Tag Archives: Messiah

The News of Christmas: Spread the Word

to be given on December 28, 2014

 

How many of you started telling what you got for Christmas? Or, did you ask your kids, grand or great-grandkids what Santa brought them for Christmas? That is part of the fun, isn’t it? We all want to know what our family and friends got for Christmas. Just hearing the kids share what they got is great fun. Of course, having them race around showing you what they found under the tree is a delight, too.

The excitement of receiving a gift is sometimes so overwhelming we can only run from one to the other to show them what you found in the pretty packages. The gift of Christmas that God sent us did not appear under the tree all wrapped up in pretty paper and ribbon; God’s gift arrived in Bethlehem in a manger filled with straw for the livestock.

The baby’s parents were exhausted after traveling almost 100 miles by foot and on a burro’s back. The census could not have come at a worse time with a baby due any time. Consider even the region’s environment: no paved roads, no rest stops, no McD’s to get a quick meal. This was a journey made to be compliant with the Roman leader’s decree.

When young parents have their first child, today’s setting is very different. The birthing rooms are clean, sterile, and decorated like a luxury hotel’s room. Everything is designed for the mother’s comfort but also for the daddy. In fact, the team of doctors and nurses even get into the act helping share the news of the baby’s birth.

The baby’s birth is news that is shared almost instantly today. We take pictures, videos, and have birth announcements ready to go. The word of the newest baby travels quickly from family and friends to others through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, not to mention an email or a message.

Do we need to consider how to spread the news of Jesus’ birth? Can you even imagine what it would be like today if Jesus were born this week? The announcement would have been on the internet within minutes. Hundreds of photos would be snapped and sent to Facebook so others could know the baby was born and even see what he looked like.

The angel announced Jesus’ birth. Remember the words from Luke 2:9-12:

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

One can only imagine the shock the shepherds must have experienced, especially when the “host” of angels appeared right there in the open fields near Bethlehem. Not quite the same as the alarm on a phone or a tablet is it?

The shepherds may have been the first to learn of Jesus’ birth outside the stall, but they had to check it out. Just like grandparents waiting to learn the newest grandchild had arrived, they hurried off to see the new child whom they believed was to be the next great leader of the Jewish tribes.

What would you do? Would you be one of the faithful who believed that Jesus was the Messiah and you simply accepted the news and went on with the day? Or would you have needed to see the baby with your own two eyes? Granted, we can only imagine what the experience was like for the shepherds; but in our world, wouldn’t the cynical side take control and we would wait.

The news of Christmas cannot be shared fast enough or far enough. The birth of Jesus was thousands of years in the planning, and his birth should be shared. Are we doing that?

Just what would the world have thought if the angels had not appeared or the Three Kings did not ride in from the east? Would the news of Christmas have been shared with others? How many people would we rush to tell that we had seen Jesus with our own eyes?

Christmas Day may be over, but what have we done to share the news? Have we used all the tools at our fingertips to share the news? Have we waited too long to spread the word? The shepherds did:

After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.

The news spread quickly. The shepherds returned to their station on the hillside and they talked.

Can you say that you have shared the news of Christmas with all your family and friends? Be honest. I know that I have not done that very well. I know the story and figure all my family and friends do too. They know my church routines. They know how I live my life. Surely it is not necessary to share the story with them. But it is.

The fact that for nearly 30 years, the news of Christmas faded away as the faithful waited for the baby to grow up and to begin the work of saving the Jewish faithful. The news the shepherds shared with such enthusiasm and eagerness became old news, forgotten since no major changes occurred in their lives as a result of the baby’s birth.

What happened at Jesus’ birth is the same that happens today. We learn exciting news, but as the days, weeks, and years pass, we do not keep the excitement alive. Sharing the news of Christmas is so important if God is a daily part of our lives. The newness may wear off quickly as we move into January, but the value of the news never lessens.

Share the news of Christmas with those around you. Talk about it at dinner. Invite others to discover the value of faith in their lives. Keep the news of Christmas moving through all your messages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. When you are with friends, share how God is alive in your life. Share a smile and a word of gratitude with the clerks in the stores. Read and discuss the Word as preserved in our Bibles.

The news of Christmas is well over 2,000 years old, but we do celebrate it each year. The concern is that the news is heard and then people open the gift in their own lives. Each new visitor who decides to return Sunday after Sunday finds that the news of Christmas is alive in our congregation. [add for Chilhowee: Every time we open the door of the church and invite the kiddos in for a special party, the news of Christmas is shared. When the fair-goers walk in for a traditional lunch with a piece of pie, we are sharing the news of Christmas.]

As the year closes, a new year begins. Share the news of Christmas each and every time you can. When we open the door of the church, make sure others know it is open. The calendar we take down is replaced with a calendar fill of opportunities. Look ahead and plan.

What are new ways to share the good news? What can you do? Use each opportunity you can to be God’s hands and arms so others may learn of his unconditional love. Open your arms and love for there is no better way to share the news of Christmas.

Please join with me in prayer:

Dear loving and giving Father,

Thank you for sending your son as our first Christmas gift.

As gifts were opened amid squeals of delight, we celebrated.

Thank you for our family and friends

Who joined us in the celebration of Christmas.

Help us to demonstrate and to share the news of Christ

With family and friends or strangers and foes

From sunrise to sunset and even into the night.

Let us keep the news of Christmas the best news of the year.

–Amen

 

 

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God’s Gifts: promises fulfilled

given on Sunday, December 15, 2013

            Preparing today’s thoughts could have been very difficult due to the personal events of the past two weeks.  Yet, returning to life’s daily routine allows for the spinning, ever-changing world to slow down to a manageable pace.  And, who cannot help but sense the excitement and expectations that are part of Advent.

The seasons do not stop even for the calamities of life whether it is a destructive natural phenomena such as ice storms, hurricanes, and earthquakes or whether it is an international event such as the death of Nelson Mandela or whether it is a personal life event such as a scary diagnosis or a loss of a spouse, a parent, a child or even a friend.  The seasons continue racing along.

Advent began two weeks ago, and suddenly Christians face the clock.  Christmas is only 10 days away and the race is on.  The wish lists must be filled.  The cookies and candies need preparing.  And amazingly, as the days tick down, it all gets done.

What happens, though, when all the social hubbub crowds out God?  Generation after generation Christians look forward to Christmas, yet God’s gifts seem to be hidden below all the papers and bows, mixed up with tinsel and lights.  God’s gifts easily become lost.

God’s gift of life seems so basic that the significance of our own creation is lost.  Even as children are born, the new lives are viewed simply as a byproduct of an organic act; so many are even thrown away because the biological parents are lost in addiction.  God’s gift of life is tossed away.

For just a moment, put yourself into God’s position.  Out in the cosmos, the idea of creating a world leads you to create a garden and then you begin adding to the creation all the gifts we now know as the flora and fauna of our earth.  The creation is pleasing, but it lacks something.  And you realize that a garden needs attending, so the next creation is ‘adam (Hebrew) or humankind:

. . . the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  . . . In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  . . . The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  (Gen. 2:7-17, NIV)

God’s gift of life includes the gift of free thought:  New ideas.  Relationships.  Dreams.  Hopes.  New life.  Knowledge.  Choices—good and bad.

History records how well humans have handled God’s gift of life.  The choices made certainly have created this 21st century world filled with all the innovations of creative minds.  But this world is also filled with all the horrors of destructive minds.  God’s gifts were given along with responsibility.  God promised us a life filled with all that we need as long as we follow his rule.

God made promises to humankind to take care of us.  God gave us grace and turned humanity loose to tend to the garden.  Standing guard over us, God watches us, feeling joy with our successes and weeping at our failures.  Yet never has God gone back on promises.

The generations continue, history keeps recording humanity’s successes and failures, and God’s promises remain.  The third Sunday of Advent is a time to pause and reflect on God’s promises.  Has he fulfilled them?  Yes.  Has he given up?  No!

God’s promises remain steadfast.  God gives us grace.  Each one of us is loved unconditionally.  At no time is that love taken away.  God’s grace is a gift that keeps on giving, as the cliché states.

Accepting God’s gifts also gives us hope.  In our humanity, we make mistakes.  The story of Adam and Eve demonstrates that God’s grace is like a safety net protecting us from ourselves.  With that first bite from the tree of knowledge, God’s grace was tested.  God told them they would die if they ate from this tree, but with grace and unconditional love, they lived.

The choices we humans make ever since that first bite demonstrates God’s grace and unconditional love.  We learn to trust God.  We learn that when we make a mistake, God forgiven.  This hope that God loves us despite our mistakes gives us courage to continue forward.  Hope allows us to love one another unconditionally, too.

Scriptures record story after story of human errors being forgiven.  Stop and review the story of Abraham who listened to God and offered his own son as a sacrifice, trusting in God right along to the final moment when God provided a ram to replace Isaac as the sacrifice.

Hope turns into joy, another gift from God.  Abraham’s sense of relief and joy propelled him forward.  His life was not easy, but he relied on God.  Turning over one’s life to God provides a sense of joy immeasurable by any human standard.

The list of God’s gifts continues to grow.  We can create our own list of gifts received from God that is customized to our specific strengths and weaknesses.  Yet, opening that gifts of God’s unconditional love and grace provides a sense of joy that springs alive within us and radiates outward touching the lives of others.

Today, and each day of Advent, we need to evaluate how well we are sharing God’s unconditional love with others.  We need to ask ourselves if the grace God provides us is modeled in the grace we give to others.

The generations recorded in the Old Testament provide a testimony to how well God’s human creations implemented God’s laws.  Failures seem to outnumber successes, but God never gives up hope.  Over and over God tried to help; and when all else failed, the prophets warned the people.

The Old Testament prophesized or referred to a coming Messiah in 44 different scriptures.  In Isaiah, the prophecy of a Messiah is recorded in nine different ways (Fairchild 2013).  When the Christmas story is recorded in the New Testament, it answers the prophecies.

Isaiah 7:14:  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Matthew 1:23:  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

God’s gifts never fail.  The Word tells the story.  Advent allows us to relive the expectations of the faithful throughout history.  We never tire hearing the story over and over again because we receive hope and joy from God’s gifts.  We demonstrate God’s unconditional love and grace with our own gift giving.  And that gives us one more gift—joy, represented by the third candle on the Advent wreath.

As we continue to mark off the days until Christmas, keep God’s gifts in mind.  Prepare your heart for the final gift of the season—the purest, Jesus Christ, son of man and son of God.

 

Closing prayer:

Dear loving and giving Lord,

In the midst of our holiday season,

            help us to remember the greatest story ever told.

As we rush from place to place,

            keep us safe along the bustling streets.

When we greet the faces of family and friends,

            let the love and grace given by you, shine.

In those moments when sorrow sneaks in,

            translate the loss into heart-felt memories.

With each Christmas carol we hear and sing,

            hear our praises and our thanks.

With each card we send or we open,

            spread a little more Christian love.

            Thank you, Lord, for the gifts we receive

                        today, tomorrow, and forever.  –Amen

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April’s apocrypha lessons: Telling the old, old stories

given on Sunday, April 21, 2013

Apocrypha Lesson:  Stories of Faith

         Have I a story to tell you!  I have been swamped by all the stories I have heard around town.  Granted some of the stories may be a bit exaggerated since they are spreading like wildfire, but still the stories are absolutely amazing.  I want to go see for myself.

There is this community that is doing all kinds of things differently.  They are just like the rest of us, at least they appear to be, but there is something unique about them.  They go to the stores, like we do.  They all have jobs, like we do.  They have families no differently than we do.  Their houses look no different than anybody else’s around here.  I really cannot see anything different, yet there is something special about them.

The stories they tell are something else. . . the officials are always going through the neighborhood like they are looking for something.  There are certain times during the week that they all get together for some reason.  When they walk out the buildings just about noon on any Sunday, they seem so happy.  They are chatting with each other, the kids are running around their parents and playing with friends, and teenagers just stand around smiling, talking, even laughing.

What is this all about?  This is the story that I hear—they are Christians.  They talk about how God was born as a man, a man they called Jesus, Christ, Messiah, even Savior.  They still have the same illnesses, the same ups and downs in their businesses, and sometimes they have troubles—really big trouble like car wrecks, fires, health issues, and even broken families or relationships.  Yet there is this unique quality about them that makes me want to know more about these Christians.

Whenever you meet people who are open about their faith in God, you begin to notice some of the common characteristics that seem to make them happier than others.  They seem to handle the trials and tribulations of life with a certain finesse that others don’t.  In fact others may just give up and call it quits, but not Christians.

Growing up, my mom had unusual ways of adding her faith into the daily routines.  Living on a farm, we always had cats and dogs around.  In fact that is probably one of the best parts of farm life.  Many hours of my week were spent sitting on the step playing with the kittens, or looking for them in the barn.

One year we had a litter of kittens while I was in college, so Mom ended up naming them.  She called them Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  I tried to figure out why, but the Old Testament story is the key.  I am sure you remember the story:  the three refused to worship the King’s god, a pagan god, and he threw them into the furnace.  When he looked into the flames, he saw four men walking around.

The King could not explain it, so called the men out of the flames.  Sure enough, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were not harmed at all.  Who was the fourth man?  Well, he was God.  Certainly the story sounds like a tall tale, but the story had the desired outcome.  And the King is transformed.  He abandons his pagan god and praises the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  The story concludes

Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. –the NRSV

Now Daniel tells that story.  He, too, was a close friend of the King, and he stood up for his faith.  Faith protected him and faith continues to protect us throughout our lifetimes as we meet challenge after challenge.

The apocrypha tells more stories, too.  In fact the set of books in the apocrypha are filled with novels, folktales, poems, and instructions.  These books may not have been ‘canonized’ and excluded from the Bible structure that is familiar to most 21st century Christians, but that does not mean they are not acceptable religious readings for us.

The stories found in the apocrypha book, “Bel and the Dragon,” are sometimes published as Daniel 14.  The stories in Daniel are considered to be folktales, rather like those in Aesop’s Fables or some of the tall tales we have in American folklore.

The story of Bel is a great lesson to share with those who may be following false gods.  Daniel was refusing to follow the King’s order to pray to Bel, a pagan god in Babylon.  Being a friend, the King simply could not get rid of Daniel.  Instead there developed this challenging scenario (This is the full text, but for storytelling purposes, I will paraphrase it.):

Daniel was a companion of the king, and was the most honoured of all his friends.

            3 Now the Babylonians had an idol called Bel, and every day they provided for it twelve bushels of choice flour and forty sheep and six measures[a] of wine. The king revered it and went every day to worship it. But Daniel worshipped his own God.

So the king said to him, ‘Why do you not worship Bel?’ He answered, ‘Because I do not revere idols made with hands, but the living God, who created heaven and earth and has dominion over all living creatures.’

            6 The king said to him, ‘Do you not think that Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?’ And Daniel laughed, and said, ‘Do not be deceived, O king, for this thing is only clay inside and bronze outside, and it never ate or drank anything.’

            8 Then the king was angry and called the priests of Bel[b] and said to them, ‘If you do not tell me who is eating these provisions, you shall die. But if you prove that Bel is eating them, Daniel shall die, because he has spoken blasphemy against Bel.’ Daniel said to the king, ‘Let it be done as you have said.’

            10 Now there were seventy priests of Bel, besides their wives and children. So the king went with Daniel into the temple of Bel. 11 The priests of Bel said, ‘See, we are now going outside; you yourself, O king, set out the food and prepare the wine, and shut the door and seal it with your signet. 12 When you return in the morning, if you do not find that Bel has eaten it all, we will die; otherwise Daniel will, who is telling lies about us.’ 13 They were unconcerned, for beneath the table they had made a hidden entrance, through which they used to go in regularly and consume the provisions. 14 After they had gone out, the king set out the food for Bel. Then Daniel ordered his servants to bring ashes, and they scattered them throughout the whole temple in the presence of the king alone. Then they went out, shut the door and sealed it with the king’s signet, and departed. 15 During the night the priests came as usual, with their wives and children, and they ate and drank everything.

            16 Early in the morning the king rose and came, and Daniel with him. 17 The king said, ‘Are the seals unbroken, Daniel?’ He answered, ‘They are unbroken, O king.’ 18 As soon as the doors were opened, the king looked at the table, and shouted in a loud voice, ‘You are great, O Bel, and in you there is no deceit at all!’

            19 But Daniel laughed and restrained the king from going in. ‘Look at the floor’, he said, ‘and notice whose footprints these are.’ 20 The king said, ‘I see the footprints of men and women and children.’

            21 Then the king was enraged, and he arrested the priests and their wives and children. They showed him the secret doors through which they used to enter to consume what was on the table. 22 Therefore the king put them to death, and gave Bel over to Daniel, who destroyed it and its temple.  –the NRSV.AC version listed in Daniel 14

Such stories of faith are found throughout the Bible—old and new testaments.  And even as we listen to the stories of our own families, we can discover the stories of faith being passed down from one generation to another.  Jesus told stories, he even asked the little children to gather around him so he could tell them stories.

Stories of faith have not been kept out of schools, either.  Look at the literature from that shared with preschoolers to those in college anthologies.  The stories of faith continue to spread the news of Jesus Christ.  Are we continuing to share our own stories of faith?  Do your children and grandchildren know why you believe?  Do you demonstrate your faith to them when life challenges you?

Paul shared stories, one being his own transformation from Saul the Jewish leader punishing the earliest Christians, to Paul the first traveling Christian missionary.  He was eager to share the stories of Jesus’ work and he did not ignore the ancient Jewish stories of faith.  In Hebrews 11, Paul lists or refers to all kinds of faith stories listing them from the Old Testament right through the New Testament:

Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.  . . . 36 But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 37 They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 38 The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.

39 All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. 40 God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us.  –the NRSV

Whether the stories you tell are your own, or whether you tell the old, old stories of Jesus Christ, tell them.  Make sure that your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors, and all know how God is your strength, how faith makes life manageable, how even when the clouds cover up the sun, your faith keeps the light of God’s Son shining bright.

Dear Holy Father, writer of the greatest stories ever told,

Thank you for those who told the first stories of faith

   and those telling the stories today.

Thank you for demonstrating your grace, your love,

   and your forgiveness time and time again.

Help us to hear the stories of those today

     whose faith is strong and ever growing.

Help us to share the stories of others who know you

     and stories we know because we believe, too.

May those who still have not heard the stories,

     hear them now.

May those who first hear the stories be transformed

     and discover they, too, have stories to share.  –Amen

 

 

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Such a Long Wait and Now This!

given on Easter Sunday, March 31, 201

Scripture I:  Matthew 25;31-36 from the NLT

31 “But when the Son of Man[a] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations[b] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

Part A:  The Wait

            Reviewing the chronology of the Bible opens up such a different perspective towards Christianity’s development.  The timeline can create separation of historical events, but it also creates an understanding how critical faith is when battling evil influences.  In a way, studying the timeline creates hope.

            The 400-year gap between Malachi’s prophecies and the birth of the Messiah seems a long time to wait.  Finally the word was out and the faithful heard that the Messiah had arrived.  Some actually were able to meet Jesus face to face; some were healed and were raving over the powers of this man.  The change in lives all around the region was happening and word was spreading.  Finally, after waiting for 400 years, the King of the Jews was alive and with them!

Who would have thought that at the very time that Jesus was becoming well known to the people, the Jewish leaders were skeptical and feeling threatened.  Rather than recognize the truth of who Jesus is, they battled it.

We can relate to that.  Every time a major cultural shift occurs or some dramatic event happens or we experience a life-changing event personally, we face uncertainty.  Our fears bubble up and we find ourselves fighting the change that is thrust upon us.  We know that the change could be good, but it is so far from what we know and are comfortable with.

Jesus understands this.  And knowing the work to be done, knowing all as God knows all, he was aware was going on in the minds of the Jewish leaders and the political leaders of Rome.  Yet, he continues preaching, teaching, and healing.  The crowds continue to grow.  It is difficult to remain in the background.  The stories travel ahead of him, faster than his can.

After all the centuries of waiting for the Messiah, the three short years were coming to a climax.  And Jesus knows.  It is almost Passover week, the biggest holiday in the Jewish faith.  The story continues in Matthew 26:

1When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, Passover begins in two days, and the Son of Man[a] will be handed over to be crucified.”

Jesus says this right out loud to his Disciples.  They are still trying to understand the words Jesus just said about the final judgment and now he is saying he will be crucified.  Just imagine the confusion, the shock, even the fear.

Yet, Jesus, the Son of God, knew.  The gospel of Matthew continues:

At that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of Caiaphas, the high priest, plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and kill him.

The 400-year wait for the Messiah has ended, and now in just these three short years of Jesus’ ministry, He is saying that He is going to be crucified!

The quiet, unassuming man that the people were flocking to hear, who teaches just one commandment, who heals people even raises them from the dead, who reaches out to everybody in love whether Jew or Gentile, is saying to those closest to him that he is going to be killed.  Preposterous!

But Jesus knew and now it was time to demonstrate who he was in a way that others would see and marvel.  The best time was a holiday, Passover, because everybody who was anybody was in Jerusalem for the festival.  The timing is now!

In the NLT Study Notes of the chronological Bible, the story is presented in parallel, also.  After telling the disciples what is to happen, another twist to the story is developing also included in Mark 14:1-2:

“But not during the Passover celebration,” they agreed, “or the people may riot.”

The study note for verse 2 reads:

The Jews were preparing to observe Passover, a time of remembrance for families to celebrate when the blood of lambs had saved their ancestors.  But some of the religious leaders had another agenda.  Jesus had disrupted their security, revealed their sham, and opposed their authority.  Now they would put him away.  But the world is controlled by our all-wise God, not puny politicians.  God would turn the religious leaders’ murder plot into the greatest blessing that mankind would ever know.  Another Lamb would be slain, and his blood would save all people.  When grief or disaster seem to be dominating, remember that your life is in God’s hands and remember what Jesus did for you. (Emphasis added, p. 1453)

When we are suffering, when we face our challenges, we must remember that God is with us.  He never gives us more than we can handle; and today we know evil lurks all around us, even within our closest ring of family and friends.

Scripture II:  Luke 23:26-38

26 As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene,[b] happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women. 28 But Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the days are coming when they will say, ‘Fortunate indeed are the women who are childless, the wombs that have not borne a child and the breasts that have never nursed.’ 30 People will beg the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and plead with the hills, ‘Bury us.’[c] 31 For if these things are done when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?[d]

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull,[e] they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”[f] And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.[g]

35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Sermon:  . . . and Now This?

Part B

            Yes, the story continues and includes evil and treachery.  Jesus is betrayed, arrested, tried, and sentenced to death.  The story seems so short after such a long wait.  How could this be?  For four hundred years we waited to see the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy, not to mention the 2,000+ years before Malachi.  The stories told through the generation could not end like this.

Yet, woven into the prophecies of the Old Testament is the foreshadowing of the Messiah’s life.  The prediction of betrayal, the prediction of death, and the prediction of defeating death are also in the prophecies, but those stories are not surfacing in the excitement Jesus’ work the past three years.  And then there is the holiday—Passover.

Unfortunately the story continues right through a trial, on through the horrible journey to the Golgotha, the blood dripping from His brow, the nailing of his hands to the cross—even his feet.  The long 400-year wait is coming to an end like this?  How can this story end like this?

The story does continue, the death on the cross is not the end of the story; it is the beginning of the new life.  Returning to Luke, let’s hear more of the story:

The Death of Jesus

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”[h] And with those words he breathed his last.

47 When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.[k] 49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

For 400 hundred years, the Jewish people waited.  What they expected was a powerful display of power, possibly wars fought, possibly a coronation, but now this!  This crucifixion is not the ending to the reign of a king, it is the lowest form of punishment for petty criminals.  Is this the way the story ends?  No.

Scripture III:  Luke 23:50-24:8

The Burial of Jesus

50 Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, 51 but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. 52 He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. 54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation,[l] as the Sabbath was about to begin.

55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

The Resurrection

24 But very early on Sunday morning[m] the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man[n] must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

We acknowledge Jesus as the son of man, but more importantly the Son of God.  The story continues even if the son of man is dead because it is the Son of God who lives.  What lurks ahead is yet unknown.  What happens during our week may be planned, but nothing guarantees that it will go, as we want it to go.  God is in charge.  If Jesus can trust God, then we can, too.  The end result is the gift of eternal life with God.  And that is the story that never ends, it is why we come together to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ this Easter morning.

Dear God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

We celebrate the gift of Your Son today. 

We acknowledge His work during those short three years.

As we share in the warmth of our Christian family,

     help us to strengthen our resolve to love one another.

As we face daily challenges at home, at work, or at play

     help us to identify evil and turn away from its clutch.

As we look into the faces of family, friends, co-workers,

          and strangers, help us to see You.

 As we offer food, clothing, shelter, and love to those in need,

     let the world see what a difference Your grace makes

     and how loving one another transforms lives.  –Amen

 

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