Monday, August 29, 2016

It’s Friday, But Sundays Coming

Galatians 6:15-16    (The Voice)
Let me be clear: circumcision won’t save you—uncircumcision won’t either for that matter—for both amount to nothing. God’s new creation is what counts, and it counts for everything. May peace and mercy come to all of you who live by this rule and to the Israel of God.

Matthew 27:27-31   (NRSV)
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Last week I shared with you about a God Who Comes
A God who promises to be with us in the good, the bad and the indifferent.

But when we talk about WHAT IS THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY we cannot escape the passion of Jesus.

When I say the PASSION of Jesus I mean the brutal torture, and ultimate murder of Jesus by the Roman authorities.

For many people --- the cross --- the electric chair or lethal injection of the 1st century is a road block in coming to Christianity.

How can Jesus --- the very son of God die?

Paul said this in 1st Corinthians:
Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

Many people still today, cannot get beyond the fact that Jesus was executed --- that Jesus was murdered by the Roman authorities

I don't know about you . . .
But I would love to have the opportunity to go back and correct some of the mistakes that I have made along the way.
·         Start that job interview over
·         start the relationship over
·         start the sermon over

Remember the movie Groundhog Day --- in which a weatherman named Phil (played by Bill Murray) gets to repeat the day over and over again until he is finally able to create the start of a healthy relationship with Rita his producer.

While it would be nice to be able to fix the past
the sad reality is --- we can't --- there is no do over machine --- you can't be transported back in time and redo what you did in a new way

Now I have been accused of many things in my life, but I would like to make something very clear
I really am! ---- at least about those things that I want to be traditional about!

My hunch is ---- if we are honest --- we all are to some extent
traditionalist about the thing we want to be traditional about

·         Tradition was, women and children ate in the kitchen ---  who is planning on keeping that tradition?
·         Tradition was, women did not speak in church --- there are probably some of you who glad that tradition has come to an end
·         Tradition was, women wore hats and gloves to church, and men wore suits and ties ---- I don't see too many traditionalists this morning
·         Tradition was, women sat on one side of the church and men sat on the other ---- should we get up and move? Cause I don't see many people keeping that tradition either
·         Tradition was, the only thing you did on Sunday was read the bible and spend the day at church with your family ---- no shopping, no sports ---- no stores would be open ---- There are many Sundays when I could go for that tradition --- but I know the Colts usually play on Sunday so . . .

          We pick our traditions
                   What are some of the things I am traditional about?
·         I can't stand it when Hollywood decides to "remake" one of the classic movies

For some reason, Hollywood loves to ruin classic Christmas films

          Miracle on 34th Street

About ten years ago, a movie from the 70's was remade.  It doesn't have the energy or the dynamic power of the original

The original movie probably influenced me and my decision to go into the ministry more than I want to admit.
And if you think about that statement it probably explains a good deal about me.

The movie that I am talking about is Andrew Lloyd Webber's rather loose interpretation of the passion of Jesus called JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

There is a powerful scene in the original movie when Jesus has just been tried by Pilate --- and Peter has just denied knowing Jesus.

The Romans are preparing to execute him and the disciples are wondering that same question that you and I often seem to ask
          Can't we start over --- especially now that we know --- what we know?

In the movie, Mary sings a wonderful song --- "Could we start again please"

It's a powerful song that tells of our longing to go back and start again ---- but we can't and neither could Mary Magdalene or Peter or Judas or any of the other disciples. 

Soon they were watching with horror as Jesus was executed as a common criminal.

The interesting thing about all the Gospel accounts is that all of the writers tell us that the Disciples were CONVINCED that the story of Jesus ended right there.

The men and women who had been following him on his ministry couldn't see past that day.

And they longed for a do-over.
          Can't we start again???

But, ultimately, we have come to understand that the story of Jesus didn't end there.

After Good Friday comes Easter.

And as Disciples of Jesus, as followers of his, Jesus says to us that if we are truly willing to commit ourselves to his way he will do something amazing.

While we can't go back --- we can move forward with confidence not allowing the failures of the past to define us.

Because the amazing thing that Jesus does is he transforms us by his unconditional love.

Jesus promises us:
          "See, I am making all things new."

Isaiah, the great prophet of the Hebrew Bible pointed out:
Isaiah 43:19   (CEV)
I am creating something new.
    There it is! Do you see it?
I have put roads in deserts,
    streams in thirsty lands.

Paul in 2 Corinthians tells us too:
2 Corinthians 5:17   (NLT)
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And our Scripture this morning also says the same thing:
Galatians 6:15   (NLT)
It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.

The good news of the Gospel is that while we may not be able to go back and have a do-over ---- we can start from here unburdened by the mistakes of the past.

We can be NEW
We can be whole and full of God's love.

There is a powerful story that is told about a Palestinian Priest by the name of Elias Chacour. 

I had the opportunity to meet with Father Chacour on one of my trips to Israel.

The story takes place on a Palm Sunday service at his church in Ibillin Israel (in the Galilee)  -
One of the unique features of his congregation is that it is filled with people who are at odds with each other.

Father Chacour realized that there was, in reality, no peace among his people.

At the end of the service, he made a startling decision.

He walked down the center aisle and at the back of the church locked the only two doors to the church and took the key.

He told the people both that he loved them and that he was saddened to find them so filled with hatred and bitterness for one another.

Then, in the midst of stunned silence, he announced that only one person could work the miracle of reconciliation in their village: Jesus Christ.

Then he told his congregation this --- he said:
"So on Christ's behalf, I say this to you.  The doors of the church are locked. Either you kill each other right here in your hatred, and then I will celebrate your funerals ... or you can use this opportunity to be reconciled together before I open the doors of the church. If that reconciliation happens, Christ will truly become your Lord."

Ten minutes passed, and no one said a word.

The people sat in silence, locked inside their church.

Finally, one man stood up.

His name was Abu Muhib, a villager serving as an Israeli policeman, who was in his uniform.

He stretched out his arms and said,
"I ask forgiveness of everybody here, and I forgive everybody. And I ask God to forgive me my sins."

He and Chacour then embraced, with tears streaming down Abu Muhib's cheeks.
Within minutes, everyone in the church was crying, laughing, embracing and sharing Christ's love and peace.

Elias Chacour then announced that
"this is our resurrection! We are a community that has risen from the dead, and we have new life. I propose that we don't wait until Easter to celebrate the Resurrection. I will unlock the doors, and then let us go from home to home all over the village and sing the resurrection hymn to everyone!"

This is the day
          This is the day that the Lord has made ---- the Psalmist declared

Let us make this a day of new beginnings for us as well.

A day of hope,
          a day filled with unconditional love,
                   a day filled with finding the possibilities God has planted in our lives

Robert Benton's Academy Award-winning film Places in the Heart is the story of a young woman, widowed within the first few minutes of the film, struggling against the principalities and powers of evil incarnate in everyday life of central Texas during the 1930s.

Forces work to take away the only thing her husband has left her and her two small children --- a small farm in Texas.
Lynchings, brutality, infidelity, racism, greed, duplicity all of these are woven into the lives of those who make up the tapestry of Benton's story.

The film ends with a communion service.

At first the camera shows you a few of the good folk in town.
Next, some of the not-so-good.
Then the banker and others who conspired to take away her farm.

The camera continues to move with the cups of wine.
There is the faithful black farmhand who helped bring in the crop so the widow might pay her mortgage; next to him, the blind boarder.

The plate passes to the children, then to their mother.

She is seated next to her dead husband.

As you are trying to take this in, the plate moves to the young man who shot and killed her husband.

They commune, and each responds: "the peace of God."
All are gathered at table, to share the bread and cup of salvation.

Suddenly this is more than Sunday morning; this is the kingdom, eternity captured in time

This is not a human point of view.

The camera has given us a look at life, the way Jesus said God looks at it.

God has done something to enable everyone to come home.

God lets us start over again.

We can't re-do the past --- we can only go into the future as new creations in Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17   (NLT)
anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

For some of us --- it may seem like Friday (the day they killed Jesus

But I want you to know --- Sunday --- Resurrection --- is coming!
The truth is --- it is already here.

Yes, we can start again through the love of Jesus!

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