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: