Wednesday, November 30, 2016

An Awakened Church

NOV 27, 2016


I would like to take a little poll this morning...  no nothing political ...  how many of you use an alarm clock or an alarm on your cell phone to wake up with?   OK.    

How many have multiple alarms set?  OK.   Hold up the number of alarms you need!   from 1 to 10;   we're not going to take our shoes off this morning!

Is there anyone who wakes up JUST before their alarm goes off and sits there and waits for it?  (hand up!)

I just wondered if I was the only one! 

I hate alarms, especially some other people's alarms!  not mentioning names...  multiple alarms that are among the most annoying in the world!  That are completely ignored until I have to go shut them off!   OOPS.   (smile)   not mentioning names.

The point here is that we all use alarms sometimes and we all are familiar with the need to awaken from our sleeping state.

Let's look at our readings for this first Sunday of ADVENT...

Romans 13:11-14
You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.

Matthew 24:36-44
Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Don't you love it when someone asks you "how did you sleep?"   "Well, I don't really know!  I was asleep!"  So .... good I guess.

Sleep is a state of restful unconsciousness!  resting from activity! has several entries:
1/  a suspension of voluntary bodily functions and the natural suspension, complete or partial, of consciousness;
2/  to be dormant, quiescent, or inactive
3/  to be careless or unalert; allow one's alertness, vigilance, or attentiveness to lie dormant
4/  to lie in death

Its opposite in scripture is the word that Jesus uses!  to AWAKEN or to STAND WATCH;  BE ON ALERT.

Do you remember the old movie WAR GAMES and the numbers on the wall at NORAD?  DEF CON 1 to 5
DEF CON 5 is Peace and DEF CON 1 is World War III !!

Let me take another poll...  How many of you feel that Paul was right?
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. 

And if Paul was right, how much more are we "nearer" now 2000 years later?
Does this cause us to live differently? 
Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light;
let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness,
not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.

Or have we gone back to sleep:  Have we hit the snooze button?   AGAIN.??

The question for us today is "What does it take =  what will it take ... to awaken the Church in America?"
Will we have to be at DEF CON 1 for us to wake up?  Will a meteor have to strike the planet?  Will the judgement of God have to come?

Friends, the Church around the world is awake!  How do I know this... I know them!  Personally.
But we, here in America, are still asleep, or at the very best, in that state of slumber between the 1st and 4th alarms!!
Our nation is in a state that it hasn't seen in over a century - about to tear itself apart.  
We've just come through an unspeakable election cycle - and I won't even comment about the outcome for fear that a riot will break out here this morning!
We have placed our hope in a political answer, when there is no political answer.  There is no savior at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave!

What does an awakened church even look like?

We have prayed for decades for a revival;  for transformation;  we've watched videos about it happening in places around the world,
even a few places, isolated towns, small towns in N. Calif or Kentucky or Minnesota.  But what about here?  What about Denver?
What about us here... at REZ?

Are we awake?
Are we watching?

Jesus challenged the disciples to "watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak."  He said this to them while they were in the Garden, hours before his betrayal and trial and crucifixion.  Watch and Pray!

This is the definition of anti-sleep!  It's all the same word Jesus uses... 20+ times in the NT, throughout the Gospels and scattered through the Epistles stands this repeated warning sign:  BE ALERT - STAND WATCH - STAY UP - PRAY and WATCH...

HE's COMING ... like a thief in the night!

Are we awake?
Are we watching?

Are YOU awake?
Are YOU watching?

We need to heed the warning, friends.  We need to avail ourselves of prayer!  
We must activate ourselves in The Word of God!!  We have to be able to Hear his Voice!
We must be made alive by The Spirit of God!  We must have His power in our lives.
We must take His Presence with us from this place, to our homes and into the world.
We are to be Mobile Arks of the Covenant!

There are multiple ways to do these things, especially in this season of ADVENT...

1.  Pray ...  figure out a way.  Make it an urgent option!  Get up earlier - 5 even 4 am!  This is serious business.
2.  Pray ...  come together with others to do it.  Prayer gatherings, assemblies, prayer partners, conference calls.
3.  Pray ...  take it with you.  Wherever you go, watch for opportunities to pray.  Ambulances.  Police.  News reports. Neighbors. Waiters.
                                Pray for churches you pass on your way.  Pray for people God brings to mind.  Pray for me!!  God knows I need it.

Do you see the pattern?

Prayer is not preparation for the battle, friends.  IT IS THE BATTLE!




Sunday, October 2, 2016

What we need is just a little faith!

Oct 2 - Rosh Hashanah
Fr. Phil Eberhart
Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Just a little faith

Well, this morning is the eve of the Feast of Trumpets in the Jewish calendar, Rosh Hashanah - the new year. So "L'shanah Tovah Tikateivu,"happy new year, almost.  It starts this evening!  I invite you to our 10 Days of Awe.  Search 10DaysTogether on Google for our events and times.

Today is also "Pulpit Freedom" Sunday, when many across the nation are preaching sermons that are intentionally in the face of the IRS and their gag order for political speech.  Most all of you know who I'm voting for already, so that is a moot point.

AND The scriptures this morning are especially compelling as well, and can wrap in some of the themes of the other two as well.  So let's start there!! Grab your bulletin...

Just a little faith!  That's all we need.

We hear time after time that people say that they don't have enough faith for some particular outcome.  A healing for themselves or a loved one...
or a windfall in finances or some other kind of provision from the Lord.

I was just caught off guard by Jesus words to his disciples in our gospel this morning:  Their request was "increase our faith!"  Simple, straight-forward. right?

Jesus' response was equally simple but challenging for them:  If you have only a little, great things can happen!  Two things... Jesus was using something smaller than the head of a straight pin... THUS ... having a lot is not the point!  Nor the need!

The need isn't for having a lot, but having some.  And its not about the faith itself, but who or what the faith is placed into! Let me ask you a question...

Why are you so careful about which plane you get on?
... because destination matters!!

You say you're going to "fly" here or there!  Are you?  actually?

You are flying to the extent that you are "IN" the plane which is flying, and destination matters!!

Faith is trusting the plane (JESUS) to take you where He said He is going to take you.

Turn with me to the Timothy reading:

Look at what Paul tells Timothy: I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

And what did Paul entrust?  Do you remember that "Voice from God, falling off the horse, blinded on the road" event in Paul's life?  What changed there?

He speaks of it a few times in his letters:

The whole first and second chapters of the Galatian letter tell the story of Paul's journey from Damascus to Arabia for three years, then to Jerusalem and finally to his work with the Gentiles.  He ends that section with these familiar words.  "For I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.  And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." 

He recounts the cost and the joy of what he has given away for Jesus' sake in his letter to the church at Phillipi:
[4b-11] If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss [c]in view of the surpassing value of [d]knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, [e]for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and [f]the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 [g]in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul lost everything - he entrusted everything to Christ and in our reading this morning we read what he received:  For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. 

Paul received an "appointment" as an Ambassador!  A herald was the figure who stood in the town center to read aloud with delegated authority the edicts of the King!  The town crier!  Paul received that appointment, and was sent from Christ himself (apostolos) and was a fit teacher of the things of God, especially to the Gentiles.

Now here is where it gets personal~

You and I have received the same appointments!  That is the force of what Paul is telling his young protege Timothy.  So here is what WE and Timothy must do:

1.  Bring to full flame the gift of God that is in you at the laying on of hands.  How many of you have been confirmed by a bishop?  Some here have been ordained by that same bishop or other bishops.  Confirmation and Ordination are differing levels of the same action!  The laying on of hands to confer the gifting and empowerment of the Holy Spirit for Holy works!  So if you've had hands laid on you, you have those gifts!  Fan them into flame!  Tend that fire!!!

2.  Don't succumb to fear.  It seems that our human nature enters the equation early on.  In the next paragraph Paul tells Timothy and US not to be ashamed of the Gospel or of him in his chains. 

What is it about this enterprise, the Christian gospel and its propagation, that engenders fear and shame and cowardice on our parts?  What makes us afraid to speak up, to speak out?  We might lose our tax free status!  Really?  In comparison to the cost of your salvation, that is an obstacle?
Someone might laugh!  What will other people think?  What if someone challenges my faith?  What if someone calls me stupid (cause that's what they think you are!)  Well.  WHAT IF?

So what?!!!

3.  Do not be ashamed of the Gospel!  NOR of the suffering that comes with its proclamation!
Didn't Jesus himself tell us that this would be the case, all the way at the beginning of his teaching on the mountain side in Galilee:  
[Mat 5:10-12 NASB] 10 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

4. Do the DO's!
     A. Join with me (Paul) in suffering for the Gospel
     B. Rely on the power of God
     C. Discover your own HOLY CALLING
     D. Do all God has Called you to do
     E. Hold to the standard of sound teaching
     F. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you!

Friends, the times we live in require an old kind of Christianity again ... the kind that Paul is talking about to a young Christian man who was his "disciple".  We are called to be like Paul and like Timothy as we press into the calling that God has given us in our day, unashamed and relying fully on God's power!  

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, by your Spirit you have given gifts to us in your Church - in your Kingdom. Urge us and help us, Lord, to fan your gifts into flame, that their light might shine with your glory and that the world might see and believe.  Take away from us our shameful timidity in the face of almost any opposition.  Give us boldness for You and for Your Kingdom.  Shake the world we live in through us, your Church!  Come, Holy Spirit, as we enter these 10 Days of Awe: Give us clear vision of all you have done - of the price you have paid - and of the awesome grace you give us to be your ambassadors!  Send your Spirit along with us into the world to show the world your love.  Stretch forth your Hand, O God, as we speak and pray and live our lives, that the Name of your Son Jesus Christ, Yeshua ha Mashiach, may be known and worshiped to the ends of the earth!  

In His name we pray.  

Amen. and Amen!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Choice Before Us - Fr. Phil Eberhart

Fr. Phil Eberhart
Sunday, Sept 4

What is so hard about choosing the right way?

From the first days of creation God's design to give us free will has bit Him over and over and over and over,  from Genesis to Maps!

The first thing that we did, right out of the gate, was to do the very thing we were told specifically NOT to do.  And in the last verses of Revelation, we are given a choice - the invitation-  to come, take the water of life.

God has been holding out a choice to us from beginning to end and we have stubbornly refused His offer from beginning to end!  I think this reality is why Jesus began his preaching with the words, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand".

The message of the Apostles rings with the theme of repentance. From the first sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) - "Repent and be baptized every one of you..." to Paul's teachings and letters, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth..." - and all the other apostolic writers.

I guess my point here is that we need to pay attention!

Mother Basilea Schlink, a Lutheran nun who set about to repent for the holocaust in Germany, wrote a little book:  "Repentance:  The Joy-filled life!"

How is that possible?

To Repent is a verb.  It's an action word that simply means to change your mind, and to turn around - to change your mind and your direction!

One of my uncles one time was scolded for using one of the emergency crossovers on I-70 to do a U-turn.  He was asked why he did that and simply answered, "Cause I was going the wrong way!"  When we realize that we are going the wrong way, we need to turn around, as soon as possible!

Our scriptures are pretty clear this morning about what is the right way!

From our reading of Moses in Deuternomy: 
If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.

Obedience out of Love for God, Walking in His ways because we observe (to do) His commandments, decrees and ordinances.

I know that the Jews didn't have a great record, almost as good as ours!!

One writer commented that God's choice of the Jews as His Chosen People was because they are "just like the rest of us, only more so!"

David's Psalm 1 lays it out pretty clearly as well:  
   In v. 2...
     Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
         and they meditate on his law day and night.

Later in Ps 37 he encourages us to "delight ourselves in the Lord".  and He will give us the "desires of our hearts."  
What a promise!
     but "delight thyself"  comes before our "desires."

Repentance is the daily acknowledgement of our never-ending need for God.  We never arrive, though we struggle on the journey towards truth and toward the ultimate end of our full redemption.  We are constantly going off-road!

Paul laid out a clear message to Timothy and to us as He spoke about the Word of God and its task in our lives.  It is for teaching, for rebuke, for correction and then for training in righteousness!"  The image I use in thinking about that scripture in 2 Tim 3:16 is one of taking an off ramp. Have you ever taken an off-ramp by mistake?  And then tried to figure out how to get back on the right route?

Today we hear the word:  "recalulating" and Google maps  or our GPS will re-route us to our destination ... sometime by way of a u-turn!

We need to see repentance like that!  Just a matter of the daily course of our life - cause we're gonna get off track-  we're gonna go off road!  And then we need the GPS - God's Positioning System to tell us where we went off and how to get back.  2 Tim 3:16 - remember the address!

And finally, Jesus himself in our Gospel reading this morning is clear again: Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

What did that mean to the disciples who heard it?  
We know they heard it because they wrote it down, 
but I don't really think they understood what Jesus was talking about until AFTER the Cross!  So much of His teaching was like that - aimed THROUGH the Apostles, by the Holy Spirit, AT US!

The cross, as we know, was not a decoration that could be shined up for Sunday morning wear.  It had a definitive purpose in that time, and only one purpose!  Death.

Moses said, "I put before you life and death."

Paul is clear that the "wages of sin is death!" 

So how can we "choose" life?

Well if we are to believe Jesus, to choose life we must choose the Cross - we must choose death.  Death to our life as it is.  Death to our desires, where they depart from the desires of the Spirit of God.  Instead we choose the cross.

Like the bumper sticker that says "YOUR CHOICE:  BOW NOW OR BOW LATER!"  This is a Die now or DIE later choice for the only way of Repentance is the way of the Cross.

Our baptism is a symbol of that choice to die!  Under the water we go in burial and out of the water we come to new life!  But its not about the magic that is in the water, its about the change of heart that is in the choice.  

Our table here at communion is not about the "hocus pocus" in the words said over the bread and the wine, its about the Body and the Blood that becomes spiritual nourishment when met by a repentant heart - a believing heart!

Friends, repentance is our life and our breath.  Repentance is our daily bread.  It is our narrow path and the gateway to glory!  Repentance is our friend - not our enemy.  It is the means to move us towards our redemption.  It appropriates to us the living presence of Jesus - "it's no longer I who live," Paul said, "but Christ who lives his life in me."  

Repentance is empowered by God's love, His grace, His mercy.  But repentance must come, and come, and come, and come, --- day after day, week after week, year after year, --- repentance must come, for it is the doorway to "the joy-filled life."  

And that's the one we all want to live.

Amen and amen.  Let's pray.

Grant us, Lord, through your great mercy, the gift of repentance!  Give us each eyes to see the path you want for us and the wisdom from your Word to stop, to choose and to change.  Our lives and the lives of our families, our very nation, depend on us who are called by Your Name.  So lead us to repentance and to new life in You, who reigns in Heaven and on earth, with your Father and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.