GOD’S VOICE, OUR WILDERNESS

Text - LUKE 3:1—6

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN – EVER PRESENT LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS CHRIST.

The season of Advent when we again celebrate God’s three-fold coming to us and when we hear the season’s powerful Divine Call to “Prepare The Way of The LORD, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”  Prepare The Way of The LORD in the depths of your soul for His future Second Visible Coming to judge us and to take His Own Home to His eternal Kingdom as we focused our attention last Sunday.  Prepare The Way of The LORD in the depths of your soul for His present Constant though invisible Presence in every moment of our temporal lives.  Prepare The Way of The LORD in the depths of your soul to cherish and celebrate His past coming in the human flesh and vulnerability of The Christ as we focus our attention his morning. Prepare The Way of The LORD!

In the 40 years since I studied in the Holy Land, I know I have shared this picture with you many times. In the wilderness, there is actually nothing for your physical eyes to see but a vast expanse of lifeless sand.  There are absolutely no natural resources in the desert wilderness - no way for edible plants to grow or for human beings or animals to survive even on the most primitive levels of existence. Both mentally and spiritually the experience is unforgettable.

I can imagine what Biblical people and even Mary and Joseph experienced crossing the Judean wilderness on their way to Jerusalem.  

Though the wilderness through which God’s people wandered for forty years is many miles to the south and the Exodus events happened nearly 15 centuries before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem – you cannot cross the Judean wilderness without thinking of that other wilderness where that lost and grumbling group of former slaves truly learned to live by faith in God alone.

It is no surprise that when God as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ responded to humanity’s greatest need and began His ministry – it was here in the wilderness.

Indeed humanity has prepared the way for His coming -  but not in the way our text implies.  No, it was humanity’s sins and alienation from God that brought God to earth as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ.

“GOD’S BIBLICAL SIGNS ON THE ROAD OF LIFE”

Text—LUKE 21:25—36

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.

On this first Sunday of the new church year, our Advent Season text focuses on one of the three comings of Christ – today the future coming on Judgment Day – the day Jesus returns and our temporal world ends to be replaced by His appearance in all His glory to bid us entrance to His eternal kingdom.  Our text today provides us with a series of signs pointing to that awesome day.

As we travel in our temporal world, we are all familiar with the stop sign’s octagonal shape.  We know what the sign means even before we read the word printed on it.  It directs us to come to a complete stop — no creeping ahead … that’s cheating — a complete stop.  We also know that this stop is not our journey’s end.  It is merely a necessary stop along the way — an important time to halt our progress so we can truly see where we are and what possible hazards may be ready to cross our path.  It is a short but important time in which to determine which way to continue our journey.

God’s Word provides God’s “STOP” sign.   God directs us to come to a complete stop — not our temporal journey’s final destination but nevertheless a most important stop.  It must be a complete stop — an absolute halt to our hectic pace - a total pause in the midst of our “busyness” and the world’s challenges to faith and morality. God’s Word says stop - check God’s Word to see if we are still on the right path. Stop and see through God’s eyes where we are and what possible hazards may lay ahead in our path to eternity.  We must STOP to hear from The One Who truly knows The Way — The One Who is The Way. (JOHN 14:6)

You and I paused in our usually hectic lives this morning to come to church — happy about many things in our lives, unhappy about others … with many of life’s decisions already made and even more decisions to come … with our goals and our successes and our failures … with our sins and with God’s Grace.  We came to church this morning as God’s “STOP” sign beckoned us to pause here to hear God’s Word for us.

No sooner have we come to our complete stop than God’s Word points us to THE PURE WORD OF GOD “Traffic Advisory” signs. Unlike stop signs, “Traffic Advisory” signs come in a variety of sizes and shapes — with a variety of messages.

“WHEN IS IT ALL GOING TO END? GOD KNOWS”

Text—LUKE 21:5—19

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.

As we approach the end of the year on our church year calendar, our lectionary focuses our attention toward Jesus’ Second Coming and the end of the temporal world as we know it.

Rather than reading the texts as a novel passage, we must read them like a verbal landscape painting with a vast multitude of scenes – God’s Landscape texts show numerous events sharing neither time nor space.  By God’s Grace, they provide a kaleidoscope of images telling us of the horrors preceding the end and comforting us in the knowledge that God Who knows all about them wins for us in the end.

And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, Jesus said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

How horrified the people who had not heard Jesus’ words of warning – as His disciples had – would have been to experience the total destruction of their temple and their holy city. Still God had warned of what was coming and God is still in charge.

In 40 years, the magnificent temple itself would be totally destroyed by a heathen power and across the centuries would be replaced by a temple dedicated by a heretical power.  Only Jesus remains to carry us through the end times. The disciples would live to see this part of Jesus’ prophetic words fulfilled – but there was more to come on the way to end times.

And they asked Jesus, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 

There’s that question about the dates – the chronology.

“TWO QUESTIONS EVERYONE MUST ANSWER”

CHRIST THE KING

Text – JOHN 18:33—38a

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR – JESUS THE CHRIST.

Today is the last Sunday of the Church Year - the Sunday named on our Church Year Calendar CHRIST THE KING.

When we face CHRIST THE KING on Judgment Day and prepare to enter into the full glory of the Kingdom He has prepared for us, there are two questions everyone must answer.

“Is Jesus The King?”

The first question is “Are you The King of the Judeans?”  A low level Roman political appointee stands face to face with CHRIST THE KING Who reigns now and eternally over the entire universe and asks “Are you The King of the Judeans?”

Jesus replied “My kingdom is not of this world.”  Jesus was not saying He does not have authority over Judea or even over this entire worldand beyond. He was saying that The Source of His Authority is not of this world but is a much higher Authority.  “If My Kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Judeans.”  If Jesus had come seeking some temporal authority concerned only with the ever-changing things of this world, His conquest would have been far different – and, sadly, of little value to any of us.  “But His Kingdom – eternally established and beyond conquest - is not of this world.”

We all know this King’s name is Jesus – the name given to Him by His heavenly Father, through the angel Gabriel who said to Mary, “You will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus” – Ìησους in Greek and Yeshua or Joshua in Hebrew, that name means “God saves”? Jesus is the only King Who can use that name to explain Who He is – God – and what He has come to do – save all the people of His Kingdom eternally.

JESUS is The Christ. Ὺριστοςin Greek and Messias in Hebrew means The Anointed One. In the Holy Land, kings and prophets were anointed. Called to service by God, they were anointed with, blessed, and empowered to serve.

CHRIST THE KING is THE ULTIMATE ANOINTED ONE Who has come to save us from sin, death, and the devil - anointed to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross - anointed to reconcile us with God –anointed to establish His Eternal Kingdom and to grant us citizenship in it.

When the true God was here as The vulnerable flesh and blood Christ, the world was ruled by Caesar with the iron hand of the legions of Rome. Jesus replied to Pilate, “My Kingship is not from the world.”The Source of Jesus’ Authority was and is divine and His Reign eternal.

Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?”

"What Happened In The Temple?”

Σάββατον

TIME OF SACRED REST

Text - LUKE 18:9-14

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR...JESUS THE CHRIST.

In MARK 2, Jesus and His disciples were walking through the grain fields on their way to the synagogue for the Sabbath services.  The disciples were picking the heads of the grain off the plants, crushing them in their hands, and licking the grain.  The Pharisees challenged Jesus for allowing His disciples to violate the Sabbath by harvesting a crop (picking the heads) and preparing a meal (crushing the grain in their hands).  Jesus replied, “The Sabbath was made for people, and not people for the Sabbath. Therefore, The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Sabbath – today celebrated each week on the anniversary of Easter as The Lord’s Day - is a Divine Gift which God has made for people. As the rabbinical teachings remind us, the beginning of thankfulness is in the using of the gift.  We need to spend that wonderful TIME OF SACRED REST which God has so generously given us in communion with The Lord of the Sabbath – Jesus.

Several years ago, I heard a pastor begin his sermon on our text with a question, "How many of you lovely folks out here have spoken with The Lord this morning?" Of course, we all raised our hands. We were all in church.  Wouldn't our response here this morning be the same?  We've all been praying - in our spoken prayers, in our hymns ...  We'd all say, "Yes, I have spoken with The Lord this morning." 

Then, the pastor went on to ask, "Please tell me, what did He say?"

Bible Verse of the Day

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