Thursday, April 8, 2021

100 MPH Review of Matthew's Parables

 

The Parables of Matthew

We just spent 28 weeks working our way through the gospel of Matthew.  In the next service I will give you the 30,000-foot flyover.  In this service we will focus on some of the parables.

A parable sets things in parallel.  I use a form of parallelism which I take things that I know and can explain first hand from the Marine Corps and compare them with some scripture.

I also like to make parallels with sports.  Baseball and football give me the most to work with.  I have yet to use anything from badminton, but I’m not through preaching yet, so don’t write it off.

The man who doubts is like a shuttlecock batted around the court on a windy day. OK, I will probably stick with a wave tossed about the sea.

My baseball and football parallels were of absolutely no value when I went to Africa. I don’t do soccer.  The only year that I watched my daughter play, it looked like a swarm of kids moving all over the field.  I suspected there was a ball in the middle of the swarm.

Jesus was the only person who had walked the earth that had also been in heaven.  He explained things we had never seen or did not understand in terms of things that we had.

Let’s take the Parable of the Sower or the Seed or the Soil, depending on what part you want to emphasize.  Jesus knew that his word was true and that our hearts are so often corrupt, but when our heart is receptive to the word of God, it can produce a fantastic yield.

When our hearts are good soil, the word of God flourishes in us.

Jesus told us that we would struggle in this world.  The Evil One is at work in the work.  The Enemy has sown weeds with the wheat but both will be allowed to grow to the harvest.  As we look at the explanation, there will be a sorting at the end of the age.  God’s angels will sort out his children from amidst the weeds.

It’s for our benefit so we have a chance to grow before the harvest. We should not worry.  God and his angels can tell the difference.

Jesus taught that once you realize what the kingdom of heaven is and that you can live there now, you will do whatever it takes to enter it.  Buy a field to claim its treasure, sell everything to buy a pearl of great value, or pluck the bad fish out of your catch and keep only the good ones.

You can enter the kingdom of heaven now and there will be a sorting at the end of the age.

Jesus explained the kingdom of heaven with the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  This servant had a debt that he could never repay.  He could hit the Powerball lottery and still not have enough to repay the debt; yet his master forgave the debt.

This servant did not pay this forward.  He did not show the same forgiveness as his master.  The master heard about this and restored the debt and executed the punishment. 

God is serious about this forgiveness business.  Check out what Jesus had to say about forgiveness right after he modeled what we call the Lord’s Prayer.

The Parable of the Two Sons is about words and deeds.  One son says he will do what his father wants but doesn’t.  The other says he won’t, but then decides that he will.  Even the knuckleheaded Pharisees understood this one.

It was obviously the one whose actions not words did what the father desired.

The Parables of the Tenants and the Wedding Banquet are likely allegorical with Jews and Gentiles getting their chance to receive the grace of God.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins speaks of being ready.  Remember the Coast Guard motto:  Semper Paratus—Always Ready.

And then we come to the Parable of the Talents.  By now, you should know this one by heart.  I think next year, Matthew 25:14-30 will be one of our memory verses.

What did you do with what God gave you?

Then, of course, we get to the sheep and the goats.  The question that we should ask ourselves is:  What did we do for the least of these brothers and sisters among us? 

What did we do for the least of these?

Jesus humbled himself and stepped out of heaven.  He humbled himself to such an extent that he came as a baby.  He lived as a human lives, needed food and water and shelter and care, but he had known heaven and the kingdom of God.

He wanted to share that with us.  He did that by teaching, preaching, healing, and many miracles but he also put in parallel the things of heaven and things that we understood here on earth.

He wanted us to know and understand the kingdom of God before we got there.  Parables are more than stories with a moral.  They are more than examples.  They open our eyes to see and our ears to hear the things of the kingdom of God and the way of our Lord.

They leave us hungry to learn more.

Amen.

Matthew's Gospel - Yes, All of It!

 

Read Matthew 1-28

If you are here for the first time this morning, this may seem strange to you.  We have just completed an extended study of the gospel of Matthew in which we read one chapter every day for a week and then moved on to the next.  It took 28 weeks, but we finished.

This will be a 30,000 foot flyover.  If you have walked the ground, much will be familiar.  If not, hopefully, you will acquire an appetite to find out more.

Matthew starts with the genealogy and ends with the Great Commission.  It begins with the lineage that comes to Jesus and ends with his disciples going into the world.  That going into the world business includes us today.

The Christmas story gives us Joseph’s dilemma, the visit of the Maji, the escape to Egypt, and the return of young Jesus and his family to Nazareth.

We jump quickly to John the Baptist at the Jordan.  We don’t get to see Jesus at age 12 teaching religious leaders in the temple.  The next thing we know, Jesus was Baptized, his Father in heaven was pleased, and the Spirit flung him out into the wilderness for fasting and temptation.

He lived in Capernaum for a while, but mostly he hit the road preaching the coming of the Kingdom of God.

He called disciples.  Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.  He was not just calling disciples but he began to heal the sick.

Then we come to one of the most famous parts of the New Testament, the Sermon on the Mount which begins with the Beatitudes. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus proclaimed us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  We were never made to go unnoticed, but when people do notice us, it should bring glory to God.

Jesus told those with ears to hear that he did not come to do away with the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.  For those with eyes to see, we know he did just that.  He did what he said he would do. He fulfilled everything required by the law and those things spoken of him as the suffering servant and atoning sacrifice by the prophets.

There is more to come.

Jesus taught about murder, adultery, divorce, and even taking oaths.  He focused more on the condition of the heart than anything else.

He talked about moving beyond an eye for an eye and even loving our enemies.  It sounds crazy.  What’s an enemy for if you can’t hate them?  The blessing of living in this age when we have a more complete story is that we know while we were living as God’s enemies, Christ died to save us.

From that perspective, this whole love your enemies thing seems to be something to which we can at least strive. It might be one of those a man’s reach should exceed his grasp situations, but we should at least be reaching.

Jesus noted that our thoughts and actions and offerings and everything we do should be done for the glory of God.  When we do something or give something and seek gratification from others, we have received our reward in full.

You didn’t store up anything in the kingdom of heaven.  You cashed in on your payout to your ego right now.

Jesus taught that the hypocrites prayed with a lot of fancy-sounding words.  We are to pray with a genuine heart.  He said that our Father in heaven already knows what we need before we ask him, but ask him anyway.  Most of the time, do it as a quiet, personal conversation.

If we fast or do anything out of obedience to God, don’t put on a long face or use your Eeyore voice or go around saying look at me obey God—look at me.  When you obey God, do it with joy in your heart.

We are still in the Sermon on the Mount and we come to verses that we know well.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus continued to explain the relationship with our money or wealth.

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Jesus did not say that we can’t have money, just that it cannot be our master.

Does anyone remember how many hours or days or years we can add to our life by worrying?  Zero.  That’s right, zero.  Worry debilitates.  If you start to worry, stop and pray instead.

We come to some of the toughest words in the Bible.  They are tough because they require us to examine ourselves.  We are better equipped and more inclined to evaluate others, but here is the counsel of our Lord.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

We judge all the time.  We discern all the time.  I make a judgment as to what is better for household use and the budget when I select Ziplock bag sizes. But my judgment must not be a condemning judgment.  I am not to judge another person.

I may decide-discern-make a judgment call that I am not going to witness to the neighborhood drug dealer because I might relapse, but I am directed not to condemn him or her.

I may judge it to be in my best interest not to proclaim the good news in the casino if I have a gambling addiction.  That would be a good boundary for me, but I don’t condemn those who are inside the establishment.  We stand or fall before our Lord.

The next verse is one of the most powerful in the Sermon of the Mount, though some just read over it as some archaic metaphor.  I think it’s much more.

Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

Here’s Tom’s take.  Don’t take the best of what God has entrusted to you and use it for those things that will produce little or no fruit.  Use your best to produce your best.

Ask God for what you need.

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Not everyone will take what Jesus taught and put it into practice.  Some will not know him but others will and will do what he taught and will be like the person who builds their house on solid rock.  It will weather the storm. Your faith put into practice will weather the storm.

At this point in Matthew’s gospel, we are told the people were amazed as Jesus taught with authority, not like the religious hypocrites did.

Jesus healed many, among them was the servant of a Roman Centurion who had faith greater than any Jesus had seen in all of Israel.

Jesus challenged those who said they would follow him with some terse verbiage.  Let the dead bury the dead.  It seems a precursor to why do you look for the living among the dead.

Jesus calmed a storm and healed many including those possessed by demons.  Then, about a third of the way through this gospel, Jesus called Matthew as a disciple.

Jesus saw doubt in John the Baptist and unrepentant cities, yet he stayed the course of his ministry. He noted that all things had been committed to him by the Father, so when we get to the Great Commission and Jesus proclaimed that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him, this wasn’t something new.

The Pharisees and other hypocrites noted that Jesus and his followers didn’t seem to be playing by the Sabbath rules.  Jesus declared to those listening that he is Lord of the Sabbath, then went on to heal a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath.

People didn’t understand that the Sabbath was made for man and not made as a burden to mankind.

The religious hypocrites began thinking about how to stop Jesus.  They tried to tell people that he was from the Devil but Jesus shredded their arguments.  Jesus continued to heal many.

The hypocrites demanded a sign but Jesus had given all sorts of signs and miracles to those with eyes to see.  He told the hypocrites that the only sign they would see was the sign of Jonah.

Then we come to several parables:  seeds and soil, wheat and weeds, and even one based around the mustard seed.

Pearls and hidden treasure as well as a net full of fish described the kingdom of God in parable.

Jesus fed 5000, walked on water, and his disciples worshiped him.  For good measure, he fed another multitude of about 4000.

The hypocrites still demanded a sign.  What they wanted was for Jesus to perform for them on demand.  He must kowtow to their authority if he wanted any support from them.

Jesus warned his disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees and asked his followers who they said he was.  Peter answered for all.  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Sometimes we like to pick on Peter, but he nailed this one.

As we grow closer to his death on the cross, Jesus told his disciples more than once that he must die.  He will be handed over to sinful men and he will be killed.  OBTW—he also told his followers that he would rise from the dead.

Jesus gave his disciples and gives us these words that we would be wise to heed.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

We are 17 chapters into Matthew’s gospel and Jesus is transfigured and Peter, James, and John see a brief glimpse of his coming glory.  Moses and Elijah make a cameo appearance as well.  We generally see them as representing the law and the prophets.  Perhaps this was a final coordination meeting.  Jesus said that he would fulfill all the law and the prophets.  It would have been prudent to check before heading to the cross.

The disciples wondered about greatness in God’s kingdom and Jesus told those with ears to hear that if you wanted entry into that kingdom, you must become more like a child.  Think of becoming eager just to be in your Master’s presence.  Think about the excitement for the things of life.  Think of having a teachable spirit instead of the desire to prove what you think to be correct.  We must come as a child.

Jesus taught some things that seemed harsh and we often consider them to be hyperbole, but the underlying truth is present in both the literal and figurative application.

It’s better to get into heaven missing a hand and an eye that to be the epitome of fitness and health and be destined for hell.

We see Matthew’s account of the lost sheep and the direction of our Master to forgive much more than we thought we could forgive.

Jesus gave more parables and teaching and then reminded his disciples of his death and resurrection to come.  That’s three times recorded in this gospel.

Again, the topic of service emerges and Jesus noted that he did not come to be served but to serve.  Follow his example.

And it was finally time to enter Jerusalem as a king, riding on the colt of a donkey to shouts of Hosanna and Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Jesus became angry at the den of thieves that his Father’s house had become.  As he turned over tables and caused quite a stir, the religious hypocrites puffed up and asked just who are you to do this?

Had they known, it would have been difficult for Jesus to get to the cross.  The ignorance of the leaders paved the path to the cross and God’s sacrifice for our sins.

There are more parables.  This last week was full of prime-time teaching.  The hypocrites tried to best Jesus before throwing in the towel on this method and just deciding to kill him.

Is it legal to pay taxes to Caesar?  Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.

Whose wife will she be at the resurrection?  There is a resurrection and this question will not be relevant.  We won’t be angels, but we will be like them.  There is a resurrection.

Which is the greatest commandment?  Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got and the second is like it.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.

When we get to chapter 23, the hypocrites know better than to ask Jesus anything.  Jesus, however, found it time to chastise these hypocrites who would recruit a new follower then make him like a son of hell for all of the requirements they heaped on him.

These hypocrites wanted to look good on the outside while paying no attention to what was going on inside.  Whitewashed tombs!

Chapter 24 is the short course on eschatology.  Do not be deceived.  Deception in the end times will be so great that even those who follow Jesus will have to muster everything they have to stay strong to the end.

As we continue, Jesus used more parables to describe the end of the age.  Among these is my favorite, the Parable of the Talents and my deduced question.

What did you do with what God gave you?

We all want to hear:  Well done good and faithful servant.

We surely do not want to hear: I never knew you.  Ouch!

For those with eyes to see what we are to do and who do it, we also hope to hear:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

Jesus was anointed at Bethany, betrayed in the garden at Gethsemane, put through a kangaroo court in which he would not defend himself. He said nothing that would acquit him of the manufactured charges.  He would go to the cross and die for our sins.

It was a brutal death but Jesus gave up his life freely for us.  He could have summoned legions of angels and put a stop to this nonsense, except that these impossible actions and verdicts were necessary to get the unblemished Lamb of God to the altar on which he would shed his blood for us.  Jesus would get to the cross.

He suffered.  He died, and we know what’s next.  On the third day he rose again.  Along the way, the sky turned black for 3 hours.  There was an earthquake.  The curtain of the temple was torn top to bottom, and just for good measure, some righteous people emerged from their graves.

The Roman Centurion that oversaw the execution noted:  Surely this was the Son of God.

There isn’t a lot in Matthew’s gospel following the resurrection, but the gospel concludes with the Great Commission.  The end of Matthew’s gospel brings us to the beginning of our discipleship, service, and evangelism.

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Some will hear this message and think, “Wow that was a lot.”  Other’s will say, “But you left out so much.”

It remains for your reading at any time.  The messages that were given are provided online.  The commission that we have been given remains in effect.

Don’t just say, “Yeah we went through Matthew.”  Put the words that you heard from your Master to work at once.  Build your house on solid rock.  Produce a return for your Master.

Fulfill your commission!

Amen.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

No Angelic Explanation

 

Read John 20:1-9

Today we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord.

Up from the grave He arose,

With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,

He arose a Victor from the dark domain,

And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose!

Hallelujah! Christ arose!

We could just say Amen and go eat lunch.  The atonement took place on the cross.  The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world was slain for us.

He was given the best burial possible in the time available, but the atoning sacrifice was complete.  It was finished.

God had done for us what we could not do for ourselves.  He made us right with him by the blood of his one and only Son, Christ Jesus.

And all of the disciples knew exactly what had happened or maybe not so much.  John’s account begins with Mary Magdalene going to the tomb.

It was early on the first day of the week.  She could have come at sunset the day before, but who travels at night to a tomb?

Was she alone?  We don’t know.  Other gospels mention more than one woman heading to the tomb, even having conversation along the way about who should roll the stone away.

Those women and conversations are not mentioned here. What is mentioned is that Mary arrived at an empty tomb and rushed back to Peter and another disciple whom we believe to be John the gospel’s author.

She proclaimed that Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!   Here’s the full transcript.

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!

Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!

Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!

Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

I think Mary was on a roll.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!

Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!

Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!

Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

OK, that’s not exactly what Mary said.  Actually, she imputed her own thoughts into her observation.  Of course, we have never done that.

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

See saw an empty tomb but she reported that somebody had taken him.  She even reported who took him.  Who?

They took him. The notorious they took their Lord from the tomb.

What could be done?  Peter and John raced to the tomb.  John got their first but stopped at the entrance.  Peter caught up and went straight in. John followed.

They saw the cloth that had been wrapped around his head and other strips of linen used to encase his body, but there was no body.

John’s account noted that they saw and believed but did not yet understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead.

What did they believe?  Mary’s report.  He was not there.

What did they not yet understand?  The grave could not hold the Son of God.  He had told them before but they did not understand.

They did not understand.  There were no angels to explain things.  There is no account of Roman soldiers in shock.  There is no mention of an earthquake and no angel sitting on top of the stone that used to cover the entrance.

Jesus was gone.  Mary said they took him.  The two disciples saw parts of the burial material.  If someone took the body, why unravel the linen?

These men having rushed to the tomb and seen it empty with only the linen remaining, surely had more questions than answers.

It seems like there’s never an angel around when you need one, so these two men went back to where they were staying.

Imagine not knowing what happened.  Imagine trying to make sense of everything Jesus had told them while he was with them.  Imagine thoughts of the religious hypocrites getting their hands on the body. 

One thing our human minds do with great skill is to imagine the worst.  Absent all the facts, our human nature often imagines the worst.

Have you ever done this?  It is our human nature to imagine the worst.  It’s not our new nature, but it is our sinful human nature with which we still wrestle.

While this account is different in many ways from the other gospels, explanations do come. Mary returned to the tomb and two angels talked with her.  She departed and met Jesus along the way, though she did not recognize him until he called her by name.

The men had to wait until that evening when Jesus entered a locked room and appeared to them.  Thomas was gone but Jesus would catch up with him later. 

Imagine going through the worst Sabbath Day ever.  Imagine the thoughts racing through the minds of these two disciples and then all of them after their report.  Imagine the worst-case scenario possible.

And then Jesus appeared to the disciples. 

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!

Shock, joy, surprise, elation, and surely some disbelief as to their Master standing in their presence had to overwhelm these men in an instant.

They had surely believed the worst-case scenario but God had delivered the best-case scenario. 

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.

The disciples lived the story of salvation moment-to-moment.  We know the whole story. 

Christ who is God lived as a man.

He fulfilled prophecy as prescribed through so many prophets.

He was an unblemished Lamb.

He was slain for our sins.  By his blood we are cleansed.

That’s a big story right there.  That’s our salvation right there.  You think that the day Jesus died for us on the cross would be our big celebration.

But that was not the end of the story.  The sacrificial lamb does not get to live.  He didn’t.  Christ died for our sins.  He really suffered and died for us.

But that was not the end of the story.  Verified dead by the soldier at the cross, Jesus was placed in a tomb before sunset and the onset of the Sabbath.  Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea did what they could for the body of Jesus.  Time was short, but there was no doubt that Jesus was dead.

The Lamb of God was sacrificed for our sins. But that was not the end of the story. 

He arose a Victor from the dark domain,

And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.

We are those saints!

Today we don’t sing a dirge.  We don’t mourn.  We know the story and the sacrifice and the resurrection of Christ the Lord and we sing it with joy in our hearts.

He arose! He arose!

Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Today we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. In his resurrection is the promise of ours.  We may have life, life abundant, and surely life eternal with God.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,

Because He lives, all fear is gone,

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living,

Just because He lives!

Amen.

 

Sunrise Service - Why do you look for the living among the dead?

 Read Luke 24

Why do you look for the living among the dead?

By the evidence of all that these women knew, Jesus was dead.  That’s why they came. That’s why they brought spices.  What else could they expect?

The facts as they knew them were that Jesus was dead and they needed to finish the work of tending to the dead.  This would be their final act of devotion.

This would be their last act of service to their Lord.  How could it be anything else.

Some years later, Paul wrote to the church in Rome telling them not to conform to the patterns of this world any longer.

These women—as well as the men—were conformed to the patterns of the world.  He had no more blood left in him.  He had no breath.  The spear pierced his side.  He was dead.  Dead is dead.  There was nothing left to do but to prepare the body the right way.

Or so the ways of the world would tell them.  What else could they go by?

How about the words of their Master that on the third day he would rise?  Would these not set their expectations?  Should they have not expected to find an empty tomb?

He told them ahead of time that he would be turned over to the religious hypocrites, then to other sinful men who would cause him to suffer and die.

He gave his life willingly as our atoning sacrifice, but he described how it would all be played out including rising from the dead.

The angels spoke to the women.

The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.

How could they not know?  They remembered the words of Jesus after the angel told them, but the patterns of the world still told them that he was dead.

They told the disciples and Peter rushed to the tomb, found it with only strips of linen within, and could not figure out what happened.

He wondered to himself what had happened. 

We can beat these people up over their disbelief and failure to remember what Christ himself said while he was with them, but they lived this story moment-to-moment. 

We never walked the earth following Jesus all over Judea and Galilee, even Samaria.  We did not sit at his feet and learn from him.  We were not there for the feeding of the multitudes or the healing of so many.

But we know the whole story.  We know of his life, death, and resurrection and are without excuse as to what to believe.

But how many times do we conform ourselves to the patterns of the world.

The past couple of years have been interesting.  Life has changed for everyone.  Even if you did very few things differently, so many around you have been drinking the Kool-Ade and even selling it.

Fear is all around you.  Fear governs the decisions of so many.

Personal connections among so many have lessened significantly.

There is a quiet dichotomy working its way through the world.  Are you made in the image of God or just a carrier of contagion that must be contained and controlled?

It is a subtle dichotomy, unnoticed by most.

This is a time where it seems that the very fabric of our Constitution is under attack.  We must realize that while many of the Framers of this incredible document were Christians; our form of government was not promised to us by God.

Trust me, God was in the framework of this nation.  He was working through the men who forged this nation.  You doubt it?  Read our Declaration of Independence for the apologetics.

Look for it in the Bible and you have to go to the Book of Second Opinions.

Look at the world.  We have been so protected for so long.  Christianity has never really been contrary to the norms of our society until recently.

Being American and being Christian seemed to go hand-in-hand for so long that people thought that I’m American; therefore, I must be Christian. 

Now we see that the world was trying very hard to conform us to its patterns.  It did a good job. 

Our minds are easily swayed and they should be our first line of defense against the wiles of the enemy.

Whoa!  Hold your holy horses there Tom.  We got up early to celebrate resurrection, not listen to all of this doom and gloom.

This brings us to this question.  What are we looking for early in the morning?

Worldly evidence or the promises of God?

There is plenty of the former, most of it is not good news; but it is the latter that comes with the power of God.

Have we come to prepare a dead body or to have Christ live in us?

Jesus said that we would have trouble in the world.  We are not to be discouraged but to take courage for he has overcome the world.

Don’t show up early in the morning to sing He Arose then go home to focus on the darkness and the storm.

We know the story.  We are commissioned to tell the story.

We are to be God’s light in these dark times.

We are to be the salt—the God seasoning of the earth.

We know the story.  Let’s live as people who know the story, remember and believe the promises of Jesus, and want to be known by our love.

Let’s stop looking for the living among the dead.

He lives!  Let us live out his promises, our commission, and be known as his disciples by our love.

Ame

Community Worship Service - What will we do in response to God's great love?

 

Up from the grave he arose

We are celebrating resurrection this weekend.  We should do it every weekend, but this one is special.

We celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead.  He died for our sins and rose from the dead.  Hallelujah!

Jesus paid it all.  All to him I owe.

Sin had left a crimson stain.  He washed it white as snow.

That’s a powerful message right there.  God, through Jesus, did everything required to make us right with him.  He did it all!

Will we receive this most blessed gift?  I’m preaching to those who have.

Why am I preaching to you folks?  You know the story.

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best

Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest;

Every year, we still long to hear the story of Jesus and his love.  What a wonderful story to celebrate.  God really does love us.  We long to hear the story.

But having heard the story over and over again, what will we do?

If I am speaking, preaching, or just talking with a new group, I like to bring forth 3 questions.

How long will God love us?

How much does God love us?

What are you going to do about it?

Jeremiah 31:3 tells us that God loves us with an everlasting love.  I like The Message version.  I have never stopped loving you and never will.  Expect love, love, and more love.

John 3:16-17 tell us how much God loves us. 

John 13:34-35 tells us what to do in response to God’s great love.  Be known as his disciples by our love.

Let’s look at our response to God’s great love.  How can we be known by our love?

In John 13, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  This was a job for the most junior servant.  I think most of the disciples were in shock.  Peter couldn’t comprehend what his Master was doing, but when Jesus told him this is a with me or against me moment, Peter was all in.

Jesus showed his closest followers what love looked like.  It looked like service.  Service opens doors in all directions. 

Well, I don’t speak well in front of people.  How do you work behind a broom?

I don’t think I can organize something like that.  Can you take directions from someone who can?

Sometimes, service is the perfect opportunity to realize our gifts.  I didn’t know that I could be an organizer.  I didn’t know how easy it was for me to talk to people about God’s love.

Sometimes we just pitch in and help 10 other people clean up someone’s yard or fix a window or make a big meal.

Here is what Jesus said about service. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed to do them.

Now that you know what to do, do these things and be blessed.

Jesus talked about more than service.  He talked about a real relationship with God.  As Jesus was in the Father, so too was the Father in him.

He told his disciples to have that same relationship with him.  I am in you.  You are in me.

You want to know the Father?  Know me and you will know him. The Father and I are one.

How do we respond to God’s great love?  We serve.  We grow closer to God.  We stay connected to him as a fruit producing vine does with its branches.

But there is more, and it is a big more.  If you are from the CPC, you hear this a bunch from me, and you will hear it again now.  We are commissioned to take the gospel to the world.  We are commissioned.

We come to the last section of the last chapter in Matthew’s gospel.  The disciples went up a mountain and met Jesus.  Some believed and some doubted.  That’s a statement on our human nature for sure, but Jesus commissioned his followers nonetheless.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We not only serve.  We not only grow closer to God.  We take the love of God into the world.

The authority by which we are commissioned is the authority of God, given fully to Christ Jesus.

A portion of that authority is transferred to us.  We not only follow God’s directions.  We do so with his authority.  We are his commissioned.  Specifically, we are commissioned to three things.

Make disciples.  Yes, that’s recruiting.  We share life and life abundant and life eternal through Jesus Christ.  We don’t ask people to follow us.  We invite them to follow him. 

We invite people to join us on our journey of discipleship.

Next, we come to baptize.  People need to be baptized as a public statement of what is going on internally.  Profess Jesus before men and Jesus will stand with you before the Father.  Baptism is a very public profession.

Today, most of your church doctrine wants an ordained minister to baptize.  Not all require this, but out commission cannot be fulfilled without baptism.  These new disciples need to get to know the pastor, so just let them know, we have plenty of towels.

The third component is teach.  Yes, we are to teach other disciples.  We teach what we know.  James warns us against all wanting to be teachers.  There is an extra standard of accountability that goes with being a teacher. 

Jesus warned us against being called teacher or rabbi, but we are all to teach.

Can you not teach another that Jesus loves you?  How?  Testimonies are good.

Can you not teach another John 3:16-17?  Memorizing Bible verses is good.

Can you not teach someone the Lord’s Prayer?  Just learn it and teach it as it is in the Bible and then spend some time with new believers understanding what it means.

If you are a new believer, perhaps you don’t want to begin with a discussion of the metaphors of atonement.  That would make for a good discussion at the Ministerial Alliance meeting.

You can teach.  Some may be gifted as teachers. 

We are commissioned with Christ’s authority which is from the Father himself, to make disciples, baptize, and teach.  We are commission to make disciples, baptize, and teach.

And God did not say:  Good luck with that.  We do not go into the world alone.  Surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.

Jesus intercedes for us with the Father.  The Spirit is within us and beside us.  God is for us.  We are not on our own to fulfill our commission.

So how to we respond to God’s great love that we know best in the sacrifice of his one and only Son on the cross?

We are known by his love.  That looks like service most of the time.

And next we do two things that include being connected to Jesus like a vine on a branch, growing closer to him, and taking the gospel to the world.

These two things will identify me as an old timer because we old-timers used to say this all the time.

Know him and make him known.

We are known as his disciples by his love and that love looks like service a whole bunch of the time.

We are to know him and make him know.

Amen.