Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Commending Ourselves - God's Way

June 24, 2012

Fr. Philip Eberhart

4th Sunday of Pentecost





Commending ourselves – God’s Way







As I read the lessons for this morning I was struck by the recurring theme of storms in life that are stilled by God, by the Lord Jesus Christ -  I was struck by the list of Paul’s hardships and then my eyes fell on the previous phrase, just before that list in 2 Cor 6:



Look at the reading with me for a moment:

“As servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way:”



Commend is to “represent as worthy, desireable – to recommend”



Paul’s point here, and I’ll make it right up front today, is that we “commend” ourselves in the service of God by pressing through the hardships and the terrible circumstances that come our way as well as by pressing into the character of Jesus that these hardships duly produce in our lives.



This and other sections of Paul’s letters paint a picture that is uncomfortable for us in our western form of Christianity – great endurance; afflictions; hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.  Paul is recounting in shorthand, the tale of his apostolic ministry of church planting!



It’s interesting!  When we here in our day “commend ourselves” it’s usually in the form of a resume, while we are job hunting.  We list our accomplishments – we list what we excel at, what we’re good at, in order to show how we might meet a need that the employer has that we can fill. 



How differently Paul approaches “commending himself” as a servant of God!  We think that he should have used the list in Phil 3 here, instead of the list before us!  You remember the list right?



Circumcised the eighth day…

Of the nation of Israel…

Of the tribe of Benjamin

A Hebrew of Hebrews,

As to the Law… a Pharisee;

As to Zeal, a persecutor of the church;

As to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless!



Sounds like a great pedigree – there is much to commend Paul to his fellows here!!

But before launching into the list he says this:

(reading from the New Living Translation):    We who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised.  We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us.  We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could! Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!”



Paul is contrasting the attainments of the flesh in his lineage and life accomplishments as a Jew, a Pharisee and zealot in persecuting the church, with what he now knows to be the true basis for any “commendation” of his ministry.



He says of all his accomplishments – of his Jewish pedigree – “now I consider these things as rubbish – worthless – because of what Christ has done!”  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ!”



As we turn back to our reading in 2 Cor 6 we can see that there are three distinct sections in the listing that Paul puts forward here as “commending ourselves”:



The section we’ve mentioned above of hardships preceeds, but is then followed by a listing that is reminiscent of other listings of the FRUIT of godly life, in both Paul’s letters and in Peter’s second letter:



“In Purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love,

In the word of truth, in the power of God, by the weapons of righteousness for the

Right hand and the left…”



Sound familiar?

Paul’s list in Galatians of the Fruit of the Spirit:



“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”



And the list we find in Peter’s second letter:



“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God's promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.”



It seems that for Paul (and for Peter), the commendation that they seek arises from  hardship in the form of the character of Jesus -- produced by the hardships themselves.  Our commendation in life, comes in the form of character, that Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus produces in our lives through the diligence of pressing through the difficulties that come our way and into the character of Godliness and “holiness, without which no one will see the Lord!”



And another interesting thing then happens in Paul’s description in our reading:  a third section. Let me read now from the New Living again:



“We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors.  We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed.  Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”



Can you see the progression here?



Stage 1 is just hardship – yuk, going through the hard things in life as we all do, but the message is GO THROUGH



Stage 2 is God’s grace to use the hardships of our life, the times we are “UNDER the circumstances,” to create a new kind of life in us – a JESUS LIFE.  So we are being formed, almost pressed, into His image and likeness, day by day.



Stage 3 is where we begin to see God’s purpose of fruitfulness and character in the circumstances of our lives and we begin to see that those things only matter, to the extent that they are forming us into His image!



Two chapters earlier in this letter Paul makes such a reference, beginning in Chapter 4, verse 7:



“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.”



And Paul ends that section of his letter with this thought:



“For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”



Friends, how can we fix our gaze on things that can’t be seen?  There are a lot of changes going on around us, a lot of people who are in difficulty or in transition, a lot of people who are ill or suffering in some way, in body or mind.  And that’s just here at REZ!  Not to mention all that is going on around us in our world, at our jobs and in our neighborhoods.   What would happen if we began to see it all differently?



What would happen if, in the midst of the storms of life, we realized that Jesus is right here in the boat with us!! 



We seem to think that when Jesus woke up and calmed the storm, the metaphor can be made to our lives, and that He will simply command all the bad stuff to go away!  Isn’t that what all that means?  Hmmm?



Isn’t this to be read as a metaphor for the storms of our own lives?



I think it wasn’t a metaphor – it was a real circumstance!  One in which the disciples were fearful and despairing of their very lives, right?  They were actually incredulous that Jesus could be asleep during such a storm!!  And they did everything they could in their own power until finally, they gave up, and woke Jesus, and appealed to Him for His input.



Now there’s the metaphor for our lives!  We row and row and row and row against the wind and the waves, our sail gets battered and torn and our boat is about to sink, and THEN we come to Jesus for His help.  THEN we cry out to Him, “Save us, LORD.” 



What would happen if we learned the lesson that Jesus is in the boat!  That all the authority and power of the universe is right here in the boat with us!!!



At that point, the storms can rage all they want.  Sure the boat will be tossed, BUT JESUS…



BUT JESUS!



Jesus Christ stands in our boat today, friends.  In your boat!  No matter what the storm you are facing, be it trouble or perplexity or being hunted down, or knocked down, or suffering or in danger of death. 



Jesus Christ stands in our boat today – in your boat – through troubles, hardships, calamities of every kind: being beaten, put in prison, facing angry mobs, working to exhaustion, enduring sleepless nights, going without food.



BUT JESUS!!



Jesus is creating in us HIS LIFE and HIS CHARACTER!!  So we look to what is unseen.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way:

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

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

Father's Day 2012

Father’s Day
June 17, 2012
Fr. Philip Eberhart

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


Have you ever gotten caught out on the road and a song comes on the radio that catches you off guard?  Like George Straight’s “It’s a Love Without End, Amen.”

Or worst of all, “Butterfly Kisses!”  OMG!  I’ve had to pull off the road more than once cause I couldn’t see to drive.  Especially when I first heard that song.  They should not allow dad’s of 4 year olds to listen to this music!!!

Before the girls were born, Val and I tried to watch Father of the Bride several times and were always interrupted by preterm labor!!  I wonder what that was all about.  But after they were born I couldn’t finish the movie for several years!!

I told a friend one time, and he told me that that is why God made adolescence!!  To prepare dads for their little girls to leave home!

Well, it worked a little bit, but I can tell you that I’m going to have a real problem with “giving my daughters away.”  Jus’ sayin.


Fatherhood is been somewhat of a theme in my life. 
A theme that is both ironic and iconic for me.

 Ironic, because of the 12 years that we struggled to have children, and then that prayer in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem was answered with, “just what we ordered”:  “two, beautiful, healthy children.”  We just didn’t know to put “one at a time!”  And a Rabbi friend recently told me that we needed to actually put two separate requests in the wall!

 Isn’t God good?

Iconic, because the theme of Fatherhood has become central to my identity, not only as a “Father” in the Anglican priesthood, but because of the mantle and anointing that God seems to have placed in and on my life. 

 I took on that name out of deference to the people, many of you, at St. George’s where it was a customary form of address for the priest.  But the name has become something more, a kind of calling and an anointing.

Icons are things which we use to gain a “window” into the spiritual realm, through visual meditation and prayer.  My goal in taking on the name, Fr. Phil, was to be an icon, in this and in the wider community, of Orthodox Anglicanism, of unashamed Anglicans, who are in fellowship with the larger Body of believing Anglicans around the world. 

I have friends from many corners of the Body of Christ, who relate to me as Fr Phil, not because of an authority structure, but because of trusted and loving relationships that have been developed over years of ministry together.

And I hope, an ICON of the Father’s Love.


I got a note this morning from Aly on Facebook, the whole world’s open journal!
She wrote:  “Words cannot describe how blessed I am to have you as my dad.  You were there for my every step of my life (& Kiri’s too) and taught me a lot about everything. You are always there when I need a snuggle, someone to cry on, laugh with, or to just give the world’s greatest bear hug.  I am proud to call you my father. I could think of no one greater fit for the job than you.  Thank you for loving me unconditionally. I love you more than anything daddy.”

 Now I don’t know about you, but if I were driving I’d have to stop again!!!


An ICON of the Father’s Love!

Dad’s,
My prayer for you is that God, the Father, “from whom every father in heaven and on earth derives His name” will grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith,

 AND

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to KNOW the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

This prayer of Paul’s is so fitting for this Father’s Day, as we consider what it is to be a father in our day.

Fatherhood in our country is under attack and has been on the decline for generations!  Fatherlessness is at the root of our greatest malady’s in our society and I believe that God is calling all men to step to the plate and swing away!!!

Our country needs men to step up.  Whether you’re a biological father or not.  We need men to be like Jesus!

Jesus said to the disciples on that last night, “if you have seen me you have seen the Father.”  Jesus was fully the revelation of the Father to our world!  Paul later wrote that he was the “visible image of the invisible God!” 

He taught more about the Father and the Kingdom of God than anything else in his three years, and he modeled for us the Father’s sacrificial, unfailing love.

As our prayer says, “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!”

Men, we must live our lives in reference to Jesus, as Jesus lived His life in reference to His Father.  Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He seed the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (Jn. 5:19)

Our lives as fathers are to be modeled on Jesus life.  It is only here that we can find the connection, the example and the power to live a life that brings glory to the name Father and to the God who is Father of all.

No we won’t do it perfectly, like Jesus did, but if we aim high, our results will certainly be better than not aiming at all!!

So let’s aim at Jesus and his example, because we know that someday, if not already, our sons and daughters will be following our example, not our advice!!

 Let us pray.

 Let the men stand, whether a ‘father’ or not.

Most merciful God,

We call you ‘Father’ and draw from your word and example in Jesus Christ, the example and power for our own lives as men and fathers.  We ask you to come, by your Spirit now, to draw our hearts near to you and to cause us to see you more clearly as we look to your Word for strength and direction.  We pray that you “turn the hearts of children to their fathers and the father’s to their children” in our land, and remove, by your mercy, the curse of fatherlessness from our land.  Let us, standing here today, be the beginning of a wave of faithfulness and unfailing love, as we come to imitate you, our Father and our God.

We ask all these things for the sake of Jesus and His Kingdom among us, by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Amen and Amen