Monday, April 25, 2011

Hurray! Jesus is here

The Story of Scripture: Hurray! Jesus is Here
Genesis 2:15-17, Matthew 1:18-25, Matthew 28:1-10

It is a special day, one of the most cherished days on the church and world’s calendar, celebrated by hundreds of millions of people. It was a day that changed everything. The world was never the same because of the events that are celebrated. There is magic in the air centered around the joy and happiness people feel. The day inspires us to feel and act in a more caring and loving way. The spirit we feel is because of a miracle. And yes, the season also brings any grief we might feel to the surface, because the event brings us face to face with the solution to mortality. In the church, this day is so special that we take more than just one day to celebrate it. It is such a beautiful day because it reminds us of the reality that Jesus is here.

Of course, this special day I am talking about is…Christmas.

Yes, you heard me correctly.

Christmas? On Easter? What is going on?

When we mapped out our year long study of the Story of Scripture, God, in his great kindness, allowed our schedule of the end of the Hebrew Scriptures and the beginning of the Gospels to fall on today: Easter Sunday. How fantastic is that? For both Christmas and Easter have the same message for the bookends of birth and resurrection: Jesus is here!

Genesis 2:15-17

Reviewing our yearlong story of Scripture, we remember one of our early readings. The story of the Garden of Eden gave humanity its destiny. This destiny was from God, and it was for our good. It contained promise, permission and one prohibition.

Promise. Work the Garden and take care of it.
Permission. You are free to eat of any tree in the garden.
Prohibition. Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Yet the people disobeyed the one command. And they got what they wanted. We can know. We can know good. We can know evil. Humanity brought upon itself blessing and curse. When we know evil, it separates people from their Holy God.

Matthew 1:18-25

Relying on the destiny of humankind, given by God, as one of promise, permission and prohibition, we continued on through the story of Scripture. We heard of Abraham and Israel, Joseph and Moses, slavery in Egypt and Let my people go. We heard of wilderness wandering and law for the covenant community. What was Israel’s job? To be God’s people in the world, and eventually give birth to a Messiah.

As the story goes on, the people do not always follow God, they demand earthly leadership, and turn to kings. The kings often do not bring people closer to God. Eventually the people forsake God and turn to idols, and are judged by world empires Assyria, Babylon and Persia. And finally, during the Persian Empire, the people are allowed to return to their land. Through all the ups and downs, prophets guide the people. We looked at some of these prophets during Lent.

The last prophet in Hebrew Scripture was someone named Malachi. He tells that one is coming who will announce the coming of the Messiah. 400 years later, John the Baptist announces Jesus Christ and his public ministry.

We were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. At just the right time, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of being children of God. Because you are God’s children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Father, Father”. So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and since you are a son, God has made you an heir
--Galatians 4:4-6

But before Jesus became a public minister of his Heavenly Father, there was that miracle: Birth, as a baby. The Messiah would surely come in triumph and military power. He came as a baby, weak and dependant.

Mary took care of him. Mary had him inside her, and grew him and gave birth to him, and cared for him and raised him. And Joseph partnered with Mary, at first skeptical of this holy miracle, announced by an angel, Joseph seeks to be honorable. But honor was staying with Mary, and raising this child, who had come from the heavens.

Mary and Joseph, this child…you should name him Jesus, because he is the savior! He will rescue the people from their sins.

Do you remember the prophet Isaiah: He said long ago, that the virgin would be with child and that child would be Immanuel. God is with us!

It all seemed like a dream to Joseph, because, quite frankly, it was. But dreams do come true. And this one did. Not in a comfortable home, but in a barn, for there was no room at the inn. The sheep and cows joined God’s chosen parents, in welcoming a little child. This little child would grow up to be Savior. But in the beginning, I imagine Mary and Joseph only had one thought when they looked into that baby’s eyes:

Hurray! Jesus is here.

Matthew 28:1-10
Last Sunday we observed Palm Sunday, the story includes praise to the King, as Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. The story ended well.

No, he died. You didn’t hear. The whole city knows about it. He died. Jesus died.

That is what is great about stories. There is a point when challenge questions a hopeful outcome, when it is dark, when it doesn’t look good. Jesus had died. What did the disciples talk about when they were locked up in their rooms, hiding out of fear of Roman authorities? Did doubt seep in?

After the Sabbath, the day where rest was commanded, but also the day after Jesus had died, and there was so much to do, as soon as Mary and Mary were able, they went to look at the tomb.

What were they looking for?

An earthquake violently erupts. And Angel of the LORD comes down from heaven. The angel goes to the tomb and Rolls back the stone…and sits on it. Upon seeing this angel, whose appearance was like lightning and bright like snow, the guards charged with keeping the tomb shook, almost dying.

Mary, the angel says. Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus. He was crucified. But he is not here. He is not here in this gravesite. He has risen. Do you remember, that is what he said he was going to do! Go ahead, look inside. Look for yourselves. And after you do that, go quickly and tell those disciples (who aren’t here), he has risen from the dead. And he is going to Galilee. That is where you’ll get to see him.

And the angel said what the angel needed to say.

The women, they are so nervous, so filled with excitement and anxiety, they run. They run to get those disciples. And then Jesus met them.

Greetings, Jesus said.

There he was. There was Jesus. Right before the women. They fell down to worship. They held on. He was there. It was him.

And Jesus repeats the angel’s message: Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers, go to Galilee and we will see each other.

Hurray! Jesus is here.

The message of Christmas is the same message of Easter. Hurray! Jesus is here.

Christ is risen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Remember

I Remember

Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the passion story

“As we face the cross, we can say to ourselves both ‘I did it, my sins sent him there’ and ‘he did it, his love took him there’” John Stott

I was reading this week about the golden era of the Greek Empire. It was an era in history where the written word was slowly replacing the spoken word as the way of preserving the past. Poets were the stars of the day. They had written down clever and helpful ways of telling the stories of the past, and these written ways were then dramatically proclaimed to the gathered crowd in the amphitheatre. Some ancient amphitheaters held up to 17,000 people at one time. And they were there to hear a story told and unfold. They were there to hear how their story mingled with the universal themes of being human. Their stories were of gods and men, fate and destiny, tragedy and triumph. Their stories spoke to the heart and captivated the mind. Their stories were told in community and were a reason to gather, they were an event.

In the story of the cross, humans encounter the most dramatic and shocking story ever told. It is a story of me, and how my sin caused God to leave the heavens. It is a story of God, and how his love caused him to come and rescue the sons and daughters of Adam.

Who was watching this divine drama as it actually happened?

Who were the people watching, and their reasons for doing so:
· The religious council of priests and teachers watched: watching every word of Jesus, hoping he would slip up, ready to pounce upon him
· Pilate watched, interrupted, being political
· Herod watched, looking for a magic show, and not getting one
· Simon the Cyrene watched, a visitor to town pausing to look at a procession passing before him, he is brought onto the stage
· The weeping women watched: shocked and saddened at the injustice of the whole situation
· Two criminals watched, they woke up that day to find it was the last day of their life. Did they know they would meet God before going to meet God?
· Soldiers watched, doing their job, making a difficult finish to those punished by the state. Were they able to see innocence as they looked upon the suffering Jesus?
· Creation: becoming dark, it was the only appropriate response
· Centurion: surely this was a righteous man. How did he say this? Was he angry at what he just saw? Did he realize the error of the situation part way through the crucifixion
· The gathered crowd SAW, beat their breasts and walked away. What else could one do?
· Those who knew him (and who had followed him), stood at a distance, WATCHING these things. Did eyes of faith know that the story was not finished? Or hope? Or pray?
· Joseph: he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Was his wait nearly finished? Or did it seem farther than ever after this event?
· The women preparing for burial: bringing dignity, tradition and honor to a difficult situation.
· Ultimately, God and heaven. A Father watched his only Son die. Heaven sees the eternal worshipped one meet an earthly end.

Surely the story wasn’t supposed to be like this. But it was. Once sin entered, this was the only solution. God’s love sent Jesus.

What did the people watch? And you and I, what do we watch through the reading and listening of this story? What do we do with this story? In a word, we “remember”.

We remember the human plea, the divine pleasure and the new promise.

We remember THE HUMAN PLEA

Jesus remember me: The thief says
Here is a wise man.
He understood his time had come.
He understood his just sentence.
He encounters someone who is innocent and defends him.
He sees by faith who this person was.

Jesus remember me: you and I say
We sing the words of the Scripture, and they act as a plea to the Holy
God of the universe.
We are more like the thief than we are like Jesus.
And so we ask for mercy from the one that we have come to know as
good and true, Jesus, remember me.


Jesus remembers the thief: Today you will be with me in paradise.
This is an astonishing statement. Two men dying next to one another. This story was not going to end well. Jesus looks to this man, in the midst of a horrible situation, and says Today. Today, we are going to paradise.

Jesus remembers you and I:
Isaiah wrote, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light
of life and be satisfied.”
Jesus remembers you and I.
In his god-ness, he remembered you and I while suffering on a cross.

It pleases the Lord to save. That is why Jesus died, to save. To bring back the sons and daughters of Adam into the presence of God. When we come, it pleases God. It is another fulfillment toward the divine desire, the divine pleasure, that we might have eternal life, forgiven and freed.

God kicked humans out of the garden. If we would have eaten from the tree of life in our fallen states, we would live forever marred by sin.

God was pleased to send Jesus. Finding him, we find eternal life, one that triumphs over the enemies of sin, death and devil. An eternal life lived in the presence of God; pure beauty, abundant life, divine holiness, friendship with the living God. That is God’s pleasure.


The new promise we make: I remember Jesus:
Lent calls us to repentance. The Holy Week events bring us face to face with Jesus and his sacrificial work. We remember as we look to Jesus. We take part in the amphitheater of life, looking at the true and real divine tragedy, and we see Jesus. It is Jesus that we remember. I remember Jesus.

‘I remember’ Jesus says.
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Proclaimed the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus won the victory. The resurrection was the proof that death could not bind the perfect Son of God. Resurrection validates the cross, but we get ahead of ourselves.

The cross is where Jesus remembered you and me.
Only God and his Son can say “I remember”, and do so perfectly.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Someone's Calling

Someone’s Calling
Malachi 4, Matthew 3:1-13, Matthew 21:1-11

Someone’s Calling: The Story of Scripture
God: to creation: out of nothing, creation bursts forth
God: in the garden, to humankind, “Where are you?
God: to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
God: to Noah, “Go and build and Ark” (the scripture says up until that time it had not rained)
God: to Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation” (Abraham and Sarah were barren)
God: to Abraham, “I need your one and only son” That was everything to Abraham, but he acknowledged “God will provide”
God: to Jacob, who was aware, “Surely God was in this place and I did not know it”
God: to Jacob, “I am giving you a new name”
Pharaoh: to Joseph, prepare the land for a famine
God: to Moses, “Moses! Moses!” (by name), “I am your God”, “Go to Pharaoh and say, ‘Let my people go!’”
Moses: to the Israelites through law, “Thou shalt not have any gods before
the LORD.
God: To Joshua, Get ready to cross the Jordan and enter the land I promised you.
(Isaiah had said, when you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you)
God: To Samuel, “Go and Tell Eli” (a youth called to confront a powerful yet unjust priest)
God: To Elijah, “What are you doing here? There are 7000 that have not bowed the knee to false gods”
God: To Isaiah, Who shall go for me? Whom shall I send? Tell them…
God: To Jeremiah, “Before I formed you, I knew you”
God: to Habakkuk, “Write this down, you won’t believe it”
Nebuchadnezzar: to Daniel, “Come out from the den if God has rescued you”
Artaxerxes: To Nehemiah, Return to your land
Malachi: to the people, Revere the name of God, and the sun of righteousness will rise up with healing in its wings.
Tell the people; Elijah is coming, and he will announce the Lord’s coming. He’ll turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the children back to their fathers. Or else.

(the understanding that Elijah was going to return and announce the coming of the Messiah. Jesus states that if the people could accept it, John the Baptist was the Elijah to come)

John the Baptist: to the crowds
Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance
Don’t rely on your past merits and your titles
God will raise up children from these stones, don’t feel entitlement
I am baptizing with water, but one is coming after me, who will
baptize with the Holy Spirit.
The crowds: to Jesus
Praise the Lord. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Praise the Lord!
Jesus: to the skeptics: If the people stay quiet, the stones will cry out.

Someone’s Calling: TO YOU & TO ME
Common Responses to Call:
Fear: fear of the unknown
Anxiety: change can be challenging
Wonder: the heart begins to expand
Adventure: we respond to the invitation
Getting to work: obey and follow Jesus.
Faith: what keeps us going.

Fear and Anxiety are the negative extreme. Wonder and adventure are the positive extreme. But much of life is lived in the middle. The middle and center of life is work, and faith.

The One Who calls is Faithful
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
(II Thessalonians 5:23-4)

Someone’s Calling: TODAY

We have journeyed through Lent.
We have arrived at Holy Week.

Our God speaks to us today through the events that we remember, and are about to remember. These events are shocking, were unexpected in their day, contrasted the way of the world. And yet they also brought resurrection from the dead, the answer to the problem of sin and death and the devil.

Someone is calling: That someone is God. God calls us to have faith. And faith works.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Daniel: On Being Different

Daniel: On Being Different 4/3/11 Daniel 3 & 6, Matthew 5:13-16 I found a gift this past Wednesday Night, Listening to poetry I found delight. I opened my ears to the power of a word. Listening to Poet Ray Brown, beautiful images I heard. I realized that throughout history Words have allowed the imagination to see. And we have lost some depth to be When only picture images we see On a day when my sermon is about being different We are looking at the life of Daniel the prophet I have taken some time to rhyme. I’m not a poet, and I know it. But it will now become evident, that this sermon, if nothing else, is different. 3 Wise Men Let me tell a tale of three wise men, Who at first I sought to kill. For they did not listen then To follow and obey my will. I had made an idol of myself. It rose 90 feet to the sky. In full sight from the Plain of Dura To all who would pass by. All who stood before my image must bow Especially when the trumpet blare Or else to the furnace they would go I punish without a care. One day my wise men came to me, Ultimately to tattle tale On 3 foolish men who would not bow To my image large in scale. Furious with rage, get these men here To answer for their foolishness My friends is it not better to bow What god can save from furnace We do not need to defend ourselves If God wills, then he will save And if he does not, we still won’t serve An image you have made Upon these words my attitude changed My anger and furnace hotter seven fold Soldiers died taking these men To punishment for not bowing before the mold But wait my eyes play tricks on me. For there are four, and not just three. And the fourth I see looks like a son of the gods As he walks around the fire free Come out! Come here! I call into flames And to these men I demand That they approach me with an answer To my just reprimand The wise satraps gather around To hear the story of these men once warned they speak with hair that is not singed Nor are their robes scorned Praise be to your God You defied me but listened to him And would give your life Rather than bow to a false god on a whim This God be praised and honored By people of every nation And you, O Three Wise Men Have earned yourselves a promotion. Honor In One’s Word I Darius have ruled the land, 120 Satraps before me stand With 3 administrators lending hand. Daniel is one of those three He does his job diligently Without corruption, full of integrity The Satraps seek to accuse They use their power to abuse Through his God’s law, Daniel will lose May unchangeable law throughout the land be sown 30 Days of prayers to King Darius alone Or else to the lions one will be thrown Daniel reads the kings edict and sees Yet to his God he bows his knees And to this God alone offers thanks and pleas While Daniel is praying, his adversaries see O King Darius, did you not publish a decree This Daniel does not follow thee The Decree must be honored, no exceptions it withstands And did you know this Daniel is not from our land Though Darius is sad, the judgment he must hand Now the king had made his choice To let the rules of men be his voice Darius has one long joyless, restless night Because of his choice, his anxiety feels very tight. With the light of dawn Darius raises his voice without calm And asks God if he has played his saving song O King, Live forever, Daniel’s voice shouts without blame Throughout the night, God’s angel to me came O King, those false accusations are quite lame A new law is written to Daniel’s God all praise And to him alone my voice does raise God’s power is strong and from heaven God saves. Daniel prospered throughout the reign of Darius before his God Daniel’s life did bless Continuing on throughout the reign of King Cyrus On Being Different Jesus talked about being different. Different can be good, we come to find When thinking about being different, salt came to mind. What does salt do? In days of old Salt preserved food to eat, strengthening people to their feet That’s one thing salt can do, will you find strength in God’s food for you? In modern days and northern cities Salt melts away the snow so we can get where we need to go. That’s one thing salt can do, will you melt away what’s stopping you? In days of old and modern days, Salt adds flavor to food, delighting our meal and mood That’s one thing salt can do, will you let God’s flavor bring delight to you? Jesus talked about being different. Different can be good, we come to find. When talking about being different, cities came to mind What can cities do? Throughout time, Cities light up the sky for those who find themselves passing by. That’s one thing that cities do, will you be a light for travelers too? Especially in days of old, Cities welcomed those weary, those whose travels made them dreary That’s one thing that cities do, will you make the dreary new? In our days, Cities exude energy and life, calling people beyond their strife That’s one thing that cities do, will you be Christ for people to view? Jesus talked about being different. Different can be good, we come to find. When talking about being different, lamps came to mind What can lamps do? I often walk at dusk throughout our town, The streets are quiet as a mouse, yet light shines out from every house. That’s one thing that lamps do, in darkness they let light shine through In my life one thing I’ve learned And this I know, lamps don’t shine hidden under a bowl That’s one thing that lamps can’t do, I hope you don’t hide your light from view.