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Pastor at Resurrection Anglican Fellowship in Greenwood Village, CO

Sunday, May 14, 2023

A Time of Pruning ... and fruitfulness

 

May 14, 2023    
Mother’s Day / Easter 6
Fr. Phil Eberhart

 

The time of pruning… and fruit bearing

 

 

So much has happened in the past month that I’m struggling to capture it all in a 20 minute talk.  I have been using the words “PLANETARY SHIFT”  AND “SEISMIC EVENTS” to describe the events in Africa for the Anglican Communion at the GAFCON conference in Kigali and the events in our own state and nation, in the 21-day Fast and Prayers for Israel.

 

When I say a “planetary shift” I mean that the Anglican Communion has severed ties with England and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  England has decided to go the way of The Episcopal Church in the US and the Church of Canada in its liberalism and approach to marriage.

They have abdicated the rights of headship in the communion and now, 85% of the provinces have simply said NO!  What does that mean for us?  We will probably add a line to our sign:  GLOBAL ANGLICAN COMMUNION!   You see the cloth began tearing for us 20 some years ago. And the tear just now came all the way through to the English church!  It’s like watching a train-wreck in slow motion!

We will watch with interest here in the USA and the ACNA, but we have gone on!  20 years on!   I’m reminded of a friend who called me to mourn with me the fact that the Episcopal bishop was defrocking many of us who left, six years later!  He asked me if I was experiencing any internal pain over the proceedings, announced in The Denver Post for all to see!  I told him that my greatest pain was that I might lose my clergy discount at Cokesbury!  Not a lot of pain, six years later!  Just so, now, the separation with Canterbury was almost a foregone conclusion in the very first GAFCON in Jerusalem, 15 years ago.  There is a line in the Jerusalem Declaration that says we do not have to go through Canterbury to get to Jesus!  That was a shot across the bow, almost 2 decades ago, that has gone unheeded.

I recommend the new document from GAFCON, “The Kigali Commitment.”  It is clear and was masterfully done, allowing the whole of the conference to have substantive input. 

Friends, we are in great company, in a global family that is tied together by Word and Spirit, by Liturgy and Mission together around the globe.  God is doing a great work that we can be proud to be a part of.

 

The last weekend was our kickoff in Pagosa Springs of 21-days of fasting and prayer for Israel.  If you’ve watched any news, times are heating up in the Holy Land right now, so the call for a time of fasting and prayer was “FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS!” 

Last weekend we had a 12-hour marathon of prayer and worship in Pagosa Springs as we pressed in to a state-wide call to Stand with Israel as a united church across the state of Colorado.  There were about 200-300 who came during the 9 am to 9 pm service at Restoration Fellowship in Pagosa Springs.  Then on Monday we had a meeting at a close by lodge for friends from 4 states, who are a part of the prayer movement to support Israel and Jewish people as things heat up in the Middle East.  REZ is in the middle of God’s plan in our placement on this Holy Hill and in the midst of the Jewish people here in Greenwood Village.  We’re actively involved in local outreaches and ministry that stretches around the globe from Colorado and from our little parish.  I hope that you have been able to join in some of the fasting and prayer opportunities that are afforded us in this season. We have posted resources in the Constant Contact and ways for you to access events, from noon communion to evening prayers, and I want to invite you to the culmination service of the 21-days on Pentecost, May 28th in the evening at 7 pm at Church in the City/Beth Abraham.

We will close the 21-days with an evening Holy Communion service for all who can attend.  We will be joining with over 100 million intercessors around the world as we pray and take communion together.

The rest of the world seems to be discovering something that we have known for a while:   there is special power and grace that comes to us through the Holy Communion, and it is a “means of grace” and a sign of our unity in Christ across the whole Body of Christ around the whole world.

 

Now to the sermon!

Our gospel this morning is from just after the table of the Last Supper, after the foot washing and the discussion of betrayal among the disciples. The 13th and 14th chapters of John’s gospel capture those moments, and then Jesus takes them on a walk from the city through the Kidron Valley, past the vineyards on those hillsides to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Along the way, as was his custom, I was teaching and using the surroundings to make his points.

Walking past the vines of the vineyards in the valley, he points out what they all know about tending grape vines.  But he adds some important facets to the conversation:

I am the vine and my Father is the vinedresser.  Fruitfulness is his goal and pruning is the way forward for you.  Unfruitfulness results in our being “cut off” from the vine.  But as we are attached and remain attached to Christ, we begin to bear fruit, more fruit and even MUCH fruit!  We are all familiar with the line of Jesus, “Apart from ME, you can do NOTHING!” 

Friends, with the world shaking the way it is, and the times that we live in – that seem to be coming apart at the seams;  like Esther, we have been born “for such a time as this.”  We are in a crisis – seems like crisis after crisis after crisis!  But I want to remind you that crisis is simply a “dangerous opportunity” – it is like the prophetic word and picture that we received over 25 years ago about the WAVE coming across the land – it is both JUDGEMENT AND REVIVAL.  The secret here is in being prepared  -- being ready.

God is pruning the Church right now, worldwide.  He is getting the Bride ready for the coming of the Bridegroom!  His expectation and our responsibility is to lean in – to press into what God is doing both locally and around the world.  These are days like no other, friends.

That means that we need to stay closely attached to Jesus Christ, in prayer and by reading the Word.  By doing the things that make for growth in the Body of Christ from ACTS 2 – what we have been about for almost a decade now!  DEVOTION TO THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING, TO COMMON LIFE AND FELLOWSHIP, TO COMMUNION AND EUCHARISTIC HOSPITALITY, AND TO PRAYER!

 

After all that I’ve been away to do over the past 4 weeks, I am more convinced than ever that we are right, smack dab, in the middle of God’s hand and God’s plan for this church.

 

Two words:  Get Ready! 

 

ABIDE IN JESUS.  Through prayer, reading His Word, taking communion, fellowship with other believers in community.

BE FILLED WITH HIS SPIRIT.  Apart from Me you can do nothing! 

PRAY FOR THE HARVEST.  Luke 10:2   Pray at 10:02 every day. Set an alarm!

BE WILLING; BE AVAILABLE; BE OBEDIENT – God has a plan and purpose for you every single day, as you “live and move and have your being” in HIM.  There is an adventure here if you are willing to live it.

LOOK UP!  God is doing things in our time that are extraordinary, planet-shaking, seismic events.  Look to God daily for all that He is doing and wants to do, in and through you.  Pay attention to the pruning, because the fruit of the Kingdom of God is at hand.

 

Let’s pray together.

Oh God of infinite power and might;  Creator and sustainer of all things, in heaven and on earth.  We look up to You, Lord, for our today, tomorrow and our forever.  Give us your grace today, as we come to your table.  Empower us to live as ONE and to give an answer for the hope – the excitement – the joy that we feel even in the midst of the uncertainties of our life today.  Open our eyes to see Your hand at work in the world around us.  And send us, Lord.  We say, Here am I, Send me!

In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Last Sunday of Epiphany - TRANSFIGURATION: OPEN OUR EYES, LORD!

 LAST EPIPHANY / TRANSFIGURATION

2/19/23

FR. PHIL EBERHART

 

OPEN OUR EYES, LORD!!

 

Paul prayed this prayer for the Ephesian Church:

17that See Rom. 15:6the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, [Col. 1:9]may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18[Heb. 6:4; 10:32; Rev. 3:17, 18]; See Acts 26:18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is ch. 4:4; [ch. 2:12]the hope to which he has called you, what are ch. 3:8, 16; Col. 1:27; See ver. 7the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, ch. 3:7; Phil. 3:21; Col. 1:29; 2:12according to the working of ch. 6:10; [Dan. 4:30]his great might 20that he worked in Christ See Acts 2:24when he raised him from the dead and See Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; 1 Pet. 3:22seated him at his right hand See ver. 3in the heavenly places, 21ch. 4:10; Col. 2:10; See John 3:31far above 1 Cor. 15:24all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above ch. 3:15; Phil. 2:9; [Heb. 1:4]every name that is named, not only in [Matt. 12:32]this age but also in the one to come. 22And Cited from Ps. 8:6; See 1 Cor. 15:27he put all things under his feet and gave him as ch. 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:19; [1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 2:10]head over all things to the church, 23ch. 4:12, 16; 5:30; Col. 1:18, 24; [ch. 5:23;

 

1 Cor. 12:27]which is his body, ch. 3:19; See John 1:16the fullness of him ch. 4:10who fills [Jer. 23:24; Col. 3:11]all in all.

 

There is a transfiguration that is waiting for each of us – a moment when we see Jesus for Who He is, really.  I hope that that time has already come for you, but in our world, so time and flesh bound, I can only hope.  Paul speaks of that time being like the removal of a veil from over our eyes… from in front of our faces.  He veil that Moses used over his face was used to keep eyes from seeing and turning away from the glory of God that was captured by his skin, as he only looked at God’s back side!  But the veil eventually became a block to the eyes – preventing them from seeing God at all.

 

Just a few verses later, Paul speaks of the deceiver “blinding minds of unbelievers.”  Maybe our prayer needs to be for spiritual eye-sight!  Like Blind Bartimaeus we need to cry aloud to Jesus that we might see!  That is one of the major signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus referred to it many times, when announcing his ministry in his home town of Nazareth and when talking to John’s disciples about his ministry in Israel:  “The eyes of the blind are opened.”

 

Sometimes the physical portends the spiritual reality.  So much of our world that we speak of as Christians is UNSEEN.

There are both angelic and demonic realms around us, that are for the most part, invisible to us.  Faith is defined as “the evidence of things NOT SEEN.”  And Paul prays over and over that our eyes – the eyes of our hearts – would be opened.

This can only happen by God’s hand.  It is a kind of healing. A removal of a veil.  And it comes through faith and prayer.

It was something that Paul prayed for as he prayed for his church plants.  It is essential equipment for the believer. Have you ever tried to drive while blindfolded? Duh!! NO.  We can’t even walk while blindfolded – yet many of us go through life blindfolded spiritually.

 

Pray with me for God to remove the veil – the blindfold, so we can see Him AS HE IS.  That was what happened to Peter, James and John on the mountain in today’s Gospel reading.  Jesus showed them WHO HE WAS.  Who HE IS!  And that Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” yields some significant fruit in our lives:  You come to know three things…

 

1.    the hope to which he has called you

Hope is a big four-letter word!  It is like an internal, nuclear power plant!   It becomes the source of so much in the spiritual life – have you noticed that a good deal of our spiritual life is “waiting.”  Hope is essential equipment!

Hope is the root of our assurance in Christ.  The Prophet Hosea called it a doorway.  Jesus is its embodiment!  And Paul prayed that the Christians would “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

 

2.  The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints

Look around you.  I’ve been the priest for this church now since 1996.  I’ve seen lots of faces come and go over those many years.  What do you see when you look around you here today?  When you look at our faces gathered on Zoom?  What you see here is THE RICHES OF HIS GLORIOUS INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS!  This is what Paul is praying for!  Eyes open to the spiritual realities around us.  CS LEWIS said it this way in “The Weight of Glory:”

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long, we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealing with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.

The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints!

 

3. the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, 

God’s power.  Immeasurable by definition.  Almost goes without saying doesn’t it?

But here’s the kicker:  toward us who believe! 

We live in a world that is inebriated with power!  Gathering it, holding it, wielding it over others.  But this is a different kind of power.  This isn’t power to climb upwards, but to go lower.  Jesus modeled this kind of power for us.  It is the power of the KINGDOM.  It is the power of SERVANTHOOD.   It is God’s power, that is used to send a Son that was …

despised and rejected[b] by men,
    a man of sorrows[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces
[f]
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

 

Hannah Hurnard wrote a book called “Hinds Feet on High Places.”  In it she wrote of the song that the water sings as it cascades down the mountains:  It’s called The Water Song.


Come, oh come! let us away--
Lower, lower every day, 
Oh, what joy it is to race
Down to find the lowest place. 

This the dearest law we know--

"It is happy to go low."
Sweetest urge and sweetest will,
"Let us go down lower still."

 

Hear the summons night and day
Calling us to come away.
From the heights we leap and flow
To the valleys down below.

Always answering to the call,

To the lowest place of all.
Sweetest urge and sweetest pain,
To go low and rise again.

 

 


Our life in Christ is to be lived in such a way as to reflect HIS humility as it is posited for us in Philippians 2:5-8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

The point that I’m making here is that this Power of God is not exercised in human ways, not available for human aggrandizement!  It is God’s Power “towards us who believe”
(Dunamis:  Dynamite/Dynamo) that is exercised through us, for others, in servanthood and humility.  It’s not OUR POWER!
It's HIS POWER!  Never forget that little fact!

 

So what now?

Transfiguration, or another word we use is Transformation, comes out of a root word in the Greek from which we get the word METAMORPHOSIS.  Paul ends his thoughts about the veil over Moses face in 2 Cor 3 with this line:

18We can all draw close to him with the veil removed from our faces. And with no veil we all become like mirrors who brightly reflect the glory of the Lord Jesus3:18 Or “We all, with unveiled faces, behold the glory of the Lord as in a mirror.” We are being transfigured 3:18 The Greek verb metamorphoĊ is the same word used for Jesus’ being transfigured on the mountain (Matt. 17:2Mark 9:2) and for our transfiguration through the renewing of the thoughts of our minds (Rom. 12:2). into his very image as we move from one brighter level of glory to another. 3:18 The source of our transformation comes from Christ’s glory, and the destination we are brought to is more glory. The transforming glory is the result of gazing upon the beauty and splendor of Jesus Christ. And this glorious transfiguration comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 

 

Friends, God is calling us and has given us the equipment to be transfigured like He was on the mountain.  Transformed from “Glory to Glory” by the power of the Spirit of God.  That transformation come from … I love the phrase that David used in the psalms … “beholding the fair beauty of the Lord!”  The fact is, what we look at, we become like!

And that means that we need to see differently, “with eyes wide open to the mercies of God”,  and thus be “Transfigured, transformed, in the process of metamorphosis”.

CS Lewis added a final comment in his book:

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.” 

We need to look at the world and at one another differently, with eyes wide open to the real value and power of each person, especially those of the “household of faith.”   Look around this morning.  Ask God to open your eyes to see others the way He sees them.  Ask God for open eyes to see Him as He is, in our midst, the King of Glory, and the King of Peace.

Amen.

 

Pray with me as we sing the Gospel Song again:  Open our Eyes, Lord.

 

Open Our Eyes, Lord

By Bob Cull

 

Open our eyes, Lord. 

We want to see Jesus

To reach out and touch Him,

and say that we love Him.

 

Open our ears, Lord

and help us to listen.

Open our eyes, Lord. 

We want to see Jesus.

 

Soften our hearts, Lord,

melt us and mold us.

Make us Your vessels,

O pour out Your Spirit.

 

To bring joy and gladness

 to those who have sorrow.

Open our eyes, Lord. 

We want to see Jesus.

 

© 1976 Maranatha!

 

Monday, February 6, 2023

World Mission Sunday - Feb 5, '23

 EPIPHANY V

WORLD MISSION SUNDAY
February 5, 2023
FR. PHIL EBERHART

 

TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

 

You may have already noticed something different about this Sunday:   This is GO Sunday!  As you listened to the scriptures this morning, these are phrases that we heard:

Listen to me, O coastlands,

    and give attention, you peoples from afar.

I will make you as a light for the nations,

    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

“Kings shall see and arise;

    princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;

 

2 Let your way be known upon earth,

* your saving health among all nations.

4 O let the nations rejoice and be glad,

* for you shall judge the peoples righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.

7 God shall bless us,

* and all the ends of the world shall fear him.

 

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

 

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

 

TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

Anyone here aware of a theme?  I think I’ve said it before… the word GO appears in Scripture over 1500 times!  Our mission is out there, not in here!  Our particular mission is to Greenwood Village, to Denver, In Colorado, USA and to the ends of the earth! 

 

The vision of God and the mission of God [MISSIO DEI] has always been with the whole world in view.  Israel and The Church are His instruments of salvation -  God’s People have always been “blessed to be a blessing!”  From Day ONE!

I come from the land (not Israel) – the land that produces a harvest!  Wheat country!  I grew up firmly in the wheat belt that stretches from East Texas all the way up to central Montana!  And each year harvesters travel the zig zag of I-35, I-70 and finally I-25 as they follow the sun, harvesting the wheat of America.   And we too are commissioned to travel the highways and byways of this land, following the SON and harvesting the SOULS of America!  Is that too direct a comparison?

Let’s look back at the Scriptures we’ve just heard again.  Jesus called himself “the Lord of the Harvest.”  Can we please keep that statement as our baseline!  Jesus Christ is the chief harvester!  It is HIS HARVEST.  That is NUMBER ONE.  HIS HARVEST!!

 

Number 2:  HIS HARVEST IS ABUNDANT.  There is no lack of potential in this harvest – it is abundant!  When I was a kid, my dad’s main concern was for the yield and there was a comparison of yields among the farmers!  Sometimes friendly competition is a good thing.  Farmers across the country compete in two areas:  How straight their rows are; and how big the yield is from the field!  The yield is what pays the bills!

Farming is the biggest GAMBLE in the world!  It makes Las Vegas pale by comparison.  You take ALL your time and ALL your money and you plant it in the ground and tend it for 51 weeks, and in 1 week you “put in the sickle for the harvest is ripe.”  Don’t wait a day longer!  Because forces of nature may bring hail, and everything is lost!  No one in Las Vegas ever gambles everything!  Farmers do it every day!

 

NUMBER THREE:  Pray Ye Therefore! 

Do you remember our famous quote from Oswald Chambers:  “Prayer isn’t preparation for the battle;  it IS the battle.”   Friends, we are to beg the Lord of the Harvest, to send forth laborers into His Harvest!” 

Text, letter

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Those are words we need to pay attention to:

Deomai:  the word is used 22 times and it is almost always translated “to beseech”  or “to beg of God.”  I would say it is to strongly, to urgently “cry out” to God for His answer.


and Ekballo: 

Have you ever had a piece of sand or dirt or a splinter …            in your eye?  How strong is the urge for you to get it out of there?  Transfer that urge to the mission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

That’s EKBALLO:  to cast out, drive out, to send out  (over 80 times in NT)

 

to command or cause one to depart in haste

 

to cause a thing to move straight on to its intended goal

to lead one forth or away somewhere with a force which he cannot resist

 

So here is the sense of the command from Jesus: (from the Passion Translation)

37He turned to his disciples and said, “The harvest is huge and ripe! But there are not enough harvesters to bring it all in. 38 As you go, plead with the Owner of the Harvest to thrust out 9:38 The Greek word ekballo is used many times in the Gospels for driving out or casting out demons. The Lord of the Harvest must cast the laborers out into the harvest fields. many more reapers to harvest his grain!”

 

I love the way The Passion says it… AS YOU GO!

The Passion of God is for us to be GOING.  Today we are focused on the going that takes us to “the ends of the earth.”  But for most of us, actually, “as you go” means the every day interactions we have with the people around us.

Willingness / Availability / and Obedience  As You Go!

 

Part of the reason we offer an invitation to come to relationship with Jesus Christ every Sunday is to get it into our hearts, through our ears, every week.  What do you say when you are talking to someone about Jesus?

Take your bulletin home and cut out the part about the Invitation that we use.  Read that! 

 

Friends, the problem isn’t with the harvest!!  The problem is with the laborers!  The harvest is on-going, from the time Jesus spoke these words!  And it is still abundant, standing in the fields ripe for the picking! 

As most of you know, I am someone who is involved in the World Missions Movement in the Anglican Church and with other Christians and movements from around the world.  We are supporters of Love for the Least, Fr. Jerry & Stacey Kramer, missionaries in the Middle East.  We pray for pastors in Israel and for translators in Russia every week.  We pray for friends working in other Muslim majority countries, who we can’t name. 

The Lord of the Harvest is sending people every day, and we are a part of that process, of sending and of being sent!

I hope that you will take on the mission of God and the CO-Mission of Christ to GO, to SEND, to Make Disciples of all the world.

If you want information about prayer for the unreached in the world click on this link:  www.go31.org

 

After we stand to confess our faith in the Nicene Creed we will open the prayer flier with your bulletin and join together in prayer for the nations.  I included this as a separate piece so you can put it in your Bible and use it day by day.

 

Let’s stand.