WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Remembering the Blood – 05/29/2016


Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces.

From 1775-1783, 25,324 Patriot soldiers were killed because of the Revolutionary War. 

Out of all wars in the American history, the Revolutionary war can be argued as the war that most affects us who are alive today.  For without this war, none of us could enjoy the national freedoms that we enjoy as Americans today, and I doubt that many of us would even exist. 

I doubt that I personally would be here.  My grandfather’s family may not have emigrated from Germany to America, nor would my grandfather on my father’s side have emigrated from Ireland to America – because America would not exist.  Both, my mother and father – if they even existed – would likely not have been where they needed to be in order to meet, fall in love, and marry in order for my creation to be possible.

Tomorrow, being Memorial Day, it is fitting that we should place our hand on heart and salute the colors as they pass, not because we are necessarily happy with all things political, but because so many lives were cut short in order to give us the privilege to be disgruntled with American politics in the first place. 

It is in honor of the men and women who died in the Revolutionary War that gives you the life you are blessed with.   

But that is tomorrow.  Tomorrow is the Day to honor America’s fallen soldiers, today is the Day that we honor Christ.

Back in the days of Moses, the Israelites were slaves in the land of Egypt.  God had sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to “let my people go.”  Pharaoh said “No” so God unleashed the 10 plagues against Egypt.

1.       Water into Blood
2.       Frogs
3.       Gnats or Lice
4.       Flies
5.       Disease of the livestock
6.       Boils
7.       Hail
8.       Locusts
9.       Darkness
10.   Death of the Firstborn

And before the 10th and final plague – the death of all the first born – God instructed Moses how the Israelites could avoid being caught up with the Angel of Death.

1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a lamb for a household. 4 …according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat…  Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.  11 In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.  14 “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 
(Exodus 12:1-loosely-14)

God provided the Passover Lamb, for all of the Israelites, so that they could be excluded from the destruction that was going to come upon them.  When the Angel of Death came upon the houses with the lamb's blood on the door jambs, the angel would “Passover” that house, and all the people inside would be saved from the death that it brought.  And the 10th day of the first month was to be for them a memorial day – a feast to the Lord.”

So now, skipping ahead from the Book of Exodus (the 2nd book in the bible) and going to the Gospel of Luke (the 42nd book of the bible), some 1500 years to the time of Jesus, we see a familiar seen. 

Jesus, per the Jewish religion, is partaking in the Passover Meal and remembering the Day that God delivered the nation of Israel from their slavery in the Land of Egypt.  Jesus himself was remembering the Memorial Day that God established some 1500 years previously.

And Jesus, being Emmanuel (God with us), took the opportunity to change things up a bit when he did… 

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
(Luke 22:14-20)

In saying these things, Jesus effectively changed the program and told them that no longer would it be the blood of a lamb on the doorposts that saves them, but the his own blood which he would pour out on His Cross the next day.

Of course, they did not understand what our Lord meant, but they would, as they continued on in their lives of faith in God and His Messiah.

It is fitting that we remember Jesus on Memorial Day, because He died on the Cross that we might be be covered in His blood and passed-over during the Final Judgment of God.  Jesus was not a soldier in the United States armed services but as people of faith we should remember His death for us all the same.

I will close here with the words of St. Paul to the Corinthian church some 25 years after Jesus death.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 
(1 Corinthians 2:2-5)

It is in the resurrection from the dead that we remember the ultimate power of God, in Jesus Christ our Passover Lamb.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lime Cordial Re-Write - 05/22/2016

What Flavor is your God? – 05/22/2016

 Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Have you ever seen the movie Mary Poppins? 

The part where Mary Poppins and the two children were caught in a rain storm and were required to take medicine, because as Mary Poppins pointed out, “People who get their feet wet must learn to take their medicine.”  As she poured out a spoonful to each child, and herself, the liquid in each spoon was a different color.  And further, when each one took their spoonful of medicine they proclaimed its flavor.  Little miss Jane tasted hers and proclaimed “Yummm, lime cordial”, then Master Michael tasted his, he proclaimed, “Strawberry!”, and finally Mary Poppins announced that hers tasted like “Rum Punch”.
From the same bottle each person saw and tasted what pleased him or herself.

·         Too often today, we humans have in our heads a God who pleases US in whatever situation that we find ourselves in.

I’m in a counseling situation with a man who is seeking help for his marriage.  His wife is unfaithful and an alcoholic, but she will not make it easy and just leave, nor make any attempt to address her alcoholism and unfaithfulness.  The man will not leave his spouse because he is vested in their marriage with a couple young children AND (if truth be told) probably an unhealthy co-dependency.

I dislike marital counselling because frankly, I am not good at it.  As I prayed for this man, and how I might advise him, I realized that his marriage situation is simply the result of him never having met Jesus – Not really.  He knows the churchy stuff, and all that, but despite knowing these things, he has lived his life never once seeking what Jesus desired for his life.  So he got into a marriage and started a family and now he is unhappy with the result of his own decisions.  And so he seeks God to pour out a flavor of medicine that will fix his problems and please his palate. 

The 12 disciples followed Jesus for 3 years doing ministry.  They learned at the feet of the master and they experienced miracles that would blow my mind:
·                     they experienced the water turned to wine,
·                     the healing of the leper,
·                     the blind man who made to see,
·                     the crippled man picking up his mat,
·                     the demons cast out of the man and into the pigs,
·                     and the feeding of the thousands from a few loaves and fishes, 
But at the cross they were still disappointed in Him. 

The disciples wanted (and expected) a Messiah from God who was going to free the Jewish nation from Roman rule, and when he was crucified on the Roman cross, they were greatly disappointed because the reality flew in the faces of their expectations of Him.  In other words, the flavor of their medicines tasted nasty.

But something happened.  On the third day Jesus raised back to life from the dead.  At first they did not (would not) believe it.  All the miracles he did and all the things he taught were great but the concept of the dead man raised -- that’s just too much to believe.

Then Jesus appeared to them.  He appeared to them
·         and called them to touch him,
·         to feel his flesh,
·         to put their fingers into the scars of his hands and side where the nails and the spear had pierced Him. 
And once they discovered that Jesus was indeed alive, they discovered that their spoonful of medicine tasted nothing like they could have imagined: for they had just experienced a dead man who was made alive again.
I grew up going to church.  Life was churchy. 
·                     I was baptized at the Congregational United Church of Christ back in 1970. 
·                     I remember going to Sunday school and church at the Congregational Church in Richmond,
·                     then I went to the Baptist Church after that. 
·                     I was “Born Again” when I was 7 years old, (and a few more times after that – You know, just to be on the safe side). 
·                     I was baptized with the youth group at the Baptist church when I was about 12 years old
·                     I went to church camp every summer (and sometimes on winter retreats) from the time I was 8 or 9 years old until I was about 12. 
·                     And when I turned 12, I moved out of my mother’s home determined I would never go to church again.
And for the most part I didn’t.

Then I was living in New Jersey, when I was 24 years old, and it dawned on me that I was killing myself with fast living.  I figured that I was going to meet my creator sooner -- rather than later.  And I had better get myself ready to meet this creator.

I really was not convinced of the Christian God because that one never really worked for me.  So I prayed simply that if a Creator actually existed, that I needed to know who he was and I asked him to reveal himself to me.  It was the first time in my life that I really wanted to know what was true, because I was not so sure that the flavor of God I had up to this point was all that satisfying to me.  I desired to know the true, the real flavor of God.

And in about two months times I met the resurrected Jesus -- the dead man who was again alive.

Like Saul, on the road to Damascus,
·                     I was confronted by a man whom I had ignored for all of my life. 
·                     I was confronted by a man that was not at all like I had imagined:
·                     I was confronted by the very Son of God who had been executed on a Roman Cross.
And the shocker was, that He was very much alive.

His aliveness changed everything in me. 
·                     His aliveness proved that I was certainly a sinner
·                     His aliveness proved that he is right
·                     His aliveness proved that I was  wrong
·                     And his aliveness proved to me that there is so much more to this life than what I had been lead to believe -- Much more.

So the question is, what flavor is your God?

Is your God the one who gives you medicine that tastes yummy every time you have need?
Or is your God the one who lives, who might not change the fact that the Romans rule in Jerusalem or make our bad marriages better, but the one who is alive and who died for you?

Your answer to this question is the difference between the God who is and the one that you’ve made up in your own imagination.

This morning, let us seek the God who is and receive from him the medicine as it is from the Great Physician who died, and is now alive again.

John 14:19-20 & 24-29

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin  was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Like the disciple Thomas, If you have never had a “My Lord and My God” experience that has made you fall to your knees in response to meeting the Jesus who is alive then I encourage you to seek Him and  the truth of the reality of our God.

Lime Cordial, Strawberry, and Rrrrrumm Punch! - 05/22/2016


 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Have you ever seen the movie Mary Poppins?  The part where Mary Poppins and the two children were caught in a rain storm and were required to take medicine[1], because as Mary Poppins pointed out,  “People who get their feet wet must learn to take their medicine.”

As she poured out a spoonful to each child, and herself, the liquid in each spoon was a different color.  And further, when each one took their spoonful of medicine they proclaimed its flavor.  Little miss Jane tasted hers and proclaimed “Yummm, lime cordial”, then Master Michael tasted his, he proclaimed, “Strawberry!”, and finally Mary Poppins announced that hers tasted like “Rum Punch”.

From the same bottle each person tasted what pleased herself.

Have you ever seen that famous painting of Jesus, just Google the Sallmon Head of Christ[2] and you’ll see which one I am speaking of, it’s a 1940’s painting that has been produced millions and millions of times and has become the standard visual cue for many people of what Jesus Christ looks like.  Paintings of Jesus are very interesting to me because what each painting is actually showing is the image of the individual artist.  If we search Google close enough we will find many paintings of Jesus, how some artists imagine Jesus as a black man, an Asian man, a Mexican man, and each of these in their corresponding female versions.  There are as many images of Jesus as there are denominations of Christian churches in America.

It is natural for us humans to believe that Jesus is just like ourselves, just as natural as it is for us to think that the sun revolves around the earth.  Heliocentricism isn’t a big revelation to us today but it was a concept that ruffled lots of feathers in the time of Pythagorean in 390BC.  A geocentric model of the universe is most naturally appealing because each of us has a natural tendency to believe that all eyes are on us.  Like a teenager, we have a natural tendency to think that everyone (including God) revolves around me.

And this is why Mary Poppins’ medicine will naturally taste like an 18 year old Scotch to me, and my painting of Jesus will look a lot like a short gimpy white guy with gray hair.  But when I am honest, I full well know that Jesus does not look anything like me, nor is His medicine really all that yummy at times.

In reality, the picture of Jesus that should come to mind is that of a defenseless little lamb stained with its own blood: which is bloody because we inflicted many wounds upon it.  The painting, that we should see is dominated by a Roman cross of public execution which is devoid of all smiles and laughter and should taste like bile welled up from the bottom of our stomachs.  This picture of Jesus should not be neat, tidy, or clean, but should make us flinch in reaction to its site. 

It is only in our own imaginations that we can begin to conceive of medicine that pleases our palates.

As unpleasing as the image of Jesus is that I have just painted, we must not flinch and avert our eyes because it is in this unpleasant scene that we will find the empty tomb.  Just as the disciples of our Lord endured the horror of the reality of Jesus’ death, so also we must so embrace the death of our Lord that we too may go to His tomb to prepare him for proper burial and be surprised by His rising from the dead.  That His tomb is empty and that He is alive. He is alive proving that He is victorious over sin and death in this world.  He is alive proving that we have truly been redeemed by his death upon that ugly cross.  He is alive proving that we are forgiven, once and for all, that our relationship with God the father may be restored if only we will only accept the grace that He offers to us.

Or do we simply prefer the clean and tidy portrait of Jesus that hangs upon our walls and the yummy flavors of our own imaginations? 

Often, I believe I do.

6Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirit of God sent out into all the earth. 7He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.  (Revelations 5:6-8)

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NItx3OCp7tg
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_of_Christ