Monday, June 23, 2014

Finding and Losing Our Selves

Second Sunday of Pentecost
June 22, 2014
Fr. Philip Eberhart




Have you noticed the talk in our culture about SELF?

We are told that we need to SELF Actualize, SELF Realize; we need to FIND our selves, DEVELOP our selves, LOVE our selves.

The largest section in the bookstore or library today is not history or fiction or travel - the largest section is SELF HELP.   We are constantly looking for the magic bullet that will turn our life from something we disdain to something we love and enjoy.  The grass is always greener, ...   someplace else.    Just beyond the fence-line!    

Our verses this morning speak to this indulgence - this infatuation - this romance we have with self!

Jeremiah would like to shut-up - for the sake of self - for self-preservation ... but he can't.
David in his Psalm, recounts the ways that his devotion has been turned to derision by his enemies.
Paul speaks of the power of baptism and urges us to "die" to sin and I would add, to self.
and finally, Jesus himself adds these lines:

whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

It is interesting to me the number of times before that line in the Gospel, that Jesus says, "fear not!"  "Don't be afraid!"

"So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows."

We are afraid of losing our identity - our selves.  And so we cling to self ever more firmly.  When the key to happiness, fulfillment and indeed, destiny in Jesus Christ is to let go of self and to more firmly grasp and discover what God has destined you for.

The problem is that what God has destined you for has little to do with your self-actualization!  It has everything to do with your Jesus-actualization! 

What was it that burned in the bones of Jeremiah?  
For the word of the LORD has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
If I say, "I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,"
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.

What was it that David said was the Issue for Him?
Zeal for your house has eaten me up; *
the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.


What is it that Paul is warning us about?
"Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?  By no means!"
"Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."  

And Jesus himself made this all abundantly clear with his challenge:
"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."
The challenge of Jesus to take up the cross, at this stage in his ministry, was as incomprehensible to the disciples, as someone talking about taking a walk on the moon!

The point of all of this this morning is that I want us to consider the call of Jesus to come out of our SELVES.  Our Self absorption - our self focus - our self actualization - our selfish desires.

As I said a few weeks ago the essence of SIN is spelled Self Ish Ness -  our societal fixation on what I want. On what I need.  On what I will do.

If we are IN CHRIST, all of our witnesses this morning are saying to us, "It is no longer about you!"  The lights have dimmed and the camera is off!  You are no longer the center of your own show!  You are not the star of your life!!!

So what now?

What does it mean to "take up the cross and follow ME"? as Jesus said.   It means that we willingly choose Him over ourselves.  Like Jeremiah, we willingly choose His Word over ours.  Like David, we willingly choose His house over our own.  Like Paul, we choose to walk in 'newness of life.'  and as Jesus put it in this final promise to us, "in losing your own life, you will discover My Life!"  "Those who lose their life for my sake, will find it." 

But HOW?

How do we lose our own life for the sake of Jesus Life?  For the sake of the Gospel?

May I submit that we lose our life with one BIG decision, and with a thousand SMALL decisions.

The one big decision is the answer to Jesus question - to THE QUESTION?
Peter and the others we asked by Jesus, "Who do YOU say that I am?

Have you answered that question?  It all comes down to this question in our life - in the life of every man and woman!

And depending on your answer, then all else follows from that.

If Jesus is just a man, who lived and died, who perhaps was a good teacher and an influence in history, for good or ill depending on your perspective;  If Jesus was JUST a man, then we need to look elsewhere for life and for meaning. We need to look to self!

But, if Jesus was more?  Then what?  What if Jesus was who He said He was?  What if Jesus was God in the flesh?
What if Paul was right:  "He is the image of the invisible God.  All things were created through him and for him , and in him all things hold together."  What then?

We have a decision to make.  A choice to make. 

Either Jesus was a fake or a liar - both pretty incredible claims by modern man - or he was what and Who He thought himself to be - what and WHO He said He was - The "I AM" -  The Creator God of the Universe come to live and breath with us in creation.  

We have to decide which we believe and why!

In a minute we will say the words of the historic creed of the church:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being with the Father.
    Through him all things were made.
    For us and for our salvation
        he came down from heaven:
    by the power of the Holy Spirit
        he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
        and was made man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
        he suffered death and was buried.
        On the third day he rose again
            in accordance with the Scriptures;
        he ascended into heaven
            and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
The question before us is do you believe what you're about to say?  All of it.
And if so...   then what?

What does that decision lead us to?
"Take up your cross and follow me"
In this same passage in Luke, he adds the word, "... daily."

One decision leads to a thousand decisions.

The application of the cross to our life on a daily basis is the call of Jesus to follow Him.   
To follow him in the smallest details of our life.  To identify with Him in the context of our friendships, our work environment, our families, our loves.  To be HIS PERSON over against the choices we make to be OUR OWN PERSON.

If the essence of SIN is Self Ish Ness, then the choices we make day-to-day matter greatly.  The thousand small decisions we make to follow Jesus in this choice or that choice, moment-by-moment are the way and display the cost of discipleship. 

If we heard the witnessed this morning, then daily we must choose HIS WORD,  we must choose HIS HOUSE,  We much choose NEW LIFE; we must choose THE CROSS and we MUST choose JESUS.

Let's pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
You have given us an example of life and sacrifice that we can see plainly in Your Word.  Help us, by Your Spirit, to choose that Life - that self-less sacrifice on a daily basis, for your sake and the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Help us to live our lives as your servants in our daily choices.  Help us to be the kind of people that shine with the glory YOU give, and are not afraid to walk before the world In Your Name.

For the sake of your Name and your Kingdom we pray, Lord Jesus.

Amen.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Easter 3 - Open Our Eyes, Lord!

Easter 3
May 4, 2014
Fr. Philip Eberhart


Open Our Eyes, Lord


It is amazing what can happen in a moment!   A moment when your eyes are opened - not by you most likely  since we have a tendency to live our lives, as a 90's Stanley Kubrick movie title suggested, with "Eyes Wide Shut!"  What we are talking about this morning is REVELATION - not the book or the noun, but the verb form of that word - the active revelation that is a part of the on-going encounter between God and people, without which we would remain in the dark, stumbling about and groping for truth with no clue of where or how to find it.

You see Truth - especially the truth about God - can only come through revelation.  God has to be active in the process of revealing His truth to our minds and hearts.  And God is active, both in his GENERAL revelation and supremely, in his SPECIAL revelation.  These are two categories that theologians tell us of how God reveals Himself to humanity.

General Revelation:
Ps 8 is a case in point.  The psalmist David wondered aloud one night, out on the meadow with his sheep:
"When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,"
"what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"
"O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Or in Ps 19, again David speaks of the witness of creation:
"The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship."
"Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known."
"They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard."
or the last verse could also read:  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard!

The point is that the heavens and the earth - the whole of creation - speaks loudly of the presence and the reality of the creator!  Paul tell us in his opening remark to the Roman Gentile community:
"For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God."

They, Paul says - WE - have "no excuse" for not knowing God!  General revelation. All of us know and acknowledge the truth that is planted in the cosmos by design at creation - we can see His fingerprints if you will.
When our girls were little we used to point at some of our Colorado sunsets and tell them that God got out his paint set and painted that especially for them.  I think they still believe that!  Why,  because its true!

But so often in the world, both ancient and modern, the revelation that is placed before our eyes daily as we live our lives simply passes us by - it escapes our notice!  It's a little harder for us here in Colorado, cause we occasionally have to drive in a westerly direction and actually see a mountain or a sunset.  It is hard to ignore God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - that are shown in just those two realities!  for me anyway - jus sayin.

But as our friends the disciples of Jesus discovered, thankfully, there is another kind of revelation that God takes an active part in:  It is called... 

Special Revelation.

Sometimes God comes in special ways, at special times, with special words and points to Himself - in ways that we cannot ignore, the way that we do most things about God.  God reveals Himself - He opens our eyes to His mercy, his grace, his salvation, his presence, his provision - He reveals Himself in a myriad of ways.  Now let me say here that all of the ways God reveals Himself require FAITH - not one will require you to have less faith!!!  Sorry!!!

In our story on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears, but they don't recognize Him for who He is.  O boy do we have that one down, in spades!  Have you ever looked back on a moment and realized that God was speaking to you through it?  We've all had those experiences.  So what is Special Revelation and how does it happen?

Now I want you to note first of all, that the "revelation" that happened in our Gospel this morning was not an immediate "aha" for the boys - they weren't bowled over by Jesus appearing to them in shining robe with choir of angels announcing his presence and personhood!  NO!  He came in the form of a stranger - unrecognized.  How many times has that been true for us - I only hope that we can look back and realize, like our friends from Emmaus did.

But what I want you to note particularly is the mode of revelation here.  What was Jesus doing with the boys as they walked?  

About midway through our reading there is this line:  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

From where?  "IN ALL THE SCRIPTURES."  Is it possible that Jesus could still do the same thing with us?  Friends, we count on it! If Jesus doesn't come and open these scriptures for us and explain them, by the power of His Holy Spirit, we remain clueless.  But I want you to take note that it is from here - the Bible - that Jesus himself takes His teaching and reflection as He walked with the two on the road to Emmaus.  Likewise He still walks with us on the road of revelation - as we search the scriptures, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets" - from Genesis to MAPS!  Cover to cover, Jesus Christ is revealed in these pages, and we neglect them at our own peril and detriment!

Let me ask it again ...  Is it possible that Jesus can still do the same thing with/for us?

If your answer in faith is yes, then the question becomes one of how and when, not if.

My prayer for you and the kernel at the center of all the work that I do, in church and in the city, internationally and on my block in my neighborhood is that people might become acquainted with the Jesus we see in this book!  That the WORD might take on FLESH again!

John tells us that Jesus, in his incarnation, took on the "tent" - the "tabernacle" of flesh - and came among us.  In our reading from 1 Peter this morning we heard that that event was planned from the "foundation of the world."
He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 

If that is true then there are tell-tale signs along the way - some have called it the "RED THREAD" that runs through all of the scriptures - perhaps this is what Jesus was pointing out when he was walking on the seven mile walk of revelation to Emmaus, when the boys got "revelation heart-burn!"  What was Jesus saying as He revealed himself to them?  Perhaps something like this...

In the Torah - Jesus is there as the expression of Gods heart ...
He IS the promise that breaks the curse...
Basically - Jesus is "hidden in plain sight" -  
in every line of the Old Testament, in symbolic form: 
     He's the atonement cover on the ark, 
     He's the Bridegroom of Blood for Moses, 
     He's the burning bush, 
     He's the voice from the mountain, 
     He's the burning fire pot that walked between the animal halves-making a covenant with 
             Abraham that was upheld by His own promised blood, 
     He's the Angel of the Lord all through out - 
     He's the promised son to Eve-that would crush the serpents Head to redeem her like 
             Adam couldn't...I could go on forever! 

LOOK-for your Redeemer has always Lived-for YOU. For ME.

In GENESIS Jesus is the Ram at Abraham’s altar
In EXODUS He’s the Passover Lamb
In LEVITICUS He’s the High Priest
In NUMBERS He’s the Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night
In DEUTERONOMY He’s the City of our refuge
In JOSHUA He’s the Scarlet Thread out Rahab’s window
In JUDGES He is our Judge
In RUTH He is our Kinsman Redeemer
In 1st and 2nd SAMUEL He’s our Trusted Prophet
And in KINGS and CHRONICLES He’s our Reigning King
In EZRA He’s our Faithful Scribe
In NEHEMIAH He’s the Rebuilder of the Wall that is broken down
And in ESTHER He is Mordecai sitting faithfully at the gate
In JOB He’s our Redeemer that ever liveth
In PSALMS He is my Shepherd and I shall not want
In PROVERBS and Ecclesiastes He’s our Wisdom
And in the SONG OF SOLOMON He’s the Beautiful Bridegroom
In ISAIAH He’s the Suffering Servant
In JEREMIAH and LAMENTATIONS it is Jesus that is the Weeping Prophet
In EZEKIEL He’s the Wonderful Four-Faced Man
And in DANIEL He is the Fourth Man in the midst of a fiery furnace
In HOSEA He is my Love that is forever faithful
In JOEL He's the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit
In AMOS He’s our Burden Bearer
In OBADIAH our Savior
And in JONAH He is the Great Foreign Missionary 
         that takes the Word of God into all the world
In MICAH He is the Messenger with beautiful feet
In NAHUM He is the Avenger
In HABAKKUK He is the Watchman that is ever praying for revival
In ZEPHANIAH He is the Lord mighty to save
In HAGGAI He is the Restorer of our lost heritage
In ZECHARIAH He is our Fountain
And in MALACHI He is the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings.

HIS Name IS Above All Names!

In MATTHEW “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God”
In MARK He is the Miracle Worker
In LUKE He’s the Son of Man
And in JOHN He is the Door by which every one of us must enter, the Narrow Gate
In ACTS He is the Shining Light that appears to Saul on the road to Damascus
In ROMANS He is our Justification
In 1st CORINTHIANS our Resurrection
In 2nd CORINTHIANS our Sin Bearer
In GALATIANS our Redeemer who redeems us from the curse of the law
In EPHESIANS He is our Unsearchable Riches
In PHILIPPIANS He supplies our every need
And in COLOSSIANS He’s the Image and Fullness of the Invisible Godhead, Bodily
In 1st and 2nd THESSALONIANS He is our Soon Coming King
In 1st and 2nd TIMOTHY He is the Mediator between God and man
In PHILEMON He is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother
And in HEBREWS He’s the Blood of the Everlasting Covenant

(are you still with me?)

In JAMES it is the Lord Jesus that heals the sick
In 1st and 2nd PETER Jesus is the Chief Shepherd
In 1st, 2nd, and 3rd JOHN it is Jesus who is the tenderness of love
In JUDE He is the Lord coming with 10,000 saints
And in REVELATION, He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings-
                 the Alpha and Omega, Great I AM
+ + + + +

Are not our hearts burning within us?

Shall we pray.


O Jesus Christ, come to us this day and walk with us on the way.
Open your Word to us so we see in it Your Truth and Personhood,
Who you are and who You want us to be.  Cause our hearts to be
set ablaze anew - light your fire, Lord Jesus - and open our eyes
to see you at the breaking of the bread.

Cause us Lord to know you through your word, day by day as we
open and study and pray, send your Spirit to reveal your truth to
us through your Word.  Let our minds acknowledge you, let our 
hearts be filled with your light, let our hands be directed to your
deeds and our steps to your ways. 

In the name of Jesus, the 
Messiah, 
King of Kings and Lord of Lords...
The Great I AM.

Amen.

Easter 2014 - Whatever Happened to the Body?


Easter Message

Easter Sunday 2014
April 20, 2014
Fr. Philip Eberhart


The Last & The First Question of All


------------------------------------------------------


Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!


Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!


Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia!


The Lord is Risen INDEED. Alleluia!! INDEED.

The Apostle Paul tells us over and over and over in many different settings, sermons and teachings that this affirmation we have just made is the central affirmation of the Christian life and doctrine. Without it there is no faith, - no way, no truth, no life – no “Behold, I am with you even to the end of the age!”

I’ve titled this Easter message: “The Last and The First Question of All” because I believe, as Paul seemed to, that the FACT of the Resurrection is a first order fact that must be settled in our hearts and minds before anything else can be settled.

You’ve heard of the First Order Questions of Life. Right? Who am I? What am I doing here? Why me? These are all questions that we have rolling around in our hearts and minds about life and specifically, about our life… about MY LIFE!

But what I want to share this morning is that this First Order Question needs to come first, before all the rest! And this First First-Order Question is quite simple but profoundly important for our understanding of the rest of the First Order questions!!

Want to know what the question is? Okay. Here it is…      WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BODY?

You have to decide in your heart and in your mind the answer to this question-
What happened to the body of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The facts are all in.

The eyewitness accounts from several different perspectives; the stories made up to explain this thing away; the skeptics reports and explanations. The decision we have to make is where do the facts take us?

FACT: There was no body in the tomb of Jesus, the Nazarene, on the first day of the week. Now if you don’t think that this is a fact, then you need to do some homework and find out for yourself.

Look at it through the Gospels’ lenses – 4 different men, writing to 4 different audiences, yet so much is the same, with each man, adding parts of the story – different glimpses from each perspective.

There are “historical” references to Jesus and to His death. In both the Jewish and the Roman histories of the time in which Jesus lived and died, you can see the fact of this Man; you can see the facts of the kind of death he was put to; you can see the vehemence of His enemies. But the FACT that is most telling here is that the Gospels themselves are probably the best HISTORY books in the world!

The real question is “What do YOU do with the FACT of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.”

Have you taken it BLINDLY to be true, because it is what you have been taught all your life? Perhaps its time to investigate and see what the best History Book in the world has to say!

There is no getting around this Last and First Question of All!!

What became of the body of Jesus?

There are only a few possible answers.

I. Someone stole it!

Two possible suspects: His friends or His enemies
The difficulty here is that there was a detail of Roman guards placed at the tomb of Jesus, specifically to counteract such a plot.

Matthew tells us that the guards themselves testified to the resurrection since the body was gone, but they had not fallen asleep – for to do so, on their part was an automatic death sentence!

Very unlikely that they fell asleep,,, sooo ? What happened to the body of Jesus?

Did the Jewish Rulers get it and move it? No they didn’t! How do we know. Because when the disciples began to testify to a living Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem, all they would have had to do is to go and get the body of Jesus and put it on display again for all to see! Dead messiah = dead movement!! But they could not… apparently.

And what about the disciples? What is the chance that this rag tag bunch of fishermen, tax collectors and zealots hatching a plot to steal Jesus body and make up the rest? You know that is what some people think happened!! That’s crazy! Literally - its psychologically impossible.

You know that all, save one, of the original Apostles, died a martyr’s death for this “made up” fairytale. And the one is the Apostle John, who survived being boiled in oil, and lived to die a natural death, exiled in his old age.

Just a word, a single word, would have released any one of them from the tortures of the kinds of deaths they went through. Why didn’t a one of them crack ??? Why???

Because its ALL TRUE!

Jesus didn’t faint on the cross, revive in the tomb, push his way out from behind a two ton rock, AND overpower the roman soldiers – the very soldiers, most likely, who had a hand in his “near” death. I assure you they would not have failed a second time!! Such a scenario is preposterous – it stretches logic to the point of breaking!

Neither did Jesus, just “appear” to have been resurrected. His appearances happened over a 40 day span of time, in a multitude of places, with a multitude of people, most of whom were pretty “down to earth” people, not high strung or given to visions and apparitions. Have you ever met a professional fisherman? How about an IRS officer – a professional bean-counter! These men are not given to illusion or mass hysteria to say the very least!

Jesus appearance in the Upper Room a week after the resurrection, actually turned a skeptic into a firm believer – Thomas later died for the witness of his faith, after founding the Mar Thoma Church in India. Thomas was no longer Doubting Thomas! He was believing and worship Thomas! Why??

Because its all TRUE!!

And if it was true for them, then its TRUE for us!!

Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Alleluia. We sing it and say it, but do we believe it?
The reason that the question of Jesus physical body is the last and first of the First Order Questions, is that it has to be dealt with and dealt with honestly.

What is the ramification of this FACT though, for us today – for you and for me when we leave this service?

CS Lewis once said that either the Resurrection of Christ is of no importance of all because we believe it a fabrication of deluded minds

OR

It is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE because it is a FACT. IT”S ALL TRUE!!

And if it’s all true, then it is of utmost importance, especially when considered in the array of First Order questions.

What this cannot be, is true and MILDLY important!!

Jesus never intended to leave us that option!

Easter is not simply an excuse for brunch after church. Easter is the pinnacle of history! It is the Mount Everest of the story of God’s dealing with humanity and it bears on every facet of our life. That’s why this question is the last and the first that must be dealt with.

What happened to the body?

The Lord is Risen! The Lord is Risen Indeed!! Alleluia.