Prayer of application 1/29/12

Almighty and merciful Father, restore our souls in Jesus Christ, that we may be merciful and kind even as you are. Let your forgiveness make us willing to forgive all wrong which we have suffered, and to ask forgiveness for every wrong which we have done. Give us the spirit of Him who dwelt among men in great humility, and was meek and lowly of heart. Let the same mind be in us which was also in Him. And grant that, being rooted and grounded in the mystery of the Word made flesh, we may receive the power to overcome the world, the flesh and the devil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Devotional at Grace and Peace Congregational Meeting

Devotional at Grace and Peace Congregational Meeting

January 25, 2012

          From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Corinthians 5:16-21 ESV)

Of all passages, this one, perhaps more than any encapsulates the heart of the Gospel and the Christian life. It is about reconciliation—Grace and Peace.

Reconciliation entails the coming together of two parties in order to make right what went wrong in the relationship. Who did the wrong? Sometimes one party; sometimes both. Now I want you to take a moment and think about a relationship with a friend or a family member where things went really sour. Maybe you said the wrong thing, and you haven’t talked to that person since. Maybe they did the wrong thing, and you’re still angry. Do you recall that anger, that disappointment, that frustration?

Our relationship with God was threatened, but not because God said the wrong thing, or did the wrong thing. We said the wrong thing, did the wrong thing, failed to say and do the right thing. And we’re still saying the wrong things, doing the wrong things, failing to say and do the right things. And we’re all suffering for it. We did not ask for life, or for love, but we received them as gifts! All God asked was that we love both God and neighbor, and even these commands were a gift, because they are what make us human. In our decisions to neglect and even hate God and our neighbor, we ended up hating ourselves, and became inhumane. We are both the victims and the oppressors of our own twisted humanity.

This passage indicates that we naturally live for ourselves. You can call it selfishness, but I like Luther’s way of talking about it, in Latin. Sin, Luther says, is INCURVATUS IN SE, which means to be curved in upon the self. The rupture in our relationship with God occurs when we decide that we are independent, autonomous individuals who are quite capable of living life on our own, thank you very much. So by sin all of life is curved in upon us so that we are the center of our universe holding up our own little world like little Atlases. And it’s getting very heavy, because it’s too much for us to bear.

Now the bleakness of this situation may seem all too real to some of you, and all too depressing to others of you. Why ponder such sad things? But I want to get in touch with the reality of the pain of our world, lest we become too comfortable with things as they are, because the sick thing about this rupture in our relationship with God is that there are plenty of ways we can distract ourselves from this rupture. Some persons withdraw and seek refuge in endless amusements and entertainments. Some choose alcohol and drugs, or pornography. Some find refuge in a sport or club or hobby, or career; others in fighting battles in society or even in church. Such things become idolatry!
But as Christians, we have received not a new distraction, but a piece of Great GOOD NEWS. It completely changes the bleakness of the picture. We must live no longer for ourselves. Why? Because he died for all. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, as the supreme act of love, did not deal with us according to our sin, but dealt with himself according to our sin, exhausting all judgment and wrath on himself rather than letting it fall on us. The death of Christ was God’s work and revelation that God loves us so much that nothing will separate us from Him in Christ.
God did this while we were his enemies. God is Emmanuel, and that’s why He chose the cross. Because that’s who he is. And he did this for ALL, in Christ: “We are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.” The language of death in Paul gets a little tricky, but what he means here is that we have all died in the sense that we are united to Christ who died for our place.

Because of God’s reconciliation, we regard no one from a human point of view. That means both ourselves and others. We cannot regard ourselves from a human point of view. We cannot regard ourselves as the center of our universe. We are not God, but neither are we scum. I am no longer my own worst enemy, because I am not my own judge.

We do not regard others from a human point of view either. Because no one is God’s enemy, no one can be my enemy either. They may hate me, but I cannot hate them, because God does not hate them. So all I should do is show love. What does that look like? It looks like Jesus.

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting our trespasses against us.

I want to be clear about this: when someone does something wrong to us, that’s a trespass. And when they do it, who does it count against? It counts against THEM! Right? That’s life, that’s fair. But it’s only fair according to our standards. In Christ, God does not count the trespasses of those who have trespassed against him. We hear this from Jesus on the cross when he says “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” They don’t KNOW any better – they think they’re operating under fair and righteous principles, but quite the contrary. An eye for an eye is not fair, as it turns out, because God reconciles not just us, not just his friends, but the whole world of his enemies.

And as Christians, as a reconciled people who are convinced that this is true for us and for the whole world, we have been given a ministry. God is making his appeal through us to tell the world: “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In other words, stop putting yourself and others to death with your words and your actions because you resent all that’s wrong with the world! God has made things right, and no one has to be tortured to placate this demonic darkness.

God has already declared peace. The war is over, but our world is still fighting. And so, as members of Grace and Peace Presbyterian Church, we have to make a choice. Are we going to join the world in its war with itself, or are we going to declare the end of the war and the beginning of peace in Jesus Christ?

Let us live up to our name in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us be ministers of reconciliation. Amen.

 

 

seminal thoughts from a sermon by Rev. C. T. Nelson

Sermon Christmas Day 2011

 

Being Taught by Grace

 

Titus 2:11-15

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (the Abrahamic promise), training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

 

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

 

INDICATIVE

 

“Epiphania”– made its advent appearance- 1st Advent of Christ

 

“bringing salvation for all people” (the Abrahamic promise)

 

IMPERATIVE

 

“Paideia” lexical studies>>

 

the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose commands and admonitions, reproof and punishment)

 

It also includes the training and care of the body and whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, esp. by correcting mistakes and curbing passions. instruction which aims at increasing virtue chastisement, chastening, (of the evils with which God visits men for their amendment)

 

Leads to: Imitation of Christ-

 

what is He, the perfect man, like?

 

training us (up to maturity) to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled upright, and godly lives in the present age, redeemed from lawlessness (doing our own thing) NO RULES

 

Example: We are offended from earliest years of life—denied our wishes, “NO, NO” enforced by a spanking, to being underappreciated, denied, crossed, as adults.

 

Our first impulse when offended is retributive justice—Payback! Get Even!–We are taught rather to imitate God’s covenant faithfulness by paying the price to forgive others- sacrificial justice. That’s what Jesus did!!!!!

 

Tim Keller: somebody pays—always

 

“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing 2nd ADVENT of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

 

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. These things are to be taught!

 

Sully….an illustration of the pilot of US Airways 1549

 

On January 15, 2009, Sullenberger was pilot in command of an Airbus A320 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. The flight was designated as US Airways Flight 1549 as well as United Airlines Flight 1919.[26] Shortly after taking off, Sullenberger reported to air traffic control that the plane had hit a large flock of birds, disabling both engines.[27] Several passengers saw the left engine on fire.[28] Sullenberger discussed with air traffic control the possibilities of either returning to LaGuardia airport or attempting to land at the Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. However, Sullenberger quickly decided that neither was feasible, and determined that ditching in the Hudson River was the only option for everyone’s survival.[29] Sullenberger told the passengers to “brace for impact”, then piloted the plane to a smooth ditching in the river at about 3:31 P.M.[30] All passengers and crew members survived.[30] He later said, “It was very quiet as we worked, my co-pilot and I. We were a team. But to have zero thrust coming out of those engines was shocking—the silence.”[31] Sullenberger walked the unflooded part of the passenger cabin twice to make sure everyone had evacuated before retrieving the plane’s maintenance logbook and being the last to evacuate the aircraft.[11][32]

 

Sullenberger, described by friends as “shy and reticent”,[33] has been noted for his poise and calm demeanor during the crisis. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, dubbed him, “Captain Cool”.[34] However, Sullenberger acknowledged that he had suffered some symptoms of posttraumatic stress for the first couple of weeks following the crash, including sleeplessness and flashbacks, though this condition had improved by the time of his late February 2009 interview with People magazine.[35] In a CBS 60 Minutes interview, he was quoted as saying that the moments before the crash were “the worst sickening, pit-of-your-stomach, falling-through-the-floor feeling” that he had ever experienced.[36] Speaking with news anchor Katie Couric, Sullenberger said, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”[37]

 

Source: Wikipedia

 

Likewise we are to be making regular deposits into the “bank” of character development in Christ so that when the time of testing comes we will be ready to make a faithful “large withdrawal.”

 

“In Christ” we are pleasing to God—that is bedrock INDICATIVE—By Faith

 

At the Second Advent appearing, we will please God….and we will be rewarded by God because we will reflect God’s nature—-God loves his own nature, attributes, character which he has been teaching us, beginning with grace and moving toward the imitation of Christ.

 

He loves to see them formed in us! ….To look like God. IMPERATIVE!

 

That’s what his grace teaches us!

 

Let us submit to the IMPERATIVE “paidaia” training of God’s INDICATIVE “epiphania” grace in Christ.     Amen.

 

Condescension for You and Me

We are here to celebrate the birth of a baby boy born to a poor woman on a journey decreed by a pagan ruler. The baby boy was put into a manger – a feeding trough for cattle or other stable animals.

  • The earth is 93 million miles from the sun, being third from the sun in our little solar system.
  • Pluto is farthest at 3.467 Billion miles (3,467 thousand-million miles)
  • Our solar system is just one in our galaxy of millions of solar systems—part of the “local group”
  • Our galaxy is one of billions in the universe, part of what astronomers call the “Virgo cluster”
  • These clusters around the universe are strung together like a spider web
  • These stars and planets and galaxies are millions of “light years away”-a light year being the distance that light travels at the speed of light in a one year period.
  • All these astronomical statements are beyond my comprehension!

The gospel lesson of John tells us that this baby, called the “Word made flesh” created all of this vast immensity……. and time itself- He being the timeless CREATOR. Listen:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

We will sing it in a few minutes:
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing… O Come let us adore him!

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

The sad truth is that many people ignore him as if he were not important to their life today, as if the whole “Christmas thing” is nothing more than a nice story, a tall tale for credulous souls—–bearing a Charles Dickens type moral lesson.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

This is reality. You were born into the family of Adam, an outcast from God’s fellowship/God’s family, (you always feel a sense of alienation, temporality, coming death)…… but you may join the eternal family of God. HOW?

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—A new family, also called the Body of Christ, the Church. The earthly society/family of God, who became earthly/ flesh, the creator who came to deal with sin by his death on the cross.
Believe in His name:  Savior (saves us from all that goes with being in Adam’s family), Lord (demands loyalty), Redeemer (frees us from death, hell, the devil.)

O Come let us receive him, O come let us believe in his name, O come let us join and remain in his family, O come let us adore Him- Christ the Lord! Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, who has given us your only Son to take our human nature upon himself, and to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made you’re your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.