10/30/2016 – Philippians 1:1-11 – “Who You Are”Kriss Botino’s Installation Service

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 1:1-11

“Who You Are”

10/30/2016

Washtucna Community Presbyterian Church

Installation Sermon for Kriss Botino

 

What an honor and privilege this day is! I am so excited for you, Church! I met Kriss almost exactly 4 years ago, in North Carolina, at a mid-career professional development and health conference sponsored by the PCUSA’s Board of Pensions called CREDO. There were, as I recall, four of us from Washington State at this conference, one from Olympia, one from Seattle, me from Inland Northwest, and this bubbly, bouncy, cheerful, dancing and singing woman from Central WA Presbytery!

As the 10-day conference progressed, I learned just how authentic and real that bubbly, bouncy, cheerfulness truly was. Then I learned she was going to start serving as Interim Pastor in the same Presbytery where I serve! What could be better!

And because we are now allowed to become a Called Pastor straight from the role of Temporary Pastor – there a few extra hoops to go through, but still …. Pastor Kriss Botino is MOVING to this Presbytery, and to your community! THAT’s what could be better!

 

When Kriss called me this past Monday and asked if I might preach at today’s service – I realized I was probably not her first choice – and then I realized how full and busy this week was going to be … so when she gave me permission to not develop a message that lasted 45 minutes, or even 25 minutes (I kind of got the impression that FIVE minutes woulda been acceptable!), I was both relieved and already having a clue where this might go.

Are you ready?

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

Today is Reformation Sunday – remembering and honoring people like Martin Luther who, 499 years ago, started a Christian Reformation when he posted 95 ways the Church was not doing/being what the church should do/be, this seems like the perfect time to look together at Who We Are.

 

Listen with me as Paul describes Who We Are from his letter to the Philippians 1:1-11….—-

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

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

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

 

This letter is written, specifically, to the church in Philippi – but I believe it applies to every church which follows Jesus Christ.

Did you hear the descriptors?

  • God’s holy peoplein Christ JesusGod’s Holy People … in Christ Jesus!
  • God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ – if God is our Father, then we must be His children – and if Jesus Christ is Lord then we must be His servants!
  • partnershipin the gospelPartners in the Gospel? What a right? And what a responsibility!
  • all of you share in God’s grace with meco-heirs with Christ!

 

Isaiah 44:21-22 reveals the heart of one who knows he has sinned against God, but then God responds with these words: “Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Most of us tend to believe either that we are good enough that we can earn our way into God’s favor, or that we are so bad God could never forgive us and accept us into His graces. That was true of the people of Israel all those centuries before Jesus was born. And, to be honest, it’s true of me some of the time; and it’s true of you, too. Martin Luther once said something about how he had to preach “saved by grace through faith” every week because every week his people forgot it.

God says here, “Remember who you are. You are mine. Return to me, for I have saved you.”

God says that to Gideon in the book of Judges – while Gideon is hiding in a cellar God calls him a “valiant warrior!”

God calls a young shepherd boy named David the greatest king Israel has ever had!

 

Who You Are!

 

In October 2002 I had the privilege of officiating over the memorial service of a former WashtucnianNikoleb Laurence Kutasovich was 103 years old when he died. He had moved to Washtucna in 1915 when we was 15 years old, to avoid the Great War (WWI) in Belarus. I met him in 1995, a couple of months after I had moved to Spokane, and into his church. Nick Kutas never forgot who he was! After 80 years of living in the USA, and then another 7 more years, I could not understand a single word this dear man said! His Russian accent was so strong. But the one word I could “get” was “Washtucna”!

Three years later, his sweet wife Daisy Kutas passed away, and I conducted her service in your cemetery, and you held a beautiful reception for her family right here. Daisy, whom I could understand, knew exactly who she was in Christ!

 

Did you ever see the 1994 Disney animated telling of The Lion King?

In one scene, after Mufasa, the king, had been murdered by his brother, Simba, his son, is crying out for his father’s help. And from the night sky Simba hears his father’s voice (this is my best James Earl Jones vocals), “Remember who you are. You are my son. And the one true king.”

 

Friends, remember who you are. John the Apostle tells us that “to all who received Jesus, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

And Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew 5:45 that we “may be children of our father in heaven.”

 

Friends, remember who you are – beloved sons and daughters of our Father in heaven!

 

Become who we are called to become, simply by receiving Him, believing in His name, and standing for His truth!

 

Be the children of Godtrust in Him so that you might believe in him a little more every day!

 

I preach this message to myself! I need to remember Who I Am!

Because this is a Presbytery gathering, I preach this to the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest! Remember Who We Are!

But, especially, on this Reformation Sunday, I preach this to the Reverend Kristine A. Botino – and to the Washtucna Community Presbyterian Church

In every situation, through every storm and trial, with every potential pain and victoryRemember – and Become – and then BeWHO YOU ARE in Christ Jesus our Lord! – Beloved children of the King of all kings! Amen.

 

Resources:

The Lion King; Disney; 1994.

10/30/2016 – Philippians 2:1-11 – “The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God”

Click HERE for the audio version of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Philippians 2:1-11

The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God”

10/30/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

On this is second week of a 6-week sermon series on what is known as the Six Great Ends of the Church, the word “Ends” in that means “purposes, or reasons for existence” – we discover more about what the Church is for! This has been true almost since the founding of this particular church.

LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, this statement was incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).

These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all (like we said last week), but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.

 

Today is Reformation Sunday – remembering and honoring people like Martin Luther who, 499 years ago, started a Christian Reformation when he posted 95 ways the Church was not doing/being what the church should do/be, this seems like the perfect time to look together at why we exist.

 

Last Sunday we saw that the first, and by implication the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church is The Proclamation of the Gospel!

Today we discover the second End/Purpose of the Church is The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God!

Listen with me as Paul describes this reason for our existence from his letter to the Philippians 2:1-11….—-

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing    by taking the very nature of a servant,    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,    he humbled himself    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,    to the glory of God the Father.

 

Earlier last week I was looking at a friend’s Facebook post about God’s grace and my heart broke as I read one of his friends comment on that post. She said something about how she totally believes in God’s grace and mercy, but she doesn’t believe you need a church to be a good Christian – the only thing the church is good for, in her opinion, is causing pain and disappointment. She said, “Jesus never said anything about the church”.

Another of his friends starting arguing with her and posting Bible verses to prove his point, and I could see that this was gonna be a debate where the hole just got deeper and the hurt was gonna get worse… so I decided to not get in on the discussion.

But my heart sank for this woman who had had such negative experiences with churches. Where was her “sheltering and nurturing and spiritual fellowship”? And then I wondered how many people in churches where I have been active have felt just like she felt…. And my heart broke again….

 

Sheltering the children of God”, to me, is not protecting them from the world or keeping them safe from controversial ideas. But it is providing a place where believers with full-bodied faiths as well as believers with more fragile faiths can come together as a Christian community, learning, worshiping, fellowshipping, serving, and mutually nurturing one another.

In just a few weeks we will be celebrating Andrew’s 10th Baptism Anniversary. On November 19, 2006, Jennifer and I, and Caitlin and Brianna, and every member of this congregation promised to bring Andrew up in the Church and to teach this newly baptized member of the family of God. That was true Andrew 10 years ago, but it has also been true of every single person baptized in this church for the last 109-½ years!

 

How are we “sheltering” and “nurturing” our fellow Christians? Especially those who are truly searching? Remember last week we said that the Proclamation of the Gospel was both the first and the foremost End of the Church? That’s because, in part, when believers, and those who do not yet believe but are asking all the right questions, come in and want to know what we believewe owe them a solid answer! We believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ – we believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone (Reformation Day phrases!). We believe that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!

 

Paul tells the Church in Philippi, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing    by taking the very nature of a servant,    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,    he humbled himself    by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,    to the glory of God the Father.

 

Have you ever felt the need for “shelter”? Did you discover that “sanctuary” in the Church? [Any “shout-out” answers…. If they say that they needed shelter but did not find it, apologize on behalf of the Church – we have failed….]

Beau Weston, a Sociology professor at Centre College in Danville, KY, as well as a Presbyterian Elder, in an article called “Presbyterian Evangelicals—They just might be on to something” in the April 2004 issue of Presbyterians Today, wrote:

“Christians always tell pollsters that what they want [in church] is ‘good music and good preaching’, but ‘what they really want from religion is religion.’…

          “Liberal churches that work hard to accommodate the secular world by offering a refined, intellectual, reasonable faith keep losing people to the even more reasonable pleasures of the newspaper, the golf course, and the warm bed.”

Do we provide a place where people are both comforted and challenged? Let’s be a place where we can shelter each other with God’s love.

 

How does LPC provide “nurture”? In our relationships with each other, do we have the same mindset as Christ Jesus? Are we so humble as to ignore our rights as privileged majority status citizens – and then pick up our crosses and follow Jesus, suffering on behalf of those around us? (Thursday Bible Study people, that’s exactly what we saw Jesus say last week, in Luke 14!)

 

How is our “fellowship” “spiritual”? [Any “shout-out” answers…. ]

 

The first, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.

The second, and right on the heels of the first, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith and our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being a church!

 

Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:

                   Know the power and love of God, and

                   Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to

                   Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet

                   Know the power and love of God….

Did you hear the sheltering, nurturing, and spiritual fellowship of the people of God in that? Let’s be that kind of Church! Amen.

 

Resources:

The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 2; The Fellowship Community; 2016.

 

Weston, Beau; “Presbyterian Evangelicals—they just might be on to something”; Presbyterians Today; April 2004.

10/23/2016 – Matthew 28:16-20 – “The Proclamation of the Gospel”

Click HERE for the audio version of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Matthew 28:16-20

The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Proclamation of the Gospel”

10/23/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

This is the first of a 6-week sermon series on what has become known as the Six Great Ends of the Church. The word “Ends” in that phrase means “purposes, or reasons for existence”. This is what the Church is for! (When I mentioned this series a couple of weeks back, some people thought I had said, “The Six Great ‘N’s of the Church”, so I tried to make each of the Six purposes begin with the letter “N”; but alas, I simply Neutered the assignment, so I Never did it.

The Presbyterian Church in North America adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when the Presbyterian Church in North America united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, this statement was incorporated into the new constitution; and when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).

These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.

Since October begins with World Communion Sunday – a day when we celebrate the global and trans-denominational reaches of the united Church of Jesus Christ – and October concludes with Reformation Sunday – remembering and honoring people like Martin Luther who, 499 years ago, started a Christian Reformation when he posted 95 ways the Church was not doing/being what the church should do/be, this seems like the perfect time to look together at why we exist.

 

What is the first, and by implication the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church? The Proclamation of the Gospel! And neither Martin Luther, nor John Calvin, nor the Presbyterian denominations that have sprung forth from John Calvin’s teachings, made this up! Jesus Himself gave us this purpose!

Listen, with me, to Jesus’ words to His disciples. Sometime after His resurrection and before His ascension, Matthew records this story – Matthew 28:16-20….—-

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

The Proclamation of the Gospel is the first of the Six Great Ends, and it may be the most controversial. The Presbyterian evangelism efforts have been neglected over the years, and many have gone so far as to discourage evangelism efforts among non-Christians in general and Jews and Muslims in particular.

However the Great Commission, what we just read from Matthew’s Gospel, puts no limits on where or to whom we proclaim the Good news of Jesus Christ!

 

But before we go too far down this road, let’s talk about what this Great End, this Main Purpose of the Church, means.

What does it mean to “Proclaim the Gospel”?

What is “the Gospel” we’re supposed to proclaim? The word “Gospel” comes from an Old English translation of the Greek word Euaggelion = Good (Eu) Message/News (Angel-words).

So what is this “Good News we’re supposed to proclaim? [That God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!]

What does it mean to “Proclaim the Gospel”? [We tell that Good News!]

 

Think back to when you first heard the story of Jesus, when it first became real for you. When and how did you first hear the Gospel? [Personally, I grew up in a church-going, Jesus-believing home. I cannot remember when I first heard it. I kind of always knew this Good NewsChristmas was more about the baby Jesus than it was about Santa Claus, and Easter was more about the empty tomb than about finding baskets of candy and eggs! I kind of always knew – but I didn’t really hear it until I met an old man (he was probably 55) when I was in Jr High School. Bud Cook gave up his every Wednesday evening to sit with a bunch of Middle School snots and talk about God’s love.]

 

The next question on your Sermon Notes Page asks What made it “Good News” for you? What made it “real”? Last week we were blessed with Jack Hewson’s witness to Christ’s Resurrection power. His faith became very real for him when he could sit in the back of the prison chapel and know God’s presence. For me, of course my story is not Jack’s or yours, the Gospel became real when I saw in Bud’s life a power and an assuring presence that could not be explained in any other way. Since then, it has become more real and deeper and more solid through prayers being specifically answered and doors miraculously opened and experiences that no scientist could attribute to anything other than God’s super-natural presence.

 

Remember what I said the word “Gospel” comes from? Euaggelion? That’s the same word we get “evangelism” from. And, in the last 100 years, it seems, evangelism has become less and less a thing most Christians think of as something they can do. After all, we have Billy Graham or Franklin Graham or Luis Palau. Or some would say, “That’s what we pay the Pastor for.”

Well friends, if that’s what you pay me for, then someone else gets to preach and pray at your hospital bed and answer the phone between midnight and 8am – because I’ll be out on the street and in the market place sharing Jesus’ love! You see, that’s the thing! You do not pay the Pastor to evangelize. The Pastor preaches and teaches. We all share our faith, because we all live our faith everywhere we go! As a church-team we can do a much better job than just one guy trying to be everywhere you all are every day!

 

Jesus says that this is something for everyone in His Church! Everyone! Including you! So, how do we share our faith? How do we tell people about Jesus?

How about those last two questions on your Sermon Notes Page: How is proclaiming the Gospel done in what we do? [Let’s hear some feedback – what are some ways you have shared the love of Christ simply by doing things? Or, maybe, how have you seen someone else do that? …….. Treat people with kindness! St Francis of Assisi is credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel always – if necessary, use words.”]

 

Okay, but has anyone ever seen someone who is not a Jesus-follower be kind to people? Of course! In fact some of the nicest people in the world are people who define themselves as definitely not Christian! So, how does our behavior proclaim the Gospel?

Because lots of religions and non-religious people can be very nice, I agree with St Francis, but I also think that it’s always necessary to use words! So, how is proclaiming the Gospel done in what we say? [Last Summer when Bishop Bushebi and Pastor Bushebi were in town I had the privilege of taking them shopping one day, and I watched as they greeted and thanked every single cashier in every store we went to with a simple, “God bless you.” I was convicted!
I used to be afraid of offending someone – with a “God bless you”. No longer!

But, of course, If I say “God bless you” while I am griping and complainingwhat will they hear? Or if I am even more direct and offer to pray to Jesus for their sick child while growling and barking, what will they think? Our words and our actions really do need to line up! If they do not agree with each other, maybe we just need to go home and pray and reconsider what we really believe! (Because they will always hear and believe our actions over our words!]

 

The first, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.

If we claim to be Christian, if we assert ourselves as Jesus-followers, then Proclaiming the Gospel, in word and deed, is our call from God!

This Great End is foundational to everything we do! Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:

                   Know the power and love of God, and

                   Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to

                   Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet

                   Know the power and love of God….

Did you hear the proclamation of the Gospel in that? Let’s be that kind of Church! Amen.

 

Resources:

The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; The fellowship Community; Episode 1; 2016.

10/09/2016 – Revelation 22:6-21 – “Look! Is that Him?”

Mark Wheeler

Revelation 22:6-21

Awaiting the Bridegroom: “Look! Is that Him?”

10/09/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

Today we come to the end of our 9-Sunday sermon series taking us through the last book of the Bible. We have tried to take out the fear of reading this confusing apocalypse, but instead we have viewed this book using the simple words that introduce it.

We remember that the Apostle John, one of Jesus’ closest associates and friends, the one who wrote the Gospel According to John, while in seclusion on a remote island in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Ephesus, Turkey, received this revelation from Jesus Himself. By definition, the scary book of Revelation is meant to be a simple unveiling, revealing, exposing, of Jesus’ divine end-game – written almost as a love letter from the Bridegroom to His beloved Bride, from Jesus to the Church.

 

Today’s reading from the Word of God reveals the last promise from Jesus to us. Listen to the Word of God. Listen carefully. Follow along in your Sermon Notes (or in your own Bibles).

  • Listen for something God is telling you today.
  • What Good News do you hear?
  • How does this chapter make you feel?
  • What/how are you changed by this passage?

Listen carefully, because in a minute you’re going to share something with your neighbor.

Hear the Word of God from Revelation 22:6-21….—-

The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”

I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

10 Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.  11 Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”

12 Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

20 He who testifies to these things says, Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

 

Take  minute. Review your Sermon Notes. Remember what you heard.

 

Turn to your neighbor. And listen again. Listen as your neighbor tells you what she heard.

  • What is God telling you today.
  • What Good News do you hear?
  • How does this chapter make you feel?
  • What/how are you changed by this passage?

 

Not everybody, but let’s have a few of you share what you heard your neighbor tell you.

 

What was Jesus’ last promise – stated three times in this passage (vv 7, 12, 20)? [I am coming again – soon.]

 

In response to that promise, What is the prayer John utters for us all – and that perhaps we pray ever since?  [Come Lord Jesus! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesusbefore the elections!]

 

Look at your Call to Worship that Kathy led us in. That comes from Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth.

What are some ways in which we let God’s Word soak from our heads down to our hearts, allowing it to change us, shape us, into greater holiness (as our choir sang earlier) in the image of God? 

 

And how do we wait for Jesus to return? The very last verse of the Bible offers us the grace of the Lord Jesus. And we pray, Come Lord Jesus.

 

And Jesus promises that He will! Amen.

 

Resources:

Currie, Susan Porterfield; Revelation: Awaiting the Bridegroom; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2010; Pp. 97-110.

10/02/2016 – Revelation 21:9-22:5 – “… that brings us together today”

Click HERE for the audio version of this message.

Mark Wheeler

Revelation 21:9-22:5

Awaiting the Bridegroom: “… that brings us together today.”

10/02/2016

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.

 

After nearly four months (this is actually only the 8th message), we enter into the final chapter of the book of Revelation in this overview look at what some think of as just too confusing and uninterpretable. We have decided to see this ultimate account of Jesusapocalypse in the simple and straightforward understanding of how John the Apostle describes it: Jesus revealing Himself to His chosen eternal-life-partner, the Church.

 

Over these last several weeks we have been, to use the words of this book, Awaiting the Bridegroom – today, this World Communion Sunday, a day when churches of every color and culture, every tribe and tongue, every style and tradition, remember that God saves and loves and calls all His people together as one – today we hear His Word that, to quote the Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride, “… bwings us togevuh today.

 

Look with me at Revelation 21. I invite you to hear the Word of God from Revelation 21:9-22:5 …. —-

21  One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits (216 feet) thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.

22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.  26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.  27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

 

Before we go very deep into this passage from John’s record of Jesus’ Revelation, allow me to remind you that this is a picture of heaven – this is not here and now. (Duh! Thanks Reverend Obvious!)

But let me also point out that God’s desire is that we taste this right now! That we smell heaven, and that we smell like heaven to the world around us, today, October 2, 2016! We should be able to hear the sounds of heaven, even while we endure the clashing noise of sound-bytes and sirens and news of shootings and beatings and evil!

We live in 2016. We, here in this room, live in Spokane, WA, USA, in 2016. We are surrounded by darkness – fear-inducing news of terrorism, of cancer, of divorce and break-up, of addiction. We can all name our own “dark places”. We all have them.

But, 700 years before Jesus was born Isaiah told us that “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” We know that light because we know Jesus Christ. He even calls us to be the light of the world!

 

In today’s reading, where are the dark places in the New Heaven and the New Earth? [There are none.]

Why are there no dark places there?  [Because God is the light that shines in the darkness!]

Why do we have dark places in our lives?  [Maybe we have blocked Jesus from that room in our lives?]

 

What happens when light shines in all the dark places?  [The dark places disappear.]

          One candle dispels the darkness of an empty room.

One flashlight exposes whatever is hiding in the shadowy corner.

In just a few minutes we will gather around the Lord’s Table and discover again His Light. After that we will join in prayer – and TODAY is LPC’s DAY to PRAY for Spokane. What dark places in our community need the Light of Christ to shine in them?

 

Look at verse 24 – this passage is not describing Spokane in any part of this city’s history; it is, rather, a description of the New Heaven and New Earth, the New JerusalemHeaven’s eternity. But, as we said a few minutes ago, we have the ability, and the responsibility, to experience this and to share our experience with the world around us right now, October 2, 2016!

Verse 24, Who is mentioned here as coming into this New Jerusalem? [The nations, and the kings of the earth – the gates will never be shut because there will be no reason to close them, to lock our doors, no 911 emergency systemthose whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life!]

 

How will this be the same as what we experience here on any given Sunday morning?  [Church is a safe place to gather with other Christ-following believers, to be comforted, encouraged, fed, challenged – we get a glimpse, a taste, a scent of heaven. My hope is that we get enough to rub off on us that when we leave the building, when we go to work or school tomorrow, when we have lunch this afternoon, others will feel our exposure.]

How is this different from what we experience here?  [Take a look around – we all look pretty much the samewhite, middle class, English speaking, mostly Builder and Boomer Generations. I am so thankful for Boris and Vera who represent a piece of the world different from our western world lives, but even they look like us; I am grateful for Lilly, and Jake and Ashley, and Melissa, and DJ, and Little Julie, and Jacob and Hope and Oran and Johnny and Kayden and …. For representing Millennials and Gen X and whatever they’re calling today’s generation of 4th graders and younger.

I am also super psyched for our new interest in looking into global and developing country Christianity, Kenya, in particular.

These kinds of things make us a little more prepared for what awaits us in Heaven.

Whitworth University offers a week-long Pastors retreat and seminar every year called The Whitworth Institute of Ministry; in 1998, I do not remember exactly what the theme was or who all the nationally known speakers/presenters were, but Steve Goodenberger, the Music Minister at Spokane’s First Presbyterian Church, wrote this beautiful dream narrative afterward. Listen to this:

“Worship is a rehearsal for heaven”

When we sing, we pray, when we focus on God, we are preparing for a time when the rafters will ring with full-throated glorious singing from all the nations. We will all join together in singing the “Hallelujah Chorus”. Handel will conduct it the way he really meant it to be sung. The rest of us won’t argue about tempos and how big an orchestra is appropriate. The we will join is as people from Zimbabwe sing “O Sifuni Mungu”. Then we will all sing a Latin cant of “Kyrie Eleison” together. We will join in as we sing a Russian anthem of salvation. We will all clap along to a blue grass style Brush Arbor song. Jamaicans will stand next to rap musicians. Irish Catholics will join hands with Protestants. We will all joyfully join in singing a hard-rock chorus of praise. (and we will love it!) Gabriel might join in and improvise on his trumpet. The Latinos will start a mariachi rhythm, and we will all sing a song of praise to the Creator, while snapping our fingers and letting our bodies join in the dance. Then Bach will lead us in the “Magnificat”. Then he will make a odulation and bridge into the key for “O Sacred Head now Wounded”. All the hosts of heaven, including us, will sing. Then, we will sing “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” (in Korean!). Only there, instead of a dancer from Knox Presbyterian spreading his hands beneath the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ will open His arms, we will see the scars on His hands and all of us will bow before Him, not just a handful of dancers.,

Why will we be so ready to sing so many kinds of music, so many languages, so many physical stances for worship? Because we will be in the presence of Jesus Christ. Our desire will not be to find the music that best pleases us, but to use whatever means we have to please the Lamb on the throne. Even if we don’t know the music or the language or the style, we will join in, because the performance will not be the purpose Thunderous adoration will be. We will be one. People from all nations, all tribes, all languages, all musical styles will have a single focus. My quietest, most intimate utterings of individual faith will also be heard, and Jesus Himself will look around past all the millions of people and catch my eye, and acknowledge my praise.

This is powerful stuff. No one could experience this kind of worship without being changed. He devil will do anything to keep us from experiencing this depth of adoration here on earth. He works hard at getting us to takeoff the One we worship – onto the tools or forms of worship. If we start arguing about which tool of worships most appropriate, we lose track of the whole point of worship – to get the focis off of us, and onto Jesus Christ. So, instead of music and worship unifying us, we have come to a point of talking about “Worship Wars”, and why it would be so much better if everybody would want to worship just like me. There is a high level of tension in the Church about music, every denomination, every size congregation:”

 

This section of Revelation closes with the picture of the River of Life and the Tree of Life. The beauty of this New Heaven and New Earth in Revelation is how much it looks like the picture drawn for us in Genesis – only now it is perfected and fulfilled.

Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration—this is the great narrative movement of the scriptures. It begins with God’s original design for this world, and our place in it in relationship with Him; our fall from this life of “all things right-with-God”; and then right in the middle of the Fall, we see God, walking with us, speaking into the Fall. He speaks words of curse (against sin and its effects) and words of blessing (promises of redemption). And He speaks of keeping us safe until the fullness of His redemptive work is completed (keeping us from the Tree of Life until we can eat from it in a state of right life rather than sin life.)

Then we enter chapter after chapter, book after book, of God clarifying and bringing about His promise. This promise reaches its climax in His own coming to us in Jesus—the decisive action in God’s redemptive plan, and the one that accelerates us toward its fulfillment at the end of time.

When we reach the last chapter of this great story, we find ourselves made new, and living here for eternity with people from every race and tribe and language in the full presence and light of God.”

 

There is much we might look forward to when we get to that place of paradiseseeing loved ones and enjoying pain-free dancing and running. But what we might be most excited about is simply being allowed to be with Jesus ….

 

Mawwaige. Mawwiage is what brings us togevuh today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam…. Then wuv, twue wuv, wiww fowwow you fowevuh and evuh… So tweasuwe youw wuv….

 

Let’s pray:

Lord God, we long to experience Your presence and power here in our lives today. Restore what is broken in our lives today – health, relationships, cross-cultural, inter-racial, multi-lingual, inter-generational, cross-economic, inter-educational bring Your people together, today to taste Your perfect Paradise, we pray, in Your Son’s name, the Lamb of God, the Shepherd King, Amen.

 

Resources:

Currie, Susan Porterfield; Revelation: Awaiting the Bridegroom; Presbyterians for Renewal; Louisville, KY; 2010; Pp. 85-96.

 

Goodenberger, Steve; “Worship is a rehearsal for heaven”; Whitworth Institute of Ministry; 1998.

 

The Princess Bride; 1985.