I Will Hold Up Your Head

Date: September 24, 2017 Author: Rev. Dr. Steve Sweet

I Will Hold Up Your Head is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Steve Sweet is preaching on Psalm 3. It is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.
O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me; many are saying to me,
“There is no help for you in God.” Selah

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah

I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

Rise up, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

Deliverance belongs to the LORD; may your blessing be on your people! Selah

Longing for Home

Date: September 17, 2017 Author: Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley

Longing for Home is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley is preaching on Psalm 84. It is the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

This evening Laguna Presbyterian Church will celebrate it’s 100th Anniversary with a Gala and Silent Auction (proceeds to benefit the capital reserves and expenses of LPC) at the Hotel Laguna.

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“Longing for Home” – Psalm 84, Sermon by Dr. Jerry Tankersley

On our first visit to Jerusalem in 1971 we landed at the Lod Airport in Tel Aviv. In those days the planes parked on the tarmac of the runway and unloaded the passengers to wait for the trams to deliver them to the terminal, which was a much smaller building than is there now. In 1972 the airport was renamed Ben Gurion International.

As we waited and watched many Jewish rabbis and pilgrims, we were touched by what we saw. As soon as they moved out from the plane many of them bowed on their hands and knees and offered up prayers of thanksgivings for having arrived in the Holy Land.  They kissed the ground.  They had returned to their spiritual home, the Promised Land, the land of kings, priests, prophets, and people devoted to the way of the Lord.

As Gentile Christians we were one with them in Spirit. After a year of intensively studying the Old and New Testaments of the Bible using the Bethel Bible Study materials, our group was on a pilgrimage  to our spiritual history and place.    As we left the airport and drove up to Jerusalem we read the road signs with familiar biblical names and places.  Excitement grew!

At last when we turned into the old city we saw the golden Dome of the Rock that sits atop the very place where King Solomon and Herod the Great built their Temple’s of the Lord. The Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the 7th century A.D. and have believed this was the place from which Mohammed ascended to heaven. Pious Jews believed this was Mt. Moriah where Abraham offered up his son, Isaac, but where the Lord provided the sacrificial animal as a substitute for the promised son.

Jews, Muslims, and Christians hold these grounds to be sacred. Today, the State of Jordan administers the site.  Israeli military are all around this holy hill.  Palestinian intifadas have begun on this hill because the wrong people entered where they were not welcome.  To say the least the eyes and ears of the Middle East are open to Mt. Zion and to the religious history it represents.

This was and is the very center of Israel’s universe of spiritual meaning, the source of its identity and the promise of its destiny. The remaining Western Wall of the foundation of Herod’s Temple is where people from around the world come to say prayers and to write them on pieces of paper to place them into the cracks of the wall. The Rabbi’s Tunnel allows the pilgrim to go to the depths of the Temple’s foundation.  At the place closest to the Temple’s Holy of Holies, people pray 24/7.  Many Jews pray that one day the Temple of their God will be rebuilt on Mt. Zion.  But such an effort would ignite a religious war that would likely consume the Middle East.

In 1971 and each time I have come into the old city my heart has jumped within me. As a pilgrim I was coming home to the City of God for which I had developed a growing longing.

In December 2009 when our congregation entered the newly restored sanctuary of Laguna Presbyterian Church, many of us felt like spiritual pilgrims who had come home to holy ground where our house of prayer had stood since 1928. The longing to return was deeper than I had imagined.  We had rebuilt this Temple of the Lord from the foundation up.  We studied; we planned; we argued; we prayed; we consulted engineering authorities and architects; we worked with liturgical architects; we gathered in homes to interpret; we worked through anxieties and fears; we sought to raise the funds necessary to rebuild this house of prayer; we processed doubts and angers that new pews would ruin the space; we moved through the Great Recession in 2008, just when we had stripped the building down to its boney skeleton.  We lamented and longed to see our way clear to the completion of the project; we watched with joy as the bell tower cupola was lifted high above the city. It seemed unimaginable that the final cost would be $14 million to restore this light house of the gospel on this south coast of Orange County.

I was not ready for the wave of emotion that gripped by throat and soul on that coming home Sunday in December 2009. I think we all felt the same.  Tears of thanksgiving and joy came from my eyes.  I could barely speak, as I looked out upon you the gathered congregation, a sense of holy awe came over me and rose up within me from the depths of my heart.  A mighty work of God had happened at the center of our city.  In the midst of this secular and good city God’s people in the power of love and gratitude had rebuilt the house of God more beautiful than ever.  Wow!

This past June when we announced that we had made the final payment of the $7 million dollar construction loan we had a standing and joyous applause in the first hour of worship. God had been faithful to us; heaven was rejoicing with us; the people of God, inspired by the Spirit of God had done far more than all we could ask or imagine.

So we will gather this evening at the Hotel Laguna to celebrate the faithfulness of God during these 100 years of our history on this 2nd and Forest corner of Laguna Beach, in this building, with many saints who have loved this Temple of the Lord.

Psalm 84 is a perfect prayer for us this day.

First, because Psalm 84 reflects on the inner longings of spiritual pilgrims on their way home.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” Ps. 84:1-2

Psalm 42 witnessed to this longing for home, for thirst assuaging water:

“As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” Ps. 42:1-2

In the Garden of Gethsemane there is a church at the base of the Mt. of Olives just below the old city of Jerusalem.  The front of the church faces up to Mt. Zion and the site of the Temple.  Atop the front of the church is the sculpture of two deer with huge antlers.  The deer’s heads and eyes are stretched upward to the heavens.  The cross of Christ stands at the center of the artwork.  The cross was planted on a globe of planet earth.  The deer on either side of the earth look up to the cross. The church is called the “Church of All Nations” or the “Basilica of the Agony” built over the rock where Jesus prayed on the night in which he was arrested in the Garden.  It is a reminder that the nations are on a pilgrimage, like the deer, in search of living spiritual waters. This is the longing that inspires our spiritual journeys that promise to lead us to the wellspring of life.

I believe that all of humanity is on a spiritual pilgrimage longing to see to the depths of reality, to have their hearts filled with the Spirit of some faith, hope, and love that may sustain their lives. The symptoms of this longing are everywhere. Humanity experiences a God shaped vacuum in its soul.  We try to fill that empty space with money, sex, and power.

A narcissistic generation searches for more. When we do not find it, we experience spiritual pain and longing that moves from our souls into our bodies.  So we seek to ease the pain and to forget the longing.  We drink more alcohol; we eat more food; we buy larger houses; we ingest greater amounts of painkillers.  We become addicted to oxycontin or to other opioids.  The suicide rate goes up; the violence increases; new religions and philosophies are considered. The marketplace seeks to sell us all kinds of things, remedies, and trips to momentarily satisfy our longings.  But when we return the same insatiable longing returns. Getting in touch with your inner longing for peace, for justice, for wholeness, for love, for joy, and hope is the awareness that makes the pilgrimage conscious to us.

Therefore, we begin the pilgrimage to the house of God seeking to satisfy our longing with good news.

Secondly, Psalm 84 teaches us about what happens inside our hearts and minds while we journey.

“Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” Ps. 84:5

When I first read C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, I realized I was reading my story and the story of my pilgrimage out of the shadow lands into the reality of the New Heavens and the New Earth.  Remember that story?  The shadow lands of unreality had been our dwelling place. Yet there was a growing awareness that we lived in a region of hell. Soon we were invited to take a bus to the Higher Country of Heaven.

The problem was that when the shadows reached the bus station at the entrance to heaven, they did not like what they saw or heard. In fact, those who left the bus found themselves walking on green grass that was painful to walk upon. Many turned back and took the bus returning to the shadow lands. At every step on this highway leading further up and further in to reality a strengthening was required that produced some discomfort.  But the higher up one traveled the more real one became.

I believe Lewis was telling us about our difficult pilgrimage as Christians who are in a process of transformation in which we progressively die to sin in order to come alive in the resurrection Spirit of Jesus Christ. Like the Apostle Paul who died to his previous ambitions within his Jewish community in order that he might know Jesus Christ and share his suffering and  death in order to be raised to resurrection life.

I began to realize that the “highways to Zion” were the highways being paved into my heart and mind. “Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”

What is it that launches us on this highway? The Psalmist tells us:

“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of host, happy is everyone who trusts in you.” Ps. 84:10-12

The highway to Zion leads us through the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. The highway takes us through the Temple on Mt. Zion, and unto the hill called Golgotha and the empty tomb of Easter morning.  It leads us into the Jerusalem of the Day of Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the resurrected Christ was poured out upon the church.  The journey will take us into the reality of heaven and earth no longer overlapping and interconnecting at the thin places of our earth, but to the reality in which they have become one in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

For this we long. The Holy Spirit bears witness within our hearts to this longing deep in our souls.  We are the children of God right now, redeemed, reconciled, forgiven, and fitted for the journey to higher ground.  In the meantime we wait in the presence and power of the living Lord as the journey continues.

One of my heroes is N.T. Wright, Bishop in the Church of England and scholar at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He wrote a book on the Psalms: The Case for the Psalms. When he spoke of Psalm 84 he said it was about “practicing the presence of God: making time for God, making space for him in our busy lives. That’s always hard, and I remember it being hard for me. There were many things I wanted to do, many plans and ambitions and hopes and possibilities” (The Case for the Psalms, N.T. Wright,177).

No good thing: it doesn’t say that the Lord will not withhold many things that we want, or that we think we ought to have, or that will satisfy our ambitions. He will indeed withhold many of those.  But he will not withhold any good thing—‘from those who walk uprightly,’ who make God’s kingdom and his way of life the central focus (177).

No good thing! I would simply add my testimony to Bishop Tom’s. If I had achieved all that I think I wanted, my life would had been a mess. God knew what I needed and what was for my good much better than I.

I close with Tom’s story about his father who came home from WW11 after spending 5 years in a German prisoner of war camp. When he died in March of 2011 Tom was going through his Dad’s letters and diaries from his life. He said he discovered that his Dad had been offered a good paying job in England’s Territorial Army.  However, at the same time he had been asked to be a churchwarden in the local church, taking responsibility for all sorts of things from ringing the bell for services to handing out books at the door, taking up the collection, and being part of the legal fabric of the parish.

Tom said his Dad had modeled for him Psalm 84 verse 10: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.”

“No good thing!”

What is it that launches us on such a journey? Is it not the vision of the New Jerusalem, of the new heaven and earth that John saw and wrote of in Revelation 21:1-5:

See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.  See I am making all things new.

By Dr. Jerry Tankersley

 

Seeing the Son

Date: September 10, 2017 Author: Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley

Seeing the Son is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley is preaching on Psalm 8. It is the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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Psalm 8, Seeing the Son by Dr. Jerry Tankersley

Last month I followed with great interest the total eclipse of the Sun. North America had a front row seat to the line of total darkness at midday from the Northwest to the Southeast. People came from around the world to observe this heavenly phenomenon as the earth’s moon blocked the light of the Sun from west to east.

We even felt it here. When the eclipse began I walked into my backyard to experience the midday changes. It was as if the color tone of the sky changed. The air felt different. It grew a bit cooler. You could tell that something was happening. I watched on television as the corona of the Sun was seen. People in the paths of darkness were in awe of this astronomical show.

People understood that the human eye could not look directly at the Sun without damage to the eye. Warnings were given over and over not to look at the Sun without the special glasses, the dark lens that allowed the human eye to watch the progress of the eclipse. The only time it was safe to remove the glasses was when the Sun was in total eclipse. It was then that people in the zone of totality began to see the corona of the Sun. It was awe-inspiring. It lasted a couple of minutes. Parents and children were busy putting on and taking off the glasses. As the Sun light was covered, the temperature changed and a cool breeze began to blow. Birds and animals considered finding their nests. We were reminded of how all of nature and humankind lives in the cycles of sunlight, of shadow and light as the earth moves around the center of the mysterious source of heat, cold, light, darkness, and of so many things that we take for granted, but which sustain our lives.

The universe still confronts humankind with the mysteries of light and darkness. We live in the continuum of time, space, and matter. We focus our eyes and crane our ears to see and to listen to the cosmos. We search for other signs of life, of intelligent beings, of civilizations. We hope to strike up some form of communication. Hopefully, space aliens, if there are any, will be friendly.

In 1977, NASA our space and science enterprise sent two Voyager spacecrafts a few days apart to survey our solar system and to travel into interstellar mystery. Voyager has been traveling for 40 years. It was reported that it is now 14 billion miles away from the earth and has moved into unseen, unexplored territory. Not long ago it sent a picture of planet earth back to us from billions of miles away. The earth was but a small blue dot with a black background. Awe-inspiring! Stimulating and exciting! Are there limits to time, to space, and to matter? Voyager was loaded with a solid gold digital record informing the heavens about planet earth, about who we are and the aspirations of our lives.

This to me is haunting. It leads me to wonder about reality. It invites me to lift my eyes to the heavens and to ponder the ancient philosophical and religious questions.

Is there a God? What about planet earth, the moon, the stars, the Sun, the Solar System, the Milky Way, and the Galaxies? What about the human race? Who are we? Why are we here? Are we just the result of an accidental evolutionary development?

We live; we question; we contemplate; we age; and then we die and return to the elements leaving behind the relics of our civilizations. Are we simply made of stardust, as Carl Sagan argued a few years ago? Is that the total explanation?

Are there any special lenses through which we may see into the depths of reality, into the mysteries? Does life have meaning, purpose, or destiny? If so, is there a magic glass through which we may see and hear beyond our natural capacity?

July 1969 was an exciting month. I’ll never forget watching our little black and white TV as the first men landed on earth’s moon. Kevin Adams reported in his book “150, Finding Your Story In The Psalms”, that after Neil Armstrong announced that the “the Eagle has landed” and then stepped on to the moon with these words, “one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind”, that Buzz Aldrin who was still in the Eagle lander took from his pack a bag prepared by his pastor that contained a small flask of wine, a chalice, and some wafers. On the surface of the moon he celebrated communion. It was a sacramental moment.

Michael Collins who was in the command module orbiting the moon affirmed that the accomplishment was the result of thousands of highly skilled people and the work of all humanity. Then he said, “Speaking personally, the events of the last few days call to mind a verse from Psalm 8, ‘When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the Moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou art mindful of him?”

Is there a lens through which the human eye can see in order to know and experience reality? It is not the lens that many wore during the Sun’s eclipse to protect the eye! No, the lens that allows us to see and to interpret reality is none other than the Scriptures of Israel and the Church. It is the lens of the Psalms. It is this beautiful poetry, when illumined by the Holy Spirit, that allows us see and to know the revelation of the Truth.

This Psalm empowers us to see, to hear, and to believe the foundational realities of the cosmos.

1) First, we see the great reality of the Sovereign Creator God of the cosmos.

When the Soviet cosmonaut flew into space early in the space exploration race he looked out the capsule in which he had escaped earth’s gravity and did not see God. Therefore, he proclaimed this was evidence there was no god.

What was defective in his seeing? He did not have the lens of Scripture through which to see and properly interpret. He was not a man of faith. What he needed was the witness of Psalm 8: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” Psalm 8:l, 9

Did you see the full moon last week? While walking our dog I snapped pictures with my iPhone. The heavens were witnessing to the Sovereign power of God.
The 12 disciples who followed Jesus, even though they were raised within Israel with Israel’s Scriptures had difficulty in seeing Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of the promises given to Israel.

Many of the religious authorities had the same difficulties. Even Jesus’ hometown synagogue friends did not believe he was Israel’s Messiah. They read their Scriptures with eyes and ears that needed to be opened to the truth of the incarnate Holy One of Israel.

On the road to Emmaus the two disciples walked with the resurrected Jesus and did not recognize him. Their worldview assumptions would not allow them to see. It was only as the resurrected Jesus interpreted the law, the prophets, and the psalms that their minds, ears, hearts, and eyes were opened to see and to believe. Their hearts were burning as he opened the Scriptures to them. When he broke the bread and gave it to them their eyes, their minds, their souls were opened to see and to believe that the resurrected Jesus was with them. It was a sacramental moment of revelation.

For those who watched the Sun’s total eclipse through the lens of biblical faith it was not the dark lenses of the eyeglasses through which they viewed the Sun that they comprehended the mystery of the cosmos. It is one thing to have a scientific explanation for the facts of the heavens and the earth. But it is another thing to see through the eyes of faith that the cosmos was created by the Holy One of Israel and that His love is the clue that holds it all together.

When the Apostle Paul witnessed to the Athenian elders, this is what he witnessed:

As I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. He is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:22-31)

In his pre-Christian life he would have regarded this statement to be false. It was only as he allowed the resurrected Christ to interpret Israel’s Scriptures that his eyes were opened to the reality of the reign of God within the created order.
The Psalmist invites us to see and to believe that the Lord Reigns as Sovereign God and that His name is majestic in all the earth.

2) Secondly, through Psalm 8 we see the glory and the limitation of the human.

Psalm 8 is a hymn of thankful praise to God for creating human life on planet earth. See and hear anew:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth. (Psalm 8:3-6)

This Psalm interprets Genesis 1 and 2. It is a confession of faith that the Lord created all that is by the power of His Word and Spirit. The crown of His creation was the human male and female both made in the image of God and entrusted with a stewardship responsibility to represent God’s sovereign rule. Then God said that the creation was very good.

In the second creation story of Genesis 2 God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the mortal became a living being called to choose life as God’s co-regent. What dignity and glory. “Made a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor, with all things under their feet.” (Ps. 8:5-6)

Psalm 8 also knew Genesis 3. The psalmist knew that the mortals had chosen to fall away from the Creator. Sin and death had entered the cosmos through the misuse of human freedom. In prideful self-exaltation, the humans declared themselves as gods and chose to live without relationship with their Creator. The consequences were profound.

The image of God was clouded. Violence filled the earth. They were driven from the tree of life. They lived East of Eden in a world broken by disobedience. Humankind needed rescued from their rebellion and spiritual bondage. Death became their end.

The preacher of Hebrews saw the deeper meaning of the Psalm.

“As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to the humans, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Hebrews 2)

When I began to pray the Psalms, I began to see my own glory in Christ, but also the fallen-ness and bondage of my life. More than ever before, the Psalms drew me to Jesus. I began to see my God given value and at the same time to see my need for God, for God to do for me what I could not do for myself. In Christ God made atonement for my sins and reconciled me to the Father. Through the power of his Spirit a new relationship with God was begun and the hope of resurrection life restored.

All our enemies have not yet been put under our feet, but they have been defeated at the cross of Jesus. Therefore, we wait and we pray in hope of seeing the fullness of the New Creation with Christ at the center, with sin and death no more, with every tear wiped away, with the fruits of the Spirit growing on the Tree of Life in every believer’s life.

Around 30 years ago I began to daily pray the Psalms, the prayer book of Jesus. The Psalms connected me with God’s story, with Israel’s story, with Jesus’ story, and the church’s story––indeed, with creation’s story of salvation. I learned and came to believe that the Living Lord adopted me into His family story and declared me to be one of his children destined to inherit all the promises of God, born anew into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and into an imperishable inheritance.

Such a blessing! This is why I am encouraging us each this fall 2017 to accept this spiritual rule for your daily journey. Pray the Psalms. Pray all 150 of them over a month’s time, even if you do not understand some of them. Someday you will. Let these prayers teach you to pray. Let the Psalms shape the mind of Christ within you and us. The Psalms will instruct us and transform us. They will bless us and introduce us to the blessedness of the kingdom of God. They will become the lens through which we see and believe the power of the Son.

By Dr. Jerry Tankersley

Start at the Very Beginning

Date: September 3, 2017 Author: Rev. Dr. Jeff McCrory

Start at the Very Beginning is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Jeff McCrory is preaching on Psalm 1. It is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. We are celebrating Communion this morning.

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Set Free!

Date: August 27, 2017 Author: Rev. Dr. Kathy Sizer

Set Free! is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Kathy Sizer is preaching on Acts 12. It is the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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Grace Changes Everything

Date: August 20, 2017 Author: Rev. Dr. Steve Sweet

Grace Changes Everything is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Steve Sweet is preaching on Acts 11:19ff. It is the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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Does God Play Favorites?

Date: August 13, 2017 Author: Beth Pinney

Does God Play Favorites is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Beth Pinney (Worship Leader) is preaching on Acts 10:34-48. It is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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DOES GOD PLAY FAVORITES?
Introduction and Background to the Scripture – Acts 10:34-48
If you are visiting with us this morning, we have been on this journey through the Book of Acts since the first Sunday in May and we will conclude this series on the last Sunday of this month, with Acts chapter 12.

But this morning we find ourselves at the end of Acts 10:34-48. Before I read those verses, let me give a synopsis of what has happened up to this section. Last Sunday, We meet Saul, a Jewish Pharisee, on his way to Damascus, when the Lord, had other plans for him! Saul’s life was transformed as the Risen Christ met him on the road. Paul, instead is no longer the persecutor of the Church of Christ, Paul, is now Proclaimer of Jesus, God’s only Son, the fulfillment of the Torah, the one who forgives sins, not by our works, but by his grace. Paul will spend the rest of his life proclaiming this One Gospel of Grace by faith in Christ.

With Paul no longer persecuting the Church (and now finding himself now suffering persecution, he flees with help if the disciples to Tarsus), we are told that the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers. At this time…the Church is made up of Jewish Christians, but all of that is about to change!

Now…we are about to meet two men. One, we are familiar with, his name is Peter. You know about him…he walked on water, until he didn’t, he said he would die for Jesus, until he wouldn’t, then he denied that he even knew Jesus, but the unexpected grace of the resurrected Lord, lifted up Peter’s face…and commissioned him: “Peter, feed my sheep”––the fisherman is now a shepherd. Peter, in Acts 9, is living in Joppa, by the sea, and there the Holy Spirit is at work through him healing. Peter even raises up from the dead the beloved widow of Joppa, a woman named Dorcus, from the dead! Clearly, the Spirit is at work through Peter. We are told that many believed in the Lord.

The other man, is a man by the name of Cornelius. He is a Roman soldier, a non-commissioned officer (similar to an Army Captain) stationed up in Cesarea, along the Mediterranean Sea. Cornelius is probably in charge of about 100 men or more. It was said of the centurion that they were the ‘backbone of the Roman army; good leaders, of steady and prudent mind, not prone to take the offensive or start fighting recklessly, of such sound/steady character that when overwhelmed or hard-pressed were able to stand fast and die at their post’ (F.F. Bruce, “The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Book of Acts”, 1974:215).

Luke tells us specifically about Cornelius’ character in Acts 10. Cornelius is “an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation” (Acts 10:22). Cornelius is a man of prayer, one who gives alms, most likely going to support the widows/orphans of Israel. But, Cornelius is a Gentile, a convert to Judaism, seeking to fulfill the Torah. But because he not circumcised, he remains on the outside of the covenant of Israel. Cornelius has forsaken the pagan gods of Rome for Israel’s God…it is Jehovah that Cornelius is seeking to serve, to love and to obey.

These two men, Peter and Cornelius are about to be converted–Changed from the inside out…given the eyes of our compassionate God.

Both Cornelius and Peter see an angel and are given a vision in Acts 10.

Cornelius is assured by the angel of the Lord that his prayers and his alms have ascended before God, like smoke from a burnt offering by a priest in the temple of God! Cornelius is told to send for a certain man called Simon Peter, down in Joppa (30 miles to the south). So Cornelius sends two of his servants and a devout solider (another seeker of Jehovah).

Peter also has a vision…he sees a sheet lowered from heaven, by 4 corners and it is filled with all the animals mention in the Torah that a holy man must never touch or eat! But the angel of the Lord tells Peter to “get up and eat.” Peter says, “By no means, Lord.” This happens 3x before the sheet is taken up into heaven. God’s explains the vision to Peter: “What I have made clean, you must not call profane.” Peter’s puzzled. But, at that moment Cornelius’ men arrive and call for Peter. The Spirit tells Peter to go with these men, for the Spirit of the Lord has sent them, Peter is to go with them, “without hesitation” (Acts 10:20).

Peter takes with him 6 other Jewish Believers and together they journey to Caesarea to where Cornelius is waiting with his entire household and all of his close friends (Cornelius has packed his house). Cornelius runs to meet Peter, falling down at his feet to worship him! But Peter, tells him, “Stand up; I’m only a mortal.” Cornelius and Peter walk together to the home of Cornelius…and Peter walks right in! Now, we should be shocked!

Once inside the home both Peter and Cornelius share their visions. Peter explains why, without hesitation, he entered Cornelius home: “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me” (Acts 10:28-29)?

Cornelius answers, “All of us are here in the presence of God to listen (so as to hear and obey) to all that the Lord has commanded you to say” (Acts 10:33).

So now…we too are ready. On page 129 in the New Testament.
Hear now the sermon that Peter proclaimed in Acts 10:34-48, as it is written in the Book that we love.

Peter’s Radical Proclamation – Acts 10:34-48 (page 129 New Testament)

Then Peter opened his mouth: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality (favoritism), but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

 

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Does God Play Favorites?
This passage has challenged me to think about the word “partiality” – which we translate as, “favoritism”. The Biblical sense of the word, literally means, “lifter of the face”. I was challenged to seriously look at the ways that I may show favortism, or show partiality.

C.S. Lewis shares a story about himself in one of his books. He writes that when he was six or seven, he walked up to his father and announces, “I have a prejudice against the French!” When his father asked why, Lewis replied, “If I knew that, it would not be a prejudice” (N.T. Wright, Acts for Everyone, 162). Prejudice means to “pre-judge” – we make up our minds with whatever we like to support our judgements. The Gentiles were judge to be those other – “lesser breeds who were without the law.”

This was Peter’s challenge as he comes to meet the Gentile, Cornelius, and it will become quickly become the Jewish Christian Church’s challenge as God’s Spirit grows the church…because by our human nature, that part of us, that part of me that is fearful of my place in the world, I keep my world safe by keeping the perceived “other” out.

Favorites can be a big problem in families, can’t it. This is certainly true of the families in the bible…Cain and Abel…Jacob and Esau, Sara and Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac, Leah and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers….Saul and David, David and his brothers, The Prodigal Son and his brother…we could go on. Human Favorites are a mix of sentimentality and merit!

Perhaps you have similar stories in your own family?

I know I do in mine (some are actually pretty epic)! Not, these…My step grandfather, Grandpa Joe, on my mom’s side, a tough Union Steel Worker, WWII Navy man, a very feisty Italian, he loved my brother Bob, it was clear to me from a young age that Bobby was his favorite. I knew PeePaw (as we called him) loved me, but, I also saw that there was some really special bond between these them. Maybe because I was a girl, it was really okay with me.

There was my Aunt Helen Przybysz—short feisty polish lady from my dad’s side, she absolute dotted on my little brother Bill, Billy. Billy was born premature and almost died, and he was, truth be told, absolutely adorable, and my mom tells me that I treated him like my own baby doll…honestly, I couldn’t really begrudge him my Aunt’s extraordinary favor. She only had him on special occasions, I had him all the time.

I imagine the truth is that we all favor someone or something/over someone or something else. Some of you favor Stanford over USC (okay, now I’m meddling). But, what about when favoritism becomes a barrier to our sharing the love of God; when we may exclude those that are hungry and thirsty to the know the forgiving love of God in Christ?

Does God Play Favorites? Peter knew the answer to this, he had passages like Deut. 10:17 stored in his heart: “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.”

Peter, just like me, if I’m honest, just didn’t understand the radical implications of a God who does not show partiality! Peter certainly is coming to understand the radical nature of God’s love.

Examining the Text:
Look at Peter’s sermon, the first part of his proclamation: “I now understand, God shows no partiality! But, anyone who fears him, and does what is right is acceptable to God. The Word God sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming peace by Jesus Christ––Christ is the Lord of all” (Acts 10:34-36).

There are 3 questions we might ask about Peter’s sermon:
The first is, “Why was this sermon so powerful…in that the result was an unexpected 2nd Pentecost to those outside the covenant!” (N.T. Wright,”Acts for Everyone Part One”, 2008)

The Holy Spirit falls upon the very first Gentile converts!
Peter’s message was a summons from Jesus: the One who is the living water, the Shepherd of the Lost Sheep, The Bread of Life, the Alpha, the Omega, the one who was, and is, and will come again to judge of the living and the dead: “All who are hungry, all who are thirsty, all who fear God, all who do what is right, you are acceptable to God! Come, receive the gift of forgiveness of sins, peace, shalom, through the Name (authority) of Jesus!

Even as Peter is speaking these words the Holy Spirit falls upon…everyone….Cornelius, his relative, and his close friends, absolutely everyone packed into Cornelius’ home! Why? Cornelius was spiritually hungry and thirsty, “All of us are here in the presence of God to listen (hear and obey) to all that the Lord has commanded you to say” (Acts 10:33).

N.T. Wright says it this way: “We have a message to someone who had been on the outside of Judaism but pressing his nose hard against the window to look in; one who respected and valued Jewish traditions, and was doing his best to honor the God of Israel as far as the normal limits permitted. Peter is saying, in effect, ‘Well, you have been standing in the doorway looking in with admiration at Israel and its traditions; now see how God has fulfilled Israel’s dream in sending Jesus’”(N.T. Wright,  169).

The Spirit falls upon them as they “heard” the word proclaimed! And they begin to speak in tongues, extolling and praising God! The Holy Spirit has resurrected their hearts, they have come alive to God, yes, and now alive in Christ!

The second question, “What does is the meaning of this story?”
In short, it means that the Gospel is also to be proclaimed to the Gentiles, even those perceived as the lesser breeds, those outside the law. Even the uncircumcised are now regarded by the Holy Spirit as “fit vessels to be filled with the presence of God and with his voice” (N.T. Wright, 170).

Did you notice that there was no verbal response made by Cornelius and the household? The Holy Spirit of God, knows our hearts. Who is in control of this mission? Peter? No way! The Spirit of the Living God…seeking for every lost soul, calling to all…come. As Peter is speaking, while they are listening, the Holy Spirit falls upon them. Well, what is Peter to do? The Gospel has broken down the dividing walls of hostility between Jew and Gentile!

Finally, “What does this say about God commission for the Church in the world?” There is only one thing to be done! Peter says to the 6 Jewish Christians who are with him, witnessing all that is happening: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts. 10:47-48).

And the walls of prejudice in Peter’s heart crack and come tumbling down in the name of Jesus, the Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the body of Christ, the Church! So much so, that he stays in this home of a Gentile, now a brother in Christ, for several days! What is impossible for mortals, is possible only with God!

Cornelius and Peter are now both welcomed by the same God, forgiven by same God, healed and transformed by the One who is Lord and Savior of all, Jesus Christ. Gentile and Jew reconciled by the work of Christ on the cross, and the grace of Christ which alone can set us free to love God and neighbor as self.

Both are sealed with same Holy Spirit, both have been baptized in the waters of baptism–dead to self and now alive in Christ.

The fence/wall has fallen. There is a story of a rancher/farmer from California who traveled to Australia to learn from the ranchers there. He saw many differences, but it surprised him that there were very few, if any, fences. When the farmer asked the Aussie how do you keep the sheep together without fences? The Aussie responded: “We find that if we dig a deep of water the sheep do not wander far.”

Jesus is the Living Water, welcoming all who will come…come to waters of baptism, be raised to new life by the one who is the Lifter of Every Face–the Lord.

Clearly, God plays no favorites. Amen.

Prayer: May we always seek to be a “deep well church”…always seeking to stay close to you Lord, seeking always to know you and the power of your resurrection so that your love and mercy flow from our lives offering forgiveness in your Jesus Name to all who enter into this place. I Thank you Father for leading this particular wandering sheep here to this particular fellowship. It has been and is a “deep well of your refreshing water.”

Lord give us the openness to befriend those Cornelius’ who are seeking to know You. Give us the spiritual boldness of Peter. Give us the heart of faithful devotion and obedience of Cornelius. Holy Spirit be at work transforming each and every one of us more and more into the image and likeness of Christ, the Lover and Keeper of our souls!

So be it Jesus!

Seeing the Light

Date: August 6, 2017 Author: Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley

Seeing the Light is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley is preaching on Acts 9:1-22. It is the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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Seeing the Light

Acts 9:1-22

When Saul left Jerusalem he thought he could see. Along the way, somewhere near his destination in Damascus, he had an experience that blinded him.  Three days later his vision was restored and he saw the light in a different way.

When he left Jerusalem Saul was certain that he saw the world as it really was and is.

Last May our travel group stood in Israel and looked over into Syria. Behind us we could see the Israeli Army fortifications guarding the border along the Golan Heights.  Before us we saw a road winding its way across a green valley that was beautiful.  It was the road running from Jerusalem to Damascus, Syria.  Damascus was less than 50 miles away.  We could hear the bombs exploding in the distance.  We knew the important history of this road.  This was the road that Saul of Tarsus travelled on the way to seek out and to arrest the followers of the Way in the Damascus synagogues.

As Saul looked across the green plain as he travelled toward the Syrian city he no doubt appreciated the view of Mt. Hermon to the northwest. He was seeing a beautiful, pastoral world, yet, a world dominated by Roman army legions.  It was a world in deep conflict and filled with many afflictions. He walked on an ancient road that had been rebuilt by Rome.  The road was a symbol of the Roman political, economic, and religious complexity of the first century of the Mediterranean world.

Saul was born in what we would call a city of modern Turkey. Tarsus was a Roman city shaped by Roman culture, politics, economics, and religions. His birth in Tarsus made him a Roman citizen.

Tarsus had embraced Greco-Roman culture and language. Alexander the Great had conquered the known world and imposed upon it Greek philosophy, culture, language, and religion.  In Tarsus there were temples dedicated to the Greco-Roman pantheon of gods and goddesses.  It was an intellectual center with a well-known academy that taught Greek philosophy with Roman adaptations.

Within this cosmopolitan city there was a Jewish Ghetto of Orthodox Jews seeking to hold on to Jewish identity and religious life in a pagan world. Saul’s family was of the most orthodox Jews.

They had come to realize that young Saul was precocious, a boy with intellect who needed greater academic opportunity. So they sent him to Jerusalem to live with his sister’s family and to train under the Rabbi Gamaliel. This is how Saul, later the Apostle Paul described his heritage:

“If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” Phil. 3:4-8

It is a dangerous thing to send your child away to college. It almost always expands the child’s inherited vision of life. The child may become aware of the “back home” worldview and realize that there are new facts and values learned that puts the student into conflict with parental views.

I think Saul’s family expected his way of seeing life would be expanded, deepened, and matured by education. But what if you send your child to college as a Republican and he or she comes home a Democrat?  What if a candidate for ministry is sent away to seminary to train for ministry only to lose his or her faith by the experience?

From time to time John Huffman and I have lunch together and talk about our years in ministry from the early 1960’s. This week he asked if I was going to train for ministry today where I would go to seminary. After thinking for a moment I listed Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Fuller.

Saturday morning he sent me an email he had received about a new extension course at Pittsburg Seminary. He suggested I might want to change my seminary choice. The extension course had to do with learning how to brew beer and using the fermentation metaphor for exploring the process of spiritual formation. Well, the church back home may not be excited to discover that our missionary outreach needs to consider regular visits to our favorite pubs to sit with the crowds.

Walk by the Marine Room on a Sunday night and you will discover it jammed with people dancing and drinking their favorite brews. I guess there is a only a handful of churches in the U.S. that could draw like that for a Sunday evening service of worship.  So, go where the people are! Talk about the brew, enjoy the beer, in the name of evangelism, let the spiritual life ferment.

As Saul left Jerusalem he carried within himself all that he had received and believed. His life experience had filled him with strong convictions about the Sect of the Way, the followers of Jesus Messiah. Saul was convinced that they were a threat to true religion.  They had accused his nation’s religious leaders of murdering Jesus. He was convinced that he needed to do everything within his power to destroy the young church. His devotion to all that he believed to be true required it!

The tragedy for Saul was that he was spiritually blind to the reality of the kingdom of God. Even though he had mastered the fine arts of historical, philosophical, cultural perception, and biblical interpretation, still his eyes and his mind were unable to see the fulfillment of his Jewish, Greco-Roman worldview in the message of the church in Jerusalem and Damascus.

Therefore, Saul persecuted the church. He was filled with murderous rage.  Righteous indignation gripped his emotional life.  In the name of God he was prepared to kill any follower of Jesus he might find.

I have discovered that when I get worked up by someone or some movement with which I disagree and am threatened by the enemy’s presence or message, that my inner distress, anger, and fear usually means that I have within me unresolved issues that need to be faced, brought to the surface, confessed as potentially sinful and destructive of me and others. In such moments I become aware that I need a larger vision.

One of the things I respect about Saul who became Paul the Apostle was that he later confessed his inner conflicts, his blasphemous words, his inner violence and potential for murder.

I think Luke told Paul’s conversion story three times to communicate that when Saul left Jerusalem thinking he knew everything that he was spiritually blinded to the limits of his personal vision.

This is why Jesus warned about seeing the speck in someone else’s eye but being unable to see the log in one’s own eye. Inner anger when released in words and behavior toward a defined enemy may give to us the excuse we need to murder.

So what happened to Saul on the Way to Damascus?

Suddenly he saw a light from heaven that flashed around him. Out of the bright flash of light a Voice spoke to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Paul cried out, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But get up and enter the city and you will be told what you are to do.” Acts 9:4-5

His eyes were opened as he stood up, but he could see nothing. Therefore, as a helpless blind man his companions guided him into the old city of Damascus where he was isolated, neither eating nor drinking and alone in the dark silence praying.

Many unbelieving interpreters have sought to explain this happening in Saul’s life. Perhaps he had experienced an epileptic seizure; maybe he had a stroke in the part of his brain controlling vision; maybe his burden of guilt overwhelmed him and stopped him short of his murderous goal?  Surely, nothing supernatural occurred!

It took a period of time for him to process the experience.   When God breaks into our lives with great intensity, captures our attention, brings us up short along the way, confronts us with the reality of our own spiritual blindness to the truth, it is a sobering moment of revelation and a turning point in our life journey.

The call of God comes in many different ways, sometimes in silence and quiet meditation over the years, sometimes gradually but also suddenly. C.S. Lewis after years of struggling with the truth of the Bible’s message slowly moved from being an atheist, to being a theist who believed in God. One morning he rode in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle to the zoo. He shared in his autobiography that when they arrived at the zoo he knew he had become a Christian, a follower of Jesus. He was SURPRISED BY JOY.

For the rest of his life Paul the Apostle witnessed to all who would listen to the revelation he had received. The light that had blinded him was nothing other than the presence of the glory of God shining into his darkness in the face of Jesus, the resurrected Lord.  “As to one untimely born”, he wrote to the Corinthians, “he appeared also to me.” 1 Corinthians 15:8.

Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was not just a subjective event, but an objective encounter with the risen Christ. Upon the truth of this revelation he lived the rest of his days.

Saul had left Jerusalem thinking he could see. Along the way he was blinded.  After three days of prayerful waiting  in darkness, a man named Ananias, a follower of Jesus, arrived at his door, placed his hands upon Saul, and the scales fell from his eyes.  Suddenly he could see what he had not seen before.  He saw that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, Israel’s Messiah.  Within hours he was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Lord had said to Ananias, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:15

Saul never turned back. Before the Roman authorities, Paul witnessed to what had occurred,

“The Lord said to him, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:12-18

Paul the Apostle was not unfaithful to this call of the risen Christ. He wrote to the Galatian Christians,

“But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, I embraced the call.” Galatians1:15-24.

It was the truth of this encounter, the strength of this vision, and the power of the Word and the Spirit in his life, the light of God shining in the face of Christ, that kept him going over many years until he entered the Lord’s presence as a martyr in Rome. He had seen the light of the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6

The shining light set him free from any need to justify himself by obedience to the law. It set him free to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.  It set him free to love God with the totality of his heart, mind, and will.  It set him free to love  his neighbor as himself. The light of the glory of God set him free to move into the fullness of love and joy.

I shared with you before my experience in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It is the historic church built over the hill where Jesus was crucified, but also over the tomb where the dead Jesus was buried and from which he was raised on the third day.  As we waited to enter the tomb of the living Christ, I looked up high above to the windows of the church.  In that moment, a hug beam of sunlight was flowing into the awesome space and shining directly on the tomb of Jesus.  It was bright; it was purifying; it illumined  the pilgrims bowing to enter the small church built over the empty grave.

There are many Sunday mornings that I look up to our side balcony here at LPC and place my eyes on the Good Shepherd window. At times the sun is shining through the window and the Good Shepherd is seen on the wall.  That reflection has repeatedly reminded me that the Good Shepherd is present holding me in his arms, assuring me of his grace, and renewing me in my  call to witness to the resurrected Jesus whose light is shining on all of us. What a gift!  God has proved his love to us in the death and resurrection Christ.  He has placed us on this corner to witness to what we have seen and heard. One thing I know, “Once I was blind; but now I see”. John 9

By Dr. Jerry Tankersley

 

 

Reaching Out to the Ends of the Earth

Date: July 30, 2017 Author: Rev. Dimitris Boukis

Reaching Out to the Far Ends of the Earth is a podcast of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. This morning we welcome to the pulpit Rev. Dimitris Boukis. Rev. Boukis is the General Secretary of the Evangelical Church of Greece and he is also a member of the World Council of Churches. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and comes from a long line of protestant Christians on his mother’s side of the family. His family history and his life-experience are truly unique. We continue our sermon series in Acts. Rev. Boukis is preaching on Acts 8:26-40.

This morning we are also celebrating 100 years of baptisms at LPC and as a part of this service we are renewing our baptismal vows. It is the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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(audio only)

Acts 8:26-40, NRSV

Acts 8:26   Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) 27 So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” 30 So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. 32 Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38 He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Fighting Against God

Date: July 23, 2017 Author: Rev. Dr. Kathy Sizer

Fighting Against God is a podcast of portions of the Sunday morning worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Kathy Sizer is preaching on Acts 5:27-41. It is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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Fighting Against God

Scripture: Acts 5:27-42, NRSV

Acts 5:27   When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30 The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Acts 5:33   When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. 35 Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”

They were convinced by him, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. 42 And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.