Thursday, December 9, 2010

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:

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.

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?

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!

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!”

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.

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