January 26, 2014

Serious Christians Are Naturally Supernatural (Feast of St. Paul)

The conversion experience of St. Paul teaches us that Christianity is more about relationship than following religious practice. Paul was one of the most religious men in history – his whole life was focused on keeping, teaching and preserving Jewish religious practice. He had a dramatic conversion experience – an Epiphany moment, when he realized he had been seduced into an idolatrous tribal religion that was fighting against God. This Epiphany moment was not the result of study or teaching. Paul had a personal experience of the supernatural. He was converted from the darkness and fear of religious control to the light and love of personal spiritual relationship and freedom. He was dependent on Jesus and experiences of the Holy Spirit every day of his ministry. The Readings challenge us to continue to grow daily in our own supernatural relationship with Jesus – to be naturally supernatural.

 1. Paul’s conversion was a dramatic Epiphany moment
Very few people become serious Christians as a result of a good sermon or teaching. We are all naturally convinced of the rightness of our own view of life. Paul needed an experience of the supernatural:
  •          Acts 26.13-14 “I saw a light brighter than the sun blazing around me and my companions, we all fell to the ground and I heard a voice...”
·         Voice could only be Jesus – full of love and forgiveness

·         Paul realized he had been profoundly wrong in his beliefs

·         He had been fighting against God -  persecuting the followers of the long expected Messiah

·         His religious teachers had failed him and become seduced by pride - tribalism and religious idolatry, legalism and ritual

·         Paul was overwhelmed by Jesus love and forgiveness

·         Paul changed from being on a personal holiness quest to urgently sharing the Good News of God’s healing love and forgiveness in Jesus all over the world

2. Paul depend on the Holy Spirit every day of his ministry

January 18, 2014

Epiphany Moments: Jesus is the Lamb of God (Epiphany 2)

An ‘epiphany moment’ is a dramatic new and life-changing understanding of an important idea. It is when we suddenly ‘see’ or ‘get it’ and come to a deeper understanding of an important truth. For example Isaiah 49.1-7 is a prophecy that Israel will be restored by the words of by a despised and obedient servant – as opposed to the mighty army of a warrior king that the people had hoped for. John has a similar Epiphany moment when he realizes that his humble cousin Jesus, is the long expected Messiah who will save the whole world from its sin by acting as the sacrificial ‘Lamb of God”. These Epiphany moments prepare us for our own Epiphany moments as we grow in our spiritual life.

1. Isaiah’s Epiphany moment was a prophecy of a divine servant
In the Prophecy we are told the servant will be:

·         “despised and abhorred by the nations”.

·         He will be like a “polished arrow” with a ‘mouth like a sharpened sword”

·         Instead of leading an army the servant will be obedient and speak words of great power

·         He will restore Jacob and the remnant of Israel

·         He will also be like a light to the Gentles

January 10, 2014

The Baptism of Jesus Begins a New Covenant Relationship (Proper 1, YearA)

The Gospel Reading (Matthew 3.13-17) begins with an important conversation between Jesus and John the Baptist. John does not think Jesus needs to be baptized. In fact John says he needs to be baptized by Jesus. Both statements are true. John, like all of us who want to be in right relationship with God, does need the baptism of the Holy Spirit that only Jesus can give him. But notice that Jesus is not thinking about himself. Jesus is thinking of the Fathers' will that a new covenant be established. This new covenant of Christian Baptism includes the baptism of water but goes beyond repentance and forgiveness to include a new personal relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. The readings help us understand how intimate and powerful this covenant relationship is to be. Jesus is modeling how we enter this covenant relationship through our own baptism.

1. Isaiah teaches us how personal this covenant relationship is
Under the Covenant of Moses God was a remote figure that put his Spirit on individuals and gave that one person guidance and Laws for the whole nation. Now God is promising to do something different. God is promising a "servant" who will establish justice and right relationships.

  • The servant will not be an authority figure like Moses. He will not do this through "shouting or crying out…"(42.2). There is to be no violence - not even breaking a "bruised reed" (42.3).
  • Instead the servant will establish justice and righteousness through "faithfulness" and not getting discouraged. A dramatic modern example might be the Civil Right marchers who established right relationships between colored people and white people in the US through non-violent protest.
  • Jesus is to establish His Kingdom by being ‘faith full’ as opposed to being ‘faith less’ in His covenant relationship.
  • Jesus is not alone - just as we are not alone. The Isaiah prophecy goes on to describe how intimate this relationship is to be. God will be with the Servant every day. God will call Him, hold Him by the hand and will "keep Him" (v.6). His plan is to make the Servant a "…Covenant for the people and a light for the gentiles." (v.6).
The servant is not just making a covenant. The Servant is the Covenant.

2. Isaiah teaches how powerful this new Baptism Covenant is

January 4, 2014

God Is With Us (Christmas 2 Readings)

 The Readings (Jer. 31.7-14; Eph. 1.3 and John1.10-18) give us a deeper understanding of God’s love and plan for humanity. While almost everyone believes in God, there are very different ideas of what God is like or what God expects. The Hebrew people of Jesus Day claimed a special relationship based on their history. From their history they knew that God was the creator and that God wanted a relationship of love and obedience with His people. God was with the Hebrews in the sense that their ancestors included kings and prophets who had spoken to and seen God in various forms. With the birth of Jesus it was possible to see and know exactly what God would be like in human form. The Gospel of John begins with an overview of the life of Jesus that is very basic, very simple and very profound.

1. God was in the world
Jesus presence on earth in bodily form is a historical fact. There is written evidence from non-Christian sources. There is also a great body of historical evidence from the Gospel and Epistle writers and from the stories of the early martyrs. The stories of the martyrs is circumstantial evidence that something very special was going on after Jesus death. The evidence points to the conclusion that God the creator was present with the created.

  • Christianity is not just someone’s idea of God. Christianity is not a philosophy.
  • Christianity is a revealed religion that was revealed historically and is still being revealed to the faithful. It is about real people, real healings and lives that were changed. The stories are either true or not true.
  • Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in a special way, was condemned for blasphemy and went to His death believing he truly was God with us. It was either true or a fraud.
  • Cannot rationally argue that Jesus was just a great teacher or good man. He was either God with us, a fraud or or mentally ill.
2. God was not recognized or received
The Gospels tell us that most people, including most of the religious leaders did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. This lead directly to his execution for blasphemy – for presumably claiming to be god when you are not god.