How Blessed We Are!

Date: November 16, 2014 Author: Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley

This is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon and portions of the worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Jerry Tankersley is preaching, “How Blessed We Are!” from Romans 4:1-15. We continue our sermon series in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. We are reading from the NRSV.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.

View Transcripts
Play
Download
To download right click on the download icon and select "Save As..."

Transcript

S111614
Romans 4:1-15

HOW BLESSED WE ARE!

At midlife, Abram heard the Voice and saw the Vision that shaped the rest of his life. The Voice called out to Abram. The Book of Genesis says that it was the Voice of the Lord. Therefore, the Abraham story began with God taking the initiative in making a Promise to Abram and to his family. The Voice called him, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3

“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him;” Genesis 12:4

The Genesis text does not tell us much about any qualifications that Abram had for this call and journey. Certainly, we learn later that Abram was a flesh and blood man with all the strengths and weaknesses of any other man.

About five years ago I was an invited participant in a series of dialogue sessions with an equal number of Presbyterian pastor/theologians and Jewish Rabbis of various Jewish denominations. I remember the session at Princeton Seminary when we were discussing Abraham. The question was “why the Lord called Abraham and promised to bless him?” The Rabbis were certain that it was because Abram was one of the most intelligent, gifted, and virtuous men who ever lived. He was the father of their family and to launch this family God would have chosen the very best just like we would have.

When an excellent firm seeks to add to its employees it will likely interview a number of candidates for the job, evaluate the credentials of each, test their compatibility with the firm’s culture, and determine what they might add to the business potential and profitability bottom line. Then the elect person would be invited to join the team. The Rabbis argued that God worked in the same way. Abram was the best candidate for the call. He had more going for him than any one else.

The Presbyterians in the dialogue knew that the story of Abraham in Genesis was more complex than this. In the Bible Abraham comes off as more than a hero of faith. He was an imperfect man who made mistakes, who failed at times, who doubted and struggled with the call. He was a sinner whom God had chosen to forgive and to become a pilgrim walking into a future that only God was able to fulfill in God’s own time.

Abram had been “blessed to be a blessing.” In chapter 15 the Lord spoke to him again in a Vision. “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But this time Abram complained to the Lord. “Look, you promised to us a great family and a land. Yet, Sarai and I do not have a single child. We have no heir and we are getting old. Soon we will be beyond human possibility for birthing a child. At this point we have no future. Sarai’s womb is barren.”

The Lord responded, “Your servant from Damascus will not be your heir. Your own issue will be your heir. Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.” Genesis 15

The text tells us, “Abram believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6

Abram believed the Lord. Imagine trying to count the stars in that dark sky in which there was no artificial light. It must have been an impressive, holy moment in Abram’s life.

Again the Lord took the initiative in making or cutting a covenant agreement with Abram. The covenant promised blessings to Abram, his family, and heirs. This was a family that would inherit the Promised Land. But not just a land with a limited boundary, this land would run from the Nile River in Egypt to the Euphrates River to the north.

Abram believed.

He believed that God was able to keep his promise. But time passed and Abram and Sarai grew older. At long last they arrived in old age childless. It was humanly impossible for them to produce a child themselves. Abram was nearly 100 and Sarai was 90.

The Lord came to him again and stirred his imagination with the renewed promise. Abram heard, fell on his face, and laughed. The old couple offered to help God out and provide a surrogate wife and mother. Ishmael was born of Abram and Hagar. But he would not carry the promise. So God changed the names of Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah laughed, but at long last God did for them what they could not do on the basis of any human potential or power they had.

Isaac, the child of the promise, was born in their old age. The old couple received the gift of their future in Isaac. Over many years they had believed and journeyed into the future that God had promised.

It was their trust in the promise making God that the Apostle Paul lifted up when he wrote in Romans, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6

He had been reckoned as being in right relationship with God long before the covenant was sealed with the rite of circumcision. It was the author of Genesis’s way of saying that Abraham was forgiven, accepted, shown favor, and blessed, not on the basis of obedience to the law, but by faith alone.

This was the reality and foundation of Israel’s covenant relationship with God. The covenant was rooted in grace and promised by the merciful God who had called his people from the beginning to trust the call and to walk into the future that God alone could give. God had granted to Abraham forgiveness of sins. All of Israel’s life would be lived out upon the foundation of this reality.

With my imagination I can see Abraham and Sarah near the end of their lives walking out together under the starry sky of the Middle East and reflecting on the beginning of their journey and contemplating all the mysterious happenings along the way.

They were but one couple in a vast movement of people. They heard the Voice and knew they had been claimed for a journey that would have implications for all the nations and peoples who would live after them. They had trusted the Voice and followed the guidance of the Spirit’s direction. It had not always been easy. There was suffering along the way. There were mysterious events that they could not understand and which tempted them to question if the Voice’s promises were still true.

What was planted in Abram’s imagination was the seed of a Vision of blessing for all humanity. They faced their own barrenness and inability to fulfill the Voice’s promise on their own terms. Yet, over a lifetime they came to believe in ever deeper ways in the integrity and faithfulness of the one who had promised to give to them a new world set right and restored to what God intended from the beginning.

“For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” Romans 4:13

What that says to me is that Abram came progressively to see that all the blessings of his life along the way of his journey were leading him into larger fulfillments that would ultimately bring him to the Promised Land that his imagination had not been able to grasp.

Near the end of his earthly journey the size of his possessions had multiplied. His family was increasing. His son, Isaac had been born. A Promised Land named Canaan was taking shape. In a maturing realization Abraham came to see that none of the immediate blessings exhausted the Promise of the Voice.

This is so important to consider.

The writer of the Hebrews Letter said it this way: “For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. From one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. All these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They came to confess that they were seeking a homeland. They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:8-16

At each stage of Abraham’s journey there was a fulfillment, but no fulfillment exhausted the magnitude of God’s promised blessing. Abraham came to understand that no gift could guarantee blessing. Only the giver could guarantee the gift of the ultimate fulfillment.

How true this has been in my own life. I invite you to reflect upon your own spiritual journey. The Voice came to me when I was barely aware of who I was. It called me through many different people and circumstances. The big leap of faith came when the door opened for me to leave my place and family in West Texas and journey to Southern California to complete my college. When I arrived at age 20 in Santa Barbara I thought I had gone to heaven. In many ways it was heaven, but only a partial fulfillment.

Then there were many years of graduate school, ordination in the Presbyterian church, marriage to Kay, the gift of a family, a church in La Canada that seemed like heaven. Finally, the Voice called me to Laguna Beach and to LPC. I was scared to death because this place was as beautiful as heaven and I did not want to come here for that reason, but only if this was God’s call.

So we came and it has been like heaven, but also as hard as hell at times. It has seemed like the Promised Land and it has been, but it has only barely captured what the Voice set up as a desire in my mature imagination. Each time I have walked into this restored sanctuary I have glimpsed a new heaven and a new earth and a redeemed people. This corner and these buildings cause me to remember what faithful discipleship is about: “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”, as Eugene Peterson named it.

The truth is that the faith by which I have lived all these years is really a faith seeking a homeland, the City of God, that moment in the cosmos, in historical time, when heaven and earth overlap and interconnect and all is transformed by the glory of God the Creator/Redeemer who has promised a New Creation, the fullness of the kingdom of God.

In that City there will be no more sin or death. Evil will be eliminated, spiritual darkness lifted. No more tears or pain. In that homeland all will be made well with God’s shalom, peace, justice, and righteousness. Jesus Christ will be at the center as the light of God’s love. And we will be with all God’s saints forever more.

Faithfulness at each moment will form the blessings we have been promised. That is why it is so important for us as members and friends of LPC to keep on planting the restored kingdom of God right on this corner and in the hearts of this people. We are in the midst of the fray and we dare not surrender the battle to the enemy.

This week I was having my blood drawn at a lab as part of a regular physical. The lady getting ready to punch the needle into my vein asked me what I did for work. I told her I was a pastor. She immediately walked to the door of the room and closed it. Then she said, “I think there is spiritual warfare going on. What do you think?” I was surprised by her question, but I knew she was on to something, but in a very confused way. She quoted a text that I had never heard. Thank God the session was quickly over and I walked into the lobby to see an old friend in whose life I knew there had been great trouble and blessing.

This is the world in which the children of Abraham live. The promise is sure. The blessings great! The journey long! The present at times painful and threatening! Life incomplete! The Vision compelling! The desire for our true homeland and people deepening!

At each step of his journey Abraham believed God and the Lord reckoned it unto him as being set right.

C.S. Lewis ended “The Last Battle” with the central characters standing before the Stable Door. They were afraid to enter. But as they entered they discovered Aslan the Christ Lion standing on the other side. Some who entered disappeared into Aslan’s shadow never to be seen again. Others looked into Aslan’s eyes with love and devotion and they began the journey “further up and further in.”

It was not the end of the story, just the beginning of the story that would go on forever. Each chapter of the story would be better than the last. As they journeyed further up and further in it was like a discovery of deeper layers of the Real Narnia and of life. That is the land we are all seeking. That is our homeland, the better country, the City of God.

May it be so!

By Dr. Jerry Tankersley

Set Right

Date: November 9, 2014 Author: Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley

This is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon and portions of the worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Jerry Tankersley is preaching, “Set Right” from Romans 2:21-26. We continue our sermon series in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. We are reading from the NRSV.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.

View Transcripts
Play
Download
To download right click on the download icon and select "Save As..."

Transcript

Romans 3:21-26
SET RIGHT

If you have been listening to the debates during this election season you have heard all kinds of proposals about how our politicians intend to set right our political, economic, and social life. The clashing ideologies of the political parties have been presented as if they were absolutely right and that our nation and world are in the wrong because of false ideologies that have worked their way into our common life. Depending on your party or personal convictions the results of the election was either a cause for celebration or deep frustration.

Wall St. celebrated as the Dow peaked at a new high. Many believe that the new congress will set right what has been wrong.

Some have argued more about the personalities, the character flaws, the weaknesses, inconsistencies, and failures of opponents. In the process they have presented themselves as leaders who are in the right and that if elected they will clean up the mess in Washington DC, or in the statehouse, the local city, or in the local school board.

This seems to be at the heart of all elections in our nation’s history. The guy in office is demonized as a jerk, dominated by a false ideology, or behind the scene interest groups who are seeking to use their money and power to dominate, to control, and to manipulate the electorate for their own self-interests and profits. We now call it “freedom of speech”.

Lurking under these debates is a genuine consensus that human life is not in the right, that something needs to be fixed, and that the human agenda is to work at making right what is wrong in human history.

And of course, this was why the Apostle Paul began his letter to the Romans with a lengthy legal indictment of the whole human race as being in the wrong. Humanity needs to be set right!

Gentiles had turned their back upon the knowledge of God in creation and had ended up worshiping created things rather than the Creator. The central problem was the worship of gods that were no gods. Idolatry was the central problem of humanity in deep rebellion against the Creator. Paul wrote a long litany of sins that resulted from this turning away from God. In turning away we lost our humanity and the nations became enslaved to the power of sin.

The Jewish people, even though the Creator had blessed them with the oracles of God, with covenant promises, the law, the worship, the Scriptures, the fathers and mothers, the tradition, and the birth of the Messiah, were also in the wrong. They had not lived what they had received. In their hypocrisies they had betrayed their calling and mission. They were not in right relationship with God. Humanity needed a new heart.

Both Gentiles and Jews had to face that they were in slavery to the power of sin and death.

We need to be Set Right! But who can do it? ONLY GOD!

And how has God set us right?

First, we are set right as a gift of grace.

THE MESSAGE reads, “God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. AND HE DID IT BY MEANS OF JESUS CHRIST.” Romans 3 This was an amazing claim. God in Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” John 3:16

It is so surprising for us to hear this message that God set us right as an act of grace, as a gift of himself on our behalf.

It is an affront to human pride. Yes, it was pride that led Adam and Eve to assert themselves to become more than they were. They chose to lift themselves up in pride to establish independence from right relationship with their Creator. They wanted to be like God. The result was that their relationship with God was ruptured, broken, and lost. Their relationship with each other and their family was fractured. Dividing walls of hostility were erected and soon murder and violence entered human history. Broken relationships ruled the day. It could have remained that way.

But God, in a free act, worked through the history of Israel and preeminently in the incarnate gift of love in Jesus to restore the lost relationship, to set us right. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. God proved his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8.

“In the fullness of time God sent forth his Son.” Galatians 4:4

Paul meant that God’s gift had been planted at the center of human history for all humanity. We dare not miss this. The Apostle was deeply committed to the Bible’s view of time. For Paul, time had a beginning. God spoke and called everything into being. Creation and human history began to move and to grow. There was a time line that ran from the beginning to the end. The end was the fulfillment of God’s purposes in creation and history. Between the beginning and the end history had meaning and purpose. The kingdom of God, the rule and reign of God was present, even in a world that had rebelled against the Creator.

One man said that the time line of the Bible runs like this: Paradise Created; Paradise Lost; Paradise Restored. Or Time began in a garden and will come to its appointed end in a garden in the New Creation. There is a “telos” in history, an appointed end to which prophets and apostles have witnessed.

At the center of the biblical time line stood the cross of Jesus Christ. Through his life, death, and resurrection God planted the flag of his rule over the cosmos. The cross symbolized the reality of God’s determination to redeem all of the creation and all of human life, to make us right by dealing with the central problem of all nations and persons, the devastating corruption and enslaving power that Paul called SIN.

This was the gift that had turned Saul of Tarsus’s life around. Grace overflowed for him. Having been a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence, he was welcomed into right relationship with the Lord who would not let him go. And his acceptance and favor was pure gift. 1 Timothy 1:12-17; “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost.”

God set right the nations and all who would believe in Jesus as a pure gift.

Secondly, God set us right through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Peterson translated in THE MESSAGE,
“He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.”

The mess we are in! And what is that mess?

It is the mess of sin from which we cannot escape on the basis of our own good works. We are simply trapped under the power of sin and death. As C.S. Lewis said in MERE CHRISTIANITY, “there has been a rebellion in this part of the cosmos and planet earth has been enslaved.” “The good news is that there has been a DIVINE INVASION on the shores of human history. There has been a D-Day just as in 1945 on the beaches of Normandy and Omaha in France. From that moment the totalitarian forces that threatened western civilization were rolled back and freedom was coming to the world.

Like Israel trapped in Egyptian slavery, we cannot escape Pharaoh’s slave masters and armies. We are powerless to help ourselves. We long to be free of our bondage. We cry out for the heavens to help us. God heard Israel’s cry for deliverance. He sent Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” After many confrontations, God acted and in the Exodus event set Abraham’s family free to journey toward the Promised Land. They had been redeemed.

Did you see that movie entitled TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE? It won the academy award last year. It was a story of a free African American man in the 19th century who was kidnapped in Washington, DC, and sold into slavery, separated from his family and all he loved. He ended up belonging to a plantation owner and suffered for 12 years all the evils and cruelties of the institution of human slavery. The good news was that a Christ figure came into his life, heard his story, and acted to set the man free to return to the freedom and love of his family that had not known if he were dead or alive. There was not a dry eye in theater as we watched the reunion with his wife and children.

The Apostle Paul was writing in a world in which there were slave markets where persons were bought and sold as property. When he wrote about “redemption” he was saying that Jesus had come into the slave market and purchased sinful humanity for himself. The price he paid was his own blood. From the moment of his death for us we belonged to him and became his servants only to discover that in service to him we were truly free. Yes, the death of Jesus was a New Exodus. Only this time humanity was set free, or made right, from the power of sin and death. Jesus redeemed us.

Thirdly, God set us right by forgiving our sins.

And God did that through the death of Jesus upon the cross. “God put Jesus forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” Romans 3:25

Now this notion may be foreign to many of us, but it is at the heart of the Apostle’s understanding of the cross. In order to interpret the cross Paul used the language and practice of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It was in that Holy Place that once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, that the High Priest would take the blood of an innocent lamb into the Holy of Holies, into the throne room of the Holy One of Israel. Only the high priest could enter that room.
In that room there was a gold covered box called the Ark of the Covenant. Relax this is not the movie, “Indiana Jones”. In the box were the tablets of the 10 commandments that Moses carried from Mt. Sinai, some of the manna that Israel ate in their 40 year wanderings in the wilderness as Moses led them, and Aaron’s rod, a symbol of authority in the Exodus from Egypt.
The lid of the Ark was covered with gold and on either side stood the Seraphim. They symbolized the heavenly host. Between the Seraphim and over the mercy seat of the lid, the presence of God’s glory lived. This was the Lord’s throne.
So once a year the high priest would cover the mercy seat with the blood of the lamb in order to make atonement for the sins of Israel as a people.

The Apostle interpreted the mercy seat or lid of the Ark as the cross where Jesus the Lamb of God sacrificed his life, poured out his blood, and covered the sins of humanity. He did it once and for all. His death, his blood, atoned for our sins.
This was the mercy seat where God set right what had gone wrong in the heart of humanity. It was pure gift; it was redemption for slaves; it was the place where the sins of all who believed in Jesus were forgiven. And the consequences for the cosmos, for planet earth, for Israel, and the nations were life transforming.

For many the thought of sacrificial offering and the shedding of blood are repugnant. How could a good God sacrifice the life of his only Son? Yet, this is the Bible’s witness. Many metaphors are used to interpret the meaning of the cross. But here in Romans Paul witnessed that this was the mysterious way that God chose to set us right and to heal the cosmos.

At the cross Jesus was made to be sin for us. He took our place and bore the judgment that our sins deserved. He satisfied the justice of God, and poured out his mercy upon all who believed and trusted his love.

This was the place where the faithfulness of God to his covenant promise was proven for all time and space.

The first glimpse I had of this was when I was a lowly sophomore at Texas Tech. In my soul I was struggling with the direction of my life. Each afternoon in the privacy of my dormitory room I read through the N.T. to see what it said and to discover what Christianity was about.

When I came to the Book of Hebrews I read this, “Jesus appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Heb. 9:26

The Holy Spirit whispered into my heart this message: “Jerry, this was for you and the whole world. Once for all, two thousand years ago, in the fullness of time, God acted and as a pure gift, redeemed us, set us free, and justified us, set us right, began a new relationship with us by atoning for our sins through his own blood at the mercy sin, the cross. I was overwhelmed. By the time I read this I knew I was a Christian set right not by my good works, but by the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross.

By Dr. Jerry Tankersley

By No Means!

Date: November 2, 2014 Author: Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley

This is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon and portions of the worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Jerry Tankersley is preaching, “By No Means!” from Romans 3:1-20 as we continue our sermon series in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. This is All Saints’ Day. We are reading from the NRSV.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.

View Transcripts
Play
Download
To download right click on the download icon and select "Save As..."

Transcript

Sermon 11/02/14
Romans 3:1-20

BY NO MEANS!

As we read Paul we find ourselves, and the entire human race, in a courtroom, in the doc, and on trial before the Judge, before the faithful one. We stand as Gentiles and Jews convicted of having turned away from the faithful God and having fallen into unfaithfulness, disobedience, and subject to the wrath of God. We chose death rather than life and the Lord has allowed us to suffer the consequences of our unbelief and lack of trust in God’s faithfulness to God’s promises.

Paul strung together a series of quotes from the Psalms and from Isaiah the prophet to make his point about the spiritual condition of Israel and the Gentile nations. It is embarrassing to read the charges.

“There is no one who is righteous, not even one;
No one has understanding;
No one seeks God.
They have become worthless;
No one is kind;
Their speech is corrupted;
they have throats like opened graves; their tongues deceive,
and the venom of vipers is under their lips; their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
The world is filled with violence: humans are bloodthirsty;
their paths are filled with misery and ruin; the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.” – Romans 3:9-18

Paul intended his litany of the human condition to be staggering, shocking, convicting. It was his way of silencing the lie, of revealing the secrets, of breaking open the truth so that the whole world might be held accountable to God. Indeed, through the law comes the knowledge of sin. No human has escaped. It is not just that someone else has the problem and we can forget it. No! The line of sin runs through every human heart. We live in an interconnected world, a global village. And we are lost and enslaved to the powers of sin and death.

The sobering truth comes to us from many sources. Every day our entertainment parades the sins of humanity before us. We have become so desensitized to it that we allow it to entertain us. We no longer blush at anything. Television and movies push the boundaries of what is acceptable for the family hour. The Daily Show mocks our hypocrisies. How is it that some of our most profound interpreters of life are the comedians? Is it that we cannot face our brokenness without mockery and humor?

Turn on the news and the talking heads in all their beauty and brightness are busy blaming everyone else for what is wrong with our nation and our world. In the rhetoric of ideology we anathematize our politicians, our business leaders, our religious leaders. We end up biting and devouring one another.

As we approach next week’s election we will spend whatever it takes to bring down the enemy. Winning is everything, whatever it costs. Money, Sex, Power! And then the cycle is repeated without much protest. So fear rules in many hearts. I suspect the world is not a lot different than it ever was. Now we simply know more and sooner than any previous generation.

If I were God I would have given up on humanity a long time ago. It is easy to reach the conclusion that planet earth represents an experiment gone badly. If what the Apostle Paul wrote about the human race is true then one must ask, “What does this say about God?” “How has God hung in there with humanity?” “Has not God abandoned the human race?”

The time is late for God to justify Himself. Can we still proclaim that God is faithful to God’s promises?

The Psalms of the O.T. were Israel’s prayer book and they were sung in the Temple repeatedly. One scholar argued that there are three different types of psalms. Walter Brueggemann said that there were psalms Israel prayed when she was securely oriented. These psalms were sung when things were going well and the world was at peace with prosperity and health. There were psalms prayed when Israel was painfully disoriented. Israel prayed these laments when they were surrounded by their enemies, when the promised blessings had disappeared, and evil seemed to be winning. There were psalms prayed when Israel was surprisingly reoriented when well-being was restored and there were reasons to give thanks.

Paul knew that the prayers of the church would reflect this cycle between the already and the not yet of God’s promised blessings and that before there could be a celebration there needed to be lament in the house of God. Psalms of painful disorientation needed to be prayed.

One of my pastor friends reminded me of this on Facebook. He had posted a picture of himself and his wife. I posted a message and told them how good they looked. I have not seen them for years. We have been friends since I was an assistant pastor in my first church out of seminary. They were a young couple just getting started. The two of them helped save my life when all that I loved and had worked to achieve seemed lost. We would get together with a Japanese friend on many Friday evenings and have a celebration with Saki. I have never forgotten it. So I posted on Facebook that it was time for us to have another celebration. That set off a sequence of memories for them and for me. Their response was that our journeys have led us through many times of joy and celebration but also of sorrow and suffering. True.

This past week I was on the telephone with my Spiritual Director for an hour. We try to have these conversations once a month either on the phone or in person. I found myself apologizing to him for having to listen to my laments, my reflections upon life, my struggles to come to terms with the incompleteness of life, with the labor pains of the creation, with the threatening darkness of the human condition trapped in the bondage of sin and death. He said, “no apology is necessary”. He reminded me that the psalms are filled with lament, with complaints to God. The lament is a form of prayer. That reframed my discontent and fear and placed them in the context of prayers of well-being and thanksgiving. Somehow they all demand to be held in a delicate balance.

There is a sense in which the first three chapters of Romans are prayers of lament, of complaint, of facing the truth that life is not without suffering, even when we have known supreme joy and success. I think Romans reminds us that God laments. Yes, God weeps over a world so filled with injustice, violence, disease, poverty, and death.

I see Jesus standing before the grave of his beloved friend Lazarus, torn apart by the grief, anger, and sorrow of the human condition. John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus wept. These chapters call us to remember the broken heart of God, the tears of God, the struggle of God to hang on, to be faithful to his promises. These prayers ought to remind us that Jesus is in heaven interceding for us before the Father.

A part of God’s grief and tears is that the Lord knows that his own integrity and character are on the line in human history. The Apostle Paul understood this. He verbalized what many were thinking. Many reasoned, “If the world is in such a dam mess does this mean that God’s mission has failed. Does it mean that after the gift of the oracles of God to Israel that God had abandoned his people and turned from his promises?”

If I were God I would have given up a long time ago.

“What if some were unfaithful?
Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?”

If you have never struggled with this question then you may never have taken God’s promises for being true and had to live through dark valleys in which God seemed absent or silent, or in which life seemed without meaning.

Abram and Sara came to the place after waiting for the birth of a son into their old age that they began to laugh at the promises of God.

Israel in the wilderness questioned if the God of the Exodus could set a table in the wilderness and provide for his people’s needs for bread and water.

If the enemy destroyed Jerusalem and took the people into captivity, did this mean that the promises of God had come to an end?

Like Job, the righteous man, who was allowed to lose everything, his family, his possessions, and even his health, and to struggle with the mystery of God’s ways, we wonder what the end of the story may be?

If Christ was crucified, dead, and buried on Good Friday did this mean that the faithfulness of God was canceled, that evil had won, that hope was finished? That God’s promises to Israel had been nullified?

If we have waited for 2000 years for the promised blessings of God’s New Creation, does this mean that God is not faithful to his promises?

If the church we have sought to build in America self-destructs and melts down before our very eyes, does this mean that God is finished with us? Believers and church members have watched their congregations shut down, their buildings sold and turned into restaurants, museums, or parking lots for urban centers seeking to survive.

Has the faithlessness of some nullified the faithfulness of God?

Do we not see that God’s integrity is threatened? Yes, God’s character on the line?
Is God faithful?

What about the promised faithfulness of God?

Paul’s answer ought to cause celebration. “BY NO MEANS!”

Are there signs of God’s faithfulness in our lives today? BY ALL MEANS!

Just as we are face to face with ultimate loneliness, grief, and painful disorientation, the faithful one sends an ambassador or friend. How often did the flowers arrive from the church delivered by a friend to a recovery room in the hospital or at home?

As Elizabeth Wetzel was dying she said she did not know she had so many friends. Lindsey Phillips came from San Francisco to spend several days with her. Her children came; many tried to visit. All of this as a testimony that she had shown hospitality to us all!

I did not realize how much I miss her hugs, laughter, even her tears. In the mystery of life together the faithfulness of God has become real.

This is what the church is all about. We are a community of faith in which human presence means everything, in which common prayers of well-being, painful disorientation, and surprising reorientation bring the comfort of the Holy Spirit to our lives. The truth is that we could all make a long list of the ways in which the faithfulness of God’s presence and power has come to us.

I was touched to recently read about an effort by some in the urban decay of Detroit to choose a struggling congregation and to show up to worship on any given Sunday. They did not want to see the church that was trying to keep its doors open be destroyed by white flight and other demographic changes. Once a month the great church building would be filled and an offering taken.

The faithfulness of God in human history totally surprises us. And this is what I want to preach about next week, but let me say this. The righteousness of God, the faithfulness of God, which is the active power of God at work for the salvation of humanity has once for all appeared on Golgotha, the hill outside the city wall of old Jerusalem. There, on a cross, the place where common criminals were executed by Rome, the incarnate Son of God, fully human and fully God, planted the faithfulness of God at the center of the human condition for the sake of saving all who believed., to teach us the presence and power of God’s love.

At the depths of human unfaithfulness the crucified God looked upon an unfaithful human race and prayed, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

All the promises of God came to fulfillment in the death of Jesus. But if that were the end of the story we would all be trapped in our sins. You see, the faithful God who was at work on Good Friday raised Jesus on Easter Sunday and defeated the powers of sin and death. Because this is true, whatever the nature of our disorientation and lament, the faithfulness of God promises to raise us also to live eternally in His presence with all God’s saints. All the promises of God have come to fulfillment in Jesus and we believe that he is coming again and he will bring the New Creation” with him in its fullness. OUR LORD COME!

Until that day in our worship of God we celebrate the faithfulness of God. And we affirm with Paul in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor death, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

By Dr. Jerry Tankersley

Taize Evening Service

Date: October 26, 2014 Author: Laguna Presbyterian Church

Taize Service held at Laguna Presbyterian Church on October 26 at 5pm.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.

Play
Download
To download right click on the download icon and select "Save As..."

Transcript

A Matter of the Heart

Date: Author: Rev. Dr. Steve Sweet

This is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon and the 10am worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Steve Sweet is preaching, “A Matter of the Heart” from Romans 2:17-29 as we continue our sermon series in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. This is Reformation and Confirmation Sunday. In the 10am hour we welcomed 34 high school students in the membership of LPC.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.

Play
Download
To download right click on the download icon and select "Save As..."

Transcript

God's Mysterious Kindness

Date: October 19, 2014 Author: Rev. Dr. Kathy Sizer

This is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon and portions of the worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Kathy Sizer is preaching, “God’s Mysterious Kindness” from Romans 2:1-11. We continue our sermon series in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. We are reading from the NRSV.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.

View Transcripts
Play
Download
To download right click on the download icon and select "Save As..."

Transcript

(Manuscript is not available/audio only)

Two Kinds of People

Date: October 12, 2014 Author: Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley

This is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon and portions of the worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley is preaching, “Two Kinds of People” from Romans 1:16-2:3. We continue our sermon series in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. We are reading from the NRSV. Junko Cheng is our guest worship leader this morning.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.

View Transcripts
Play
Download
To download right click on the download icon and select "Save As..."

Transcript

Romans 1:16-2:3

TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE

On August 28, 2004, I was in Oxford, England, as part of a C.S. Lewis study group. By myself I went to The Eagle and the Child or The Bird and the Baby Pub with a new copy of Lewis’ book, THE GREAT DIVORCE. I sat just a few feet from where he and his fellow Inklings had met weekly to discuss their literary work, to smoke their pipes, and to drink their ale. I ate my fish and chips and drank my ale absorbing the ambiance of the quaint establishment. It was a special moment for me as I wrote on the opening page what I was doing in this place where Lewis and his professor colleagues met so often.

Last Sunday I finished my message with a reference to C.S. Lewis’ dream story in, THE GREAT DIVORCE. His story has stirred my imagination on the relationship between heaven and hell. Hell in his story was like a shadow land in which souls lived as ghosts. There was no objective substance to them. Yet, there was always a choice they could make. They could enter an omnibus at the bus station and take a holiday journey into a higher country in which they could explore the possible choice of becoming Solid People by beginning the journey toward true joy and reality. In the process they would progressively become more Solid People.

But not many ghosts chose to take the journey toward joy. They much preferred to return to earth to check out their earthly interests, to haunt others, and check out libraries to see if their books were still being read, or perhaps their sermons still being referenced.Those who took the bus to the higher country almost always resisted moving higher up and further in toward reality. The journey was painful. The green grass was so solid that it hurt their feet. The light was so bright that it hurt their eyes. They needed spiritual and physical conditioning with each step toward joy. Many decided it was much easier to return to the bus and journey back to the Valley of the Shadow of Death rather than to move toward the Valley of the Shadow of Life.

In the higher country the ghosts who had chosen to journey toward becoming Solid People desired the deeper joy of reality. The taste of joy, of life, drove them on.
The narrator of Lewis’ story explored with his Teacher, George MacDonald, why it was that the Solid People, who were in touch with joy and filled with love, did not return to the shadow lands for the sake of saving those who had chosen death above life. The Teacher said many had returned on a saving mission, but once in touch with life and the reality of joy it was difficult to do.

No one wanted to return.

Yet in love many had.

The narrator sought further clarification about those in the gray city below in the Valley of the Shadow of death.

Why had they refused to enter the omnibus for the holiday in the Valley of the Shadow of Life?

“What of the poor Ghosts who never get into the omnibus at all?” he asked. The Teacher answered, “Everyone who wishes it does. Never fear. There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God,‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” (The Great Divorce p.75)

THE FREEDOM OF GOD AND MAN
Two kinds of people! Which kind are we?

The Apostle Paul was struggling with this dilemma throughout his ministry. In chapter 1 of his Romans Letter he traced the story of the fall of man away from the true and living God. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man or other creatures. In the process of this decision or choice the humans embraced the way to Hell. They chose the Valley of the Shadow of Death rather than the Valley of the Shadow of Life. Many said, “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” (The Great Divorce, p. 71).

The result was that the Creator God allowed them to experience the consequences of their choice. “God gave them up”. Three times Paul used that phrase: “God gave them up”. “God gave them up.”

God gave them up to reap the fruit of their choices.

This “giving up” was what Paul meant by “the wrath of God”. It was as if God let the humans suffer the consequences of their deathly exchange.

So Adam and Eve were shown the way to the door of the Garden of Eden and were compelled to leave the Garden separated from the Tree of Life. In the very next chapter of Genesis the biblical writer allowed his readers to see what life cut off from joy, the reality of Heaven was like. Conflict, Murder, Anxiety, Fear, Violence, Death!

How are we to understand this radical freedom of God? From the creation stories of the Book of Genesis we learn that God created the humans, not as robots programed to do the makers will. Some have said this was God’s greatest risk in creating the humans in his own image. In doing so they were given the freedom to say to God, “Thy will be done” or to hear God say to them “Thy will be done.” Could it be that God did not care about the human choice? Like any parent concerned for a child, he had to care about the life decisions of those who bore His image.

If I were the Creator I would not have given such an option. But not the God of the biblical story! To be like God was to exercise the will of God, to freely choose the Valley of the Shadow of Life, and not the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

Who of us can understand the mystery of this choice the humans made, “to exchange the glory of the God who is good and the source of all joy”, for “gods that are no gods?” In his Galatians Letter, Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at the harvest time, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:7-9

THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE EXCHANGE OF LIFE FOR DEATH

God gave them up to live with the results of their misused freedom. Central to these consequences was a distorted way of thinking. This was why the Apostle spoke so much about our need to have our minds transformed by the Spirit and the mind of Christ. By falling away from God we chose the way of foolishness thinking we were being wise. The human mind became debased.

We come to think that power is greater than love. We see others as objects to be used for our own passions. We think that we have arrived at freedom by asserting ourselves against God’s will. We break the Ten Commandments and this as an assertion of freedom. And the Valley of the Shadow of Death seeks to enforce our false and foolish choices.

Most commentators believe that Paul wrote the Letter of Romans from Corinth. In the ancient Greco-Roman world to “Corinthianize” meant to be immoral. In Corinth one could purchase any experience of human sexuality one might desire. I have been in such cities. I remember being taken on a tour through the famous red light district of Bangkok, Thailand. Patpong it was named. It was jammed with people from around the world. We were on a mission trip to India. On the way back I wanted to see this place that had recently been written up in Time Magazine. That night my missionary companion and I were offered every form of sexual experience. Little boys and girls were for sale. Homosexual and Heterosexual options were on the market. The sex tours were present and there was money to be made. That’s what it was like in Corinth. The same in Ephesus and Athens! Surely so in Rome!

Through out the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s I felt as if I had a front row seat to the “sexual revolution” in America, both homosexual and heterosexual. Those were the decades of free love and sexual freedom. Drugs, sex, and rock’n roll! Living the dream.

Now our colleges and universities are struggling to bring order into the abuse of alcohol and drugs on campus. But with that has come sexual misconduct and rape. How do you deal with that? The UC system has installed blue buttons and lights around its campuses to call for police. The computer App genius’ have developed an iPhone App named “Good To Go” that couples may use in the midst of their passions to either say “yes” or “no” to consummation. One hopes it works in the back seat of a car or in the fraternity house in the heat of passion and booze. How likely is it that people will delay by consulting their iPhones?

Some of you are either hoping that I will sanction or condemn homosexuality from this text. I will do neither. Why? Because this text is only a litany of human behaviors that Paul saw in his world and which we see in our world. Each of the human behaviors are worthy of a class and open, honest study and discussion. I do not want anyone to feel beat up from the pulpit. The truth is that the line of sin runs through every human heart, the preacher’s included, and we need to be sensitive to the tender places of our hearts and lives.

There is not a one of us here that is not struggling with sexual brokenness and deep wounds from our search for intimacy, love, and lasting relationship.

“God gave them up.”

God gave them up to suffer the consequences of exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images or idols. Therefore, Paul named what we see in the world. “Sexual identity confusion; evil; covetousness; envy; murder; strife; deceit; slander; hate; prejudice; pride; rebellion; faithlessness; lacking in compassion; ruthlessness.”

We could add to the list, but it is not necessary. Watch the evening news! Read the morning news! Go to the theater! The daily world in which we live is deeply troubling for those who care. Yet, the world has largely forgotten that it is ultimately accountable to the Creator and that the manifestations of “God Exchange” are but signs of the wrath of God already at work.

Jesus was right that it is not what comes from outside of our lives that defiles us, but what comes from deep in our unbelieving, rebellious hearts, about which we are often in denial.

THE STING

A pious Jew or member of the Roman church, seeking to be obedient to the law of God, could easily have read Paul’s summation of the Gentile world and said, “that is exactly right. The Gentile dogs are corrupt and they deserve the judgment of hell for their immoral and unjust behaviors.”

But it was not just Paul who had a list of vices. Gentile moralist were naming the same perverted, inhuman behaviors. By this time in his letter, if a reading Gentile or Jew was saying “yes” to his argument against immoral sinners, the apostle wrote, “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” Romans 2:1

That hurts doesn’t it? It is Jesus’ question: “How is it that you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye and cannot see the beam in your own eye.” This too is part of the blindness we all carry in our souls as a witness to our own need for healing.

SALVATION

Why do I preach this text this morning? Some of the assigned lectionary readings for my daily devotions, cut this portion from the Letter of Romans. I think that our awareness of spiritual need must begin at this place of seeing the human condition and ourselves in the mirror of the truth.

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

It would do little good to read these texts if we were not able to hear the gospel of God, the good news of God’s rescue mission. When Paul spoke of the “righteousness of God” he was proclaiming the mighty acts of God by which we sinners have been rescued from our choices to walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. To be sure, God gave us up so that he could act in freedom to woo us back to right relationship with Himself.

Truly, the magnitude of God’s act in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, his Son, is impossible for our debased minds to understand. It is a mystery. But our hearts may be melted and loved back to the way of life. As long as we are alive we may be awakened to the reality of joy.

How powerful is the gospel of God?

Let me end with this quote from Romans 5:

“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” Romans 5:8-10

By Dr. Jerry Tankersley

The God Exchange

Date: October 5, 2014 Author: Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley

This is a podcast of the Sunday Sermon and portions of the worship service at Laguna Presbyterian Church. Rev. Dr. Jerry Tankersley is preaching, “The God Exchange” from Romans 1:16-25. We continue our sermon series in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It is World Communion Sunday. We are reading from the NRSV.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.

View Transcripts
Play
Download
To download right click on the download icon and select "Save As..."

Transcript

Acts 17:22-33; Romans 1:16-25
THE GOD EXCHANGE

When the Apostle Paul observed the religious life of the Greco-Roman world he saw it through O.T. prophetic eyes. Like Jeremiah the prophet of the 6th century B.C., he could have asked, “Have you ever seen such a thing? Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 2:9-12

Yes, the great tragedy of Old Testament Israel was that repeatedly she had changed her God for no gods, for idols. Even though the prophets and the psalmists had called the people to accountability for the change. How was it, they asked, that Israel had changed the Creator/Redeemer Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, for gods with eyes that could not see, for gods with ears that could not hear, for gods with bodies that could not move, with mouths that could not speak. The prophets said that those who worshiped the gods of their own making had become like them, lifeless, impotent, deaf, blind, silent, dumb, dead. Not a very good deal to exchange life for death!

The psalmist wrote in Psalm 106, “They made a calf at Horeb (Sinai: Exodus 32) and worshiped a cast image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.” Psalm 106:19-22

This was the theological crisis of Old Testament Israel. Repeatedly, they had fallen into idolatry. They exchanged the light of God’s glory for gods that had no light or life.

Yet, the Apostle Paul knew that this was not just a problem for Israel, whom he loved. This was the theological issue that plagued the entire human race, the Gentile world, all nations. He had seen this in every Greco-Roman city he had visited. From Ephesus to Athens, to Corinth, wherever he visited, the temples of the gods were always at the center of the public square. He wrote to Corinth what he preached, “We know that no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one. Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Cor. 8:4-6

In Romans 1-3 Paul summarized the human condition. He argued that humans from the beginning have had the same issue and problem, and that is holding on to the reality of God the Creator/Redeemer.

“Claiming to be wise, they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” Romans 1:18-25

WHY?

Because in the Garden of Eden the first humans were seduced by a lie! Rather than finding freedom, wisdom, power, and self-actualization they fell away from relationship with their Creator. In losing right relationship with the One God who had given them life they lived the rest of their days East of Eden in bondage to the powers of sin and death, cut off from the Tree of Life.

The truth was that they lost their humanity when they lost their relationship with God. But what was lost was not their need for relationship with reality. That need was soon manifested. Separate from the Creator, the humans worshiped themselves, their power, their potential, their possessions, and finally they symbolized themselves in the material creation by making idols that they deified and fell down before. They worshiped “no gods” that they were sure would bring them wellbeing, prosperity, supremacy over others, and endless gratification. The result was folly and spiritual darkness.

You may be saying to yourself at this moment, “Well, that is a story from the past. It has no relevance for my world or me. I do not see temples to idols in my public square!

But let me ask, “What is it that you value above all things? Who is it that you trust will secure your wellbeing? For what have you worked a lifetime to achieve? The beauty of the creation is all around us. Many come to our shores believing they have arrived at their final goal being surrounded by sea, the beaches, and open-space. And of course this is good.

We have accumulated property and invested in the stock exchange to see our portfolios grow to the point that we think we are wealthy. Did we realize that our investing in the public stock exchanges was a spiritual act, a witness to our need to lift up a means of exchange for a deeper exchange on the God Exchange?

Many of us have invested in education for ourselves and our children hoping to have a return! We never thought of that process as a God Exchange. What if the diploma on the wall will not find us a job in the public square? Dare we trust the diploma on the wall to determine our future wellbeing?

The other morning when the sun was rising and the air was cool and clean I collected the newspaper, looked up the driveway, and thought to myself, “we just about have the maintenance completed.” And then I realized someone else, someday, will likely think the same. As an owner I’m just passing through. I have a stewardship responsibility, but my work dare not be thought of as an end in itself. I remembered my dear friend who had his ashes buried under a rose bush in his back yard. It’s hard to separate one’s identity and destiny from what we think we own and control.
John Calvin in the 16th century wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, “Man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols.” (See 1.11.7, p.108)

Karl Barth, the great Reformed theologian of the 20th century wrote something like this: “Wherever the qualitative distinction between men and the final Omega (or God) is overlooked or misunderstood, that fetishism is bound to appear in which God is experienced in birds and four-footed things, and finally, or rather primarily, in the likeness of corruptible man—Personality, the Child, the Woman—and in the half-spiritual, half-material creations, exhibitions, and representations of His creative ability—Family, Nation, State, Church, Fatherland. And so the ‘No-God’ is set up, idols are erected, and God, who dwells beyond all this and that, is ‘given up’. (p. 50-51 The Epistle to the Romans)

The PCUSA Brief Statement of Faith, confesses, “The Spirit gives us courage to unmask idolatries in Church and culture.”

At this point we need to remember to read Paul in context. He intended us to read his case against humanity with our eyes on Jesus Christ, the Center of all creation and the source of all life.

This is what we are doing this morning as we listen to his Word that is sharper than any two edged sword. This is what we are doing when we come to the Sacramental Table of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, at this Table the spoken, invisible Word of God, becomes visible to the eyes of faith in the elements upon the Table.

This Table reminds us that we are hungry and thirsty for the living, true God, for the presence and the power of the one Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is good to experience this hunger and thirst. This hunger and thirst for spiritual reality has never left the human heart. So we welcome that longing. All of our hungers and thirsts, our desires and our ambitions, remind us and call us to rediscover what it means to be human in right relationship with reality revealed in Christ.

This Table is not an idolatrous Table. It is the Table of the one in whom we live and move and have our being. We were made for this Table. This Table witnesses to our hope to sit at the Table of the Great Messianic Banquet in the presence of our Lord with people from East and West, North and South, and to commune with our common Lord.

At this Table we believe that the spiritual presence and power of Jesus is seen through eyes of faith in the elements of bread and wine, of the feeding we are so hungry to receive.

These elements of bread and cup witness to us of the broken body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through eating and drinking from these material elements all of material reality is sanctified and we enter the Paschal mystery of Christ crucified, Christ buried, Christ raised from the dead. Here we open our hearts to be filled with Christ. The promise is that he comes, he knocks at the door, he promises to come into our hearts and minds to restore to us what we lost in the original fall away from right relationship with our Creator.

You see, only Christ can reverse the consequences of our fall from reality. Only his crucifixion and resurrection can reconcile us with God as forgiven sinners.

This morning we turn from all our idols to find ourselves deeper in the reality of the New Creation, the Kingdom of God.

C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce, a description of hell that has haunted me. He said that hell was a form of the shadow land in which the residents continually moved farther and farther away from one another. This hell was a place absent of relationship. It was a place in which there was no community. It was a place in which irritation and isolation abounded. It was a place of profound division, loneliness and anguish.

At the Table of our Lord, the living Lord restores the vertical relationship that we have lost by virtue of our God Exchanges. At this Table we move closer together to the only God and farther away from the no-gods we have chosen. Here we begin to experience what it means to live anew in a world God created and which he has redeemed in his dearly beloved Son.

By Dr. Jerry Tankersley

What's The Good News?

Date: September 28, 2014 Author: Rev. Dr. Steve Sweet

Rev. Dr. Steve Sweet is preaching from Romans 1:15-17 as we continue in our sermon series in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. We are reading from the NRSV.

To LISTEN NOW, CLICK the TRIANGLE.

To download the audio, CLICK the DOWN ARROW.