Friday, April 10, 2020

Easter Sunday Liturgy


The Church of the Good Shepherd
Easter Morning Prayer
April 12, 2020, 10am

Opening Hymn:
O Who Shall Roll Away the Stone?
#207
Jesus Christ is Risen Today
Easter Opening Sentences (standing, saying responsively)
Leader: CHRIST our passover is sacrificed for us :
People: therefore let us keep the feast;
Leader: Not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness :
People: But with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Leader: Christ being raised from the dead dies no more :
People: death hath no more dominion over him.
Leader: For in that he died, he died unto sin once :
People: but in that he lives, he lives unto God.
Leader: Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin :
People: but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Leader: Christ is risen from the dead :
People: and become the first-fruits of them that slept.
Leader: For since by man came death :
People: by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
Leader: For as in Adam all die :
People: even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
Leader: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son :
People: and to the Holy Ghost;
Leader: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be :
People: world without end. Amen.


Confession of Sin
Leader: Let us humbly confess our sins to Almighty God.
People: O God, our Father, we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed: we have not loved you with all our heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Have mercy on us, we beseech you; cleanse us from our sins; and help us to overcome our faults; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Leader: Grant, we beseech you, merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve you with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer: Say together, then:
Leader: O Lord, open our lips;
People: And our mouth shall show forth your praise.
Leader: O God, make speed to save us;
People: O Lord, make haste to help us.
Leader: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
People: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.
Leader: Praise the Lord;
People: The Lord’s name be praised.
Sequence Hymn: #178 Alleluia, Give Thanks to the Risen Lord
Gospel: Matthew 28
Gospel Discussion Questions
1. What is the significance of Galilee? (Matthew 5:23-25)
2. What is the Challenge of Jerusalem? (Matthew 24:37-39)
3. What is the conflict between Galilee and Jerusalem?
(John 7:40-52)
4. Why are both Galilee and Jerusalem necessary for the Christian life? (Matthew 28)

The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic
Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places
Prayers
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.
Leader: Let us pray.
Lord, have mercy upon us.
People: Christ, have mercy upon us.
Leader: Lord, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, show your mercy upon us.
People: And grant us your salvation.
Leader: O Lord, save us.
People: And mercifully hear us when we call upon you.
Leader: Endue your Ministers with righteousness.
People: And make your chosen people joyful.
Leader: O Lord, save your people.
People: And bless your inheritance.
Leader: Give peace in our time, O Lord.
People: Because there is none other that fights for us, but only you, O God.
Leader: O God, make clean our hearts within us.
People: And take not your Holy Spirit from us.
The Collect of the Day
People: O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Collect for Peace
People: O GOD, you are the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of you stands our eternal life, your service is perfect freedom; Defend us your humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Collect for Grace
People: O LORD, our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought us to the beginning of this day; Defend us today with your mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, nor run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by your governance, to do always what is righteous in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Closing Hymn: #193 That Easter Day with Joy Was Bright
Weekly Discipleship: Call or Text (252) 207-4050

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Judgment and Glory

When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34)

The surface details have been talked about often, but what about the big picture? We have two men in this scene who are ensnared by demons, who are prisoners of evil. Jesus Christ sets them free, getting rid of the demons, and making the area safe from the violent men, but also removing the financial means from the Gadarenes by allowing the demons to drown their profit supply (in another gospel we find out that this was over 2,000 head of swine).

However, the economic loss to the community appears to be the instigating factor but not the true repulsion of Christ. Some say that there is a choice being made between the world and God's salvation, and the Gadarenes choose the world.  Since Jesus has rid them of their profit, they demand him to leave, but the root of sin lies deeper than that. Verse 34 reads: "And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region." The whole city: let that sink in. This is not a few entrepreneurs and capitalists coming forth to chastise Christ for ruining their income plan.  This is a sinful rejection of the power of Christ. Jesus has done something very intense by driving demons out of extremely violent men who blocked the way.  There is an irrational rejection on the part of the world toward the saving power of Christ.  Because the power screams judgment at them.

Now, many are drawn to Christ when he performs wonders, but many more are driven away.  Even then, the ones who are drawn to him are usually drawn to him for the wrong reason.  They are drawn to the miracle itself.  Jesus accompanies each miracle with a teaching, and this teaching is usually a difficult one about the kingdom, and such teachings also drive away the superficial follower.  Let's look at similar versions of this rejection: one from the old and one from the new testament.

The prophecy of Amos 7 has God threatening to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel by two ways: locust and fire, both aimed at the farmlands...and the economic prosperity of the region. Amos begs the Lord to stop, and the Lord does each time, but then the third time God does not send locust nor fire but a plumb line. This is no longer an attack on their economics (and ruin of the country as a whole) but an attack on the people themselves. The sanctuaries of Israel will be laid waste by the plumb line. What is the plumb line? Jesus, of course. Jesus Christ comes to this crooked world, and anything that is not as straight and perfect as he is destroyed.  Of course, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All people fall short of the plumb line, and so they are to be ruined, unless...one puts his faith in the plumb line itself. The only way to be saved is to put faith in the just judge.

The second half of Amos 7 describes the priest Amaziah doing the very thing the Gadarenes did in Matthew 8: he rejects Amos' prophecy and Amos himself, who is a mere shepherd called by God out of his life in Tekoa, south of Jerusalem, to go to another country, Israel, and preach the truth to them.  Now, this priest, representing the people of Jerusalem, tells Amos the same thing the Gadarenes tell Jesus: flee from here! The result is a direct prophecy to Amaziah: he personally will suffer the same fate as Israel, the loss of everything, because he has rejected the plumb line.

The other passage is in Acts 16. Paul travels to Philippi, where he plants a church with a woman named Lydia and then adds a family through the jailer.  The town, however reacts quite violently to them, until Paul declares himself to be a Roman citizen. Then the town rejects him on a whole different level, much in the same way the Gadarenes reject Jesus and Amaziah rejects Amos: they beg him to leave. Once again, this is not because of annoyance, or because of an economic problem, which it had been before. In Acts 16:19 Paul has destroyed a certain group's economic profit by casting a demon out of a servant girl.  So, yes, it begins this way, but something greater is happening at the end of the chapter: Paul has brought salvation into their midst, and instead of happily embracing such, they reject it in fear.  Just as Israel rejects the plumb line in fear. Just as the Gadarenes reject Christ in fear.

It's fascinating to see how people respond to Jesus, and it's scary when you realize that so many respond so negatively, but how do you respond? When your sin is shown to you, like when Peter hides his face from Christ in the boat, or when Isaiah is faced with the Lord's glory. Do you confess your sin and tell God that you are not worthy? Do you believe yourself to be ruined? Do you ask the Lord to depart in the way Peter did?  Christ responded with a call to follow him and to be a fisher of men.  Compare that with the begging for Christ to leave that was given by the Gadarenes, Amaziah, and the Philippians.  What is the difference? One pair (Peter and Isaiah) is confronted with God's glory, and they respond with humility. However, the others are confronted with God's judgment: the casting out of demons, the standard of the plumb line, and the salvation of sinners. And the reaction looks similar on the outside, but there is no faith and repentance on the inside. The wrath of God is finding its place, judgment is coming early upon them, and they are essentially asking the mountains to fall upon them.

How do you react to Jesus, the plumb line? Do you see judgment coming? Or do you see glory? Either should instill fear, but only one inspires faith and brings you into the kingdom.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Silence

A common question I hear from many who disciple is, "do those who reject Christ in life get a second chance after death?" The larger, hidden question behind that is, "what is it like after death?" Here are some verses from Holy Scripture that may help:

Psalm 6:4-5:
Return, O Lord, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
For there is no mention of You in death;
In Sheol who will give You thanks?

It seems, for the lost, God doesn't even come to their minds. Why?

Psalm 88:10-12:
Will You perform wonders for the dead?
Will the departed spirits rise and praise You?
Will Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave,
Your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Will Your wonders be made known in the darkness?
And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

The implied answer to all these questions is, "no." God is not there. In fact it's the place from where God has banished himself, as well as all the good things he provides. Note, also, the term, "Land of Forgetfulness." There does not seem to be any thinking about God in the grave. No "missing" him.

Psalm 115:17-18:
The dead do not praise the Lord,
Nor do any who go down into silence;
But as for us, we will bless the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
Praise the Lord!

Verse 18 shows that the Psalmist is not talking about all who die in verse 17. We have a distinction between the lost and the saved. Note that the lost go down into "silence." This seems important. The lost don't remember God, nor can they articulate anything. The land of the dead is a land of silence. This makes sense, since all good things come from God, communication is good, and so without God, there can be only silence.

Here are a couple other places that refer to silence in the death of the lost:

“He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail. (1 Samuel 2:9)

If the Lord had not been my help,
My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. (Psalm 94:17)

Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us some more about the destination of the lost:

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

We take for granted the good things that God gives everyone on earth: things like activity, planning, knowledge, wisdom. None of that exist for the lost in the land of forgetfulness.

Ok, let's rise out of this hole of darkness and see what eternal life is like for those who are in Christ. First, there is some forgetfulness, but what we forget is not God. Here are some verses from Isaiah 65:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.

The sin and pain of earthly life are forgotten.

“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing
And her people for gladness.

There is a rejoicing forever. Rejoicing involves sound.

“I will also rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in My people;
And there will no longer be heard in her
The voice of weeping and the sound of crying.

The sound will not involve pain or sin but joy and gladness.

“They will build houses and inhabit them;
They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
“They will not build and another inhabit,
They will not plant and another eat;
For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people,
And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands.

For those alive in Christ, there is activity and planning, there is wisdom and knowledge.  All good things come from God, and being in the presence of God will accrue only good things.

Now, we tend to go to the final chapters of Revelation for a description of heaven, but I want to look at a different description of heaven, from Luke 15. The parables of the lost sheep, coin, and son, are usually analyzed for their salvation content, but look at the details of everlasting life:

And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:6-7)

1. Friends and neighbors together.
2. Rejoicing.
3. Speaking (and singing).
4. Celebrating.
5. Joy.

And why is there so much rejoicing and joyous noise? Because the Lord found another lost person, and that is the whole focus of heavenly life: the lost found, and not just found but kept forever.

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

1. Friends and neighbors together.
2. Rejoicing.
3. Speaking (and singing).
4. Celebrating.
5. Joy.

Look at the last one:

But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:22-23)

Once again, we have a joyous celebration over a lost soul found. Also, the very soul is honored as a king. But...

“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. (Luke 15:25-28)

In Christ, there is music and dancing. But the lost are not willing to go in. They are jealous of the ones the Lord has found and refuse to be a friend and neighbor. The Lord even comes out and pleads with the lost, but they will not repent.

And that is the answer to the question. The seeking of the Father happens throughout this life.  The pleading occurs over and over. Second chances, third, fourth, four hundred. Ultimately the found are brought into honor and glory in the presence of God and friends and neighbors. And the lost banish themselves to silence.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Snakes and Stones

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12)

1. Sin makes us ask selfishly. We actually ask for snakes and stones. Our parents used to deny us snakes and stones, because they knew they were bad things, but now they are happy to give us snakes and stones.

2. So, when we don't receive from God, we were probably asking for things that seemed like bread and fish but were actually snakes and stones. God knows all things, and he withheld the bad thing that we wanted.

3. So the problem of sin turns the Golden Rule on its head: we treat others badly, because we treat ourselves badly. We don't seek out God's kingdom and his righteousness.  When it is offered to us, we reject it. God, however, knows what is good for us in the long run, and so he disciplines us with temporal suffering. Suffering helps us tell the difference between bread and stones, and fish and snakes.

4. What are good things? Psalm 84 tells us that the Lord is the source of
a. Light,
b. Protection,
c. Grace,
d. Eternal Life, and
e. The destruction of sin forever.

5. What is a good thing? James 1:17 tells us that every good thing
a. is perfect,
b. is a gift from above,
c. is from the Father of Lights, and
d. is without shadow or blemish.

6. How can this be? Because there is only one good thing, and that is God himself.  Here is the Luke variant of the Matthew passage:

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)

Notice what is read as "good gifts" in Matthew is read as "the Holy Spirit" here. The Holy Spirit, the down payment of eternal life, is given to us on this earth, in this life. The Spirit guides us in distinguishing between bread and stones, fish and snakes, eggs and scorpions.

7. Look at Romans 8:26-39:

a. The Spirit shows us the difference between bread and stones, between fish and snakes.
b. The Spirit asks, seeks, knocks on our behalf.
c. God knew beforehand whom he was to give his Spirit.
d. He predestined us to have his Spirit.
e. The Spirit calls us awake from the dead.
f. The Spirit justifies us.
g. Finally, the Spirit glorifies us (eternal life + destruction of sin).

How do we know that God has done this? Because he gave us the life of his Son first. This historical event, this sacrifice of the Son for the forgiveness of sins: if we can put our faith in that, we can certainly put our faith in the "easier" act of God that he predestined us to receive his Spirit.

In conclusion, the rest of the Romans passage says it all better than I ever could:

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.