Sunday, April 29, 2018

Of Love and Vines and abiding

Acts 8:24-30    Psalm 22:24-30   1 John 4:7-21   John 15:1-8

The Father has revealed to us, these last few weeks, that we continue the ministry of the Lord Jesus. Jesus breathes into us the Holy Spirit power to forgive sins. Jesus gives us His Name to heal and save. Today's Gospel offers another image: Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches." Branches cannot bear fruit unless they abide in the vine. This is theosis--a human branch shares in the life and identity of the vine, but it is not the vine. We must abide in the vine, that is, be connected at the heart level with Jesus.

The Greek word,  meno is translated as abide, remain, stay, and dwell. The letters and Gospel of John repeatedly use this word, often to describe our relationship with the Trinity: living in God and God living in us.

Let us pause and listen...
Jesus says: "Abide in Me as I abide in you."
Jesus says, "You cannot bear fruit unless you abide in me."
Jesus says. "Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit." Jesus says, "Those who do not abide in me end up being dead branches, thrown into the fire."
Jesus said, "If you abide in me your prayers will be answered."

We hear the same call to abide in the First Letter of John today.

"God is love and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him."
"love one another for love is of God....if we love one another, God lives in us..."
God abides in those who confess Jesus is the son of God and they abide in God.

Love is the gateway to theosis--human love in response to divine love--open us to receive God and be transformed. God is even secretly present in the lives of those who do not know Him. All genuine love is a participation in God. It is easy to forget this part of the Gospel message. Salvation is God's will for all people. However, the prescribed way of theosis/salvation is a conscious response to His invitation. The Christian life style is like a grapevine. We are aware that we rely on God for our life. We know God is the source of our conversion and ministry. As we become more deeply connected, by abiding in Him, His life giving love is the healing power which flows through us and produces fruit.

Fruit is our own transformation--a work of the Holy Spirit with which we cooperate. Fruit is also the effects of the ministry of Jesus in and through us: forgiving sins, healing and delivering folks from satan, teaching and reconciling--raising the dead and giving them Life in Jesus' Name...

Jesus does it. If we abide in Jesus then it will happen through us. The vineyard is under attack by the world and by Satan. Our branch is at risk because of our sinful hearts and darkened minds. It is harder and harder for branches to abide in the vine. 

Last week I invited you to deepen your spirituality by praying the Jesus prayer. I hope you are doing some type of spiritual exercises. Prayer is a key component to abiding in Jesus. That is the first task. If we love Him and abide in Him, then the fruits will happen automatically. We will be made holy. We will be a tool of salvation for others. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Power of Jesus Name

Acts of the Apostles 4:5-12   Psalm 23   1 John 3:16-24   John 10:11-18

Last week we read that a crippled man begged Peter and John for alms. They replied, "I have no money, but I do have the power of Jesus’ Name. Stand up and walk." When an excited crowd gathered, Peter called them to repentance and faith in Jesus. The temple authorities arrested them for preaching Jesus. The leaders ask: "By what power or by what name did you do this?"

In the Bible a name reveals the essence of a person. The name is the person. The Hebrew word for salvation, yeshuah, is also Jesus’ name. His name is “salvation.” He is salvation. Name is identity.

When the temple authorities ask, “By what name did you do this?” what they means is “who has authorized you?” Peter’s response is, "We belong to Jesus and share His power." Anything we do in Jesus' name is a declaration that we belong to Him. It is a profession of faith that Jesus is salvation.

The power of Jesus’ Name is Jesus Himself within us healing us as we are healed, His power then should pour out of us into others. We are all mortally wounded by Sin and Death. Our mind/nous and heart are broken. We cannot save ourselves; the Word Incarnate and Holy Spirit do, but we must synergistically cooperate. The faithful Ancient Church has told us to pray* the name Jesus. We love and trust Him. We obey Him. We lives as His servants. We pray His name, over and over and over. This "Jesus Prayer" opens our mind and heart to healing. It is also our submission to Him as Lord. Pray: Lord Jesus, mercy. Lord Jesus, save me. Pray it, over and over, until your mind and heart are healed, until He lives in you and you in Him.

The power of Jesus’ Name can also heal others through us. We have His power within us. We can forgive sins in His Name. We heal can the sick in His Name. We can set people free in His Name. We can because He does it. Remember Peter said, “It is Jesus who heals, not our own piety or power.”

“In His Name” means “Jesus in us.” The Name is the Person. This is why theosis matters. There are reasons why praying in “His Name” seems ineffective. Too much fear, doubt, sin; the world and the devil fight hard. Christians keep Jesus at a distance. The power of Jesus within us will increase as our own union with Him increases. Remember, Jesus and the apostles do not pray for people, they command health, deliverance, and salvation. They do not doubt, but our broken minds and broken hearts are rarely up to the task. Our relationship is tenuous, our theosis incomplete. We ask Jesus to take care of the things He has sent us to do.

Let us consider this analogy. A parent sends the teenager to clean their room. After two hours the child returns with a list of things in the room which are out of order. Does the parent then use the list to clean the room? NO, they send the child back. "I sent you to clean the room," says the parent. God sent Jesus to save the world, and Jesus sends us to clean things up. "Go in my name and do what I do," Jesus commands us. Our response is prayer lists, divine 'to-do' lists loaded with all manner of human misery and suffering. When the man asked Peter for alms, did Peter say, "I have no money but I can put you on the prayer list!" When Jesus preached to the crowds did He invite them to put their names on a prayer list? No. Jesus and His apostles commanded health. How should we pray our prayer lists? With authority in Jesus Name (in Jesus) with faith we send His power to heal. We do not beg, doubt or fear. IN Jesus, WITH Jesus we do the ministry of Jesus. 

If we faithfully pray the Jesus prayer, the Holy Spirit will faithfully heal and sanctify us. His Name, Jesus Himself, we be the power within us. God’s goal for each of us is to have “a Peter and John moment”—to be healed and heal others in Jesus’ Name.

*for more information see here:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Torah, Temptation and Testing

The Anglican Way is deeply shaped by the Benedictine mindset. In decaying Rome, St. Benedict gathered Christians into community to pray and worship, to study and work--to live fully human lives in a daily rhythm together focused on emptying the self of sin and ego by loving God and those with whom one lives.

The monks gathered seven times a day, praying the psalms and reading from Scripture, offering themselves to the Lord. It is a plodding spirituality, which recognizes life is a process during which, by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit slowly sanctifies us and makes us one with the Lord.

Today we pray Psalm 37 and read from Exodus, Colossians and Matthew. We are have been, and will be, reading these three for a while.

The Exodus reading, chapter 20, is one of the most important in the Bible. It recounts the culmination of Israel's desert journey to the fulfillment of God's promise. Israel has been rescued from Egypt, but already the lack of faith has been manifest as the slaves bicker with Moses (and by extension with God) about the lack of food and drink. The Lord (YHWH) provides manna (bread), meat and water. The process of learning faithful trust is a long one. God had told Moses that the people would gather in the spot where He manifested Himself to Moses--and now they are there. Filled with fear, however, they ask Moses to intercede. Fear and doubt are the troubling adversaries of human life. The people keep God at arms length (even as today we do the same). The ten commandments summarize a more extensive communication of laws, commands and dictates to be found in the books which follow. My favorite translation of TORAH is instruction. God provides instructions to the people on how to live with one another and how to love and serve their God. The blessings promised for obedience include a special relationship with God as His people, and prosperous life in the land. The earthiness of the covenant reminds us that God made the world and it is good, and it is in this world that we encounter Him.

The "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" are familiar to us and we should understand that compliance is of benefit to all people. The last word--no coveting--is a foretaste of Jesus' teachings; sin is a matter of the heart, it is the passions (deadly desires) within us which defile us and cut us off from God. Since Cain, God has warned all people--the battle ground is our heart and the greatest challenge is our own conversion. The problem is sinners sin and we are always tempted to project onto others the problems of the world.

This leads us to Matthew's temptation/testing account. While Mark says Jesus was tempted/tested in the desert (forty days in the desert a symbolic reference to Israel's sojourn), Matthew adds three concrete examples. (Luke, in slightly different order does the same)
The Greek word means tested and tempted. Jesus is recapitulating the life of Israel in His own person. Satan appeals to proof. IF you are the Son of God... IF!

The problem of unbelief is no proof is sufficient. There is much speculation about what Satan does and does not know about Jesus and His identity. It is beyond me to add much to that. But clearly, Satan is working on Jesus from the inside. Make stones bread, maybe this is the dark side of the multiplication of the loaves? "Jesus," says the Dark Prince, "use your power to feed the masses!" Such a temptation is appealing and Jesus did feed the masses (once, maybe twice) even as God fed Israel manna. But Jesus understands there is a deeper hunger within the human heart--man cannot survive on bread alone, but on God's word. This is no pious dismissal of human hunger, but it is an insightful reminder that even when food needs are met, there is a far greater need to address.

Satan twists 'faith' telling Jesus to jump off the temple because Scripture says God will save Him. This is the literalist dilemma. "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." So the devil finds a verse and invites us to "act in faith." There is no easy way to determine how best to understand each verse--but Jesus provides another insight. "Do not test God." Life is life. God is not a magician, nor is He at our beck and call. Life is complex. There are rules in place (like gravity) and in general, jumping off of Temple pinnacles results in bone shattering death. (The apostle James will be martyred in such a way.) Yes, the Scriptures in places say that God will protect and defend His people--that no harm shall come upon them. But one must read the deeper meaning, avoiding a simplistic literalism which causes us to tempt God.

Lastly, Satan offers Jesus the world if He will worship the Evil One. We are offered the same thing. Arguably, secular culture has given in to this temptation. No place for God. No need for faith. Pursuing wealth, power and pleasure. Most Christians I know (starting with me) have given in to this one. The world's allure is subtle. It presents as needs, our every want and desire. To love and obey and worship God is against our (fallen) nature. We may have naturally done so in the beginning, but since sin entered the world and our hearts, we have lost our natural bearings. We hunger and desire the wrong things, worship the wrong gods, embrace the wrong values.

God gives a covenant to His people with a promise. His people are those who love, trust and obey Him. Some thirteen hundred years later, God sends His Son to do for us what we cannot, will not, do for ourselves. Jesus passes the test. Jesus rebukes the tempter. Jesus calls us to embrace the new covenant--to love, trust and obey Him. One who faithfully followed, Benedict of Nursia, provides a handy rule for living this out. One day at a time. Praying psalms, reading Scripture, working in the world, studying, and living with others. It is a simple, but not easy, way of life. It is based on covenant. It is based on the struggle with temptation testing. It is based on faith in God's hand to deliver. It is life in Jesus Christ until Jesus Christ returns and the Kingdom, in all its glory, shines within and around us all.   

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Youth Sermon 5:00 Saturday Kaitlyn


I was born and raised in St. Andrew’s, baptized by Father Jeff (and I claim credit for bringing him to the church), and a member of the EYC for nearly five years. My childhood was shaped by the church, by Christian teachings, by the Bible, by my family’s beliefs. Like so many children, I had Christian influences all around. But something happens in teenagers. Church attendance gradually decreases. By college, 70% of Christian teens stop attending services. 34% of those never return to the church. Why does everything change so much, even after a lifetime of Sunday services, youth group meetings, and involvement?

            Recently, I started believing it’s pretty similar to why I didn’t run on my high school’s track team this year. After three seasons of track and three seasons of cross country, I was, as we athletes like to say, “burned out.” I have such fond memories of all my experiences on these teams, but, eventually, every practice became a chore. It was not enjoyable. My passion for running was warped by my need to compete and perform perfectly at all times. At first, I loved the thrill of competing. The runner’s high. The comradery. But I couldn’t live up to those standards I set in my mind, and my love for running was slowly stripped away, until all that was left were memories of the days when running was effortless (although I know there are some serious rose-colored glasses in those memories). Every run felt like a failure. So, I decided to return to my original passion: running for the sake of running. No obligations, no expectations, no stress.

            Basically, that story seems to parallel Christian faith in children. At first, it’s easy, and you don’t realize its significance, because it’s just what you do. You get out of bed on Sunday mornings, put on your good clothes, and go to church with your parents (or grandparents, as is the case with me and many other kids in our church). Then, as you begin to realize what being Christian truly is, you join groups and want to excel at this concept of being Christian. You attend all the services, like always, like a habit, and add in other meetings and service projects. But, at some point in high school or college, life outside the church takes up more time. You start to stress about planning around church. Maybe you just start skipping it entirely. School, work, and friends are all important things, and you feel like you can’t balance everything. Church becomes a chore. You crave that time years ago when you committed to God and felt faith well up in you, but everything falls short now. Stress builds and builds, and something has to change. The “right” solution to this situation is to take a step back, reevaluate your faith, prioritize God. But we all have trouble making “right” decisions.

            Falling away from God seems to be easier for people; the world we can see, taste, and touch is much easier to believe in. That’s why, after years of following Jesus, witnessing every miracle, the disciples had trouble believing he came back to life. You’d think they might suspect after he brought Lazarus back to life that he probably had the power to bring himself back. But the lost and grieving find it hard to believe in the truths of yesterday. In the readings from Acts and Luke, both Peter and Jesus call us to be witnesses of the Truth. And the truth is hard to swallow¾hence the high dropout rate for teenagers, who are still trying to find their place in the world.

            But there is good news in all this: many do come back. Maybe they switch denominations. Maybe they discover a new church. Maybe a little change is good for the soul. Some people can feel the same overwhelming love for God every minute of every day. Most can’t. Sometimes, we all just need to take a step back and remember that first mission trip or an inspirational sermon or that day when everything went right, and you never thought you’d stop feeling that overwhelming love for God.

            Humans have always been afraid of the unknown. And for us, Heaven is unknown and intangible. Yet, Jesus is there with us, behind locked doors and through our times of doubt, to remind us of how even he could become tangible. If he is real, then his mercy is real. His love is real. Even when we run away, our heavenly home awaits.

Youth Sermon 8:30 Josh and Veronica

When the disciples saw Jesus they were afraid and did not believe. Even though Jesus was standing right in front of them they still had their doubts. Jesus said to them “touch me and see” for the disciples needed more than just to look to believe, they needed to feel the wounds but still did not fully believe. Like the disciples we sometimes reject Jesus. We don’t put our full trust in him as we should. It is easy to find other reasonings for the works of Jesus because we are surrounded by non-believers, who weaken our faith. We live in a broken world and want to do things our way, a sinful way. Jesus blesses us day after day and we push him away. Barabbas was chosen by the crowd, over Jesus Christ, to be released by Pontius Pilate, just as we choose temptation and sin over Jesus. It’s crazy to think that we have a Father who gives us endless love and blessings and we don’t appreciate it, but we do it all the time without even knowing it. As many times as we reject Jesus he will never reject us. He will always love us and forgive us. We push him away but he takes us in. We are broken but can always be healed by him and only him. We need to cut out all other idols because God is all we need and he will wipe away all of our sins.

            As Christians, we are children of God, therefore,we must turn from sin and do what is right because “everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.”  We are made in God’s image so we must strive to act more like God and bring others closer to him. It is time to put our past behind us and move forward to live for God with strong faith and trust in him.


Good morning, many of y'all know me as Josh's girlfriend but I feel like this is a great time to properly introduce myself. My name is Veronica Morelli and I've been coming here for about two years now. Originally, I was catholic but my parents aren't very religious people so I choose to come here every Sunday. I consider this place MY church. Based on my background, you can say I wasn't very exposed to God's light and God's power early on in my childhood. I had a great childhood, but I didn't see God as a part of it. Now I see the world in a brand new perspective and I never want to go back to the way I thought before. When I sat down to write this I read the reading over and over again and waited for something to stand out and it didn't take very long for me to see it: Doubt. Jesus was standing right in front of the disciples and yet they had doubt. They know of his miracles and of his power yet they were scared and frightened. Is this just human nature? Before this, I thought it was just our current society where everyone seems to doubt God, but I was wrong. Some of the first people to even Jesus alive again couldn't believe their eyes when he was there, standing right in front of them. Which is understandable-it was Jesus-he was supposed to be dead. But why were they frightened and terrified? And after he proved himself, they were still in disbelief! Why would we distrust a man who sacrificed his life for us? We trust normal everyday people yet we don't have the decency to put our hearts in God's hands and let him lead the way for us; the only time we do is when we've given up. We say "here, God, I can't do this anymore, it's your turn to help." We should never let ourselves stoop so low; instead we should put everything we have into God. It's his path he's creating for each and everyone of us, and when something goes wrong, we have to take His eraser and get rid it. It's hard to listen to an 18 year old girl who has only really known about God and his light for two years, but hear me out. Don't be scared of what's to come. Instead of fretting and complaining and worrying,  pray. Pray that God will lead you down the right path. Pray that God will fill you with his light. Pray that God will keep your loved ones safe. Ultimately, pray that God will help you find your way through the  is world full of sin and ignorance. As I say this, I realize I should take my own advice. About 6 months ago is when I truly fell in love with Jesus. 6 months ago I knew something in me was different. And if it can happen to me, a little girl who has only gotten through half of Genesis in her bible, it can happen to you, no matter who you are.   

Youth Sermon 10:30: Daniel

Good Morning Everybody! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Daniel Hancock, and I am a senior here at St. Andrew’s. I have been going to this church my whole life. I was baptized right there by that guy. I was also confirmed right here. I spent a week out of every summer coming to Vacation Bible School. I even wore the Hot Dog costume, which was way too big for me, in front of the St. Andrew’s Weenie Wagon at the Fair on the Square. As I grew older, I joined the youth group here and I have so many stories and memories with that amazing group of people, that I could never pick one to talk about today. As a sophomore in high school, I attended a youth retreat called Happening that changed my life. Shortly after going through, I applied for Happening staff and three years later, I have been a part of six different Happenings, changing the lives of over 100 high schoolers who went through like I did. I look back and I remember when I was 5 years old and I was singing in the children’s choir and I would stand right here and instead of focusing on the singing I would just swing from the bannisters while just kind of mumbling the words and I would look up and see my Mom shooting me that Mom look that means “Stop it! Sit still.” I probably ignored that look. But when I think back at all those little moment growing up here, I never thought I’d be here today, standing in front of this congregation, and giving this sermon. I am so thankful that I took part in so many things here at this church because in doing so, I have learned so much about God and Jesus, but what I only realized recently was my newfound understanding of what the Holy Spirit is.

          Growing up I knew who God and Jesus were. I learned every Sunday morning in Sunday School while trying to beat the record for how many doughnuts I could eat before it was time to leave. (My record is 8) However, the one thing I never understood was the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know what it was. I had no idea. And I never asked about it because none of the other kids asked about it. I figured they already knew and I just missed that lesson. So, growing up, I was kind of fuzzy about what the Holy Spirit was, and it wasn’t until recently that I realized not only what it was, but that it has been all around me my entire life.

          Over the years, I have been involved in numerous programs and trips that are designed to promote service, a sense of community, and most importantly, a closer relationship with God. I have gone on six mission trips with our youth group here and on those trips I have had some of the most amazing experiences while strengthening relationships with people I already knew and starting new relationships with folks I met there. And on those trips, while at camp we would have morning and evening program. At the programs we would sing, and play games, and worship God. My favorite part was the singing, even though I cannot carry a tune to save my life. But what I loved about it was standing in that high school gym with 500 other people, and all of us singing as loud as we could and just praising our amazing God. Thinking about that moment and what I felt in that gym still gives me goosebumps to this day.

          I have also been fortunate enough to have gotten involved in a group at school called Young Life. Now, Young Life works with teens to help them strengthen their relationship with God. With young life, I went on trips to young life camps where we have lots of fun and learn even more about strengthening our faith. Last summer, I was fortunate enough to go to Crooked Creek Ranch in Fraser, Colorado.  It was here that I had an experience that allowed me to understand the Holy Spirt like I never had before.  The last night we were there, in middle of the Colorado Rockies, they sent us out to find somewhere to sit on the ground, just around camp, and they told us to listen and talk to God. What they didn’t tell us is that they were going to turn off every light in camp. You would think it would be so dark you couldn’t see anything, but there were so many stars and moon above us was so full and bright, it felt like daytime. So, I went and sat on a little cliff that looked out over a valley with the mountains on the other side. And I did as I was told and listened. For those thirty minutes that I sat there. I heard God and really felt the Holy Spirit in me and all around camp that night. I got chills and was even brought to tears and could not believe the love I felt in that moment.

          Earlier, I mentioned my involvement with Happening.  Something we talk about at Happening is what we call a Mountaintop Experience. A mountaintop experience can be described as a heightened feeling of being closer to God. The Holy spirit fills you up and lives through you while on the mountaintop. Now, I had a literal mountain top experience in Colorado, but you don’t have to go climb a mountain to experience it.  A Mountaintop can be anywhere at any time. I have felt it in high school gyms on our mission trips, actually on a mountain at young life camp, and even in this very church, where I went through my first Happening.

In Romans 15:13 it reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Living life through the holy spirit, while worshipping God and spreading His word is by far the best life to live. You become kinder, gain more patience, and this life is rewarding beyond belief.

However, you can’t stay on the mountaintop forever. The air is thin and there isn’t enough food and water, making it impossible to stay for long periods of time. The climb back down can be hard, really hard. Losing that feeling is something that is not easy to cope with. What I have figured out though is that you take what you learned on the mountain top and apply it to your life back here in the real world. Living life piously and showing complete faith in God can be so hard in today’s world. The key to really being yourself and living the Christ-centered life you have always wanted to live is to surround yourself with a community of people who love and support you no matter who are you and what you have done. My recommendation for where to find this community. A Church.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What's Your Super Powers

Acts 4:32-35     Ps 133    1 John 1:1-2:2    John 20:19-31

I have never lost my childhood love for superheroes and I secretly always wanted to be one: a dream of having the power to benefit humanity. Power (the Greek word dynamis = strength, power, ability, wonder working, miracle) occurs 120x in the New Testament. These are not the fantasy super powers of Superman, but the power of God at work in humans.

Luke says that the apostles gave their testimony with mega dynamis (great power). The Holy Spirit, the Life of God, fills believers when they hear and believe the story of Jesus. Resurrection is a manifestation of God at work in this time and place. It gives people hope and redefines the purpose of their life. The powerful message and the Holy Spirit transformed them into a koinonia (community) sharing one kardia and psyche. These two Greek words translated as heart and soul both refer to the spiritual center of our being. They mean the life which is 'Me'. So, the early church was a community and they held all things in common. Therefore, there was no one needy among them.

If Luke offers the ideal image of Christian community, it is certainly not typical of most parishes throughout history. However, in the monastic movement, one does find the Acts model in our own time. Monks hold all things in common. They work for the benefit of all. Unlike Communism, which has required a heavy hand to police and enforce its rules, and is generally plagued by inefficiencies and shortages, the monasteries were often at the forefront of educational, scientific and agrarian advances. In fairness, monasteries are generally very small communities and that helps, but monasteries also have buy in, while communism is imposed. Monasteries are a response to the great power of resurrection preaching. The monks' ''kardia and psyche" are set upon the Lord and the shared values of prayer, work and study. Monasteries, disdained by so many as "not the real world," raise the question: is this world more real than God's Kingdom? Our mission at St. Andrew's draws its inspiration from the insights of St. Benedict--which is at the heart of historic Anglicanism.

Every Christian community, especially the typical parish, is beset by struggles. Sin is enemy at work within and among us. Spiritual darkness snuffs out the light of faith and love. 1 John declares that "God is light and in Him there is no darkness." We, on the other hand, are a mix of dark and light. We walk with the Lord, but many times, we embrace the darkness. Hear John: "If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves..." "If we say we have no sin...His word is not within us." The church and her members are full of sin. Let's be honest, we are all selfish and we all choose sin, on a regular basis, because we want to.

"But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father.... Jesus Christ. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the whole world."

Jesus' super power is forgiveness. He used that power on the cross when He said, "Father forgive them." Jesus breathes the power to forgive into His apostles. "As the Father sent me so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive, they are forgiven. If you don't, they aren't." Forgiveness is at the heart of the healing ministry. Forgiveness is the power which sets broken people free. The enemies of God--the world, the flesh and the devil--are hard at work to keep people in darkness, despair and death. Jesus has sent us with His light to set them free.

But super powers are not invincible. Fear and doubt, and all the sinful passions, can render us powerless. We may be sent (apostle), but we do not always go. And meanwhile the world cries out for food and drink, for love and compassion, for healing and forgiveness.... And people ask, "Why doesn't God do something?" And the Lord says to us: "I send you, filled with my Spirit, to do the work of Jesus..."

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Easter Day 2018 Witness of Resurrection Faith

Acts 10:34-43      Psalm 118      1 Corinthians15:1-11      John 20:1-18

The church in Corinthian was divided into factions, socially and theologically. Some members fancied themselves as spiritually superior. There were grave moral errors concerning marriage and idolatry. It sounds remarkably similar to the church today.  

Chapter 15 focuses on unbelief. Many of the Corinthians were offended by the idea of the resurrection. It was not spiritual enough. It seemed unlikely to them. Ancient people knew that corpses did not rise again, nor were they expected to—dead people stayed dead. So they declared that resurrection really meant the soul went to heaven. They denied bodily resurrection and said, "When we die we go to heaven to be with God." This, too, sounds remarkably similar to the church today.  

Paul responds by reminding them: I "handed on" to you what I had "received." Paul is not the creator of the faith, he is its servant, passing to the Corinthians that Christian Tradition in which the church “stands” and by which we are being saved—if we continue to hold it firm. Paul realized faith is a struggle and believing included loyalty or faithfulness. The tradition he sites has four elements: Jesus died for our sins and was buried, Jesus was raised and appeared to various people—with two references to Scripture; that is kata graphes "according to the writings." Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. The resurrection experience had to be as real to them as His death had been. Their despair at His death was so deep that His closest students shamefully denied Him and fled to hide. The words "He appeared" refer to the stunning experiences many had had which confirmed the unimaginable—He is alive. There is a deeply personal and transformative experience behind the words Paul quotes.

 Paul's witness list provides substantial verification of the resurrection. Lots of people saw Jesus. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the unbelievers and critics. The four Gospel accounts differ significantly in detail, though all agree that Mary Magdalene was the central figure on that morning. Yet, Paul makes no mention of any women so some say this proves it is all a lie. They miss the point. Paul is quoting from an authoritative list of church leaders. He is focused on the faith of the church in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, not the isolated details of the event. The proof is sufficient. As Luke puts it in Acts 1 “after His passion Jesus showed Himself alive to them by many tekmerion (convincing, indisputable, certain proof) appearing to them and speaking to them.” Paul and the Gospel writers are not trying to detail the facts of a singular moment; rather, they are illustrating for us the profound reality of Jesus’ victory which was demonstrated over a period of time for a large number of people.

 We believe, so it is the closing words which concern us. We are no better than Paul. We, too, are the least. We are unfit to be called apostles. By the grace of God, we are what we are. So we must proclaim so that others believe.

There is increasing hostility to the ancient faith in our society, sometimes even within the church. We need strong faith and courage to love and follow Jesus. We need even more faith and courage to proclaim Jesus. Today, in the light of resurrection faith, we reflect on the foundation for our courage in the face of any rejection.

Jesus died for our sins, according to Scripture.
On the third day, Jesus was raised, according to the Scriptures, and appeared to many men and women. Many....
This Jesus is the true King of Israel and the only Savior of the world.
God is with us, we are His Kingdom people. And we have been entrusted with the task to continue that ministry until He returns in glory.
[+so let us pray for the Holy Spirit to help us faithfully proclaim in word and deed+]