Monday, January 27, 2014

Epiphany III - The Call

Epiphany III
January 26, 2014
Fr. Philip Eberhart



Do you ever spend time wondering what the purpose of life is?   What the purpose of YOUR life is?  

I think we all have that innate desire for our life to have meaning and purpose.  The search for meaning has been the subject of countless writers, biographers and storytellers the world over for countless centuries.  It exists for all of us, as surely as the ache that we have inside for that "something more" - something beyond us, something transcendent.  Thus the "idea" that we call GOD is something that is "built in" to our core - we have an innate need to worship - so innate in fact that we do it automatically, kind of like breathing.

God, in creation, knit us together, the Psalmist tells us.  In that knitting, God placed within us threads of longing - longing to know and to be known by the ONE who created us.  We all have that longing.  We pursue that longing in a myriad of different ways and in a million different directions.

This morning's sermon is simply entitled, THE CALL.

It reflects not our search of the ways and directions of our heart's longing to know and be known, but the voice of the ONE, whom, if heeded, will answer that longing and fill us all with the meaning and purpose HE designed us to have.

At the root of the call that God has on a life is the love that God has for each of us and for our lives.  God designed us to be able to grasp that love - as the apostle Paul prayed it, "to know how high, and how wide, and how long and how deep is the love of Christ - and to experience that love in its fullness, though we cannot possibly grasp its fullness."  The New Living says, "Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God!"  It is an incredible, even an incomprehensible promise!  The love of God is so HUGE that we cannot possibly comprehend it - just to get a glance at it will change a life forever!

But there it is.  It is that glance, that grasp, as minuscule as it admittedly is, that changes everything.  Paul once again reflected on how that perspective changed things for him: 

After a long list of his accomplishments by birth and hard work, study and discipline, Paul says, "I once thought all these things valuable, but now I consider them worthless - quite like garbage or even dung, in comparison with the surpassing knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.  I have discarded it all that I might gain Christ and become one with Him! ... to KNOW HIM and the power that raised him from the dead - to come to suffer with him and eventually, to be raised like him from the dead.
Towards all this, Paul says, I firmly press - running so as to win the prize and receive this promise of life in Christ Jesus.

Friends, you see, - once we grasp the love of God everything else fades into the background - like a wash on a watercolor painting in contrast with the sharp lines of the love of God displayed on the Cross for all to see.

This is what we hear so clearly in Paul's testimony of his own life and his own call.  In our Corinthian reading this morning, Paul says it clearly:

Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

Paul's call was comprised of three elements:
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, The Cross, and The Power of the Cross
Our call is similarly structured, as is the call of every Christian in the world

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THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
The Good News (that's what "gospel" means) of Jesus Christ
So what is the good news?

One of my professors and others have described it as Good News / Bad News / Good News:
Good news =  God created and loves you.  He designed you from the ground up!
                          He knows you "inside and out" - backward and forward, up and down.
                          Every thought, action, good and bad - He knows it before it even is.
                          And He loves you - with an everlasting love!  An unconditional love.  It just is.
and as one of my pastor friends, Gary Hines, says, "There is nothing you can do about it!"

BAD NEWS =  You (we) have told God to get away from us!  Leave us alone; don't mess with me.
                          I can do it myself!  We've done the exact opposite of what He says - disobeyed and rebelled.
                          Needless to say this caused a giant chasm!  Like the Grand Canyon except infinitely bigger!

[recently I watched a special about a tightwire walker who walked a wire all the way across the Grand Canyon!  True!]

                          NOT THIS GRAND CANYON!  There is no way for us to get there from here!  NO WAY ... in and of ourselves!

GOOD NEWS =  Jesus!  John 3:16 ... God so loved that HE GAVE!
                             He made a way for us to come back across.  A CROSS!  The only way across the divide is A Cross!
                             Jesus is the way.
==========
THE CROSS

We think that for God to straighten up our mess was a pretty simple thing!  But I want you to look at what it took.
The Almighty God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, knew the end from the beginning - before creation God knew all
this was going to happen, and He made the provision for Salvation, even before Creation!  Jesus, was the "lamb
of God, slain from the foundation of the world."  The Son of God, was sent by the Father, to be born, to live and to
die.  

Wait a minute - GOD DIED? 

Yes and here is the secret to the power of the Cross:  God willingly gave himself up, in Jesus Christ, for our sin.
God took the sin of the world into His own heart, died to pay its penalty - the penalty which separates us all from Him.
He took our sin to the grave with Him and left it there, dead and gone.  Paid in full!  Jesus was executed on our behalf!

But that's only part of the story!

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THE POWER OF THE CROSS

The power of the Cross is the Resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus didn't stay dead - the grave could not hold him - death was
overcome - beaten!  Sin itself has lost its power, because of the Cross of Jesus.

One of my favorite moments in the Passion of the Christ is the moment that the soldier spears Jesus side on the cross,
and immediately he is showered with a spray of blood and water, as John testified.  Now that is probably movie license
but it is one of the most amazing moments for me - it is what it means for us to be "washed" in the blood of the Lamb!
And it happened in the movie to the very one who pierced our Lord!  

We are that one!  We are those who drove the nails and cast the lash at the whipping post!  We are the ones who cried out
for blood and who freed Barabbas!  We are the ones whom the blood of Jesus Christ was spilled by - and the ones that the 
blood of Jesus Christ was spilled for.

The Power of the Cross is the life that we have been given IN HIM.   "He who knew no sin, became sin for us, that we might become, In HIM, the very righteousness of God!"

This is the Power of the Cross.  This is the Good News of the Gospel.

So what?

Well the so what is that like the disciples that Jesus called in our gospel reading we are being called to "Follow Me, and I
will make you Fishers of Men."  I will make you fish for people!

Our opening collect says it this way:
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, 
that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works.

Friends, the Call that God has for each of us is this and simply this:  to tell the story.  Good News - Bad News - Good News

God has made a way for us to come back - to come back across the divide we created by our sin - to come by the way of The Cross.  To accept the work that Jesus has done on our behalf and to come back into a relationship with God, our loving creator.

That is what it's all about.  All of our life is so busy and distracted that we forget.
It's all about this one thing.

And today if you are listening and you've never understood this, or have never come to the end of this universal search for God and His love and meaning for your life.  You can come now.

All it takes is "yes, Lord, I believe and I receive your offer of salvation."
It is Good News!  Indeed.

Shall we 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."

I stretch out my arms and receive your embrace Lord.  No other has loved me the way you have loved me.  I receive your love.
(silence)

Now, so clothe me in Your Spirit, Lord Jesus, that I might reach my hands out to others, and to bring them to know and love you as I have.  I answer your Call, Lord.  Let me by a witness, by your Spirit's power, to your love and grace and faithfulness, all my days.

In Jesus name and for the sake of His Kingdom we pray,

Amen.

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