Making Disciples Matthew 28:16-20 Rev. Jeff Tindall

Matthew 28: 16-20
16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matt and I have been talking about discipleship over the last couple of weeks.
So if someone asked you what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, a Christian so to speak, what would you tell them?
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
What does a disciple of Jesus do?
In our scripture reading this morning we hear Jesus deliver his Great Commission to the remaining eleven original disciples.
19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
Disciples go and make more disciples!
Not particularly helpful in defining what it means to be a disciple.
But we do get some clues.
First, the word used by Matthew for disciple is the Greek word math?t?s [math-ay-tes’].
Math?t?s means pupil or student.
Follower.
A learner.
Someone who is on a quest for illumination from a particular mentor.
A disciple of Jesus is a follower, pupil or student of Jesus.
That is what we all are.
Followers, pupils, students of Jesus.
That is all we can hope to be.
Because a student can never know as much as the teacher.
Yet Jesus is telling his disciples, his learners, to go and recruit new learners.
And he offers no entrance requirements to his school of discipleship.
But he does set out a sort of procedure.
An order, so to speak.
If someone wants to sign up, they are to be initiated in a symbolic ceremony that we call baptism.
All they have to do is ask and agree to become students of Jesus.
Once initiated by baptism, these new students begin to learn.
They are to be taught everything the Lord has commanded.
They are to be taught to live the Jesus way.
To be reconciled to God and obey his commands.
Which are summarized as loving God and loving each other.
And part of that Jesus’ way was to recruit new followers.
New students who learn how to be reconciled to God and obey his commands.
But what Jesus does not require of anyone is to know all the answers.
Which is a good thing because as students, learners, pupils, we just don’t know all the answers.
And we are in good company.
Look at the eleven.
Here is Jesus.
Dead and alive again.
Standing in their midst.
How do they react?
Two ways.
They worship him.
And some doubt.
Some translations say they all doubted!
Let’s be clear, there was no doubt that this was Jesus standing with them.
Their teacher.
The one crucified, dead and buried.
What they doubted was what it all meant.
They all were confused.
They were hesitant.
They were afraid.
Sure this was Jesus in front of them.
But they were stuck in a place between worship and flight!
And Jesus did nothing to respond to their doubt except to say, “Relax. I’ll be with you. You can do this!”
So off they went, not much more illuminated, afraid, still confused, hesitant and with many unanswered questions.
What they did know was Jesus.
His story.
The Good News.
And that was enough.
So they told the story.
And people wanted in.
So they baptized them.
And then began to teach them.
All the while knowing that even then, they did not have all the answers.
Which is why they gathered together, prayed, listened to the Word, and talked about what it all meant.
And that model of discipleship continues today.
What is really cool is that we are doing it here at JMPC today.
We are baptizing four people.
One adult.
Two children.
One infant.
Now let me digress for a moment.
Some disciples recognize baptism only for those of age who ask to be baptized.
Our adult fits that understanding.
And there is nothing wrong with that view.
Others believe in infant baptism.
That is OK, too.
But that difference is not on today’s agenda.
Today we are talking about what happens after you are baptized.
These four people are being initiated into discipleship.
They are becoming students of Jesus.
God has called each to be in his family.
And even if they don’t know King James from the Eugene Peterson, they are called to do what disciples do.
Learn.
Learn what?
Learn to live the Jesus way.
Which is a life long pursuit.
One we don’t always accomplish.
One we don’t always even understand.
Sometimes it seems like we will never get there.
We pray and listen and discuss, but we our hearts don’t get warm.
It’s like SETI.
Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.
Made famous in the book and movie “Contact”.
It’s real, though.
I heard Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the the SETI Institute, interviewed.
He was asked what it was like to be searching for something that he might never find.
His response was that there had to be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe because it was statistically impossible for there not to be.
He believed it to be true.
So he had faith that he would find it.
And when he did, or someone did, the world would be changed.
So he pursues it.
That was enough for him.
How many of us are like him?
We pursue God, but don’t know where it will take us.
As disciples, students, learners, we continue.
And God is glorified.
But some people get that moment of understanding.
As the Methodists say, their hearts are strangely warmed.
The divine experience.
And when they do, they will be like Edith Widder and her crew that sought to film a giant squid.
They knew they were there.
Evidence existed that there were such things.
But no one had ever seen one.
So they designed a special camera that would attract one.
They spent hundreds of hours searching and were about to give up when they saw one.
It came up to the camera and almost seemed to pose for them.
But the fun part was the video of the crew when that happened.
They were so giddy and joyful, they literally squealed with delight.
They had found what they were looking for.
Just like those of us who have had that moment of clarity and faith when we know just what it means to live as Jesus would have us live.
Everyone who becomes a disciple of Jesus has both of those experiences.
It goes back and forth.
That is our learner’s journey.
Certainty.
Confusion.
Certainty.
Confusion.
Worship.
Doubt.
Worship.
Doubt.
So in order to remain faithful learners, at both stages, we need to be part of a community.
Which is what the six other adults who are already baptized are doing today.
They, too, are becoming members of this family of faith.
A family of learners.
Students.
Disciples of Jesus.
A family that does not always agree, but accepts that we all have a lot to learn.
About loving God.
Loving each other.
And living the Jesus way.



Telling Secrets Good for the Soul?

In 2005, Frank Warren started “PostSecret”. As I understand it, he handed out 3,000 post cards to people and asked them to mail him some secret about themselves. Since then, thousands of people have been sending Warren “secrets” about their lives that are often funny, but also poignant and powerful. And they are all anonymous. And he posts a lot of them on his website!

As I was listening to Warren’s TED Talk (yes I am a TED addict, which might have been my secret had I not disclosed it here) I was struck by the question: Why would anyone put a secret about themselves on a post card and send it to PostSecret? To have it posted on line. What is the point?

Then it hit me.

There are things about ourselves that we keep secret, but that we would like to admit to someone else, even if it is done anonymously. Maybe because it is funny, and nobody knows the joke. Maybe because we are ashamed, but nobody knows the incident. Maybe because it is something we regret, and can’t get out of our heads. We believe that because we put words on paper and send the paper out into the world, it somehow makes a difference. It somehow makes a difference. Someone knows what I did, even though they don’t know it was me. Somehow, these folks feel cleansed, or giddy, or just glad to have put it out there.

Then it struck me again.

That is what we do in church every Sunday. We are invited to confess our failures to live as Jesus would have us live. We confess in a public prayer. Then we confess in private. The things we thought were funny and just want to share, the things we are ashamed of but just want someone to tell us not to be ashamed any more, and the things we regret that we want to be forgiven for. But theses secrets are not anonymous. We don’t offer our secret regrets and shame to PostSecret, though there would be nothing wrong with that, but to God. Who already knows. And already forgives. And loves us anyway.

Why do we confess? Because it is cleansing and freeing. It allows us to move on perhaps with a new determination to do better next time. Or maybe funnier.



Sunshine February 25th, 2016 Rev. Jeff Tindall

Making Disciples Sunshine

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? What does a disciple of Jesus do? Jesus’ great commission to his first disciples he says go and make more disciples! Not particularly helpful in defining what it means to be a disciple. But we do get some clues. First, the word used by Matthew that we translate as disciple is the Greek word math?t?sMath?t?s comes from the word math which means learner. Someone who is on a quest for illumination. A disciple is a follower of Christ who learns the doctrines of Scripture and the lifestyle they require.

Jesus is telling his disciples, his learners, to go and recruit new learners. What is really interesting about Jesus’ commission is that he instructs his learners to initiate the new learners with baptism. Once initiated, then these new disciples begin to learn. They are taught everything the Lord has commanded. They are taught to live the Jesus way. And Jesus’ way includes recruiting new learners. New disciples who learn how to be reconciled to God and obey his commands.

But what Jesus does not require of his disciples who undertake the great commission is that they know all the answers. Which is a good thing, because who among us knows all the answers. Some of us know precious few answers to anything when it comes to God. Come hear more about this when Pastor Jeff preaches “Making Disciples” at 8:30 and 11. We will celebrate four baptisms and receive seven new members to our congregation. Don’t miss it!

 



The mark of a disciple John13: 31-35 Matt Fricker

It was there 40th anniversary and Sarah thought for days about what she could get Alan.  He was always so hard to buy for and it seemed like you had everything.  Suddenly Sarah had the perfect idea, Alan had never had a dog before and who doesn’t love a puppy.  Sarah saw a classified ad and went to a farm an hour away.  She drove away with the smallest, cutest, chocolate lab puppy that anyone has ever seen.  When she got home she gave Alan the puppy and he indeed did love the puppy!  However, over the next few days Alan began to sneeze and sneeze.  They went to the doctor and low and behold found out that Alan was allergic to dogs.  Sarah was heart-broken and prayed to God for an answer.  After a lot of discernment Sarah felt convicted and knew she had to do the loving thing and give him a new home.  So Sarah put out an ad and it read “Looking for a good home.  He is a very loving and caring, but is also very stubborn.  His name is Alan, he is 60 years old and please know he is allergic to dogs”.  Conditional love!    

Conditional love is very much a reality for all of us.  Sure there are some people in our lives that we can love unconditionally, but we definitely struggle loving everyone this way.  We might try to love each other, but certain conditions need to be met.  Unconditional love actually doesn’t seem to make any sense at all.  Author A.J. Jacobs says “Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great and powerful one”.  That is because unconditional love will at some point require sacrifice, and that is hard to do for the ones we love the most, but especially for those we don’t know.

Leading up to holy week myself and Pastor Jeff will be preaching on discipleship.  What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?  The simple definition of a disciple is easy enough, it means follower.  This is not a term exclusionary for Christians or even other religions.  Dr. Freud had disciples as did Gandhi and many other influential people.  Their disciples followed them and learned from them, in turn they went out and taught others what they learned.  Christian discipleship is no different, we follow Jesus in what he taught us and in turn teach others.

    What characteristics should a disciple of Christ have?  The better question might be how do I know I am being a disciple of Jesus Christ?  The first thing we will look at in this series is Love, not a bad place to start right?  Disciples of Jesus Christ should love people, and of course God.  Jesus tells us in John 13 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.   By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  This is fairly black and white; people will know we are Jesus disciples if we love one another.

Wait a minute though, how is this a new commandment?  Leviticus 19:18 tells us to love our neighbor as yourself.  Throughout the Old Testament we have been commanded to love God.  The prophet Hosea is told by God to go and love his wife, even though she has been unfaithful to him.  What makes this a new commandment?

 

Very simply the first 8 words are what separate this commandment from what has already been written.  Jesus said “love one another, as I have loved you”.  This is a completely different commandment; we are called to love like Jesus loves us.  This is a whole new level of love, it takes what we thought love was and blows it out of the water. 

Let’s face it we use the word “love” as bad or worse than any other word in the English language.  We declare that we love God with all are heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Of course we also say that we love corndogs, and doughnuts, and cheese cake, and chicken French fries.  We love our beds, couches, and we love our phones.  Sure you may not connect with everything on this list, but we could each make a list of things we say we love.  How can we use the word love to explain our affection for God, and then use the same word for a skinny iced vanilla latte from Starbucks?  We have lost our power in the word love!

However, Jesus calls us to love one another as he loves us.  That is a powerful and unconditional love.  Let’s look at the context of Jesus giving this last commandment.  Directly before this Jesus is washing the disciple’s feet.  His time is short and there he is on his knees washing the feet on those he loved.  Taking the place of a servant and cleaning the feet of those who believed him to be the messiah! 

This is amazing example of servitude and love.  It is almost a perfect example of unconditional love.  While it might seem very awkward for us to wash our friend’s feet, many of us could do it.  However, let’s look a little closer at the story.  Judas was in the room and Jesus washed his feet as well.  Jesus knew Judas would betray him and it would lead to his torture and death on the cross!  Jesus knew that because of Judas’s actions it would lead to his death.  Jesus knelt down like a servant and washed the feet of Judas.  This is what it means to love one another like Jesus loved us.  Sure we might be able to wash our friend’s feet, but what if you knew that one of them was plotting your murder?  Well, loving just got a lot more difficult.

You might be sitting there and say it is impossible to love people like Jesus loves us, he died for our sins and our love can never be as strong as the love Jesus has for us.  Well… you are correct.  We cannot love as much as God loves, that is impossible.  Of course Jesus knew this and he still gave the commandment.  The point being that we need to follow the stories and examples Jesus gave us and love others.  The story of the Samaritan woman reaching for his cloak, the story of the woman putting 2 coins as tribute to God, and the story of the good Samaritan.  A story in which a person not only helps a man that is beaten but pours oil on his wounds, walks as the beaten man rides his donkey, pays for his stay at the inn and promises to come back and pay for any other expenses accrued.  This is Love!

When I think of inconceivable love I think of a friend of mine named Bill.  I met Bill when I was serving a church in San Antonio.  They had a 1 on 1 discipleship program and I was matched with him.  Bill was 72 years old and was the head of the mission committee.  He was retired now but before retirement he was a bank president.  He told me how he grew up catholic and lost his faith when he went to college.  After being married and having 2 wonderful daughters his wife started making him come to church with them.  He said he hated it and would bring a Time magazine and sit in the Library and read it during Sunday school.  He told me he would get a good spot to make sure everyone could see him.  He doesn’t remember the moment he recommitted himself to God, but he knows that everyone’s prayer, love, and sharing scripture finally got through to him.  He started loving going to church and began helping a few different ministries.  Bill’s life changed when he received a call from a man.  They had kidnapped his wife and were holding her for ransom.  Bill called the police and rushed to get the money transferred over.  Unfortunately, something went wrong and these men killed his wife.  Bill talks about his pain still today in such a hurtful way.  He calls his guilt, regret, and difficulty raising 2 young girls.  He recalls his faith as being the only thing that got him through the lonely nights.  Bill was ambushed by reporters at his house a few weeks after the murder.  The reporters told him that they caught the 2 men who committed the crime and that the district attorney was pushing for capital punishment.  They asked him how he felt about that, expecting Bill to be happy about their fate.  However, Bill answered in a different way.  He told the reporters that he hopes they are not sentenced to death, because they would not have the chance to know Jesus Christ!  He looked into the camera and said that he forgave them.

This is loving others like Jesus loved us.  Nobody would blame Bill if he lashed out and said they deserve the death penalty.  Who would look at Jesus if he didn’t wash Judas’s feet?  Nobody will blame you because someone has hurt you deeply and painfully and you cannot love them anymore.  However, we are called to show our love as disciples of Christ, loving others as Christ loved us.  It is unconditional, sacrificial, and it is most certainly illogical.  This is what Jesus meant for us with his new commandment.  Amen.          

 



Running off the leash Luke 4: 1-13 Rev. Jeff Tindall

Party Time

John 2: 1-11

2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

There was a commercial years ago that came to mind when I was writing this message.

It was really creative.

Within a moment after the Super Bowl, a question was asked to the winning quarterback while he was still on the field.

One went like this:

“John Elway, you just won the Super Bowl, what are you going to do now?”

Elway responds:

“I’m going to Disney World!”

Presumably to celebrate the joy of his team’s accomplishment.

That is what life is like.

We finish some things and start new things.

Often this is a time for celebration.

Like finishing the season as the Super Bowl champs.

And we all have them.

We graduate from school.

Celebrate.

We leave our parents and support ourselves.

Celebrate.

We get married.

Celebrate.

We have kids.

Celebrate.

We change jobs.

Celebrate.

We retire.

Celebrate.

And inevitably, when we finish one phase of our lives, someone asks the question:

“So what are you going to do now?”

A good answer is celebrate!

What happens after the celebration?

Time to get started on the next phase of life.

That is what we all do.

But for now, enjoy the moment.

What does that have to do with our scripture?

Jesus has just gone through a life transition like no other.

He was a carpenter in Nazareth for something like 10 – 15 years.

But it is time to stop being a carpenter and start being the Messiah.

So he goes to see his cousin John the Baptist, an itinerant preacher baptizing folks in the Jordan River.

Jesus gets baptized and heaven opens.

Down comes the Holy Spirit and he hears the words of God:

“You are my son and I’m pleased!”

Jesus comes out of the water and assembles his team of disciples.

Its all good.

If the folks from Disney would have been there, they might have shoved a microphone in his face and said, “What are you going to do now?”

They would hope he would say:

“I’m going to Disney World!”

But what he would have said is:

“I’m going to a wedding at Cana.”

And he did.

Jesus goes to the wedding with his mom and friends.

To do a bit of celebrating.

Party time.

Before getting started on his Messiah-ship.

He is having a good time.

Then a serious social faux pas by the bridegroom.

They run out of wine!

Jesus’ mom tells Jesus to do something.

She knows who he is and knows he can.

And his response?

‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’

Translation:

“Really, mom? Can’t you see I’m with my friends? This is not a good time!”

But she knows.

She is a good Jewish mother.

He might be the son of God, but he is her son, too!

He’ll do something.

Because she said so.

His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

And so the first recorded miracle of Jesus.

Water to wine.

And good wine to boot.

The first time I read this story, I thought that it was a rather trivial use of Jesus’ great power.

But being a smart guy, Jesus knows:

“When in doubt, do what mom says.”

Make some wine.

Trivial?

Maybe not.

Triviality depends on one’s point of view.

When I got graduated from law school and passed the bar exam, I was a lawyer.

I celebrated!

But then I had to get started.

But I quickly found out that being a lawyer did not mean I knew how to be a lawyer.

I needed to learn what to do for a while.

Which I started to do.

Then I got a call from my mom.

Two of her friends needed help.

You need to help them.

What?

I was a new lawyer.

I wasn’t ready.

But I did it.

Because my mom told me to.

These two men had retired from US Steel.

They got a letter from the pension fund telling them that their pension payments were going to be reduced by one third.

I made several phone calls, and put together an argument that the pension fund was wrong.

This argument was actually pretty good and the arbitrator agreed.

My clients won!

Pension restored.

Two guys who were going to get a couple hundred dollars more a month.

We had a little celebration.

Then, at my mother’s funeral, 29 years later, Ernie, one of the two, then 95 years old, walked up to me and told me that if he had lost, he would have had to sell his house and move in with his kids.

I did not know that 29 years before.

What I did was not so trivial.

And I then knew why we celebrated.

Something important had happened.

That is what happened at the wedding at Cana.

Something important.

Weddings for those who attend can seem like just a big party.

But weddings are important events.

To the couple and to the families.

Their significance is hard to overestimate.

They should be joyful and fun.

But they are very stressful to all involved.

Not because of the commitment the bride and groom are about to make.

It’s the fear that something terrible is going to happen at the wedding.

But when something terrible does happen, we pray that God sends some blessing into the event that saves the day.

One wedding I did was outside.

As soon as the bride got down the aisle, it started to pour.

The bride, the groom and I stepped into a nearby gazebo, but everyone else stood in the rain.

No place for them to go.

I thought the bride was going to pass out.

But I pointed out to her that the people standing in the rain were smiling.

They were joyful.

They were willing to stand in the rain to watch her gat married.

What might have seemed trivial to the people in the rain was actually a blessing to the bride and groom.

They still talk about it and she still cries tears of joy.

At this wedding at Cana, they did not have rain, but they did run out of wine.

And John says that Jesus performed his first sign.

A miracle with a message.

Water to wine at a wedding?

A sign?

A miracle with a message.

What message?

That God likes celebrations.

God likes joy.

God likes fun.

And God blessed this wedding celebration and saved the day.

This would have been a bad start for this couple.

No wine at the wedding?

It would not likely be forgotten.

So Jesus’ mom tells him to fix it!

And what happens?

Jesus … revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

What was the message?

Jesus was the one who could fix things.

Even little things.

Little things that create joy and celebration.

Demonstrating that God is with us in our happiness and at our parties, and encourages us to have a bit of fun.

That is what Jesus did.

It was a good start for the Messiah.

What better way for Jesus to announce the coming of God’s Kingdom than to demonstrate that God is for gladness and delight!

Last week I quoted Bruce Brearley and I do so again.

Sometimes the church has forgotten that our Lord once attended a wedding feast and said yes to gladness and joy. Prompted by his earthly mother, Jesus turned water into wine to point to his heavenly Father, a God who loves to hear the laughter of people celebrating people. Sometimes the church has forgotten to live the joy of such revelation.

Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus of Nazareth celebrated people – people getting married, people being healed of disease and deformity, people enjoying meals together. He carried a spirit of celebration with him wherever he went as he proclaimed a God of mercy and peace and joy.

And in doing that, Jesus blessed this celebration with a small miracle.

He demonstrated that God was not too big to bring grace to this couple.

In their time of joy, God was with them.

Celebrating.

So what does that have to do with us?

We are all walking off the field of transition.

And from my point of view, it is a time to celebrate.

So if a microphone is put in front of me and I am asked:

“Jeff, the transition is over, what are you going to do now?”

My response, in part:

“Let’s have a 50th Anniversary party!”

Let’s celebrate.

We have reason to celebrate.

Look where we have been.

Look where we are going.

Look at what is going on here right now!

This congregation is inspired!

The Christmas Affair gave away $10,000.

VBS taught 180 kids about Jesus.

Matt Fricker has joined us to teach us about discipleship.

We are doing mission here, there and everywhere.

We are financially sound.

We gather together for fellowship and food regularly.

We have a beautiful building to house our ministry.

We have awesome teachers for our Christian Education.

We have a newly redecorated youth room.

And we worship well.

We have great music, with singing, guitars, pianos, strings, woodwinds and brass.

We just celebrated Advent in a glorious way, and we are preparing for Lent.

And if my calculations are correct, we will welcome several new young families into our congregation in February.

I look at these things like the wedding at Cana.

We are in a good place.

And as we celebrate, God is here with us.

We tend to here sermons telling us that God is with us when we have needs.

He carries us when we are too weak to walk.

He comforts us in times of sadness.

But Jesus miracle at Cana tells us something really important.

God is with us in the good times, too.

That is the message of water to wine.

God is here now.

In these good times.

Yeah, this is a time to celebrate.

It is a good time to be up here on this hill.

Jesus is in the building and he is working miracles in people’s lives.

We need to tell people that.

And when we do that, something important happens.

We become a light on this hill.

We display the glory of God!

Like Jesus and the wine, people will see it.

Like the disciples, they will believe.

They will join the celebration!

So for now, let’s rejoice – it’s party time.



What we can learn from chickens!

Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur and documentarian. She has written several books on business management and recently spoke at a TED conference. Ms. Heffernan referred to a famous study on  productivity called the Muir chicken study. This is what she said:

An evolutionary biologist at Purdue University named William Muir studied chickens. He was interested in productivity — I think it’s something that concerns all of us — but it’s easy to measure in chickens because you just count the eggs. He wanted to know what could make his chickens more productive, so he devised a beautiful experiment. Chickens live in groups, so first of all, he selected just an average flock, and he let it alone for six generations. But then he created a second group of the individually most productive chickens — you could call them superchickens — and he put them together in a superflock, and each generation, he selected only the most productive for breeding.

After six generations had passed, what did he find? Well, the first group, the average group, was doing just fine. They were all plump and fully feathered and egg production had increased dramatically. What about the second group? Well, all but three were dead. They’d pecked the rest to death. The individually productive chickens had only achieved their success by suppressing the productivity of the rest.

All my life I’ve been told that the way we have to get ahead is to compete: get into the right school, get into the right job, get to the top, and I’ve really never found it very inspiring. … [F]or the past 50 years, we’ve run most organizations and some societies along the superchicken model. We’ve thought that success is achieved by picking the superstars, the brightest men, or occasionally women, in the room, and giving them all the resources and all the power. And the result has been just the same as in William Muir’s experiment: aggression, dysfunction and waste. If the only way the most productive can be successful is by suppressing the productivity of the rest, then we badly need to find a better way to work and a richer way to live.

When I heard this, I immediately thought of our current politics and government. It seems that success for one party can only be achieved by suppressing the other. It’s like hoping that others fail so that you can feel good about your lack of productivity. Listen tot he politicians. They disparage each other in order to make themselves appear superior. Look at the legislatures. They spend all their time in aggressive dysfunction and nothing is produced.

Jesus taught a better way. He said that we should love each other and care for each other. Even when it was dangerous and even when we disagreed with each other. And within 300 years, his disciples had changed the world. Disciples of Jesus live in community that emphasizes mutual benefit. They thrived! Does our culture? Or are we teaching our descendants that it is necessary to destroy all the opposition in order to “succeed” in life? I hope we don’t peck each other to death.

Yes we can learn a lot from chickens.



Follow Me Luke 5: 1-11 Rev. Jeff Tindall

Follow Me

Luke 5: 1-11

5Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ 5Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ 6When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ 9For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ 11When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

The title to this sermon should be “Peter Gets a New Job”.

No longer a fisherman.

Now a disciple.

It’s Peter’s call story.

And it’s a good story.

Hard headed and rowdy fisherman gets a call from God.

Have you ever met someone like Peter?

I have.

Several years ago I met Craig Wolfley.

You might know he is a former Pittsburgh Steeler.

An offensive lineman.

Craig is a big guy.

He is also a man of big faith.

For a time, he was my boxing coach.

I got to know him a little bit.

As we talked he told me his story.

He reminded me of Peter in many ways.

Before he came to faith, Craig was … well … a rather unruly soul.

A big guy with a big life and with big appetites.

Until it all sort of fell apart.

But when he was at his life’s low point, Jesus called him to be a disciple.

And to teach a Bible Study.

Something he was not trained to do.

Very Peter like.

Craig lead the Bible study at his gym for the folks who worked out there.

Because he knew that he was not a particularly astute Biblical scholar, he named his group the “Idots”.

I asked him what “Idot” meant.

He said that they were so stupid they did not know how to spell “idiot”.

Yet despite Craig’s less than righteous history and his lack of Biblical knowledge and his need to attend to his business that was feeding his family, he and the Idots went about the work of the Lord.

Following Jesus.

What does that story have to do with our scripture?

It’s that Jesus calls people to service who are not necessarily the ones we expect.

When we really don’t want to do it.

And don’t know how to do it.

That’s Peter’s story.

Jesus is a bit overwhelmed by his fans.

He needs some distance.

He needs some help.

Does he pick a priest?

No.

A scribe?

No.

He picks Peter.

What?

Peter is a bombastic and headstrong fisherman.

While James and John get a reference by Luke, it is clear that Peter is the one Jesus was after.

Peter was the boss.

Peter was in charge.

And it appears that is the way Peter liked it.

It does not appear that Peter was one who wanted to take orders from anyone else.

And yet Jesus picked him.

Maybe because Peter knew how to get things done.

How to lead.

Despite his somewhat overbearing personality.

So Jesus goes to Peter.

But, it’s hard to like the timing.

First, Peter has just finished a really frustrating night of fishing with nothing to show for it.

He was cleaning his nets and putting things away.

Pretty tired.

Probably in a foul mood.

And here comes Jesus.

The one doing all those miracles in Capernaum.

The one who stopped by Peter’s house and healed Peter’s mother.

And look at that crowd!

I don’t have time for this!

I’m too tired!

And Jesus picks him.

Peter, let me use your boat as a pulpit.

But, after Jesus is done with the crowd, he is not done with Peter.

He has a little lesson for Peter.

He tells Peter to fish some more.

We can almost hear Peter say:

“Are you serious? But since you healed Mom, I guess I’ll do what you say.”

Peter catches more fish than he ever had before.

Now Peter is not just annoyed.

He’s scared.

Who is this guy?

This fellow Jesus is doing things and saying things that disturb Peter.

These things are uncomfortable because they impact Peter’s world view.

The world is not what he thought.

Jesus is not what the thought.

Jesus can heal the sick.

Jesus can command the fish.

And now Peter has a problem.

His life will never be the same.

Peter liked his old life.

He had a job.

He wasn’t particularly righteous or religious.

And now Jesus is asking him to give all that up and go with Jesus.

I don’t want to get involved.

This is a bad time.

I’m not the right kind of guy.

I don’t know how to do what you ask.

But Jesus cannot be ignored.

He cannot be denied.

Jesus reassures Peter:

“Don’t be scared, just leave your old life, and all those fish that you were going to make a bunch of money on with the big crowd, and follow me!”

And Peter does!

Without so much as a grunt, Peter walks away from his old life and into an uncertain future.

This is how discipleship works.

We are called.

We are scared.

We are reassured.

And we go.

We follow.

We do what Jesus does.

And when we do, we get what Peter got.

He got to go up the mountain and see Jesus transfigured.

White as the sun.

With Moses and Elijah.

And God’s voice proclaiming his son.

An experience of the divine.

Which we get, too, though not quite as spectacularly.

That is what being called to discipleship is like.

So what is it Peter … and us … are called to do?

Luke does not say to fish for people.

Luke uses the phrase “catch people”.

One theologian puts it this way:

We are told to catch people alive to save them.

To rescue them from the peril of death.

It’s like reaching out to someone falling.

Catching their wrist and pulling them back to safety.

Telling them to follow Jesus, too and that all will be well.

Seems like a pretty hard job for a blue collar guy like Peter.

Or a suit like me.

Or for any of us really.

Maybe that is why Peter …  and we … at first want no part of it.

We are afraid.

It’s really not a good time.

We don’t know what to do!

So Jesus reassures us.

Peter is an example.

First, Jesus asked for a little thing.

Take me out in the boat.

Then Jesus gave a little lesson.

Next Jesus gave a little demonstration.

Next Jesus asked Peter to join him.

Finally, Jesus reassured Peter that all would be well.

So when Jesus said, “Follow me!”, Peter did.

So what does that have to do with us?

It’s the way Jesus still calls folks to discipleship.

The way he called Craig.

The way he called me.

The way he called many in this room.

He came to us!

He asked a little thing.

Go to church.

Read the Bible.

Pray.

Feel my presence.

You might get scared.

Who are we to be disciples of Jesus?

Rowdy football players.

Argumentative lawyers.

People with … blemishes.

And it’s really not a bad time.

At the bottom of the well.

Running a business.

Doing something else.

But people need a rescue!

We are called to rescue them from death.

How do we do that?

Follow Jesus.

That is what disciples do.

Respond to Jesus’ call to do something important in your life.

Save people.

And like the Idots, like me, like so many in this room, we all feel a bit clueless.

We are a bit scared.

But all Jesus asks is that we do our best.

And we are assured because Jesus says he is with us … to the end of the age.

And so when we try to follow Jesus, even when we don’t know what we are doing or accomplishing, we are following Jesus.

One last story.

Thomas Merton was called to the monastic life in his middle age.

He was scared.

Unsure of where God was leading.

Unsure of what he was to do.

And so he wrote this prayer, which I close with now.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.  



Do you know who I am? Luke 4:14-21 Matthew Fricker

A young man was down to 1 class in his college career.  He didn’t like philosophy and had put off philosophy 101 until his senior year.  The morning of his final he looks at his alarm and notices that it is blinking.  The power went out in the middle of the night and he was late.  His professor had preached how important it was to be on time and said he would not allow anyone to do the final if they were 1 minute late.  The student ran across the campus and burst into the classroom 20 minutes late.  As he entered the room he saw the blue essay books and the questions for the quiz, so he grabbed them and sat down.  The professor saw the young man and said “don’t bother young man, you are late and I will not except your test”.  The young man had a determined look on his face and began writing.  As the hours went by students got up 1 by 1 and turned their tests in.  This was a big class with 120 people and when the professor gave the 10 minute warning he reminded the student again that he would not accept his test.  The student continued to write.  When time ran up the remaining students turned in their tests as the young man continued to write.  Finally, as the last student in the room he walked up to the professor sitting behind his desk with a big pile of blue books on his desk.  Son I told you I’m not grading your test so you’re just going to have to take the class again.  The student said “do you know who I am”.  Son I’ve taught for 30 years I don’t know every student.  The young man said again “do you have any idea who I am”.  Son, I’m teaching 3 current classes each with over a 100 students.  One more time the student says do you know who I am?  No I don’t know who you are, I’m sorry.  When the professor said that the young man stuck his blue book in the middle of the pile and ran out the doors.

Who do you think I am?  Isn’t that an interesting question for each of us.  What if I asked you to describe to me who you are in a few sentences, what would you say?  Chances are you wouldn’t want to sum yourself up in just a few words.  I always struggle with this when I start at a new church and they ask me to write a short biography about myself.  Does this really give people a real understanding of who I am as a person?

Of course we would all rather tell you who we are then have someone else tell you who we are.   I mean who knows what they will say!  The better they know you the scarier their description could be.  Different people think of us different ways, and we think of certain people certain ways.

I know this to be very true because I had the pleasure of working as a youth director at the church I grew up in.  New members in the church looked at me as the new guy who was there to serve the youth in the name of Jesus Christ.  Old members looked at me like the guy who was a huge distraction in Sunday school and who broke a light in the sanctuary in an incident involving a giant beach ball, which of course was a huge misunderstanding.  So which one of the groups of people were correct, the answer is both.

So when we think of Jesus the question becomes, “who do you think he is”.  I suppose many people have many different ways of answering that question.  Prince of peace, wonderful counselor, mighty God, best friend.  The list can go on and on.

At least that’s what Christians might say who Jesus is, but others might think differently.  Some will say he is a prophet while others say he was just a good guy.  Some think he was a philosopher and others think he never even existed.  There are literally hundreds of answers for who Jesus is and what people think about him today.  That is why it is so important for us to know who Jesus is.  The best way to do this in scripture is to look at where many believe his ministry began, and see who they thought he was.

Who did the people in Galilee think he was.  The scripture this morning starts out with 2 very important facts about Jesus.  The first is that Jesus taught at synagogues.  Yes, we know Jesus was Jewish and yes he was at the synagogues like all the other faithful Jewish men.

The fact that Jesus was at the synagogues cannot be overstated.  I look around our country today and see less people at church.  Some of this is a bad cultural shift, but some of it is because people disagreed with other people’s viewpoints at church.  Maybe it was a friend, Sunday School teacher, or even the pastor.  Of course when we disagree we know we are right and we know that God would agree with us.

I can only imagine what it was like for Jesus to sit in the synagogues.  I am certain his viewpoints differed from the people teaching, and in this scenario his viewpoints would be the same as Gods.  Jesus didn’t stop going to synagogues and he didn’t stop teaching at them.

Too many times we see people who stop going to church because of disagreements in theology.  Friends we cannot allow this to continue, we reach out to our brothers and sisters.  We cannot let human arguments about God deter someone from worshipping the true God!

Next we see that Jesus returned in the power of the holy spirit.  Prior to Jesus speaking at Nazareth 2 major things have happened in Luke.  He was baptized with the voice of God saying this is my son in whom I am well pleased, and he was tempted by the devil in the desert.  We are seeing who Jesus is to this point.  He has had the holy spirit descend on him and he has resisted the temptation of the devil.  Now Jesus enters the synagogue in his hometown.

Jesus says” The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Here it is, Jesus is telling us who he is and that is the messiah.  He is telling us who he is by telling us what he is going to do.  The worship in the synagogue at this time consisted of 3 parts.  Prayer, reading of the Torah, which was then translated, and lastly someone would come up to speak and there would be discussion.

It is here that Jesus preached what many called the shortest sermon in history. After reading scripture Jesus simply says “Today the scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. Jesus is saying this is who I am!

Jesus is saying I came to bring good news to the poor, free prisoners, heal blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the year of jubilee. These are radical things that Jesus is saying. He is coming to shake up the world, not to accommodate the religious.

I have found that it is here where the confusion about who Jesus is comes up. The reason is that we want Jesus to be what we think he should be, and that is not always a radical God often times we want a subtle Jesus. We don’t necessarily want Jesus to come and shake everything up, especially if things are going well for me.

Because of these we see Jesus as someone who agrees with us on everything. Of course he definitely agrees with me when it comes to religion and politics. It’s not just what we say Jesus thinks we also we think we know what Jesus would do.

We see this reflected in our personal life a lot of times as well. I want you to think about your prayer life. When you pray do you pray as if Jesus is subtle, or do you pray that he is radical. That he answers prayers in incredible and miraculous ways. That Jesus goes against what we think is normal, or even possible. Do you pray to the Jesus who heals the blind and frees the oppressed?

Sometimes we are scared to pray to Jesus in this way for many different reasons. Sometimes it’s because we feel selfish for asking for things for ourselves. Other times it’s because we are scared to pray for miracles because we don’t know what to say if they don’t happen. To be honest as someone who has studied the Bible I cannot tell you why some prayers are answered and some are not. I do know this though, when life is overwhelming, when I’m at the side of a hospital bed, or when I’m at a graveside I am thankful that I know such a loving, powerful, and radical God!

So the question becomes “do you know who he is”? Do you know that Jesus loves you in such an amazing and Godly way. Do you know that he came to perform miracles and bring the good news to the poor, the ones nobody else wanted to bring good news to? Do you know that Jesus has a plan for you in this world, and has a plan for you today because you are part of God’s story? Do you know that Jesus Christ died for your sins and because of this we will live again! If you know these things then you know who Jesus said he was, and you know who Jesus is. Amen



Party Time! John 2:1-11 Rev. Jeff Tindall

Party Time

John 2: 1-11

2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ 4And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ 5His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ 6Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

There was a commercial years ago that came to mind when I was writing this message.

It was really creative.

Within a moment after the Super Bowl, a question was asked to the winning quarterback while he was still on the field.

One went like this:

“John Elway, you just won the Super Bowl, what are you going to do now?”

Elway responds:

“I’m going to Disney World!”

Presumably to celebrate the joy of his team’s accomplishment.

That is what life is like.

We finish some things and start new things.

Often this is a time for celebration.

Like finishing the season as the Super Bowl champs.

And we all have them.

We graduate from school.

Celebrate.

We leave our parents and support ourselves.

Celebrate.

We get married.

Celebrate.

We have kids.

Celebrate.

We change jobs.

Celebrate.

We retire.

Celebrate.

And inevitably, when we finish one phase of our lives, someone asks the question:

“So what are you going to do now?”

A good answer is celebrate!

What happens after the celebration?

Time to get started on the next phase of life.

That is what we all do.

But for now, enjoy the moment.

What does that have to do with our scripture?

Jesus has just gone through a life transition like no other.

He was a carpenter in Nazareth for something like 10 – 15 years.

But it is time to stop being a carpenter and start being the Messiah.

So he goes to see his cousin John the Baptist, an itinerant preacher baptizing folks in the Jordan River.

Jesus gets baptized and heaven opens.

Down comes the Holy Spirit and he hears the words of God:

“You are my son and I’m pleased!”

Jesus comes out of the water and assembles his team of disciples.

Its all good.

If the folks from Disney would have been there, they might have shoved a microphone in his face and said, “What are you going to do now?”

They would hope he would say:

“I’m going to Disney World!”

But what he would have said is:

“I’m going to a wedding at Cana.”

And he did.

Jesus goes to the wedding with his mom and friends.

To do a bit of celebrating.

Party time.

Before getting started on his Messiah-ship.

He is having a good time.

Then a serious social faux pas by the bridegroom.

They run out of wine!

Jesus’ mom tells Jesus to do something.

She knows who he is and knows he can.

And his response?

‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’

Translation:

“Really, mom? Can’t you see I’m with my friends? This is not a good time!”

But she knows.

She is a good Jewish mother.

He might be the son of God, but he is her son, too!

He’ll do something.

Because she said so.

His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

And so the first recorded miracle of Jesus.

Water to wine.

And good wine to boot.

The first time I read this story, I thought that it was a rather trivial use of Jesus’ great power.

But being a smart guy, Jesus knows:

“When in doubt, do what mom says.”

Make some wine.

Trivial?

Maybe not.

Triviality depends on one’s point of view.

When I got graduated from law school and passed the bar exam, I was a lawyer.

I celebrated!

But then I had to get started.

But I quickly found out that being a lawyer did not mean I knew how to be a lawyer.

I needed to learn what to do for a while.

Which I started to do.

Then I got a call from my mom.

Two of her friends needed help.

You need to help them.

What?

I was a new lawyer.

I wasn’t ready.

But I did it.

Because my mom told me to.

These two men had retired from US Steel.

They got a letter from the pension fund telling them that their pension payments were going to be reduced by one third.

I made several phone calls, and put together an argument that the pension fund was wrong.

This argument was actually pretty good and the arbitrator agreed.

My clients won!

Pension restored.

Two guys who were going to get a couple hundred dollars more a month.

We had a little celebration.

Then, at my mother’s funeral, 29 years later, Ernie, one of the two, then 95 years old, walked up to me and told me that if he had lost, he would have had to sell his house and move in with his kids.

I did not know that 29 years before.

What I did was not so trivial.

And I then knew why we celebrated.

Something important had happened.

That is what happened at the wedding at Cana.

Something important.

Weddings for those who attend can seem like just a big party.

But weddings are important events.

To the couple and to the families.

Their significance is hard to overestimate.

They should be joyful and fun.

But they are very stressful to all involved.

Not because of the commitment the bride and groom are about to make.

It’s the fear that something terrible is going to happen at the wedding.

But when something terrible does happen, we pray that God sends some blessing into the event that saves the day.

One wedding I did was outside.

As soon as the bride got down the aisle, it started to pour.

The bride, the groom and I stepped into a nearby gazebo, but everyone else stood in the rain.

No place for them to go.

I thought the bride was going to pass out.

But I pointed out to her that the people standing in the rain were smiling.

They were joyful.

They were willing to stand in the rain to watch her gat married.

What might have seemed trivial to the people in the rain was actually a blessing to the bride and groom.

They still talk about it and she still cries tears of joy.

At this wedding at Cana, they did not have rain, but they did run out of wine.

And John says that Jesus performed his first sign.

A miracle with a message.

Water to wine at a wedding?

A sign?

A miracle with a message.

What message?

That God likes celebrations.

God likes joy.

God likes fun.

And God blessed this wedding celebration and saved the day.

This would have been a bad start for this couple.

No wine at the wedding?

It would not likely be forgotten.

So Jesus’ mom tells him to fix it!

And what happens?

Jesus … revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

What was the message?

Jesus was the one who could fix things.

Even little things.

Little things that create joy and celebration.

Demonstrating that God is with us in our happiness and at our parties, and encourages us to have a bit of fun.

That is what Jesus did.

It was a good start for the Messiah.

What better way for Jesus to announce the coming of God’s Kingdom than to demonstrate that God is for gladness and delight!

Last week I quoted Bruce Brearley and I do so again.

Sometimes the church has forgotten that our Lord once attended a wedding feast and said yes to gladness and joy. Prompted by his earthly mother, Jesus turned water into wine to point to his heavenly Father, a God who loves to hear the laughter of people celebrating people. Sometimes the church has forgotten to live the joy of such revelation.

Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus of Nazareth celebrated people – people getting married, people being healed of disease and deformity, people enjoying meals together. He carried a spirit of celebration with him wherever he went as he proclaimed a God of mercy and peace and joy.

And in doing that, Jesus blessed this celebration with a small miracle.

He demonstrated that God was not too big to bring grace to this couple.

In their time of joy, God was with them.

Celebrating.

So what does that have to do with us?

We are all walking off the field of transition.

And from my point of view, it is a time to celebrate.

So if a microphone is put in front of me and I am asked:

“Jeff, the transition is over, what are you going to do now?”

My response, in part:

“Let’s have a 50th Anniversary party!”

Let’s celebrate.

We have reason to celebrate.

Look where we have been.

Look where we are going.

Look at what is going on here right now!

This congregation is inspired!

The Christmas Affair gave away $10,000.

VBS taught 180 kids about Jesus.

Matt Fricker has joined us to teach us about discipleship.

We are doing mission here, there and everywhere.

We are financially sound.

We gather together for fellowship and food regularly.

We have a beautiful building to house our ministry.

We have awesome teachers for our Christian Education.

We have a newly redecorated youth room.

And we worship well.

We have great music, with singing, guitars, pianos, strings, woodwinds and brass.

We just celebrated Advent in a glorious way, and we are preparing for Lent.

And if my calculations are correct, we will welcome several new young families into our congregation in February.

I look at these things like the wedding at Cana.

We are in a good place.

And as we celebrate, God is here with us.

We tend to here sermons telling us that God is with us when we have needs.

He carries us when we are too weak to walk.

He comforts us in times of sadness.

But Jesus miracle at Cana tells us something really important.

God is with us in the good times, too.

That is the message of water to wine.

God is here now.

In these good times.

Yeah, this is a time to celebrate.

It is a good time to be up here on this hill.

Jesus is in the building and he is working miracles in people’s lives.

We need to tell people that.

And when we do that, something important happens.

We become a light on this hill.

We display the glory of God!

Like Jesus and the wine, people will see it.

Like the disciples, they will believe.

They will join the celebration!

So for now, let’s rejoice – it’s party time.



Jesus Alive?

Jesus Alive?

Wolfhart Pannenberg, a 20th Century German theologian said this: “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.”

As Pannenberg said, the resurrection was certainly an unusual event, right? Our view of such things is the same today as it was then. We don’t see dead people walking around (no apologies to Zombie aficionados).

Then we hear the proclamation – He is Risen!

Jesus alive? But he was dead! He had been tortured. He had been crucified, struck with a spear, and sealed in a tomb. He couldn’t be alive again.

That was the initial response of the women and the disciples to the resurrected Jesus. The whole thing seemed inconceivable to them.

Their entire lives had been witness to a certain order. We are born. We die. And we stay dead.

But Jesus did not stay dead. He was alive! If the women at the tomb had texted the event they might have used – OMG, OMG, OMG!

Their world had just exploded.

Jesus had the power to deliver himself from death. Jesus has the power over life and death.

But it only means something if we believe it really happened.

This is the 21st Century. This event happened over 2000 years ago. What evidence do we have?

The first accounts of the resurrection are in the letters of Paul. His discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, was written two decades before the earliest Gospel! And what does Paul say?

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters* at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.* 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The post resurrection appearances were recent historical fact! But there is more.

This event started the greatest spiritual movement the world has ever known. Other than a resurrected Jesus, there is nothing else that can account for that.

Listen to these words: “I accept the resurrection of Easter Sunday not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event….” They come from Pinchas Lapide, who is a Jewish scholar of the New Testament. In his book The Resurrection of Jesus he says these startling words: “…as a faithful Jew, I cannot explain a historical development which … has carried the central message of Israel from Jerusalem into the world of the nations, as the result of blind happenstance, or human error, or a materialistic determinism….. The experience of the resurrection as the foundation act of the church which has carried the whole Western world must belong to God’s plan of salvation.”

Lapide says that we have no other way to “explain the fact that the hillbillies from Galilee who, for the very real reason of the crucifixion of their master, were saddened to death, were changed within a short period of time into a jubilant community of believers.”

Those people also knew something. They could not go back. They had to remain in this new reality of a resurrected Jesus.

Jesus Alive?

Wolfhart Pannenberg, a 20th Century German theologian said this: “The evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: First, it is a very unusual event. And second, if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.”

As Pannenberg said, the resurrection was certainly an unusual event, right? Our view of such things is the same today as it was then. We don’t see dead people walking around (no apologies to Zombie aficionados).

Then we hear the proclamation – He is Risen!

Jesus alive? But he was dead! He had been tortured. He had been crucified, struck with a spear, and sealed in a tomb. He couldn’t be alive again.

That was the initial response of the women and the disciples to the resurrected Jesus. The whole thing seemed inconceivable to them.

Their entire lives had been witness to a certain order. We are born. We die. And we stay dead.

But Jesus did not stay dead. He was alive! If the women at the tomb had texted the event they might have used – OMG, OMG, OMG!

Their world had just exploded.

Jesus had the power to deliver himself from death. Jesus has the power over life and death.

But it only means something if we believe it really happened.

This is the 21st Century. This event happened over 2000 years ago. What evidence do we have?

The first accounts of the resurrection are in the letters of Paul. His discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, was written two decades before the earliest Gospel! And what does Paul say?

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters* at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.* 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The post resurrection appearances were recent historical fact! But there is more.

This event started the greatest spiritual movement the world has ever known. Other than a resurrected Jesus, there is nothing else that can account for that.

Listen to these words: “I accept the resurrection of Easter Sunday not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event….” They come from Pinchas Lapide, who is a Jewish scholar of the New Testament. In his book The Resurrection of Jesus he says these startling words: “…as a faithful Jew, I cannot explain a historical development which … has carried the central message of Israel from Jerusalem into the world of the nations, as the result of blind happenstance, or human error, or a materialistic determinism….. The experience of the resurrection as the foundation act of the church which has carried the whole Western world must belong to God’s plan of salvation.”

Lapide says that we have no other way to “explain the fact that the hillbillies from Galilee who, for the very real reason of the crucifixion of their master, were saddened to death, were changed within a short period of time into a jubilant community of believers.”

Those people also knew something. They could not go back. They had to remain in this new reality of a resurrected Jesus.