Saturday, July 30, 2016

How Did We Get Here? Beholding Beauty

Beholding Beauty                                                        7/31/16

Isaiah 61, Romans 8:18-30


flowers, sunsets, walking along the towpath, the river, birds chirping, the shore, mountains           These are beautiful things.


Struggle, hard work, weeds, dandelions, relationships,

These are also beautiful things.  Or at least they can be.


Have you ever thought about dandelions?  Why do we work so hard to get rid of them?  Think about the effort and resources involved with eliminating dandelions from our yards.  I wonder what God’s perspective is on this matter.  Can’t you easily imagine God saying:  “I have a great idea, I’m going to sprinkle within the grass some pretty yellow flowers.  Their seeds will bring children gleeful laughter and play”


I’m not here to change your dandelion policy.  But I am here today to remind us it is our job as Christians to be on the forefront of beholding beauty.  For God is, among other things, perfect and holy, and that is beautiful.  The Psalmist sings that we are to ‘gaze upon the beauty of the Lord’ (27:4)   Our God, ‘has made everything beautiful in its time’ (Eccl. 3:11).



This summer we have been asking the question of the Church:  How Did We Get Here?   We’ve looked to some way that Western Civilization has lifted up values from Scripture at different times in its story.  So far, we’ve considered these biblical ideas:  the human story is more than survival, wisdom, enduring themes, good news, and community.  Today, we look at beauty. 


There was a period in the story of Western Civilization called “the Renaissance”, which takes place in the 1300-1500’s AD.  This word is a French word developed in the 1800’s which means “rebirth”.  Starting in Italy, there was an era of profound and beautiful contributions in the disciplines of painting, drawing, sculpture, architecture, literature and philosophy.


During this time, many artists reached back to classical models of Greece and Rome, rather than medieval world. They looked to the classical world and adapted these themes to their age.


On the intellectual front, it is during the renaissance that the

Humanists grow as a movement.  But, the first humanists were Christians, believers reacting to the middle ages idea of withdrawing from the world, by suggesting you can be faithful to the Lord in the world, engaged in good and building society.  This made sense in a quickly growing urban society.   


It is only later that humanists in the enlightenment deconstruct faith. 


One of the best jobs for Christians is to behold beauty, because what we offer is the truth that God is beautiful and creator of beauty.  We can place beautiful things in their proper context:  in relationship to God.


Today, we lift up two passages of Scripture that announce beauty, and invite the Lord’s people to behold beauty, to lift up beauty in this world and invite others to find God’s will for their lives, which can grow beauty in any person willing to trust in the Lord.


In Isaiah 61, prophesied around 680 years before the time of Christ, we see God’s plan for Israel, and the world.  The beginning of this prophesy is important for another reason other than today’s sermon:  it was quoted by Jesus Christ to describe his ministry.  In fact, after he reads this passage from the scroll in his hometown of Nazareth, he boldly declares to his townspeople that “today, this passage is fulfilled”.

Today, I am going to re-read the Isaiah passage in four movements.  I am going to offer a title, and then read the passage again.  I invite you to behold a beautiful God’s beautiful vision for a beautiful humanity:


What God will do for his people:  (vs 1-3)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor



How This Transforms the World:  (vs 4-6)


They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.




The far reaches of God’s Story:  (vs 7-9)

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations

    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”



Understanding ourselves in light of God  (vs 10-11)


I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up

    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.



To go back for a moment to this idea of the far reaching effects of God’s story, let us look to one of the great figures of the Renaissance:  Filippo Brunelleschi.



Born in 1377 in Florence Italy, Brunelleschi is most famous for the dome of Florence cathedral, and his development of linear perspective.   His self-defined goal for his work was to “reinforce Christian spiritual reality”.   This religious foundation allowed him to be influential in several realms of thought and invention.  He was truly, pun intended, “a renaissance man”.


*His linear perspective thought was the leading voice for 500 years.

*His perspective thought also helped the advancement of modern science,  Galileo called upon Brunelleschi’s linear perspective ideas

*he creates the first renaissance architecture in Florence with specific reference to classical Rome.

*he invented and patented a hoisting machine for the bricks needed for the Florence Dome, over 4 million bricks moved, as buttresses were

*he was also granted the first patent for a river boat

*he is the inventor of hydraulic machinery

*he contributed to the theatre of the church, including artistic renditions of angels that would fly over the audience



What a fascinating man, who when placing his pursuit of truth and beauty, had a wide sphere of influence, and changed the course of history.  


These things are possible, and beautiful, when bringing honor to the Lord.


Paul, in his teaching to the Romans, reminds believers that not only do people look to God’s people to announce God’s hope and goodness, but also the creation is waiting for God’s children to be revealed.


We have the promise of glory that will far outweigh any suffering we endure.


We serve a creation that waits in expectation for the sons and daughter of the Lord to do the Lord’s will in this world.


We are to be patient as we pray, as we work, as we behold beauty, and announce the Lord’s majesty to the world.


We are to let God’s Spirit, in Scripture:  The Holy Spirit, to teach us how to pray, and how to behold beauty.  The Spirit helps us in our weakness, and points us toward God’s life.


God is at work.  He is working for the good of those who love him.  He is working in those he has called for his purposes.  God has predestined believers to be conformed to Christ’s likeness.  Those that God has called, God will justify.  Those he has justified, he will also glorify.


God’s character is beautiful, and so is his work.  It is amazing to consider the grace of the Lord:  that you and I are people that God is working for good.  That is a beautiful thing.


It is so beautiful, that our job is to listen and obey, in every aspect of our life, in every thought, word and deed.  Then, your story, when connected with God’s story, becomes quite beautiful.


The Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.   (Isaiah 61:11)

How Did We Get Here? Created For Community

Created for Community                                               7/24/16

Ruth 1:14-22, Philemon

With the fall of the Roman Empire came the slow decline of many towns throughout Europe.  This was expected.  Many Roman towns had no real geographical or economic reasons for existence.  A retired war general or senator would pick out land, build a palace on it, and then whatever other buildings/businesses were needed for palace survival were then built alongside.

The emergence of monasteries accompanies the decline of the Empire.  Here were communities with purpose.  People gathered together in like minded purposes to escape the tribulation of the world and to pray, and read Scripture.  But they too often had geographical restrictions about them.

In the Medieval world, we see a wonderful model emerge and prosper:  the town.  It is the reaction to the Roman town's purposelessness, and the feudal system's demeaning model.  Here was community, built along water ways and trade routes, that gathered people together for life together.

Europe was growing, and so was the success of the crops.  There was enough food to eat.  And so people were free to expand their trades to do more than just survive.  Originally, artisans would work, load up their creations in wagons and go on the road to sell.   But the town offered a new way of life:  the marketplace. Marketplaces were licensed by the King, often gathered in the center of the town, alongside the sanctuary.  Guilds sprung up throughout parts of the town, and this allowed warehouses to be built and business owners to sell where they lived.  It was a marvelously successful model.

Town life was also interesting.  There were windy brick and stone streets (rather than the modern way of buildings having to fit the road, here the road fit what already existed.  There was a mix of gardens and shade and open doors to family businesses.  The market would also include some travelers who brought items from far away lands.

Town life was an expression of ownership through participation.  There were no police forces, the towns citizens policed.  Citizens closed the draw bridge at night.  Citizens took turns watching guard.  It was understood that everyone participated, and that was the only way to make it work.

Towns in Medieval Europe were not large.  Paris was the biggest at 100,000 people.  Cities whose names we recognize today might have only had 25-40 thousand people.  Imagine living your whole life in a town of that size.  Between you and your family, you might have met, or at least recognize the name or profession of every family living in your town.   This sense of community, and the need to work together, guided the Medieval town.

It is not by accident that modern supermarkets remake themselves in a town market model.  It is not by accident that big box stores have centers, which act like the guilds of the Medieval town.  It is not by accident that successful groups work hard to make you feel known and welcome and have a sense of belonging.   This is simply the correction to the extreme individualism brought about by the modern world.  Yes, we are individuals, but we were really created for community.

The story of Western Civilization is many things, and reaches throughout the entire earth.  But at times throughout its long history, it has embodied some important values from Scripture.  This summer we are lifting up these values to help us understand our position as a church in 21st century America.  We have seen from oral history that humankind is made for more than surviving, that wisdom together was modeled by Classical Greece, the human need to seek that which endures from Rome, and that in the midst of the kingdoms of this world God makes his proclamation of salvation.   This week, our theme comes from the Medieval world, and its successful community living.


Ultimately, Scripture teaches that humans are created for community.  First and foremost, community with the Truine God, but also with neighbors, friends, family and church.  Community is the way to understand ourselves, to grow, and to support one another as we move toward God’s will.


The story of Ruth teaches us to be community as we travel towards God's salvation.  There are four characters in today’s reading.  We briefly meet Orpah, a daughter in law to Naomi.  Naomi has pleaded with Ruth and Orpah that she feels overwhelmed by the thought of traveling together and that it would be better to part ways in Moab.  Orpah, though not without weeping, agrees and goes her different way.


Ruth does not agree with Naomi's counsel.  Rather than separate, she clings more tightly to her mother in law.  In this moment, she makes one of the more beautiful and profound declarations of intent:  (1:16-18).  Together, they travel back to Naomi's home of Bethlehem.


The third character is the townspeople.  They are shocked to see Naomi return.  After all, Naomi had left when things got difficult. "Can this be Naomi?" they whisper as she comes home.  The people are also part of the story because they then hear Naomi's self-description about God's affliction.  The townspeople continue in a non-speaking role in the rest of chapter one.  It was barley harvest.  The people get back to work.


Finally, we see Naomi, a difficult character to peg.  She had left Bethlehem in difficult times of famine.  At first glance, it seems harsh to blame her family for such actions, but did others leave?  When she returns, there was a population who knew her:  they had stayed, and endured difficult times.   When today's reading begins, she has urged, even begged her daughter in laws to leave her.  To provide and remain together seems too difficult to Naomi.  Yet we see Naomi, after Ruth's passionate speech, willing to  travel with her daughter in law, displaying some awareness of the value of community that her daughter has verbalized.


When Naomi, whose name means pleasant, hears the townspeople talk of her return, her struggle becomes evident:  Do not call me pleasant, call me bitter (mara).  I had it all, until God took it away.  I was full, and God made me come back empty.  It is the Lord who has afflicted me, and brought misfortune upon me.   The community listens to Naomi pour out her soul.


If we were to read on in the story, Naomi seems to settle in back home, and eventually provides help and a better sense of community to Ruth as she enters into what God has for her.


Ruth's sense of community is ultimately rewarded in a way only God could do.  Ruth was a Moabite, outside of God's covenant with Israel, a gentile, one from the nations, and a hated nation from Israel's perspective.  But Ruth's willingness and desire to become part of the covenant is noticed by Naomi, the townspeople and ultimately her kinsmen redeemer, Boaz.  Boaz and Ruth marry, and Ruth eventually becomes the grandmother to a shepherd named David.  Ruth's obedience to God ushers her into the community of God's people, and her place in the salvation story.  Ruth is an ancestor to Jesus Christ. You never know how  obedience to the Lord will bless the world.


Our second story today is from New Testament times.  There is an influential man named Philemon, whose family has a church that meets in their home.  Long before sanctuaries and buildings, early Christian communities met in homes.  They were often larger homes, capable of hospitality for smaller groups.  Philemon has slaves in his household, and one of them escapes, his name is Onesimus.  In a story whose author must be God, Onesimus comes into the service of the Apostle Paul while he is imprisoned.  He becomes a valuable helper in gospel work.  Upon learning that he is an escaped slave, Paul writes his master Philemon, with whom Paul had done gospel work, to request that Philemon not pursue legal action or personal justice, but rather, use this opportunity to teach and model the good news of the gospel.  In Christ, believers become brothers and sisters in the faith.  Paul urges Philemon to relate to Onesimus brother to brother, not master to slave.


The theme of this short letter is the importance of relating to people of faith spiritually.  After all, we were created for community:  with God, with brother and sister in faith, with neighbor, family and friends.  When we believe in Jesus Christ, he becomes our master, and we are his servants.   We take on a story that is not our own making, but rather, a story that makes us.  This includes being family with the family of God.  The people that we worship alongside, we should not relate primarily because we live near each other, or because we share similar interests, think alike on various topics, or because we have the similar understanding of what success looks like in today's world.  We relate to each other because, through God's great generosity, we will live together forever.  In heaven, we will look back with great gladness to God that he allowed us to know each other before arriving into ever lasting life.  We have started a never ending story here and now.  We are community because of Jesus Christ.  He is Lord.  We are his followers.  His followers are invited into deeper relationship with the Lord, as Jesus called his disciples “friends”.


Paul’s letter speaks to the value of community:  the church in home, Philemon’s family living as believers, Philemon’s love for God’s holy people, his previous effective work for God’s kingdom, his refreshing the hearts of the Lord’s people.  Paul ends his letter bringing greetings to Philemon from several who had wished him well.




To tie these stories together:

--Naomi reminds us that even in difficulty, there is community to support you. 

--Ruth models to us a thoughtful, selfless support, and see God’s blessing in that.

--Philemon models that we always have opportunity to grow spiritually with one another, and that is our primary relationship as community:  the practice of being the Lord’s people.

--Paul exhorts us to keep the matters of God’s kingdom as our priority, and to enter the life Christ desires and the Lord wills, there will be a deepening sense of community.


Hymn writer Shirley Murray says it this way in her beautiful words for Now to Your Table Spread:  Here is our commonwealth, in sharing what is good.  She is speaking of the Lord’s table, the ultimate biblical symbol of the new community Christ is building. 


Here is our commonwealth, in sharing what is good.  Community is good.  We are created to be in community.

How Did We Get Here? Announcing Good News

Announcing Good News                                                    7/17/16

Mark 1:14-20, II Timothy 1:6-14



Paul tells the Galatian church that at “when the time had fully come, God sent his son into the world”  (4:4)


How Did We Get Here?        Oral History, Greece, Rome

Today we stay in the Roman Empire, about half way through Rome’s almost millennial empire.


In a corner of the empire was a land that dwelt in the middle of trade routes, with the large city of Jerusalem at its center.  It contained people highly skeptical of Roman power, even rebellious at times.  The seemed to challenge everything, including Rome’s borrowed and renamed version of the pantheon of gods taken from Greece.  Israel endorsed a different idea:  monotheism. 


In their tenuous relationship, Israel had even secured a religio licita, when allowed them to forego emperor worship.  


It is into this world that Jesus Christ comes.  “When the time had fully come”.  He had come to be Messiah and fulfill God’s will for salvation.  His death forgives our sins and his resurrection brings the promise of new life for his believers.  This message entered 1st century Rome.  It was in the Roman Empire that the message of the Gospel happened historically. 


Roger Osbourne, author of Civilization:  A New History of the western World, compares the message of Jesus Christ to the message and substance of the Roman empire:


          Into all this cam a faith that reconnected spiritually, believe and experience, a d presented a profound and meaningful alternative to the chaotic spiritual emptiness of the Roman world.  The contrast could hardly have been greater.  The new faith presented a strong attraction to the spiritual heirs of Socrates, living at a time of moral confusion, and to the people of Rome, who were deprived of meaningful religious experience.  But Christianity also offered a strong and supportive network of like-minded people.  The artisan classes in particular were effectively closed off form the ruling elite by their lack of citizenship, but the Church offered an alternative spiritual empire in which they had full membership.   (117)




7 Comparisons and Contrasts in Paul’s Teaching to Timothy


Vs 7           The Holy Spirit does not make us timid

                   The Holy Spirit gives us power, love and self-discipline


Vs 8           Do not be ashamed about the Lord’s testimony or me

                   Participate by God’s power in suffering for the gospel


Vs 9           We are not called because of our own doing

                   We are called by the Lord’s own purpose and grace


Vs 9-10      Grace given before time

                   Grace is revealed now


Vs 10         Jesus has destroyed death

                   He has brought life and immortality to light by gospel


Vs 12         No cause for shame

                   There is truth and conviction


Vs 12         Paul entrusted to God

                   God entrusted to Paul



Jesus calls the disciples:   Come, follow me.

                                                He calls without delay


Jesus demands all from us.   And this is good news.

When we put God first, and seek him first, then is when we find the rest, and we find ourselves.


Is God one more thing?  One of many things?  Or everything?


The Racko game illustration:

Even if every other number is order, but the first card isn’t…you can’t get any points.


How true for life:  even if everything else looks in place, but we live without God first, it is all terribly off.



Jesus’ first words:

He announces good news.  “The time is now.  The kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news”


Do you?


Will you?


Paul wrote:  I know whom I have believed


Have you?



How Did We Get Here? That Which Endures

THAT WHICH ENDURES                                        7/10/16

Isaiah 35, II Timothy 2:8-13


This summer we are asking the question “How did we get here?”  The “we” is 21st century post-modern Christians.   To answer the question we will survey the broad themes of western civilization through the lens of Scripture.


Our story started out in the pre-written world of Oral History.  We learned that humanity is about more than surviving.  Two weeks ago, we looked to Classical Greece, and found the idea of wisdom together.  Today, we look at Rome, for that noble pursuit of that which endures.


Rome is the longest lasting empire in the Western story, with almost a thousand years of life.  Like all great life, Rome was not without its warts, and some of those warts can provide caution to the United States in its leadership position in the world today.


Rome was founded by two men named Romulus and Remus.  One was an exiled prince, and one was a thief. Roger Osbourne writes that this mix of nobility and aggression becomes the DNA of the empire.


We see this at the height of Roman power, one third of the empire lived as slaves, almost 2 million people.


We see this in the wars of expansion, an unsustainable pattern of having to conquer more lands in order to support and feed a growing population.  One million Gaul’s are killed in one campaign.  Rome was often engaged in conflict, and biographer Edward Gibbons wrote that “Rome conquered the world in self-defense”. 


Yet there was also an effective communication within the empire.  Roman Roads connected the empire.  There was always opportunity to work yourself up the chain, if you were willing to adopt Roman values (as they say, When in Rome…).  Local customs were tolerated as long as they didn’t interfere with Rome’s agenda. There was a successful administration of partnerships and treaties within the empire, at one point over 150 treaties in place.  Rome was historically, the largest professional organization the world had ever seen. 


The story of the Roman Empire and expansion was, from a human perspective, a story that endured.   Rome was excellent at finding things that worked and borrowing them for their culture.  Our example this morning is of the Aqueduct. 


Latin for “Water way” an aqueduct would transport water to key locations throughout the empire.  Until Rome perfected the aqueduct, civilizations were largely successful to the extent they could rely on local water resources.  The water resources dictated the size of the town.  As Rome grew, (there were a million people in the city of Rome in the 1st century), they needed more water.  They called upon a pre-existing method of building aqueducts.  Often underground, sometimes in the form of large bridge-like structures multi story and supported by curved columns, aqueducts followed the landscape to deliver water, except when the landscape got in the way, and that is when Roman engineering worked the landscape to keep the water flowing.   At their height, there were over 400 miles of aqueducts leading to Rome.  And these aqueducts brought in over 300 million gallons of water to the city every single day.  They provided for Roman bathhouses, gardening, latrines, fountains, private homes, and commerce.  The Quintus Marcius aqueduct, cost 180 million Roman coins, about 720 million dollars by today’s standards. 


The story of the aqueduct was fascinating, in part because of the efforts of maintenance required.  There was surveying, health tests, experiments in efficiency, inspections, upkeep, security, regulations for access and licensing fees.  If a mountain was in the way, Rome moved the mountain, or at least part of it.  We still see these marvelous feats of engineering standing today.  And yes, a few of them are still functioning.   


The story of Rome offers many lessons, good and bad, in contributions to society that stood the test of time.  But their story is far less enduring than the message of Scripture.   This message of Scripture is what gathers us together, and keeps us together today.


We turn our attention to that which endures.  We will lift up three ideas:

1.     The Lord’s work endures

2.     The Lord’s promises endure (the images of Isaiah 35)

3.     our participation (rooted in Christ) endures


The Lord’s work endures.   When we see the word endure in the Bible, connected to the Lord, here is what we find:

a.     God endures forever.  God’s nature and character are eternal.

b.    the most common phrase is found in the Psalms:  God’s love endures forever.  In fact, in Psalm 136, the phrase is used 26 times as a refrain to the witness of God’s saving work.  With each verse, the people would sing back:  God’s love endures forever.

c.     God’s name endures forever. 

d.    God’s fame endures forever.  Psalm 135:12 proclaims “Your name LORD, endures forever, your renown, LORD, through all generations”

e.     God’s word endures forever.  “The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8)

f.      God’s throne endures forever.  The Lamentation Book in Scripture ends this way “You LORD, reign forever, your throne endures from generation to generation” (5:19)

g.     God’s promises endure forever.


The Lord’s promises endure.   This is important to remember.  When we read in Scripture of judgment, God will keep his word.  When warnings are given to the wicked to repent, his promises will one day come to fruition.  But this is also true of God’s promises of provision and salvation.  They also remain, even when not seen or experienced.  They are still true, and will always be true.


I hope you listened to Isaiah 35.  These are promises in images that excite our imagination, and deepen our hope. 


This past week included some very hot days.  Recall how hot you felt outside this week.  And imagine someone coming to you and saying:  It won’t be long before this same spot provides refreshment, or this same spot is a frigid place.  Winter seems far away now, and we aren’t quite ready to think about fall though we might open our arms to its weather.  But we know these things are coming.  Summer doesn’t last forever.


But when Isaiah proclaims the Lord’s word:  he speaks to landscape that is far more permanent.  The deserts will be glad.  He doesn’t say, hey place that has had a couple of warm days, be glad.  Isaiah speaks to the desert: established as parched land.  Isaiah speaks to wilderness of joy, to dry lands seeing the glory of flowers, to blind people seeing, to deaf hearing, to those weak and fearful standing on promise, to lame leaping, to mute shouting, to streams taking over the desert, to pools replacing burning sand and bubbling springs emerging out of thirsty ground. 


Isaiah gives an image of a highway (and mind you, that image doesn’t excite any of us if we think of being stuck in traffic), but the Way of Holiness will show itself, void of folly, wickedness and ravenous beast.   What is the Lord’s promise?


“The redeemed will walk on the Way of Holiness, and those the LORD has rescued will return.  They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (35:10)


Our participation (rooted in Christ) endures.  There is an old song “Only what you do for Christ will last”…and that sentence is supported by Scripture.  Mind you, your work for Christ can be varied:  it can be a smile to a neighbor, it can be a sacrificial gift, it can be speaking the truth, or challenging the systems of this world, or announcing good news to people, or praying with someone who is sad, or cooking meals or just being there. 

When our words and actions are rooted in Christ, that is, done for his glory and honor, our participating joins an everlasting story.   Last week, I wrote some reflections for the East Bethany church, my first call, celebrating 200 years.  In them, I declared that I would stand before God and give praise to God for each person from that congregation, stand and name their names in praise.  It is true:  all of life can be an offering of praise to God.


I want you to listen to a passage from Scripture whose context is about financial giving to a hurting and hungry congregation that Paul is collecting money for.  But as you listen, I want you to think about more than money, think about your words, your deeds, your purpose, all that you are, your emotions and thoughts and prayers from the heart.  Think about how they, when offered to the Lord, can help bring Christ’s life to the world.


(read II Corinthians 9:6-15).


Our life, when lived with Christ, can bring glory to God, and can have eternal consequences.


Paul encourages Timothy and Timothy’s congregation:  If we died with Christ, we will also live with him.  If we endure, we will also reign with him.


Paul also warns the church:  If we disown him, he will also disown us.  We are strongly cautioned to avoid faithlessness.  If we do not have faith, God’s faithfulness will remain, but will we experience it?   God’s promises cannot fail.  God’s work cannot be undone.  God will be faithful.


Just like the aqueduct existed before Rome, but was made better by Rome, the cross was also a tool of the empire that existed before Rome, but used more fully by Rome.  Yet, this human device for torture and punishment was ultimately redeemed by God through Jesus Christ.  The cross brings life to the world, through the forgiveness of sins.  In closing, as Christians, we are to connect these two familiar tools of Rome.  Despite human intentions, the cross brought God’s victory to the world.  We can be right with God because of the cross of Christ.  We then, are to be an aqueduct of good news.  We are to share Christ’s water of healing life with the world.  It is not our life nor healing that we offer, but Jesus Christ’s.  We are simply the stone or concrete, or ultimately flesh and bones, by which it travels to its needed audience. Direct the good news to the people:


The Lord endures.  His works endure.  His promises endure.  And in Christ, we can join that which endures.  All praise and glory to God!