19 April 2020 Sunday Message: “Our Road Continues”

Call to Worship: Luke 24: 28-32

28 They approached the village where they were going. Jesus kept walking as if he were going farther. 29 But they tried hard to keep him from leaving. They said, “Stay with us. It is nearly evening. The day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 He joined them at the table. Then he took bread and gave thanks. He broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. But then he disappeared from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “He explained to us what the Scriptures meant. Weren’t we excited as he talked with us on the road?”

Tithe and Offering Prayer: Father, creator of everything, knower of all that has happened in all of our lives, today we thank you for loving us in spite of knowing all about us. Today Lord, we pray that you accept our very lives as a living offering to You and Your kingdom, and that You would use us to further Your kingdom in a dark and hurting world. Finally, Lord we pray for deliverance of all those around the world struggling with the coronavirus. Amen.

Message Reading, Luke, 24:33-48

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the 11 disciples and those with them. They were all gathered together. 34 They were saying, “It’s true! The Lord has risen! He has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then the two of them told what had happened to them on the way. They told how they had recognized Jesus when he broke the bread.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 The disciples were still talking about this when Jesus himself suddenly stood among them. He said, “May you have peace!”

37 They were surprised and terrified. They thought they were seeing a ghost. 38 Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do you have doubts in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see. A ghost does not have a body or bones. But you can see that I do.”

40 After he said that, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 But they still did not believe it. They were amazed and filled with joy. So Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of cooked fish. 43 He took it and ate it in front of them.

44 Jesus said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms must come true.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written. The Messiah will suffer. He will rise from the dead on the third day. 47 His followers will preach in his name. They will tell others to turn away from their sins and be forgiven. People from every nation will hear it, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You have seen these things with your own eyes. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised. But for now, stay in the city. Stay there until you have received power from heaven.”

Message: “Our Road Continues”

Now that Easter has come and gone, and we have collectively experienced the Lentin Season (A 40 day timeframe before Easter), unlike any ever before practiced by our little Congregation, maybe it would be a good idea to look back to see where we have been over the six months, to get a better idea of where we are going in the future.

Just like the Disciples after the crucifixion, deep in reflection and perhaps asking themselves: What just happened? You can imagine the followers of Jesus trying to get their arms around what the Lord had just gone through (torment, abuse, and crucifixion), and trying to figure out the greater meaning of it all. Its kind of amazing when you think about it. The Disciples had just witnessed three years of a never before seen or even visualized ministry by a charismatic Jewish teacher, that literally rocked their world, and upset the sensibilities of those who were listening, thinking, or cared about the future faith direction of the children of Israel.

Nothing like this movement had ever been seen before in Israel, or in the Roman Empire for that matter. Here was a movement whose leader, instructed how to care about others before your selves, and respecting authority. Basically, stressing the teachings from the Torah (Meaning literally: Instruction, or the Books of Moses; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), but personalizing the message to bring deep meaning to people like you and me.

The Lord made an experience with God a personal one, stressing that it’s our attitudes and what we carry in our hearts that influence our actions and not the other way around by following the Law. Rules that are perfect in themselves but lack the most important element for real meaning. You and I, and our complete buy in which remains incomplete until we have indeed invited the Lord into our lives and begin to build on that all-important relationship with the Lord.

This culmination of all things is what we just completed last weekend with Good Friday (Christ’s Death) thru Easter (The Lord’s resurrection) reminding all Christians of what has been done on our behalf by God. Blending all of us in modernity to what happened all those years ago at the crucifixion.

Yes, we as a family in God, have been on our own unique journey with the Lord. Unique, because just like each one of us having a one of a kind relationship in the Lord, every Church Family has their own one of a kind relationship in the Lord, making our congregation unique.

I’m sure that churches all across this country can boast the same claim, but I can only speak for our experiences. As I think about our walk in the Lord together for the last six months, I am reminded of the Advent season that we celebrated. Advent, the event of God Incarnate (God in the flesh, or with us), was the time we spent for five weeks leading up to Christmas, first in anticipation of the arrival of the Lord, and then the celebration in remembrance of the Nativity (Birth of Christ).

This is what makes Christianity so unique among the world religions, due to the fact that we actually believe that God loves us so much, that God would walk among mankind in this cesspool called the Earth. A cesspool due to our polluting the beautiful planet that the Lord created by our free choice, as witnessed by our sin and rebellion.

By the way, the other great religions do not believe that God would defile Himself by coming here to be with us. They believe that it is blasphemous to believe that God would lower Himself for our benefit, but just read the Bible and you will see a reoccurring theme, God reaching down to elevate humanity. His creation. Furthermore, our God died for you and I not based on how good we are, but on how great He is! In all of Idolatry (putting or worshipping anything before God), it is the Idol that is worshiped instead of God.

You know stuff like, tobacco, alcohol, hard drugs, soft drugs, sugar, chocolate, coffee (a drug but not really), TV (except the Rifle Man and Walker Texas Ranger), music, the gym, the trails, outdoors / indoors, food in general, and of course; you! Our attitudes, our fears, selfishness, need for acceptance, and to dominate other people and stuff, are symptoms of our trouble with idolatry. We could talk about my issues, but that would take some time, and this is a Sunday message about our road towards the Lord, and not the 1,359-page epic Historical Novel; Sacajawea! (Time is limited)

After our Celebration of Christmas, starting early in January through February we travelled through the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel. This sermon, is a masterpiece that runs through Matthew chapters 5-7, with the sermon of the mount occupying just the beginning of chapter 5, yet taking me 8 weeks to cover in Sunday messages. Stressing yet again how great He is, and how little my efforts are in contrast!

Looking back, our review of the Beatitudes was an appropriate sectional look at Christ’s ministry, since it represents the new covenant between God and us perfectly. The Beatitudes tell us: The Eight Joys that help us to be closer to God, Matthew 5:3-12:

  1.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  3.  “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  4.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  5.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
  6.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  7.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  8.  “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you, and persecute you, and utter all kinds of evil against you, falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

       Or possibly expressed this way;

  1. The happy are the poor in spirit, because they are humble and will have heaven.
  2. Joy goes to those who mourn, because they regret and repent their sins and they will be comforted.
  3. The meek are elated because they have changed their attitudes and now pursue the good things in life, and they will inherit the earth now that they know what to do with it!
  4. Great happiness follows those that hunger and thirst for righteousness. Because they want to fill up others, they will be filled and their cup will overflow.
  5. That great joy follows merciful people because they are interested in mercy instead of revenge, and God will pay in kind.
  6. All of these things have been grooming us, in order to awake from our sleepwalk in the world, to be (more) pure in heart, because purity is a process and a hope for a gift from our Lord, we may now see, and experience
  7. This has enabled us to be at peace with ourselves, other people, and with God. We are now becoming like our Father in Heaven and we are becoming more like God’s children. Peacemakers in this hurting world!
  8. Now that you have learned to be humble (Joy #1), you can see joy in persecution that we sometimes must face in life, yours is the kingdom of heaven. Not because it’s easy, but because you now know the way there! Not by acting like a walking martyr, but by showing grace and kindness. And the bad stuff now, is nothing compared to eternity!

Here’s the deal my friends, the Law of the Old Covenant (The Old Testament), was perfect, but as stated earlier, what it was missing was our being able to live in that Law because of our fallen human nature. There was distance between us and God, because we were chasing ourselves and our desires (idolatry) just like the rest of the world does to this day.

And then, here comes Jesus Christ (God Incarnate) and teaches us from the Torah, out of Deuteronomy 6: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength. Plus Leviticus 19: 18 “ ‘Do not try to get even. Do not hold anything against any of your people. Instead, love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am the Lord.” Then, Jesus shows us in the Gospel of Matthew 22:34-40;

34 The Pharisees heard that the Sadducees weren’t able to answer Jesus. So the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them was an authority on the law. So he tested Jesus with a question. 36 “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the most important commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 Everything that is written in the Law and the Prophets is based on these two commandments.”

But what does all this mean to me, a guy just try-in to get by? Everything! First when we are working to serve rules instead of God, we as fallen people many times are reduced to just trying to get by are looking for loopholes and workarounds on autopilot, in an effort to evade God’s requirement to be in harmony with Him. As a fallen person looking at the Law of the Old Testament, is like looking into the Sun and being blinded by its purity. I’m just not strong enough to do it on my own. (Even with shades)

It’s kind of like growing up in a family with rules & ethics.

       Rules; tell us what we can and can not do. Be home by 10pm, wear appropriate cloths to school, homework before TV, etc… Immediately as a family member, I’m looking for loopholes and how far I can push the envelope of family law, and I become an expert rival to any jailhouse lawyer. Many if not most all of us take this mentality into day to day adult life when contemplating; taxes, speed limits, alcohol consumption, and relationships.

Old Testament accountability

Ethics inform a family of what they are about. For instance, in our family, we make sure everyone is accounted for before we leave the store, we look out for each other, we defend each other, we protect each other, and everyone is a part of the plan, regardless of who is around. The feeling within the family ethic is that this is what we are all about!

New Testament identity

When I follow the Lord’s example for life by loving God, and loving other people who God created, I begin to understand my role in the scheme of thing, where I belong in comparison to God and other people, and my attitude begins to change. This is what transformation (being saved) is all about. Instead of worrying about rules and regulations, and laws, by loving God and other people, I have already anticipated any manmade rule, and in step with requirements set by God.

The Christ ethic raises us up to do things for other because that is what our family in God is all about. Now instead of worrying about meeting the requirements of a tithe, I am more concerned about what the family down the street need to get by. All of a sudden, the requirements of a tithe have been exceeded because serving others, and the Lord have become who I am now. In other words, my attitude has been transformed.

This is the transformed mind set that the Lord was educating in the Beatitudes. People ready for instruction. Disciples with a humble, open, and caring outlook are now ready to grow in the Lord, and God will grow you as far as you are willing to submit to his care!

Summing up our time with the Beatitudes: As a Church, I believe the Lord is taking our little congregation beyond the requirements of the Ten Commandments and their corollary Jewish laws called the Mitzvah, 613 in the Torah (Old Testament), growing each of us to exceed the law by our caring for others and service in the Lord. This is reflected by our family caring for those who are in need. This is being accomplished by our Church’s food pantry, not based on how good we are, but on how low we are in the scheme of things and just how great God is!

Almost like clockwork or perfect synchronization, after the Beatitudes, and our learning how to go deeper into the Lord in a walk in Him, our Church family transitioned into pandemic lockdown as we looked forward to our observance of Passion Week leading into Good Friday, and Easter.

We did indeed observe this high Holy time as never before, and yet in a faithwalk in the Lord, everything is like never before. The E-Ticket ride we call a faith walk with God will take you to places you never thought were possible in your own right, or even existed in the logic of the world’s sensibilities.

And yet here we are, at the cusp of another day, a new beginning, looking outward into a life we have dedicated to the Lord, each other, and in the service to the community that we love so much.

So, as we reflect back perhaps a little like those disciples all those years ago on their post Good Friday-Easter experience, and ponder, “what just took place?”, may we all find the joy of the moment to contemplate. I am reminded of our message reading today from Luke 24:45

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

May the Lord open all of our minds!

For me, this Easter marked the beginning of a new reality as I suppose is the case with other followers. From now on in the future, when approaching the Holidays, I will try and not impose my preconceptions of what they mean as I always have. Kind of like how we sometimes think about the Lord and sometimes pigeonhole God into a corner, until we can’t recognize Him anymore.

None of us have remained completely unchanged from the experiences of the last three months. Maybe like others I simply grew up a little, and began to take the Lord as He is. His high Holy Days (what we call holidays ((Christmas & Easter)), for what they are, and the people God places in our lives as they are (irreplaceable and precious), and learn to enjoy the moment instead of anticipating the next one.

This masterpiece of God’s handywork, the moment, marks the next beginning of our walk together, you and I as we progress past this benchmark of resurrection, Easter, on into the next lesson the Lord has in store for our little Band of Saints. The church on the corner.

For those who are lonely or just wanting to connect, I will be on our Church’s Bishop’s Porch (the front steps on 25th street), Sunday morning at 10am and available for your prayer concerns, or just to touch base. I will be out there as long as there is a need or as the weather holds.

In closing, it has been such a pleasure to share the last six months with you, my church family. Thank you for letting me be a part of something I hold special. You!

And now it is my prayer for all of us this week, that each of you find someone to love deeply, and that you learn to care even deeper because the Lord is showing you how to love others based on your relationship with Him.

Benediction: Four thousand years ago, there was a family called Israel, who were all alone in the world, except they had each other, and the Lord God directing their wonderings, which meant that they had everything! This is one of the oldest blessings there is, and it is given directly by God to Moses. From Numbers 6:22-26

22 The Lord spoke to Moses. He said, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘Here is how I want you to bless the Israelites. Say to them,

24 “ ‘ “May the Lord bless you
and take good care of you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord look on you with favor
and give you peace.” ’