Sunday, May 17, 2015

What's in a Name?

Ascension Sunday
May 17, 2015
Fr. Phil Eberhart


Well, you can tell by looking that I'm a different guy from the one printed in the bulletin.  Fred, texted me yesterday to let me know that his elderly mother had been taken to the ER in Colorado Springs and was in decline.  He asked to be released from this commitment to speak, which I reluctantly, and sadly gave.  At some later date you will hear this extraordinary man share about the great things that the Name of Jesus is accomplishing around the world.  But for today, you are stuck with me!


As you know we are embedded today in the midst of the 10DaysTogether events and prayer times, and I want to say how grateful I am for your support and for your presence along the way.  So many from here have been a part of the evenings and especially, the mornings and noonday prayers and communion we have been having.  I am frankly blown away by you people!

I saw that our gospel was from John 17 this morning and I had to chuckle a bit, because that chapter is really the linchpin of all that we are doing - it is both the challenge of Jesus and the Prayer of Jesus for his church that has captured our hearts - to live in Oneness with each other in the same way as the Father and the Son are one!  How impossible!  Indeed!

It cannot be done apart from HIM - as Jonathan Friz said when he spoke here just 3 weeks ago now, the prayer is audacious and impossible - it doesn't take into account any of our humanity, our foibles, our selfish natures - even our preferences, which we hold so dear.  It is just a bald-faced ... TRUTH!  We cannot get to the answer to Jesus prayer ...  WITHOUT HIM!

There is NO doing this in our own strength.  There is NO power in sentimentality, or in sticky-sweet human effort
to be NICE to one another.  NO!  We have to fall helpless at the feet of Jesus, begging for His mercy - made new every morning - to accomplish what He has prayed we will accomplish IN HIS NAME.

And that is where I want to go this morning, because our reading this morning stops short of the prayer for unity that Jonathan was talking about a few weeks back, where we love to read and love to camp.  This reading this morning, however, give us the key to the door we must walk through to be the fulfillment of Jesus High Priestly Prayer for the oneness of His Church.

Look with me back at the reading of the Gospel for just a moment:

Just from the middle of the reading:
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.

Listen to the phrasing:
Protect them in YOUR NAME;  I Protected them IN YOUR NAME

Friends, here is the key to answering the prayer of Jesus Christ!

The protection that we have is the power of the Holy Spirit, but the place of protection is IN THE NAME:  JESUS!
Not just any name, but THE NAME - the NAME given by the Father to the Son;  the NAME, by which we must be saved;
the NAME, except through which NO ONE comes to the Father!

Remember the old song?   
"Jesus,  Jesus,  Jesus !!  There's just something about that Name!
   Master ... Saviour ... Jesus!  Like the fragrance after the rain!
 Jesus,  Jesus,  Jesus !!  Let all heaven and earth proclaim ...
   Kings and kingdoms may all pass away ... 
     But there's something about that Name!"

What is it about that Name?  What is the power ... in the Name of Jesus ... that breaks every chain, breaks every chain, breaks every chain?

Friends, that NAME is our refuge,  The Name of Jesus is a strong tower to keep us safe.  It is a refuge in the time of trial.
when trouble come, and it will, the Name of Jesus is our comfort, it is our stonghold, it is the inner court - the utmost -
the inner most place - inside the curtain.

This is how Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, from Hebrews 6:18-20
"We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us, in the order of Melchizedek."

Now listen again to the phrasing from our reading:
Protect them in YOUR NAME;  I Protected them IN YOUR NAME

It is in the NAME JESUS (YESHUA) 
                  that we have protection from the world, the flesh and the devil!
It is in the NAME JESUS (YESHUA) 
                  that we are set free from sin and death, and given a new eternal life - IN HIM.
It is in the NAME JESUS (YESHUA) 
                   that we exchange our sin for His righteousness - the great exchange!
It is in the NAME JESUS (YESHUA) 
                   that we find our rest - from which we work!

The list can go on and on and on - we would be here all day and into the night and tomorrow!

The riches that are found IN THE NAME OF JESUS - HE is the treasure, hidden in the field!  HE is the treasure where your heart is, and all else follows!  HE is the NAME ABOVE EVERY NAME, at which NAME every knee will bow and every tongue confess!

We must bow now or we WILL bow later!  We must confess HIS NAME, as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS ... NOW ... or we WILL confess later!!

THIS NAME is where our unity is found... it is where our ONENESS is found which Jesus prayed for in the later verses of this High Priestly prayer.

Friends, the bible is crazy about names from the time God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush as the I AM to the many times that JESUS used the same words as a description of himself and of his character.  Paul was knocked off his horse by the revelation of Jesus, literally!  So bright was it that Paul was blinded, that he might come to true sight.

NO WAY can I cover this topic in the 20 or so minutes I'm allotted here this morning.  YOU MUST GO and look this up.  Many of you have electronic versions of the bible on your phones or ipads or computers.  Start typing!
search IN HIS NAME;  just NAME has 200+ instances in the NT - but get specific.  search NAME OF JESUS ... and see for yourself what that NAME carries for you.  Allow the Spirit to knock you off your horse!

Lord may your revelation be so bright that we will have to shield our eyes.  May your revelation - the revelation of YOUR NAME< JESUS - YESHUA, cause us to be filled with hope and joy and wonder and awe.  Come, Lord Jesus Christ and fill your church with the GLORY OF YOUR NAME! 

It is in the GLORY of the NAME OF JESUS, that our UNITY - our ONENESS is found?  Why?  Because we are IN HIM and when we are all IN HIM we are all ONE, because we are IN HIM - TOGETHER!

What I'm discovering in the 10DaysTogether is that there is NO MAGIC in all this!  There is no magical formula for Unity, for oneness in the LORD - in HIS NAME !  It's not mystical, its not mysterious, it not magic.  When I was installed as the Rector of this church, way back in 1997, the preacher was Canon Burt Womack, and the message he brought was pretty plain and simple.  My friend, he said to me, 90% of the work is done, when you show up!

Friends, the magic happens when we come together - there's the word:  Together- Together- Together.  Shall I repeat myself?
T O G E T H E R !  The disciples were ALL TOGETHER, in ONE PLACE, and in ONE ACCORD when the Day of Pentecost came, but I assure you, they would not have been any of the later if they had not obeyed the Lord Jesus on Ascension Day, and stayed TOGETHER IN ONE PLACE for the 10 Days.  There is something about being together.  There is something about the touch and feel of friends, at meals together, in worship together, living a life together, loving one another, as HE LOVES US.

Jesus other name was what:   EMMANUEL - GOD WITH US!  Did you hear that?   WITH us.  Jesus knew the value of TOGETHER. There was no redemption possible without him interrupting his heavenly life and coming among us - making his dwelling among us - tabernacleling WITH US.  Likewise we are to be WITH one another and WITH the world we live in, as we are His hands and feet, His eyes and ears and mouth.  The WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US.  The secret of Unity and oneness is IN HIM - IN HIS NAME - but it is NOT rocket science!  To be a partaker of His body and His blood, you have to present - in attendance in the flesh - eyeball to eyeball- cheek to cheek - hand to hand and heart to heart.

So the invitation is sent -  the welcome mat is out.  Will you come?  TOGETHER!
What a Pentecost awaits us, if we are ... willing, available and obedient!

Amen and Amen

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Following the Moving Green Line

Following the Moving Green Line

Fr. Phil Eberhart
5th Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2015

Most here are probably familiar with a couple of commercials that are airing currently or have recently, by Fidelity - an investment account provider and, lately, GO automotive has a similar commercial.  The main feature of both ads is a moving green line, that takes them from where they are to where they want to be - or where the ad maker wants them to be!

Do you ever wish for a moving green line that would guide you through the tough decisions of life?  Its kind of crazy, right?   To think that something might be at work to lead us in a specific direction in our life!  

Some of you may remember the talk that we had during the ALPHA Course with Nicky Gumble about How Does God Guide Us?
In it he talked about 5 C.S.'s.  Now this is a pop quiz that really isn't fair because most of us haven't listened to an ALPHA tape in almost a decade!  I racked my brain and could come up with 4:
Commanding Scripture; Circumstantial Signs; and Common Sense, Community of the Saints.  Close after so long.  That means it was a good teaching:  So to get the last one I had to look in the book!  Questions of Life.

Sure enough it was.

COMMANDING SCRIPTURE -  When it comes to questions of guidance, God has already spoken on a whole range of subjects and we don't have to question what He wants for us.  We have to search it out - and sometimes wrestle with it. But its pretty plain for those who seek God's wisdom and ways with humility.

COMPELLING SPIRIT - The one that I missed in trying to remember the 5 was the one that I kind of take for granted. This is the moving green line!  The One who is poured out on all flesh to glorify Jesus!  The One who actually does the washing and making us new! The One who moves toward us if we are willing - who moves into us if we are available - and who moves through us, His wonders to perform, if we are obedient.

COMMON SENSE -  When you become a Christian you don't leave your brain on the altar.  John Wesley said that mostly when God guided him to act He did it by presenting reasons to his rational mind to act in a certain way.  God gave you a brain - use it!  That is not to say that God cannot take you into strange directions - or counter-intuitively lead us.  We'll come to that in just a minute again.

COUNSEL OF THE SAINTS (OOPS, NOT COMMUNITY) -  Life is repleat with opportunities to seek wisdom from others, from parents, from friends, from elders in the faith, from those who have done what you want to do before you.  Now that I have grey hair, I get a lot more questions like these from younger men, pastors around me, even from strangers sometimes.
God gave you two ears for a reason - listen twice as much as you talk!

finally, CIRCUMSTANCIAL SIGNS - Open doors and closed doors.  This is where a great deal of trust must come into play.  What we pray for our daughters and their husbands is "Lord protect them from what they cannot see."  I think God does that a lot.

Now turn back with me to the lesson from ACTS this morning.  I want to look at Philip's encounter with an eye toward the 5 CS's and the moving green line!

Ready?  Someone read the first 8 words...
"An angel of the Lord said to Philip"

So what do you make of that?  Anyone here ever had an angel of the Lord speak to them?  The number even in Scripture is fairly small - but it happened a lot around the times when God was moving in power and favor and as God wanted to move the Gospel to new nations.  Peter had a dream, just before meeting with Cornelius, the Centurion.  Paul had a vision of Jesus himself - got knocked off his horse!  Blinded.  Of course Mary and Joseph had this experience as well. 
So not many experience an angelic visit, but they do happen!

OK ... what did he say?  Anyone?
"Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a wilderness road.)

I get a kick out of Luke here (the parentheses) - How counter-intuitive is the instruction?  Why go out into the wilderness, if you are an evangelist?  Wouldn't you want to go somewhere where there were people in abundance, not rabbits in abundance?  Go there and preach to the cactus plants?

But Philip was willing, available and _________________?  Obedient.

Out he goes and the story goes on:
"So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah."

Well it just so happened, that someone was on the road!  Wow, what a coincidence!  And what a coincidence that he was reading from the scripture that spoke about Jesus.

And what a coincidence that Philip was there.  But it wasn't the coincidences that got Philip's attention.  He was paying attention to another voice!  The COMPELLING SPIRIT.

Another six words anyone?
Then the Spirit said to Philip,

He was listening not to the signs - the coincidences, but to the Spirit of God.  As we said earlier, the Scriptures are replete with examples of God's personal guidance - through dreams, angelic visitation, prayer, or a kind of inner knowing.  We aren't sure how Philip experience the Voice of the Spirit, but we are sure that he did!  When God speaks to you clearly, there is no mistaking it and no escaping it.

And so Philip, goes near in a very bold obedience to God's voice of instruction.  It wasn't something that you just walked up to and hopped on!  This was a very powerful person - we are told of his exact position and the extent of his power.  But we are also told, what he was reading at the time.  As I said - what a coincidence!

Just happens to be reading from Isaiah, and not just anywhere in Isaiah, but Isaiah 53 - in direct reference to Jesus and his suffering.  Something that the Ethiopian was probably familiar with having spent from Passover to Pentecost in the holy city.

Now I want you to note that Philip begins how?  By listening and asking a question?  So often that could be our role as well.  Just listen and ask a question!

Do you understand what you are reading?  God had prepared a way for Philip to come alongside.  This is what we need to have our ears open to, friends.  Where is God acting to bring you alongside someone who has these same kinds of questions?

When God puts us into the paths of people, God intends that we have our ears open and our mouths shut!  We will hear the cry of a human heart, if we listen long enough.  People are desperate to share their questions, especially where the Bible and God and Heaven and the afterlife are concerned.  All people have are question!

Are you listening?

Are you willing?  Are you available?  will you be obedient to His voice - his leading?

The commercials have a moving green line that leads you to financial security or to a new car or to something that you desire.  But what I offer this morning is a moving Spirit of God - always moving like the wind.  A leading Spirit of God who directs us into places and circumstance - into jobs and workplaces - where people are - people who are hurting and questioning - who need someone to listen to them;  someone to come and change the atmosphere of the place they work.

Like Fr. Edward in the University!!  The atmosphere in that place changed over the 8 months he was there.  He had a lot of time to listen and to speak accordingly. In that 8 months 12 men gave their lives to Christ and many are still walking with the Lord - for them and for Fr. Edward that cell became a crucible.  The refiner's fire burned hot in that place and transformed both the messenger and those to whom he was sent.  Dare I say that?  

Edward was sent.
Philip was sent.
You and I are sent, friends.

Get your ears on.  Listen to God and to others.  The doors for effective ministry will open up for you along the way.
Many of you already have such testimonies - many of them.  We are a sent people.  And where ever we are, God will use us to effect this kind of transformation.  Shall we pray?

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out you arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, that everyone might come withing the reach of your saving embrace.  So clothe us with your Spirit, that we, reaching our hands out in love, may bring those who do not know You to the knowledge and love of You, for the honor of Your Name!  Amen and Amen. 

Lord use us as instruments in your hands.  Send your Spirit before us and lead us.  Give us boldness to ask questions and to speak of what we know to be true, among those we work with and play with.  Let us bring Your Kingdom near - your peace present - and your love and grace to bear on the real life situations that people face every day.  Use us, Jesus, to be your hands, your feet, your gentle words to those around us.  Send us, Jesus.  Send us.  Here we are.