it is in Heaven!


Let's close by saying that a few time together again.  Just that line from the Lord's Prayer:
 
 "THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN."   

"THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN."   

"THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN."   

Let it be so, both inside us and among us, Lord Jesus, for the fame of Your Name and the Glory of Your kingdom.
Amen