Easter 2019

Matthew 28:1-10, Isaiah 65:17-25

The fullness and richness of Resurrection faith invites a wealth of readings this Sunday; as well as different expressions in worship! So, each congregation will bring the Message in song, The Word, and our creativity since we are “made in the image” of the Creator. Thanks be to God!

Like an unexpected appearance of a tender flower emerging from a crack in a concrete walkway, so is the Resurrection! It’s power is subtle since we begin only with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This we profess. This we trust.

Ours is yet to be…..and “…it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” I John 3:2. A promise that gives the struggling body and mind of each and all a hope and strength to “keep keeping on.” And even this keeping on is not done alone!

Come to worship this Easter and keep your eyes open for flowers coming through where you might least expect in a hard, fallen world where Death is all around……but not the final winner!

Easter Blessings~~~~†

Pastor Barry

Finished!

When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. —John 19:30

The cross was the goal of Jesus from the very beginning. His birth was so there would be His death. The incarnation was for our atonement. He was born to die so that we might live. And when He had accomplished the purpose He had come to fulfill, He summed it up with a single word: finished.

In the original Greek, it was a common word. Jesus probably used it after He finished a project that He and Joseph might have been working on together in the carpentry shop. Jesus might have turned to Joseph and said, “Finished. Now let’s go have lunch.” It is finished. Mission accomplished. It is done. It is made an end of.

So what was finished? Finished and completed were the horrendous sufferings of Christ. Never again would He experience pain at the hand of wicked men. Never again would He have to bear the sins of the world. Never again would He, even for a moment, be forsaken of God. That was completed. That was taken care of.

Also finished was Satan’s stronghold on humanity. Jesus came to deal a decisive blow against the devil and his demons at the cross of Calvary. Hebrews 2:14 says, “That through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil” This means that you no longer have to be under the power of sin. Because of Jesus’ accomplishment at the cross, finished was the stronghold of Satan on humanity.

And lastly, finished was our salvation. It is completed. It is done. All of our sins were transferred to Jesus when He hung on the cross. His righteousness was transferred to our account. So Jesus cried out the words, “It is finished!” It was God’s deliberate and well-thought-out plan. It is finished—so rejoice!

May each of you have an amazing Holy Weekend and a Very Blessed Easter Sunday!

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Maundy Thursday

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

Today is Maundy Thursday, three days before Easter. The word Maundy comes from an old Latin word maundatum, which means commandment. It was the word in the Latin Vulgate translation of the New Testament which recorded Jesus words: “A new command I give you: Love one another” (John 13:34). And there you have it! You’re learned something new.

Down through the centuries, the church has associated the washing of feet with Jesus’ command to love each other, in that His words were part of the comments He made to the disciples in the Upper Room immediately after He took off His outer garments and washed the feet of the disciples.

There’s one thing for sure: We’ve long forgotten both what it means to really love each other, and to demonstrate the humility and security that love brings by being able to humbly wash each other’s feet.

In Jesus’ day and culture–where there were few Roman roads paved with stone–people walked on dirt roads. Puffy clouds of dust rose with every step. Obviously by the time you reached your destination, your feet were in need of a bath, so upon arrival, as a gesture of hospitality, your host would instruct servants to take a basin and wash your feet, drying them with a towel.

For a long while the kings of European countries would set the example, washing the feet of the faithful on Maundy Thursday. In England, servants known as “yeomen of the laundry” washed the feet of the poor while the king and queen watched, but eventually that custom went the way of loving people as Jesus also commanded. Actually Pope Pius IX, who died in 1878, was the last to wash feet on Maundy Thursday. (Source: World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, p. 250).

A young Jewish intellectual, trying to find out who he was and what life was all about in the turbulent 60s, took a backpack and began a journey that took him around much of the world. Arthur Katz was hitchhiking one day when a pickup truck stopped. “Throw your backpack in the bed and get in,” invited the driver. As Katz was riding with his benefactor, they began talking about the world and its problems. “Do you know what’s wrong with the world?” asked the driver. “No,” responded Katz, thinking, “It’s this guy’s truck and I don’t want to walk so I might as well sit here and listen to what he has to say.” The man looked at Katz and said, “We need to learn to wash each other’s feet!”

No, he hadn’t expected that, but it struck him forcibly and lodged in his thinking. Is love only words or can we learn to love as Jesus commanded His disciples in that Upper Room, before He went to the cross?

There’s one thing for sure, it’s powerful: Until we learn to love, really love each other, you can forget about stooping to wash your neighbor’s feet–whether it is translated “do the laundry for your sick mother, or give a gift to the family who lost a husband in a recent tragedy.” Acts of love, including the washing of feet– which has many faces today–will never take place until you really let God love people through you.

Jesus said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:17). It’s still true.

May you have a blessed Maundy Thursday,

Chaplain Rob

Surrender at Gethsemane

Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” —Mark 14:34

Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt as though your friends and family had abandoned you? Have you ever felt like you were misunderstood? Have you ever had a hard time understanding or submitting to the will of God for your life?

If so, then you have an idea of what the Lord Jesus went through as He agonized at Gethsemane.

Hebrews tells us, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (4:15–16 NLT).

The Bible tells us that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NLT). But the sorrow He experienced in Gethsemane on the night before His Crucifixion seemed to be the culmination of all the sorrow He had ever known and would accelerate to a climax the following day. The ultimate triumph that was to take place at Calvary was first accomplished beneath the gnarled old olive trees of Gethsemane.

It is interesting that the very word Gethsemane means “olive press.” Olives were pressed there to make oil, and truly, Jesus was being pressed from all sides that He might bring life to us. I don’t think we can even begin to fathom what He was going through.

But look at what it accomplished. It brought about your salvation and mine. Because of what Jesus went through at Gethsemane and ultimately at the cross, we can call upon His name. Though it was an unfathomably painful, horrific transition, it was necessary for the ultimate goal of what was accomplished.

Maybe you are at a crisis point in your life right now—a personal Gethsemane, if you will. You have your will; you know what you want. Yet you can sense that God’s will is different.

Would you let the Lord choose for you? Would you be willing to say, “Lord, I am submitting my will to Yours. Not my will, but Yours be done”? You will not regret making that decision.

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Running on Emptying

Isaiah 50:4-9a, Philippians 2:5-11 and Luke 22:14-23:56

Jackson Browne had a popular hit back in 1978 with Running On Empty. The rock musician both celebrates and bemoans life on the musical performance road perhaps at the loss of enduring relationships: you keep going as tho you are just “running on fumes” as when a gas tank is about empty. Going on when your resources or sustenance is about gone is also a definition.

In our texts today, we hear of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at Passover with his full intent to fulfill his mission in life. Paul goes into depth in the Philippians passage telling us that Jesus was “self emptying himself” of all his strong divine attributes for his mission. He would, so to speak, empty himself of Godhood for this divine saving mission. Running on empty indeed!

I don’t think I could ever follow and serve God if God required ONLY a mere human to die for our sins. Why this prophet/man from Nazareth should die for us seems a cruel plan…..unless God is also involved in the suffering in the Son of God, or God the Son! It is therefore a hard to explain notion of the Wholly God and Wholly Human on the Cross. But what is being said is that God is in this atoning Suffering fully as much as the fully human man Jesus!

Having said that (as scripture does) I have hardly reached a clear reasonable understanding! But the response is finally gratitude and joy as Easter later confirms that God does not abandon the Savior who Suffers for us!

Palm Sunday celebrates the fact that we were on the right path to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, but not quite on the right road when most everyone abandoned Him at the Cross and lost all hope for a few days.

Such is the human condition. Faithful but flawed, believing but unbelieving when we ourselves often find that “we are running on empty.” Jesus completed his journey without the divine attributes of power to avoid pain and suffering. The Rest of the Story comes later! And in power!

Join with millions this coming Holy Week to prepare and follow a Suffering AND Risen Savior!

Pastor Barry

Wholehearted Devotion

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene. . . .Mark 16:9

Of all the people Jesus could have appeared to first after His Resurrection, He appeared to Mary Magdalene. It is interesting to think about, because, among the Jews of the day, the testimony of a woman was not held in high regard. In fact, some of the rabbis falsely taught that it was better for the words of the Law to be burned than to be delivered by a woman. Yet Jesus chose a woman to be the first herald of His Resurrection.

It is also worth noting that women were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb. Mary had courage that many of the men did not have when Jesus was crucified. She stood by Him through it all. In fact, the Bible tells us that after He was crucified, Mary “observed where He was laid” (Mark 15:47). She watched as they took His crucified body from the cross and wrapped it and placed it in a tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. And Mary, along with the other women, was at the tomb very early on Sunday morning to demonstrate her love for Jesus by anointing His body with spices (see Mark 16:1–2).

And her love was rewarded. God said, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

God rewards the person who is diligent. And for those who will take time in their day to seek the Lord, for those who will take time to read His Word, for those who will take time to wait upon Him, He will reveal His truths to them.

May we all take time to spend with God today and during this Lenten Season,

Chaplain Rob

Odors or Fragrance?

Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:4b-14 and John 12:1-8

It sure looks like Spring! And the odors in the air begin to change don’t they? Less the smell of cold, damp, and decay; more of green life coming around and even the sunshine brings new smells!

In our John text we have the extravagance of Mary with fragrant oils to anoint Jesus who has raised her brother to life; and that sad other sad smell that Judas gives off with his bad attitude and hidden deceit. Someone has been brought from death to life and extravagant celebration seems in order! Oils indeed! And Paul can only reflect on how the death of Jesus has left him changed and wanting to share the fragrance of the Gospel!

Yes, something new is in the land as Isaiah recalls what God is up to even if God’s people look the other way. God is making the desert to bloom, making a new way through the wilderness. Things are looking up! Don’t be so grumpy Israel, my chosen ones! Don’t be like Judas! And like Paul, put some old ways behind you. God is doing a new thing!

If nothing else, Spring is promise! Look forward not backward! God is still at work!

See you Sunday for the Word of New Life and for the Lord’s Table of abundant grace!

Pastor Barry

How To Find Contentment

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.—Philippians 4:11

A psychologist who conducted research on what brings contentment observed, “If people strive for a certain level of affluence thinking that will make them happy, they find that on reaching it, they become very quickly habituated, and at that point they start hankering for the next level of income, property, or good health.”

Getting more stuff won’t bring contentment. Someone who makes thousands of dollars thinks, “If only I were a millionaire.” The millionaire thinks, “If only I were a billionaire.” It’s always beyond their reach.

In his epistle to the church at Philippi, Paul said that he had found the secret to contentment. What’s interesting is that Paul was experiencing adverse circumstances when he wrote this. He wasn’t kicking back on some beach in the Mediterranean, eating a falafel. He was a prisoner of Rome. He was facing an uncertain future. Yet he wrote a lot about joy, rejoicing, happiness, and contentment.

How is that possible? The answer is found in a word that Paul used and referenced again and again in his epistle: mind. Which brings us to a simple point: The secret of contentment is found in the way a believer thinks. It is not found in the way a believer feels, because our emotions fluctuate. We don’t base contentment on the way that we feel; we base it on the way that we think.

Max Lucado put it this way: “The good life begins not when circumstances change, but when our attitude toward them does.”

Paul had experienced pleasure and health as well as sickness and weakness. He had highs and lows. He was a hero to some and a villain to others. But he learned this. Contentment does not come from conquering our circumstances. Rather, it comes from learning to live with them.

My Prayer for each of you today is you find contentment and joy in your situation wherever you are!

Blessings,

Chaplain Rob

Manna, Home Grown Produce, Starvation, Fatted Calf

Joshua 5:9-12, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and Luke 15:1-3b; 11-32

It would be difficult to either wander in a wilderness for years or to leave home, blow your inheritance in a foreign country and starve. The Joshua text and the Luke text tell us of familiar bible passages many have heard throughout a lifetime. Great human moments of change and transition under the Providence of God. At the very least these are stories about God’s long term care plan! And Paul in 2 Corinthians goes about reminding everyone of this and celebrating the ultimate coming to fulfillment of God’s “care plan!”

The parable of the Two sons has lots of drama and a twist or two! We should wonder a bit how it was heard by first century hearers and how it is heard today some 2000 years later!

Read ahead and ask yourself, “What is God saying to me and to others around me?” And which passage says the most about the course of your life, your attitudes, your hopes up to this day? Wilderness Manna or produce from the Promised Land? A Prodigal Son or the Angry Brother? An Old Creation or a New Creation?

Consider as you worship God this last weekend in March 2019!

Blessings!

Pastor Barry

Don’t Neglect Divine Mercy

Isaiah 55:1-9, I Corinthians 10:1-13 and Luke 13:1-9

WC Fields was a comedian in the first half of the Twentieth century known for his juggling, insult comedy, and movie roles. He often played scoundrels and had said of him (in jest) that “someone who didn’t like dogs and children wasn’t such a bad fellow!” One of the memorable lines he said was when someone found him reading the Bible alone, Fields famously noted he “was looking for loopholes.”

Excuses about and neglect of God’s wisdom and guidance for the church is what our texts speak about this Sunday. Deliberate neglect of walking in faith has consequences say both Jesus and Paul. They both site destruction as the possibilities and outcome of continuing to live as though God had not had mercy upon them and always intended a better life than the one people tended to pursue. We all look for loopholes when we catch ourselves taking a good hard look at the life we are living; a life often of spiritual neglect and lack of commitment.

Gods unmerited favor (Grace) does rest upon us by faith. How often though is our response one of taking such Grace for granted? Or worse one of open rebellion in spite of Grace?! Let us keep in mind that of the three scriptures cited it is the Old Testament prophet Isaiah that encourages us sinners most by emphasizing the mercy of God in spite of our misbehavior! And certainly Grace is present in the Luke and Corinthians texts, but just not as apparent in contrast to the deep seated sin we find ourselves continuing to give in to.

Perhaps difficult scriptures to address, to hear, to accept, but still we learn from them for our very good, for the constant “renewing of our hearts and minds.”

May it be so! Blessings in our time together in worship and fellowship!

Pastor Barry