Sunday, April 23, 2000

Easter Dawn

Easter Dawn

Isaiah 25:6-9 
April 23, 2000 

Happiness is…Easter

Introduction: The one thing most people want is happiness. Our expressions at Easter indicate that Easter is supposed to be a happy time: “Easter joy”; or “Happy Easter”.  It is a time of rejoicing not because of our happy circumstances but because of what God has done for us in the Resurrection.  True Christians are happy regardless of the hardships, handicaps and misfortunes they may be experiencing. Their joy is based on God’s victory, which they can share.

Easter is happy because…

1.         It is a feast--v. 6  Isaiah tells us: "And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined."

There is nothing sectarian about God. "All peoples" are to get the benefit of God's conquest of evil, including death.  This must have been a shocking and revolutionary message for the nation of Israel.  Israel's enemies are among "all peoples"!  And yet, "all peoples" are brought to the Lord.  "ALL PEOPLES" receive the blessings of God!

By these words we see all sorts of people benefiting from God's gracious act. God is concerned with the salvation of all people.  "God so loved the world…that He gave His only begotten Son." God desires all people to live forever with Him. God wishes all people to repent and come to Him.  He does not desire the loss of one single soul.

In the Old Testament a feast is symbolic of the conclusion of God's salvation. It's a celebration at the conclusion of a job well done.  God has conquered all evil powers, including death.  Now comes the victory dinner. After a difficult or heavy job is done people like to celebrate a little. Easter is God's celebration!

It is God who provides and prepares for this celebration. Believers in Christ are God's invited guests. You are here this morning because God has invited you.  You are here today because this is the feast of victory of our God. In the Holy Communion God comes to us offering His gifts of salvation.

In that meal especially you and I celebrate His victory over death in the resurrection of His own Son.  This is why we celebrate communion on Easter and on Sunday, which is the  weekday in which Jesus rose from the dead. We celebrate with a feast, which has been prepared and furnished by God.

2.         It is a victory--v. 7 Isaiah continues: "And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the Vail that is spread over all nations."

We are victorious because Christ is victorious. God's promise to defeat death has been fulfilled.  God promised the covering that was cast over all people and the Vail that is spread over all the nations.  Death is what is common to each of us -  for it is the result of sin.  In overcoming sin for us Jesus has also overcome death!  Death no longer can rob us of that joy that Jesus has planned for us. Death has lost its sting! Death has lost its punch! Death is no match for God! Thanks be to Jesus who has overcome death for us!

3.         It is salvation--v. 9 Isaiah concludes: "And it shall be in that day Lo, this is our God: we have waited for Him and He will save us; this is the LORD: we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."

A Christian's happiness does not depend on his/her well being in this world. A person can be oppressed, persecuted, and defeated but can still be happy.  How is this so? Because of Jesus and because of Easter. The reason is the source of one's joy.  Our joy finds its focus in Christ. Because we are Easter people we can rejoice because God has defeated our worst enemy, He has defeated death!

Conclusion:  God has provided a banquet for each of us.  You are invited and the fare is only the best. Come to the banquet. He is the host. You are His guest! Come -for all things are now ready!  Amen.

Easter Festival

Easter Festival 

1 Corinthians 15:19-28 
April 23, 2000

The Reality of the Resurrection

Introduction:  Is the Resurrection as real as a fact? Some deny the historical reality of the Resurrection. It is held that the Resurrection was a matter of faith on the part of the disciples who passed on the myth to later generations.  Because something is believed to exist does not prove it exists. Faith is not enough. Faith must be based on facts. Paul is certain that the Resurrection is a fact.

What are the facts of the resurrection?

1.                  The fact of the tempt tomb. Paul considers the Resurrection to be a fact .  It is not a theory, a wish, and not even a faith. Thinking, wishing, or believing does not make anything a reality especially the Resurrection. The Resurrection is a hard, cold fact - and the fact that Paul places before us is an empty tomb. The tomb is empty. That is what Paul presents to us.

Jesus is not there - His tomb is empty. We can not return to pay homage at His tomb. He is not there. He died a physical death but He was raised back to life. In fact, Paul will go on to remind us that if we do away with this fact - the reality of the Resurrection - Christianity is no more! If there is no Resurrection - there isn't  any Christianity. Without this fact of the Resurrection the Christian faith has no foundation. If the church has no Resurrection to proclaim, it has no message of hope and there is no salvation to offer the world.

2.                   Then there is the fact of a resurrected Jesus. He appeared physically to His disciples. Some believe that the Resurrection is merely the thought of the first Christians that Jesus became alive in the minds of believers.  Paul will have nothing of that. To him it is all or nothing. Jesus appeared physically alive before His disciples for a period of 40 days to prove once and for all that He was truly alive. The empty tomb is one fact. Jesus' appearance alive physically is the second fact. For 40 days Jesus walked and talked, and ate with His disciples so that they could know that He truly was alive from the dead.

Each of the disciples of Jesus Christ, with the exclusion of John all died for one thing - their testimony that they saw Jesus alive from the dead. If Jesus had died and not risen from the dead then each of them died for what they knew was a lie. True, there have been many that have died for a good cause. But can you show me one place in human history were so many would have died for what they knew was a lie.  They said "We are witnesses of His Resurrection!"

3.                  The fact of a living Lord in the lives of His followers. Jesus changed their lives. Take Thomas for example. Before Jesus' appearance Thomas was a skeptic.  He wouldn't believe unless he saw Jesus with His own eyes.  But once he saw Jesus his life was changed forever.  Each of the followers of Christ had their lives turned upside down because of one thing the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and His appearance to them.

            Because of the Resurrection Christ is in the business of changing our lives too. Because Jesus is alive you are made alive too.  The resurrection is not limited to life after death.  The resurrection can take place before death.  In baptism we die and are buried with Christ and we rise in newness of life. Here is a resurrection before the resurrection. Easter has a present day application for each of us. You can experience a resurrection with Christ here and now because in Christ you are a new creature.

Conclusion:  The Easter message is one, which brings life to each of us!  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  He has appeared again and again to His disciples, in fact, the one who has written to us this day is an eyewitness of Jesus Christ. Jesus appeared to Paul physically so that he too could say "I am an eye witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!"  Rejoice then this day for Christ is alive. And because He lives we will live also.  A blessed Easter! Amen.

Friday, April 21, 2000

Good Friday

Good Friday
April 21, 2000
Hebrews 4:14-5:10
Christ, Our Great High Priest

Introduction:  The entire concept of a priest may have lost some of its significance for us since we no longer observe the sacrificial system of the Old Testament.  But when the New Testament tells us that Jesus Christ is our  Great High Priest this is wonderful news for us.  Let’s see how Christ fulfills this important office for us.

I.                  Jesus Christ is a priest called by God.

A.    In the Old Testament, God called priests. (5:4)

1.     No one could usurp the office.

2.     Priests were called of God, as was Aaron (Ex. 28)

B.      God as the great High Priest designated Christ.

1.     Christ did not glorify Himself (5:5)

2.     The Father declared Him to be His eternal Son (5:5)

3.     The Father declared Him to be a priest (5:6)

II.                  As priest, Christ offers Himself and obtained eternal redemption (5:9)

A.    Priests offered up sacrifices for sins (5:1)

Thursday, April 20, 2000

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday
April 20, 2000
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 [18-21]

Holy Communion Is A Participation In Christ

Introduction:  In any poll ever taken of the greatest men in history, Jesus has always come at or near the top. Jesus is universally admired as a self-sacrificing human being and a gifted teacher. For us Christians, Jesus is far more, however. He is the Son of God and our beautiful Savior. As such He is surely worthy of all the admiration we have for Him.

But we do not just admire Jesus from a distance of almost 20 centuries. We actually approach Him so that we come very near to Him and He to us. That’s what Paul is saying in our text.  He reminds us that Holy Communion Is a Participation In Christ.

I.                  It is a exclusive participation

A.               The real Christ unites Himself with us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion.

1.      We take into ourselves His very body and blood.

2.      We participate intimately in God Himself

B.                 We participation in Christ excludes participation in idolatry.

1.         By worshiping the gods of money, prestige, and sex we divorce ourselves from Christ (1 Corinthians 6:25-20)

2.         God will have no other gods before Him (Zech. 1:14)

Transition: The exclusive participation in Christ in Holy Communion reminds us that we are to be done with participation in anything that usurps Christ’s place within.

II.         It is a satisfying participation.

A.       Christ satisfied us with His forgiveness.

1.      We need forgiveness for our unfaithfulness, an unfaithfulness that can never satisfy (Ezekiel 16:28).

2.      We receive full and free forgiveness, for Christ gave His body and blood to secure that forgiveness. His forgiveness takes away our guilt and calms our conscience (Psalm 65:4; 107:9).

B.         Christ satisfies us with abundant life (John 10:10)

1.      We need Christ’s life because we live in bodies that will die.

2.      We receive the life of Jesus, over whose body death no longer has dominion (Romans 6:9)

Transition: The satisfying participation in Christ in Holy Communion results in the life of Jesus being manifested in our mortal bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:10-11).

III.         It is a unifying participation.

A.    Since we partake of one bread we receive the one and the same Christ, we also are one body.

1.      Our oneness manifests itself in our united affirmation of the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion.

2.      Our oneness manifests itself in our unanimous confession of all that  Christ has taught (Matthew 28:20)

3.      Our oneness manifests itself in our sharing tasks, joys, and sorrows (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).

B.      As we participate in the one Christ, we have a oneness that enables us to stand against Satan.

1.      We will not be such easy prey for Satan when we remain in fellowship with one another.

2.      We can better escape Satan as we strengthen our fellowship by partaking of Holy Communion (Acts 2:42)

Conclusion:  The unifying participation in Christ in Holy Communion enables us to be a body of Christians who together confess Christ, support each other, and stand firm against temptation.  As members of families and as citizens of a country we all participate in many kinds of activities. But none of these compares with our participation with Christ in Holy Communion.

Sunday, April 16, 2000

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday

Mark 11:1-11; 15:1-39 
April 16, 2000

An Attitude of Opportunity - "When Triumph & Tragedy Kiss Each Other”

Introduction:  Passion –Palm Sunday consists of mixed emotions.  One does not know whether to laugh or cry, to celebrate or to mourn.  Palm Sunday seems to be triumph for Jesus and Passion Sunday is one of agony, suffering, and death.  Within a week this was Jesus’ experience, and we need to re-live it with Him.

How triumph turns to tragedy –

1.      Was Jesus a King? (v.2) The central issue in the trial, passion and death of Jesus was the matter of kingship. He was accused of making Himself a king. This claim was the subject of Pilate's interview with Jesus. His enemies rejected Jesus as a king.  They claimed to have no king but Caesar. Using the idea of a king, the soldiers had fun with Jesus dressing Him up as a king. While on the cross, His enemies used the King idea as the basis for mockery. The superscription on the cross identified Him as a king. But what a King! He was a king without a crown, throne, and scepter; He had no countries, no army, nor navy. All He had was a kingdom of truth and love.

2.      And yet there was no answer that Jesus would give to His accusers. (v.4) In the trial with Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, a distinctive feature was the silence of Jesus. He refused to defend Himself. To deny the charges, or to expose His enemies. Why did He give "no answer"? An answer would do no good because His enemies had made up their minds that he was guilty of death.  Moreover, they were not open to truth or to change. Jesus' silence indicated He was willing to die for the sins of the entire world.

3.      It was out of envy and spite that these false charges were leveled at Jesus (v.10). Pilate was convinced that Jesus was innocent of the charges. He realized that Jesus was brought to trial because of the envy of the religious leaders.  Well might they envy one who could heal the sick, raise the dead, still the storms, and captivate the people. If Pilate knew this, he had reason to release Him. Pilate was a person who knew what was right but he lacked the courage to act on it.

4.      After a night with no sleep, enduring four trials (three Jewish and one Roman) after repeated beatings and extreme cruelty Jesus was led through the streets of Jerusalem bearing His own cross.  But He fell under the load a pilgrim who had come to the city was compelled (v.21) to carry Jesus' cross to Calvary. His name was Simon, Simon from Cyrene. A cross may be carried voluntarily, but most crosses are thrust upon us.  If it is our own cross, we may choose to carry it. But, it is another matter if the cross belongs to another person. Life often thrusts a cross on us - it is unavoidable and inevitable. Even though the cross is compulsory, we gain from carrying it. Simon must have become a disciple for the early church; for he is identified as the father of Alexander and Rufus, men known by the church to be key leaders. Simon was a role model for his children in bearing the cross for Christ even when it was thrust upon him. May we model Simon as we bear under the crosses that are placed upon us.

5.      When Jesus died, the curtain between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place was torn from top to bottom (v. 38). The Holy of Holies was the place where God was identified with the Ark of the Covenant. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies but once a year. The torn curtain indicated that the crucified Christ broke down the partition between God and man. There was not restoration and peace between God and man. Where there was once enmity there was now a bond of peace.

6.      It took a hard man of war and a Gentile to see in the crucified 0ne that Jesus was the Son of God. (v.39)  This is a confession that Jesus is divine and the chosen Messiah. This conviction came as a conclusion to his experience at the cross. He saw and heard a man who acted like the Son of God would speak and act. His conclusion that seemed to explain everything to him was that Jesus was the Son of God. So, it must always be - the truth that Jesus is God's Son is not a priori thesis but a conclusion that is inescapable after experiencing the cross. May this be your story as you begin Holy Week this week.  In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Mid-week Lent 6

Midweek Lenten Service 6 
April 12, 2000
Zechariah 9:9-10

The Attitude of Opportunity 
What A King!

INTRODUCTION:   What kind of King do we want to rule over us? Though we do not have a king we do have a president; and in the midst of a national election year that is the question that many are asking themselves these days “what kind of leader do we want to lead us as a people?”  This can lead to a number of questions for us to consider.  Who or what is the master (king) of your life?  In our lesson for today we are told that the King is coming.  Is the King (Messiah) coming to take charge of your life?  Jesus offers to be our king in fulfillment of the promise “Lo, your King comes to you.”  What kind of King would He be?

1.                  A humble King – “humble and riding on an ass”. The Messiah comes riding on a common beast of burden. He is a humble king. He does not ride a horse, which is reserved for a mighty king.  An ass is a humble animal, which symbolizes peace.  The ass carried the Christ to the people. Today we see this same humble king coming to us to take away our sin. He has stilled God's anger and taken away our reproach. His innocent suffering and death save us.

2.                  A victorious King – “triumphant and victorious is He” Jesus began the week as He rode into the city of Jerusalem triumphant accepting the claim and the praises of the people.  By the end of the week He was condemned to die with two common thieves.  His early success turned to scorn along with it the horrors and tragedies of Good Friday.

            And yet, we too can triumph with Jesus even though we know that it meant the cross. Even in the midst of pain and gore there is joy.  Jesus endured the cross for the joy, which was set before Him.

            The joy is that the Savior is coming to die for our sins and to assume His rule over us in our daily lives. Because of the cross Jesus truly is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Yes, He is a victorious king.

3.                  A peaceful King – “He shall command peace to the nations.” His victory over sin, over death, and over the power of the enemy guarantees for us peace with God. He has become our peace.  Not a peace which is only temporary.  He gives us a peace that lasts.  And of His kingdom there shall be no end!  Jesus has come to bring blessings and life.  In Him there truly is peace on earth and good will to men. Rejoice in His mercy and the peace that He alone can give.

Conclusion: This is how God chooses to come to us.  He chooses to come to us in a sacramental way. This is how He chooses to deal with us.  We do not come to the King.  Rather, the King chooses to come to us. He comes to us personally to bless us.  We do not decide for Christ. Rather, He decides for us.  We do not choose Christ, but Christ chooses us. God initiates the act of grace. And we live and dwell in safety under the watchful eye of our gracious and humble peaceful king.

Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Mid-week Lent 5

Midweek Lenten Service 5 
April 5, 2000
Jeremiah 31:31-34

The Attitude of Sacrifice 
The Coming Days Have Come

Introduction:  “The Days are coming” when God will make a new covenant with His people. If this is only a promise of a future new relationship with God, where is the good news other than hope for the future? Christians have more than a promise; they have the fulfillment in Christ who effected the new covenant. The days are not coming; they have come in Christ. This is the good news for this day!

Because of Christ and His sacrifice…

1.                  A new covenant has been made v. 31 "I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah and with the house of Israel."

What is new about a covenant between God and man?  After all, there had been a number of covenants made in the past between God and His people. There was Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.  The making of a covenant is nothing new, but this promised covenant would be new - brand new! 

This covenant would not be one like those of the past.  The covenants of the past were only renewals. Here is a whole new deal. God is going to give Israel another chance to be His own people. This new covenant will be made through the blood of God's own Son Jesus Christ.

2.                 A covenant in which we know God in Christ v. 34  " And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother saying 'Know the Lord' for they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them says the Lord…"

The people are told you will know God. When God is loved with the whole heart, there is no longer any more need to teach someone who God is or anything about God.  They will know Him intimately. That person will know God instinctively.  To know God is not a mere intellectual exercise or a mere understanding of the concept of God. To know God is to have a relationship with Him, a personal, deep, personal experience with God, which is based on trust. This new covenant is what brings us back to God when God instructed us to fear, love and trust in God above all things.  This knowledge of God comes through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

3.                 We experience forgiveness through Christ v. 34  "…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Here we find the effect of this new covenant.  God must forgive the people past sins that they may begin anew in their relationship with God.  To have this new relationship with God there must be the forgiveness of sins. The sins and misgivings of the past must be removed so that God and man can begin anew in their relationship with God as though nothing had happened.

God not only promises to forgive but to forget!  He tells us that He will remember our sins no more. This is wonderful news!  This good news is that when we confess our sins and are forgiven, those sins are blotted out and will no longer be brought up at judgment day.  God keeps no record of wrong. There are no tapes for playing back all of our sins.  He buries them in the sea of forgetfulness and remembers our sins no more!

This new covenant is given to us in Baptism, and is lived each and every day our lives. We live under this new covenant; it's based on trust, on love and on hope. It's God's final word to us.  It is a word that He will not break.  Thank God for this amazing mercy and grace.