Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Love of the Father


Father's Day
June 18, 2017
Fr. Phil Eberhart


The Father's Heart


Have you ever felt like God has or had it "in for you?" 

God is watching you, kind of like a bug, waiting to squash you?

I want you to turn to Luke 11 verse 11...

a story is told about a popular worship leader and song writer who when away into the mountains to get access to the heart of God and God's love as an inspiration for his music.

He spent the whole day in the quiet of the mountain forest, expecting God to speak to him in some mysterious and grand way, revealing God's love and majesty to him.  But came away at the end of the day, empty handed and disappointed.  God was silent.

When he got home, he quietly walked into his baby son's room where he was sleeping in his crib.  He kissed him on the cheek as he bent over the crib.

Just at that moment, God showed up.  He heard a verse in his memory echoing down through time:

[Luk 11:11-13 NLT] 11 "You fathers--if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him."

You see, what our friend, the songwriter had missed was the very object lesson that was right in front of him!

HOW MUCH MORE?

Today is Father's Day, and I want to celebrate our father's, our men, here today, but more than that I want to point to a Father who never fails us, whose love never fades, who has proven His unconditional, unfailing love by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to bring us back into relationship with Himself.

Our epistle reading this morning is a key to understanding the heart of the Father:

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand

and a bit further on...



God's love has been poured
 into our hearts through the
 Holy Spirit that has been 
given to us. For while we were
 still weak, at the right time 
Christ died for the ungodly. 
Indeed, rarely will anyone die 
for a righteous person-- 
though perhaps for a good 
person someone might actually 
dare to die. But God proves his
 love for us in that while we 
still were sinners Christ died
 for us.
And Paul also adds:



[Rom 5:10-11 NLT] 
10 For since our friendship 
with God was restored by the 
death of his Son while we were 
still his enemies, we will 
certainly be saved through the
 life of his Son. 11 So now we 
can rejoice in our wonderful 
new relationship with God 
because our Lord Jesus Christ 
has made us friends of God.

Friends of God!!  
Sons and Daughters of God!  
We have been given a privileged 
place - in the heart of the Father!  
Just like the songwriter's son, 
we have a place that can never 
be taken away from us, that will 
never be less or more because 
of what we do or do not do!  
Did you hear me?

I've said this to my girls, "There 
is nothing that you can do that 
will make me love you any less!"  
Now there have been trials of 
that statement!  Like any of our 
children, our fervor of love is 
tested by their behavior 
sometimes, but the Love 
remains.

Remember Jesus statement of 
the Father:   "If you being evil, 
know how to give good gifts to 
your children, HOW MUCH MORE?
 the Father in Heaven?"  
HOW MUCH MORE?

And let me say that God is not 
swayed in His love for you but 
anything you do or do not do?
God is not swayed in His love
 for you but anything you do 
or do not do?

But what about when I'm
 disobedient to God 
(most of the time!)  Do you 
think that your sin has caught 
God by surprise?  That He is 
suddenly mad at you - that your 
hardship is caused by His 
hatred or neglect of your 
cause?  of your circumstances?

Turn with me to Hebrews 12...  
This is the un-fun part!

[Heb 12:4-7, 9-11 ESV] 
4 In your struggle against sin 
you have not yet resisted to the 
point of shedding your blood. 
5 And have you forgotten the 
exhortation that addresses you 
as sons? "My son, do not regard
 lightly the discipline of the Lord,
 nor be weary when reproved by 
him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the 
one he loves, and chastises 
every son whom he receives." 
7 It is for discipline that you have 
to endure. God is treating you 
as sons. For what son is there 
whom his father does not 
discipline?
 ... 9 Besides this, we have had 
earthly fathers who disciplined 
us and we respected them. 
Shall we not much more be 
subject to the Father of spirits 
and live? 10 For they disciplined 
us for a short time as it seemed 
best to them, but he disciplines
 us for our good, that we may 
share his holiness. 11 For the 
moment all discipline seems
 painful rather than pleasant,
 but later it yields the peaceful 
fruit of righteousness to those
 who have been trained by it.

True Fathering is like this.  God is 
not going to be a false Father!  
His love is unchanging, 
constant for us.  

So what does the "discipline" of 
the Lord look like?  is it cancer? 
 is it broken relationships?  
is it the suffering we all 
partake of as a result of the 
fallen world about us?  
is it our sicknesses... illness?  
Does it look the same as the "attacks of the devil?"  Let me ask you a question...
Are the Devil and God the same
 in their nature?  Do they both
 do evil?  Even if Good may come out it?

Can I say it like Paul...  
Not only NO, but HELL NO!

Much of our suffering is the 
work of an enemy!  The result
 of our brokenness and our 
own choices?  Often times the
 only discipline we need is the 
natural consequences of our 
choices.  As earthy fathers 
today, we do our children a 
disservice by divorcing them
 from the consequences of 
their choices.  It only take one
 time to learn that the burner
 is hot! or the knife is sharp!  
We watch our children carefully, 
vigilantly, so that their stupidity 
doesn't cost them more than
 should be necessary for them
 to learn, but God is the perfect
 Father, and he allows us to go
 our own way, do our own 
thing, and then He comes 
alongside, he waits for us to
 return from our pig pen.

Remember the parable of 
the Prodigal Son.  Actually
 and equally, the Parable of 
the Loving Father!
We aren't told how long the 
son was gone, perhaps years... 
yet the Father was still 
standing at the window looking 
out for his return.

That is the picture of the
 Father's Love I want to 
leave you with this morning.  
The prodigal was restored 
to his Father, was given a robe
 and a ring - his Father's ring.  
All the rest of the estate had 
already been reserved for his
 elder brother!  I think that's why
 the elder brother was so 
incensed on his discover of the 
celebration of his brother's 
return.  God love is 
extravagant!  It cost's Him 
something.

It Cost HIM Something...

Let's say John 3:16-17 together...
"For God so loved the world,
 that He gave His only begotten 
Son, that whosoever believes
 in Him, should not perish but 
have everlasting life... 
For God sent not His son 
into the world to condemn 
the world, but that through 
Him, the world might be 
saved." 

The Father loves you.  
You can never change that! 

Don't allow yourself the 
self-indulgent belief that you
 can effect God's love, 
positively or negatively,
 toward you. 
God allows us our freedom, 
our choices AND our
 circumstances.  We are free 
to choose our way in God's
 kingdom but we are never 
free to choose the 
consequences of our choices.

God, the perfect Father 
in Heaven, loves you and 
wants to demonstrate His love
 for you... HAS demonstrated
 His love for you in that
 "while you were still a 
sinner, Christ died for you."  
Now God wants to restore you 
to that place of relationship
 with Him, in Christ and by 
the power of the Holy Spirit!
Let us pray...

God our Father, 
the Father of every family named
 under heaven...
Let the riches of Your Glory, 
Father, strengthen us 
on the inside through the power
 of Your Spirit!
Let Christ dwell in our hearts through faith, 
that we, being rooted and grounded in love 
may gain strength to know and to 
comprehend the fullness of God's Love - 
its breadth - its length - its height - its depth!  
And further to know completely the love of
 Christ that we can never fully know or 
understand.  Lord, fill us with all the 
fullness of God!

Father, you are able to do so much more
, super abundantly more, than we can ever 
ask or than we can even imagine in our 
wildest dreams! Your power and love is 
beyond our grasp, but your power and 
love are in us and working your will, 
day by day.  Let your glory - Father, Son 
and Holy Spirit - be seen in us, your
 Church, your Body, now and always, 
for ever and ever.
Amen!

taken from Ephesians 3:15-21

Sunday, June 11, 2017

TRINITY - THE IMAGO DEI AND YOU

Trinity Sunday
June 11, 2017
Fr. Phil Eberhart


Trinity Sunday

 This morning is Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday morning after the Feast of Pentecost.  

Pastors either completely ignore the subject or have a tendency to butcher it with metaphors or pictures that may, at worst, be heretical and at best, may confuse an already difficult topic.

The topic of the Trinity has been described, rightly I think, as "a riddle wrapped up inside a puzzle and buried in an enigma."

- how can something be one in three?
- it seems to be irrational
- even if you understand it, what practical value does it have?

We are just told to accept it by faith and let the theologians worry about the details!

We can trace its development through history and through Scriptures easily enough;  we sing the songs:  Holy, Holy, Holy, etc.  "God in three persons, blessed Trinity!"

Once a year is probably enough though, for most of us!!

But the Trinity has deep ramifications for both who we are and how we relate to others and do ministry in that Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit!  The doctrine of the Trinity is to Christian life and ministry what grammar is to our language!  The doctrine of the Trinity is unique among world religions and is, in fact, a major stumbling block - a rock of offense - in the world's understanding of Christianity.

In a sermon it is nearly impossible to delve deeply into this subject!  It is a life time of contemplation and study that is required, but more than our comprehending the doctrine, or figuring out how to communicate the doctrine, we need to enter into the Communion of the Trinity itself.

Last week we prayed with Jesus, "as You Father, are in me and I am in You, may they also be in us!" (Jn 17:2)

The Trinity is an open, not a closed circle!!  Ho!  What a thought!
We are invited into the circle as we come "IN CHRIST" and become, graciously included, partners with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in what the Trinity is doing in the earth!!

John Wesley described that communion with the Trinity as "...a deep, an intimate, an uninterrupted union with God; a constant communion with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, through the Spirit; a continual enjoyment of the Three-One God, and of all creatures in him."

Peter says we have become "participants" in the Divine Nature!  (2 Pet 1:4)
Such is the Koinonia of the Holy Spirit that John speaks of in his first letter:

[1Jo 1:1-4 NLT] 1 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

The ONE in whom Paul said, "We live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) lives and moves and has his being as Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
The Trinitarian nature of God is reflected everywhere!!  In Divine revelation; in Redemption; Our experience of God in salvation; Our life together as Church, in Worship, Fellowship and Mission!

When I first came to this parish, when it was St. George Episcopal, God gave me a Trinitarian vision of Encounter - Empower - Engage (Worship - Fellowship - Mission) !

Recently I came across a book called Ministry in the Image of God:  The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service!  Here, author Stephan Seamands, outlines seven aspects of the Trinity that shape a right understanding of both the Trinity and the ministry which flows from our God, through us, and to the World.  Each is contained in a chapter, but I can only give a precis this morning, almost by headings only.  I hope that you might get the book and read more deeply:  

MINISTRY IN THE IMAGE OF GOD by Stephan Seamands.

Here are the seven aspects of the Trinity according to Seamands...

1.   Relational Personhood

2.   Joyful Intimacy

3.   Glad Surrender

4.   Complex Simplicity

5.   Gracious Self-Acceptance

6.   Mutual Indwelling

7.   Passionate Mission

All I have time for is a quote or two, but I hope that this will whet your appetite, like salt, making you Hunger and Thirst for Righeousness and the One who is Righteousness itself.

    Christian Psychotherapist and Professor Larry Crabb once said, "We must do something other than train professional to fix damaged psyches.  Damaged psyches aren't the problem.  The problem beneath our struggles is a disconnected soul.... Rather than fixing psyches or scolding sinners, we must provide nourishment for the disconnected soul that only a community of connected people can offer."

What Crabb is crying out for is authentic Christian community!  Where "the heart of God is home, where the humble and wise learn to shepherd those on the path behind them, where trusting strugglers lock arms with other as together they journey on."  It's why we call our church, the "Land of Broken Toys!"

It is in community that healing takes place!  Human beings, created in the image of the triune God, are constituted in their creation FOR RELATIONSHIP.  The Trinity is the IMAGO DEI!

In contrast to that constitution, we in the West have come to believe that we are constituted as INDIVIDUALS.  But if we are created In the IMAGE OF GOD - The Trinity, then we exist in relationships.

We can see four characteristics of the Trinity in the Gospel of John:
(2) Full Equality, (3) Glad Submission, (4) Joyful Intimacy and (5) Mutual deference!   Just listen:

Jn 1:1  Equals:  "The Word was with God, and the Word was God" yet...
Jn 1:14 Submission:  "He became flesh and dwelt among us."
Jn 1:18  Deference:  seeks to make the Father - not himself - known...
 and      Intimacy:   He is the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart"

Jn 3:34  Submission and Deference:   "He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spriit without measure" -- "the Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands"  (Mutuality)

These are repeated again in Jn 5, in Jn 8, Jn 10, in the Upper Room discourses, and finally in Jn 17, Jesus High Priestly prayer.  Throughout his narrative, John uses these four characteristics to describe the relationship of the Trinity amongst the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

For us we must take the advise given to John Wesley as a young man: 

"Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven?  Remember you cannot serve him alone.  You must therefore find companions or make them.  The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion."

In my undergrad days I wrote a Senior Thesis paper, moving from the Greek word, KOINONIA, to an exposition of its application through the movements of the Spirit which incorporated this aspect of fellowship and small communities of faith.  From the New Testament to the Moravian revival, to Methodism and its spread from John Wesley through the Bands and Societies, up to the Charismatic Renewal and the intentional communities at Ann Arbor, MI among the Catholics and in Houston, TX among the Episcopalians.

In every stage of the history of the church, the Church has moved forward in groups of 3 to 5 deeply committed Christians who were passionate about growth in holiness and related deeply and regularly to each other.

When we consider the Trinity, we come to exclaim as Paul did (Ro 11:33)  "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!"

A.W. Tozer put it this way:  To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who existws outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries - this requres a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking God down to our level, or at least down to where we can manage Him."

In the face of the Trinity we are reduced to worship! 
Awe is preferable to answers!

Let us pray:

Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit;
Three we name Thee;
while in essence only one,
Undivided God we claim thee;
And adoring bend the knee,
While we own the Mystery."

Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit, One in Three and Three in One:  Open our hearts and minds to see and know you as you are, not as we can conceive of You!  Help us to live in the relationship we are created to live in, in the way which embraces You, the Wholly-Other with the Love of God, unconditional, full and unfailing.  Give us grace, O God, to see in others and in our relationship the reflection of the Trinity, the Imago Dei, made for relationship and complete in life shared together as ONE.  Help us to live in the mystery of the Trinity, as you reveal deeper and deeper truths to us from your Word, by your Holy Spirit.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy on us.

In the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

PENTECOST: All The Instruments in God's Symphony

Pentecost 2017
June 4, 2017
Fr. Phil Eberhart


Every Instrument is Important!!



I want to begin this Pentecost morning, by reading again our reading from 1 Cor 12, with a little adjustment:

READ THE 1 COR 12 ORCHESTRA READING:

NOW CONCERNING THE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, I DO NOT WANT YOU TO BE UNINFORMED.  ... 

NOW THERE ARE VARIETIES OF INSTRUMENTS, BUT THE SAME CONDUCTOR;  AND THERE ARE VARIETIES OF PARTS, BUT THE SAME SCORE; AND THERE ARE VARIETIES OF SOUNDS, BUT IT IS THE SAME ORCHESTRA THAT WE ALL PLAY IN!  TO EACH INSTRUMENT IS GIVEN ITS MANIFESTATION OF THE MUSIC FOR THE COMMON GOOD. 

FOR TO ONE IS GIVEN IN THE ORCHESTRA, A VIOLIN, AND TO ANOTHER, AN OBOE, IN THE SAME ORCHESTRA. TO ANOTHER A DRUM, IN THE SAME ORCHESTRA; TO YET ANOTHER, A TRUMPET, OR A TROMBONE; ALL IN THE SAME ORCHESTRA!
TO ANOTHER A CYMBAL, TO ANOTHER A BASS AND ANOTHER A TUBA!!  ALL THESE (AND MORE) ARE READING FROM THE SAME SCORE AND DIRECTED BY THE ONE GREAT CONDUCTOR, MAESTRO JESUS!

FOR JUST AS THE ORCHESTRA IS ONE AND HAS MANY MEMBERS, AND ALL THE MEMBERS OF THE ORCHESTRA, THOUGH MANY, ARE ONE ORCHESTRA, SO IT IS WITH CHRIST.  FOR INTO ONE SCORE WE WERE ALL "IMMERSED" -- STRINGS, WINDS, PERCUSSION, AND BRASS -- AND ALL WERE MADE TO PLAY FROM ONE SCORE.

NOW THE ORCHESTRA DOES NOT CONSIST OF ONE PART, BUT OF MANY!  IF THE VIOLIN SHOULD SAY, "BECAUSE I AM NOT A HORN, I DO NOT BELONG TO THE ORCHESTRA" THAT WOULD NOT MAKE IT ANY LESS A PART OF THE ORCHESTRA!  AND IF THE OBOE SHOULD SAY, "BECAUSE I'M NOT A DRUM, I DO NOT BELONG TO THE ORCHESTRA" THAT WOULD NOT MAKE IT ANY LESS A PART OF THE ORCHESTRA.  IF THE WHOLE ORCHESTRA WERE AN OBOE, WHERE WOULD THE STRING SOUND BE?  IF THE WHOLE ORCHESTRA WERE A DRUM, WHERE WOULD THE BRASS SOUND BE?  

NO!  AS IT IS, THE MAESTRO, GOD, ARRANGED THE MEMBERS OF THE ORCHESTRA, EACH ONE OF THEM, AS HE CHOSE.  IF ALL WERE A SINGLE INSTRUMENT, WHERE WOULD THE ORCHESTRA BE?  AS IT IS THERE ARE MANY PARTS, YET ONE ORCHESTRA.

THE DRUMS CANNOT SAY TO THE BRASS, "I HAVE NO NEED OF YOU." NOR AGAIN, THE WINDS TO THE STRINGS, "I HAVE NO NEED OF YOU."
ON THE CONTRARY, THE PARTS OF THE ORCHESTRA THAT SEEM TO BE WEAKER, (THE PICOLLO OR FLUTE) ARE INDESPENSIBLE...  AND ON THOSE PARTS OF THE ORCHESTRA THAT WE THINK LESS IMPORTANT (WORTHY OF HONOR) WE BESTOW THE GREATER HONOR, AND THE SMALLER VOICES ARE TREATED WITH GREATER IMPORT, WHICH OUR LOUDER VOICES DO NOT REQUIRE.

BUT GOD, THE GREAT COMPOSER, HAS SO COMPOSED THE PARTS IN THE ORCHESTRA, GIVING GREATER VOICE TO THE PART THAT LACKS IT, THAT THERE MAY BE NO DIVISION IN THE ORCHESTRA, BUT THAT EVERY PART, EVERY MEMBER, MAY HAVE THE SAME CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER.  IF ONE INSTRUMENT IS MISSING, ALL SUFFER LOSS TOGETHER; IF ONE PART EXCELS, ALL REJOICE TOGETHER!

NOW YOU ARE THE ORCHESTRA OF CHRIST JESUS, AND INDIVIDUALLY MEMBERS OF IT.  AND GOD HAS PLACED IN THE ORCHESTRA, FIRST CHAIRS, SECOND CHAIRS, DRUMMERS, STRINGS, BRASS AND WINDS!  IS EVERYONE A CONDUCTOR?  IS EVERYONE FIRST CHAIR?  IS EVERYONE A BASSIST?  OR A VIOLINIST?  OR A FLOUTIST?

BUT EARNESTLY DESIRE TO PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT IN THE MOST EXCELLENT WAY, IN TUNE AND IN TIME, UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE GREAT MAESTRO, JESUS.
===================================================


I think you get the idea, right?  God has given us each a part to play - gifts that may be in the list, and some that may not be in the list!  

The important thing about this BODY is that each one is present, each one is practiced, each one is tuned and each one plays in time according to the score and the direction of the maestro, Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

I've tried to stretch this analogy for the Body of Christ to see if it will break, but the more I stretch it, the more I see new revelations and insights.

1. There is only one complete score, the Father has it. He is the great conductor, the Maestro.  We only have a partial view of the whole score, our individual part!  

2.  I must enter into the discipline of the score!  I get my part and I practice my part, I learn my part, according to the instrument I play.

3.  But just learning a part is nothing, if I don't come into the Unity of Tuning.  Being sharp or flat makes the instrument useless, even detrimental to the orchestra!

4.  Finally, being as practiced as a virtuoso, and even in perfect tune is nothing, if I won't play under the direction of the Maestro.  I have to submit my instrument, my practice, my virtuosoness, my first chair status, to the TIME set by the Maestro, for the UNITY OF THE ORCHESTRA TO HAPPEN.  This gives a new level of meaning to verses like:  "Looking unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith!"

Then... then and only then do we have come into AGREEMENT.
SUM PHONEO - to make one sound of many voices.

PS 133 tells us "Behold, how good it is for brothers and sisters to dwell (play) together in HARMONY / UNITY."

It is like the holy, anointing oil poured on the head of Aaron!

It is like the water running off of Mt Hermon, that waters the whole Jordan valley, from the Sea of Galilee all the way down to the Mountains of Zion, and beyond, down to the Dead Sea!

It's there, in that UNITY / HARMONY / SUM PHONEO / AGREEMENT
that the Lord has commanded...
commanded... THE BLESSING

LIFE EVERLASTING!  ETERNAL LIFE - THE LIFE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, COME AMONG US! 

That is what God has commanded, when we enter into the discipline of the orchestra!!  
Into the agreement that is created when we ...

LEARN OUR PART ...

PLAY OUR PART ...

IN TUNE WITH THE LORD ...

IN HIS TIME, UNDER HIS DIRECTION.

We are a symphony IN CHRIST.

The symphony orchestra isn't nearly as ethereal as the Gifts of the Spirit, but I felt that such a look at the Gifts from a very concrete and common understanding might help us to get a handle on how the Gifts of the Spirit work in real life...
on how the Body of Christ, the Symphony Orchestra of Christ works in real life.

Each one of you is vitally important in God's Orchestra.  Some have smaller voices, some have big booming voices, some are crashing cymbals, and others are quiet flutes.

Each of us plays a role, but we must keep in mind the secrets of the Orchestra,  Tuning and Timing.  We work on our individual parts to get them practiced, even memorized.  But we must submit all our work, our being an individual, our wanting to do it my way, to the tuning of a single note, and the timing of a single conductor, the Maestro, Jesus himself.

May God add to our understanding and to our harmony as we dwell together as His Orchestra, His Body.

Amen and Amen.

Let us pray:

O God of infinite variety and creativity:  We thank You for giving us each a part to play in your great Kingdom work. Help us, Holy Spirit, to be so filled with what You give us that we can play our part with both excellence and discipline.  Help us to look to Jesus, the Maestro,  and to be in tune with His Word, that we may become ONE as He and the Father are ONE, together with you, O Holy Spirit, as you empower us to live together in harmony and to sound together as one, to the glory of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Fr Phil: A Risen and Ascended King - The Legacy of the 10 Days in the Upper Room

Ascension Sunday
May 28, 2017
Fr. Phil Eberhart


For those of you who don't know, we are in the course of the 10DaysTogether - the time when the disciples were "waiting" in the Upper Room for something called "the promise of the Father."  Jesus was more specific in his instructions in Acts 1:8

Turn with me to your Acts reading this morning.

Notice that the disciples, even after the resurrection and his 40 days of being with them in bodily form and teaching them about the Kingdom of God... ( I would have though that that might sink in, but NO!)
... they continue to ask for and expect Jesus to FINALLY set up the earthy Kingdom that they have been hoping for, arguing about, jockeying for position in, and generally being a pain about since day 1 in Galilee. 

"Are you NOW going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" they asked!!  Are you NOW?  NOW?

Jesus sets them pretty straight with the next words:  

"It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 

So now they know:
1.  This is not the full restoration of the earthy kingdom... yet.

2.   This is about power  (dunamis) (Dynamo) (Dynamite!)

3.   This is for Witness  (Martureo = Martyrdom)

I doubt if that was all in their minds, but it in what Jesus said.  And I imagine it began to sink in during the 10 Days, and certainly it became reality on the Day of Pentecost.

So here we are at Sunday after Jesus Ascension on Thursday...  Where are we in the story exactly.

Well, last Thursday evening I put some pieces in place if you'll indulge a bit of a retelling:

===

I imagine there were still some butterfly's in their stomachs.  The account of the Ascension in Matthew, says that some "doubted."  AS Jesus was being taken to heaven, some "doubted!"  I don't know about you, but that gives me hope!

And there is the download that the guys on the road to Emmaus got, right?  It says that "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." 

I think that the disciples, when the dust settled a bit for them, probably did three things while they were together in the Upper Room.

1.  Study of the Scriptures along the lines I've just suggested, going over the Word of God in detail and discussing the meanings for their lives and the days ahead.

2.  They were in close quarters with one another, for 10 Days, in the same room, or house, and not just the 12 - likely the 120!!  The bible calls this KOINONIA. Shared life, closely shared... uncomfortably closely shared!!  Just this fact likely led to the next:

3.  Prayer - just prayer.  Simple, powerful.  Lord, help!  What are we doing here?  Where have you gone, really?    
       
     They were still pretty clueless, even with the download.  And they were waiting for the "promise of the Father" whatever that was.  The Power of the Holy Spirit (whatever that was) for Witness even unto death (did they really get that?).

Jesus made those cryptic references all the time!  Some they kind of understood but most were just over their heads.   Zooooooooom!

They were just there out of obedience, and because they probably were still scared of the Romans and the Jews. We really have no record of that time, except for the fact that they cast lots to find a replacement for Judas Iscariot.  That's pretty much it!

Oh and one thing further...

Acts 2:1 says they were "all together in one place and in one accord."   So those three things that they probably did, began to weld them together:  Study of the Word -  living in koinonia community for 10 days -  prayer.  

(On Thursday night someone pointed out to me that a welded joint is stronger than the original surrounding metal!!)

I've always said that if the church could get together in this way for 10 Days ever again, we might have something like another PENTECOST!  Don't you wonder? 

I believe that God reeeeeeeeeeaaallly wants to do this - the Pentecost thing, pouring His Spirit out on and in our midst.  Now we are 2000+ years past the birthday of the Church at Shavuot 1!  But we could sure stand a re-birth day!  Couldn't we?  Would you be in for that?

Come along on a few of the remaining nights of the 10DaysTogether - you will be more ready for next Sunday than you think!!

================

OK, back to this morning's texts.

Turn to 1 Peter 4

Peter was in the room for the 10 Days there.  He talks about their time with Jesus in his letters.  He tells, along with John, what it was like to be with Jesus during these times, and the words of the Early Church, I believe, were forged in the days together in the upper room after Jesus' ascension.  No not all of them, but the Big Rocks were put in the Jar there.

The big rocks were Acts 2: 42
>  THE APOSTLES TEACHING (WORD OF GOD)
>  THE KOINONIA FELLOWSHIP
         What they experienced during the three years
         with Jesus and close together for the 10Days
         with the whole 120 in that upper room
>   THE BREAKING OF BREAD
          Both Eucharist and Shared meals together
         (in the temple and from house to house)
>   THE PRAYERS

These were and still are the four cornerstones of the building that we are being built into by the Spirit of God!

Look at 1 Peter with me...

v 12-13
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

12 is really the set up for 13...
 
a.  "to the degree that you share"  KOINONIA
          Paul said exactly the same thing in Phil 3:
[Phl 3:10 NASB] 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;

b.   "keep on rejoicing!"
           Here is the Key to keeping on!  This rejoicing even in the midst of - even because of the privilege accorded one to suffer with Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Rejoicing here is the "exceedingly, abundantly, above all that we can ask or think" kind!  What the wise men and shepherd felt at the appearance of the star and the angelic hosts!  What the disciples felt at the appearance of Jesus in the Upper Room just weeks before!  That kind of rejoicing is what is in view here.

and then c:  the SO THAT ...  here we go.
          "at the REVELATION (apocalypse) of his GLORY you may REJOICE WITH EXCEEDING GREAT JOY!

[1Pe 1:6-8 NASB] 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

Peter repeats himself doesn't he?  In chapter 1 and in chapter 4.  Spaced repetition is a good thing!!

Jesus talked about these things in the Beatitudes.  Jesus talked about taking up YOUR cross!  It's not your illnesses, or you relatives that are your cross!  It is the suffering we take up for the sake of the Kingdom and the witness to Jesus in our world!

And finally turn to our gospel...

John 17 - the REAL Lord's Prayer!  The prayer that He continues to pray in his position as KING at the Right hand of God and as our chief intercessor:

"Lord that they may be one, as you and I are one!"

The ultimate testimony of Jesus isn't our suffering for Jesus it is our unity "IN HIM" with other brothers and sisters from around the World!!

This week in a discernment meeting at Wellspring I had the opportunity to tell what Anglicanism is;  not about our troubles and challenges, but about who we are and who we are connected to in Jesus.  The wonder of a worldwide communion - yesterday I was texting on my phone across the world with friends in Rwanda and Israel.  It was Yakov's birthday yesterday and I was part of the celebration!  We met a young man in Ngarama at our hotel named Peter - I spend a few minutes catching up with him, and have spent time talking with Rev. Pius and with one of our guides Olivier, and I'm even connected now with our driver, Charles!!  

The Body of Christ across the world is joined in JESUS, and the whole world is waiting the manifestation of the Children of God - the planet is waiting on "tiptoe" Paul says;  all of creation in on tippy toe!!!  Waiting for the manifested revelation - the apocalypse - of the Body of Christ as His Bride, at His coming - and then!!!  Whoa, Nellie!!!

The party is on!!

How did Peter put it:

though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

Just wait till you see Him!  The party will be on! The trumpet, the white horse,  the angel hosts and host of those who have gone before with him,  

Are you with me?

Just two final words... from Peter:

[1Pe 1:13, 22 NASB] 13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ... 

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

Let us pray:

God of Grace and God of Glory,

Fix in our hearts, O Lord, a joy unspeakable and full of Your glory!  Let us see you risen and ascended to your place at the right hand of God, reigning and interceeding for us, Your Body, Your Bride.  

Let us know your protection as you prayed and your provision as you promised.  Heal and Protect us that our suffering would be the kind that is "according to the will of God" - the kind in which we find a true unity with YOU, a koinonia in your sufferings, for the sake of the Kingdom of God coming among us.

And finally, we pray, come quickly Lord Jesus.  Help us to make ready for your return, by going into the world to tell of your love, your power, your light and life, given for the world.  Open our eyes, Lord, to see you and to see your hand, working in and through our lives.   Let your Kingdom come and Your will be done, on earth as it is being done now in Heaven.  

In the mighty name of our King, Jesus Christ, 
King of Glory, King of Peace.

Amen.