About Me

My photo
Pastor at Resurrection Anglican Fellowship in Greenwood Village, CO

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Transfiguration: Encountering His Face!

 Transfiguration Sunday

Feb 14, 2021
Fr. Phil Eberhart

Encountering His Face

Welcome to the last Sunday of Epiphany, the Sunday and Feast of the Transfiguration.

Have you ever had a vision of or an encounter with Jesus?  Now I don't mean some kind of imaginary Sunday School fantasy, but something that feels substantive?   A dream in living color?   An encounter that leaves you with your mouth open!  Our readings this morning are about such encounters.  Some of us call them "mountaintop" experiences.  Times when Jesus seems to be tangible or where He reveals His true nature to us; where He encounters us in ways that we cannot wiggle out of?

I've talked over the past many months about God wanting to have FACE TIME with us all.  I got to have some 'face time' with my Granddaughter Kinsley last week.  She was laying in my arms and looking up at me and reached up and was touching my face and pulling at my beard.  That is exactly what I'm talking about.

I've been struck over and over about the closeness of God and His desire for us, , for you, for me!  
The Aaronic Blessing from Numbers 6 repeats a phrase about the FACE OF GOD:

The Priestly Benediction

22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

27 So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

It is notable when a thing is repeated and this blessing is a command of the Lord, through Moses for AARON and his sons to use as a blessing over the people of Israel, with the words "So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

Friends, I want to tell you that God is anxious to reveal Himself to us -- to you!

The encounter of Elijah with God on the mountain and the experience the disciples had on the mountaintop at Jesus' Transfiguration are not just "types" or "stories" - they are examples for us, and at least for me, I want to "see Jesus!"  I want to come to a place where I can "encounter" His presence -- to see His face.  I WANT to have FACE TIME with God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The words of the blessing are descriptive:
The Lord make His face to shine upon you...
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you!

A Face that shines -- that is the blessing - that God's face will shine upon us; there is a sense of God's delight in you.   My dad's face would shine when his granddaughters were in the room!  It is a sign of joy, of great delight and overwhelming love.  It was present every time when the girls went to grandpa's house. He and grandma took seriously the job description that grandparents are for spoiling their grandchildren!!

A face that shines is also a sign of His glory!  Moses' face was shining when he came down from the mountain with the tablets after speaking with God Face to Face (Ex 33:11).  He had to put a vail on his face to be with the people.  Paul talks about that, and we'll come back to that in a moment.  But it denoted to the people that Moses had been in the presence of God.  It was full of Glory!

Finally, in this regard, the phrase "lift up His countenance" - have you thought about that phrase?  How does someone lift up His countenance upon you?  Certainly by lifting up his face and looking at you.  But I wonder if there isn't more to it than that?  I believe that lifting up your face means looking up and the way that papa's look up, grandpa's look up is by lifting a baby above their heads and "lifting up their countenance upon them!"    Most babies love to be lifted up by their papa's and by their grandpa's.  It is a sign and and action of sheer delight!

Close your eyes for a moment and see yourself as a little one in God's hands and he suddenly lifts you up above his head and looks up at you, and laughs with you, as you delight in him and he delights in you.  That's the picture I have when I say or sing these words!!

The words over Jesus, from the cloud on the mountaintop were what?   "This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!"

Encounter with God's Face and Hearing His voice kind of go hand in hand, don't they?  

Today is a transitional Sunday  --  the end of Epiphany and this Wednesday evening we begin the Season of Lent.  What would it be like for us to seek ways to encounter the FACE of GOD in Jesus Christ during these 40 days coming?

"Encountering His Face!"  I think maybe that needs to be our theme for LENT.   I have many portraits of Jesus, and more that I would like to get.  He has been portrayed in film and TV in many different ways... in many different colors ...  I think I'll see if we can hang some of those portraits on the walls of the hallway downstairs during Lent.  So you can come to the church and spend time looking at the different depictions of the Face of Jesus.

I want you to enter into this season fully.  To see His face as it shines on you.  To know that He delights in you.  That there is nothing you can do, good or bad, to change the way he feels about you - to make him love you more, or to make him love you less.  He loves you with an everlasting love.  He loves to be in your presence.  Would you like to come to LOVE TO BE IN HIS?

Let's pray...

Lord Jesus Christ, in whose face we can see the face of God the Father.  You are the express image of the fullness of God and in you, Jesus, does all the fullness of the Godhead dwell bodily.  Open our eyes to see you, to see your face -- to encounter you as you turn your face towards us, as you lift us up and lift up your countenance upon us!  Let us know the joy of being your child, Lord.  Let us know Your delight in us, and bring us to joy in you, because we have come to know WHO we are and WHOSE we are.  For the sake of the Kingdom and the Fame of the Name of Jesus, that you have placed upon us.


Friday, February 5, 2021

The State of the Flock - Feb 7, 2021

The State of the Flock
Feb 7, 2021
Fr. Philip D. Eberhart, Rector 

As I look back over this past year, I don’t know whether to cry or to shout. We’ve seen wave after wave of trials, challenges, injury, surgery, life-threatening illness, accidents, and that is before you factor in the worldwide pandemic! And that is just my personal life and this single church’s circumstances in the past 14 months! 

So how do we characterize 2020 and look away from it to the future? The words UNPRECEDENTED and EXTRAORDINARY seem to have gotten a lot of air play in the past 10 months. We want nothing more than to look away from 2020 and glimpse a brighter, more ‘normal’ future, but we’re just not sure if or when that might appear. One thing is certain, a rehearsal of all the things that went wrong in 2020 is not the remedy for the malaise – so I want to take a few moments to expose some of the things that are praiseworthy in our life together and in the world we now “live and move and have our being” in. 

Another word that expresses the lived experience of our church, as well as our planet, is SHAKING. Since 2000 we have been listening to the scripture from Hebrews 12 that warns of things that will be shaken, so that what cannot be shaken may remain. I sincerely believe that we are in the midst of that promised “shaking.” Our part in the midst of the shaking is to hold fast to that which cannot be shaken, The Word of God, and what the writer calls the Unshakeable Kingdom, which we are receiving from “our God who is a consuming fire.” 

We must open our eyes – wake up – to see the world from the perspective of the One who created it all. We believe, or say we do, that God brought all that we see into being with the Word of his mouth. If we believe THAT, then much follows from that core belief. Nothing actually happens by “accident.” If God is sovereign – above all – then all flows from His Hand. We say as much every Sunday: “All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of Thine own have we given Thee.” 

We are God’s possession, His People who are called by His Name. He takes that very seriously. Has since forever!! The fact is that God deals with the whole world on the basis of His dealings with His own people! 2 Chronicles 7 is the proof. A very familiar passage to us for about the past three or four decades! You know… “IF MY PEOPLE… “ and all that? I talked about it last weekend. We’ve been talking about it for 30 or 40 years here in America, but now is different. It actually matters that we, God’s People, obey this injunction – the life of the world depends on it. 

I’ve talked this past year about what God is doing – a RESET and a REALIGNMENT of our hearts with His! Those realities are realized, as I said last week through Repentant Obedience. It’s not enough to just say we’re sorry – we’ve been doing that since mid-year. Repentance means to turn around and head a new direction. To actually make changes in the way we “live and move and have our being.” It means a change in our “ways and means.” It means a new way of being and a new way of doing. And these all must line up with the Word of Scripture in the Bible. Period. 

So how is your “WORD QUOTA”? How deeply are we “abiding” in the words of Jesus and how are they “finding their home” in us? Troubled times have a way of driving us to that which is steady and tried. Nothing stands with the Word of God in that department. It is an anchor for the storms in our life; the anvil on which God fashions us, through fire and forge, into a “truer beauty and usefulness” for His Kingdom. It is truly the thing that is UNSHAKEABLE and what gives us and all inthe Kingdom of God stability. I hope that you have found the utility of a regular time in which you apply the disciplines of the “HAND” that we use to illustrate a full engagement with Holy Scripture – Hearing, Reading, Marking, Learning and Inwardly Digesting it. If you haven’t noticed, that BOOK is the centerpiece of our life and our worship. It points us to the Savior and to the Father in no uncertain terms, and it is the very useful Sword of the Spirit, used by Him to encounter us as we read, to equip us as we study and learn and to engage us in a dynamic partnership with Him in the World. The Word of God graces our lives in four ways: It instructs us; it reproves us; it corrects us and it trains us in righteousness. It plumbs the depths of our souls, revealing our motives, our thoughts and intentions; driving deeper than bone marrow, to the very center of our being. 

This is the reason for the SHAKING. We must “come to ourselves” – wake up! – come to our senses, as God’s People. We have been wandering in a far country, too long feeding in the pig pen of the world’s ways and means. God is meaning to create some “face time” with Himself for us. He means to get our attention. And I’m convinced that He means to do it, for a reason. So what could possibly be the “reason for THIS season?” This has been a season of brokenness. Everything that could go wrong, seemingly, has! Things we never even though of have gone wrong! BUT GOD… 

You’re going to hear in a few minutes the numbers for this year. You’re going to hear that, we’ve had some close calls, but we are all still here. Fr. Stanley in Uganda is the first Covid death in our worldwide Church family. WE thank the Lord for His protection. We thank the Lord that through all the separation of this past year, through all the social distancing … we are still together. We have worked overtime to remain so. Connected to one another by any means possible, personally, on Zoom, Facebook. These are realities that will remain with us for some time, if not permanently. We’ve discovered a whole wide world – one that we kind of knew about through our mission outreaches and international relationships, but now we can join a world-wide prayer meeting that is actually going on 24/7/365 through all of 2021! Satan loses… We WIN! 

The day the world shut down, March 16th, was the launch of a new reality in the church. It is called THE 400 GATHERING. With a goal of 400 pastors and churches coming together in answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17, this movement is beginning to now have effect. We pray for one another and lay down our lives for one another – supply one another’s needs and partner with one another for the advancement of the Kingdom of God! It’s not about one church, but about the Body of Christ and His Kingdom in this world. 

And that is the beginning of the answer to the “why” for this season. God’s purpose is to free us from our diversions, from our per-versions – to bring us through a con-version to His ways and will, to accomplish the vision of Jesus for the World, using us as His instruments. We continually look to Jesus, the Author and the Finisher, the Perfector of our faith. And He will set us in a place directly in the path of the greatest harvest of souls we can imagine – in fact beyond all that we can ask or imagine. That, I believe, is the big “why” here. 

 Rez is called into being “for such a time as this.” We have been placed on this Holy Hill for just this purpose; to shine as a ‘city on a hill’ with the light of Christ, our Messiah. We shine to those who are far away and to those who are near. We have been given a High Altar that holds a special place in God’s heart and His plan for us and for this city and region. We are an instrument of His Holy Spirit amongst those who are being called into His Kingdom. 

Even now, as this season comes to a close and we anticipate being able to come back together in more significant ways, we look forward to times of refreshing from the Lord and to a release of the Harvest into the Church. For years we’ve talked about being an ACTS 2 Church and about the promise of a “netbreaking, boat-sinking” load of fish. God has promised us “OIL” that will come from unexpected places to keep our lamps burning and bright. He has more and more anointing for us, as we move more and more with HIM, into His purposes and destiny for Resurrection Anglican Fellowship. 

I want to conclude with one of our prayers from the Ordination service: 

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


 Fr. Phil+ 

The Venerable Rev. Philip D. Eberhart
Archdeacon and Rector
Resurrection Anglican Fellowship,
International Diocese of the Anglican Church in North America

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Wisdom for our Times

 Epiphany 4

Jan 31, 2021

Fr. Phil Eberhart

This morning we mourn the loss of a good friend and servant of God, Rev. Dr. Stanley Katungwensi.  Fr. Stan as we all knew him, served this congregation with me at St. George's Episcopal Church and again, he and his family came later to REZ and resumed staff work, especially with the Ugandan community through REZ with Albert Senkeeto and others.  Fr. Edward was a part of that community and many here remember those times with great fondness and joy.

We grieve today for this loss and for his wife, Anne and their children, Tim, Sam, Charity and Gloria, who are still dear to us.  I do not have a lot of information, other than this was Covid related.  We are going to be collecting a gift to send to the family to help with expenses, so if you are so moved please make it to the Discretionary fund with Fr. Stan Memorial in the memo.

This morning's scriptures paint a picture for us of God's continual involvement, care and direction in the affairs of our world, even in the face of what seems to be unmitigated chaos.  My prayer this morning is that God gives us eyes to see His Hand at work in the midst of the circumstances and systems of this world, and ears to hear His Voice speaking to us, by Word and Spirit, as He directs those of us who are in His Kingdom; The Unshakeable Kingdom that we are even now receiving.

Friends, look with me at some key verses in our readings today:

   "How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?"

How familiar are you with the Words that you already know GOD HAS SPOKEN?  With the WORD(s) of the Scripture(s)?  The way that we come to know the fake is by handling the real!  Tellers at banks can tell the counterfeit dollars because they feel wrong to the touch.  Their touch is trained by use!!  Likewise our hearing of God's Word must be trained by all the things we talk about when we hold up our Scripture hand:
    A.  Hear
    B.  Read
    C.  Mark
    D.  Learn
    E.   Inwardly Digest

To have a firm grasp on the written Word of God is to be prepared properly with the discernment necessary for when the voices of many are speaking with a "Thus Saith the Lord".

Our scripture is severe this morning for those who would deign to speak for God, especially with specific dates and times.  Fulfillment is the test of accuracy!  And thus, legitimacy.

I must say that I personally begin with a dose of scepticism, and come from there to faith, based on how the "word" lines up with the grid of the WORD in Holy Scripture.

I want to reiterate what I already know about our times:

God is the One who has initiated a RESET.  The world and the flesh and the devil are attempting a coup with a "counterfeit reset" - a wholesale transformation of our culture to the ways and the means of the enemy of our souls!  BUT GOD...

What is the way through?  What are we to do in the face of this chaos?

We must stay in - ABIDE in - HIS WORD.  Jn 15 is clear. It is here that we are to ABIDE - IN HIM AND IN HIS WORD.

That will keep us in a place of REPENTANT OBEDIENCE.  It is only through the portal of REPENTANT OBEDIENCE that we can move into the REALIGNMENT, THE REFRESHING AND THE RENEWAL that God intends to bring to us and through us to the world.

It seems that we always think that God is going to move faster than He does.  The timeline of God's Hand is HIS, not ours!!  It is for us to watch with open eyes and to listen with open ears;  to discern His ways and means in the times we live in, and to be actively moving in REPENTANT OBEDIENCE as He directs us, each and every day.

In that way we will see and we can be a part of God's KINGDOM WAYS AND MEANS to bring stability in the times of shaking.  

God is fulfilling His Word in Our Day.
I preached this on Mother's Day of 2020.  (http://rezpadre.blogspot.com/2020/05/)
5 movements we are going to see:

We are still in the place between the first two!  That is the place of Repentant Obedience.  It is fortuitous that we are coming again to Lent.

I urge you to look at one of our PUSH programs from last April:

Jon Peterson and I reflect there on what God is doing in this shaking.  Take the time to watch it.  We must learn the lessons that God is trying to teach us in His Kingdom -


THEN...  THEN...  THEN...

               I WILL HEAL THEIR LAND.

GOD has not forgotten us, nor is His Hand too short to save.  Look at the Psalm again with me.  In fact let's do it again slowly by half verse...

1 Praise the Lord. I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart, * in the company of the upright, and among the congregation.

2 The works of the Lord are great, * sought out by all who have pleasure in them.

3 His work is worthy to be praised and held in honor, * and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He has made his marvelous works to be had in remembrance; * The Lord is gracious and merciful.

5 He has given food to those who fear him; * he shall ever be mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works, * that he may give them the heritage of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice; * all his commandments are true.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever, * and are done in truth and equity.

9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant for ever; * holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; * a good understanding have all those who live accordingly; his praise endures for ever.

This is what God has done, and it is what God IS DOING.  Listen to some of the words you just said:

His righteousness endures forever...
The Lord is gracious and merciful...
He shall ever be mindful of his covenant...  
all his commandments are true...
and are done in truth and equity...
holy and awesome is his Name...  
a good understanding have all those who live accordingly; his praise endures for ever!!



Monday, January 18, 2021

Shine as the Light of Christ in the World

 Epiphany II

Jan 17, 2021
Fr. Phil Eberhart

1 Sam 3:1-20 

Ps 63:1-12

1 Cor 6:9-20 

John 1:43-51

Shine, Jesus, Shine!!

Welcome to those who are with us this morning in person, on Zoom and on FB live.  My prayer this morning is for you as the People of God, as we stand together in fasting and prayer for our nation, for our churches and for ourselves.  Everyone is tired of the word, UNPRECEDENTED, these days.  We've never experienced most of what 2020 and now 2021 seem to be bringing our way.  I heard one preacher last weekend say, "2021 looked at 2020 and said, 'Here... hold my beer!"  The other word that seems to be floating about these days alot is UNCERTAIN.  None of us knows for sure what lies ahead.  We're uncertain of our leadership, uncertain of our economy, uncertain of our health ... much of what we actually have taken for granted over the past 100 years in America is being 'shaken' up.  Do you have that sense?

This morning our scriptures and our prayers are focused, by God's providence once again, on the answers that we need to hear, so I pray... God give us ears to hear today, as you speak to us, corporately and individually.  Give us attentive, hearing hearts - hearts of wisdom that hear, listen and obey.  IN Jesus NAME,  AMEN.

I'll begin and end today with our prayer from the collect of the Day:

Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth 

I will break that prayer into 4 parts and give you a framework for our actions in the midst of our times, and I pray that God will make us like the "men of Isacaar" who understood the times that they lived in and acted accordingly.

First, Part 1:  We have seen the enemy and he is US!

Whenever God speaks of the need for judgement, He is speaking to the "household of God."  Our prayer begins "GRANT THAT YOUR PEOPLE..."

The familiar verse from 1 Chron 7 that if so oft quoted (for the last 40 years) is addressed to MY PEOPLE:

My People, called by My Name
Their wicked ways!

At the famous PROMISEKEEPERS gathering at Mile Hi back a couple decades ago, Henry Blackaby was heard to say that the problem isn't with the darkness in our land, the problem is with the LIGHT!  The darkness is just doing what it does, being dark!  The problem is that the light is out or so dim as to be of no effect.

Del Tackett, of The TRUTH PROJECT, once commented about the LIGHT, that IT ALWAYS OVERCOMES DARKNESS. Every time I open a closet, the light rushes in, the darkness never falls out of the closet!!  Never!!

Our problem is us.  God's People, The Household of Faith, The Big C Church.

Part 2:  illumined by your Word and Sacraments

What are our sources of LIGHT?  We are not capable of generating "the Light" from within ourselves.  We are the reflective material, the moon to the Sun or The Son!  

Jesus and Paul are pretty clear:  Jesus said, I AM the Light of the World.  He's our source of light, not we ourselves. It's only as we "fix our eyes on Jesus", as we turn to him FACE TO FACE, that we are able to be and do the things that God purposes for us to be and do!  Paul said it this way: 
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

We are illumined by the "glory of the Lord", not by the activities we engage in, or the politics we espouse, not by our level of education nor our list of things we hate.  What does "the glory of the LORD" even mean? 

Well, HIS GLORY is first of all, HIS PRESENCE.  The people of Israel as they wandered in the desert, were accompanied by HIS PRESENCE, in fire by night and cloud by day - they were always aware of that presence and their place in relationship to it.  When it moved, they moved; when IT camped, they camped.  

Second, His Glory is HIS VOICE.  Jesus was always saying, Let him who has ears, hear!  The Psalmist tells us, "Thy Word is a LAMP unto my feet and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105)  We must pray to have "hearing ears ; hearing hearts" like Solomon did at the beginning of his reign.  When he prayed for Wisdom, he actually said give me a hearing heart!

Jesus commanded us to "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven."
Light always overcomes darkness.  In Jesus command, LIGHT = GOOD WORKS.  

PART 3: may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory

I want to challenge us today to shine!  But we become reflective of God's Glory in the Face of Jesus Christ as we begin to look more and more like HIM.  That is why Paul talks so much about our "transformation" our "metamorphosis" - our being changed into HIS LIKENESS.  2 Cor 3, we heard a moment ago.  Romans 12:1-2 are familiar to us as is Romans 8:28-29.  Transformed by the renewing of our mind...  conformed to the likeness of His Son.  This is our destiny, friends.  This is God's purpose for our lives here on this planet.

It makes no difference what the politics of the season are.  It makes no difference what the climate is, rain or shine.
It even makes no difference whether we are liked or whether we are hated.  Our response is to be like Jesus.  And if you don't know what that looks like, then I suggest you avail yourself to the "MEANS OF GRACE" :  HIS WORD AND THE SACRAMENTS.  

We are transformed by connecting our heart with our mind!  And those two must be connected to the source of Light, "setting apart Christ as LORD" and placing ourselves at every opportunity in the proximity of HIS GRACE, HIS PRESENCE, HIS WORD, PRAYER, HIS HEART AND HIS CHARACTER.  Jesus Christ must fill our field of vision completely.  Only then will we truly become like Him.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face...
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!"

Finally, Part 4:  that he may be known, worshiped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth 

The big WHY?  What difference will it make?  What difference can I make?


Paul the Apostle said it this way:  
Now, it’s because of God’s mercy that we have been entrusted with the privilege of this new covenant ministry. And we will not quit or faint with weariness. 
We reject every shameful cover-up and refuse to resort to cunning trickery or distorting the Word of God. Instead, we open up our souls to you by presenting the truth to everyone’s conscience in the sight and presence of God. 
We don’t preach ourselves, but rather the lordship of Jesus Christ, for we are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 
For God, who said, “Let brilliant light shine out of darkness,”[f] is the one who has cascaded his light into us—the brilliant dawning light of the glorious knowledge of God as we gaze into the face of Jesus Christ.
We are like common clay jars that carry this glorious treasure within, so that the extraordinary overflow of power will be seen as God’s, not ours. 

So friends, we have a job to do and our work is cut out for us.  We were made for "such a time as this."  Our success does not depend on the political administration, or the economic environment, not even on the sinfulness of men around us.  When the darkness if being dark, as it is today, we are called to BE LIGHT.  To be LIKE JESUS.


If we see HIM fully, a full-face view, close up, we will become like Him - transformed into His image, into His character, and THAT - AND THAT ALONE, holds out the promise that we need for the days ahead.


ALL: 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, worshiped, 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.  

Sunday, December 13, 2020

John, the Baptizer - Forerunner and Friend of the Bridegroom (Fr Phil)

Advent III
Dec 13, 2020
Fr. Phil Eberhart

John, the Baptizer:  Friend of and Forerunner to the Bridegroom

Welcome to the third Sunday of ADVENT, a season that is "bi-polar!"  For us that's not a bad thing, but it's something we have to be aware of - we are in a season of anticipation, the time of the Forerunner, John the Baptist, who came before and spoke of Jesus, the One who was coming, whose sandals "I am unworthy to untie."  AND...

We are looking forward to His Second Coming in the Isaiah passage and the future (not so far away now, 2000 years later)... 
the future coming of the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, the Peaceable Kingdom, the 1000 year reign of Christ and a new heaven and new earth.

There is a lot to hold in our thinking during this time.

This morning I want to talk about John, the Forerunner and Friend of the Bridegroom.

Our gospel passage is an intimate look at the feelings and the human side of John's ministry, after Jesus has been baptized and gone through his temptations.  Jesus himself comes back to the Jordan river and begins baptizing, in apparent competition with his cousin John.  John's disciples are concerned that everyone will go to Him!  There is a "spirit" of competition that is forming among them for converts.  This morning I want to examine John's responses to them in this regard.

First, John acknowledges that our life is not ruled by the circumstances that we see around us, but by "what has been given from heaven."   So often we spend our time looking around us at the forces of our culture, the other churches that seem to be getting bigger and bigger, the pastors who are making a "name" for themselves, -- all the things that we in our competitive culture see as a threat to our wellbeing or progress.

But John's perspective here is 180 degrees different.  Rather than facing the world around him, John is facing the Father of Lights, from whom every good and perfect gift comes to us.  His perspective is one that first of all, looks for the hand of God in the circumstances around him and acknowledges it when he sees it!  Our friend of many years, Oak McEachren, used to say simply, "IT'S THE LORD ... Let Him do as He wills."  Those words comforted me many times when things were not going how I wanted them to go!  Have you ever experienced that?  Things not going how you want them to go?      Mhmmmm.   Thought so.

When things go awry we often spend our energy bent over our circumstances rather than looking up to the ONE who can actually make a difference in them!
Someone said that "worry is spinning your wheels making no difference - prayer is appealing to the Only One who can make a difference!"   John's perspective was the later one.

The second point I want to make from this conversation is that John knew WHO HE WAS and WHAT HE WAS TO DO.  He was clear in his own mind and teaching that he was NOT the Messiah. He was the Forerunner - the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!"  The one foretold by the other, older prophets.

That kind of clarity of both Person and Purpose is rare, in my experience.  John was raised by Zechariah and Elizabeth, both of whom had striking encounters before John was even born, so much so that they undoubtedly shared these stories with John as he was growing to manhood - John grew up with this sense of personhood and the purpose of a clear calling.  He undoubtedly knew Jesus, before his public ministry, because they were cousins.  Yet, even if they were cousins, John knew his own place and he knew Jesus' place.  That kind of clarity is a gift ... a gift from God, as John points out.  He received it as "given from heaven."

Lastly, I want to point out John's perspective of those who were to follow after Jesus.  He was probably the first to use the analogy of the bride and bridegroom in relation to Jesus and His followers.  Jesus hadn't actually started teaching yet, just barely having begun gathering his own disciples.  But John, here shares his understanding of the relationship that the Messiah is to have with His People!

We, the followers of Jesus, are His Bride!  Now I want you to know that you can spend the rest of your life, just thinking about that reality.  What is it like for us to have a "bridal" love for our Lord Jesus?   I think that is probably another sermon, perhaps a whole series!!

John, here I think for the first time, acknowledges that Jesus is like a bridegroom coming for His Bride, and John is the "friend of the bridegroom."  The friend of the bridegroom is the one who stands and listens for His coming, like a watchman on the wall or on the roof of the house.  

Many times, I've read this passage, as a pastor, and said, "that's me."  Even though I'm part of The Bride of Christ, I am also, as a leader and pastor, a "friend of the Bridegroom!"  Just like John, the Baptizer, I am sent to go ahead - to be a FORERUNNER and to bring the Bride into her readiness for the coming of the Bridegroom.

In many ways, the ministry I've had now for 40 years is one of a Forerunner.  God seems to do things among us - Yes, Little REZ - in the months and years ahead of Him doing things in the wider church.  It's only seen in retrospect, looking back, but God uses us to be like a "spear point" - often the first to enter into what God wants to do.

Let me end by making an application.  John's view of the call and the work he was doing was deeply informed by his knowledge of his place in relation to Jesus.  So often we (especially pastors) have a tendency to get what I call a "messiah complex."  It all depends on me!  But John skirted that issue here and placed the emphasis on the right syllable!  The final statement of John is the most telling of all in this regard:  "He must increase, but I must decrease."  

All of us who would labor "for" Jesus, must adopt this mindset.  John knew WHO he was and he knew WHOSE he was.  Those twin pillars kept him sure and steady as he did his forerunner job and as the Messiah emerged and his ministry ended.

It is a good few words for us to hold in the forefront of our minds as we work in the Kingdom of God today:  HE MUST INCREASE, BUT I MUST DECREASE.

Please pray with me...

  O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Advent 1, 2020: The Challenge of "Wokeness"

 Advent 1, 2020

November 29, 2020

Fr. Philip Eberhart



Welcome to the New Year, Church!   I am sooooo looking forward to being OUT of 2020 that maybe I'm rushing it a bit.

From the title this morning, "The Challenge of Wokeness" you may think that this is going to be a political sermon... again.  But let me allay your fears today and let you know that this "WOKENESS" is about an actual awakening that both needs to happen, and at some level, is happening in the Church, BIG C!

For many, many years I've preached this first sermon of Advent, on the same need and the same opportunity.  The last words of our Gospel reading from Mark this morning say it all, "KEEP AWAKE!!"

Friends, the times that we live in today, what with all the stuff, the pandemic, the societal unrest, the riots, the wokeness, the political games ... all require of us that we live with our eyes wide open.  It was said of one group in the Old Testament that they "knew the times in which they lived."  Today that is perhaps the greatest gift we can ask for from the Holy Spirit, that like those Men of Issachar, we might know the times that we are part of and how to respond to them.

The command of Jesus to KEEP AWAKE is not just a random wish that the Church would be more aware of its sleepy state.  The fact is that we've been lulled to sleep over decades, especially here in America, by the culture and by the very prosperity that we believe we deserve to enjoy!  "In the lap of luxury" is a phrase that conjures up a certain picture of us being coddled and spoiled, like a new baby with three sets of grandparents who live within 20 minutes!!  

We have spared ourselves no luxury!  There are certainly pockets of poverty, and we help those who are struggling along the way, but the overall picture of America and wealth is that we are at the top of the heap, even those who are at the bottom of the American wealth pyramid, are in the top 1 or 2% of the world.  Why do you think that the "huddled masses yearning to be free" are "teeming on our shores?"  America is still the Land of Opportunity, of Freedom ... and of Sleepiness!

WOKENESS, in this sense, is a heightened awareness of the forces that are at work in our systems, yes it does mean awareness of racism and injustice, but it means a great deal more in this context.  We are in a WAR.  We, THE CHURCH, are engaged in hand-to-hand combat, just like the picture painted for us by Paul in Ephesians 6.  We need to be awake, in full battle fatigues, and ready to engage as a team in the warfare of the spiritual world that is raging for our culture today.

WOKENESS here, is having our eyes wide open to the UNSEEN that Paul speaks about as he recounted his own battle fatigue to the Corinthians.

 But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. 

16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Our WOKENESS is our understanding of what is real.  Of the nature of the world we live in, of it's brokenness and need;  awareness of our position and role as THE CHURCH; engagement with the purposes of God in the midst of the times that we find ourselves living in; AND an awakened WISDOM that comes from THE FEAR OF THE LORD.  We must understand WHOM it is that we approach and deal with through Prayer, the power of our weapons of warfare, the need for the armor of His Righteousness.

WOKENESS means additionally that we are aware of our own weakness and lack of strength in this fight.  THE BATTLE IS THE LORD'S!  It has always been His and will always be HIS ALONE.  We use the word JUST sometimes mistakenly in regard to prayer!  "Well, all we can do is just pray." Never do that again!!!

Friends, in this challenging time, PRAYER is the primary Weapon of our Warfare!  It is not something that is secondary - its our BIG GUN!  Inside the Kremlin in Moscow sets a cannon that was fired once - its so big that the firing once, broke it.  It stands nearly 15 feet above my head.  That is the size of prayer, though not its effect!!  Our big gun WORKS.

I carry a quote with me from Peter Kreeft:

"I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers to God make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those effects down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives!'

So friends, this morning on the Church's New Year's Day, I challenge you to be WOKE!  TO STAY WOKE.  TO ACT AS ONE WHO IS WOKE!  AND FULLY SO.


#109. For Watchfulness                                                               Lancelot Andrewes 

Thou, who with thine own mouth hast told us that at midnight the bridegroom shall come: Grant that the cry, “The bridegroom cometh!” may sound evermore in our ears, that so we be never unprepared to meet him, or forgetful of the souls for whom he died, for whom we watch and pray. And save us, O Lord. Amen.

#97. Preparation for Personal Prayer 

Holy Spirit, breath of God and fire of love, I cannot pray without your aid: Kindle in me the fire of your love, and illumine me with your light; that with a steadfast will and holy thoughts I may approach the Father in spirit and in truth; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who reigns with you and the Father in eternal union. Amen.