Sunday, January 27, 2019

sermon November 3-4

(this is the actual sermon on Deuteronomy etc)

The purpose of life is union with God, to love God and love people. Divine love changes our hearts, it purifies them and makes them holy. Love makes us like God, because as we read in 1 John “God is love,” and “if we love one another then God abides in us.” (1 John 3&4). Elsewhere Jesus says love not just friends, but also foes (Mt 5:43-48; Luke 10:29 Good Samaritan).

Deuteronomy says that God gives the Law so that it will go well in the land and the people can multiply. The law to love God with all of our being is the only path to life. Love allows the law to open us to the Kingdom of God. When people in a society love one another there can be peace and prosperity. When we love God the Law can conform us to His will and makes us holy. Without love, as Paul said, the law becomes nothing.

The great obstacle to such loving obedience is our doubt and fear. Perfect love casts out all fear, and doubt and fear draw us away from God. We wounded humans seek to protect ourselves. Each time we are hurt it can compound the doubt and fear, often in subtle ways. People disappoint us, and sometimes God does too, so repentance and forgiveness become more difficult. Love can grow cold.

To deal with life’s pain, our defense mechanism is to protect the heart. In the Bible this is call a ‘hard heart,’ literally it means a callus. That callus is the ego self, who we pretend to be. As the heart gets harder it becomes less trusting and loving. Each night the news publicize the words and deeds of human egos and hard hearts. We blame and demonize others, and see no need to repent or forgive. A Godless, loveless society produces escalating conflicts.

In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh did not trust the Hebrew people and feared them, so he made them slaves. Ironically, he caused the very thing he feared. God responds to the Hebrew cries and frees them. He saves them, and in the process Egyptian suffered devastating losses. Those who would use power to crush others always learn that control by fear fails eventually. God rules by love and He gives Israel the Law so they can live well in the land and multiply. The Law is for this world and is given to produce blessing.

The Law can instruct, but it has no power to save. Jesus saves because in Him God takes the wounded human heart and the human sins and He heals and forgives. This is the power of love, the power of healing mercy. Jesus shares in our suffering and invites us to trust, to love and to stop being afraid. Those who understand the power of love are near God’s kingdom. Love makes us holy. Love is theosis union with God. Love is not a tool of control, it is a surrender of self to God and one another. Jesus commands that we do it.   

Epiphany 1-6-19 Saving Light

Isaiah 60:1-6       Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14         Ephesians 3:1-12              Matthew 2:1-12


The word “epiphany” refers to a manifestation of a divine being; and also means an illumination, or insight, into the essence of something.

Jesus is God Incarnate, the manifestation of a divine being—God among us to rescue us from the darkness of sin and death. Jesus gives us insight into the essence of God—Loving Creator and Savior.

We need an epiphany. We live in darkness. It is not always clear that God is loving, nor do we always feel saved. The decline of faith around us signifies the power of darkness. Truth is silenced by political correctness. Hopelessness manifests in myriad ways. Many of us are lonely in our core, wounded and hurt, hungry for the Healing Light. This is what drove those wise men many miles because they had heard the testimony of the stars: a king is born. When they finally find Jesus they rejoice, but in the darkness Herod waits to destroy the child.

Isaiah proclaims hope in God’s Light—but let us hear his voice to understand our predicament.

Isaiah 58-59 spells out the problem. (p533)

(58:1)“Shout out do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! (God tells the prophet) Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.”  YHWH rejects their pious practices as a faith devoid of justice.

(58:6-11) “IF you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness. The Lord will guide you…and satisfy your needs.”

(59:1-2) See…your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” God finds no truth, no justice—so He vows to come among us Himself.


In Isaiah 60, God comes like the rising sun to begin the new day. Jerusalem also shines, drawing the peoples of the world to her. God’s holy city will be the habitation of all who love, trust and obey Him.

“Rise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the people, but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn….the wealth of the nations shall come to you…they shall bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” Matthew 2 tells us that the wisemen brought their wealth, they made gifts of gold and frankincense. God Himself has come among us in Jesus. The light of God, the glory of God is here in His flesh. But there is one other gift, myrrh. It is not until Matthew 26 that we understand why the myrrh is included. In the house of Simon a woman came and poured a jar of myrrh on Jesus’ head as He sat at table. Jesus says, “by pouring this myrrh on my body she has prepared Me for burial.” The darkness will consume Jesus, He dies to save us, but the Son will rise. Darkness will be defeated by the Light of God: Jesus. This is the essential meaning of Epiphany. Repent and Believe the Good News.

2 Epiphany 1-20-19 Cana

2 Epiphany (1/20)

Psalm 36:5-10    Isaiah 62:1-5     1 Corinthians 12:1-1     John 2:1-11

Jesus and His Mother are at a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Human marriage points to a deeper reality at the heart of the universe. Marriage is a theological metaphor—many prophets, like Isaiah today, call Israel God’s wife—they try to tell us about the mystery of God using the concrete experiences of our shared lives. Genesis says that the man and woman become one flesh—and the deeper reality is the union of the church with Christ (theosis). The ideal of human marriage is God’s union with His people.

John’s Gospel continues this theme in chapter three, when John the Baptist says “I am not the Messiah, He who has the bride is the bridegroom…” Jesus’ bride is revealed in Revelation 21: “I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride for a bridegroom.” The church is that New Jerusalem and we will be gathered into this union with the Messiah.

Isaiah has a second connection to Revelation; when he says that a “new name” will be given and the people of God will be a “crown in His hand.” In Revelation 3:11ff the church in Philadelphia (brotherly love) is told, “I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have so that no one may seize your crown…I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own NEW name.” Our new name is the “children of God” and we share in Jesus’ crown of glory.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also called the mother of the church. At Cana Jesus tells her, “woman my time has not come.” The next time Jesus speaks to His mother, from the cross, he will say “Woman behold your son.” At His death, Jesus not only saves us from sin but He makes us His family of believers. The only other time we hear of Cana is when the Risen Lord appears to His disciples, and one is called Nathanael of Cana in Galilee. Both Cana and Jesus’ Mother are verbally connected to His death and resurrection. Marriage is a metaphor for this. Ephesians 5 is a declaration that Jesus loves the church and gives His life up for the Church. This is the biblical model for husbands. Our choice, as the church, is to be a faithful wife to Jesus. This is a corporate choice made together. The first challenge is to believe we are loved. The second is to live each day, together, as a faithful wife. He gives us a new name, but we must endure. Courage and steadfastness become more and more important as we live among those who hate our spouse, the Lord Jesus.

The Cana wedding feast—going back to Isaiah and forward to the Cross and the Marriage feast of the lamb—is a revelation of salvation. The wine is a symbol of the heavenly wedding feast, but it is also His blood shed on the cross for us, and it will be the cup which we share at communion. Theosis union—with Him. Let us  be aware of what we do here and what it means. Let us open our hearts to receive Him.