Monday, March 2, 2015

The Map

Second Sunday of Lent  (click for podcast audio)
March 1, 2015
Fr. Phil Eberhart
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The Map



Can I ask you all a question?

Why, if Peter figured prominently in the writing of this book (the Bible), which we believe he did, through his nephew John Mark, who wrote down the "eye-witness" testimony of the apostles, of which Peter was appointed head by Jesus himself...

If Peter figured as prominently as all that, why in God's green earth would he allow such a story to be put into print? 

He took Jesus aside and rebuked Him as Jesus talked about the ultimate goal and ultimate suffering that He would - indeed that He must - endure at the Cross of Calvary in Jerusalem.

Peter's own blindness is fully exposed, here and over and over and over again, throughout the narrative of the Gospels.  And not just Peter's, but the whole lot of the disciples we a band of men who "by in large" we have to say, DIDN'T GET IT.

They didn't get it here in our gospel this morning.

They didn't get it when Jesus was asleep in the boat, and he woke and calmed the storm around them with a few words of command to the wind and waves.

They didn't get it when he told them to feed the multitude with a school boy's lunch - five small loaves of meal and two fish.

They didn't get it, even in the upper room after Jesus died.  They REALLY didn't get it then!  They were in hiding for their lives, Peter himself the chief of the lot, who denied Christ in the midst of the trial three times, as foretold by Jesus himself.

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Friends,

I want you to consider these facts, when as I heard again, this past week, the claim is made that the church wrote this book and thus we cannot trust it to be accurate in its claims about Jesus Christ.

Over and over and over again, the 'learned' in our culture take the hammer of human reason to the anvil of the Word of God - they apply human logic and humanistic reasoning to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and dismiss the claims of Jesus on the basis of a belief that somehow the disciples and the early church we in the fabrication business!

Friends, nothing could be farther from the truth!

Has anyone here watched the 80's movie, "Romancing the Stone" -  Joan Wilder, the romance novelist, comes into possession of a map, which initiates for her an adventure in Colombia, South America as she traces the clues of the map to find a rare gem stone, El Corazon.

Let me ask you another question:  If you had a map to the greatest treasure that is able to be found in all of life, and someone wanted to keep you from it - wouldn't it make sense that they would try their hardest to discredit the map itself?

Let me tell you that humanity has an enemy - one who is sworn and bound "to steal, to kill and to destroy."  And our enemy has made a special target of this book, the Bible, to bring discredit and confusion about it to the minds of men and women throughout the ages.

But I want to come back to my original question in that light:  Why would Peter and the other apostles, the leaders of the church, allow the stuff to be written about them and their blindness to who Jesus was and what His mission in the world entailed - about their cowardice and cluelessness - about their betrayal and befuddlement - about their "three stooges" - actually 12 stooges appearance in the pages of scripture.  Why?  Can anyone answer that question for me?  Why?

Because it is all TRUE.

On the face of eyewitness testimony, the fact that the disciples didn't excise the sad parts of their story, but tell it with bald faced sincerity, is actually one of the greatest testimonies to the veracity of this manuscript.  We get to see the disciples in all their glory - warts and all. 

Likewise we get to see Jesus himself in all His glory! And isn't that the point of the thing?

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Over and over and over in this pulpit I talk about the truth of scripture - and we here at REZ, I think, for the majority of us, I can say actually believe this is the very Word of God - as Paul later says to Timothy, It is "God-breathed." (2 Tim 3:16)
Paul goes on to say that it is not only inspired by God, written by Him ultimately, through the instrumentality of almost 50 different human authors, across 4 millennia and as many cultures, in two or three ancient languages...

It is the study of a lifetime, whether you are pro or con - the Bible stands as an anvil that is strewn about with worn out hammers - some that have sought to discredit it and damage its claims of truth - some that have used it in the fire of forge to mold the hot steel of both plowshare and pruning hook, the pointed edges of sword and spear.

It is called by the biblical writers in fact, The Sword of the Spirit, and it claims for itself both eternity and temporality, the ability to divide between thoughts and intentions of the heart, cleaving down into the bones and marrow of man.

Friends, it is this Word of God, the sword of the Spirit, that provides for us a solid ground of faith to stand on.  It is the place we must come to in order to KNOW GOD - not in some mystical, far off, disconnected way but as the apostle John describes his eyewitness experience of Jesus Christ:

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us!"  

Later in his life he wrote these words in reflection on that time:

This is from the Phillips translation of 1st John, chapter 1:

1-4 We are writing to you about something which has always existed yet which we ourselves actually saw and heard: something which we had an opportunity to observe closely and even to hold in our hands, and yet, as we know now, was something of the very Word of life himself! For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eye-witnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal men. We repeat, we really saw and heard what we are now writing to you about. We want you to be with us in this—in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son. We must write and tell you about it, because the more that fellowship extends the greater the joy it brings to us who are already in it.

My friends, the point of all this is to, once again - some might say I am a broken record - to once again say that the record of these books - 66 in number, written over nearly 5000 years, by many many human hands, in many many human tongues, is indeed the VERY WORD OF GOD!
And Jesus said that those who HEAR MY WORDS and OBEY THEM are like the ones who are building their houses on a bedrock foundation.

Jesus himself said, these are the words that testify of Me.  And the point isn't the words but the ME!  The point is to bring us into the relationship that we are built for, from creation's hand!  God made us to be in relationship with Himself!  That was the whole point of the creation in the first place!!  And God is still intent on that purpose.  To bring us back into that original relationship, through the mediation of His Only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  We cannot get back to God on our own - Jesus Christ is the Way.  We cannot find truth by searching for us in our own mind and strength - Jesus is the Truth!  We cannot live our lives with God's purpose and meaning apart from Jesus, who is The Life!

But we have to say YES.  YES TO GOD and YES to his provision for all this to happen, His Son Jesus Christ.

John said it this way, Listen again:

"We want you to be with us in this -- in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son.  We must write and tell you about it, 
because the more that fellowship extends - the greater the joy it brings to us who are already in it."

I want to ask you to bow your head right now.  Many who are hearing my voice this morning actually do believe that Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life!  But some have believed the one who casts doubt on the truth of the map and thus on the truth of the Son of God Himself.

It's funny - Jesus said those words to his disciples, who at the end of three years of teaching, and going about with Jesus, we just as clueless as before!  Why would they write stuff like this, if they had the power to write it another way.  Why would Thomas appear as the doubter, not once but consistently?  Why would Peter be the bumbling, impulsive leader that he was?  Why tell the story of his denials and the cock crow?
Why put in Philip's mouth, the words, "Well, Jesus, if you would just show us the Father it would be enough for us."

Why indeed.  Why?  Because every word is true.

If you have never said YES to Jesus Christ...  If you stand in the same place as these disciples, confused and disbelieving, but wanting with all your heart to "see the Father";  If you can hear Jesus say to you, I am the way,  I am the truth, and I am the life.  Then I invite you to say these words:

"Lord Jesus Christ,  Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!"  

"I know I can't see, I know I have trouble believing.  I ask you, Lord Jesus Christ, to take my hand and be my Way - be My truth - be My life, this day.  I turn my life over to you, Lord.  And I ask you to give me Your life.  Help me know you as the Truth and to walk in your Way.  Thank you, Jesus, for your love and sacrifice on the Cross for me.  I accept and receive You into my life, in Jesus Name.  Amen"
 
Now let's all turn together again to the opening prayer for our day today:  Let us personalize it a bit putting a me or my in instead of the we and us:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to me, I have gone astray from your ways, and bring me again with a penitent heart and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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