Monday, July 29, 2013

For The Sake Of 10


10th Sunday of Pentecost
July 28, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart

“For the Sake of 10” (click for audio)


As I read the OT lesson this morning, the story of Abraham’s intercession with God on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham was out on the edge here, and he knew it.  God had “come down” in person to see if the OUTCRY that had come to him was really true.

I’ve entitled this morning’s sermon, “For the sake of 10” because I’m so struck with the conversation – first that Abraham had the kind of relationship with God that would enable a conversation like this and second that God heard him and answered him in the affirmative.

For the sake of 10 righteous, I will have mercy!

The question for me was how many people lived in Sodom and Gomorrah?  100?
1000? 10,000?  More?

In my research I discovered that Sodom and Gomorrah were two of five cities on the plain that is the southern Jordan delta, just north of the Dead Sea, that extends to the south end of the Dead Sea, which is dead, potentially at least, because of this very judgment on that area.

In the text it is described as being like the Garden of Eden!  It was lush and green, well watered with the fresh water of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee as it comes down to the deep rift valley, almost 2700 feet below sea level, at the Dead Sea.

It was the place that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, chose for his wife and family, because it was so lush and green, seen from a distance, very pleasing to the eye.  Lot came to understand though, that the “greener grass syndrome” was true then, just as it is now. The living conditions in the cities of the plain were less than desirable.

Sodom and Gomorrah have come to be known as by-words for heinous sin.  Throughout scripture after these chapters in Genesis, these towns and this area are referred to in the past tense and always in the negative as a sign and symbol of the judgment of God.  Nearly 50 times, at least half of which appear in the prophets, in Jesus’ teachings and instruction, and finally in Revelation, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah stand for the decisive judgment of God on a city or nation.

But what caught my eye this morning in this story of Abraham is the power of the righteous in the land, not the evil.  And this morning I want to encourage you and build you up in the midst of our times, which are more like Sodom and Gomorrah than we may even realize!  I want to encourage you to stand in righteousness, to stand in your place in Christ, and to stand as an intercessor, like Abraham, for the sake of this city and this nation, in these days.

Just in our readings this morning we have the makings of a charge and the tools of equipping for that charge to stand!

Jesus in our gospel, tells the story of a householder (God) being interrupted in his sleep by a neighbor who’s need was immediate.  Visitors had come and he needed bread right then.  Jesus here is recommending an OUTCRY to God – on the heals of the disciples’ question about prayer and his teaching them the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells this story of two neighbors (interesting that it is right after the story of the Good Samaritan!) – two neighbors, one of which is caught unprepared in the middle of the night for the advent of guests to his home.   

So he comes across the street and knocks!  And knocks!   And knocks – finally through the open up stairs window a voice comes, “What do you want?” 
“Well, I have some guests who have just arrived, and I have nothing to set before them.  Can I borrow three loaves of bread from you.” 
“Go away!  I’m in bed with my children.”
[Knock, Knock , KNOCK!]
“What?!!!”
PLEEEEEEZE!
“I said Go Away!   It’s the middle of the night!”
COME ON, I SAID PLEASE.   
(KNOCK< KNOCK>KNOCK….)
Oh, All right.  Give me a break.  Just a minute.

And as Jesus said, “… even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.”

And Jesus follows this object lesson with the most famous lines of his teaching on prayer:

"So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Friends, the weaving of these stories together gives us a challenge and a pattern.

Jesus called us “salt” in the Sermon on the Mount.  Salt is a preserving force in a culture. It holds back spoilage, in the absence of refrigeration.  Because of that invention we no longer use salt as it was used in those days. Now salt is less vital to our existence and well being than ever before.  But Jesus had these kind of things in mind when he said we were “salt and light.”

The effect of righteous men and women in a culture.  What is it?

How do we measure the “salt-ness” of a church – its effect on the surrounding community and culture?  If REZ did not exist, would anyone, other than us this morning, miss us?  Are we making an impact in the city, in the state of Colorado, or in the culture of either?  What does that question even mean?

We can sit and complain about the politics of our day, about the scandals, the intrigue, the party spirit, or the other party.  We can arm ourselves, and gather food and water and generators, because we fear what is coming down the pike.  We can blame all those in charge, but what if the power actually rests in the hands of the People of God?

What if, the power of reconciliation with God, that we offer is the prime need of our culture and society today?

What if, the need is not for us to do more of the same old stuff, but to pray more – to ask, and ask, and ask, and ask,  and seek, and seek, and seek, and seek,   and knock, and knock, and knock and…

We have clear precedent that God will answer the prayers of the righteous.  You’ve heard recently, earlier this month, the Call 2 Fall on our knees in intercession, like Abraham, to beg God for mercy on our land, for the sake of all its inhabitants, but specifically for the sake of the righteous in the land.

I was so struck with the agreement of God with Abraham, for the sake of 10 righteous!

Friends,

Are we willing to stand in the gap for our friends, our neighbors, our city, our state, our nation?

The key is prayer – the position of Abraham before God was one of intercession – requesting of God on the behalf of Lot and his family – unfortunately they didn’t number 10 – but the principle is written here for us to understand and grasp.  We live in days not unlike those days, perhaps not quite where they were yet, but certainly on the road – the road to manifested evil in almost every facet of our culture, the road to debasement and abomination, the road to rejection of God as a culture and a nation. 

What is our response to these things?

We are called to be salt – to be light – to be intercessors, standing in the gap for our nation, for our neighbors.  Let us stand up and come together to God as we pray, pray, pray and continue to pray for the state of our nation and the state of the church.

Lord, have mercy!
Christ, have mercy!
Lord, have mercy!
    Amen.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sitting At Jesus Feet


9th Sunday of Pentecost
July 21, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart

 (click title for audio)


There is probably no better object lesson for us in the USA than the lesson of this morning’s gospel in the story of Mary and Martha.  Two very different approaches to Jesus are contrasted here, and Jesus clearly welcomes one and rebukes the other.

The contrast between Mary and Martha is one which many of us in the west struggle with in our own spiritual lives.  Some have called it the contrast between being and doing.  Some have said that one is wrong, the other right, but Jesus does not condemn Martha for her work, he condemns her for her distraction.  It lesson seems to be a lesson in priority, rather than right or wrong.

So often there is a false dichotomy made between the inner, relational side of our life in Christ and the outer, work of the Kingdom.  In the story Martha is doing the things she is doing “for the Lord.”  Directly, in fact – she is serving him and his entourage in her home.  This was something that was done everywhere that Jesus and the disciples went – they ate together in the homes of Peter, Matthew, here with Mary and Martha in Bethany, and even in the home of Zaccheus, the repentant tax collector, probably among many others.  Preparation was always a part of the work that was going on behind the scenes, up to and including their stay in the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

This isn’t a story of how wrong preparation is, or working for the Lord in His Kingdom.
The point that Jesus makes here is one of priority.  What comes first?

So what does come first?

Is relationship easier or is busy-ness easier?  I think for us in the west, it is almost always the later.  But the problem for us comes in that much of our busy-ness is not Kingdom related, its just “life” related.  So much is that the fact, that we often overshadow our work in and for the Kingdom of God with pursuits that have much less value.  Like the contrast that Jesus makes between sitting at His feet and hearing His words, with the work of preparing the meal and the table.  We usually find it much easier to do the later, and often leave off doing the former.

I think, rather than belaboring the point this morning, I want to turn to our passage from Colossians to refocus our attention.  This section of Paul’s writings is perhaps the clearest and most poignant description of the pre-existent nature and stature of Jesus Christ that has ever been written. Our need is for an enlarged view of who Jesus was, plain and simple.  Of who Jesus is, still today, and from the gospel reading, that Jesus still today, desires for us to sit at His feet and listen and learn from Him in our spiritual lives.

Fritz Ridenour, about two decades or more back, wrote a book entitled, “Your God is Too Small.”  I think that we often suffer from that malady today, in that our view of our own problems and immediate circumstances gain prominence in our perspective, because they are nearer and more immediate, as over against the larger (and unseen) view of who God is IN CHRIST and what he has done through Christ in our lives.

Who He is, What He’s done and our Response are all captured in these three short and powerfully written paragraphs:

WHO HE IS

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

IKON of the Invisible
 Think of it,  God made visible.  Isn’t that something that you’ve always wanted to see?
Jesus said, “I am in the Father and the Father is IN ME.”  He was not “Like” the Father as we sometimes imagine a representation of one thing to be LIKE that which it represents.  Jesus was not a sign from God, He was God!  God Himself! The creator came to be a part of His creation.

  When I was in seminary, our Catholic Theology professor, said it best one time:  Imagine that you had an ant farm. And you loved your ants, but you could not get that truth, that reality across to them.  You had created an environment in the ant farm where they could flourish and grow, but you wanted them to know of your love – even to know you as you knew them.  How would you do it?  The only way, really – is to become an ant!

Jesus is the IKON, the image and the person through which we can glimpse the love and life of the Almighty God.  From the creation of the world to its immediate powers and principalities, rulers and kingdoms, all created “through Him and For Him.”   And not only created by but “held together” by Him.

Ever wonder if He can hold your life together?

Paul goes on, “He is the head of the church, His body (that’s us!) – He is the beginning, raised as “firstborn from the dead” – why?   So that ‘He might come to have first place in everything.

And here is the piece de resistance:  IN HIM ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD WAS PLEASED TO DWELL, THROUGH HIM GOD WAS PLEASED TO RECONCILE TO HIMSELF ALL THINGS, BY MAKING PEACE THROUGH THE BLOOD OF HIS CROSS!

All fullness … reconciling all things … making peace through His blood.

And what are we to make of these things?   So what?

Paul goes on regarding our response and what Jesus has done:

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him-- provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Paul tells the Romans, in chapter 5 that while we were “powerless” Christ died for us. While we were still sinners – Christ did for us, before we could do “for him.”  John tells us that we love as a response , “because He first loved us.”  Both our grasp on what Jesus has done and our response to what He has done are necessary.

HE HAS PRESENTED YOU HOLY AND BLAMELESS AND IRREPROACHABLE

Can you imagine!  Just take this week and think about those three words.  This is what Jesus says about you!  This is how Jesus sees you – how God sees you through Jesus blood!

What now?

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

Paul’s personal calling and commission from the Lord is a direct response to this revelation of who Jesus is.  If you recall the encounter he had with Jesus on the road to Damascus – a life-altering encounter and what I call, his Arabian Seminary experience, where, in the Spirit, all of this came clear to him – for three years!  Paul’s response, we might think, is different that mine needs to be.  I’m not an apostle or the author of 2/3 of the NT!

True that … maybe.

What is your response?  What is your calling as a result of all that you’ve come to know of Jesus and his sacrifice on your behalf.  Do you sit at his feet to learn more of Him?  Do you make yourself busy as a result of that revelation – busy about the business (not the busy ness) of His Kingdom.

You see Mary and Martha are not opposites – one right and one wrong.  Both were close to and serving Jesus, according to their gifts.  What Martha did not recognize is that the priority at the moment for her and for Mary was this “better part” – the task was to be “With Him.” 

We have seasons when we need to be With Jesus – to sit at His feet and to ask Him to open our eyes to His real greatness and power.  This comes through His Word – listening to Him, as Mary was doing.  For her and for us, this is the ONE THING NEEDFUL; it is out of this position at Jesus feet that all else necessarily flows.

It is as we gain a knowledge and the perspective of Jesus Himself on the world, and of Jesus over and above the world; of Jesus as head of the Church – of us, His body;
It is as we gain an experience of being IN HIM – of our position IN CHRIST, holy and blameless and irreproachable before him – It is there, that we respond in servanthood.

We then take up the role of Martha, as worker in the Kingdom.  When we spend time with Him we gain His perspective on the world and the work we are called to.  When we spend time with Him we see His priorities, and begin our work from a place of rest in Him, rather than working ourselves to exhaustion and blaming everyone around us for it.

Paul ended the passage we read this morning with these words, and I will add on one more, last and very important verse:

It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all HIS energy that He powerfully works within me.

And so we come back to the revelation of Jesus from the first:

It is BY HIM that all things hold together!  Jesus is the power – the glue – behind the universe and He – He Alone – is the glue that holds you and your life – me and my life -- us and our life,
together.

Let us commit to spend time at His feet, listening and learning of Him.  From there all else flows.

Amen.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just Society & The Jesus Way


8th Sunday of Pentecost           
July 14, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Just Society & The Jesus Way (click for audio)


This morning’s gospel is perhaps one of the most familiar stories that Jesus told.  In answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus shared a story of self-sacrifice and giving that rubbed all the mores of the time the wrong way.  It pointed out the hypocricy of the professional religious orders – the ones, by the way, who were asking the question in the first place – and placed before the world a standard of self-giving and compassion that we have seldom lived into.

Our society today is saddened and in some places angry over the acquittal of Mr. Zimmerman in Florida.  Rather than argue the merits or de-merits of the case and the verdict I would like to look to scripture this morning, to define a different path – the one Jesus took – the one He talked about in our parable this morning.

A just society – isn’t that something that we all long for?  A society where every crime is punished and every victim gets justice.  But our definition of justice is colored by our own biases and desires – our own wants and needs.  It is that way in every case.  This present case has been tried in both court and on the airwaves of our media.  Today the later continues, after the verdict has been handed down.  And we wait and pray this morning for peace in our cities and across our nation.

A just society – what is it, really? 

At the root, justice is an outgrowth of the nature of God, the law-giver.  If we lived in the idyllic setting of the Garden still today there would be no need for law, but we do not.  We and our world are broken, and so we have a system of law and (we hope) justice that has been handed down and molded over the years as we live together as one society made up of diverse peoples.

Justice, as it reflects the nature of God is something that is foreign to our ears.  We are told by the Lord in scripture that we are to do three things –  in the prophetic writing of Micah – we are to

  1. Do Justly
  2. Love Mercy
  3. Walk Humbly with our God

When we consider those commands we see the order and the passion of the Father heart of God for His people.   We are to do what we see God doing -  when we fell, God did not destroy us.  He put us under the discipline of the Law, as a teacher.  Even today, as God’s people, we are subject to discipline – the discipline of a Father who loves us.  Discipline is a demonstration of God’s love for us, according to Heb 12.  We are subject to God’s justice – the consequences of our choices through life are cumulative and we can find life hard as a result of poor choices we have made.  There is a kind of “justice” built into life, isn’t there?

But the justice of God is also effected by God’s nature of Love.  Love, when applied to our lives, is spelled Mercy.  God’s love is something that we struggle to get a grip on and to understand.  It manifests itself in forgiveness when we are oh so wrong.  It shows itself in our parable this morning.  The point – the punch line of the story for Jesus is found in the last line – his last question: 

“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

The answer?  “The one who showed him mercy.”

And the charge to us all:  “Go and do likewise.”

The parable of the Good Samaritan is a story that, as I noted earlier, flies in the face of the mores, the rules of the society into which Jesus spoke.  Those who passed by, did so for good reason – ritual cleanliness, probably – but Jesus then twists the parable and has someone who is the unlikely, the despised one by Jewish standards, a Samaritan – one whose beliefs didn’t match up – whose lineage didn’t measure up – whose status in the society was questionable in some quarters;  the Samaritan was the one who showed mercy – something he probably had not had much of in his own life.

So what do we draw from this parable?  And how does it apply to our present day circumstances and challenges?

First, the command that Jesus was commenting on to the lawyer in the story, still stands for us today:

The Great Commandment:   You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

If the commandment still stands for us and has not changed since the time it was given, then the application of Jesus here in the parable of the Good Samaritan has not changed as well.

Go and do likewise!”, still rings in our ears as we walk away from the story and into the real circumstances of our own lives and our world. 

In 2008, when the Democratic National Convention was here in Denver, about 70 churches came together to provide a place of live worship, and a tangible witness to those gathered for the convention.  Underneath all that activity, we had a prayer room going that prayed all day, every day and evening of the convention.  What were we praying?

The theme scripture that the Lord gave us was Micah 6:8 – We were asked by God to pick up garbage in the downtown area!  We had T-shirts made that were dark green, with a logo for One Church Metro Denver – and on the back were the words of our direction from God:

Do Justly – Love Mercy – Walk Humbly

Friends, God has a different path for us.  It is not a path of avoidance nor a path of finger-pointing in the face of injustice and suffering.  It is a path of engagement.  It is the path of Jesus!

Val once asked me if the Virgin Mary could have said, “No thanks!”  I had to respond “yes!”  I have often wondered at the conversation between Father and Son and Spirit in the Trinity, as to the course of action for the redemption of the world.  Interestingly, the conversation happened way before the world was brought into being.  None of what happened was a surprise!  How do we know that?  Jesus was the Lamb of God, “slain from the foundation of the world.”  The conversation was one that happened long before creation!

And we see the effects of the conversation in verses like Phil 2:6-10

“ who being in very nature God, thought not equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself (even more) by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Paul is clear in sharing this hymn with his Philippian readers, that the implications of this “mind” that was in Christ Jesus, is something that we are go make ours as well.

The prologue in that chapter reads like this:

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, and affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

HAVE THIS MIND IN YOU (AMONG YOURSELVES), WHICH IS YOURS (BY VIRTUE OF BEING) IN CHRIST JESUS!!

Friends, this is the definition of a just society!  Of a society in which we Do Justly – Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with our God.  It is the definition of the need in our society today and of the answer that we are asked to be.

Let us pray:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
 through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
 human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
 infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
 unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
 confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
 your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
 harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
 our Lord. Amen.

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
 but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
 strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of
 Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and
 glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so
 move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the
 people of this land], that barriers which divide us may 
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
 divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;
 through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,
 in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront
 one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work 
together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, July 8, 2013

FREEDOM & SACRIFICE


7th Sunday of Pentecost
July 7, 2013
Fr. Philip Eberhart

Freedom and Sacrifice (Audio File)

I want to begin this morning with a quote from the second paragraph of Geo. Washington’s First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789:  (click title to read the whole speech)

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils 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 a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow- citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

Just over 300 words this paragraph comprises almost 1/5 of the whole speech that Washington gave on his first inauguration in New York City, at Federal Hall.  Just a block away was the small chapel of St. Paul, a part of Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, where the new president and the entire congressional cohort went immediately after the speech to pray.  Washington led them out, in fact, with these words:

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.
On this Sunday morning after the 4th of July, I thought it fitting for us to consider the beginnings of our nation and its dedication by our leaders to Almighty God.  And to say that this was an isolated incident in the annuls of American History is to completely overlook, twist and disfigure the beautiful partnership that our history tells of between our faith in God and prayer to Him as our Supreme Sovereign and the deliberations of our leaders in government throughout our history, from our very founding moments on the shores of Jamestown and Plymouth, down to the prayers of and for today’s legislators in every facet of government, national, state and local.

Today is a day for us to remember and to consider the cost of freedom for a nation – One Nation, Under God!  And to consider the source of Freedom, True freedom – a cost that we must continue to pay – a cost that we must continue to PRAY!

Last Sunday, as we fell on our knees in prayer – a national time of prayerful repentance – we were reminded by our lection from Galations, that “ it is for freedom that Christ has set us free!”   The source and defender of freedom is God himself, and we but partner with Him in this great endeavor.  Freedom is first of all Freedom from:  freedom from the tyranny of sin first, in the redemption and cleansing we find in the blood of Jesus Christ.  After that Freedom is Freedom to or freedom For:  Not for our own pleasures and desires, according to the warnings of Paul in Galations, but freedom for the good of others and freedom to become agents, ambassadors, if you like – ambassadors of reconciliation to God first, and then ambassadors of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Friends, these “unalienabile rights” are not ours apart from the gracious granting of our Father in heaven.  And they are maintained by constant vigilance toward Him and His will, and in supplication of His provision and protections of them, by His sovereign hand.  We are not sufficient in and of ourselves to provide them for ourselves, but must turn our eyes to the grace-filled hand of God for such sufficiency and to His mercy and grace, in the face of our constant iniquities.  We must, daily, in prayer and supplication, involve the God of men and nations in the affairs of our lives:  our businesses and financial enterprises; our local, state and national government; the deliberations of our judiciary at every level; the needs of those around us and our own needs – that He will extend his beneficent hand of grace and provision, of love and protection, to us and to our children and to our churches and communities of faith, and to all who know and who know not his love for us all.  We are agents, with Him, friends, in the formation of our future, based on the promises, great and precious, which He has given us in His Word and throughout the history of covenant that we take part in as God’s People.


Our leaders are trying to tell us today that we are no longer a Christian nation, but that statement denies the roots and foundation of our society.  We are engaged in a great struggle today in which we are told that God has no place in the public square and in public discourse  -- that prayer is and should be completely private and thus, silent in the discourse of men and nations.  But the history that we celebrate this week of Independence, is one of Dependence!  We are in need of such dependence now more than ever in our history, as we seek to repair the breach that Godless Humanism has blown in the walls of our society, in our schools and homes – where God has been un-invited – unceremoniously thrown out – of public view, let alone public discourse.  We go on into a future while denying our past!  We are part and party to letting this happen – wringing our hands and whispering foreboding worries and threats – but doing little that actually makes a difference.

Our first line of defense, friends of faith, is prayer.  That formula which the Founders knew and which our first president spoke of in his first address to Congress on his Inauguration – is still if effect.  Prayer is our first recourse in this battle, for without the help of God in this confrontation, we will be swept aside, like the old remnants of vessels and fabrics once hallowed, but now rubbish. 
Our second line of defense must be involvement – no commitment to involvement. We have spoken before of the difference between the chicken who is involved in breakfast and the pig, who is committed!  There is a necessary level of sacrifice that is required of Christian men and women to become involved in the processes of self-government – a sacrifice that we in America have eschewed.  We have for decades, avoided the personal inconvenience of vigilance in politics, in government, in education, and even in our own spiritual lives.  The American church is lazy and pursues a “grace that is cheap.”  No cost religion brings no value freedoms.

These are difficult words, I know, but with last week’s Call2Fall and with the decisions of our government and judiciary in the past months and years, we may need to amend our priorities and awaken to the threats that loom for a Free, Christian Society in this country today.  Friends it is time for us to Pray the Price!

Freedom, it has been oft repeated, is NOT FREE!  Our spiritual freedom cost Jesus Christ his own blood and body, which we partake of as His guests at His Table this morning.  We remember the cost every time we partake,  the cost He paid for our freedom!  Likewise there is a cost involved for us, who follow Him as His disciples and as ambassadors of reconciliation in the world today.  We must dedicate ourselves anew to the propositions of our faith and of our land:

I want to end with some further quotes from two familiar documents: the Declaration of Independence and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men …
From the last PP
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;
And the last sentence:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Even in the Declaration of Independence there is a subtext of our Dependence on God!

And in the last line of A. Lincoln’s Gettysburg address he concludes that short but monumental speech with these words:

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

And so this morning let us stand and affirm anew the creed we all believe and pray again for this great land, that indeed, God may Bless America.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Call 2 Fall Sunday


Call 2 Fall Sunday
June 30, 2013           
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Call 2 Fall Sunday  (AUDIO)


Over the past years this has been a Sunday dedicated to the actualization of the verse in Second Chronicles 7:14 regarding a nation’s need for humble prayer and repentance, seeking the face of God and turning from wickedness.  That has not changed, in fact, I believe the times cry out for it in ever greater proportions these days.

I want to look for a moment at that scripture in its context through, in a state that currently has something like a dozen active fires and is in one of the most significant droughts of its history, the verse preceeding the 14th verse is of great interest.

Verse 13 says “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;  If my people, which are called by my Name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

  Given the context of these verses and the context of our national life right now, both in Colorado with our dryness and fires, and in the nation, with the dryness of Spirit that is rampant and the recent decisions of our government and courts, we are more in need of the intervention and forgiveness of God than ever!

The Call 2 Fall weekend is a time for us to enact 2 Chron 7:14 – to humble ourselves by kneeling before God in our worship services and to give significant time to prayer for our nation and its spiritual health.

But also this morning, in the regular flow of our lectionary we have the answer to a question I have been asking in this regard.  What can we DO Lord?  What must we do, in the face of the decisions and directions that our country is hell-bent on going?  For me the answer came in a conversation with our bishop, yesterday and in the scripture for this morning from Galations 5.

So let’s consider the call first and then our response to our need and the need of our culture.

The Call of God to fall on our knees and to engage in acts and in a lifestyle of repentance is one that is on-going through the history of God’s people.  The context of 2 Chron is the finishing of the 1st Temple, Solomon’s Temple – and here, from the very outset, God set forth the problem and the solution.

The problem is the fact that my people are wayward.  In those times the lack of rain, or the presence of locusts and pestilence or disease, was a sign of the dis-favor of God for the actions of His people.  The supernatural had ramifications in the natural.  It’s given me pause to wonder today as we lose thousands of acres of land and hundreds of homes to fire if more is going on than meets the eye.  I just wonder?

But God has given us a key with which to open the door again to his Favor and blessing on our land!  Let’s look for a moment at the key:  turn with me to 2 Chronicles 7

IF MY PEOPLE

MY PEOPLE:  Called by My Name
             God is not calling the whole nation at once, obedient and disobedient together.  He is talking to His Children here.  To those who have accepted the Name of God and who have been Marked as Christ’s Own Forever!  That’s you and me, if we have named the name of Christ as savior and profess to follow Him in our lives.  We are His People.  He is Our God.  The onus is on us, friends – not on the supposed “wicked” people.  In fact it is not our part to even identify who that might be!  Only God knows the shape and the intent of our hearts.

This week I was reflecting on the verses in Romans 1 – the chapter that contains the most frightening words of Holy Writ:  God Gave Them Over.”  God let them be; gave them their way; let them go.  Several times in the 1st Chapter of Romans Paul uses this phrase.
And there is a kind of progression into reprobation.
A.  Uncleanness =  the luxury of profligate living!   A-Katharsia   (Catharsis is the greek root for an emotional cleansing – especially around the shedding of tears in our modern parlance)  Thus Uncleanness is having No More Tears (about our behavior and its effects on the world around us)
B.  Shameful Passions =  the words used here are even more clear – what God sees is vile. (atimia = as vile as a dead body).  Our passions (pathos) are broken, twisted and marred – no reflection of that which is intended by God for our mutual joy.  And finally, God gives us over to ...
C.  Reprobation – but again a very interesting word picture here – adokimos.   In the ancient world there was no uniform coinage, no paper money – it was all by weight of silver or gold.  And a coin was intended to have a full weight of a particular metal.  Some whittled the coins down to their very least and then put them into circulation. Others chose the honorable route of full weight, genuine currency in their dealings – these men were called dokimos.  In the NT it occurs 7 times and is translated as “approved”  - Study to show yourself approved unto God!  So a-dokimos is one not approved by God – one who is fake – light-weight! One whose life just doesn’t measure up!

We were discussing this progression in one of our meetings after the Supreme Court decisions this week and I was waxing eloquent about all this, and then I came to the 2nd chapter of Romans.  We don’t like to go there much:

Rom 2:1 NLT - You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.

Paul is real clear that the accusing ones and the accused ones are really in the same boat. We are all “stubborn, refusing to turn from our sin, storing up terrible punishment.”  We have no way, in and of ourselves, to distinguish ourselves from the culture, because we have the same motives and sinful passions, though our actions may differ in some ways.

So let us turn to the reading from Galations today, in the normal course of our lectionary texts!  Once again, God’s word, from the lectionary – readings that were set out to be read in the normal course of the life of the Church, hundreds of years ago – speaks to the very moment we are living in this day:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Let me just pick a few points out of this Word today:

The goal of Christ in our life is FREEDOM – Freedom from Sin; Freedom from the Law.
In Romans 8 Paul says that the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ has SET US FREE from the Law of Sin and Death! So we are called to that kind of freedom!  We in the U.S. have a particular affinity for Freedom, but we do not often use it wisely.  Paul warns us,  “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for [evil].”  Instead we are urged to LIVE BY THE SPIRIT, not gratifying the desires of the flesh.  Those desires are listed for us, as if we need a reminder:  Fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissentions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and such like.  Jesus had such lists – that which comes from inside a man, defiling him and his life.  The point here is that we are all partakers in these things!

"By contrast," Paul says, look here!  The fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, and self-Control.  There is no law against these things!

In our country where we now have no law against almost anything, it still is our part in the worship of the King and the spread of His Kingdom, to live “according to the Spirit” not gratifying or making provision for the lusts of the flesh.

As I said last week, as we rail again the darkness let us remind ourselves that the darkness is just doing what it does – being dark!  The problem with being in darkness is not with the dark – it is with the light!  And what we have just read is the definition of ‘LIGHT” in our world – every day, moment-by-moment – those who live out the Fruit of the Spirit will be the Light of the World!  Make no mistake that our response to this week's actions in our country will be tested.  As the coins we spoke of before, our metal will be tried – weighed, if you want.  And what will the world around us find? 

My prayer is that they find us REAL.  That they find us having the FULL WEIGHT of the Glory of God and of God’s approval on our lives.  But we must remember that that glory is not gained by standing in the accuser’s place, pointing out the sins of others.  It is gained as we kneel and humble ourselves before the hand of an almighty and sovereign God, begging his forgiveness for our own sins, our own wickedness, our own falsehood, and making a way for him to come again and heal our land.

So let us kneel and bow before him, if you are able, with me this morning.  We will be in this position for a few minutes, so if you are not able please be seated and bow your heads in prayer.