Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sanctity of Life Sunday - Fr. Phil Eberhart

Sanctity of Life Sunday
January 31, 2016
Fr. Phil Eberhart

"Before You were born, I knew you!"

This morning is Sanctity of Life Sunday, marking the anniversary of the Roe V Wade decision by our Supreme Court and now of the March for life in Wash DC, which happened just before the snow it last weekend in DC.

We have a 3 min video this morning to introduce the topic for us and Cathryn Terwilliger is volunteering down at Alternatives, who we support with our prayers and gifts.  There are baby bottles on the back table to take and put change or large bills in!!  I encourage you to take one and we will bring them back beginning on Ash Wednesday in 10 days.


If you would like to see more about the ministry of Alternatives

Turn with me in you bulletin to our first reading from the OT book of the Prophet Jeremiah.

Let's read God's Word to Jeremiah together:

The word of the Lord came to me saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations."

Have you read this before?
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...
Before you were born i consecrated you;

Have you read similar verses in the Bible?

(Ps 139)

Let me read this to you:
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.How precious are your thoughts about me,[b] O God.   They cannot be numbered!I can’t even count them;    they outnumber the grains of sand!And when I wake up,    you are still with me!

These verses are all very important to me personally.  Many of you know my story - born of a 16 and 17 year old here at Denver General Hospital.  I was with my mom for a week and then in foster care for 3 months, until I was adopted by the Eberhart's, my farm family in Eastern Colorado.

When I was a youth pastor at Christ Church here in Denver, I did a poll of the leadership volunteers we had working with the Jr and Sr High students that year.  8 out of 10 that year were candidates for being aborted!!

About that same time, I got a call from my birth mother and ultimately, met my whole birth family, now nearly 30 years ago.

So my journey has been ... um ... interesting.  Perhaps enlightening, especially in regard to our course this morning, on a Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

Here's my question?  How does God use our "mistakes?"

I was a mistake!  I'm not saying that to garner sorrow or make anyone feel guilty, I'm just making an observation about what can happen when we take our broken lives, our messed up circumstances, and let God into the equation?

And so, now as a pastor, I have two passions, when it comes to outreach locally - embodied by the ministry of Alternatives Pregnancy Center and by the work I'm involved with at James Resource Center.  Both are working with those who want to Choose Life!  I want to be and I want us to be the hands and hearts that let people know that they matter - that they are not mistakes - that God can use us, no matter what !

We want to celebrate LIFE in all its forms, with all its ups and downs, crazy turns, screeching halts, - it reminds me of being on the Mind Eraser at Elitches!  Any one else??

There is a lot we could say about the culture of death in our nation and the number of lives that have been shed; we all are familiar with the stats, horrific as they are.  And we have just largely chosen to live with it.  An amount of bloodshed and death that dwarfs the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews by several times.  And we've made it a political hot potato!  Lord have mercy on our nation!

So I want to work together and reward those who choose life - I want to support and facilitate the moms who make these hard choices, and who are seeking to do what I believe God wants, since He is the author of life.  

Even the mistakes, God can take and bless and use for the good of the world, for His plan in the Kingdom of God -- in fact I kind of think He specializes in using people like me!   Broken people,  adopted people,  people who need grace all the time.

Some of you may have seen the poster about some of the one's God has used in the past:

Moses - the murderer
Noah - the drunk
Abraham, was too old to be a dad
Isaac, the daydreamer
Jacob, the liar
Joseph, was abused and abandoned, repeatedly!
Samson was a womanizer!
David was an adulterer and murderer
Gideon was filled with fear
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
Rahab was a prostitute
Jonah ran from God
Job went broke and got sick, lost his family (and everything else!)
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked ( let the scene only be imagined!!)
Naomi was a widow
Peter denied Jesus three times
The disciples slept through the prayer time in the Garden
Thomas doubted the resurrection
The Samaritan woman was divorced, multiple times
Martha was a worrier!

Did I miss anyone?  Everyone included in this list?

All I'm saying is that God is able, no matter what your circumstances are, or were - God  is able to use your life today.

I want us to be the kind of place - the kind of people who celebrate God's ability, not ours.  And certainly not are DIS-Ability!

What's your excuse? Can you match up to the list of the Giants of the Faith, that I just mentioned?

Maybe, just Maybe God can use you to touch a life for Him.   What I do know is that He wants to give you HIS perspective on this life.  And when you get HIS perspective often the mountains you thought you needed moved, become molehills, in the light of day and of His presence.  Seeing as God sees changes things dramatically.  Seeing people, seeing history, seeing into the future!

God wants to bring LIFE, to embody His LOVE in us, to give us a FUTURE and a HOPE - and for us to then turn to the next person
who is living "under the circumstances" and be His hands, His feet, His mouth, His supply!

Friends, God is in the business of redeeming all the He creates.  I believe we will meet millions of new people in Heaven, that we've never known - because these souls are everlasting, when God creates them!  And when they are aborted, I  believe that God takes them in arms and welcomes them into the portals of light.

But until them we are in the same business as He is - the redemption business!  Wanna come along?

Take one of the baby bottles, and make it possible for this ministry to continue.  Volunteer some hours at the Pregnancy Center, or at She She's -  both are looking for help.  Whatever you can do, every little thing, is valuable to God and to the Kingdom.  Pray, and ask the Lord about your part - your assignment and then do it.

& Obedience.

Let pray:
O God, creator and author of all life:  You are the One who breathes life into your creation, even this broken, day to day mess that we've made of our lives.  Come, Lord Jesus, by Your Spirit and give us the power to change our own lives and the dynamic power to change our culture - our nation.  We pray for the President today, and the election process to come.  We pray for Godly leadership in all offices, local, state and nationally.  Let your choice emerge in the months to come and set our nation aright before you.  Use us, Lord, in your work, here and around the world.
In Jesus Name.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Canterbury and the Bible

Epiphany II 
January 17, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart

Reflections on Canterbury 2016:

I cannot stand before you this morning without making some comments about the meetings of this past week in our "holy land," England - at the Cathedral at Canterbury. 

You'll note that I have on my Canterbury Cross this morning, because I stand in a Communion that did not sell out, nor did it bomb out.  There was true concern as the meeting of our Primates convened this week that by today there would be no more Anglican Communion.  I have good news, there is still an Anglican Communion.  And even better news, there is a united and operational core of faithful, even valiant, leaders who "hung in there" together for the sake of the Gospel and of Christ Jesus!

For those who have not been glued to Anglican Ink or to David Virtue, this was the week of meetings in Canterbury cathedral with the leading Archbishops known at Primates from around the world - 38 provinces (almost all were represented I believe).  The purpose of the meeting was to address and deal with the actions of The Episcopal Church in the USA and the Church of Canada, in blessing same sex unions and in the case of TEC (The Episcopal Church), changing their canons and the language of the Marriage Liturgy this summer, coming in line with the Supreme Court decision last year.

The history of this church and of the Anglican Church in North America, of which we are a part, is one of dealing with these very issues - its why we find ourselves here, instead of snuggled safely in our own little building; why we have left behind houses and land, for the sake of the integrity (to reuse aright, an old word) of our witness to the Word of God and to the Lord Jesus Christ in this land.

But without rehashing our old wounds, let me just say that this week, the Anglican Primates at Canterbury, have sanctioned TEC for its behavior. Put simply, TEC and its bishops are put in a "time out."  "Given notice" for three years, during which time TEC will not have a vote in the counsels of the Anglican Church, will not be able to represent the Anglican Communion in any ecumenical efforts or on any counsels or committees which deal with either doctrine or polity.

It is significant, I think, beyond the sanctions, to note that this decision marks a new way of being for Anglicans worldwide.  Many are saying that there is no way that this will make a difference, and it may not, ultimately.  That remains to be seen in the responses of the American Episcopal Church.  But beyond that, the significance of a global fellowship which has stood up to its more moneyed brothers and sisters and said, "NO!" is most important.

The sanctions may be mostly symbolic, and TEC has the option of thumbing their nose, to be sure.  I kind of expect that, but for me, the significance of the week was in a coherent, united statement of discipline, signed by 2/3 of the primates of the AC.  Much remains to be said and done - in follow through on this action, but the words of our leaders and the intent of this action, is Godly discipline.  They did not "sell out or bomb out" as I said.  They did not sell out to the $$ of the powerful TEC, which have been brought to bear in pressure to move theologically.  And yet, they did not "explode" the Communion, by throwing up hands and walking out.  They purposed to "walk together."  Walking through these painful times has been our lot for much of our life, much of my own ministry as an Episcopal, now Anglican priest.  It is heartening for me to see our leaders step up to the plate and speak with both clarity and unity.  I believe that "truth in love" won the day.  What our brothers and sisters in TEC do with it all, remains to be seen.  I pray for repentance and for real reconciliation in Christ.

Here endeth my comments on the Canterbury "tail".  

And now for THE BIBLE!

I would like to go to a video now, and talk for a couple of minutes about the exciting vision for this next season here among us at REZ.

 I want to share my excitement for a moment about the Community Bible Experience we are embarking on today.  We will give out bibles today, if you haven't already gotten one, everyone gets one.  We are going to use these bibles to read daily from front to back, cover to cover, 11 pages a day for 5 days a week, the whole New Testament in 8 weeks.

"Oh My!" you might say to yourself.  I hope that you are challenged and that you will challenge both yourself and others, those here and those not here, from your family and your friends, to join you in this adventure experience.  CBE is designed for and we are using it for two things:  to bring us each back into Bible Engagement as a "full-contact sport!" and second to do it as a Community.  This is important for us, for a couple of reasons:


Did you hear the collect, the opening prayer this morning as you mouthed the words?  Did you pay attention to the prayer we prayed as assigned to this day.  God may be speaking to us again!  (and again, and again, and again ... )

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth;

Illumined by what?  The Word.  Friends, we have a freedom in this land we love, to engage the Word of God freely, and we have lost our passion, our interest, our enthusiasm for the Bible.  As a people in the US we are the most biblically inundated and yet the most bibically illiterate - even unengaged people in the history of America.  We cannot be the light if the lamp is out.  If we've set it aside, or even if we use it like a hummingbird uses its feeder.
We tend to dart in and out of the Bible, picking bits here and there, odd verses or a verse of the day.  Its like the difference between snacking and sitting down to a full meal deal!

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, Ps 119 tells us.  Friends, we cannot adequately "reflect" something we have not engaged - we are not the source of the LIGHT!  We are merely reflectors of the light - The LIGHT is in Christ Jesus and in His Word to us!

This Bible is different!  Get one and look through it, during the commercials in the Bronco game this afternoon!  No chapter headings, no verse numbers  - just simple text.  It's still the NIV but without the additions.  AND you will note it is not in the familiar book order either.  The books of the NT are arranged in this Bible in the order they were written, according to the most agreed upon dates by scholars.  Each book has an introduction and overview.  This first week we will be in the gospel of Luke.  Next week in Acts and Thessalonians.  and so forth.

There will be more videos and some basic instructions in our Adult Ed hour, or if you missed that pick the bibles up on your way out and come next week.  We will have 4 45-min discussion groups for our Adult Ed beginning next Sunday through to Easter.  We are asking 5 questions as we read through the NT anew:

  1. What's something you noticed for the first time?
  2. What questions did you have?
  3. Was there anything that bothered you?
  4. What did you learn about loving God?
  5. What did you learn about loving others?

This is our time friends - I believe we are entering days that are so crucial for our life - both as a church and as Americans.  We will be hearing more in the coming weeks about all that God is doing around (and wants to do THROUGH) us, but to be equipped and able we must avail ourselves to HIS WORD.

I can only lead you to the Water!  Now its your turn!  In the strongest possible terms, I urge you, beloved brothers and sisters, to make this a part of your Epiphany and Lenten lifestyle.  Join us for this 8 week adventure - the Community Bible Experience.  We begin reading tomorrow!

Let's pray...

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.