Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday: A Living Hope!

Easter 2016
March 27, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart
A Living Hope!
Recently Valerie and I got to go to see RISEN.  How many of you have gone to see this movie.  It's still in theaters and I highly recommend it.

It is the story of a roman centurion who is placed in charge of finding the body of Jesus after the crucifixion.  His quest takes him further and further away from the many gods of the Roman pantheon and toward the God of the Hebrews, and to His perfect image and Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Two scenes in the movie are really amazing: 

the first is his interview with one of the soldiers who was present at the tomb, now pardoned and drunk in the back of a bar.  But in relating what happened at the tomb that morning, he suddenly becomes lucid, staring off into an experience that he cannot fathom.  "The stone flew away from the tomb like a leaf!"  "I was looking at a light - like the sun - shining from the tomb"  "...so bright I could not look at it."

the second scene, is when the centurion, bursts in on the hidden disciples and Jesus is there with them.  He recognizes Jesus from the cross and is stopped in his tracks. He drops his sword and edges over to the side of the room and slides down the wall to sit on the floor, a few feet from the Savior, who is showing his wounds to Thomas (and the centurion, by the way.)

One of my favorite verses in the NT is a verse that I used as a text on the day I preached my father's funeral:  It was the verse I was preparing for a sermon during the week he was in the hospital, unresponsive to either I or mom.  It is from First Peter 1:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Friends, 

the event we commemorate and celebrate today is more than just something that happened, a long time ago and far far away!  It more than the stuff of movies, though it certainly is that!
It is the stuff of life change!

If we fully grasp the significance of this day, the "weight of glory" that it holds for us who believe and indeed, for all persons; 

If we take ahold of its meaning for us and for others;

If we take the time to ponder the questions it poses to us, especially in our modern world:
                  Who is this Jesus?
                   What is the meaning of this death?
                   What happened to the body?
                   If Jesus rose from the dead, then what?

If we can simply conclude, as the centurion did, that ITS ALL TRUE,
THEN it changes everything!

It changes our whole life!  Our past, our future.  Our brokenness, our success!  Our loneliness, our relationships, our friendships, our companions.  Our eating, our drinking...  the bread and the wine.

It changes everything... if it's true.  But is it?

Have you come to the conclusion of your quest?  I presume if you are here this morning that you are at least on the quest!  The quest to find the answer to those questions for you.  To find the thing that changes everything about our existence on planet earth.  That explains it all and gives it meaning and purpose.

Peter calls it A LIVING HOPE!  Alive indeed!

Can you imagine the scene in the Upper Room that first night after that morning.  The news had come from the women, from Mary, who had been told to go tell "the disciples AND PETER."  Isn't it interesting that Peter was singled out by the Risen Jesus for the news.  Why?  Not because Jesus didn't consider him a disciple anymore, but because Peter himself probably didn't.  He was in the room, but can you imagine the shame - no leadership here anymore!  Just shame.  Along with the whole crew who abandoned their Lord in His time of need.

And suddenly Jesus is standing there.  Peter hears the corporate gasp of the other disciples and slowly turns to meet the Risen One, face to face. All the color - all the life flows from his body and he falls to his knees, his face buried in the robe of Jesus for shame.

Jesus reaches down and lifts him up with nail scarred hands. He lifts his shamed face to look into the face of His savior.  And he says,

What do you hear Jesus say to you?

We are all Peter!  We have all betrayed and abandoned him at times in our lives, from day to day.

What do you hear Jesus say?
"I told you so!"   "You're a sorry disciple!"   "Wha'd ya learn?"
None of the above.  What were Jesus' first words to the disciples?
"PEACE BE WITH YOU!"

Is there anyone here who would sign up for "Peace"?  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you. Not like the world gives, give I unto you.

We have been born anew into a LIVING HOPE.  A hope that is rooted in the empty tomb and the living Jesus, who encounters us, in our room or on the way.  The stories of the Resurrection and the encounters of Jesus with His disciples are our stories.

Last Sunday I asked you to find yourself in the story.  Have you?

Are you Peter, John, Mary? Thomas perhaps.  The disciples on the Emmaus Road? 
Have you found yourself?  More importantly have you seen Jesus?

Listen again to Peter's comments:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Amen and Amen!

Hallelujah!  The Lord is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed!  Hallelujah!

Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, on this day you have overcome death and the grave.  You have come back to life and brought us with you from the dead!  We who were dead in our sins, worship you.  We who doubted, believe.  We who walked with you without knowing Who you were, have our eyes opened. We hear you say, Peace be with you. 
We receive your Peace - the peace that comes in Your Presence. 
Help us to come fully to believe in You, Lord Jesus.  To have a Living Hope. to be Inheritors of the imperishable.  Make us truly yours, Lord Jesus.  Help us to see in your death, the grace for our whole life.  Restore us to fully walk with you in our day to day, listening to your voice, hearing your words, filled with love for you and for others, and obeying you in every way, because we love you, Risen Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.
In your Name and for the sake of Your Kingdom, we pray.
Amen.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Palm Sunday: "Let this mind also be in you, which was in Christ Jesus"

Passion Sunday/Palm Sunday
March 20, 2016
Fr. Phil Eberhart

"Let this same mind be in you, that was also in Christ Jesus"
After our march around the sanctuary / parking lot this morning and the reading we've just heard of the Passion Gospel, I want to just do a short meditation this morning, because for the most part, the ACTIONS of Holy Week, that we can all take part in, ARE THE SERMON!!
The power of liturgy and of these readings is in our identification with what was happening -- in our finding our part, our place, in the story.  Throughout this week I urge you to consider that question.  Where am I in this story ... His Story?
But this morning I want to help us find HIS STORY IN OUR MIDST.

If you have your bible turn with me to the book of Philippians, chapter 2.  Our reading this morning from this letter of Paul is perhaps one of the most ancient hymns of the church, set in prose, even in Paul's letter.  It is one of the most beautiful portrayals of Jesus self-giving, His humility and sacrifice that there is in all of Holy Scripture.
It is called by scholars the "KENOSIS" - the Self-emptying of God in Christ Jesus.
Look at your reading in your bulletin for a second:
The description of Jesus found here in three verses puts on display a kind of mindset and character that Paul wants the Philippians and US to emulate:

1.  "who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,"
      What is the mindset on display here?
       Unwillingness to grasp for position, power, prestige - unwilling to compare and compete!
       Jesus actually WAS GOD, not just in the form of God, YET there is the mindset, the 
          willingness to be abased.
         ... to be emptied of rank, of power, of position, of all that made Jesus appear to be God!

2.  "but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness."
      So for Jesus Christ it wasn't just a mindset, but it was an action. 
      He ACTUALLY EMPTIED HIMSELF.  God actually emptied Himself of His God-hood! 

One of my theology profs at ORU, brought an ant farm to class one day and asked us, "How can we make these ants know how much we love them?" At the end of the day, the answer was, "You have to become an ant!!"

3.  "And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death --even death on a cross."
      God, who cannot die, died!  And did so as an act of obedience to His own will! 
      Many of you know Fr. Mike Flynn.  Once when I was kneeling to receive communion
      from him, he handed me the bread and said, "This is the measure of God's Love for you
      and of your worth in His eyes!"
So what was Paul after when he quoted this song to the Philippian church? 
Well to find that out we need to look in our bibles.  Philippians 2: 1-4 hold the answer to that question:

[Phl 2:1-4 ESV] 1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Paul's word picture here is of a fellowship, a church, that displays the kind of mindset that Jesus had!  That is what he was after as he wrote this letter and quoted the song that was being sung at the time about the humility and self-emptying of Jesus Christ. Listen closely to these words...
    Encouragement ...   Comfort ...    Fellowship in the Spirit ...    Affection ...    sympathy/mercy.
    Be of the same mind ...  have the same love ... in full accord ... of one mind. 

Do you think there is a message here?

    Do NOTHING from selfish ambition or conceit.
    From humility - because of humility, --- count others as more significant than you are!
    look out for each other's interests, not just your own!
And then he says:  Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus!

And so here is our story -- the place that we fit in the story of this week of the passion of Jesus!
We fit here in the Body of Christ - here in the midst of His People.  Among a people who have accepted the challenge to live life as Jesus lived life... to encounter and interact with one another on the basis of Jesus example, of "his mind."   Of His humility and selflessness.  Of His lack of striving for position and power.  Of his sacrifice and obedience.  Of his "alongside" encouragement!  Of His comfort that comes from unconditional love; Of being a participant and partaker in the move and power of His Spirit;  Of having the deep gut level compassion He had and holding out that same mercy to others that He gave us!
Does that sound like a church you would like to be a part of?
Does that sound like a church that might experience the same kind of "exaltation" that Jesus did? The kind where God is the one who exalts you, not you yourself!
How different from the world's system!!  How like ... um ... Jesus!
Let's pray!
This prayer comes from the verses Paul writes in the first chapter as he greets and prays for
the church:

8 ...God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.  Amen!
[Phl 1:8-11 ESV]