Thursday, December 8, 2011

Recent News of AMiA Bishops

My dear Rezzers & friends

Some may already have heard the news that virtually all the bishops of the Anglican Mission removed themselves en mass (save one) from Rwandan oversight this past Monday. In response to accusations and ultimatums from Rwanda, our bishops chose to move together in a united action to preserve and continue the work done over the past decade by the Mission.

Bloggers and commentators are running amok with judgements and conjecture made without full knowledge of most of what has been happening over the course of the past six months. Be assured that things are not as they are being portrayed.

If you want a factual report with little commentary I invite you to look at the article today from David Virtue...

http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=15284

Please also know that your "place" in the Anglican communion is secure. We will pray for our leaders and wait on clarity in this situation, without proffering opinions or judgements about the actions heretofore. We pray that time will be the friend of truth and that things which are done in secret will come to the light, on both sides of the equation. I know that there are always two sides to any conflict and my experience has led me to also know that we are all broken and in need of grace. So let us give grace and prayer and time.

It may now be most appropriate for us to answer Jesus call to his disciples: "Could you not watch with me one hour?" Our leaders are in a time of great pain and the Devil is having a heyday with the media coverage and divisions that are already a part of our American Anglican landscape. I urge you to pray and wait with me as we seek God's way forward through this time of confusion and pain.

Pray with me...

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And Amen!

Fr. Phil Eberhart Rector of Resurrection

Monday, October 3, 2011

Oct 2, 2011 - This One Thing I Do

October 2, 2011
This One Thing I Do
Fr. Philip Eberhart


This week I saw a new motivational poster. Jesus and a young man on a park bench engaged in conversation and the letters “L.O.L” under the picture. LOL is the text shorthand for “laughing out loud.” It is sometimes just appended at the end of each phrase that some send in a text message or comment that they make on a Facebook post. The effect is that it is a kind of visual “nervous laughter.”

On the picture, under the Title; L.O. L. was the caption. “No, I’m not talking about Twitter. I literally want you to follow me!” (Jesus). With our electronic communication media we have managed to almost completely isolate or insulate ourselves from real face to face interaction with individuals. Instead we opt for a barrage of “tweets” or posts on Facebook, to the extent that our communications are even less than an inch deep and probably two or three miles wide.

One of the things we must continue to battle in our age today is the tendency toward superficiality. And this carries over into our relationship with the Lord Jesus. We have all seen the stereotype father portrayed in movies who is too busy for his son, so he gives him things instead, substituting the stuff for the relationship itself. And that is what we do with Jesus, giving our time or talent or treasure, instead of our heart, when he wants our heart first. “I literally want you to follow me!”

Matt 4:19 is where Jesus gives the first fishermen that invitation… “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus wasn’t promising them great wealth or reward in the exercise of their faith, he was promising them that He would make them into people like Him! Jesus wants you to spend enough time around Him that you start looking like him. That was Jesus’ discipleship program! The bible says that Jesus both did and taught. His method was to bring the disciples along and do the stuff and let them watch. Then he let them do the stuff while He watched (see Luke 10).
And finally, Jesus left them to do the stuff, all on their own. That’s what the goal of our discipleship is – to be so familiar with Jesus and the way He did life and work and ministry and teaching – everything He said and did – that we do life and work and ministry and teaching just like Him!

And the process is just what Paul is talking about through the bulk of his letters. We’ve had opportunity to reflect on some of his thoughts over the past weeks, and now today, again we are given a key passage from his Philippian letter: (listen to it again from The Message)

You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God's law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God's law Book.
7-9 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.
10-11 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.
Focused on the Goal
12-14 I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

This One Thing I Do

Paul often speaks in metaphors that are taken from the races at the Olympics. We are urged to follow him in his own pursuit of Jesus. A relentless pursuit that is focused on a single goal: To know Christ, in the power of his resurrection through sharing in the fellowship of His suffering. We see familiar words in these passages: The POWER (DUNAMIS) of His resurrection as Paul prayed in the first chapter of his letter to Ephesus; The FELLOWSHIP (KOINONIA) of His sufferings – we share on both of these levels, we are conformed in our deepest heart and being, into His likeness. What I found interesting in this investigation was that Paul uses a different word for being conformed here than he uses in Romans 12, where he tells us not to be conformed to the image of the world (not to be Pressed Into the world’s mold). That conformation is an outward one, so that we look like the world, we act and do what the world does, we “dress” like the world, so to speak. But the conformation that Paul is speaking of here is a deep, inner conformation to the character of Christ, through the modality of suffering – actually sharing in the same kind of suffering that Jesus went through. And we are first conformed to His death, so that we may also share in His Life.

This theme plagues us everywhere in the New Testament writings. I say “plagues us” because we so avoid it. In our American religion we see comfort and blessing materially as the ultimate signs of God’s love and favor, and thus of “knowing Him.” But Paul and Jesus, I might add, had a very different take on this concept than most of us do here in the West. For Paul it was the embracing of this suffering WITH Jesus, that brings one to the fullness of the inner conformation that is the goal of our faith. We also tend to see the things we DO FOR GOD as ways in which we get to know Him or we get to see Him work. While Paul comes to know Jesus through His Power – it is the Power of the Resurrection, not the power of his mighty works. When we speak of power, even using the forms of words that we derive from this word DUNAMIS we see different forms of power, DYNAMITE (explosive, destructive, sudden) and DYNAMO (constant, steady, useable and useful). The power that Paul commends here is the constant, inner, driving power of a New Life in Christ.

Unlike us who avoid the suffering of the Gospel – who avoid anything that will make us uncomfortable as we live our life and share with others – avoid anything that may bring a smart remark or a snide retort about our faith – and certainly avoid any kind of confrontation like Jesus had with people about their lifestyles and sin; unlike us, Paul chooses to make this his singular focus, as a means of coming to KNOW JESUS more fully.

Here is Paul’s prescription: This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead, I press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.

Today we are faced with myriads of challenges all around us. Economic troubles, political troubles, trouble believing, trouble hearing God in the maze of voices today. But God is calling us to do this ONE THING: TO FOLLOW HIM.

TO LITERALLY FOLLOW HIM. Paul calls it THE MARK OR GOAL FOR THE PRIZE OF THE HIGH CALLING OF GOD IN JESUS CHRIST!

Jesus is calling us – calling YOU to follow Him in the particularities of your life, day-to-day. To live your life in reference to Him FIRST. To run your particular race with Him as the goal line.

What has gone before this moment, doesn’t matter any more. He is able to take it and transform it and use it to CONFORM you more fully to His inner character. That is His will for you. That is the force of Paul’s prayer and his continuing argument across his letters.

Make this commitment this morning as you come forward, down the aisle, to our Anglican Altar Call – Communion! Every time you come to this table it is a new start – what is behind you is behind you, good or bad. Look at Jesus and all that He intends for you, and live your life from that reference point.

“No I’m not talking about Twitter. I LITERALLY want you to follow Me!”

Amen.

Sept 18, 2011 - Live a Life Worthy

Sept 18, 2011
Live a Life Worthy
Fr. Philip Eberhart

This week I’ve been reading some of the new research from the Barna Group on the spirituality of America in our post 9/11 culture. He has a new book coming out in Feb of next year and the research is being hinted at in articles now prior to his book release.

Our scriptures this morning give us a challenge: Paul in his letter to the church at Philippi urges his hearers to “live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” I think I would like to spend a few minutes reflecting with you what that meant to Paul and what it might mean to us today in our lives.

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi was a letter to a church he loved. Its frowned upon for grandparents to say “so and so is my favorite grandchild.” But I think it is fairly clear that Philippi and the church there held a special place in the heart of the Apostle. They were a church that struggled mightily, as did most first-century churches, against the forces of the day – pagan worship, persecution from both Jewish and Roman quarters, and the every day lure of non-religious pursuits, that we all struggle with.

Paul here is urging his hearers to live their lives “as citizens of heaven”. That is the heading for this section in the NLT and it’s a phrase that Paul uses later in the letter, in his famous section on losing your self to gain Christ in Chapter 3. And I think that it’s a worthy subject for us to look at in more depth. We live in a time and place that is “depth challenged!” One of the articles I read this week from Geo. Barna, was entitled “Self-Described Christians Dominate America but Wrestle with Four Aspects of Spiritual Depth.” It doesn’t take a lot of research in fact, for us to know that we as American Christians struggle in the area of making our faith REAL in our day-to-day lives.

Paul has some thoughts on this in our passage this morning. He indicates that there are four metrics by which he will know that they are living a life worthy of the Gospel. Look at the second half of our reading with me: In fact let’s read that paragraph together:

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well-- since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

SO THAT I WILL KNOW…
1. That you are standing firm in one spirit,
2. That you are striving side-by-side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and
3. That you are not intimidated by your opponents.
        And Paul adds, almost as an afterthought, as a P.S.:
4. That He has granted you the privilege not only of believing, but of suffering for Him as well.

So the four from Paul are…
Standing as One; Striving Side-by-Side, Without Intimidation, in Suffering for Christ.

How do these things manifest themselves in our lives?
“Standing Firm in One Spirit:” “Real spiritual unity,” one of our early AMiA bishops said, “is a weapon of mass destruction for the kingdom of Satan.” I believe that Oneness, what Christ prays for in John 17, his final great prayer over his disciples, “that they might be one, Father, as you and I are one!” -- Oneness is a gift of the Spirit of God to the Body of Christ. It is something we have by virtue of our position EN CHRISTO - IN CHRIST. But we have to access that gift and live into it with intentionality; thus Paul’s admonition to his hearers in Philippi to “stand firm in One Spirit.” We must choose to stand together or we will surely “fall… apart!”

In a letter to the church in Ephesus later Paul refers to our partnership in “maintaining the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace.” Our spiritual unity (the gift of Christ) is held in the vessel of our human relationships in the Body of Christ, person to person and life on life.
Choosing “peace” is the clear weapon of choice in the war with have with our own flesh and with the devil’s warfare against our unity in the Body of Christ.

“Striving Side by Side with One Mind for the Faith of the Gospel”:
Paul tells us in the Ephesian letter as well, that we fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and spiritual evil in the high places. Part of our preparation for the warfare we are engaged in the Kingdom of God, is figuring out who the enemy is! Look around you. Is there anyone here that you need to say “I’m not your enemy” too? Maybe we need to take the “Peace” seriously when we pass it as it is the primary weapon in this warfare we have with our flesh and with the Devil. “Striving Side-by-side” means we are facing the same way, together – with one mind: and our focus in on the “faith of the Gospel!!” Our fight is never with one another! It is in the world and FOR the GOSPEL of JESUS CHRIST! Our focus is on the gospel and on taking it forward into the world. It is amazing the clarity that warfare brings.


“And Are In NO WAY INTIMIDATED by your opponents.”
One of our groups is studying the new book from Max Lucado, entitled FEARLESS. I’m hearing good reports and I think I’m gonna pick up a copy myself to read on vacation. Fr. Edward, as a result of his ordeal in the jail in Colorado Springs, describes himself as now having No Fear!

IN NO WAY INTIMIDATED! Where are you on the intimidation scale? When you are faced with an opportunity to speak to someone about faith, what happens in your stomach?

And finally, Paul adds, all this is GOD’S DOING! Because by His Grace He has granted you the glorious privilege to suffer for him.

OH… THANKS LORD!
UM… LORD… WE DON’T DO SUFFERING HERE IN AMERICA!

And that might be our greatest problem! When we suffer we have a tendency to run or at least… to whine. We move naturally away from that which is probably the most powerful tool in Christ’s hands for the shaping of our lives – one that Paul considers to be a supreme sign of God’s grace!! He calls it a “gracious privilege!” One in which all Christians get to take part. And one which most Christians in America avoid, and in so doing, we avoid the maturity that comes with it.

George Barna in his article on his website, lists four obstacles to spiritual maturity in America:

COMMITMENT: While those who self-identify as Christians in America have largely made an initial commitment to Jesus (81%), only 1 in 5 in actively investing in their own spiritual development (18%). Just a few more describe themselves as “completely dependent on God. (22%) We know intuitively that there is more than most of us are experiencing, but few in America seem willing to dig for the treasure!

REPENTANCE: We are well up the scale as well in “asking for forgiveness (64%)” but the second half of repentance is actually turning from the activities of sin, handing control over to Jesus! Only 1 in 8 (12%) have been gripped by the desperation of their sinfulness, and even less (3%) have come to a place where they have surrendered control of their lives to God.

ACTIVITY: We tend to confuse religious activity with spiritual maturity. 4 in 10 participate regularly in “church, prayer & bible reading”, but when we dig deeper we find far less activity: sharing the faith with a non-Christian, fasting, time of spiritual reflection, and even less frequently: solitude, sacrifice, acts of service, silence, scripture meditation and memorization. We tend to be a “mile wide and an inch deep!”

SPIRITUAL COMMUNITY: This may be where American independence has bitten us worst! We don’t seem to take the concept of a community of faith very seriously in America. Only 1 in 5 even believes that there is a connection between our spiritual maturity and being in a community of faith! Only 1 in 3 admit to having talked with another Christian about their own sins. Vulnerability and accountability are not popular in the western church experience.

SO WHAT?
Paul urges us to live our life in a manner worthy of the Gospel and further identifies the markers of that life: Standing firm in One Spirit; Striving Side by Side for the Gospel of Jesus; Not being intimidated by our opponents and Suffering for Jesus! Do these seem to be a bit anti-thetical to what we’ve just heard about our tendencies in America?

I will grant you that we are a little different here at REZ, but we want to be different! We want to be change agents in this culture! God is calling us to be different! And I believe that God expects us, as Paul did in his letter to the Philippians, to live a life worthy of His Gospel: To stand together as ONE by His Spirit; To strive for the Gospel Side-by-Side! To be FEARLESS and to come to the reality of suffering, seeing it as a grace-gift, not as an inconvenient or unwanted.

Let us pray that we can live lives worthy of the Gospel Of Jesus and that we can overcome our American, easy-believism and our aversion to suffering, accountability and vulnerability as we live our lives openly, in front of one another and the world, for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Amen.

Sept 11, 2011 - 10 years of Remembrance

Remembrance on Sept 11
Fr. Philip D. Eberhart
One Nation, Under God, In Whom We Trust


ONE NATION, UNDER GOD

This morning is the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attack on New York. We all know that and have already seen some of the footage again, and already spent some time in prayer for the families of those who were lost. We’ve all read commentary or heard the talking heads reflecting on various aspects of our national psyche or the spiritual condition of the nation, 10 years later. All of those things are good for us to reflect on and especially, to pray about.

This morning I want to reflect on the foundation on which we are built, and on the practices that will once again make us a great and Godly nation - One Nation, Under God!

Those who would strike God from the realm of public discourse have made it their personal war in the last decade to do all they can to minimize and threaten the use of the Name of God or of Jesus Christ and the practice of prayer in the public arena. Those who are sensitive to such pressure, the Politically Correct media and politicians, have cooperated in large measure with an attempt to silence the Christian voice of America.

But today, especially as we remember that day 10 years ago, I see a tidal wave of prayer happening around our nation. It begins in every church – every little gathering of two or three who call out to Jesus today; in every visible remembrance of that terrible day, we are reminded of the testimony of sacrifice and of the power of unified prayer.

Prayer is at the heart of what it means for us to live as “One Nation, Under God.” Such an endeavor is quite impossible without the almighty power of God. George Washington, at the first Presidential Inauguration said, “…it would be peculiarly improper to omit in the first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe; who presides in the council of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States.”

As we say from time to time before we make our offerings: “All we have comes of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own do we offer thee.” All that we have in this great land comes from the Hand of God in response to the prayers of His people, across this land and across time. We are a nation that is rich in prayer. And that is our greatest hope! Prayer changes us and prayer moves the Hand of God!

I’ve made reference before to the calls throughout our history, by President Lincoln, President Truman and others who have called the nation to pray, fast and to times of humiliation and repentance. From the times of the first Prayer in Congress by the Rev. Mr. Duche, the call to prayer has resounded throughout our history, and is resounding today across our land. The current state of our nation spiritually is darker than perhaps I have ever seen it. The forces of godlessness have asserted themselves to such an extent that much of what was unthinkable a decade ago is now common in our land. In the days after the 9-11 attacks, Bryant Gumble on Today asked Anne Graham Lotz the question, “Where was God?” to which she replied, “God was being a gentleman. We have asked him to leave us alone; we have pushed him out of our public discourse, and banished him from our schools. Why now, would we think he would be protecting us?”

Once again it is a time for us to call for prayer – fall on your face prayer – cry out to God for mercy prayer! Our nation has swung in the past decade to a place that was unthinkable on 9-11-01 and now we are here on 9-11-11, a nation who has pushed God even further out of our common consciousness and public discourse, and yet.

On this day, there are prayers. Here among us and in hundreds of thousands of churches just like us across this land. There are special prayer gatherings tonight, joining our voices in prayer: three that I know of on the front range, in Castle Rock, in Denver and in Greeley, that will draw thousands to an evening of remembrance and rededication to prayer and holiness, for the sake of our One Nation – Under God! Tomorrow all day, at the World Prayer Center in Colorado Spring, prayers will be offered as well, for our nation, for our churches and for the witness of Christ across our land.

Friends, we live in extraordinary times. The forces of evil are pressing in on us on every side, but where darkness abounds, the LIGHT becomes all the more visible.

My prayer for us this day, is that we will become a people of prayer again, across this land. That we will look to the heritage of our fathers and mothers in the faith who forged our freedoms in the furnace of affliction and conflict. That we will stand up and do our part, not only in prayer, but in action.

Prayer changes us. It prepares us, just a Isaiah was prepared by being in God’s presence. He was cleansed and purified by the burning coal from the altar of God, and his response to God’s inquiry, “Who will go for us? Whom shall I send?” was “Here am I! Send me.”

In God We Trust!!

How many of you have coins around, perhaps in your pocket or purse? What is the one phrase that is common to all our coinage? There are two actually: E Pluribus Unum (From Many, One!) and “In God We Trust.” Our nation stands on these two realities, friends. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is the root of our freedoms in America. Patrick Henry made it clear when he said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” This foundation of faith is written into the fabric of our documents, is it etched on the sacred walls of our halls of power, it is in the painting and statuary in the halls of Congress and on the buildings of our nations capitol. It CANNOT BE REMOVED; not it MUST NOT be removed… IT CANNOT BE REMOVED!!! To remove the symbols of the Christian religion from our capitol alone, would deface the very structures themselves. The doors to the Supreme Court room are 20 foot wood doors with the Ten Commandments written on them! Above the bench of the Chief Justice stands a bust relief of Moses the Law-giver of Israel. These stand forever, as a testimony of our heritage – of the very builders of the buildings as well as the builders of the nation.

IN GOD WE TRUST!

Every time you pick up a coin, I challenge you to look at it anew. Turn it in your hand until these words arise in your heart. Make them a declaration over your own life and over the land that we call home. Over your address and every address where you walk.

IN GOD WE TRUST!

Make it your every day prayer for our nation, for its leaders and for its people.

And May God give us what we pray for!

I want to end with a video that I was sent this week. I have visited and stood in Room 219, just off the west side of the rotunda; a small chapel that seats about 20 with an open bible and places to kneel in humility before God. Take a listen to a different side of our lawmakers in Washington that I think you will find refreshing and encouraging. Then we will pray together.

Video Edress: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4BELcshdtg&feature=youtu.be

Sept 4, 2011 - The Law of Love

Sept 4, 2011
The Law of Love
Fr. Philip D. Eberhart



The Law of Love

Last Sunday, this Sunday and next we have glimpses of Paul’s theology of the Kingdom in our readings from his letter to the church in Rome. As I said last week, this is the practical section of a deeply theological work that puts on display the depth and complexity of Paul’s mind; it is his systematic theology.

In these chapters Paul gets down and dirty with the people in the church, working out the practical implications of the theological thought he has put forth in the first two-thirds of this letter.

What we have here in this section in our reading this morning is a kind of jewel that Paul holds up for us. When you put all the theology that has gone before it together in a compact thought, like a diamond Paul holds this short passage up and begins to turn it in his hand, to show off its many facets. The diamond here is The Law of Love.

Tied all the way back to the laws of Moses and the “Great Commandments” of Jesus, Paul brings to the fore for us the simplicity of Jesus Gospel: “the one who loves another has fulfilled the law…[in fact] love is the fulfilling of the law!”

We can hear Jesus, as he instructed his disciples in the upper room on the night before he died: “A new commandment I give to you: Love one another as I have loved you. If you love one another in this way, all the world will know that you are my disciples!”

Great Commandment - Great Commission

There is an order of priority that we can see here, in the way Jesus has spoken to his disciples and in the way He speaks to us: 1) Love one another in the same way I have loved you… and 2) the world will know by experience that you are mine, my devoted followers.

Of course the question that this leaves for us is “How has Jesus Loved Us?” What are we to imitate in order to obey his new commandment?

Our first clue is the word that Jesus actually chose as he gave the commandment!
What would it be?

AGAPE

116 times in the New Testament this word is used to define the kind of love that Jesus had for us and that we are to have for one another. The God-kind of love!

We know the other expressions for love in both Greek and Hebrew; words that describe other dimensions of love: friendship, affection, brotherhood and sisterhood, and intimate physical love of marriage. All these words describe aspects of the emotion of love that we all experience throughout our lives, but none reach the height or purity of the kind of love we experience from God in Jesus Christ!

The word AGAPE is a word that was dusty before the New Testament. It was picked up by John, in his gospel and letters, by Paul in his letters and by Peter and Jude in theirs. AGAPE is a rigorous word! Its root is a verb! An action word; and its as such that we see it in Jesus’ own mouth, over and over.

Another 145 times in the New Testament, and in Jesus own words, 7 times in Matthew and Mark, 9 times in Luke and 28 times in John. Jesus uses the action word to describe God’s own love for the world in sending His only Son, in John 3:16.

So we have an extremely clear picture of what Jesus was saying to his disciples as he got up from the table, after washing their feet and sending his betrayer off to do his duty: A new commandment I am giving to you: Love one another as I have loved you.

In Jesus mouth this word is more often an action word:

…but I say to you, LOVE your enemy!

… looking at him, Jesus LOVED him (of the rich young ruler).

… God so LOVED the world, that He gave His one and only Son!

And of course this love for God is shown most clearly in our obedience to His Word!
Jesus in John 14 hammers this home with his disciples, in the discourse which follows the New Commandment at the end of chapter 13. Over and over again Jesus is crystal clear on the sign of obedience as the proof of this active work of love.

Jn 14:15, 21, 23, 24, 28; 31 Six verses with ten uses of this word LOVE.

Jn 14:15
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Jn 14:21
"He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."

Jn 14:23
Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.

Jn 14:24
"He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.

Jn 14:28
"You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

Jn 14:31
but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.

This is the climax of Jesus discourses at the table of the Last Supper, before they “go out”, down through the Kidron Valley and over to the Garden of Gethsemane, for his last night of prayer before the crucifixion. Here Jesus pushes the emphasis on our obedience as a sign of our active love of God and of Himself.

Now let’s look for a moment at the kind of LOVE that this is, this God-kind of LOVE.

First it is SACRIFICIAL. It places the desires of another above its own, every time.
This is why Jesus ties it to obedience and uses his own obedience as its supreme example, in the last verse we read. (v. 31). It is this love that mirrors the love of God that sacrificed His Only Son for the LOVE of the world (3:16). And it is we who are now asked to mirror that love sacrificially, for God and for each other. (Gal 2:20)  “The life which I now live I live by faith in the Son of God, who LOVED me and gave Himself up for me!”

Second it is UNCONDITIONAL. Paul tells us in Romans 5 that it is while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us! This was in fact, the way that God put this kind of LOVE on display!! There were no guarantees and no strings attached, unlike so much of our own love. The LOVE of God; the God-kind of LOVE is given to us freely, BEFORE we make a move toward Him! Remember the stance of the Father in the Prodigal story! Waiting at the window day after day, straining to see his wayward son’s form on the road, walking back home. The story isn’t about a wayward son – its about a loving father!! Loving with God’s kind of LOVE.

Thirdly it is a GIFT TO US. This kind of love is beyond our means! Paul tells us that this kind of love is a gift of the Holy Spirit – “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Ro 5:5) It is something that we seek and keep on seeking for, knock until it is opened to us, ask and ask and ask again, until God gives us his gracious and tender love. And my friends, the gift is most clearly experienced, as we come face to face with the cross of Jesus, our own part in it because of our sin, and hear his words, spoken from the cross, “Father, forgive them…”

Jesus said that the ones who have been forgiven much AGAPE much!! This is primarily how the gift comes to us, through forgiveness of our own sins and it is how the gift is displayed most clearly in us, as we forgive those who sin against us!!

I want to close with a few verses that capture the beauty of this love, where Paul portrays it, among the gifts in 1 Corinthians, as the supreme gift and turns it around in the light, making it sparkle like no other diamond:

I want to read from two versions in sequence, the Amplified and The Message: Just listen and then we will pray together:

4Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
5It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
6It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
7Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
8Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].

And from The Message:

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

Aug 28, 2011 - A Glimpse of the Kingdom

Aug 28, 2011
A Glimpse of the Kingdom
Rom 12

The section of Romans in our readings this morning is one of Paul’s famous passages where he turns from the spiritual side of his letter to the practical side, the out-working of all that has gone before.

He gives us a glimpse of Kingdom life. What it means to live out this faith in the world around us, day-to-day. And its interesting that, unlike most of the lists that we tend to make regarding behavior, its not really a don’t list, it’s more of a To Do List:

From the beginning of the chapter in Romans 12, Paul is clearly giving us a glimpse of Kingdom life:

l-2 Let your life be a living sacrifice, in response to His mercy, which is your reasonable response in worship. Be formed by that response, not by the pressure of the world – be transformed really, letting the way you think be changed by God and His Word, so that you know His will and His ways, what is good, acceptable and perfect.

3-8 Don’t make yourself more important than you are! Don’t forget that you are part of a larger whole – a member of the Body. Each member is important, and plays its role in the work that God intends: Some preach and teach, others serve, others give, yet others encourage or help with details. Each is in ministry by the gift of Jesus and minister to the extent of their faith.

9-21
Love genuinely, from the heart.
Run from evil – cling to all that is good.
Be kind and affectionate to each other, and let one another take first place!
Be careful not to lose heart in your work – keep the fires stoked and burning.
That fire is the Hope in your heart – even in trials and difficulties it is fanned by prayer.
Give freely as you have the means, not grudging what is given: a meal or a bed for the night.
Don’t let the ones who curse you get you down, bless them instead. Be happy with those who are happy and sad with those who cry.
Live a life of harmony with others – let them be the lead singer, while you sing “back up” - you don’t have to be “up front” to be valuable. Everyone is valuable!
Never strike back. Let God take care of your “rep”. If it depends on you, be at peace! Meet your enemies needs: food, water, whatever. These things turn into burning coals in God’s hands. Never be overwhelmed by evil, but overwhelm evil with good.

Friends,
We are called to live in this way. The way of sacrifice to God on a daily basis.
We joke about the fact that living sacrifices keep crawling off the altar, but God is quite focused and serious about the changed lives that He wants to see. And not only God, but the world too, is interested in seeing Real Christians.

I made a new friend on Friday in the long line to get a new sticker for my tags at the Department of Motor Vehicles. You all know the line! He was trying to convince me that my time was more valuable than to wait in this line – he was behind me!!

In our conversation, it came to light that he had a teenage daughter, just out of high school, who was tired of fake Christians. She was using the “hypocrites” line with him, as I was overhearing their phone conversation. He said to me later, “I have the opportunity to live out what I believe, in front of her.”

And that is the most effective witness we can be!

I’ve seen hundreds come to Jesus in the last 24 hours at Rock the Range, but the decision that was made last night, has to be lived out this morning.

Paul tells us that that decision starts new every morning, as we see God’s mercy, and respond in worship by giving Him our lives anew every day. He changes our thinking as we do what He instructs us to.

We are part of a body as well. All of us are important to the working of the Body.
None of us are indispensible, but each plays an important role as the Body does its work. This is the setting of the Kingdom of God and the way that we live life in it.

This is what people are wanting to see; watching for at every turn. People who are changed, who are real, who love them genuinely, and never give up. Those are the people we are being called to be.

Let me just re-read my paraphrase one more time so it sticks:

Love genuinely, from the heart.
Run from evil – cling to all that is good.
Be kind and affectionate to each other, and let one another take first place!
Be careful not to lose heart in your work – keep the fires stoked and burning.
That fire is the Hope in your heart – even in trials and difficulties it is fanned by prayer.
Give freely as you have the means, not grudging what is given: a meal or a bed for the night.
Don’t let the ones who curse you get you down, bless them instead. Be happy with those who are happy and sad with those who cry.
Live a life of harmony with others – let them be the lead singer, while you sing “back up” - you don’t have to be “up front” to be valuable. Everyone is valuable!
Never strike back. Let God take care of your “rep”. If it depends on you, be at peace! Meet your enemies needs: food, water, whatever. These things turn into burning coals in God’s hands. Never be overwhelmed by evil, but overwhelm evil with good.

Our purpose here is to be a people who are living out the reality of the redeemed people of God in the world. We are the Kingdom; We are the Bride, the Body of Christ!

Let the Spirit of God bring about this reality in your life. That is the goal of our salvation. And God is willing and able to work these things into and out from your life.

For the sake of Kingdom and the Fame of His Name.

Amen.

Aug 14, 2011 - Pressing into the Kingdom

August 14, 2011
Pressing into the Kingdom
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Jesus was a man who lived His life “on purpose.”  In fact, if there ever was a person who was here, “on purpose” it was HIM!  He had an indelible sense of His calling, gifting and of the purpose for which He was sent by God.
Repeatedly we hear Jesus talking about the reasons that God sent Him into the world – “to seek and to save that which is lost”;  to find the “lost sheep – the lost coin – to welcome home the lost son.”  Jesus saw what He was doing as a direct extension of what God was doing in the world.

In our opening prayer this morning we acknowledged Jesus to be the supreme example for our lives as well as the savior of the world.  “you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life”  We prayed that God would give us the grace to “follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life.”

Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of Heaven – to earth.  His model prayer caught this reality – “Let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”

God is still in the business of bringing His Kingdom to its fullness “on earth, as it is in heaven.”   We are the chosen and the sent now.

In our New Testament lesson from Romans, Paul takes great pains over three chapters in Romans, a book written to his Gentile converts in Rome obviously, making the case that the Jews are going to come into the salvation that God has promised to them.  And our reading today is the culmination of that argument.

“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” – they cannot be repented of!

We cannot turn away from the gifting and the calling that God has placed on our lives – and that is where we see Jesus today in our Gospel reading. 

Jesus had a single focus – the Lost sheep of Israel.  His encounter with the Gentile woman in Tyre illustrates this single-mindedness.  In fact what we see is a kind of hardness that we don’t expect in Jesus.  He wants to turn his back and walk away from her situation, but she would have none of it!  He argues with her and the argument is based on this single-minded focus of His.  Her argument is one that picks up his imagery, but points to the mercy she needs.  She is just as single-minded as He is!!  She is not put off – she is determined in her faith that she will receive what she is seeking from Him.  And she does.  Her faith and determination overcame even Jesus’ reluctance here.  Perhaps the only time we see such an attitude in Jesus, but we must understand the context and the exchange.

All that to say that we can learn from both figures in the story.  We can learn of determined faith from the Canaanite woman; faith that pierces through any wall or argument set up against it.  We can learn single-mindedness from Jesus as well in this exchange.  Though He appears harsh in this exchange it was because He was focused on the work He was sent to accomplish.

Both of them were models of single-mindedness.  Jesus about the Kingdom of God and who He was sent to;  the Canaanite woman, about the healing needed for her daughter.

So what have we to be single-minded about?

Jesus said it best, in the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”

The aims and the work of the Kingdom of God and the internal righteousness of the Character of God are to be our focus – that which we seek FIRST.   The Kingdom of God and the Character of God:  an external reality and an internal reality.

THY KINGDOM COME – THY WILL BE DONE

The nature of the Kingdom is captured in the phrases of Jesus prayer:  

            Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Kingdom of God is the place where God’s will is done.  Where God’s reign is effective and real, and His will is accomplished 100% of the time, 24/7/365.

Jesus came to bring the Kingdom back to earth, to restore the Kingdom of Heaven, on earth.  This was his single focus!  This was what Jesus ate, drank and slept!  This is what Jesus prayed for day to day, and this is what his actions lead us to throughout His earthly ministry.

THY KINGDOM COME!  162 times in the NT, Jesus mentions the Kingdom.  It was this focus from which His teachings flow;  it was this focus that His healings point to;  it was this focus that his confrontation of evil flowed from. 

The line that Matthew uses to capture and to bookend the work of Jesus is this:
Matthew 4:23-25
23 Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns,[h] Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River.

Matthew 9:35-38
35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

In between these verses we have the richest field of treasure in the whole world!  The shape of the Kingdom on earth is laid out by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5, 6 and 7.  Then in chapters 8 and 9 Jesus is traveling and healing the people.  Matthew closes this section by repeating the verse he began with and by telling us to look at the harvest and to pray for the workers.

Then immediately in Chapter 10 Jesus sends the disciples out with their orders.  Marching orders!  And they are US!  We are them – the ones who have been sent into the world with direct orders from Jesus, to bring in the Kingdom of God and to live His Righteous life in the world.
And these last three verses of Matt 9 are very instructive.  They form a bridge between the work of Jesus and the work that He sends us to do in the world around us.

Our motivation is compassion;

“When he saw the crowd, he had compassion on them
because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

            Our goal is the harvest;
            The harvest is great, but the workers are few!”

                        Our means is prayer.
                        Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; asks Him to send
                        More workers into his fields.”

Friends, nothing we can do in and of ourselves can “bring the Kingdom – on earth as it is in Heaven!”  Our greatest weapon and tool is prayer to the God who is able to do more than we can ask or imagine! 

But once again, let me remind you that, once we’ve prayed, the next word in both Matthew and Luke’s gospels is “GO.” 

Prayer prepares both us and those who we are sent to.  Prayer is the rain that softens the soil that it may be easily broken to accept eternal seed.  And that is what we carry with us – the seed of the eternal Kingdom of God.  Planted in the hearts of those we meet, by kindness, by goodness, by long-suffering patience – by the fruit of the Character of God in our lives – we are enabled by Him to be the bearers of fruit for His Kingdom! 

And so we continue to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven” and “Here am I, Lord.  Send me.”

Amen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 24, 2011
Picturing the Kingdom
Fr. PHILIP EBERHART

Picturing The Kingdom of God


Our gospel readings for the past few weeks have been from this 13th chapter of Matthew, which is the primary source of teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven in his gospel account. There are references to “the Kingdom” in almost every chapter – one or two or three – but here in this chapter the whole is given to his parables of the Kingdom. Likewise we see this in parallel in Mark and Luke.

Jesus repeatedly refers to “the Kingdom” in his teaching and the study of these pictures – his parables and stories – is a rich source of wisdom and knowledge about the working of the world into which we are called as believers.

We are called to A KINGDOM

We in the good ol’ US of A have little knowledge or use for a King. We proved that just about 250 years ago, as we overthrew the tyranny of a king and set for ourselves “new guards” for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – those inalienable rights granted us by God.

So a king or a kingdom are somewhat foreign concepts to us here – we know them by reference but not in our experience, and in fact, our experience leads us to be diametrically opposed to the whole idea of kingship and kingdom.

So how do we come to One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, when we have little or no experience with this kind of relationship? Can we study our way into the Kingdom of God? I don’t think so.

The first step into a Kingdom is ACKNOWLEDGMENT.

I must acknowledge the KING. That means I assent to His rule and place myself UNDER that rule, willingly. We use the word SUBMISSION today, to indicate the subjection of one will to another will – and so it is, we are submitted to Christ Jesus.

Jesus is the King of this Kingdom. He is its chief professor and to understand it we must come and submit to Him and sit at His feet – in His Word. It is here that we are taught the principles of this Kingdom. It is here that we learn anew how this Kingdom works – because it is radically different from the kingdoms of this world!

This morning I want to look at the Pictures of the Kingdom that Jesus gives us just in our reading. There are numerous other pictures and parables that He uses to describe this reality throughout the whole of the NT, but 98 of the 134 references to the Kingdom are in the first three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke – the “synoptic” gospels. Some of those are parallel passages, telling the same story from different perspectives, but there are a significant number of these pictures. Let’s just look at the few that are presented to us in Matt 13 now:

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE:

A Mustard Seed ---

Known for the smallness of its seed, the mustard plant is a picture of the potential of the Kingdom. From small beginnings, the Kingdom of God grows into the largest plant in the garden! From the seed that was Jesus himself, falling into the ground in death, has come the billions who are now and have in the past professed Him as Lord and King. And the seed continues to grow even today.

Yeast Hidden ---

Once again, Jesus is talking about the powerful potential of the Kingdom, which with only a small portion of yeast, leavens a whole batch of dough. A little goes a long way. Here Jesus uses this metaphor in a variety of ways, making reference to the “yeast” of the Pharisees in some of his teaching, illustrating that the principle of potential works in a negative direction as well.

Last night at Anne’s birthday party, I and Oak were talking about the amazing influence that this congregation has for the Kingdom. With just a few folks, we are causing an influence for the Kingdom that is being felt around the world, not just in one place but in many. The Potential Principle is working among us here at REZ!

Treasure Hidden --- Pearl of Great Price

Later in the chapter, Jesus changes gears and begins to talk about the Principle of Relative Worth in the Kingdom of God. We have a scale of worth in our culture: It is based on ease of replacement. An airline pilot makes more than a janitor. He is “worth” more than the janitor. But in the social life of the Kingdom (and in the real life of America) all we need is to have a garbage collectors’ strike to know the relative value of that profession!

Here Jesus turns to helping us gain an understanding of the value of the Kingdom.
The treasure hidden and the pearl of great price are both illustrations of the Relative Worth of the Kingdom of God. It is worth enough to go and sell all you have in order to “buy” it. In other words, nothing we have here on earth can compare to its worth. It is supremely valuable! More so than anything we could ever possess in this world.


The Great Net ---

Finally, Jesus comes back to the illustration of the Kingdom as a place where both good and bad may grow (and be caught in the net) but there will be a sorting out process and ultimate destiny based on Kingdom reality, not on our value system.

This is similar to the parable of the tares, earlier in the chapter, that we heard in last week’s Gospel reading. The principle here is of the Ultimate Justice of the Kingdom. God will sort it all out in the end. In this world we have an ongoing battle with our flesh, we have an ongoing struggle with the fallen tendencies of our old nature and those of others.

The challenge so often among us is not to do God’s work for Him! We so badly want to sort out those we deem to be inferior or unworthy – those whose lives don’t show fruitfulness or, just those who rub us the wrong way. Especially in the church!

Have you ever noticed that God tends to place people along our path who, in our humble opinion, need to be “fixed?” And what do you do with such folks? Most of us try to fix them. Now, has anyone here ever been on the receiving end of trying to be fixed? Fun? Not so much!!

This parable and the parable of the tares earlier in this chapter, both point to the principle that God and God alone is the ultimate judge and arbiter. He alone will make the determination on our faithfulness and worth to Him, and we, being subject to Him in The Kingdom, better not usurp His throne by taking the judgment seat ourselves.

The final question that Jesus asks is, “So, do you get it?”


DO YOU?

The Kingdom of God is powerful in its potential, taking the smallest of beginnings and making the largest of Kingdoms out of them. It is hidden power and potential, like leaven. We will not be able to see its influence until it starts growing inside. But when that happens it will change the whole because of its influence.

The Kingdom of God is worth everything. But once again its value is not apparent, it is hidden – something to be sought after like treasure, something to be sacrificed for at great cost – the cost of our very lives and livelihoods. It is worth it all.

And, the Kingdom of God is progressing – Here now, and Not Yet. It is a mixed bag of wheat and weeds, of fish, both good and bad. It is a huge net that has been cast by heaven around the world, and it is heaven that will decide at the end of the day on our worthiness and our ultimate fate and reward.

Jesus most chilling words are similar in many places. “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord! Will enter the Kingdom of heaven.” The ones who DO the will of my Father will be the ones to enter into the Joy of the Master. Jesus is always clear that what is required of us is obedience. We are subjects of a King and we must live always in the knowledge of that allegiance and with our minds ready and willing to make that allegiance first above all others.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Harvest of Souls

July 10, 2011
Proper 10
Fr. PHILIP EBERHART


The Harvest of Souls

Have any of you driven lately out toward the east on I-70? If so you have probably seen the wheat fields that are standing ready. This is a very stressful time for the farmers these days, especially with all the rain we’re getting, as the harvest stands ready in the fields, but we can’t get at it because of all the rain. And with each rain storm, the possibility looms overhead that the harvest itself will be damaged by wind, hail or even flooding.

Do you know that the Father of souls takes a similar view, in the light of the winds and the storms of change in our culture, and the potential damage to the crop – whole generations lost because of the perilous times – and moreover, some of the crop is being lost because of inattention to the harvest by those who are the appointed harvesters!

Jesus, in our gospel this morning, tells a story to His disciples as they are walking through the countryside, observing the planting of seed and he likens it to the sowing of the Word of God into the lives of non-believers. I call this the parable of the soils. Jesus describes, as they walk, the types of soil that seeds fall on top of, 4 types to be exact:

The Road itself – Hard packed and impossible to penetrate, the seed falls vulnerable and open to the elements and the critters, who come for a meal themselves and take away the seed that is thusly sown.

The Road Side – where all the rocks have been kicked off the path, gotten covered a bit by some dust or soil. The seed falls there, but the soil has no depth for the seed to take root, and so it withers and dies.

The Bar Ditch – where the soil is deep enough for roots, but everything is growing there, including the thorns and weeds in abundance. The seed itself takes root but cannot grow because of the competition for nutrients and water, and so the seed dies.

The Field – where the soil is tended, broken, and open to receive the seed – then the seed itself is tended, watered and weeded, as the farmer sees to it that the seed will flourish and produce its intended result – a crop for harvest, reproducing itself a hundredfold, or sixty fold or even just thirty fold.

Having grown up on the farm, I can’t find adequate words to begin to convey to those who have lived in the city all their lives, the importance of this image and the weight of this metaphor in the life of the church. The point is what happens to the Seed, the Eternal Word of God, in the process of its getting planted in the life. And for the farmer who hears this, the point is the responsibility of the farmer, the sower, for the life of the seed after it is sown!!

Anyone who has been a farmer or even a gardener, knows the process of preparation of the soil to receive seed, the process of planting, specific depths and distances for each plant, the process of watering, not too much or too little, the process of weeding and tending that goes into a garden. The same is true on the grand scale for the farmer.

What we are seeing around us at this time of year in Colorado is the culmination of the other 50 weeks of work on that crop. And those 50 weeks have a definite plan and progression on the way to the harvest. But when harvest comes, everything else stops.

The challenges of this parable in the mouth of Jesus are twofold:

1. What kind of soil are you? What kind of reception does the Eternal Seed of the Word of God have in your heart and life? Is your heart hard packed, strewn with rocks or weeds? Or is your heart broken and soft, to receive the planting of the Word that springs up to eternal life?

But the next question isn’t about you as soil, it’s about you as a seed!

2. What kind of seed are you? What is the level of fruitfulness in the life you are living? A hundredfold, sixty, … thirty? How many can say that thirty others have come to know Jesus, because you have led them there?

The question is a challenge isn’t it? … And an invitation.

When Jesus sent his disciples out ahead of him, in Luke 10 with these words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest!” And do you know what the next word is?

GO!

STEP ONE: PRAY!
STEP TWO: GO!!!!!

The harvest is on the heart of God, and all the more as we near the day of His coming.

This morning I want to reiterate what you have heard already from me on numerous occasions: You are God’s Plan A . . . and there is no plan B!

So like we prayed last week for the turning of our nation, we are going to pray this morning for the salvation of our nation, and of our state and city, and then specifically for those whom God is placing on your heart. I want you to take the Operation Andrew brochures here and write the names down – first names only, and we are going to offer those names on the altar this morning and every morning we meet together for worship.

The harvest is on God’s heart!! The function of prayer for the harvest is to get it on our hearts! Prayer focuses our attention in the direction that God’s heart is focused and in the direction that the Spirit moves, whenever He moves. Outwardly! Once God has our attention He urges us to GO. GO. GO!!

“When the Holy Spirit come upon you, you will receive power, and you will be my witnesses – outwardly moving from Jerusalem, to Judea, and then to Samaria and then to all the ends of the earth.”

Every move of the Spirit of God has this outward component to it – the Holy Spirit isn’t a toy God gives us to amuse ourselves – He is the inner motivation and locomotion to take on the mission of Jesus, who told us that he came to “seek and to save that which was lost!”

So there you have it.

I want to pray this morning, as we move through our prayers, for the needs of our world, but most specifically I want you to begin naming names. The harvest begins as we name names. If you don’t know any names of lost people, then that’s a problem! We have a tendency in the church to insulate ourselves from the world – from the lost! But that is not God’s design! His plan isn’t for us to become a fortress, but for us to be a field!

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. So clothe us with Your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know You, to the knowledge and love of You, for the honor of Your Name. Amen.

(Please add your own petitions for a time as we pray for the Harvest in our City, especially in regard to the upcoming Rock the Range outreach and our part in the process of invitation, preparation and planting of the seed.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ten Years Together - A Journey Back In Time

10th Anniversary Celebration
May 1, 2011


A Journey Back in Time – 10 Years Together


I want to tell you that this has been an interesting week, dealing with the normal flow of events in life, while poring through the picture and video files on my computer hard drives for evidence of the life we have shared, many of us, for the past 10 years.

I want to ask those who have been along for the whole journey to stand at this time. And many of these go back another 5 years to St. George’s Parish. But many have come along for the journey, some have come, been touched along the way, and gone on to other assignments and places, others have come and found a new home here at REZ, or are finding it even now.

The slide show and movies that I’ve assembled give a brief 17 minute look back at faces and events many of us will remember through these past 10 years. Not all are here as I don’t have pictures of everyone. But I think you’ll enjoy the remembrances of a life lived together here at REZ.


[Start Show]

Familiar images begin as we see our image of IMPACT and INFLUENCE and the
World we want to touch with the love of Jesus.

Faces we give thanks for for their courage and spiritual fortitude in supporting a group of spiritual refugees in America, Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini and Yong Ping Chung.

We got to be a part of the groundbreaking events in 2000 and 2001 as these overseas bishops came to America to consecrate new Missionary Bishops for the growing Anglican Mission in America. REZ was at the heart of the Consecration event in late June of 2001, hosting it at the church we were meeting at, providing the altar linens, the worship, choir and even the press support. Somehow my cell number got passed on as the main press contact and I had calls from CNN, PBS, LA TIMES, Time Magazine and became friends with our main Anglican agitator, David Virtue!

We have enjoyed close relationships with our bishops, both on this side and the other side of the Atlantic, coming into relationship with our friends in Byumba, Rwanda. We were visited by Bishop Onesphore Rwaje, and he got his Colorado Miter to take back to Rwanda. We have had great relationships with our Rwandan friends and count them as family now. We have visited and begun to catch the vision for what can happen as we touch each others’ lives and learn to live and worship together as One Church, on Two Continents On Mission Together. [choir clip]
Bishop Geoffrey Rwubussissi has been here several times and we maintain a good relationship with Onesphore and Josephine, now the new Archbishop of Rwanda and his dear wife.

These relationships were natural for us as we have had friends from Uganda for many years at REZ. Our Ugandan connection runs deep with many friends, some of whom are back in Uganda, some of whom we are trying to keep from going back to Uganda and we give thanks for those continuing relationships.

We are bound in a Sister to Sister relationship with the parish church of Ngarama, in N.E. Byumba Diocese. We have been working on the parish for several years now, beginning with our trip in 2007 and continuing with our work with Pastor Servilien Nsingimana and the new bishop of Byumba, Emmanuel Ngendahayo.

[Ngarama Clip]

As you can see there has been a lot of work done already, and we are hoping to see the completion of this parish in another couple of years. The church meets regularly in this spot and in smaller congregations around the Ngarama district. There are vocational schools as well that we are involved with as we continue relationships that were begun on our trip in 2007 and more so this year. Our upcoming Ride 4 Rwanda will be a great tool
for helping us get to this goal. Needless to say, building churches in Rwanda and Uganda is much, much cheaper than building churches here in South Denver!

We also still enjoy relationships and have them with our partners around the world. We’ve have enjoyed relationships with Archbishop Diropka of Congo, with Kaili and Casper from China, and we relish our ongoing relationship through the Men’s Group and their bake sales, with International Bible Translators, Natalia and Sanjeir.

We enjoyed a particularly anointed time in Uganda working with our brother Doug McCain, LC1, in the building of the new parish church in Kicuna, Uganda.
It was an amazing time as we worshipped together for the first time and set the commemorative plaque on the wall.

[children singing clip]

We have been able to partner with them and will continue to partner. Their new bishop will be consecrated later this week I believe.


And our own Valerie has broken into missions as well, with the wedding dresses and her trip in Jan-Feb to Rwanda. She is involved in training seamstresses and tailors, bringing wedding dresses into Rwanda and Uganda and helping to provide an income stream for the Mother’s Unions and their outreach ministries.

Children and families are very important to us here at home as well. Our kids have always had a central part in our hearts and in the life of the parish. VBS has always been an adventure, sometimes tropical, sometime mystical – but the people who have made these times happen hold special places in our hearts. And we count these times as special times in the life of our parish. Sorry kids, I just had to include the Christmas pageant pics!!

Of course the summer would not be complete now without a visit from our favorite scaley friends and the Reptile Man!! How about that snake-handling priest??

Young people have also played a big role over the years and mission and ministry has happened. We especially remember the fun times, the 30-hour famine, the trip to South Dakota – twice actually – and the lives that were touched. How we were touched as much as those we served.

We remember the work with Project Christmas Child and the people who have been a part of our lives, but most of all the friendships and relationships that continue on.

Our work is part of a larger work in the city of Denver. The March for Jesus and Jesus Day celebrations –taking the Name of Jesus outside the walls of the church. We give thanks for our friends and advocates for mission outside the walls of the church.. Jude Del Hierro and Hank Salmans. For our own advocates for mission and for those who volunteer to go, to pray, to stand and to serve. From Washington DC to the Katrina Relief Project here in Denver so much has been done, for the Kingdom in the City.

Many have helped to lead along the way, and we celebrate their progress in ministry. We have been touched by one another’s lives, day-in-and-day-out. We are friends in the Kingdom of God

And there are those who have gone on before us for whom we give thanks.

We are a people of character – or a bunch of characters!!

We have worshipped in many different venues over these 10 years, always needing to use our creative juices to make a space Anglican.

We’ve washed each other’s feet

And staked our land for the Lord.

Now we face the future together and move out – going into all the world to preach the gospel, to make disciples, to teach and baptize – to fulfill all that God has made us for as He has promised.

I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Amen.

The Easter Believer - Easter Sunday 2011

EASTER 2011
April 24, 2011

The Easter Believer


“Alleluia! The Lord is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia”

Around the world for the past 19 hours, most of the services of worship around the world have begun with these words. In hundreds of languages, for thousands of tribes, and now billions of believers, around the world, this day marks the event that changed history - It changed our story into His Story, and with the words that John utters at the tomb, “I believe!” and the words of Mary to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” – our story began, and we today, stand in a very, very long line – a grand processional -- of faith in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God.

In an Easter ad in the Centennial paper yesterday, I saw the question, “What if it’s all true?” That’s why we are here isn’t it? Because with the billions around the world and down through the ages, we BELIEVE… IT’S ALL TRUE! All the “stories” of the Bible – All the tales of triumph and glory – all the flubs and failures – all the promises of a hope and a future – all the things Jesus said and did, from his virgin birth to the glorious resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand:
IT’S ALL TRUE!

ALLELUIA! The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!

And if we believe that it’s all true, then what? We’ve been five weeks, considering the question Jesus asked of his own disciples who were walking along beside of him:
“If you believe that I am Lord [ that I am risen ] then why don’t you do what I say?” Jesus faced his own disciples with the “So What?” question, just as we have to face it ourselves – Jesus asks us, and I believe its worth our considering: so what?


So Why? … So What?

I think we first have to deal with the heart of the matter here: The question we’ve been dealing with in our Truth Project class for many weeks now: “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” Most of the time, our default setting is materialism: I “believe” in what I can taste, touch, smell, feel or see. In our culture we have that which is “real” (can be scientifically proven) and that which is “based on faith.” Anything that you have to “take by faith” isn’t really real. It isn’t provable by scientific methods or standards. AND in our culture any “faith” will do because our politically-correct environment requires a pluralistic approach to faith, based on the underlying assumptions of materialism, that our faith is “personal” but not really based on verifiable “fact.”

Well let’s look at some facts:
FACT: As far as history goes, the Bible is the best attested work of history by hundreds if not thousands of times. If the graph showing the differential were two buildings, the difference between the Bible and the rest of historical writing from that time (that’s all accepted as 100% credible), would be like comparing a dog house to the Empire State building.

FACT: The life and ministry, the death AND the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, is equally well attested! The question is, “What standards of proof are you going to require?” If we take the standards of proof that are required in every law court in the land from our municipal courts to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. – if we take that standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” – then the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “passes the bar.” By every standard of proof that can be applied, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is a fact of history, as certain as the existence of Napoleon or Julius Caesar. How so?

Eyewitness accounts: If the Biblical accounts are allowed to stand on their own, then the proof is there – John, the one who ran to the tomb and believed, said later in his life:

1-2From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
3-4We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 Jn 1: 1-4 The Message)

Or from Peter in our reading in Acts 10 this morning,
or this in a later letter from him:
16 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”[f] 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines[g] in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding,[h] 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.
(2 Peter 1: 16-21 New Living)

The witness of the apostles and the early church stands as testimony to the truth and power of what we place “faith” in today. The scriptures are trustworthy in what they testify too and are, in Paul’s words “useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting and for training in righteousness.” In short they are an absolute guide book for our life – an owners manual – better yet, a repair manual!

The crisis in our country isn’t about what we do or say today… its about what we do and say tomorrow, in the light of today.

So Why?... So What?

What NOW?
The disciples probably had the same questions as we do? They sat and fished and ate and walked with Jesus for three years, and most of them didn’t have a clue about the force and the direction that this was taking – until after his resurrection, and even then – even after all that – at the last moment of Jesus time on earth, in Matt 28, at his ascension from the Mt of Olives – it says, “…some doubted!”
Lord, will we ever “get it?” The disciples did.

10 days later.

Not because of their great human wisdom or insight. Not because they actually figured it out as they were locked behind the doors in prayer (though that couldn’t have hurt!). Not because they were super devout or super smart.

The disciples “got it” when they were given “it.” The Holy Spirit, that is… not really an “it” – rather a person, a relationship that they entered into, on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity – God’s Spirit, poured out by the Father and the Son, upon the church – every believer. Point to yourself and say, “That’s me!”

Now, how many of you said that whole-heartedly?

It’s hard for us to spot faith in ourselves I think. Because we know all the junk inside of us, don’t we? We know our doubts. We know our wondering thoughts. We know our struggle to believe. We know our fears of what others might think. And yes they WILL think that!! Jesus didn’t say it was going to be a walk in the park, did he? No! Here’s another FACT for you:

The Christian religion has been the most persecuted, analyzed, divided, shot-at, hammered on, criticized, and opposed religion in the world. There are more attempts to corrupt it, confuse it, condemn it or otherwise dismiss it today than ever before, yet: More people have died in the last century for their Christian faith than all centuries previously -- combined.

The things we take on faith are everywhere, from sitting down on a chair to going up in a plane – faith is a part of our every day experience, yet we separate out our faith in GOD and in JESUS and make it need to be SUPER LOGICAL and require SUPER PROOF. SUPER FAITH!

How about some SIMPLE FAITH?
It’s out of simple faith that children believe that when they jump their dad or mom will catch them.
It’s out of simple faith that people see good in others and respond.
It’s out of simple faith that people believe that a dollar given can make a difference in a place like Japan or Pakistan or New Orleans.
It’s out of simple faith that we are enabled to respond to the call of God to believe in Jesus, His Son and begin to live our lives from a different place – a different center.
To live our lives in a different way – the way Jesus lived His life – both naturally and supernaturally – 100% of both.
It’s out of simple faith, that we say… We Believe!
It’s out of simple faith that we act on that faith.
It’s because of simple faith that the world will be a different place tomorrow.

Amen.

Palm Sunday - Let This Mind Be In You

Palm Sunday 2011

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus


The short reading from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is the classic hymn of the passion of Jesus Christ. It’s also known as the Kenotic Passage, as Paul describes the example of humility – Kenosis means “self-emptying” – that Jesus gave to us in the Cross.

This morning’s readings and this week’s services are the message this morning. I just wanted to add about a two minute meditation to spur our thinking and devotion during this week as we approach Good Friday and Easter morning.

This week is the culmination of our 40 day Lenten observances. Many have denied themselves of something that they love, as a reminder of the passion of Jesus. Some have taken on new disciplines of prayer, or fasting, or reading, or servanthood. All of these are good and I want to commend you for all that you have done. I pray that your lent has been a “holy Lent” indeed.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, begins chapter two with a challenge to the whole community – one which still stands and challenges us to this day, as does the Cross itself. “Make my joy complete!” Paul says to the Church in his letter, “ by being ONE in heart and mind – by having this same love – this same self-less-ness – by having the “mind of Christ.”

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…

Paul is clear in his Roman letter that we are made new by the power of a renewed mind – it is in the realm of our thinking that much of what needs to happen can happen regarding the transformation and renewal of our lives IN CHRIST. It isn’t a magical process or a simple download of information – It is the systematic rebuilding of our thought patterns with new ones.

It is a fundamental shift away from our typical self-centeredness toward a new humility – a self-emptying humility that is active in its regard for others and in its forgetfulness of itself.

Jesus said that “no greater love has any man than this than that he would lay down his life for his friends!” This is exactly what Jesus did on that day – the day we celebrate on Good Friday. Not much was good on that day as it happened, as we have heard this morning, but what was good was what He accomplished through that obedience.

Jesus has lived before us and all men an example of selfless humility and self-sacrificial love for each one of us. I pray that this week you will take some time to re-read the accounts of His sacrifice – Come on Fri evening to experience the Passion of the Christ, in video and song and reading. But most of all, I pray that you will find a way to live out the kind of life that He lived -- “who being in very nature, God, humbled himself and became a servant – a slave – and became obedient to death on a cross.”

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!

Amen.

A Heritage of Prayer - Call2Fall Sunday

“Call2Fall” Sunday
July 3, 2011
Fr. Philip Eberhart


A Heritage of Prayer


Over the past two years or so I’ve been involved with the Family Research Council in Washington DC as a prayer partner here in Denver and as a pastor who intentionally shares the spiritual concerns of our nation, with my congregation and with other pastors. I’ve made a commitment, along with several thousand other pastors around the country to Preach, to Pray and to Partner for Faith, Family and Freedom.

Tomorrow is July 4th, the commemoration of our national independence - of it’s ‘declaration’, on July 4th, 1776. We are 236 years into what some have called “The American Experiment” – an experiment in self-government – what Abraham Lincoln called, “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” But what we often miss is the heritage we have as a people of calling out to God for His aid in this experiment.

As I’ve read in preparation for this day I’ve been looking at notable calls to prayer through the history of our land, and there are many to recall. From the first prayer in Congress, which predates the Declaration itself by 22 months, dating from Sept 7, 1774, to the calls to prayer by various founding fathers; to calls to prayer by Ben Franklin and John Adams, during the Constitutional convention and afterwards, as the new nation was in its birthpangs, led by George Washington, a devout man who prayed fervently throughout the struggles of the Revolutionary War and into his presidency.

From our beginnings the call to and the continuing necessity of prayer for our nation has been central in our understanding and in the formation of our national consciousness of our dependence on God – what the Declaration refers to as the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” And this consciousness continues among us today, from the setting aside of a National Day of Prayer in the 50’s to the adoption of a national motto, “In God We Trust”, to the words in the pledge of allegiance affirming that we are a nation, which was formed and lives its daily life “under God.”

As you know, today a creeping secularism has taken over our national life and the institutions of our government to such an extent that even these simple tokens of acknowledgment toward God are being challenged and are suffering the attempts of the godless at their erasure from our culture. And these attempts are the final blows of an onslaught on the faith that founded this nation, on prayer to the Christian God, and on any form of public expression of that faith or prayer.

But God… who is faithful, still stands at the center of our life and witness as a church and desires to be at the center of our national life, blessing our national concerns and needs in these trying times.

And so the call to prayer necessarily comes down to us today along with the promise of God, regarding its usefulness in the life of His People and of the nation they inhabit.
Let me quote from some of the lines of notable proclamations which have gone before us, as we bring the reality of God’s providence and His provision for us as a nation into the forefront of our thinking today:

From the prayer of Rev. Duche’ in 1774:

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee.

“Henceforth dependent only on Thee!” Lord, may this be true of us today, as it was of the first framers of our independence, that we find in our freedom a true dependence on you who is the author and finisher of our faith and from whose hand all good things come down.

As Abraham Lincoln penned more than a century later,

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people;



And Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation came in the midst of one of our nation’s greatest conflicts, and on the heels of another time of prayer, ordered by his predecessor, President James Buchannan:

The Union of the States is at the present moment threatened with alarming and immediate danger; panic and distress of a fearful character prevails throughout the land; our laboring population are without employment, and consequently deprived of the means of earning their bread. Indeed, hope seems to have deserted the minds of men. All classes are in a state of confusion and dismay, and the wisest counsels of our best and purest men are wholly disregarded.

In this the hour of our calamity and peril, to whom shall we resort for relief but to the God of our fathers? His omnipotent arm only can save us from the awful effects of our own crimes and follies -- our own ingratitude and guilt towards our Heavenly Father.
Let us, then, with deep contrition and penitent sorrow, unite in humbling ourselves before the Most High, in confessing our individual and national sins, and in acknowledging the injustice of our punishment. Let us implore Him to remove from our hearts that false pride of opinion which would impel us to persevere in wrong for the sake of consistency, rather than yield a just submission to the unforeseen exigencies by which we are now surrounded. Let us with deep reverence beseech him to restore the friendship and good will which prevailed in former days among the people of the several States; and, above all, to save us from the horrors of civil war and "blood-guiltiness." Let our fervent prayers ascend to His Throne that He would not desert us in this hour of extreme peril, but remember us as he did our fathers in the darkest days of the revolution; and preserve our Constitution and our Union, the work of their hands, for ages yet to come.

These are but a few of countless examples throughout our short 236 year history of our national reliance on prayer and on the God who hears our prayers. We are once again in a place as a nation when a fervent outcry to God is demanded of us. This morning we want to make that cry to God for our nation, for its leaders and people, and for His providential oversight and provision for our land.

Nine years ago Pastor Joe Wright opened the Kansas State Senate with a prayer that stirred the nation, and laid out the malaise of our times for all to see. The prayer was reprinted and sent on the internet around the world several times. It was picked up by Paul Harvey, before his death, and resulted in the largest audience response ever to any of his programs. This morning I think that prayer bears repeating, as we begin to call out to God in repentance for our own part in the sins of our nation.

Nehemiah, the great rebuilder of Jerusalem, began his journey with a prayer similar to this, as he acknowledged his own sins and the sins of his people against God. The journey toward rebuilding our nation, begins here, with the simple acknowledgements of our own part in the direction our nation has taken, and with a new commitment to be a part of the answer – seeking the Kingdom of God first and the righteousness of that Kingdom, and allowing God to be the provision of our needs in this land. So let us pray:
Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that is exactly what we have done.
We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that -
• We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism,
• We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery,
• We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare,
• We have killed our unborn and called it choice,
• We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable,
• We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem,
• We have abused power and called it politics,
• We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition,
• We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of statement,
• We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.
Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will and to openly ask these things in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ.
Amen!



I invite you to kneel now, or to come and with me, fall on your face before God, as we continue in our prayers this morning in answer to God’s invitation:

“If my people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will heal their land.”

Let us join together in prayer: