GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
During the months leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, He focused on preparing His disciples and all His other followers for our lives in the years between Jesus’ Resurrection and Judgment Day. They were the most wondrous words of fulfilled hope and vision, but they were also words of warning. Jesus spoke of times when the secular world would hate Jesus and His Church and of times characterized by angry and violent disputes in His Church, in families and within and among nations.
Never have those times been more vividly present than today. The human race Jesus came to redeem stands in bold contrast to the eternal home God has prepared for us and to that world God created in Eden before the fall. In the very beginning, God created His beloved human beings for loving and faithful relationship.
First, of course, is the special relationship God created between our Creator and the human race. God said, "Let us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness...." So, God created man in His Own Image, in the Image of God He created him.... (GENESIS 1:26a & 27a) In the entire universe, only human beings were created with the ability to know and experience God, to come to God in prayer, and to follow God's Divine Guidance. How much God loves us and how richly we are blessed through the relationship God has created for us. It was and still is a relationship God never gave up on. When our human sins and shortcomings irreparably destroyed that relationship, to restore it God came among us as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ and suffered and died on the cross for us - then rose from the dead to proclaim the relationship eternally restored.
In Eden, Adam and Eve had a perfect knowledge of their Creator and His Love for them. They knew instinctively what God gave and what God required in the relationship God has created human beings to have with our Creator. As a special place for Adam’s and Eve’s worship and meditation The Tree of Life - the forerunner of God’s Church – was in the midst of the garden.
From the very beginning, God was also concerned about the relationship between the human beings God had created. God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate fit for Him.” Adam had not expressed any need for a helpmate to God - he didn't need to. Nor did Adam give God a blueprint on what he wanted his companion to be - only God had the vision and the plan.
Significantly, GENESIS tells us she was formed out of a rib from the side of Adam - not made out of his head to rule over him or out of his feet to be trampled by him - but out of his side to be equal with him and near his heart to be loved by him. God created the perfect human relationship and made it the true foundation of all human relationships - the family.
God knew the need human beings have for a companion of our own kind - someone to intimately talk to ... someone to exchange affection and knowledge with ... someone to comfort and to be comforted by ... someone to dream dreams and share vision with – someone to continue the human race with the birth and nurture of children - above all, someone to love and to be loved by.
We were created to “love The Lord our God – in Whose Image we were created - with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind – totally with all we are and with all we have – and we were created to love our neighbor – beginning with that primary one to whom we are married – as we love our self – as a beloved child of God.” RELATIONSHIP created and sanctified by God!
In that instant when God created the foundation and perfection of all human relationships, God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” There can be no more basic, foundational and close relationship than that one God created in Eden.
God created us to live in a temporal and eternal relationship with God of God’s Own making and God created us to live in temporal relationship with each other – making the husband and wife/mother and father relationship the very foundation of all relationships between human beings. God made us male and female – so alike and complimentary as a species and yet with those physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and other differences enabling us to become one flesh. God even so stressed the blessedness and importance of this foundation to the human family that He made the temporal continuation of the human race dependent upon this relationship or sinfully a perversion of it.
Pseudo modernist old sin promoters in alternate lifestyle clothes are quick to ridicule the family God Himself gave us. God’s enemies have attempted to make gender essentially a social construct and to make human sexuality a recreational sport outside of marriage. With each assault on Christian values and the Christian Family, I am reminded that Jesus gave the same answer every time someone asked Him a question about the family or about human sexuality - "Have ye not read that He Who made them in the beginning made them male and female and said for this cause shall a man leave father and mother and cling to his wife and the two shall be come one flesh."
How God loves the families and the little children with whom God blesses His families!
One day a number of little children were brought to Jesus by their parents. The youngsters were hopping around Him and onto His lap … tugging at His robes and, no doubt, at his heartstrings as well … asking Him endless questions as only little children can. The disciples - concerned the children would tire Jesus and also afraid the adults might not get their share of Jesus’ time - tried to send the children away. Jesus rebuked His disciples, saying, “Let the children come to Me, and forbid them not, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven.” (MATTHEW 19:14)
Jesus even told His disciples that the faith of mature adults should be total and unquestioning like the faith of little children — “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter it.” (MARK 10:15) We see each child’s natural humble dependence upon His parents and upon God – it’s the way we were created – the way we come into the world.
Among the strongest words of condemnation ever spoken by Jesus were those aimed at people who lead little children astray — “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for that person to have a great millstone fastened around His neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” How broken hearted and angry our Divine Shepherd must be as He views some of the current trends leading children away from Christ. Tragically, we are living at a time when the youth and children of the land are being offered vast quantities of moral junk food and spiritual poison.
Churches that remain faithful to God and to The Word of God are often labeled by non-believers and selective believers as unloving and prejudice. Nothing could be farther from The Truth. For our Salvation and the Salvation of all people, we are called by God to lovingly and faithfully proclaim The Word of God revealed incarnately in Jesus Christ and inerrantly in The Holy Bible. To do otherwise leaves us vulnerable to Jesus “millstone by the sea” judgment and leaves the sinner without any hope of redemption and eternal relationship with God.
To facilitate their attacks on the family God created, God’s enemies have ruled God and His Word to be an unwanted – and sometimes illegal – intrusion on public forums and venues. They have sought to make attacks on The Word of God valid in public forums while branding The Word of God as something to be ostracized because it is filled with what political correctness labels as prejudice. They have sought to make righteous people complicit in their sins – and threated their livelihood if they fail to comply.
It isn’t easy. At no time in the history of our richly blessed nation have there been more forces powerfully aligned against our God-given Christian Faith and Lifestyle. At no time have there been more vivid and more subliminal influences polluting the spiritual, moral, and ethical environment surrounding us and our children.
I know of only two institutions that can save our future generations – two divinely created and blessed institutions – the church God called into being to proclaim and celebrate the relationship God has blessed us to have with Himself and the family God created for the most basic and fundamental of all human relationships. All knowing God created both institutions even before the fall in Eden.
Today - Mother’s Day - we are honoring half of the first and last line of defense against moral junk food and spiritual poison.
In our Gospel text last Sunday, Jesus forgave Peter, restored Peter’s relationship with God and then said, “Feed My sheep”. Jesus told Peter and all of us who have been forgiven and reconciled by Jesus to share the relationship that has cleansed us and made us Jesus’ Own.
Jesus called Peter to that calling three times and each time our modern translations quote Jesus’ words “Feed My sheep”. In the original Greek, there are shades of difference each time Jesus spoke those words.
First Jesus says “Βόσκε τά αρνία μου – Shepherd My lambs.” The shepherd tends totally to the young lambs. As R.C.H. Lenski reminds us “To lead children is easy enough, for they follow easily and trustworthily; their feeding is the real task, for they must grow and become strong and mature.”¹ They must be constantly nourished with the pure Word of God.
Nowhere is the Church’s responsibility more urgently needed than in support of the Chistian family. Through the Sunday school, the worship services, and other activities, the Christian Church is called to join with Christian parents in shepherding Jesus’ lambs. Pastors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, friends, and everyone of us with our Gospel story to tell has been given Gospel food with which to shepherd Jesus’ lambs.
As you know something is holy when it is what God created it to be. We have always needed – and now need more than ever – the Holy Christian Family and the Holy Christian Church. May God always bless us to be that Holy Christian Family and that Holy Christian Church God created us to be. There is no carrier of a more valuable and truer legacy anywhere else.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN OUR CRUCIFIED, RISEN AND EVER PRESENT LORD AND SAVIOUR – JESUS THE CHRIST. AMEN.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter – also Mothers’ Day
May 14, 2017
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio
Called to Feed the Flock
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR -- JESUS THE RISEN AND EVER-LIVING CHRIST.
Guenther Tharp went on his first plane ride with his pastor and a nuclear scientist. Suddenly the plane began making some very unusual noises. A few moments later, the pilot – with a parachute pack on his back – came out of the cockpit. “I’m sorry. The plane has developed serious problems which I can’t correct. I’ve tried everything. Nothing works. The problem is there are four of us and only three parachutes. Now, I have seven children who are totally dependent upon me so my life must be spared.” And with that he leaped from the plane.
The nuclear scientist quickly stood up, strapped a pack to his back, and said, “I am the smartest man in the world. My head is filled with secrets which are absolutely vital to the security of our nation and the solving of our most difficult problems. This nation cannot do without me.” And he leaped from the plane.
Calmly Pastor Schmidt smiled and said, “Guenther, as a Christian, I truly know Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I know He is with me now and will be with me through all eternity. You take the other parachute.” Then he bowed his head in prayer.
Guenther interrupted him. “Pastor, your prayers have already been answered. You see, Sir, the smartest man in the world just leaped out of this plane with my Cub Scout backpack firmly strapped to his back.”
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR PERSONAL CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR — JESUS THE CHRIST.
People have always had a keen interest in the last words spoken by famous people. Jesus Who is the most famous of all people and whose life has had a greater impact on the lives of all human beings than anyone else who has ever lived is no exception to that rule. Thanks to what God has enabled and enlightened The Gospel writers to share with us we do have Jesus’ last words which He spoke from the cross — and, as we would certainly expect, they are extremely important words.
"Peace (SHALOM) be with you."
Thank God, those words Jesus spoke while dying on the cross are not the last words He spoke. On Jesus’ third day in the tomb He rose from the dead and we find ourselves deeply interested in the first words He spoke after His Resurrection. Thanks to what God has enabled and enlightened The Gospel writers to share with us we do have those words as well. To His disciples still hidden in that upper room, Jesus said, "Peace be with you."
THE POWER OF SHALOM
There are some very significant things about this Peace.
First there is the significance of THE POWER OF THAT PEACE.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR … JESUS THE CHRIST.
It was now mid-afternoon. Peter, John and nine of the other disciples who have been with Jesus since the beginning still locked themselves in that upper room where Jesus had celebrated His last supper with them. So were Mary Magdalene and the other women - perhaps Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus - certainly Cleopas and another disciple.
It was the third day Jesus had been in an air-tight tomb and rumors were spreading that He had risen from the dead. Mary Magdalene and the other women said angels had told them – Mary said she had talked to Jesus. John and Peter had seen the neatly folded linen cloths where His Body had lain.
Cleopas and his companion had been numbered among that larger group of followers who gathered around Jesus wherever He spoke and taught two of the seventy disciples Jesus had sent out to proclaim His Gospel.
Now they had spent a horrible weekend with the others hiding in that upper room. Had their faith been so misplaced?
The rumors concerning Jesus’ Resurrection did little to cure the two disciples' despair and actually added to their confusion. They left Jerusalem and headed home to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about three-score furlongs. Two people with a lot on their minds and a strong need to verbalize their thoughts could get into quite a conversation on a seven-mile walk. Knowing all these two disciples had been through, we can well understand the intensity of that conversation with far more questions than answers.
While there is debate over which of the three routes on this map leads to Emmaus, I walked the middle route to those ruins on the right which I believe to be Emmaus.
Of all the promises Jesus makes to us, none are more empowering than the one with which we began our worship service -- "For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them." Jesus hears our every prayer, is serenaded by each note we sing, is filled with joy as we confess our faith in Him. Jesus speaks to us in every word as The Word of God is faithfully read and proclaimed. Jesus is in all those feelings and thoughts that individually enter our minds as we worship.
That morning as the two disciples were talking and discussing together Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
Guenther Tharp’s mom was concerned about her kindergarten son walking to school. He didn't want his mother to walk with him – said he was too old for that. She wanted to give him the feeling that he had some independence and yet know that he was safe. So, she asked a neighbor if she would please follow him to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, so he wouldn't notice her. The neighbor said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed. The next school day, the neighbor and her little girl set out following behind Guenther as he walked to school with a neighbor girl he knew. The Tharp’s neighbor and her daughter followed them. One day as Guenther and his friend walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, Guenther's little friend noticed the same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week. Finally, she said to Guenther, “Have you noticed that lady and her daughter following us to school all week? Do you know them?”
Guenther nonchalantly replied, “Yeah, I know who they are.”
The little girl said, 'Well, who are they?'
“That's just Marcy and her mother Shirley Goodnest,” Guenther replied.
“Shirley Goodnest? Who is she and why is she following us?