Sermon for The Ascension Day 2017

Your God Reigns. This phrase from the lesson in Isaiah challenges our autonomy as sinful human beings at all levels. We do not like to hear we are not in control. Human history is full of people from individuals to governments seeking ways to exert control over the earth and their fellow human beings while rejecting God’s rule. Such is never successful. Yes, it may look like such is successful for a time. Every single time, such controlling attempts fail. In the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to the right hand of God the Father Almighty, we celebrate His eternal rule over all. We celebrate Christ now seated in glory in Heaven to intercede and mediate on our behalf continually. As I Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” All attempts at saying we have something to do with earning merit with God whether they be through trying to find a saint to mediate for us or through thinking we can gain notice by God with self-made goodness ALL fail to recognize the full Kingship of Jesus Christ, of His ascension into heaven. He alone mediates for us. He alone intercedes for us. This evening, let us meditate upon the implications of the Ascension in our daily lives.

Publishes Salvation

            Our call in life is to publish the salvation of Jesus Christ to all we encounter. This entails both those that have never heard or believed as well as reminding each other in the Faith. Isaiah 52:7 states, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” This news comes from heaven, from the mountaintops. It is the message meant to reach into all the dark, deep valleys and crevices of humanity, to the hardest of hearts. We sometimes think in our call to proclaim the Gospel that we are only to reach those that are comfortable to us, which “look” like they will be most likely to receive the message. If we do this, we have missed the point. The point is that the Gospel is meant for us to publish and proclaim to all sorts and conditions of people, all that God places in our lives. The beauty is that God works through us in our obedience to proclaim. He is the one that softens and turns the hearts of people to Him. We do not need to set up measuring sticks to see how our methods are working. That is to place man made restrictions upon the Gospel. We rather in loving gratitude proclaim that Jesus saves us from our sins through His grace by faith.

            Our call is obedience to proclaim Christ as King over all. All we preach stems from the fact that Jesus reigns. In our lesson tonight from Acts 1:8. The call to the Disciples at the Ascension was that they would “be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This call remains alive to this day. We remain constant witnesses of Christ and the message of salvation. Christ the King has secured peace. The peace we broke with God in the Garden ended with Christ’s finished work upon the Cross, His Resurrection to secure our lives, and His Ascension to forever seal our standing as God’s dear children. The Great Commission is great because it has a heavenly mandate and continual seal with Christ forever mediating and interceding for His people as they respond to His love with grateful love and obedience. The publishing of this peace is a daily endeavor.

Sing for Joy

            Second in the fact that Christ reigns is what we read in Isaiah 52:8, “together they sing for joy.” With the daily call upon all Christians to proclaim the Gospel of peace to all nations comes the need for refreshment, nourishment, and reviving. In singing for joy, we see the necessary component of consistent worship of Christ the King. In worship, we are refreshed and revived in our duties as Christians. See, in the daily proclaiming of the Kingdom; we encounter constant resistance that wears us down.

            How do we deal with this wearing down? If we seek to revive self through worldly means, we will find ourselves lacking in joy and true reviving. The Lord calls us to worship. Isaiah 52:9 states in connection to the previous verse “Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.” We are comforted in worship by God.

            After Jesus ascended into heaven, we read in the Gospel that the Disciples’ first response was to worship Him. This is why worship on the Biblical first day of the week, Sunday, is so important. Beginning the week with worship prepares us for the coming days of living out the ascension in the manner Jesus taught, through proclaiming the Gospel.

            Worship of God is our supreme obedient act of approaching Christ as King. Worship conveys majesty, reverence, and awe for Jesus Christ. If worship conveys a message that seeks to make the worshiper the center, there are deep problems. In such, no true revival, refreshment, or nourishment occurs. We come to worship Christ our King, not self. Joy comes in the reverence for Jesus. Joy comes in the worship of Jesus.

Purify Yourselves

            Lastly, in living in the fact that God reigns is the point of Isaiah 52:11, “purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.” God is our protection as we read at the end of the Isaiah passage. As our source of protection, He provides the protection we need to pay for the penalty required for rebelling against His Law. Through Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of God, we have full access to the mercy seat of God and full forgiveness.

            The constant of publishing salvation has the component of self-reminder and of telling others of our need for Christ’s finished work to atone for our sins. We need to hear and re-hear this message for our whole lives. The message humbles us. The message makes us better communicators of the Gospel to others. When we exhort others to repent to Jesus Christ, we are doing so from a point that repentance is a constant in our lives. Purifying ourselves is to turn away from serving self to cling to Christ and His work of redemption.

            In this access to Jesus through repentance and faith, we live lives benefited by His Ascension. The benefit to this is that He continually intercedes for us. Our status is assured. Our eternal life is assured through Him, seated at the right hand of God the Father as our King. Living lives in light of the ascension is to live with our lives placed in His hands. We no longer need to worry about promoting self. Our sole concern because Jesus has secured our status as God’s children is to promote Jesus to all peoples throughout the world. We publish this news through His power, waiting and praying on His timing to work in the hearts we reach with the message. We sing for joy in worshipping Him by His grace. We purify ourselves through His work for us, enabling us to be cleansed by His blood. May we be a people that are publishers of peace instead of heaven gazers. May we be a people that worship our King instead of worshipping self. May we be a people that rely on His purification of our sins instead of seeking to earn our cleansing through our works.

Let us Pray.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thine only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon for the 5th Sunday after Easter 2017

Peace in thinking those things that are good. We prayed this line in the Collect, which speaks to an issue we often neglect, causing us to lose our sense of peace. Looking at all the various manners Jesus instills His peace this Easter Season, they all entail thinking upon them. From our status in Jesus Christ as the children of God to His Holy Word, thinking upon these things aids in reviving and maintaining our peace in Christ. We live in a world that is not at peace. War abounds whether between nations and groups or through crime and discord. We see the absence of peace in all relationships due to the rebellious nature of sin. Even as Christians, we lose our peace through sin, through caving into the temptation to face the sin and problems of this world through focusing our thoughts on those things that are sinful rather than good. This morning, let us see how our lessons help us in honing our thoughts upon Christ and His goodness for our sakes to bring us renewed peace.

And they shall know that I am the Lord their God

            First, in our lesson in Ezekiel 34:30, we read, “And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God.” Here we have the idea of thinking of the things that are good. In reference to knowing that God is our God and that we are His people, our lesson provides three compelling areas to dwell upon that provide assurance and peace as we live life.

            First, as we read in verse 25, “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.” The point of this in historical context is that in the removal of the leadership all at once from Judah with the Babylonian conquest, one of the subsequent curses was wild and dangerous animals would move in, making the once peaceful countryside dangerous. Not only did judgment hit Judah for her sins by a conquering army, the remnant in Judah also lost the sense of safety even in moving about their land. Jesus brings us perfect peace as the fulfillment of the Law, of establishing the covenant of peace in His blood at the Cross. His Word and Covenant, His promise to protect us as His own, forever thwart all the attacks of our enemies against us. Thinking of these things brings great peace, knowing that He initiated and ratified the covenant, a covenant that we could not initiate or ratify.

            Second, we read in verse 26, “And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing …” In Christ, we are blessed as His. This is why the aspect of Christian worship of “blessing” is so important. Dwelling upon the point that we are blessed in Jesus Christ brings great peace within, regardless of our outward circumstances. This is why the end of all services of worship contains a benediction or final blessing, sending us out from the place of worship to love and serve the Lord under His blessing and grace. We leave under the promise of His peace that passes understanding, which is needed in this fallen world. In such, the blessing points us in the right direction of thinking upon the many good things we have in Christ.

            Lastly, we read this in verse 31, “And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.” We are cared for personally. Thinking of this good thing is most helpful in calming us when we face dangers. The Lord cares for us as His people. He does not leave us to fend for ourselves. No, He seeks us and sustains us. He calls us to repent and forgive us to live in His Word by His grace. It is very peaceful to know we are cared for in life. This is what Christ does for us continually.

            The Lord as we read in Psalm 98:2 has made known His salvation. This knowing secures our minds to focus on Christ as we face the challenges of this world. It is to know that we need Christ and that we cannot save ourselves. There is great peace in giving up our pride and hypocrisy through repentance and resting in our Shepherd’s care and provision.

Remembering Leads to Doing

            Second, as we read in our passage from James 1, the aspect of remembering for Christians leads to doing as called. As verse 22 states, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Thinking upon all that Jesus has done for us through all the means of grace He provides aids us in living godly lives. There is a danger as we read further in James 1 of just hearing without letting what we heard sink in and take hold. In this laziness, we may even like what we hear, but it never amounts to anything meaningful.

            There is also a danger in thinking of false good or upon wrong things. As James 1:26 states, “If anyone THINKS he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is useless.” In other words, we can turn our thoughts inward to how well we think we are doing. We can make the common mistake when exhorted in the Communion service to examine ourselves before coming to partake. Often, thinking on the wrong things leads to using the time to examine ourselves as an excuse to think of how good we perceive ourselves. In doing this, we often drift to thoughts of how bad others are to make ourselves feel better about our own sins. In this, we ignore the fact that self-examination implies thinking upon where we need Christ and His goodness to forgive our sins. When we dwell on how good we are in terms of “look at all I do” in a religious sense to cover up or gloss over our sins, we, in fact, are saying we do not need Christ, that we are good. Such causes us to use our tongues as instruments of destroying others rather than humbly loving and seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. As Galatians 6:3 humbles us, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” As human beings, we all fit this category. 

            The only way out of our propensity toward thinking upon bad things such as pride or how good we are compared to others is repentance and clinging to Christ and His peace that enables us to be content in the fact that He is everything and all we need. We do not need to be right. We do not need to be perceived as “good” to others when it is always false and hollow. As I Peter 3:8 states, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” When we are thinking upon prideful things, all we will seek is division instead of unity, disdain instead of sympathy, loving only those that make us comfortable rather than true brotherly love, coldness rather than a tender heart, and pride instead of a humble mind. We must repent of these sins. True peace is in Christ alone.  Peace is absent when we promote self.

            Thinking of good things as we prayed in the Collect comes by God’s Holy Inspiration. In such love and grace, we have peace and the inspiration to seek His good. Philippians 4:8-9 is crucial in understanding placing our thoughts towards Christ and His goodness over all sin. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” These are found in Jesus Christ alone. When we live our lives, all that glorifies Christ is in mind with this passage and thinking upon good things. If we are drifting toward self-promotion, we will shy from the admonition of this passage. When we are all about promoting self through dwelling on vengeance, list keeping, and a general attitude of only forgiving those we feel like forgiving out of pride; we will be miserable and lacking in peace. Thinking upon good things is to place ourselves last and others first. 

Take Heart, I have overcome the world

            Lastly, in our Gospel lesson, Jesus provides us with the peaceful calm of His Word that takes away our need for revenge or to try to create peace through sin. In verse 33, He closed this passage with the following, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” All our failures in terms of seeking peace in our own way stem through trying to overcome the world by our merits, by our strength, and by our ill-perceived goodness.

            True and everlasting peace is the continual reminders of God’s love that we have been looking at in Ezekiel and James this morning. The way of continually remembering this peace is through prayer. As Jesus said in John 16:24, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” We ask according to His will, according to His Word. Prayer unto the Lord is one powerful means whereby we recall and think upon the good things of God by His holy inspiration. We are called to pray without ceasing. We are called to pray for people, even our governing authorities whether we like them or not. It is a command. It is not optional. Our prayers on the behalf of others must seek the very best for the people we are praying for, peace through His goodness.

            We have His peace when we pray for His goodness upon others. In prayer, we seek God alone for our help and the help of others. In prayer, we think upon His good things. In such, we have peace. When we pray either alone or with others, it is a moment of peace. Whether we are in worship in the sanctuary or in the Parish Hall to pray over a meal we are about to eat, prayer is a time we all agree upon to listen and agree with the person praying. When we hear the words, “The Lord be with you,” we instinctively know it is time to pray and to be silent and peaceful to stop long enough for the prayer. In prayer, we submit to the peace of Christ in His good things done for us.

            As we live life and encounter things that seek to destroy our peace in Christ, let us think upon the good He has done for us through remembrance that inspires us to do, as we ought. Let us take heart in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world for us, leaving us free to love, no longer worrying about how to overcome the world ourselves.

Let us pray.

O Lord, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Easter 2017

Peace in loving His Commandments. Through looking at how Jesus bestows peace upon us this Easter season, we turn our focus today upon the love for His Law.  The peace granted in the assurance in our status as God’s children through Christ points to how gratitude in this status enables us to love that which He commands. The peace granted through all the benefits we have in Him enables us to love that which He commands because His benefit to us was to fulfill the law where we were unable. The peace granted through His loving discipline to bring us from sin to repentance and through instilling godly disciplines enables us to love His commandments. Our collect prayer for this week speaks most beautifully, of how God alone through Jesus Christ orders the unruly wills and affections of sinful men to the point that we may the love the thing that He commands.  This morning, let us look through the lens of our lessons at how Jesus gives us peace through cultivating a grateful love for His commandments.

Let Your Heart

          To begin, our lesson from Proverbs 4 speaks of the heart in relation to God’s Law. Proverbs 4:4 states “Let your heart hold fast to my words; keep my commandments, and live.” Holding fast to the instructions of a godly father conveying God’s Word to live by is love. Holding fast is vastly different from doing so because we have to do it.  To hold fast is to hold onto something with sincerity and willingness. It is to know in terms of the Word of God, of Jesus Christ, that He is our life. Our keeping of the commandments is accomplished with perfection in and through Jesus Christ alone. We are unable to attain to this perfection. In the admission of this weakness, we hold fast to Christ and His Word in the assurance He alone atoned for our inabilities.

In such, He instills and cultivates a love of His Word within us. As Psalm 119:127 states, “Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.” We often run into trouble when we think letting our hearts guide us is infallible proof that our hearts are guiding us in the right way. This is what we see and hear throughout our culture. From movies to popular songs, the heart is seen as the gauge to measure if something is right. Yet, when such is used to justify the heart holding fast to sin, it promotes false love, a love enshrined in promoting self. It is not the love of God. It is a love of self that sows discord and destruction every single time it rules our hearts. Ecclesiastes 8:11 states, “the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.”

God gives us good precepts as we read in verse 2 of Proverbs 4. There is no life in following the wicked devices of our hearts. Life eternal is found only in Christ’s fulfillment of the Law and bringing us to faith by His grace. This softens and transforms our hearts to bear His good fruit. This work in us through sanctification, the process He uses to convict us to repent and cling to Him helps us to love Him. The love He fosters in our hearts is seen in Proverbs 4:6, “Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.”

Gift

          Secondly, in our passage from James 1, we begin to understand how God brings peace to us through a love of His Word by seeing it as a gift, a grace. James 1:17 states, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” How do we view God’s Commandments, His Word? Do we approach the Word with gratitude? With gratitude comes respect. With gratitude and respect comes a love that is willing to stop and listen. As James 1:21 states, “and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

          This receiving through a loving gratitude leads to what we read in the passage from Proverbs 4:1, “be attentive, that you may gain insight.” Too often though, we take for granted what God has given us, especially His Holy Word. We often approach His Word as any academic work, thinking so highly of ourselves to the point we think we have the capabilities on our own to master the Word as we can master academic works or technical manuals.

          Instead, true peace in Christ comes through the humility of loving God’s commandments. As Proverbs 4:8 reminds us of how we should approach the gift of God’s Word, “Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.” We submit to God’s Word. This brings a peace that is absent when we force God’s Word to submit to our fancies, emotions, and pride. Yet, in our time, Holy Scripture is treated as a common thing, something we take for granted. Increasingly, the Word is not viewed as a precious gift. Note the following from an Anglican Priest of the 19th Century, John Keble, “Just the same may we say of every Bible, however ill-used or neglected: it is the work of God, and its contents are the writing of God. You know how you would hold your breath and hearken, if your Lord were to speak from heaven: well, you have His very words in that Book: it is the same, as if He really did speak to you from heaven. In our too familiar use of our Bibles, we are sadly apt to forget this. We take them as matters of course, as being what every body has. Yet three quarters of mankind never saw or heard of a Bible; and for you and me to have the use of one is indeed a mark of God’s distinguishing favour. If we neglect or abuse it, woe unto us!”

He Will Guide You

          Lastly, in seeing Christ bestowing His peace unto us through cultivating a love of His Commandments in us is what we read in the Gospel from John 16. Verse 13 states, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” Ultimately, the love of God’s Commandments is out of gratitude for God’s protection of guidance in them to preserve us, to keep us, and to call us to repentant when we go astray.

          When the Word is hated or tolerated, sinful man tries all he can to explain away Scripture to create loopholes to justify his favorite errors and sins. When the Word is loved through submitting to the work of God to constantly draw us closer to Him, we gradually let go of our pride in trying to worm our way out of the consequences for our sins. Christ’s perfect sacrifice through following the Law enables us to love the Word. We know we cannot follow the Law or love the Law perfectly. In the admission of this inability, God rescues us through His Son to see us as His Children with all benefits … with the full peace that we are saved from the penalty of falling short of perfectly following the Law. 

          God guides us in His Law, to love His Law. In this, we come to the point of staying in the Word of God. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” The love of the commandments is cultivated through the reading, hearing, and study of His Word. This love begins with the worship of God centered on the Word of God.  The public reading of God’s Word has been a part of worship going back to the Old Testament. It is how we experience the reverence and awe of the Word. It is how a deep love for the Word is cultivated. When we go to our homes to read the Word in our private or family devotions, we glean from our worship how to approach the Word, with love.

          The Word of God as we read in Psalm 85 and the Gospel conveys to us how we are forgiven by God, how we are restored by God, and how we are revived by God. In experiencing this love of God, we come to a love of the message or the Word. It is truly Good News, the entire Word of God. All of God’s Holy Word conveys the wonderful news that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Law completely and perfectly.

          When we go it alone in terms of thinking we have to guide ourselves in regards to the Word, we will not come to a love of the Word. Rather, we will love self for our self-perceived knowledge of the Word. Repeatedly, God gently corrects us to a proper love of His Word where we submit to the point that He alone fulfills the Law, that He alone forgives us our sins, that He alone restores us, and that He alone revives us. We do not deserve this treatment. Great peace comes with giving up our self-perceptions of how important we are or how intelligent we are in regards to the Word. As Bishop Jeremy Taylor wrote, “To be proud of learning is the greatest ignorance.” Great peace comes to our hearts that are changed by the Lord to receive His Word meekly through love. Great peace comes with seeing all that God does as an unearned gift of grace, including the gift of His Holy Word to cherish and love as our nourishment. Great peace comes with seeing that God alone guides us repeatedly as our Good Shepherd to His safety, forgiveness, restoration, and revival to a love of His Word, fulfilled for all sorts and conditions of people that come to Christ by grace through faith. Amen.

Let us pray.

O ALMIGHTY GOD, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affection of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, wheretrue joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Easter 2017

Peace in His discipline. Along with Jesus instilling His peace within us through our status in Him and through His benefits to us, we encounter the idea of discipline as we prayed in the Collect prayer for this week. The Peace Jesus instills through discipline is through the type He uses to bring us back from our sins AND that of spiritual discipline that He cultivates in our lives of faith. Even for unbelievers, discipline for breaking the law and discipline to cultivate civil behavior or to stay in shape are understood as things to pursue. Yet, within all of us with the propensity to sin, we like to buy the lie of the world, the flesh, and the devil that discipline and service stifles freedom. True peace in Christ is bestowed upon us in His loving discipline. Today, let us look at how Jesus uses discipline for all of His people in their status as His and as part of His wonderful benefits.

To be Feared

        First, as Psalm 76 outlines, part of the peace God brings with discipline is the fear of God. The first 6 verses of our Psalm speak of the power of the Lord and our weakness as human beings. Verse 7 states, “But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused?” The fear spoken of here deals with that of discipline and judgment. Verses 8 states, “From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still.” Now, sometimes we equate God’s fearful judgment with the sinful wrath of humanity. The sinful wrath of humanity does not aim to restore, but rather to destroy, to drive people to no hope. Verse 9 speaks to the goal of the fear of God that comes out of His judgment, “when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth.” The proper fear of the Lord brings peace. It brings peace because we know He loves us enough to stop us to bring us back from our sinful rebellion. Verse 11 speaks of the proper response to God’s judgment, a response that fosters peace in the fear of Him, “Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around Him bring gifts to Him who is to be feared.” As we will see next, discipline instills those godly disciplines of life that we rejected through sin. The fear of the Lord is a necessary component to peace and discipline. Without fear of God, we will fear humanity to the point of having no peace and no hope.

Discipline for a Season

        Second, as we read in Nehemiah 1, discipline for a season from God restores His peace within us. When we fall away in sin for a time, we reject God’s peace for our own methods of peace. In the context of Nehemiah, this loss of peace occurred decades earlier with the fall of Jerusalem and Judah to the Babylonian empire. Judah in the centuries before her fall sought her own ways over the ways of God. She rejected a proper fear of God for the fear of man through seeking deals and treaties with human kingdoms to ensure her peace and safety. These failed. Such appeasement while rejecting God continues to fail, whether on a large scale or on the small scale. We need God. We need His loving discipline when we go astray to bring us back to learn a deeper reliance upon Him. The nature of God’s discipline of us is a mercy, to protect us from hurting ourselves to the point of no return. Deuteronomy 8:5 states, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you.” If you observe a room with a few toddlers where no structure is given or when things get out of hand, all peace is lost until a parent or caretaker steps into the situation to administer discipline and correction. This is meant to steer the children to peaceful ways of playing.

        The years of discipline Judah underwent was needed to teach her how to live in God’s peace. The discipline in the first place only took place after centuries of the work of God through His servants to call the people to repentance from their chaotic, sinful lifestyles. The discipline we see coming out of being disciplined through their scattering to other nations was seen in our lesson in Nehemiah. Chapter 1, verse 6 states, “I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.” Confession is crucial in a healthy Christian life. In confession, we learn the discipline of reliance upon God for our peace. In confession, we are assured forgiveness of our sins through Christ alone. Forgiveness brings peace. Yet, often the confession stage does not come until some sort of discipline occurs to call the sinner to repentance. Sometimes it just take a simply and gentle confrontation to tell the person that they harmed us. Other times, it takes a lot longer as it did with Judah in having to endure exile for a season before coming to repentance. In confession, we place all in God’s hands and receive His peaceful absolution. When we are disciplined, it is proof we are loved. Discipline is always meant to lead back to the path of relying on God’s grace to live disciplined lives as we see in our last point.

The Results of Loving Discipline

        The results of loving discipline bring us into an ordered life in Christ, into a life that seeks to repent rather than to run away into chaos. We saw this in our lesson from I Peter 2. One result of proper discipline of a room full of toddlers that were in a chaotic situation is that peace results. In such, the toddlers learn to play within the rules set by the caretaker. When they stay “disciplined” within the rules, the room is at peace and concord.

        In our lesson from I Peter 2, we read of four related areas that God’s grace instills through a disciplined or ordered life in Him. The first is abstaining from the passions of the flesh. Verse 11 states, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passion of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” There is peace when the passions of the flesh are abstained from in our lives. All of these sins when committed cause us to spin out of control into chaos. In this verse, the first indication of a peaceful discipline is tied to part of who we are in Christ, “sojourners and exiles.” Living as His people, we live forgiven lives loyal to Him as our God. As sojourners and exiles, we live according to Christ’s Commandments. When worldly commandments contradict Christ’s commandments, we are supposed to stick out for all to see that we are not part of this world. This verse speaks of a war waging for our souls. The passions of the flesh can exhibit themselves in all areas of life. In such terms, we must see the manifold importance of godly discipline in our lives to stay grounded as God’s children. See, discipline in Christ helps us when we are hit in the war against our souls not to fret or fear what man threatens. General George S. Patton wrote the following about worldly warfare that I think has application to the spiritual warfare we face, “Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than the excitement of battle.”  In the chaos and excitement of battle and war, we sometimes are caught up to the point we forget our status in Christ and seek to fight back with worldly methods and thus cease abstaining from sin. Spiritual victories are not won through succumbing to the sins of the flesh in the thought that it is what is needed to defeat enemies. Spiritual victories are won by Christ alone through His grace that humbles us in abstaining from sins and to live in the next part of what I Peter outlines.

        The second and related discipline that helps instill godly peace is our godly conduct. Verse 12 states, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Living by God’s grace through faith by His Word is seen in our disciplined conduct. The temptation when we are away from Christians in non-Christian settings is to live by a different standard of conduct. Yet, others know who we are as Christians and are looking, whether they say it or not. To live by a different code when thinking we are not seen is to forfeit in our minds our peace in Christ by seeking worldly peace through appeasement. Yes, this is hard. There is good reason we cannot do this alone or in our own power. We need the constant assistance of the Holy Spirit through asking for grace in our prayers to help us in the discipline of our conduct in all situations and in all places. As we pray every time we celebrate Holy Communion, “that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee.” Giving thanks at all times and all places is to live in gratitude for what Jesus has done for us. Gratitude means to live with the mind and heart that our conduct reflects our King, our God. In such, the standard is God’s love as we conduct ourselves, and not the sinful love of this world. When we are living within the standards of the graceful conduct of God’s Word, peace reigns.

        The third discipline that helps instill godly peace is that of being subject or in submission to those God tells us to be subject to or in submission to in this life. Now, being subject is not to worship and serve to the point of rejecting Christ. Submission is obedience within the parameters of doing as we are required under the law of the civil authority ONLY as long as it does not cause us to disobey God’s Word.  As verses 13-14 state, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” The discipline of the Lord brings a peace to cease trying to save self through all the methods sinful humanity uses for self-salvation projects. It is to know we are saved eternally in Christ by His death and resurrection. In such comfort, we can be subject to the civil authority because it is no longer about our autonomy, but about what it means to serve Christ our King. He requires we live by His Word, not by how we want to live. When we resort to saving self through rebellion against His commandments, we will find no peace. Rather, we will find we are enslaved to sin. Our last result of God’s loving discipline is the solution to the lack of peace in this world.

        In peaceful discipline, Jesus brings us and keeps us in His freedom. Freedom is to live within God’s Word. The world, the flesh, and the devil try to deceive us to think that freedom is to live as we please. When we live as we please, peace is absent. Verse 16 states, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover up for evil, but living as servant of God.” In our service to Jesus Christ, we find His peace that passes understanding as He helps us to abstain from the passions of the flesh, to conduct ourselves according to His love and to be subject to the authorities He puts in place. In these, we are free in Him. We are free to no longer worry about our rights from a worldly perspective in terms of thinking they determine our eternal salvation. Such worries take our hearts off Christ. Such worries drive us toward chaos and the absence of peace. Our service to His Kingdom brings freedom. In such service, we find ourselves basking in His freedom of us from the slavery to sin and to trying to follow the Law without His help. As we pray in the Collect for Peace in the Morning Prayer service, “whose service is perfect freedom.”

        The lack of loving service to Christ is manifested in a lack of obedience through loving each other in serving the needs of each other. Service in Jesus that brings freedom means we are there for each other, beginning as a foundation through our participation in worship, through coming to partake of the Lord’s Supper. When one is absent, we all feel it. Often when we are undergoing things in life that are detrimental to our sense of peace, one important question we have to ask is this: am I serving Jesus Christ through serving others with my presence with my fellow believers and through all I can do to pray for them and do for them without asking for anything in return? Often, we lose our peace because we are seeking the allurements of worldly peace by seeking personal needs and making them priority over godly peace and the needs of others. We buy the lie that personal needs that are met bring freedom. Instead, making the meeting of my personal needs central is the epitome of using our freedom as a cover up for evil. We must be careful we do not mask our selfish desires at worldly peace in terms of serving self with Christian and Biblical language. We must always check our feelings and emotions that often destroy godly peace to give them to Christ to care for in prayer. Service in Jesus through serving others brings perfect freedom in peace. Service of self brings slavery and an absence of peace.

Conclusion

        We need discipline in our lives of faith. God disciplines us to remind us we are sustained by His grace, bringing everlasting peace. This disciplining saves us from destruction and instills the discipline of following His Word. Without a healthy fear of God, we have no peace. Without godly discipline to save us from destroying ourselves, we have no peace. Without the results of this loving discipline to help us live disciplined lives of faith, we have no peace. Let us pray.

“Almighty God, who showest to those who are in error the light of thy truth, to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness; Grant unto all those who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s Religion, that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession, and follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Easter 2017

The Benefit of His Peace. We continue our meditations upon how Jesus brings us peace. Last week, we saw how we have peace in our status as God’s children. This status means we have benefits as God’s children. Last week, we meditated upon what this status means for us; access as God’s Children, His Word, and Sacraments to sustain us. Part of our peace in Christ is to remember our benefits. An apt passage is Psalm 103:2, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” As we read last week, when we forget our status in Christ, we lose our peace. When we forget His benefits, we lose our peace. This morning, let us look to our lessons for how His benefits instill peace within us.

His Presence in our Lives.

          First, in Psalm 46, we read about the benefit of God’s presence in our lives. The lack of reflection upon this truth of Christianity leads to much heartache and despair. The lack of the practice of the presence of God is to ignore what God gives in terms of His Word, prayer, and His holy worship.

          Our Psalm addresses one of the frequent methods by which we lose touch with God’s presence. When we are in trouble, it is extremely easy to lose our bearings in terms of peace. Psalm 46:1 opens by dealing with trouble, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Part of why we often lose our peace in the initial stages of trouble is that we in our times of peace did not submit to and practice all the Lord gives us as means of grace. In peaceful times, it is easy to become apathetic in our spiritual disciplines. In peaceful times, it is easy to sink into the feeling that we earned our “peace” and therefore are in less and less need of God. For instance, just look at worship services in places where Christianity is often attacked such as parts of Africa. People walk great distances and often fill their worship spaces. In contrast, look at places where we are at peace in worldly terms and you will find a lax approach to attendance and participation.

          The kind of peace the Psalmist is writing about is not worldly. God’s peace grounds us in His love to face trouble in His help. The peace is the knowledge that He is with us in the midst of our sufferings. Psalm 46 speaks of two things that cause fear; natural disasters and nations. Verses 2 and 3 provide us the peace God brings through taking our fear, “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” This concludes verse 1. When facing the storms both of nature and from humanity, the constant for us must be the reminder that God is our refuge and strength, that He is our present help in all times. Our call when facing the raging of nature is to turn to God for prayer and solace, to trust that we are His and in His hands eternally, no matter what happens to us.

          In verse 6 we read, “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; He utters His voice, the earth melts.” Often, we tend to fear and lose our sense of peace by the sins of humanity whether on a national level or a personal level. We tend to have spiritual amnesia about the peace of Christ that passes all understanding when facing how the sins of people affect our lives. As fallen human beings, we often are knocked off course for a moment to then be righted back in Christ through His loving grace. This is why the consistent practice of the presence of God in terms of submitting to the means of grace He gives is important. The further away we are from God in terms of our daily lives and practices, the easier it will be to be swept into the fear of what man can do to the body.

          Verse 7 echoes our verse 1 to still us, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Verse 9 speaks of the Lord making the raging of humanity through its wars to cease. We must take care here that we do not equate a worldly sense of peace with godly peace. The worldly sense of peace is to seek worldly solutions to problems, which in the end cause more worldly problems. For Christians, the world can be in chaos all around us yet we can be at peace in Jesus Christ to face the chaos in His grace, power, and strength. His presence calms us even if all is torn apart in the world.

          Verses 10 and 11 speak to us about where we need to go in prayer when fear is trying to grip us and tear us from godly peace. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Often when we hit hard times, it is difficult to stop long enough to pray and to set aside time for worship. Yet, the only way through the difficulties of life is to be still in Christ. Yes, even in peaceful situations from a worldly perspective, we can forget about God and His provision, taking too much credit for where we are in life. When we take the credit, we push God away and leave ourselves open to greater fears and loss of peace. We must live as we pray in the Communion service, He abides in us, and we in Him.

Healed by His Stripes

          The next benefit of His peace is related to how He is present with us in our sufferings. He suffered for us. We read of this is in the Epistle today from I Peter 2. Verse 24 states, “By His wounds you have been healed.” The suffering we undergo as Christians are something that is part of the Faith. As verse 21 states, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.” The beginning of this passage spoke to what our Psalm outlined, knowing God. Verse 19 states, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” Suffering for the sake of Christ is a gracious thing. As we saw in the Psalm, such keeps us in peace when we are mindful of God and all He does for us.

          This mindfulness focuses and is thankful that Jesus suffered for our sakes. His suffering was not in vain. His suffering secured us eternal life and full rights as God’s children. Our Lord Jesus Christ as we read in the Epistle committed no sin. Deceit was not found in His mouth. When he was reviled, He did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten. These all secured the benefit of our salvation, that by His sufferings we are healed from what we bring upon ourselves in sin. In the process of sanctification, the Lord through the Holy Spirit slowly enables us to grow in Him in our suffering for Him. Our peace in this is not in how well we are doing. If that were the case, we would never have peace because we cannot suffer perfectly as Jesus suffered. Our peace is due to the point that He suffered it all for us perfectly, giving us the grace to follow His example, entrusting our imperfect lives unto His care and love.

Our Good Shepherd

          The last area we see that Jesus gives us the benefit of His peace is in the fact that He is our Good Shepherd. We read of the motif of Jesus as our Good Shepherd in terms of His benefit for us in our passages from Isaiah, I Peter, and John 10 this morning. The benefit of Jesus as our Shepherd is that He protects us, cares for us, and even finds us when lost.

          Part of the issue with our rebellious sin nature is that we constantly seek to take care of ourselves or to seek the help of hired hands that do not care for us. It is extremely calming and peaceful to admit we are unable and are in total need of our Good Shepherd.

          Isaiah 40:11 paints the following picture of the peaceful benefit Jesus bestows upon us, “He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” As His people, we are cared for and protected. We are kept close as members of His Body the Church. We have the benefit of Jesus tending us, gathering us, carrying us, and gently leading us. These all bring peace. In the world with sin and death, this level of care is absent. In our blindness in sin, we often seek counterfeits that promise all that Jesus provides. Repeatedly, these promises from counterfeits fail and leave us alone, destitute, and in need.

          Our passage in II Peter 2:25 speaks of how Jesus took all our sins upon Himself to defeat them, culminating in bringing us into the fold of His Church, “For you were straying like lost sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” No matter how hard we try to pay for our sins and rebellion, all prove futile. In essence, the attempt to pay for our sins in the first place is an act of disobedience, of not trusting God to save us. We are properly cared for in Christ.

          His shepherding is described in vivid detail from the Gospel in John 10. He died for us when we as His sheep had no hope of self-redemption. In this passage, we see the key to why we need the Lord, why we need each other in the Church. Christ stated this in verse 11, telling us why He is supreme over all other attempts at seeking help or care, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” This wonderful benefit is eternal. This wonderful benefit brings peace. This wonderful benefit through God’s grace enables us to follow our Lord as our example of life in caring and loving each other.

          We need reminders of these acts of God, what He has done for our benefit to bring us peace. His wonderful presence brings us peace. We are reminded of this every time we gather for worship around the Lord’s Table. He suffered for us so we would not suffer eternal death. We are reminded of this death every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. He is our Good Shepherd that seeks us, dies for us, saves us, and brings us home. Every time we are invited to the partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded and comforted in that fact that He tends us and cares for us.“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  Amen.

Easter Information

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Holy Week is upon us. I hope you are planning on attending our services this week. Here are the services we will offer.

Thursday, April 13. Maundy Thursday Service of Feet Washing, Holy Communion, and the Stripping of the Altar. 6:30 pm

Friday, April 14. Good Friday Service of the Stations of the Cross. Noon - 3 pm. (Childcare will be offered for this service for children 4 and under).

Saturday, April 15. Easter Vigil/Even Service of Holy Communion. 6:30 pm (Childcare will be offered for this service for children 4 and under).

Sunday, April 16. Easter Sunday. Holy Communion. 8:15 am. (We will not offer Sunday School Classes on Easter). Holy Communion. 10:30 am. (Childcare will be offered for the 10:30 am Service for children 4 and under). Easter Egg Hunt and Easter Celebration Pot-Luck to follow the 10:30 am service with Brisket and Live Music.

Pot-Luck Reminder. Last Name Starting with A-L. Side Dish for 6-8 people, a dessert, and a drink. Last Name Starting with M-Z. Salad for 6-8 people, bread, and drinks. 

Easter Celebration Set Up and Clean Up Needs. We are still in need of volunteers to help set up and clean up. If you can help with either of these needs, please email our Easter Event Coordinator, Johnny Simmons, (johnny@johnnydrums.com).

We hope you can join us in worshiping our Lord this week. May the Lord Bless all of you.

In Christ,

Carl Lund

Rector

Church of the Holy Trinity

Sermon for Palm Sunday 2017

Sermon for Palm Sunday 2017

Every Holy Week in the traditional Anglican Prayer Books, we experience the longest Scripture lessons of the year. With these several long Gospel lessons over the next few days, nothing changes in terms of our posture during these readings. As with the Gospel reading in all Communion services, we still stand. No special rubric directs us in this part of the Prayer Book to let the people sit down for the Gospels during Holy Week.

Easter Celebration Information

Dear Family,

Easter Sunday is coming soon! To prepare for our party, please read the following and contact Johnny to volunteer.

We need volunteers to set up the afternoon of Holy Saturday before our service, and some to assist with cleanup Sunday afternoon.

For Easter lunch, the Parish is providing a main course (brisket!) and each family is asked to contribute the following:

Last name beginning with A-L. Side Dish for 6-8 people, a dessert, and drinks. 

Last name beginning with M-Z. Salad for 6-8 people, bread, and drinks.

 

Finally, candy for Easter eggs will be collected from Sunday until Easter in the Parish Hall. 

Collect Meditation for the Season of Lent and the 3rd Sunday in Lent Part II

Third Sunday in Lent

WE beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ash Wednesday

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The last part of the Collect Prayer for the 3rd Sunday in Lent speaks of the right hand of God. We ask that the Lord would “stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty.” We believe that God aids us as our sole source of defense. If we go about with our heads in the clouds thinking we have no real enemies, we open ourselves up for great heartache. We face enemies that seek to tempt us away from Christ and His love. God in His mercy brings us prefect remission and forgiveness from our sins through Christ as pray in the Collect for Lent. This forgiveness defends us from the most common voice of attack. This voice is that we have to defend ourselves. When we resort to self-defense, we will fail. Often, our issue when asking for help is that we are not willing to wait on the Lord in steady and consistent prayer. Lent teaches us the value of steadiness and consistency in prayer. In the long term, the eternal, God alone protects us. When we neglect this or forget it through impatience, we place unnecessary strain upon ourselves. By grace through faith we wait on God and His perfect timing.