Posts Tagged ‘Opposition’

A Piece of that Peace 3-20-16

This morning’s sermon for Palm Sunday comes from Luke 19:28-40. This is the story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, and features the only gospel account of opposition within the crowd during his entry into the city. I explore the basis of that opposition.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/a-piece-of-that-peace-3-20-16

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

If you get a group of people together who are familiar with the Christmas story and ask them to list out the details of that story…just spit-balling off the top of their heads…inevitably before the list is complete someone will mention Mary riding a donkey into Bethlehem. I have seen this time and again…most recently a few months back when our Adult Bible study bumped into the Christmas story.

Now in itself this isn’t a bad thing at all…there’s only one catch…nowhere in the gospel narrative…not even in a single gospel account…do we actually hear that Mary and Joseph have a donkey on their trip between Nazareth and Bethlehem. While its certainly possible that there was a donkey in tow…the scriptures never mention it.

And so ever since that discussion…there has been an ongoing joke within the group about that blasted donkey…but today’s gospel lesson offers the reprieve…and even though Mary didn’t have a donkey…30 odd years later…Jesus rode one into town. (pause)

All kidding aside, the setting for today’s story is a familiar one…Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry…as Jesus parades into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey…heralded by shouts of joy and hosanna…with people laying their cloaks on the road before him and waving their palms around…BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD….Blessed is the king. (pause)

Certainly this is one of those stories that we have heard before isn’t it? We celebrate this day every year on the church calendar…the lectionary texts highlight it to kick off Holy Week every year…all four gospels feature it in one form or another…and in a rare instance…all four gospels are fairly consistent with the details…but…as per usual with stories featured across the board…not everything is the same is it…and so allow me to point out a couple of differences.

The first one is simply a humorous observation…here in Luke, when Jesus instructs the two disciples to go find the donkey…there is no indication that once the Lord is done with it, he will send it back…it seems that here in Luke, the donkey remains with Jesus…in short, Jesus hijacks the donkey…perhaps to make up for the lack of his mother’s donkey 30 years prior. (pause)

Secondly…and much more serious…the opposition from the Pharisees. Luke alone lists opposition here at the triumphal entry…Matthew and Mark and John…all three of them simply list out the celebration…the joy of Jesus entering the city…and its only in the encounters that come after this that we hear of the religious elite stirring up trouble…But that’s not the case here in Luke…and we hear in the midst of the celebration…the Pharisees…the Biblical Bad-Guys…pull Jesus aside to try to get him to hush up the crowd. “Teacher…rebuke your disciples.”

Now this raises the question of what they are opposing. And if we shoot from the hip on this one…perhaps it seems that they are simply carrying on with their regular response to Jesus…opposing his message…opposing him…and simply sitting there on their Pharisee-high horse. That’s par for the course for this group of people isn’t it?

But what if that wasn’t in fact the case…and what if there was actually something else going on? (pause) That brings me to the last difference here in Luke’s account that isn’t present in the other gospels…the actual words that the crowd is joyfully shouting to the rooftops as Jesus rides into town…Blessed is the king. (pause) Luke not only features the Pharisees squawking…trying their best to hush every one up…but its also the only time that the crowds use the word…king. (pause)

Now at first glance this may not seem like a huge deal…but allow me to set the stage again. Jesus is coming into Jerusalem…which we all know…it is the site of the temple…and as such is the center of the Jewish culture…it is the religious center…and for them, their religious life is tied 100% together with all things political…going all the way back to King David…the one who established Jerusalem as the capital…and laid plans for the temple to be built in the first place.

So that’s where Jesus is coming into…and the timing it pretty important as well…for Jesus is coming into the Passover celebration…one of the three big important festivals in the Jewish culture…and now think about what Passover celebrates in the first place…the time when God freed the Israelites from slavery and oppression at the hands of Egypt…in short…this is a festival that celebrates new freedom…and it is attended by countless Jewish people from all over the known world. (pause)

And one more point…consider the known world at the time…this was the height of the Roman Empire…and Rome controlled everything…including Jerusalem. (pause) And here’s the thing about Rome…once an area and culture was conquered…they fell under something called the Roman Peace…which essentially meant that if you kept your head down…and paid your taxes…and didn’t interfere or talk back…they would pretty much leave you alone…but on the flip side…if you opposed them…well then the Romans weren’t quite so nice.

Now, what do you think they would do if suddenly this little backwater part of the empire suddenly crowned a new a king…and started rallying around this guy, who their religion taught them would toss the oppressors out on their keisters. Something tells me that wouldn’t go over very well.

And so here we are…in Jerusalem…at the start of a festival that celebrates liberation from oppression…and giant crowds have gathered to do just that…and so the Romans bring in tons of re-enforcements including the Governor himself…this guy you may heard of named Pilate…and now…this random dude attracts a crowd of his own, who are chanting about him being the coming King…and not only that, but riding a donkey which just so happens to fulfill the ancient prophecies about how the anointed king would enter into the city. (pause)

Sorta sounds like trouble is brewing doesn’t it? Sorta sounds like the very thing that might just end that Roman Peace that was in effect…sounds like the very thing that might end up bringing the Roman Army down upon them.

And considering all that…who among the Jewish culture would be the ones to realize all this? The cultural leaders perhaps? Those who are prominent in society? Like maybe…some of the religious leaders…the Pharisees perhaps? (pause)

What if the Pharisees…when they tell Jesus “Teacher, rebuke your disciples” they aren’t trying to hush the crowds into denying Jesus…but maybe, just maybe…they were trying to protect them…maybe, despite their error…they actually have Israel’s best interest in mind here…and they are trying to maintain the peace…or at least the peace found in their current status quo. Maybe they actually have good intentions. (pause)

But you know what they say…the road to hell is paved with good intentions. (pause) Because in the end, what happens…First off, Jesus tells them that if the people don’t celebrate his arrival then the rocks will cry out…that even nature recognizes that something big is happening…and there is no stopping it.

But then, Jesus goes on his way…he enters the city…reeks further havoc when he goes into the temple and drives out the merchants…but then spends the next few days sitting there in the temple teaching the crowds. The Romans don’t seem to care…and in fact, its not until the religious leaders trump up false accusations against him at the end of the week that the Romans even get involved…and when they do…they don’t really want to do anything. (pause)

I say all of this…because the fragile peace that the Pharisees were trying to protect…was simply an illusion…there was no peace…they were simply keeping their heads down to avoid the display of power on the part of the biggest schoolyard bully that existed at the time…40 years later…their illusion of peace was gone when Rome utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. (pause)

But Jesus was up to something more…and he knew it…he wasn’t coming into Jerusalem just to celebrate the Passover like a good Jewish man was expected to do…Jesus came to challenge the status quo…and to bring about true peace…not just the illusion of peace that exists here in our present reality…the illusion that disappears the instant someone feels the need to display their power.

Jesus was coming to accomplish something that had never happened before…and through the most violent, horrific, tragic torture and death that you can imagine…he brought about peace between God and humanity…he went through the ultimate darkness to reveal the light of life within our dark reality. (pause)

And maybe…just maybe, the Pharisees saw that coming…or maybe they didn’t and in the end all they were really trying to do was save their own skin…maintain their own illusion of safety…

Don’t we do the same? (pause) Don’t we love to live in denial…to keep our head’s down thinking that the status quo is the only way it can be? We hide from the light of God…because all too often we don’t like what light reveals.

Every morning, when the sun shines through the big east window over in the parsonage, I’m amazed at two things…to see just how dirty those windows are…and second at the amazing amount of dust and dirt that shows up when the light shines on it.

And this is true in our lives as well…because the light of the ultimate truth reveals those things that we’d rather keep out of sight and out of mind…those secrets that we keep…and society for us today…just like the Pharisees back in Jesus day…it dictates what is acceptable and what should remain hidden.

We all have these things…these painful secrets that we hide away…but I want you to know that Jesus desires that you be free of those things…that’s why the light entered the darkness…to drive it back…and take these burdens from us…whatever it is…addiction…mental illness…anger…sadness…depression…all of these things that society has deemed unacceptable…and so more often that not we hide them away…and put on the illusion of peace in our lives…but that’s all it is…an illusion.

But thanks be to God that Jesus took the darkness of the cross, revealing the true light of God…but more importantly revealing those things within us that we can’t hide from God. (pause) And despite those things about ourselves that we are ashamed of…those things that society says are unacceptable…God looks at us, and doesn’t see those things…God looks at us and sees one that he loves…one that he adores…one that he claims as his beloved…and there is nothing that will stand in the way of God making that claim upon us…that’s what Jesus shows us this week…that there is no length he will not go to for us…to establish the TRUE peace within our lives…and within our relationship with God.

And that gives me hope…hope in the face of that crap that lies back in the shadows of my life…hope in the presence of pain caused by the darkness within those that I care about…and even…hope in the face of this dark world that tries so hard to keep us in the status quo.

This hope found in Jesus is true peace…and while this does not ensure that our lives will be perfect…we cling to the hope and the joy that we find in knowing that we are loved and we are accepted…and that in the relationship between God and you…there is true peace.

I’ll take a piece…of that peace any day. Amen.

Advertisements

Maybe We Should Just Wipe the Dust Off 7-5-15

In this sermon I explore Mark 6:1-13. Jesus is rejected in his hometown and then sends out the disciples two by two. I also explore the reality of opposition to not only the gospel, but its presence in general within our society.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/maybe-we-should-just-wipe-the-dust-off-7-5-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

2 years ago…to the day…and almost to the exact minute…I drove into Underwood with the moving truck…we pulled up into the driveway at the parsonage and with a lot of help from congregational members, we unloaded to start our new life, and join together with you in the ministry here at Underwood Lutheran.

Its hard to believe that its been 2 years already. On one hand, two years sounds like a long time…but in reality, its not that long…not if you compare it with another celebration that’s going on this weekend. Independence Day…as the United States of America has now turned 239.

239 years…pushing two and a half centuries…and to us…that seems like an awfully long time doesn’t it? But, if we compare the longevity of our nation’s history with that of some of our European nations…America is pretty much a spritely teenager…wet behind the ears…and just getting started.

The various nations in Europe began emerging as the Roman Empire dwindled away…some as early as England back in the 10th Century…others over the course of the next 4 or 5 centuries…culminating right about the time that this random German monk got ticked off a the church at nailed 95 theses on the door of the chapel at the University of Wittenburg…sparking off what history has come to know as the Reformation. (pause)
Now with all this talk of history, perhaps we should switch gears to think about the history of the church itself…something that started round about 2000 years back with a Jewish carpenter turned traveling rabbi…and his rag tag cohort of 12 random ragamuffins…and throughout the years since then, history has watched this movement grow and expand…and throughout history, we have seen a cycle…that about every 500 years or so…something pretty major happens…something…pretty earthshattering in terms of the historical perspective.

The first go-round happened when the Roman Emporer, decided that he was sick of the old Roman gods…because there were way to may to keep track of…and so he converted to Christianity…bringing along the entire Roman Empire with him…pretty major expansion at this point…but it also brought with it all kinds of turmoil as literally millions of individuals, almost overnight, tried to change their theological mindset…and it took a while for the dust to settle.

Then we fast forwards aways…to round about the year 1000…when this little debacle known as the great schism occurred…and the single unified Christian church split…resulting in the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church…same God, same Savior Jesus Christ…but some pretty radical differences in the way they run things…and once again…the dust up was pretty major.

Now we fast forward again…to a moment that I mentioned earlier…the Reformation…when for the first time the availability of this radical new invention called the printing press…allowed materials to be mass produced…so that the ideas of the various reformers and their critics could spread around like wildfire…

Starting to see a pattern here? Would you be interested to know that 2017 will be the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses? (pause) And I don’t know about you…but it seems to me that, once again…we are in the midst of a pretty major dust up here in the realm of the church. (pause)
Now if history has taught us anything, its that the church, much like the mythical phoenix, always manages to rise up again with new life…but it usually takes a while for everything to settle down…often times a century or more…so I guess if history is truly cyclic…and we’ve really only been in the early stages of this major change for perhaps the past 10-20 years, depending on who you talk to…then we’ve got quite a while to go before things will really smooth out.

And in the mean time, we have to live in the craziness that comes with it…the new ideas clashing with the old ideas…old reliable verses innovation…all the while, listening to the various voices clamoring against one another. It is by no means a new concept…we just have a relatively new way of both listening to, as well as ourselves participating in the conversation.

And I’m talking about the advent of the internet…our online presence…spearheaded most predominantly within the world of social media. (pause) Its both wonderful and horrible all at the same time. It’s a blessing and a curse. We can connect with one another and share all kinds of information…We can find like-minded people and speak with passion about whatever topic we choose, and likewise we can either find…or be found…by those who oppose us…often times with utterly hateful, venomous comments. (pause)

And the past couple of weeks have certainly provided a lot of real world fodder for the social media spectrum hasn’t it? (pause, and take this slow) Charleston SC shootings…which led to questions of racial tension…outrage both against and for the presence of the Confederate flag flying high…followed almost immediately by the Supreme Court’s divisive…and equally divided…decision on marriage equality in this country…which has led to more rainbow pictures on Facebook that anyone can count…then smacked back with American Flag pictures…all the while postings of passionate people, on both sides of every single coin imaginable…listing out reasons to love, or to hate…of being persecuted, or of finally being accepted…posting after posting…picture after picture…meme after meme…and each one more self-righteous than the last…and each one seemingly rooted in the notion that I’m right…or I’m entitled to my position…or to borrow a phrase from that German Monk…Here I stand, I can do no other. (pause)
I sat at my computer late in the week, getting absolutely bombarded with this as I was working on this sermon this week…and while I recognize and fully support in every way our 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech…to the freedom bought and paid for by the blood of those who served to win America our Freedom two and half centuries ago…I also got to the point where the noise was just too much and I just wanted to tell EVERYONE all over social media to just…shut…up already. (pause)

If you agree, that’s fine…if you disagree, that’s fine too…there’s no right, no wrong…no definitive answer to the multitude of issues that we are facing in our society today…some of us see recent events as progress…others as attacks on their way of life…some see the lack of progress in social matters, others think we’ve come so far…and in the end, it seems like no one really wins…and all we do is argue about who’s to blame for it. (pause)
Life…is full of controversy…its full of doubt…and different opinions…and different experiences…and there is no one constant that anyone can agree on to cling to in all this…and while those of us sitting here this morning might name God as a constant…there are those out there…many of whom seem to find their way to my facebook feed…who will argue that point with us…This…is…our reality. (pause)

This has been dominating my attention this week as I worked with the gospel text out of Mark…two, seemingly disconnected stories partnered up together simply because of their proximity in the gospel, and the thought that 6 verses isn’t enough for a lesson and so we better double it.

Jesus is rejected in his hometown…and then the disciples go out two by two…What do those have to do with one another? And perhaps the other question you are, I’m guessing…asking yourselves right now…what do they have to do with all this stuff that I’ve been up here squawking about for the past few minutes? (pause)

I was going round and round…asking myself that very same question…but then in the midst of texting my wife…trying to explain my frustration at the distraction of all the online hub-ub…I realized that there is a connection…and here’s the first one.

Jesus goes home…to the place that should be the most familiar to him…the place that’s safe…family is there…and friends…people who have known him his entire life…perhaps your hometown is like that…a small intimate place where everyone knows you…and if you’re part of a certain family, you’re related to ¾’s of the town.

That seems to be the case for Jesus…he steps into the synagogue…and though Mark doesn’t give us all the detail, we hear from the other gospels that he shares a reading from the Prophet Isaiah and then proceeds to preach to these well-known people how its all about him…and they…freak out.

Jesus…Dude…we know you…you’re a carpenter…that’s your mom right there…we know your brothers and your sisters…We know better. (pause) Mark tells us that they took offense at him…which is a really nice way of saying that they tried to take him out and throw him off a cliff. (pause) And so, connection number one…we see here that the gospel has ALWAYS been one of those things that people get up in arms about…they either accept it…or they scoff at it…and if the people that knew Jesus best had trouble with it…it should come as no great shock that we also encounter people…sometimes those we are closest to…who will scoff at the message that we share…whether it’s the gospel or any other topic that we throw up a post about on Facebook.

Now stick with me…because this first part also connects to the second part…remember who was with Jesus as he headed home? The disciples…they traipsed along behind, and I found myself wondering just why Mark felt the need to share that with us…and then I realized just what the disciples had been doing up to that point…they were tailing Jesus…observing…watching the miracles, seeing the healings…listening to the preaching and the proclamation…and that included seeing this moment of intense opposition…and it was all in preparation for what Jesus had in store for them next.

Because directly following this encounter at home, that nearly resulted in death by unintentional cliff-diving…Jesus seems to shrug his shoulders…and move on to the other villages…doing more of the same…and in the midst of doing just that…he sends the disciples out…two by two…to do the exact…same thing.

And Jesus doesn’t sugar coat it…He sends them with no supplies other than a walking stick…totally dependent on the hospitality of those they will encounter…to proclaim the gospel…to preach the good news that through Jesus, the kingdom has come near…that forgiveness for sin is possible…that a renewed relationship with God is now possible…and as they had witnessed just prior to this…they will encounter opposition…they will encounter people who will scoff…people who will laugh…people who are so set in their ways because of their experience that they are completely unable to listen to the message that the disciples are sharing.

And what does Jesus tell them to do in these moments? Wipe off the dust from your sandals…and head off to the next town. Which to me sorta sounds like that old saying “water off a ducks back.” (pause)
People are going to disagree with you…people are going to oppose you…some openly, some secretly…but rest assured its going to happen…and when you start talking about something as life altering as the gospel…something as life changing as becoming a NEW CREATION in the eyes of God…well, not everyone is going to be ready to hear that.

And that…is…ok. So in those moments when we encounter the noise…the opposition…maybe all we can do is shrug our shoulders…kick the dust off our sandals…and move onto the next thing…to the next encounter…and we’ll see how that goes…We can’t control the response of the other…that’s not up to us…we can’t change their opinion any more than we can change their experience which has led them to that opinion in the first place.

But what can we do in the mean time? Well…love God…love your neighbor…and maybe log out of facebook when the noise gets a little too much…and maybe if we can all start doing that…then it won’t get quite so noisy…and maybe by the grace of God, then we can start to have a real conversation. Amen.

What Will It Take 6-7-15

In this sermon I explore the opposition that Jesus faces early in his ministry as the experts try to explain away his deeds and discredit his message, even going so far as to saying that he is possessed by Satan. This story is found in Mark 3:20-35.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:
https://soundcloud.com/revdalen/what-will-it-take-6-7-15

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

There have been many times in the past that people have asked me “Pastor, what’s your favorite Bible story?” or a similar question of “What’s your favorite worship service through the year?” It’s difficult to narrow it down to any single event or story, because there are a lot of great ones, but if I was to try and offer any sort of answer to that question, I would have to offer my top 3, and say that they all sort of count. 2 of them are pretty obvious, Christmas and Easter…and the third one is the day of Pentecost.

And likely the reason that I love these three days and Bible stories so much is because the event that we celebrate on each day is just so unexpected. Who would ever expect God to become human…and yet at Christmas, that’s exactly what happens…And then, after God has become human…who could ever anticipate, even with a ton of warnings…that God would die…much less be raised from the dead? And yet through Holy Week and Easter…that, is exactly what happens…And then finally, who would ever expect that the power of God would flow through the world to embolden and in some way, even empower regular people to do amazing things…and yet at Pentecost, that’s exactly what happens.

And as today is the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, that particular one should be pretty fresh in our memories…complete with my warm fuzzy feelings of having led worship and preached on that amazing story…except that I don’t have those warm fuzzies…because as you may recall I was gone on vacation that weekend…Bummer…

But then I read this week’s gospel lesson and I remember thinking to myself…wow…this sounds sorta familiar…this sorta sounds like Pentecost…just a touch anyway…because here we have someone…empowered by God, well, because it is God in this case…proclaiming the gospel that the kingdom has come near…and not only that but he’s been performing amazing deeds, displaying the power of God within him, as he casts out demons and heals the sick over and over again…attracting large crowds…and within those crowds…dissention…opposition…and finally…people who make incredibly bizarre statements trying to explain away what’s going on. (pause)

Sounds about like Pentecost right? (pause) Maybe today’s lesson is God’s way of offering me a make-up date after missing Pentecost.

Here we are, quite early on in Mark’s gospel…coming back around to Mark after quite a few weeks away from it…and now, here at the beginning of the season of Pentecost, as we slowly march through the theme of the church growth through the ages…we see Jesus, early in his ministry…he really hasn’t been around the block that long, but he’s making a stir…attracting attention…and with it, of course, opposition.

And I’ve often sat and wondered why…what is it about the gospel that Jesus is proclaiming that’s so darn offensive…or scandalous…or controversial? (pause)

There must be something…because the opposition that he’s facing here is pretty major…we hear that his family has come to try and slam the brakes on what he’s doing…even going so far as to saying “he’s out of his mind.” (pause) And then…to add insult to injury…the scribes come in from Jerusalem…these individuals who are the EXPERTS in the law of Moses…EXPERTS in the proper theology of the day…these guys come in…to make the final ruling.

Because think about what Jesus has been doing…in addition to preaching a simple message that the kingdom has come near…he’s been healing and casting out demons…and huge crowds have witnessed it…and no one can discount that he is, in fact doing these things…he’s no simple charlatan putting on parlor tricks…and so they’ve reached two possible conclusions…that either this is some dark magic, or its from God…but when the experts come in, and they find teachings contrary to what they’ve always believed…well that can’t be right can it…and so they deduce that surely he is possessed of Satan…the lord of the demons…and THAT, is how is does these things (pause).

Isn’t this all a little crazy as we sit here and think about it today…to think that the so called experts in the things that pertain to God would mess this up so badly…would mis-interpret, or mis-judge what they were witnessing…and perhaps even more shocking than that…that Jesus own family and friends from his hometown are trying to do the exact same thing…these are the people that should be supporting him…and yet they don’t…and because they can’t explain it away…they make excuses…which to me anyway, seem really petty and foolish…and so as I read this story today and think about this confrontation, I find myself wondering just what is it about the gospel of Jesus Christ that they find so offensive? (pause)

Whatever it is…whatever irritates these people so much in this story…this story that happens so early on in the ministry of Jesus himself…it hasn’t gone away.

Sometimes its easy to forget about the opposition to the Gospel…at least it is for me personally. I get to stand here in front of you week after week and talk openly about the Good News of Jesus Christ…I get to speak openly about the nature of confession and forgiveness…about how God became human…lived, died, and rose again and not worry that someone is going to stand up and debate me…or worse yet…accuse me of being possessed by the mortal enemy of the one that I represent….but I’m here preaching to the choir as they say.

But what about those times when we step out of these doors. Let’s face it, most of spend all of a couple hours a week inside these walls and we live our lives out there…among everyone else. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people disagree with us. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people don’t care about the message of Christ. Sometimes, inside these walls, we forget that some people think we are delusional…crazy…paranoid people that cling to a ridiculous notion that there is a loving God out there that chose to take our place in death and punishment.

But don’t be fooled. We live in a world that is, unfortunately, very cynical. We live in a world filled with people that have turned their backs on the savior of humanity…some of them know and some of them don’t…and that is a sad, sad reality. A reality that the church has faced since the beginning…and a reality that God has faced much longer than that.

The reality, both 2000 years ago and all the way through our history up to today, is that some many people will go to any lengths to discredit the Gospel of Jesus Christ…any length. Whether its presenting scientific proof that the world is millions of years old…or to say that no amount of squinting our eyes shut tight and sending out our positive brainwaves towards the giant policeman in the sky will ever change things for anyone…there are people who will oppose us. They may do it in pleasant debate and conversation, or they may ridicule our beliefs by calling us weak minded fools and Bible beaters and church freaks, or they may do it by hijacking a plane and flying it into a building killing thousands of innocent people.

We can ask the question all day long…Why God? Why does Jesus offend? Why aren’t people open to the best news…the news despite our brokenness…despite our inability to overcome our own sinful natures…despite all that you chose to live and die so to overcome it. WHY!?!

(pause)

This is an age old question. Why is something that seems so simple and so wonderful so hard to accept? What will it take to convince these people? When will it be enough? When will they come around? Will they? Are they doomed? Is humanity as a whole just too far gone?

(pause)

This is a question that has been around for a very long time…its been around since the foundation of the church through Jesus and disciples…and it occurred within the days of the prophets as well…and we hear from the prophet Joel many years before Jesus lived that “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on ALL people.” ALL PEOPLE. Men, women, young and old, slaves and free…ALL PEOPLE…In the last days.

But what do we do in the mean time? How do we get from now till those last days? (pause) Well today, Jesus simply tells us to do the will of God…and the funny thing is that in Mark’s gospel, the will of God is never revealed…and about the closest thing we get to answer for this question is simply to follow Christ to the best of our abilities…and yes we will stumble and fall…we will have our failings…and when we do we simply confess them and cling to the grace of God for forgiveness. (pause)
We do this each and every day…and one day people will understand. One day people will stop making excuses…they’ll stop poking fun…they’ll stop the snide comments…they’ll stop the hate because they’ll understand the love…the love of God in Christ Jesus…ONE DAY!!!
And so we pray for that day…and we ask that God would pour out his spirit upon us now…a spirit of boldness…a spirit of patience…a spirit of understanding…but most importantly a spirit of love for our neighbors…for those neighbors that do not understand…for those neighbors that are still offended by the good news.

We pray that this same spirit would fall upon them so that they would understand…and just as 2000 years of our church history has done, we continue to stand strong in the faith that God has granted…living in the promise that God has given us that he is always with us…and will always be with us…despite the opposition that we face. And be encouraged because it is exactly these times that the Spirit is…at…work…in and through you. If it was not true then the church would have died out with those first followers of Christ. If the spirit was not at work, then the church would not exist…but look around…you exist…the church…exists.

So don’t sit idly by…listen to the Spirit at work within you. Use the gifts that the spirit has given you…let God use you…and one day…one glorious day…every knee will bow and every tongue WILL confess…that Jesus is Lord.

Amen.