Sunday, December 19, 2010

Emmanuel: God With Us !!

Sunday, December 19, 2010
Advent IV
Emmanuel: God With Us


How many of you have ever considered the meaning of your name? I have. Philip means Lover from the Greek word, Phileo. Some add “of horses” but I haven’t lived into that definition very well. The last encounter I had with a horse I was thrown from a 17 hand stallion as he ended a full gallop. He saw the fence coming up and didn’t think I was going to turn. I lost.

What’s in a name? Much it seems!!

“And you shall name Him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins”
And they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”

Names play an important role in our lives. We pass on family names from generation to generation. Sometimes that is expected. People were amazed when Zachariah, the prophet and priest recovered his speech, at the naming of his son: HIS NAME IS JOHN: the Baptizer, the FORERUNNER, and cousin of Jesus. His name was given in obedience to a vision from God about John’s future work.

In African cultures, names are given because of a desired character or perhaps a significant event, around the birth of a child. And these names are native to the area or tribal tie. The names shape the person in many ways.

We in America can hardly buy that, since we name our kids after favorite movie stars or because we like the sound of a name. Sometimes we even name our children with a view to how the name will boil down in a nickname that they will be stuck with for the rest of their life!!

But the world over, names are still important, as they were in Biblical times and cultures.
So what’s in The Name? Jesus… EMMANUEL.

Jesus means Savior (literally “Jehovah is Salvation”) ; Emmanuel, God With Us.

These capture the essence and center of the mission and purpose of the life that they named. JEhovah Saves US! JESUS! Jesus is, … the Son of God, … the Savior of mankind, … God incarnate. That’s a lot to pack into a Name. You wonder why Satan has an all out attack going on on That Name?

America isn’t the only place where the Name of Jesus has fallen out of favor! A recent online report from Charisma Magazine says:

“Nearly all human-rights groups and Western government agencies that monitor the plight of Christians worldwide agree: Between 200 million and 230 million believers face daily threats of murder, beating, imprisonment and torture, and a further 350 million to 400 million encounter discrimination in areas such as jobs and housing. A conservative estimate of the number of Christians killed for their faith each year is around 150,000.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported during a conference last month on Christian persecution that Christians were “harassed” by government factors in 102 countries and by social factors, such as mob rule, in 101 countries.

The report, presented at the conference hosted by the European Parliament, stated: “Altogether, Christians faced some form of harassment in two-thirds of all countries,” or 133 nations.

A Pew Forum spokesperson told the Star that Christians face harassment in more countries “than any other religious group.” In yet clearer terms, the conference was told that “at least” 75 percent of all religious persecution in the world is directed against Christians.”
( Read more: http://www.charismamag.com/index.php/news/29710-christian-persecution-tops-world-list-who-knew-#ixzz18YoophX4 )

The Name of Jesus is the most hated name across the world. Why? Because it is “the Only Name that is given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) We live in a world that rejects that premise. Paul said of Jesus, in his letter to the Philippian Church: “God has given him a Name that is above every other name; and at the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father!” (2: 9-11) We live in a world that refuses to BOW NOW, but it will … BOW LATER!

Let’s consider for a moment the import of the name, EMMANUEL. Three little words:

GOD - The Supreme of the Universe, the Creator, the Immortal and Only Wise, The All Knowing, All Seeing, Ever Present, All Powerful, Unchanging and Everlasting God.

That GOD – the God who IS that He IS, From before the beginning and who will be after the end – The Wholly Other – The Holy Lover --The Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace: THAT GOD!!

WITH - “to denote association in respect of situation or environment; hence, among; in the company of.” “Denotes a connection of friendship, support, alliance, assistance, countenance, etc; hence, on the side of.” (Hyper dictionary Online)

Of the disciples, it is told that the Jewish leaders “took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) It was obviously a life-changing association. And it still is! Jesus promised at the end, on the day He ascended to heaven: I will be WITH you, always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) Being with Jesus, then and now, is the KEY to the life transformation we seek and that the world needs!!

US - Imagine it. US! That’s you and me. Not only was Jesus with the disciples, the heavy hitters, the A-Team, but He is with US. In all of our frailty and indecision, in all of our trials and tribulations, in all our sin and rebellion, Jesus is WITH US. US!

If you just stop and think about it, it will blow you away! GOD… WITH… US!!



And you need to know that this isn’t a passing phase with God. This is a settled decision, to the extent that He has been at it now for two-thousand plus years – and God showed this commitment for thousands of years before sending His Son, Jesus! This is a settled decision – a settled pattern of behavior by God! Paul tells us that “God was IN CHRIST, reconciling the world to Himself!” (2 Cor 5:19)



So what? So what is our response? Here in Advent – a few days from the celebration of his first advent, at Christmas on Friday evening and on Saturday.

What is our response?

Perhaps a good clue would be the response of those who knew of his first coming:
The shepherds and the Wise Men. They were led to the discovery – by different means and on different routes, but to the same destination. From different stations in life, but both came to be on bended knee at the feet of the manger bed of this Jesus, God With Us.

Like the Shepherds we have heard the revelation – perhaps not in the voices of the angels overhead – but in the words of the testimony of Jesus, the Bible. Like the Shepherds we must come and see this ONE – come and encounter HIM. Theirs took no less faith than ours… To believe a baby in a cattle stall, born in a barn, to peasant parents, a carpenter and his wife, was THE SON OF GOD. How can our faith need to be greater than theirs? All they did was obey the word of the host of angels, Go and See!

We are bid similarly, Come and see!! Come and encounter the living Son of God, Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel: God with us.

Like the Wise men, led by heavenly signs to the place where Jesus lay, we are led by the Spirit of Jesus, to encounter him today. Wise men, they say, still seek Him!

Are you wise? Are you seeking? If you seek, you will find Him. He is nearer than you think. He is after all … Emmanuel: God With Us!

Amen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Marks of the Kingdom - Dec 12, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010
Advent III
The Marks of the Kingdom

"Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

In our gospel passage this morning, John the baptizer, now in prison for his stance on royal morality, has a moment of impatience. Have you ever been impatient in your life? Wanting so badly to see a new … well, you can fill in the blank. John wanted to see the new KINGDOM. He was probably anxious for his cousin to come to POWER and free him from his prison abode. So we hear his impatience, in the voices of his disciples who question Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” WOW.

What a vote of confidence from John, the Forerunner of Jesus! The one who had pointed to him on the river bank and declared, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Who had actually seen the dove and heard the voice of God at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!” Now, from prison and in his suffering, asks this question.

“This is taking longer than I thought, cousin!” Or another possibility, “I’m not sure I like the direction that your ministry is taking, cousin.” Or in the words of the other disciples, even up to the day of the Ascension, “Are you NOW going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1)

Impatience is always predicated on expectation. The people’s expectation of the Messiah was that he would come and rebuild the sovereign state of Israel. And it was felt acutely at this time of intense oppression under Roman rule. But Jesus agenda did not include a political coup, or even freeing John the Baptiser from his fate in prison.

In the chapter before our reading, Matthew 10, Jesus is deputizing his novice disciples and sending them out ahead of him with these words: ”Go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Jesus was a revolutionary of a different kind! He didn’t have wealth, nor were his followers to seek it – He sought dependence on God. He gave away peace, not prosperity.

Jesus warned his disciples, as He sent them out: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” We, just like the disciples, don’t really want to hear words like that from Jesus. And John was no different than us – stuck in prison, waiting, watching for some sign that the Kingdom is being set up – some coup in progress… but nothing.

And so his question. “Who are you?” Are you who I expected you to be or not?
Did I miss it out there at the Jordan River? And they are so like our questions, aren’t they? Jesus! This isn’t going as planned! This is taking a LOT longer than I thought. Lord? W-A-I-T is a four-letter word!! Ever feel like that?

And now in our reading, Jesus points to the marks of the Kingdom coming among men: marks that are not measured by our comfort, but by the demonstration of God’s power. Marks that have been the marks of the Kingdom of God from the time of God’s first involvements in the Old Testament:

In the Psalms and in the Prophets:

From Isaiah this morning the very same sentiments:

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you."


Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

And in Psalm 146:

7 The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind; *
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
8 The LORD loves the righteous;
the LORD cares for the stranger; *
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.

And here in our gospel again, Jesus refers back to the Messianic Job Description that he quoted from Isaiah 61, in the 4th chapter of Luke’s gospel:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]

So for millennia the Word had been plain in its pointing to these signs of the Kingdom that Jesus pointed to in His own ministry. He said to John’s disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see!” These things are the proofs I am offering. The same “signs” that have been spoken of for centuries in the Word of God are the ones that are happening now, as the Kingdom is being proclaimed by Jesus – and I might add, the same signs that are to be present today as the Kingdom is proclaimed! The charge from Jesus has not abated, since He gave it to His disciples: “Freely you have received, freely give!”

I hope that we are expecting the signs of the Kingdom in our midst. I believe that we are and that we are seeing them in fact! God has given us at REZ a testimony of His Kingdom coming among us, not unlike the testimony of Jesus to John.

Friends, the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because He has anointed us to proclaim good new to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

May we be able, with Jesus, who is present among us, to say with him, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!” “Tell those who ask what it is you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

Let’s pray again together our collect for this Third Sunday of Advent:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever.

Amen.

The Marks of the Kingdom - Dec 12, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010
Advent III
The Marks of the Kingdom

"Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

In our gospel passage this morning, John the baptizer, now in prison for his stance on royal morality, has a moment of impatience. Have you ever been impatient in your life? Wanting so badly to see a new … well, you can fill in the blank. John wanted to see the new KINGDOM. He was probably anxious for his cousin to come to POWER and free him from his prison abode. So we hear his impatience, in the voices of his disciples who question Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” WOW.

What a vote of confidence from John, the Forerunner of Jesus! The one who had pointed to him on the river bank and declared, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Who had actually seen the dove and heard the voice of God at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased!” Now, from prison and in his suffering, asks this question.

“This is taking longer than I thought, cousin!” Or another possibility, “I’m not sure I like the direction that your ministry is taking, cousin.” Or in the words of the other disciples, even up to the day of the Ascension, “Are you NOW going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1)

Impatience is always predicated on expectation. The people’s expectation of the Messiah was that he would come and rebuild the sovereign state of Israel. And it was felt acutely at this time of intense oppression under Roman rule. But Jesus agenda did not include a political coup, or even freeing John the Baptiser from his fate in prison.

In the chapter before our reading, Matthew 10, Jesus is deputizing his novice disciples and sending them out ahead of him with these words: ”Go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Jesus was a revolutionary of a different kind! He didn’t have wealth, nor were his followers to seek it – He sought dependence on God. He gave away peace, not prosperity.

Jesus warned his disciples, as He sent them out: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” We, just like the disciples, don’t really want to hear words like that from Jesus. And John was no different than us – stuck in prison, waiting, watching for some sign that the Kingdom is being set up – some coup in progress… but nothing.

And so his question. “Who are you?” Are you who I expected you to be or not?
Did I miss it out there at the Jordan River? And they are so like our questions, aren’t they? Jesus! This isn’t going as planned! This is taking a LOT longer than I thought. Lord? W-A-I-T is a four-letter word!! Ever feel like that?

And now in our reading, Jesus points to the marks of the Kingdom coming among men: marks that are not measured by our comfort, but by the demonstration of God’s power. Marks that have been the marks of the Kingdom of God from the time of God’s first involvements in the Old Testament:

In the Psalms and in the Prophets:

From Isaiah this morning the very same sentiments:

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
"Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you."


Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

And in the Psalm that we didn’t read this morning from Ps 146:

7 The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind; *
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

8 The LORD loves the righteous;
the LORD cares for the stranger; *
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.

And here in our gospel again, Jesus refers back to the Messianic Job Description that he quoted from Isaiah 61, in the 4th chapter of Luke’s gospel:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[f]


So for millennia the Word had been plain in its pointing to these signs of the Kingdom that Jesus pointed to in His own ministry. He said to John’s disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see!” These things are the proofs I am offering. The same “signs” that have been spoken of for centuries in the Word of God are the ones that are happening now, as the Kingdom is being proclaimed by Jesus – and I might add, the same signs that are to be present today as the Kingdom is proclaimed! The charge from Jesus has not abated, since He gave it to His disciples:
“Freely you have received, freely give!”

I hope that we are expecting the signs of the Kingdom in our midst. I believe that we are and that we are seeing them in fact! God has given us at REZ a testimony of His Kingdom coming among us, not unlike the testimony of Jesus to John.

Friends, the Spirit of the Lord is upon us, because He has anointed us to proclaim good new to the poor. He has sent us to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

May we be able, with Jesus, who is present among us, to say with him, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing!” “Tell those who ask what it is you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”

Let’s pray again together our collect for this Third Sunday of Advent:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever.

Amen.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Marks of a Saint - Nov 7, 2010

Sermon on All Saints Sunday
Nov 7, 2010

The Marks of a Saint

Since opening the subject last week of covenant and of us as God’s Covenant People, I’ve spent the week pondering what it means to be “saints.” The Apostle Paul was the one who applied the term to the community of God’s people, as he wrote to the churches, almost as a kind of shorthand term to denote the community of God’s Chosen People.

In most of Paul’s personal and pastoral letters to the churches he refers to those whom he is writing to as “saints.” There is no waiting for a holy person to die, nor any review of their actions, of the miracles that occurred through their life and work – you are a “saint” by virtue of following Jesus! You are a saint TODAY.

So what are the marks of being a “saint?”

Well I think it worthy of note that in every case the word is plural. ONLY ONCE does the word occur in the singular in the whole New Testament, and then it is preceded by the word “every” – in Philippians 1. 61 times in the NT the people of the churches that were being addressed were referred to as “saints.” A community – a corps of fellowship that is called to live a life like unto that of its Leader, Jesus Christ.

Our NT reading this morning we have heard before and I’ve commented on before from Ephesians. As Paul addresses the Ephesian church, as with most of his churches, he addresses them as “saints.” And he adds a phrase: “who are faithful in Christ Jesus.”
To the church at Corinth he adds: “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” Think of it!!

You and I are part of this worldwide movement – not just of Anglicans but of all the followers of Jesus – and not just worldwide, but from time immemorial!! From the dawn of time, this has been God’s plan and provision. From before the creation of the world, God knows you and He knows me – and God chose you and He chose me, along with the billions and billions, throughout all time and across the world – “All those who in every place call upon the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Paul goes even further, in our reading this morning, calling the saints “the riches of his (God’s) glorious inheritance.” If we put that together with the verses above, we get the sense that God has invested in us. And we are the pay off He will get at the end of it all. When the play is over, all the saints will be on stage to take the bow, with Him. As Paul prays, we do indeed need our eyes to be enlightened to see these truths!

Further on in Ephesians Paul fills in the picture a bit more: It is among the “saints,” that we “comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love in Christ Jesus.” It is among the “saints” that we are “equipped for the work of the ministry, for building up the Body of Christ.” It is among the “saints” that we are to experience freedoms from "sexual immorality, and all impurity or covetousness.” It is among the “saints” that we are to “make prayers and supplications, praying at all times in the Spirit, and keeping alert with all perseverance.”

As “saints” we are “qualified by God the Father, to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” We have been “transferred from the dominion of darkness, and made to share in the Kingdom of His dear Son.” As “saints” we partake of “a mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to us, his saints.” Paul continues, “to them (the saints = us) God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

You are a saint today, because of the mystery of Christ in you – He is your hope of Glory! You can live as a “saint” today, because your life is not yours – it belongs to Jesus. And as a result it belongs to that Company of Jesus – that Communio Sanctorum – that Holy Communion of the People of God, through all ages and in all places. But friends, that becomes specific as you live your life in Christ, rubbing shoulders with the other “saints” – here at REZ. If its not real here, its not real there!

The reality of this “mystery” is made concrete in the ways we live together, here, day-to-day – life-on-life. This is where the rubber hits the road, as the racers say. This “saint” thing isn’t just theory – its not just pie in the sky, by and by. It’s really real in the here and now – or its not real at all. Like Del Tackett asks in The Truth Project: “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” If so it will make a difference in the way that you live, in the way that you give, in the way that you for-give.

As we begin to look in the days to come at the first Communion of the Saints, as they lived out their lives together in Jerusalem in Acts 2 and following, we are going to note some things that begin to stand out:

Saints live together supernaturally! Their life flows from the Spirit of God in their lives and in their midst. There are four things that stand out about their ‘supernatural’ life together:

1. The presence of supernatural forgiveness. Nothing is harder in this world than “trying” to live without offense. It is impossible, in our selves. It must be an outflow of the cross and the Word of Jesus, “Father, Forgive!”

2. The presence of supernatural generosity. Only God can motivate people to live with open hands toward one another – to share all their lives and goods – to count nothing of their own, as their own, so that the claim can be made, ‘there was no needy person among them.’ Wow!!

3. The presence of supernatural healing. In this community, we see the real power of God, as Paul has prayed. The apostolic community was so filled with power, that even walking through the streets, the shadow of Peter healed those it fell on! Can you imagine? And finally,

4. The presence of supernatural evangelism. For them it wasn’t a program or a duty to train for, to get “up” for; to memorize scriptures for or a particular method. It was GOD! “And God added to their number daily, those who were being saved.”

Theirs was to live the life – the “saint” life – out in the open, in front of God and everybody! Ours is to live that same life, being TRANSFORMED in COMMUNITY for MINISTRY with JESUS. His is the ongoing presence in us and with us, and like those early followers, we want to become noted as the people who have been WITH HIM.

And so this morning, we make the commitment real, as real as we know how to make it, by committing our selves, our souls and bodies, our resources to Christ Jesus and this group of “saints” we call REZ. By making our offerings and asking God for his Supernatural Additive, for without it – without Him – this car ain’t going nowhere!

So we pray, come Holy Spirit. Come and make us into the saints you have purposed for us to be, in our day.

Come Holy Spirit and cause us, here at REZ, to be your people in deed and in truth.

Mark US with the marks of the Saints of God:
Your Supernatural forgiveness;
Your supernatural generosity;
Your supernatural healing power, and
Your supernatural evangelism.

Come, Holy Spirit!!

Come.

Sermon on The Word - Nov 14, 2010

Sermon from Nov 14, 2010
Resurrection Anglican Fellowship, Centennial, CO
Fr. Philip Eberhart

Hear the Word…Read, Mark, Learn & Inwardly Digest It.


Over the past couple weeks we’ve looked at Covenant and what it means to be a Saint.

An essential part of both, living in Covenant with God and living INTO the call to be a living “saint” is our accessing a vital resource that we have right at hand. Of course I am speaking of the Word of God.

This morning’s collect is one of my favorites, because over the years I have striven to become a Man of The Word. Our opening prayer this morning outlines an approach to Holy Scripture that I want to consider for our spiritual health and wellbeing. It was the first of the four pillars of the Jerusalem church in Acts 2. “And they continued to give themselves to The Apostle’s Teaching.”

The Apostles’ Teaching:
The teaching of the Apostles is, of course, the teaching about Jesus – their recollections, the stories of His own teachings and acts while on earth, and the application of those teachings, on this side of the resurrection, in the real, day-to-day life of the community that was being formed in His Name.

For us today that is captured in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – the stories of the Savior as He walked this earth, as He taught and as he touched the lives of the people he met. It is the collective memory of the church as it formed in that first community we see in the pages of the Acts of the Apostles.

Mark, the first gospel, the memoirs of Peter and the other apostles who led the Jerusalem community, as they recalled Jesus’ words and works in the hearing of this young evangelist, John Mark, the nephew of Peter. Mark was also Paul’s companion on his first missionary journey, telling the same stories and hearing the words of the learned Paul as he shared his own recollections and his own story with the gentiles.

Luke, the Dr. who was a meticulous historian, adding depth and detail to the body of Mark’s writings – now aimed at the new Gentile audience. Luke became Paul’s companion, midway on his Second Missionary Journey, as the gospel mission opened up Europe and came to Philippi, in modern day Greece.

And Matthew, an apostle himself, who took Mark’s writings and tailored them for the Jerusalem community, adding the unique perspective of fulfilled prophecy from long ago for the Jewish audience he was writing to.

And John, the apostle, called The Beloved – gives us a unique recording of Jesus’ life and ministry, with great detail paid to the last week of Jesus’ life, the Passion and death of Jesus for us. Jesus last words – an intimate recording of his last supper and the teaching he did at the table. And a close-up view of the events of the Passion, from the one who stood by with Mary Magdalene and Jesus Mother, watching it all unfold.

And Dr. Luke, continues on with his historical treatise in a second work: The Acts of the Apostles, the journal of the growth of the Church in the first 100 years. Luke a personal eye-witness, beginning in Acts 17. A careful observer and recorder, Luke, brings to us a very close up view of both Jesus and His followers.

And St. Paul, the Apostle, born out of time – out of sync with the rest. Knocked off his horse, Paul finally gave Jesus his attention and his heart and life as the Apostle to the Gentiles! Paul, responsible for a considerable part of the NT, in his letters to the churches, was a major force in the spread of the Gospel of Jesus, to Asia Minor and Europe.

The teaching of the Apostles; our prayer commends it to us to Hear, Read, Mark,
Learn and Inwardly Digest. Why? Why were the early followers of Jesus so keen on what was said and done by Jesus? Why has this book become the all time best seller for generations? It’s not listed on the NY Times Best Seller List. Why? Because its so far out ahead that nothing will ever catch up!

What is its power? Why have armies and nations been dashed to pieces over time and this ANVIL remains, untarnished and unscarred by time and threat?

This is the WORD OF GOD.

It is the creative force in the Universe! By it the universe itself came into being!
And God Said…

John tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word of the Father, that creative force, was the Word of God, the Son. Jesus himself was and is the Word – now become incarnate: “The Word became flesh and made a home among us”

Jesus called the Word seed. Peter later refers to it as “imperishable seed.” Paul tells Timothy that it is “God-breathed.” The writer to the Hebrews tells us that it is “living and active – sharper than a two-edged sword.”

It is referred to as “the sword of the Spirit.” We are told that it can divide between the thoughts and intentions of the heart – our motivations and desires – and that it has power in our own mouths, to bring life.

Friends, I am convinced that there is no greater treasure and no greater force, than this living Word of God. It is a mystery, because I’m not talking about a book, yet in the pages of this book lie the riches of God, buried like treasure in a field. But like a treasure in a field it doesn’t just “turn up” one day! Our prayer outlines the steps to recovering the treasure and enjoying its wealth:

HEAR:
Jesus continually said, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear.” Solomon, when he prayed for wisdom, actually prayed for a “hearing heart.” Are you willing to pursue God through hearing His Word? Solomon later wrote

1 My son,if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.


READ:
After the death of Moses, Joshua, the young assistant, is given the charge to lead the People of God into the land of the Covenant Promise. Foundational to the charge that Joshua received from the Lord were these words:

6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success[a] wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

As we read last month in our time in Nehemiah, when the people of God returned to Jerusalem, one of the central features of the renewal of the faith of Israel was the public reading of the Law, and its explanation to those standing by.

If this book is God’s mainframe – he main repository of His words, actions and directions for His People – the sourcebook of communication with the Almighty…
Don’t you think it may be important to read it?

MARK:
Have you ever read a book? You know how I can tell if I’ve really read a book? By the highlighting and written comments in the margins, by the dog-ears on pages that I want to return to, by the extra notes in the back blank cover pages. THEN I’ve read the book.

I know that some are reluctant to mark in the Bible, because it’s a holy book. But I assure you that there is no punishment for marking it up! In fact it is one of the signs of reading it properly.

There are two ways to read and two instruments to read with: one is a highlighter, the other is a pen-knife! The first is holy, the second is unholy. We mark the scriptures because we are digging for treasure; we write in the side columns because we have found some clue to the whereabouts of the treasure!

LEARN:
All of these things are helps for us to LEARN THE WORD. Why? What are the benefits? We sing about it from the Psalms:

Psalm 19: 7-11 What are the benefits?
Revival of the Soul
Wisdom for the Simple
Joy for the Heart
Enlightenment for the Eyes

David, as we heard from his son, Solomon, tells us that these bring us to

The Fear of the Lord – Clean and Enduring Forever
The Rules of the Lord are True and Righteous Altogether!
“More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.
Sweeter also than the honey, and the honeycomb.”

And David finishes the thought with these words:
“Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward!”

INWARDLY DIGEST:
What? I find it interesting that these words are added to this prayer. Like food, the Word of God provides us with our “daily bread.” Our daily sustenance that keeps us from starving, that keeps us alive!

The Old Testament concept of meditation is drawn from the farm yard. Many of you know of the cow’s “cud”. The presence of a first stomach and a second stomach. The grain or grass that a cow eats goes into this first stomach – after a time it is regurgitated and “chewed on” some more – until finally it is swallowed into the second stomach and finally, digested.

Meditation on God’s word, which includes the discipline of memorization, is a similar process. But why?

David, in the Psalm of the Word, Psalm 119, wrote the longest chapter in the Bible, in praise of God’s Word. As he begins this poem, he asks the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” He continues just a verse later: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Peter tells us in his second pastoral letter:
3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

Let us end with the prayer that we started with this morning:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

All Saints Sermon - Oct 31, 2010

Sermon for Oct 31, 2010
Fr. Philip Eberhart

A COVENANT GOD - A COVENANT PEOPLE

This morning, the eve of All Saints, tomorrow November 1st, is our celebration of “Covenant Sunday.” Covenant is a very big topic for a single sermon or a single day. Covenant is what God has been doing ever since the Fall. When Adam and Eve didn’t ‘get it’ God began to devise a plan to recreate, to restore, to redeem and reconcile the whole of His creation to Himself. That plan was put in place the day that Adam and Eve were sent from the garden. Everything in the God Story – His—Story—points to the truth of God’s plan and design to reconcile and restore… US… to himself.

Friday evening and yesterday we heard, at a leadership retreat in Castle Rock, this plan of God’s taught as a model for our movement into the flow of God’s action through the ministry He calls us to. Our presenter, Tom McGee, outlines three movements in the action of God in History: Creation - Covenant - Co-Mission. Covenant is the centerpiece of the plan of God – a plan to restore the whole creation by redeeming a people unto Himself through the reconciliation accomplished in Christ, and calling us to join Him in Co-Mission as His ambassadors.

Covenant is what God has been up to all this time!

From Adam to Noah, to Abraham and Moses, through David and down to Jesus, who is God Incarnate, becoming the Covenant sacrifice – The Way, The Truth and the Life! And through Jesus, we get in on the act now, at the end of the show. Its like a long play on stage, that in the last scene invites all of those in the audience up on stage to take a part! We are in the last few moments of the play, friends. And God has invited us onto the stage to play our part!

Covenant is the centerpiece of God’s action in the world and Christ is the centerpiece of God’s Covenant with us and with the world. The last line of our Gospel reading this morning is the CRUX of the matter – The “Cross” hairs: In reference to the salvation of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, the most despised figures in all of Israel at the time of Jesus, he said: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Here we see all the elements of what we are saying today. Salvation came to Zacchaeus through his faith in Jesus, as a son of Abraham (the covenant people). Jesus also said to Zacchaeus and to all of us, “as the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” We are invited up onto the stage to take our part in the action of redemption as ambassadors of reconciliation – joining God in His mission – a co-Mission with Him.

So what has Covenant looked like through the ages as the play has been acted out through His-story?

First: Covenant looks like God choosing a person – a people. Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham; all were chosen by God. God is the initiator of Covenant, not us. God is the principle actor on the stage! Covenant is God committing to His creation and His people, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” We understand covenant is unbreakable, at least so it is from God’s perspective. It is a Covenant of Unfailing Love -- Hesed in the Hebrew language. The words we heard last week arise out of this kind of unfailing love for His people: “Fear Not, I have redeemed you. I know you by name and you are mine!”

Second: Covenant looks like being set apart. “You will be my people, and I will be your God” are the words with which we are invited into this special relationship with the Living God! What a promise! And these words ring through the whole of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, over 200 times the words My People occur. This set apart relationship is with a people – together. Peter put is well when he described us as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.”

Third: Covenant looks like a call to be more than we are. “Be all you can be” is the US Army’s recruiting slogan. God’s is “Be more than you can be!” The list is long and distinguished of those who were called to be more than they could be, in fact, almost all of the players on stage throughout the whole of the play are such!! The cast is made up of harlots and rebels, of cowards and thieves – and that is just in the human lineage of Jesus! Friends, we fit in easily with this cast of characters in the bible, from the patriarchs down to the disciples of Jesus, the human story – the human side of this equation – is one of falling completely short of the standard and being made MORE by God’s amazing grace. Think of Abraham, who passed off his wife as his sister because of cowardice, not once but twice; think of Gideon, the no account son of a no account tribesman, by his own accounting “the least of the least of the least”; think of Jonah, who ran from God’s call to preach in Ninevah, cause he hated the Ninevites! God has to send very special circumstances to get his attention, he finally obeyed and then when successful, he pouted in the desert! Think of Zacchaeus, or Peter, the holder of the Keys to the Kingdom, hailed in one breath by Jesus and called a “satan” in the next.

Friends, thankfully, the Covenant does not depend on us! Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!!

But nevertheless, God invites us into Covenant with Himself. Just as Jesus invited Zacchaeus out of his tree-top perch, and entered his house and broke bread with him, he invites us to come down, to invite Him in and to sup together at table.

And how did Zacchaeus respond? Immediately and willingly! This tax-collector and sinner, despised by his neighbors and countrymen, came down in one jump and welcomed Jesus into his home. He responded with generosity toward Jesus, with repentance towards those he had wronged, and with 4-fold restoration where he had injured others by his greed. “Salvation” took up a dwelling in his house!

And let me note here that, as was His custom, Jesus didn’t let the fact that Zach was hated slow him down as He went in. There were no special conditions, apart from his own acceptance of Jesus’ request to dine with him, for Jesus to come into his house. Jesus didn’t “lay down the law” to Zacchaeus! And there are no special conditions for Jesus to come into your house, but for you to accept his invitation! As John later reminded us in Rev. 3: I stand at your door and knock!

Each of us has a door only we can open.

Is Jesus on the inside of the house of your heart? Or on the outside, still knocking?
Just a simple question.

But I think its important to also note that that letter in John’s Revelation was written to a whole church – perhaps The Whole Church, with the voice of Jesus speaking outside our door: “Behold I stand at the door and knock! If you hear my voice, Church, and allow me entry, I will come in and sup with you.” “You will be My People, and I will be Your God!”

Those words echo throughout The Word. And by them we are called by God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to be a special, separated people, identified with Him and with His purpose of reconciliation and redemption and restoration and renewal in the world. Until that Day when Jesus returns and the whole of creation will be made new again.

Listen from the Message to Paul’s assessment of our call, our Co-Mission:
14-15 Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.
16-20 Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.
21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God. (2 Cor 5: 14-21)


And how important is our role in this equation now? How important is our role on the stage at the end of the play. Let me read on in 2 Cor 6 for just a few more verses:
This is entitled: Staying at our Post!
1-10 Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help. Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. Our work as God's servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

11-13 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

God has extended the invitation to you: “Come down and let me come to your house today” - Let me, the God of the Universe, set with you at your table and eat. Will you invite Me in as Zacchaeus did? Will you offer me the hospitality of your table as I have offered you the hospitality of Mine?

If so come. During the prayers come. Not in a rush but deliberately, as we pray for the world and one another. Come.

I’ll be standing here to give a blessing as you present yourselves, your souls and bodies to God. Everyone pray with your eyes wide open this morning. Pray for those who are coming forward to respond to Jesus call to Covenant. Jesus’ call to Stand. Jesus call to Be His Ambassador. To be His People, Together, here at REZ.

Let us Pray.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Imago Dei ... Imago Christi ... And You!

Sermon for Christ the King Sunday
November 21, 2010
Fr. Phil Eberhart
Resurrection Anglican Fellowship
========================


Today is Christ the King Sunday. Our readings bring out God’s plan to reconcile all things in heaven and earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Friends, it REALLY IS all about Jesus! This morning I want to look for a moment at the Image of God in Christ and then consider the Image of Christ in You … and me.

IMAGO DEI
Our reading in Colossians is perhaps the clearest instance in scripture of a statement of Jesus Christ’s position and work in relation to God: “The image of the invisible God!
… In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things … through the blood of His Cross.”


This morning I just want to consider the use of the word IMAGE - directly from the Greek here we get our word, ICON. We see this word twenty-three (23) times in the NT, -- well over half in regard to idolatry, or the wrong use of images – something that the western church has rejected during the reformation period when the Anglican church was born. We are products of that mindset, so we struggle a bit with the use of an ICON today.

In the Eastern Orthodox traditions, rich with iconography, the icon serves as a “window” into the life and character of the person depicted. The icon is intended to give a focus to meditation – but is not a living force to worship!!

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, as the ICON OF GOD is both the representation of all the glory of God: Paul tell us in 2 Cor 4:4 that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the IKON – the image of God.” And Jesus is not only the representation, he is the representative! As we saw in our reading from Colossians: “In Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” Similarly, later in Colossians 2:9 Paul tells us: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form…”

This idea of FULLNESS is one that Paul uses throughout the whole argument. Jesus is the complete revelation of God to us! Nothing is left out! We can study Him and His life, His thoughts and actions, His relationships and methods, and go ever deeper into His personal words and public works and never find anything that doesn’t fully reflect God!

ALL FULLNESS!! (And All means … ? ALL!!)

The Apostle John in his gospel, also starts from this point: in 1:14 “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, FULL of grace and truth…” and in 16: “… of His FULLNESS we have all received, and grace upon grace.” And finally in 18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

But Paul, interestingly, also uses that concept of fullness repeatedly in his talk about the relative position and work of the Body of Christ! And this is where the rubber hits the road for us.

In our studies in the Ephesian letter from Paul, we see this over and over and over. As we look at the word FULLNESS itself, the Greek useage, where it refers to the Body of believers is “that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, [and] riches of God and of Christ.” (Thayer). Eph 3:19 “that ye may become a body wholly filled and flooded by God.”

SOOOOOO… if Christ is the image of God in the world. Who is the Image of Christ IN the world?

IMAGO CHRISTI
Paul tells us, also, that we – the Body of Christ – are being transformed into His image:
“We all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same IMAGE from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Paul is quite clear in several places that this is our destiny as Christians: to look like Jesus! In the 3rd chapter of this Colossian letter he says we “have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the IMAGE of the One who created him.”

Paul, writing to the Romans in a very familiar verse from the 8th chapter, verse 28:
“we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” But Paul continues on in this regard:
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
And these whom He predestined He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things:
(HMMMMM)? If God is for us, who is against us?

God who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

HMMMMM INDEED!!

Christ is the Image of God and We are the Image of Christ! We, the Church! We… REZ!l

But the question then is quite simple: What do people see when they look at us?

What do you see of the Imago Christi in this Body of Christ?

The Word tells us that we overcome by The Blood of the Lamb AND The Word of our Testimony? Let me ask again: What do you see of the Imago Christi in THIS Body of Christ? How is God working among us, and in us and through us? How is Christ visible in our lives and in our community of fellowship , our common life? What transformation is occurring? How is LOVE manifest? Where can we see God’s Power working? What are the coincidences in your life? In our life together?

One of our Eucharistic prayers says, “Open our eyes, Lord, to see your hand at work in the world about us.”

If Christ is the image of the invisible God --- and we are being made new in the Image of Christ --- where can we see that happening? I want to put the question to you and to us this morning, as we approach this Thanksgiving holiday and as we approach the new year in Advent next Sunday.

Can you see God at work in your world? In your life? In your marriage or relationships? In your work or in your play? Can you point to it and say, “There it is!!”

That is the substance of our testimony! And that is precisely what having a “testimony” means: I can see God at work in the world around me, in my own life and in those I live my life with. And I want to “shout it from the housetops.”

Alleluia, the Lord is Risen!!
The Lord is Risen Indeed!! Alleluia!

Alleluia, Jesus is King!!
Jesus is King Indeed!! Alleluia Alleluia.

Amen !!

Watching in Prayer: Awake & Alert

Sermon at Resurrection Anglican Fellowship
Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010
Rev. Philip Eberhart
================================

This morning is New Year’s Day in the Church Calendar – the first Sunday of Advent! Advent is the season when we turn our attention to view the wonder of Christ’s coming among us – both His Promised return and His arrival, as we will celebrate next month, as a Babe in Bethlehem.

This morning our readings urge us to be awake and alert for the signs of His Second coming. Advent is a time of “preparation” – a time of awakening. Awakening to the signs around us and the “immanence” of His return… Advent is a call to stay awake, as Jesus warned in the gospel… be ready!

It was amazing this morning as I was up early typing out my thoughts for this sermon, here came my daughter, Kiri, who has slept all week till noon or later. She had an 8:10 flight this morning back to Omaha and a drive then to Iowa State. She was up at 4:45, an hour before her ride was scheduled and she was packed and ready to go. Readiness is in our heart and mind and it translates into the actions of our body.

What does it mean for us to be prepared for the return of the Lord Jesus?

If we look at Paul’s writings, throughout we see what scholars call an “immanent eschatology.” In words that normal people use, that means, he believed that Jesus could come back any time and that it was going to be sooner , rather than later!! We can see this feeling in his lines from Romans in this morning’s NT lesson. He also gives us some clues as to just what being “awake” might mean.

Here in Advent 2010, when we hear the words “our salvation is closer now; the night is far spent, the day is near…” we might respond, “DUH!!” These words were originally penned in the mid first century – how can we not, twenty centuries later be “closer now!” Closer indeed!!

Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels of the signs to look for: As it was in the days of Noah: “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage… and they knew nothing!” Life was a big party. It was a marriage feast, oblivious to the conquering army banging down the door!! Like today, their “eat, drink and be merry” lifestyles had overtaken good sense. They were asleep at the wheel going a 100 miles an hour!!

So what is Paul’s prescription here this morning … to the Romans in the first century and to us in the 21st century?

“It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep!!”

LET US THEN…

Lay Aside the Works of Darkness and Put on the Armor of Light;

This is an active choice of our hearts and minds: A choice to live according to the directives of the Living God. Earlier in this same letter, Paul goes into great lengths to explain what is encapsulated here in just a few words. Almost three chapters, from 6 to the end of 8, explain the struggle we have with our flesh and the key role that our mind and heart have in this process:

RO 6:17 “…though you were slaves to sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness”

RO 8: 5-6 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

Paul speaks of these two “Mindsets” as things that we can take off and put on, like a coat. That is in fact his metaphor for how we appropriate the work of and the character of Jesus Christ into our lives; PUT ON CHRIST! Just as matter-of-factly as if he were pointing to a new suit, Paul points us to the clothing of righteousness throughout his writings, as well as here in Romans.

But as he sums up here in Romans he goes into some little detail:

LET US LIVE HONORABLY (as in the day,):
Paul delineates just what honorably means here as well:

Not in reveling and drunkenness;
Not in debauchery and licentiousness,
Not in quarreling and jealousy.

In other words, not like it was in the days of Noah!!

INSTEAD, PUT ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST~
There it is.

Paul tells the Colossians, (3:12ff) “since God chose you to be the holy people whom He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.”

He goes on: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… Let the Words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. … whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus…”

This is what it means to be “awake” my friends.

Be awake to the times that we live in, to be sure – but not awake with fear, as if the thief is about to break in. No! Awake with anticipation – alive with the hope of His return. Awake with perception, discerning the times that we live in; awake to opportunity, having our eyes open to the movement of God in our midst and in the world, as he prepares us for an end times revival, the likes of which we have never seen.

And this morning I want to echo the words of Paul:

SALVATION IS NEARER TO US NOW THAN WHEN WE FIRST BECAME BELIEVERS!

STAY AWAKE IN PRAYER, IN YOUR READING OF GOD’S WORD, IN ACTIVE APPROPRIATION OF IT TO YOUR LIFE IN LIVING APPLICATION.

THE TIME IS SOON COMING WHEN WE ARE GOING TO BE CALLED ON TO BE THE LIGHT THAT WE ARE: THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS OF AN EVER DARKENING WORLD.

AND AS THE DARK GETS DARKER, EVEN A SMALL LIGHT IS BRIGHT!!

AMEN!

Abounding In Hope (Romans 15:13)

ROM 15:13
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”

Abounding in Hope

This morning in Advent 2 our themes are both repentance and what issues from it: HOPE.

There has been a lot of talk about hope in these last few years in our culture, but we have realized little actual hope, as the joyful expectations of change and a new type of leadership have been dashed again and again. Hope is a fragile commodity. It is easily broken and costly to regain.

In his final words to the Romans, Paul prays a blessing on the Roman Church that I pray for us as well, in our day: from 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”

Hope plays an important role in our movement toward the fulfillment of our salvation. It is intertwined with our faith, our trust in the Word of God and the God of His Word. Faith is in fact defined as “the Substance of things HOPED FOR”; and Paul weaves it together as one of the Big Three at the end of 1 Cor 13: “Now remain these three: Faith, HOPE, and Love…”

Hope plays a dynamic role, along with faith, [trust or belief ] in the walking out of our Christian Life in LOVE. It is in fact a kind of binding agent – the middle glue that binds our faith in God to an active love that lives its faith out in day-to-day sacrifice. In many ways HOPE is the fuel that propels us on the Way of Love.

Paul prays for a two-step action in the believers in Rome: Let me change up the phrase a bit… let’s start at the end:
“BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”
In our gospel reading, John the baptizer is recorded as pointing to Jesus as the One who will “baptize” you “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” To baptize, we know, is to overwhelm – to submerge into – like a ship sinking under the waves. It is as a result of this submersion in the Holy Spirit that we are then to be “filled with all joy and peace in believing.” This is the natural outgrowth of the life of God, by His Spirit, that is bestowed – deposited – within us at our baptism, both in water and in His Spirit. It is naturally growing fruit – the Fruit of the Spirit, in fact, by name: JOY & PEACE.

As we are filled to overflow by The God of Hope with the fruit of the Spirit of God, Joy & Peace, we will come to ABOUND IN HOPE. Once again we see Paul, here, referencing the superabundant nature of God’s promise and His action on our behalf. God’s intention is that our lives be ...
FILLED UP and RUNNING OVER.

The word Paul uses here for “abound” is the same word he uses over and over and over again in regard to God’s willingness to pour His Life into our lives – to make more of our lives than they are naturally – to fill our 12 baskets with leftovers after feeding an outrageous multitude. Can you imagine what that school boy told his mom when he came home with 12 baskets of bread and fish? “MOM, Look what God did?”

This super-abundance for those who live in Christ is the hallmark of Paul’s faithful prayers for his churches. We heard it most clearly in his prayer for the Ephesian church: “Now to Him who is able to do super-abundantly more than we can ask or even think… more than we can dream in our wildest dreams … to Him be glory in the Church from generation to generation.” This kind of abundance is the result of hope not the source of it. Paul’s prayer here is that we might be “filled with ALL joy and peace in [the midst of] believing.” All is a lot of joy and a lot of peace!

Hope is about where we keep our eyes

Paul writes the church in Thessalonica, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s the Big 3 again: Faith, Hope and Love.

Earlier in Paul’s letter to Rome we see this all intertwined again:
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

As I said earlier, our HOPE is not dependant upon our circumstances – none of this whole package is dependant on our circumstances! In fact, all this works in spite of our circumstance – in some ways, even building in the midst of our bad circumstances. Eugene Peterson in The Message captures this reality as he translates the final verses of what we just read:
We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
So our hope is “the alert expectancy of God’s provision” that comes from the virtue and patience gained in the fire of trial. It is our experience of God’s sufficiency in the face of our lack and need that provides hope for our future. Time after time after time … Jesus is right on time!
Advent is the Season of Hope: the alert expectancy of Christ’s coming and of His consummation of the ages as He gathers His church to Himself in love and comes as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, exalted to reign forever and ever.
So I pray with Paul: “And now, may the God of great hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!” (The Message)
Amen and Amen.

Thots from Padre a Link to Sermons

This is a note to let those who are occasionally following this post that I will be posting sermon files here in audio and text format. The audio link will be clickable to our website page, or you can just read the sermon on the blog each week.

Sermons will be posted on Monday's after the Sunday for reference and comments. I would love to have interaction with readers and comments and questions through this media. I believe that the Word of God is living and active and we grasp it by interaction -- both with the Word and with those who are working at understanding it and applying it to daily life.

I hope that you enjoy the new and more regular content. Advent Sermons will be added first.
Thanks for looking in!

REZ Padre, Phil Eberhart+