GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS THE CHRIST.
Guenther Tharp and his buddy Chester were in the lunch line at the Lutheran school. At the head of the serving area there was a large pile of apples and, in front of the apples, the pastor-principal had printed a sign which read "TAKE ONLY ONE. GOD IS WATCHING". Moving to the other end of the serving area, there was a table with a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. Guenther gently poked his pal, "Take all you want, Chester, God is watching the apples."
There on that plain in the land of Shinar words of faith and obedience to The Divine Will were rarely used as people decided to build the most magnificent city human ingenuity could conceive and to crown the glory of that city with the building of a tower whose top is in the heavens - challenging The Lord’s Authority – glorifying what humanity can achieve with or without God. They truly planned to make a name for themselves.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR -- JESUS THE CHRIST.
As Jesus prepared to ascend into heaven, He called His disciples to continue to be His disciples and also to be His apostles. Well, how many of Jesus' disciples can you name? We can all fairly quickly list the eleven who were His original disciples and who were present with Jesus when our text took place.
A disciple is a student studying life with a master teacher like Moses, Plato, Aristotle or a Pharisaic rabbi. On the day of His ascension, the eleven disciples who gathered together with Jesus were truly disciples of our Ultimate Teacher Jesus and that Christian discipleship belongs not only to those eleven original disciples – but to every one of us who have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior and who seek to constantly increase our knowledge of Jesus and His Word so we can also read disciples’ names in our Church Directory.
How many of Jesus' apostles can you name? Again, we list those eleven – add some like Paul – and, of course, there are those apostles in our church directory. Apostles are "ambassadors, envoys, representatives" who are "sent by Jesus to proclaim" what we have learned as His disciples and been called by The lord Jesus to proclaim and share.
Today is The Last Sunday of The Easter Season in Christ’s Church and Mothers’ Day in our nation and last Thursday was celebrated as The Ascension of Our Lord. How powerfully our Lord Jesus calls us to Discipleship and Apostleship in these three festivals.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
Each Sunday, liturgical theologians provide us with a Biblical theme which is proclaimed through a Psalm, an Old Testament Lesson, an Epistle text, and a Gospel text. Most of those Biblical texts appear once every three years. A few – like the Christmas Gospel – appear once a year. Some – like this morning’s Psalm – appear even more often.
This morning Psalm 23 again provides a shepherd’s personal confession of faith. Some 5200 years ago, David of Bethlehem was only 13 years old and – like the boy in this picture and like 13 year old youth in 21st Century Israel – was a shepherd. David could not help but realize how much his own relationship with God was like the sheep’s relationship with their shepherd. The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.
Like David, Martin Luther wrote, “I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that God has given and still preserves to me my body and soul, my eyes and ears, and all my members, my reason and all the powers of my soul, together with food and clothing, home and family, and all my property; that God daily provides abundantly for all the needs of my life, protects me from all danger, and guards and keeps me from all evil; and that God does this purely out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all of which I am in duty bound to thank, praise, serve and obey God. This is most certainly true.” But that is our temporal journey – there is more – far more – eternally more.
When I am honest with myself, I have to admit to having more in common with those sheep than I care to admit. I am, in fact, more dependent upon God than David’s sheep were upon their shepherd.
Twenty-one centuries ago – on the night Jesus was betrayed – He told His disciples the reason why God had come to earth as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – He had come to shepherd and redeem God’s Human Flock. Jesus said He was going to prepare place for them and for us now and eternally. He also told them they knew the way He was going to prepare that place. The ever-doubting Thomas protested “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus’ answer to Thomas – and to us – told us everything we need to know about Jesus – “I am The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to The Father except by Me.”
Over the next three Sundays we will be looking at that essential description Jesus gives us of Himself – beginning with “I am The Way … No one comes to The Father except by Jesus Christ.
Now there are several things we need to know about Jesus being The Way. First of all accepting Jesus’ Word that He is The Way is a choice. There is no more important choice – but like David’s confession - “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” - accepting Jesus as The Way is a choice.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR ... JESUS THE CHRIST.
A couple were traveling to Catawba Island last week and, along the way, they got into an argument over the pronounciation of the name of our township. She said “Catawaba” and he said “cat-waba”. The argument went on for some time until finally they decided to wait until they got here to settle the argument. They agreed to stop at the first place they came to and to let the clerk settle the argument. He said to the clerk, “Will you please settle an argument and tell us where we are?” The clerk nodded and said “McDONALDS.”
It’s always a good idea to know where we are going and how we are going to get there. That, in fact, was the issue on the night our text took place.
It was that emotionally-charged night of the Last Super — Jesus celebrating the Passover with His disciples ... Jesus washing their feet and teaching them to love one another the way He loves them ... Jesus preparing them for the crucifixion which would take Him from them within the next 24 hours. The disciples were devastated by any thought of His leaving them. Their hearts were sorely troubled.
Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.”
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
The weather was the coldest in a decade and had a bite to it, but a crowd gathered to worship at sunrise – as we joyously do each Easter. It is with such joy each year down at the dock at sunrise and here at 9A.M. that we come to celebrate the SONRISE. And well we should – for as Jesus rose from the dead that first Easter morning - IT’S OUR BIRTHDAY – our eternal birthday.
We are moving toward the end of the festival half of the church year – which focuses on God’s Presence among us as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ.
Our focus began in a most unlikely place to encounter God – behind an overcrowded inn in a cave being used as a barn for sheep and goats and a donkey or two. There a Child was born and a manger where the animals received their food and water became The Bread of Life, Living Water Baby’s first crib.
That Baby Jesus, though He was in the form of God – is actually God Himself– did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but was willing to exchange it all as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ. For you and for me He made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
That God could do such a thing is no miracle. With God all things are possible – even God Himself coming among us as The vunerable flesh and blood Christ. The miracle is in the Love. By His Own Choice, God loves us that much.
And being in human form, God further humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
God loves us so much that God’s Love took Him, through torture of every kind, to the cross and to another cave. On Good Friday, we are reminded of that cave – the airtight cave tomb where Jesus was carried from the cross with a rollstone to seal Him in.