Today God is speaking, and he continues to speak to us through the Holy Scriptures. In this passage of Colossians, first is a greeting: Grace and Peace. Next, faith, hope and love, the foundation of Christian life. And thirdly, a litany of prayer for the building up of the church. - A reflection on Colossians by Fr. Jack Estes
Colossians 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit. 9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
KEY TOPICS God is Speaking, Pray and Listen, Spiritual Prayer, Apostle Paul, Scripture is God Breathed, Prophetic Prayer, Grace and Peace; Faith, Hope, and Love; Epistle of Colossians; Spiritual Life
OPENING PRAYER Lord, we do pray that You would give us grace, to love you with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our minds and all of our strength. And give us extra Grace Lord, to love our neighbors, to love one another. As we love our own selves. Open your word now to our hearts, Lord, open our hearts to your word, in your holy name we pray, Amen. Good morning, once again, good morning, I want to begin this morning with a profound yet simple truth - a simple truth that comes radiating to us from heaven above. God is speaking! a simple, profound truth. God is speaking. In the beginning, God spoke and created all the heavens in the earth. Down through the Old Testament, God spoke through the prophets, his chosen ones, to the people of Israel. He sent Jesus, the living word, to proclaim to speak for the gospel. Then the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles, and they spoke forth and wrote down the entire New Testament for us. God is speaking, simple and profound. Truth. Today God is speaking, and he continues to speak to us through the Holy Scriptures.
What is God saying to you this morning? Did you hear his voice as the word of God was being read?
In the epistle to the Colossians, God is speaking through Paul the Apostle to the church. He is speaking to the church in Colossae. And he's speaking to the church at Ascension Anglican, as well. St. Paul was writing prophetically; he's writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Remember, all scripture is, what? It is God breathed. God breathed, the word there is Ruach. It’s the word for breath, that's the same word that you use, as one of the names of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach of God. All scripture is God breathed. And Paul is sort of breathing out or God is breathing out through Paul, this letter to the Colossians. This word to them he's speaking to them, he's speaking to us. Because the words of God, the Word coming, words from Heaven, continue to speak and resonate down through time. Let's consider them. The voice of God embedded in the Scripture. The Word of God. What is he speaking to you this morning? What is he speaking to me? What is he speaking to us as a church? As we listen and hear these opening verses of the Epistle to the Colosseum, to the Colossians. God is speaking.
I hear three main components, three main things to what he's saying, in this passage we heard read a minute ago. Or I should say, the passage we heard, proclaimed a minute ago.
Three main things: First is a greeting: Grace and Peace. Next, faith, hope and love, the foundation of Christian life. And thirdly, a litany of prayer for the building up of the church.
Paul opens with a greeting, a greeting from God. Amen. A greeting from God. God is here this morning, and he wants to greet you as you come to Him. And how does he greet you and in this epistle, Grace to You, and peace, grace and peace to the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Ascension Anglican Church, to the saints and brothers, faithful brothers and sisters in Christ on Facebook livestream. Grace to you. Peace to you. From God, our Father God is speaking grace. Greetings. This is what the immediate thing that God says to us when we come into His presence: Grace, peace. The first thing that God is saying whenever we are listening to him, whenever we come to Him and we're talking about the Lord’s grace: you are accepted. Grace, whatever standard you're trying to measure up to just put them aside. I love you. Grace and unmerited favor. You don't have to earn my love. Grace enabling power, I will strengthen you with my grace. God is speaking grace to you this morning. Or maybe speaking peace. Welcome, greeting, peace, Shalom. Shalom is the peace that is not just like the absence of distraction and war or anxiety. It's an inner peace that that flows out over our whole lives, the whole being, spiritual peace, emotional peace, economic peace. Peace in the world. Peace. Be With You, as we say, all is well. Greetings. Peace be with you all is well. I am with you, says the Lord. Grace and peace, open the door. It's the greeting. You notice that Paul, or God, is often speaking this, as Paul begins his letters, the first thing that we hear is grace and peace, they open the door and open our hearts to hear the word. That's the first thing that I hear this morning, God speaking in the Holy Word of God. Grace and peace is the first thing, the point of entry.
And having opened the door, then Paul turns to the foundation of Christian life. Did you catch this? The foundation of our life as Christians: faith, love and hope. In our prayers for you, we always thank God, he says, for we have heard of your faith, of the love you have for all the saints. Because of the hope laid up for you in Heaven: faith, love and hope. Now you may have noticed up here in front every Sunday, we have a tripod set up that from which on top of the iPhone sits, which gives us a portal to the world so that the gospel and the worship of God can be broadcast out, proclaimed out throughout all the nations I mean, literally, that connects us to the entire world. Anyone in the whole world can connect and hear the Word of God, can hear God speaking through this live stream setup.
Three legs on the tripod, faith, hope and love. It takes all three to create a stable solid foundation to make the portal so that it can function so that it can live stream the gospel out to the world. It takes all three to make a solid base. In the same manner, faith, hope, love, create that solid base in our lives, in the life of the Church, which hold us up which turns us into a living stream - a living stream of God's Word to those around us and to the world. So that we can literally stream out the gospel, faith, hope and Love are the structure upon which we stand in the Christian life.
Faith, and a very important distinction here, faith in Jesus Christ. Amen? There are lots of different faith options out there in the world today. And most of them are designed to take us away from faith in the One true Savior, Jesus Christ: the narrow door, the certain way, faith in Jesus, trust, surrender, acceptance of Jesus alone as Lord. That is the first leg of the tripod, though, upon which we stand.
Love. Love for the saints and for one another. And that's biblical love Paul's talking about, that's the love that is giving, self-sacrificing, with care with concern, with compassion. It's the love that I see you living out day by day, week by week, here at Ascension, caring for one another, praying for one another, bearing one another's burdens, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep.
Hope. And hope laid up in heaven. Hope that is not dependent upon anything in this world. You know, biblical hope is like of a different quality, a different characteristic than the hope in the world. It's not, it's not just like wishful thinking, like, I hope it rains again tomorrow. You know, that's kind of like, well, I wish it would rain again tomorrow, that'd be good. No, but when I say I have hope that Jesus Christ will return one day and rule on earth, that is substantial. Amen. I have hope that Jesus is in heaven right now praying and interceding. For me, for you. That is substantial. Real hope, that is hope that gives resilience that resonates to us from heaven. These three form the tripod, upon which our Christian life stands.
And Paul is beginning in his letter to the Colossians first to acknowledge the tripod is strong. The base that you have is solid. The Colossians are “live streaming” the gospel. They are a living stream of the gospel to their generation. They just use a little different technology than we happen to have today. Paul is saying I see your faith in your love and your hope. He is affirming the essentials, as we always need to pay attention to those three essentials in our own walk with God, in our life together as a community. So that we're not led astray to let our faith be pulled aside to some other gospel, or that our love grow cold, and turn self centered, or our hope be diminished, but remain strong as we have a strong foundation of our life together. So what comes next? And so we have this greeting. And then we have the essentials of the Christian faith. What is God saying to you this morning? God is speaking.
What comes next is this wonderful example of what I would call prophetic prayer. Paul, the apostle, filled with the Holy Spirit, literally breathing out as we said, the Scripture that is going to now speak for generations. He turns to prayer. God is speaking. Paul is responding. He's entering the conversation with God in prayer. Paul is praying and God is speaking. What follows is a kind of litany of prayer then that just flows out line upon line, precept upon precept with spiritual nourishment and designed to enhance our life. You see there's a foundation that's been laid: love, faith and hope. And now Paul says Let us pray to build upon that foundation in our spiritual life.
A prayer that speaks to the Colossians, and a prayer that speaks to us. It's a prayer that we can make our own. Which brings me to my handout for today, all of you received in your service booklet, The prayer of Colossians. So, this was something that I did, years, years ago, looking at the prayers of Paul in his various epistles, and then basically just editing them to make them a personal prayer that you can pray for yourself. Or if you want to change the little italic pronouns there, we can pray for all of us together. Paul's prayer to the Colossians is a prayer that we can make our own. And think about what that does, we have this prophetic prayer, this breathed out by the Holy Spirit. Now, if we begin to pray it, we're taking it. We're breathing it in, and then we're breathing it back out to God. We’re oxygenizing our spiritual lives and, and being filled with the Spirit. We're entering into that conversation then with God. So I think it's very fascinating to note, what are the things that Paul prays for? When I got to this point, I thought, well, what are the things that I pray for? In my garden with my coffee every morning. I'm like, Lord, I pray for a good day and pray for a good harvest from my crops and then pray and you know, I mean, I'm not diluting belittling my prayers, I pray for all of you. I pray for needs, and I will think yeah, I've got it pretty good, I've got a good prayer life going. But this time around, when I began to look at what Paul was praying for. I just kind of thought, wow, you know, holy moly. What if I was praying for these things? How are my prayers lined up with his prayers?
So let's, let's take a moment and walk through this prayer and ask yourself, which one of these do I need most? These things of this litany that Paul gives us, which one of these do you need most? Just listen, what is God speaking to you? What is he saying to you in this prayer, as we come into it? In the epistle, Paul says, Epaphras, the faithful minister of Christ, has made known to us your love in the Spirit. For this reason, we have not ceased praying for you.
Asking that you'd be filled with a knowledge of God's will. Now there's a prayer that's been resonating with me since I was writing the sermon. I just started praying, Lord, I pray to be filled with the knowledge of your will. It's like, Whoa, I just feel the Spirit just go right into my bones. For spiritual wisdom and understanding, let's just let the Litany roll here.
Which one is God calling you to, which one do you need in your life? What is he saying to you?
Spiritual wisdom and understanding that we will lead lives pleasing to the Lord.
Bearing fruit in every good work.
We grow in the knowledge of God made strong and the strength of His glory is power.
Prepared to endure everything with patience. Oh my. I'm staying on that one.
Prepared to endure everything with patience. Yes, Lord. I may be prepared to endure but I don't have that patience part.
Joyfully, giving thanks to the Father.
Enabled to share the inheritance rescued from the power of darkness, transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption through forgiveness of sins.
Are these the things that you naturally pray for in the morning?
See Paul, breathing out the word of God, God speaking to us, is directing us to grow your life. To grow from the foundation of the Christian life, into vibrancy. You know, we proclaim our vision that we would become a vibrant church family that honors and glorifies God, a place of healing, serving and growing together in Christ. Lord, fill us with a knowledge of your will. That we may bear fruit and every good work we joyfully give thanks you, oh, Lord. Is there a one line or two that really stands out to you?
What is God speaking to you? What do you need most in your life as a Christian at this moment, spiritual wisdom and understanding? Or perhaps it's to be strengthened with God's glorious power? We need that strength, don't we, as we go through the trials and the tribulations and the sorrows and the losses and the confusion of this world?
Are there one or two that resonate with you? Well, the good news is that we don't have to choose one, we can pray for all of them. Amen. Yes, we can pray for all of them. You're not limited here. You get the whole enchilada, the whole smorgasbord is available, laid out to you and to me to be able to pray. We can pray for them while engaging in conversation with God in joining with this prophetic prayer of Paul. God is speaking - a profound and simple truth. He spoke the beginning; he spoke to the prophets. He spoke through the living word Jesus. And he spoke through the apostles to the Holy Spirit and breathed out his word. His voice is literally embedded in the Holy Scripture. Words from heaven, the voice of God, what is God saying to you today? What is God saying to me today? To us?
He's inviting us to join in the conversation, I think, praying the prayer of Colossians. For ourselves, or our families, for our church. What will happen? If we all pray this prayer, every day, for a week? What will happen? I'd like to find out, I'd like to see what happens. How about you? Your midsummer spiritual assignment is to pray the prayer of Colossians every day, for one week. And observe what happens within your own spiritual life. What's happening in the life of your family, and what's happening in the life of our church? Let's find out as we pray the prayer daily. Only when you pray the prayer of Colossians, don't rush. Take your time. As you pray, give time also to listen. And remember that profound and simple truth. God is speaking.
What is he saying to you? As we pray, don't rush. Enter into the conversation in prayer. Pray, listen and hear. Do what God is saying to you in this week ahead. Amen.
Let us pray. Father, we pray that we may be filled with a knowledge of your will; grant us spiritual wisdom and understanding. We pray that we might walk in a manner that is worthy of you, Lord, fully pleasing you, being fruitful and every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Strengthen us, oh Lord with all power, according to your glorious mind, and grant us patience and endurance with joy. We give thanks to You, Father, for in you, I'm qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. You have delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of all our sins. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We are destined to come home, to be home with God, to join Jesus there where we will see God and see him face to face.
An Ascension Sunday reflection by Fr. Jack Estes
44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
The Ascension of Jesus50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
KEY TOPICS Christ's ascension, Jesus Christ, Ascension Sunday, God's presence, exalted Jesus, man in heaven, Christ in heaven, time to pray, just pray, completing God's plan of salvation, part of Easter, disciples of Christ, Holy Spirit
Let us pray. Lord, once again we pray and we ask that even as you were lifted up into the heavens on that day, and as you sit at the right hand of God, the Father interceding for us now, pray for us, Lord, that we too can be lifted up into Your presence into the glory and exultation of your throne. In our hearts and our minds and our spirits, even in our physical bodies, Lord, we pray, lift us up in this day, in your holy name, Amen. Please be seated.
A wonderful thought is to be lifted up, above all that kind of clamor, darkness and muck and mire of this world.
Well, good morning once again. Good morning, and welcome to Ascension Sunday, Ascension Sunday. Thank you, Lord. This is our special feast day. Because we are Ascension Anglican Church. We are named for this feast; named for this Sunday. Well, technically liturgically, this is the seventh Sunday of Easter, the last Sunday of the Easter season. And technically it's the Sunday called the Sunday after the ascension. Because as you may be aware, the actual Feast Day of Ascension, always falls on a Thursday, 40 days following the celebration of Easter. Forty in the Scripture always signifies the fullness of time, the completeness of everything that needs to take place. So Jesus' ascension comes after he's resurrected from the dead and that fresh open that new life comes forth. He spends the complete fullness amount of time that is needed to be with his disciples, to complete the work that he had come to do here on Earth. And then he ascends back into heaven.
So the actual Feast Day for Ascension was last Thursday and always comes just prior to the end to the completion of the Easter season and the celebration of Pentecost, which is next Sunday. So just before we go to Pentecost, as Easter ends, the ascension takes place. But because of this, because the the ascension is kind of sandwiched in between Easter and Pentecost, the significance of the ascension is often missed, I think. As the church focuses on the grand events at the resurrection of Jesus, Easter bursting forth from the tomb. And then next, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, empowering the disciples to be God's witnesses throughout the earth, establishing the church, as the church is focused on the resurrection and on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Ascension just can become a little blip on the radar, a blip on the calendar going by, especially since it comes during the week, on a Thursday. For my friends, the significance of the ascension should never be missed. It cannot be understated.
Let me quote from my dictionary of biblical theology. You guys have that on your shelf, right--a little light reading in the evening, the dictionary of biblical theology regarding the ascension. The Ascension is not only a great fact of the New Testament, but a great factor in the life of Christ, and of Christians. No complete view of Jesus Christ is possible without it. Without the inclusion of the ascension and its consequences. It is the consummation of his redemptive work, is the completion of God's work of salvation. The Christ of the Gospels is the Christ of history, the Christ of the past. But the full picture of the New Testament is the living Christ, the Christ of Heaven. The Christ that's seated at the right hand of the Father, the Christ that ascended there, present, and future. All this depends on what? The ascension.
It all depends on the the ascension.
So the significance of the ascension should never be missed. Perhaps that's why God named us Ascension Anglican, you know, there aren't very many Ascension Anglicans around. I mean, we're all here, but in your churches. If you look in the church, you know, Anglican Church directories, you just there just aren't any. There are some churches of the of the ascension. But I Ascension Anglican is our particular name. God named us that way, I think because he doesn't want us to miss the significance of the ascension. And he wants us to embody, to represent the significance to the church and to the world. So that we may grow in understanding so that the world may also see and think, What is this ascension? Why, why is this so important? We are the people of the ascension. The community of faith is designated--that's our identity. God has written ascension in our hearts. Amen. He's written it on our forehead, like they say in Revelation, they write his name on our forehead. He's put it on our signs, he's embedded it into our identity.
How do you identify with that? I'm curious, I'd like to hear. We've been Ascension Anglican for many years now. How has God formed you into that identity? What does the ascension mean to you? Or what special characteristics? You know In the Bible, we were talking the other night about this about names when someone is named in the Holy Scripture. There's deep significance to that. The name describes the character, describes the nature, sometimes the calling, the purpose that God has given to that person. Even we see names changed, like Abram to Abraham, the father of the nations, or Jacob, which literally means schemer, heel grabber to Israel, the one who leans on, depends on God.
God has named us Ascension, what sort of characteristics, sort of things is he working in you? As people have the Ascension, I think it's good for us to reflect on that, isn't it? So join with me also this morning then in reflecting on some of these characteristics, some of the themes of the ascension that we may also grow in our own identity as the people of the ascension. So first, we're gonna think about the actual event of the ascension.
The ascension is an event. It's a part of the drama of salvation history that concludes Jesus' time here on Earth. Secondly, I want to think about the spiritual principle of a sending, or a ascent, which is found running throughout the Holy Scripture. And you often hear me pray this way or say things like this, like we are ascending the holy mountain, who shall stand in the presence of the Lord, those who ascend up into his blessing, into His presence. So the event of the ascension, the spiritual principle, the discipline of ascending, ascension is discipleship. And then lastly, our own ministry here at Ascension. As we bring that ascending message that ascending grace, as we reflect that, shine that out into the world, shine it out onto Facebook and beyond to our community around us. So you might have noticed this morning that I, took a little pastoral prerogative, first my scripture reference here. Pastoral prerogative, and for this morning, I actually took a step back and used the scripture readings from the actual Feast Day of Ascension, because in these scriptures, we have the actual event, the story of Jesus' ascension taking place.
So first and foremost, the the the ascension is an event of great significance. As I said, it completes God's plan of salvation--completes the conclusion of Jesus's earthly ministry here as he brought the kingdom of God, as he brought the Gospel as he came to redeem us. And if we track it through, you know, we always, we're gonna say in just a few minutes here, in the Holy Eucharist, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." Those are all great events of salvation history. But there's one that's missing. Remember, we did a little blip in there as we were going past, from Easter to the return of Christ.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ has ascended. Then Christ will come again. Christ is ascended--then the Holy Spirit is poured out. Christ is ascended. He can't return until he first goes back to heaven. Christ is born, I think we could add that and often think at Christmas time, it's like, well, we're kind of missing the fact that Christ was born. Now, Jesus, the eternal Son of God began in the heavens, he was actually the agent of creation that created all that we see, all that we are. He's the head of the church, he began with God, in the creation, and as we rebelled and fell and had no way to get back to God. Then he came, he came down, he descended first, he descended to be among us, he was born, he gathered up our sins, absorbed them on the cross, He was resurrected from the dead. He overcame. He came to redeem us, to gather us, and then to take us back into heaven. In the event of the ascension, our humanity is redeemed back into the presence of God.
There's a man in heaven! See, there it is, look up there. What if they had ancient newscasters, right? And newscasters could go back, you know? "That's right, we're here today and Jesus has just ascended. There's a man in heaven! News at 11."
Don't miss the significance of that. Our humanity now is in the presence of living man human Jesus, redeemed man is now in the presence of God. He can stand in the Holy of Holies, in the holy presence of God without fear. He's redeemed, and he brings us also to be redeemed. There's a man in heaven returned to be with God. Adam fell, he descended Christ ascends. He redeems our humanity and takes us home. That's where we're going, my friends. Jesus said, "In my Father's house, there are many mansions. And I'm going to prepare a place for you." Well, he could have said, "I'm ascending there to prepare a place for you." And if I ascend there, then I will come and get you. And you will ascend there to dwell with God. It's a homecoming. The Ascension results in our homecoming.
Jenny was at a conference, Daughters of Holy Cross, recently, and Bishop Mark Lawrence was there. And he got on to talking about the ascension. And this is what he said. He said, "The Ascension is our homecoming. The ascension is the most vital thing. Jesus did everything. He accomplished everything. But the the final step was he took us home, he took our humanity home." And I think he told the story about actually a baby being born. And first opening his eyes and it was so bright, he could hardly open the eyes. But then the father was standing by there, and the baby recognize the father's voice, because after all the babies can hear in the womb. And he turned to us looked at isn't that right? And he said, This is what the ascension is. We're gonna you know, it'll be so glorious that we'll be trying to get our eyes open but then we will hear our father's voice! We will hear our father's voice because we will be home. The journey is not finished until the plan of salvation is not complete without the ascension. Jesus cannot return, come again without first ascending. The Holy Spirit, the promise of the Holy Spirit could not be fulfilled, cannot be realized until Jesus ascended. He said to the disciples, it's expedient that I ascend because if I don't, the Holy Spirit won't come. And here at the event of the ascension, then, is the promise given a certified to wait because the power of the Spirit is coming next week. Next week, it's coming on Pentecost. The good news is not complete without this final ascension, this event into the presence of God.
This is the gospel. We are destined to come home, to be home with God, to join Jesus there where we will see God and see him face to face. Jesus's ascends and this event, the completion of God's plan of salvation. There's a man in heaven now and makes possible the coming of the Holy Spirit. He concludes his earthly ministry.
And the other part that is really clear in Scripture about the the ascension is that in this event, Jesus is exalted. He is exalted. And we hear that in our reading from Ephesians, the immeasurable power that towards those who believe he worked in Christ, when he raised Him from the dead, and ascended him is seated at the right hand and heavenly places. Now, Jesus is glorified. He is exalted. He is in his next state of being, as King of kings and Lord of lords over all the world, all the universe. He exalted, far above all rule, authority, power, dominion, and every name that is named -- not only in this age, but in the one to come.
He put all things under his feet, and gave him his head of all things to come to and head over all the church. So in this event, then, God's plan of salvation, Jesus' ministry is completed, and he's exalted into heaven. So the ascension is an event. Ascension also embodies a biblical principle, one that we try to walk in. One that I would encourage us to lay hold of, on this Ascension Sunday--the biblical principle of ascending, of ascent, making our ascent to God. That's the journey isn't it? I've often said that the journey through this world is the journey of becoming who God has created us to be. It's the journey of becoming our true identity. It's a journey of becoming the the name of the white stone that God will, the Lord will give to each one of you when we stand before him. Your character, your nature, it's a journey of ascending, ascending out of this slogging along and slogging through the mud and the blood and the confusion and the lies and the sin and the whole cauldron that you know, the sea of confusion that has gripped this world. And the climb. Climb up. Those of you who have climbed up in the Sierras, you know what I'm talking about? Doug Starr, my good friend, he took us on a journey of ascent. He climbed up higher into the mountains. As you climb, what did he find? The air was fresh, water pure, fragrance of the pines. All God's creation in splendor around him--closer into the presence of God.
In a similar manner we in our spiritual lives, we are called, Jesus calling us, "Come up here come higher." To climb up. To leave our sinful ways to breathe the clear air, to to purify our thoughts and our hearts from all the pollution. To ascend is spiritual principle. It's a spiritual discipline, Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord, who shall stand in his holy mountain? The one who has clean hands, and a pure heart. If you have been raised then with Christ, set your thoughts on things above. Let your thoughts ascend to things above where Christ is.
Jesus is lifted up in the Gospel, and in the Gospel of Luke he is he is lifted up, lifted up into the heavens. And as followers of Jesus one day we will also be lifted up out of this world into His presence. So the ascension calls us as the people of ascension to live it, you know, and it was a principle of ascend, of being lifted up, to rise up above the fray, to rise up above our sinful natures, to rise up our natural inclinations to you know, get in there and do what we think we should do. Hhave you ever experienced that? It's not easy to get up above the fray is it? Can you think of a time when you were like, just lifted up and you just stayed above the fray? And in doing that you had brought God's presence and His kingdom into whatever situation? Not long ago, I went to Rite Aid because I had to get a prescription. And I came in and I thought, "Oh, great. There's no line. I'm the only one." But when I got to the little footprints, there where to stand on little footprints and wait. Then I realized there was another man in front of me at the counter. And he was just railing against the pharmacy girl that was there. "I want my prescription!!!" And she's going well, I'm sorry. But you know, you can't get this filled until, you know, for another week, because it's a controlled substance, and you can't get it until then." "Well, you've got it all wrong. What's the matter with you incompetent people? I want to say the pharmacist!"
So all of a sudden, I'm thinking, "This guy's out of control. I better step in there and tell him, hey, you need to shut up my friend."
I don't know, you know, I might not be such a good. Oh, and he's just just berating the staff. And I'm just like, "Where's security?" Then, "No, you don't need to jump into the fray. You need to be above the fray." I mean, I wasn't thinking that at the time. But I just feel like God said, "Just pray. And you know, I have people here who have authority here, and they're gonna deal with it you know. So I just began to pray. And then pretty soon he's like, "Oh, I'm out of here. If you guys can't do this for me," and he stomps out. I'm next in line. And they're just like, I mean, you know how it is, when you run into something like that the poor, you know, the little girl and the pharmacist woman there. "You guys really handled that well. Bless you. That was really difficult. I just pray that God will lift you up." And it was an opportunity. And as I thought about this sermon, this one I thought, you know, what was happening there was I was inviting them to ascend up above all of that conflict and all that mess and those lies that were thrown. And I was able to pray and say, Lord, I pray, Lord, bless them, restore them, lift them up into your presence. And you could just see the countenance just go, Ah, this guy's not gonna yell at us like the last guy.
My friends, that is that discipline that God calls us to live in. To live above the fray, lift it up. That's our destiny. I've been saying, you know, we're on the way to the resurrection. We're also on the way to the ascension. We will all one day ascend. Either when we die and we complete this journey we'll ascend into God's presence then, or will ascend when Jesus returns and we see him in the sky, and we all, Paul says, are lifted up. We ascend up into the air.
As disciples, as followers of Jesus, we are making our ascent, Amen. Upward into holiness, repentance and holiness, climbing the holy mountain, step by step, day by day; and if we slip and fall back down always, then we get back up and Jesus helps us and we begin again. Climbing closer into the presence of God.
We are making our ascent when we set our minds on His Word. We are making our ascent when we set aside time to pray. We are making ascent when we reach out with compassion. When we preach the gospel, we are making our ascent and when we come into His presence in the Holy Sacrament.
How will you be following Jesus in this week ahead? Where will you be ascending? Where is he is calling you to ascend? We make our ascent when we decide we're going to come to church. And maybe it's been a long time, and it's really scary. But we ascend up, and God gives us our grace, gives us grace to be here.
So the ascension is an event. Ascension is a spiritual principle that has now become part of our very identity, our ministry, it's a way of life, my friends, a way, a mode of being. The significance of the ascension cannot be missed. It cannot be understated. That's why God named us Ascension Anglican. He's calling us to live in that state of being lifted up, growing closer to God. It's our calling our identity. It's the name that God has written upon our hearts. You have ascension in your hearts. As we gather on this Ascension Sunday, we embody that event and we display that principle. And we bring to mind we bring them to mind and we show them like I did, that on that moment in the pharmacy, we show that it's possible to live lifted up above this world. Because Jesus has ascended into heaven. He has redeemed our humanity and taken us home. And one day, we will all follow Jesus. We will all ascend there as well.
My final thought here this morning on this Ascension Sunday, something that really I noticed for the first time in reading in reading the Gospel, and the story of Jesus' ascension, he gathers the disciples, he's completing his time with them. He's giving them His Word. He's explained to them everything's fulfilled, the law the prophets, all's done. He's telling them instructions, wait for the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is coming. And then he leads them out as far as Bethany and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. He blessed them. There's a special blessing that takes place in the ascension, a blessing that he gives to His disciples as he's lifted up. He leaves he's leaving them with this blessing. And what does that blessing do? They worship Him. And they return in great joy. And they're continually in the temple, praising God. On this Ascension Sunday, I pray, Lord, that we would receive the blessing of the ascension, that we may continue with great joy and worship in your holy temple.
God has written the ascension in our hearts. It is our homecoming. It is where we're going. So in the days ahead, let us all live then. Let's live as the people of Ascension Anglican. Let's live with ascension in our hearts, that the world may see and come to know Jesus as the exalted, ascended, Lord of Glory seated at the right hand of the Father. Until that day when we also make our own ascension and join him there. Until that day, let us live in the final blessing of the ascension. Amen.
Let's pray. Lord, we pray and ask for the blessing of The ascension to be upon us today that that blessing would give grace and mercy and cause us to be lifted up, lifted up above the fray, lifted up above our own sins, our own guilt, shame, the things that hold the things that try to drag us down, Lord, that they will be cut off and we would receive this blessing. The Lord bless you on this Ascension Day, this Ascension Sunday. Amen.
These things have happened. We can believe everything else that he said is going to happen. We're going to go home to the Father.
-An Easter reflection by Fr. Randy Messick
21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ 23 Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. 25 ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
Love and Father God, Jesus Christ, peace and forgiveness, Holy Spirit, main two commandments, greatest commandment, forgiveness as an act of the will, nature of this world, God has overcome the world, love and obedience, do not let your heart be troubled, Corrie Ten Boom and forgiveness
Last time I spoke a couple of weeks ago, I kind of wrapped it up by mentioning that in obeying Jesus, that that's kind of how we show him that we love him. That's how important it is to obey Him, because that is how we show him that we love him. And in verse 21, of the gospel this morning, that's what what Jesus tells us. He says, They who have my commandments, and keep them are those who love me. And those who love Me will be loved by the Father.
So we can ask ourselves right off the bat, okay, well, what are your commandments, because I want to keep them so because I love you. And I think that's a good place to start with that are the two commandments, the main two commandments that we read every Sunday when we come to church, and that are that you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. So if I love Jesus, I'm going to obey that.
And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. That one's not as easy, but it's right up there. Number two, so. So if I'm going to love Jesus, I need to obey the commandment. So if we think, Okay, well, the same thing applies to Father God, if I love Father, God, I'm going to obey Father God. And Jesus helps us keeps keeps that real simple for us. When in John six, he teaches us that, okay, this is the work of God, that you believe in the one whom he has sent. Okay, so that'd be Jesus. So, if I'm going to love Father God, I'm going to believe in the one whom he sent Jesus, and I'm not going to believe in Him, I'm going to believe him. Because that's what's that's out of that is how I'm going to obey the commandments that Jesus goes on to give us throughout his ministry. So he says, and those who love Me will be loved by my Father. So the Father gives us to Jesus, by His grace and His goodwill.
He loves us and He makes His love known to us. That's the start of how we love is that God loves us first, and gives us this gift of grace that we can know and love him. So to believe in Jesus is to listen to him, to trust in Him to do what he says.
Now our nature, our fallen nature, the nature of this world, does not particularly want to do that.
Does not want to listen to him.
Does not want to believe him.
Does not want to believe in Him.
And Jesus knows that and he points that out in Matthew, He says, you know, you need to enter through the narrow gate that I'm teaching you For the gate is wide and the road is easy. The leads to destruction. And there are many who take it. That's because that's our nature. That's my fallen nature that comes to me naturally. Going through the wide gate, I do my thing. I do my will. It's just like falling off a log. I'm born with it. I just how I go about my day, that wide gate. Whatever I want to do, that's what I do.
But he says, no, no, no, no, because that leads to destruction. So for the gate that is narrow. And the road is hard, that leads to life. And few find it. The narrow gate, faith in Jesus. Few find it. The road is hard. Why is it hard? It's hard because it's contrary to my fallen nature. I have to die to self. I have to pick up my cross. That painful death of dying to self. Right? That's difficult. He says, at one point he says, you know not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. And what is the will of the Father in heaven? It is to believe in Jesus, the one whom He has sent. And in believing in Jesus, we believe him and then we obey him. And then He reveals himself to us. So he says to the group gathered there, he says, Those who love Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them. And that is what Judas not Iscariot or St. Jude, as he's called, in Scripture responds to when he asks him the question that starts us off on this morning's verse 23 says, I will love them and reveal myself to them. He's going to reveal who he is to those who love him. Who he is,not what we think he is, not what we think he should be. But who he is. He's going to reveal that to us.
And Judas not Iscariot said to him, Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world? And I think maybe probably what he's thinking there is, aren't you going to be a king? You know, with the kingdom here on earth, how are we going to know that you're the king and we're gonna reveal that to us, but you're not gonna but the world's not gonna know? And Jesus answered them, those who love me keep my word and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with him. It's a different type of Kingdom. It's not a throne here on Earth, and I'm gonna mount and all, you know. It's the throne that is going to happen in each of our hearts. That's where he sets up his throne. That's where he becomes the king, he becomes the king of me, who I am to obey and follow. And indeed, if we love Him, we will obey Him. We will surrender our will to his.
So in some ways, love is the root, right? And obedience is the fruit. Some other smart guy said that. I didn't come up with that. Love is the root and obedience is the fruit. But you know, also sometimes obedience is the root. And love is the fruit. And let me use an example there of what I mean by that.
You guys ever heard of Corrie Ten Boom? Yeah, she was a gal from Holland, her and her sister, they hid Jews during World War II from the Nazis. The Nazis found out about it and took Corrie and her sister Betsy to a concentration camp where Betsy was eventually died. Corrie got out just by a miraculous mistake in some paperwork. And her sister was all about forgiveness, right? And so when, when the war was over, Corrie thought, you know, I gotta be about forgiveness, too. And I gotta go preach forgiveness and how important it is.
And so she goes to Germany, and she begins to do these rounds of talks to people and where she tries to convince them that you know, If we confess our sins, God will will cast them into the deepest ocean. So they'll be gone forever, you'll be forgiven. And most of the people were staring at her, you know, huh? And she was done. It was all silent. Everybody got up and just walked out of the room during this one talk she gave. But that's when she saw him, she says, and I'm just gonna read her own words here.
"He was working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat, the next a blue uniform and a visor cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush, the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, that pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor. A shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsy, how thin you were. Now he was in front of me, his hand thrust out, 'A fine message, Fraulein. How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea.' And I who had spoken (this is her talking about herself), and I had spoken so glibly of forgiveness fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take the hand. He would not remember me, of course, how can you remember one prisoner among those 1000s of women, but I remembered him and the leather crops swinging from his belt.
"I was face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. 'You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,' he was saying, 'I was a guard there.' No, he did not remember me. 'But since that time,' he went on, 'I become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there. But I would like to hear it from your lips as well, Fraulein.' Again, the hand came out. 'Will you forgive me?' And I stood there, I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven and could not forgive. Betsy had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could not have been many seconds. men their trespasses. Jesus says neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses, forgive your trespasses. I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were also able to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives. No matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids, it was as simple. It was as simple and as terrible as that. And still, I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart.
"But forgiveness is not an emotion, I knew that forgiveness is an act of will. And the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. 'Help,' I prayed silently. I can lift my hand I can do that much. You supply the feeling. And so woodenly mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one out stretch to me. And as I did and incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder race down my arm sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. I forgive you, brother, I cried with all my heart. For a long moment, we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then."
So obedience, love of Christ, and obedience to Him is for our good. You know, we struggle with it sometimes because we think, no, this can't be right what he's telling me to do. I kind of have to override him here. He doesn't fully understand that situation. So we think, "Well, this time I'm going to consider his commandment as a suggestion."
Then the next time something comes up, and we go, "Well, that's just too difficult. Therefore, no, it's just too difficult. You're asking me to do something that's impossible to do." Well, we're to do it. Because why? He's our king. He told us to do it. It's a commandment. It's not a suggestion. And that's what it means to be a Christian.
Say, how will he come to me? How will he come and make his home with me, he and the Father? Well, we know it by the Spirit that Christ abides in us. In First John says, "The one who keeps God's commands lives in him and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us. We know it by the Spirit that He gives us.
It's the work of the Holy Spirit. That's why he sent the Holy Spirit. To convert us and consecrate our hearts. And he comes to us personally, to each of us in a distinguishing way. He comes to us to do that, to set up his throne in our hearts. He goes on to, "Okay, so let me put it another way." He who does not love me does not keep my words. What are his words, all that stuff in Scripture that he that is written there, that's his word. Okay? And the word that you hear is not mine, but it's from the Father who sent me. So I guess I just have to look at it this way, you know, no matter what I may think, or say or pretend. I can't love Jesus if I don't believe what he says is true--and seek to obey Him.
I've shared my story about saying words you're not supposed to say before. Now, I found out the hard way. Oh, no, he really means it. It is for my good. He wants me to be free in his love. He wants me to be able to share that freedom and that love with others. I can't do it if I continue to do things my way, and I don't obey Him. And He says, you know, these words are from the Father who sent Me. The Father gives us Jesus and Jesus turns us back to the Father. Jesus reveals the Father. The Father sent me to teach you these truths. These are truth. It's the Father's word. It's the Father's will. So I don't know what he's thinking, you know, I don't know. Are you worried whether or not you can trust what I'm saying? Let me say to you, it's comes from God, the Father, what I'm saying. And I in my obedience to the Father, am sharing the truth. I have said these things to you while I am still with you. He says "these things." I love that. "I've said these things." These things. The truth of all reality. The truth of salvation in Christ, these things. Yeah, it's mind blowing these things that he told us. That he came, and was sent by the Father to tell us. He says I've said these things while I'm still with you. But the advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Thank goodness, I am not leaving you as orphans. Okay. I was thinking as I was reading, like somebody came in and said, ok, Randy, I want you to fly this airplane from Bakersfield to Las Vegas. And here's how you do it. Can you get in there? Push this button over here is, you rev the RPMs to a certain speed here, you're gonna get your paddles and your hands going like this. And you're gonna watch this skill and make sure that thing goes up over here. Make sure your temperature gauge over here, you're gonna watch that cuz like, gets things going on here. blabbity blabbity blah, and this goes on for you know, 30 minutes.
Then he goes, "Okay. See ya."
"The only way you're gonna...?"
"Yeah, things are gonna work out."
Yeah, I can't do it. Could you write it down? Like I could at least refer to it from time to time? Can we make this a process? Like, we slowly learned to learn how to do this? And could I ask you questions once in a while if I don't quite understand things? Yes. That's what the Holy Spirit did a) when he wrote it down for us in Scripture. Thanks be to God. I don't have to remember it. I just have to remember where it is. And go read it. And, you know, so and then he explains it to me as I go.
I read it. What does that mean? The Holy Spirit comes along and He guides me in the truth. "I have said these things to you while I'm still with you but the advocate the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have sent to you." Everything we need to know is taught to us by Jesus. Everything that we need to know, we will learn everything we need to know for ourselves, everything we need to know to try to help other people teach other people is given to us. For us to know it. Because that's the key, right? I need to know it.
Now he could give me that book on how to fly the airplane. And I could decide not to read it, and hop in that plane. I gotta know, I got to learn what it is. All I have said to you. And he will be there to remind us. It's just our conditioning. You know, we forget. Each day his mercies are new. Am I right? Yeah, it's yeah, I need to get up and go, Oh, what is his mercy? What am I to do? And that's how we live our lives. One day at a time, serving God, trying to know God. It's not something that we're going to be able to, you know, don't worry about getting overwhelmed with what all this says we're just one day at a time. He's gonna guide us in the truth. We just have to keep suiting up and showing up kind of like Corrie Ten Boom, did. She stood up, she showed up to proclaim the gospel of Christ's forgiveness. She didn't think in advance what if some guy comes--no, it just happened. And in that moment, the Holy Spirit was there to remind her, this is what you do, you reach your hand out.
Start there. Okay. Just start there. I'll make sure it works. Then, as he then he's preparing to leave. Of course, I think I've talked about this recently, too. He lets them know, you know, this is the gift I'm leaving, my peace I leave with you. The Holy Spirit, the Word of God in Scripture, that's his piece. That's where I can go to know when I become discomforted or uncomfortable or worried I can go to his word. That's his peace. My Peace I leave with you My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Let me remind you that my kingdom is not of this world. My kingdom is in your heart.
See in this world, how do I get my peace? I think I get my peace. It's a mistake. And it feels right. But it doesn't work, is I think I get my peace from getting my way. Right? I'm all in a snafu about something that's going on at work. And I have to get my way and I'm, you know, upset. And so sometimes I'm nice. Sometimes. I mean, I'm just working it. I wake up in the middle of the night, I know what I'll do, I'll say this, then they'll say that, then this will happen. That'll happen, then I'll have peace. That's gotta happen in order for me to have peace. Because we'll be you know, the old thing I always talk about to you know, if I just buy this one thing, then I'll have peace. Then I'll be happy. Well, what happens is that I love that thing. And the best two days of boat ownership: the day you buy it, and the day you sell it. I love it, though. Well, that's true. There are Earth, it's temporary. This peace we try to give ourselves is fleeting and temporary, then it goes away. And we have to keep searching for it over and over and over again. It's not till we find our rest in God, that we find the peace that passes all understanding. And that's the peace that Jesus is giving us. Because it's not about that it's not about getting your way. It's about being made free in the truth of Christ's love. And that doesn't have to do with me getting my way in the world back me getting where the world gets in my way of Christ's love for me and for others.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid. I love that line. There's a commandment I like. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.
Don't be afraid of anything in the past. Anything that's presently going on. Anything in the future that you're worried about. Don't be afraid. I have overcome the world. If you put all your faith and trust in me, love me, obey me, I have overcome the world. That's the answer you need, not to try to suit the world to fit the world to suit yourself. But to realize that I, this world is messed up, but I have overcome the world. It's in me that you will find your peace.
I love what Paul says, this is a great suggestion for us all. He says, "Therefore, since you have been raised with Christ, keep your minds on the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the father." See what if I'm laying there in bed one night, and these troubled problems pop into my head. And I'm trying to figure out how to solve them and how to get my way. Yada, yada, yada. And then this word comes to me, I go wait a minute. I'm supposed to have my mind raised to Christ, raised above where Christ is. Supposed to keep my mind on those things, you know what happens? I fall asleep. I go back to sleep. Because Oh, yeah, that's right. Christ is my king, my Savior, he's overcome the world. I do not have to let my heart be troubled by anything. Plus to this business of trying to find our peace by managing things here in this world is just about this world. We know this is going to end. But God's peace goes on and on and on forever. Because why? Because we go to be with Him forever. I'm going away says and I'm coming to you. I'm gonna leave I'm gonna come to you, just remember that. I'm not leaving you. I'm gonna send you the Holy Spirit. But I'm not leaving. Of course He comes to them right after the after the resurrection. He appears to them right? Then he leaves again. It is the ascension, goes up to heaven, says, don't worry, I will come back. I'll be with you to the end of the age. And then he's going to come back.
Well we have the same peace in us. You know, we say to each other, like on that last day. We're going to take our last breath here on mortal Earth. I'm going away. But I'm coming to you. That's the truth. Going to sing that song today about going home, see my mother. That is good, too. So the gospel. Christ is overcome the grave. In Him, we overcome the grave. There is our peace that passes all understanding. If all I have is this world, I'm in trouble. And I'm going to be fretful and fitful. But that's not I have a place in heaven, prepared by Jesus, for me to go to. He says, "Look, if you love me, you will rejoice that I'm going to the Father because the Father is greater than I." It's sort of like the call, like I think we read to the Father is great. Because you get to understand, so I'm here with you and with, you know, it's great. But you're still going to have trouble. But take heart, I've overcome the world but, but I'm going to the Father, which is greater than this thing that's happening here. There is no sin. There is no conflict. There is only love in the presence of God the Father. That's where I'm going and rejoice. Because I'm bringing you there with me. You should rejoice that I'm going to the Father. He says in another spot, you know, I gotta go to the Father so I can have the Holy Spirit sent to you, to be with you.
So all this, he told them before it occurred so that when it does occur, you may believe. Well, all those things happened. He resurrected, He came to them. He ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to them and to us. These things have happened. We can believe everything else that he said is going to happen. We're going to go home to the Father. We're going to see all our beloved there who died in Christ. No more tears. And it's all in the counsel of God. It's all done. I told you this so you may believe. There's no change of plans. This is the plan, this is what's going to happen.
Just believe that. Okay, sink all your trust and faith in me. Do the work that the Father has given you to do. Believe in me and obey. And you will find peace and happiness. Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank You again for the gift of your word, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, you've had your words set down for us, that we can always return to and look at and grow in and listen to. We pray, Father, God, that you would your Holy Spirit would continue to open our hearts and our minds to it and guide us to it so that we would desire to know and that we would want to know what he what your word is teaching us. And then of course, we pray we would you would, through your power of your Spirit, help us as we put it into action in our lives, and put it into action as we try to show others the glory of Your love and salvation. So Father, thank you again for this morning we can come together to worship you and to listen to your word, and help us Father God as we go out from here to put it to work in our lives. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
We are on our way to the Resurrection. The Last Day will be The First Day. -An Easter Reflection on Revelation 21 by Fr. Jack Estes
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’ 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6 Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
KEY TOPICS Jesus' death and resurrection, Jesus' return in glory, the book of Revelation, the living God, judgment of the world, hope of the world, the new creation, the last days, a new heaven, Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega the beginning and the end, the new life is perfect
Lord, we pray that you would seal your word, your holy word, your gospel, upon our thoughts upon our minds, upon our lips and things that we say, and upon our hearts as we meditate upon You. Lord, open Your Word to our hearts today, and open our hearts to your word, and your holy name. Amen.
Please be seated. Good morning, good morning. Once again, welcome. Good to see everybody. Quite taken by the Scripture and the book of revelation this morning, where Jesus says, it is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Lord, we come today we are thirsty for that water. quench our thirst this morning we pray. Amen.
We are living in the season living through the season of Easter, here in the church, on the church calendar, these 50 days which are taking us onward, through the Feast of the ascension in a couple of weeks, and on to Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit. And as I was reflecting recently, we're also living in a manner of speaking historically, in the season of Easter, we're living in the time the post resurrection time, the time after Jesus burst forth and was raised from the dead. In many ways, this is true. On that first Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead. And that changed everything. The resurrection altered, everything. History was changed, our humanity was changed. Even the very Cosmos the very nature of the universe, was fundamentally altered. When Jesus came forth out of the tomb. He is the beginning of a new creation; the new creation has begun. He is the first born of that new creation. And at the same time, he is the completion of the old.
As we read in the book of revelation this morning, as I just quoted, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, and the end, he is the beginning of the new creation, He is the beginning literally. Physically, this is a new atom, he is the new atom that has come forth, fundamentally changed, altered with a with no longer subject to sin, the anguish of sin or the death, the consequences of sin. He is the beginning, a new creation, new humanity of a different order, a different quality, it's from quality of life has come for he is the beginning he is also the end, the completion of God's plan of salvation, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the conclusion of the matter. In the resurrection of Jesus, the judgment of the world is finished. He took the judgment of the world upon himself the judgment of sin, the judgment of rebellion against God. He took it he fulfilled the law. He fulfilled the prophets. He went to the cross and He took all of that absorbed it and triumph over it. As he comes forth. The beginning is the beginning is also the end.
On the first Easter Sunday Jesus rose from the dead the first born of the new creation. And at that moment, we entered the eschaton. The in times the last days. The Last Days have begun. I think Father Randy commented on this recently in one of his sermons. The last the End Times began when Jesus rose from the dead. The new creation began when he walked out of the tomb. But the old is still hanging around a little bit, trying to draw us aside trying to draw us back in the resurrection means a new beginning has come, new life, fresh hope for the world. But inherently it also means the old order of things is coming to a conclusion. This world must come to an end. This old, broken, wounded, decrepit world must end so that the new world the new life is perfect, and full of God's life can come into being, this world must come to an end to give place for the new. These bodies that we have is these are caught in struggle with a sinful nature, they must come to a conclusion so that we can enter into the resurrection, our resurrected life is no longer afflicted, no longer in angst and anguish. That's part of our journey here to this world, isn't it that this world must come to an end. Now these bodies must change the world systems and those forces that stand in opposition to God, they must come to an end. So that the kingdom of God, His righteousness, his peace, his joy, his truth will be established. Jesus is embodies the beginning. And he effects the end.
We are living in the last days, I don't know you might say, well, the last days have been going on for a little while now. Father died? No, it's been like 2000 years, the last days are going on? How many of them were last days, or we're gonna have? Well, I'm not too sure. No one knows Correct? Only the Father. But there is a scripture that says 10,000 years are but as a day unto the Lord. And a day is 10,000 years. So in the fullness of time, we will come to the end. So from the Day of Resurrection until now, the new creation and the old are running together, side by side, side by side down through history, the kingdom has come. But it has not yet come to complete fruition has not come to completion. The old is done away is is undone. But it hasn't vanished off of the screen yet. The two are running side by side, in the person of Jesus, they are perfectly balanced. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first born of the new creation, and the completion of God's plan of salvation. We are living in the time of the already but not yet. Amen. It's already present. We're already invited to live into it. We get to choose day by day; I would say even moment by moment. are we choosing to live into the new creation? Or are we choosing to live in the old world which is vanishing away.
So, we also see this in our scripture readings. Throughout the season of Easter, you might have noticed that this dichotomy between the beginning and the end in the beginning, as we are reading through the Gospels and acts on Sunday morning, we are living into and hearing of the beginning. Alongside that writing right alongside as the old and the new run together, we're reading Revelation, the book of revelation given to the apostle John the vision given to the Apostle John. Apocalipsis, which means Revelation in the Greek to show those things which we'll come to past. At the end of the last days when the last days finally come to the conclusion. And we come to the last day. So in this season of Easter and in historically as we're living in the post resurrection time, we're living in this dichotomy between the the oldest is ending and the new which is coming into being you. And Revelation then describes that the sequence of events that will take place at the end.
Have you guys noticed that we've been reading Revelation, along with the gospel of resurrection, gospel, road, resurrection, Revelation, all things that are coming to you in Jesus's birth for throwing the team, the firstborn, Jesus is coming to conclude the whole matter, there is running side by side. As they run side by side in our lives, because we're living in this time, as part of who God has called us to be, as his church to live in the last days, so revelation then describes the events, the tribulation that's going to take place, just prior to the return of Jesus. And that will be the last day. Amen. The last day, when we look up, Jesus, the heavens are open, Jesus appears in glory. We're surrounded by clouds of His saints flying coming together, coming to establish the kingdom forever and ever to complete the process, the conclusion of the matter.
So Revelation then describes these events that are a sequence that will come upon the earth at the end, wars, nations striving against nations, plagues, famine, lawlessness, the rejection of God, Christ, false religions, false prophets rising up to draw many astray. Earthquakes, storms, hail from heaven. Oh, I'm sorry, I picked up the newspaper by mistake here. I thought I thought I was picking up revelation.
It sounds like the newspaper, doesn't it? signs in the heavens, you know tonight. For those of you who like to watch the sky, events in the sky, there's a full Eclipse a total eclipse of the moon. Are you guys tuned into that? Now, this moon is a very special moon. This is the full flower moon of May. And it happens to be a super moon. Super Moon is when the moon is in its closest orbit to the earth. And so then the size that we can see of the moon is magnified even greater. This will be a total eclipse of the moon. And when the eclipse is at full apex. Is that the right word? Somebody help me. Yeah. When it's fully eclipsed, the moon will turn blood red. This is known as the Blood Moon. And there are certain prophecies about the blood. Now I'm not making predictions here this morning. I've just saw one wars. Yes. Okay, let's check wars. Oh, yeah. We’ve got them! Famine. The famines, yes. Blood Moons. Yeah. Okay, signs and the stars in the heavens.
So, we're reading the newspaper and we're reading Revelation or thinking, Well, we are living in the last days, perhaps. And we can look to the sky to see if Jesus is about to appear. And there's a fresh fascination with this book of Revelation in these days. The book of Revelation is the number one searched topic on our website--the number one, the most people that are coming, that are out there searching that are clicking in and getting directed to our website. The number one topic they're searching for is the book of Revelation. Because they're reading the newspaper, and they're thinking, Wait a second, what's go I need to go to God's word and find out what's happening here. There's a certain fascination I think, a certain fear of these events coming upon us. But my friends, we do not need to be afraid. God has not called us to live in fear. He has called us to live in confidence in peace and joy. He has all things in his heels, all things in his hands. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. But this fascination is there, and people are thinking, when will the end come? Are we getting close? Does the news match the prophecy? Well, perhaps, but as I said before, no one can say. Only the Father. But Jesus did say, Be watchful, when you see these things taking place. And he likens it to the birth pangs that would come upon a woman in travail when she's giving birth and birth pairings. Ladies, you could probably explain this better one of you can come up explain this for me. Fr. Jack, let me tell you what happens. As is my understanding, you get the contractions and then then there's some time goes by and then another and and as it goes along those contracts is getting closer and closer and more intense. Am I right? Until you have a new child, son or daughter. Now, was that so difficult? I mean, really? I'm in trouble, or did you have to help me out of here, I'm just, I don't know where I digress to. So Jesus likens this, this time, in the same manner that as we see these events taking place, that and they these things have happened down through history. And there's many times when people think this is the end, but they'll keep waxing stronger and closer together until we come to the conclusion. So we can't say exactly when that will take place. Even Jesus himself did not know only the Father, we can say with certainty, that it's getting closer. We can't say with certainty that the end will come. But we can say with equal certainty that the beginning has come. Amen. The big beginning will come the last day will actually be the first day.
We now have no need to have fear of the last day. Because it will be the first day. The first day that we read about in the book of revelation this morning. This morning. I want us to look past the end and see the beginning. In the season of Easter, we look back to see the beginning of the resurrection of Jesus that started the whole thing. But we also look forward to see what to see the resurrection of all. We look forward to see your resurrection, my resurrection, the resurrection of those who we love. Those who have seen no longer the resurrection. Think about this, how many billions and billions are going to be resurrected on the first day. The first day is coming I can say that with absolute certainty. We are on the way to the resurrection. We're ascending the holy mountain we are Ascension Anglican. We are climbing up we are on the way to the resurrection on the first day. Look past the end. Everyone's fascinated with the end. Everyone's afraid of what's going to happen and all these events that are going to take place. Yes, they will take place. But where are we destined?
We are not destined for the end, my friends, we are destined for the beginning.
Let me calm down. We are destined for that. We've already made the beginning. If you put your faith in Jesus, you are already in the resurrection, you're living in him. He's already resurrected. We're on the way to the resurrection, yours mine. This is our destiny. How should we describe this destiny? What awaits us on that first day? Just take a look at the reading from Revelation once again. I saw a new heaven and a new earth a new creation is coming forth. The first Earth and first heaven are passed away. The old is gone. And the sea is no more the sea is always a metaphor for chaos and rebellion against God. Or chaos ism or rebellion.
There's only the peace, the peace that passes understanding. And it's holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down from God, prepared as a bride for a husband, and a loud voice from the throne saying, see the home of God is with mortals. He will dwell with them. And they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. Now we know God is with us by the power of the Holy Spirit. But it's an invisible force. What is our destiny? What can we expect on that first day? Jesus Himself, standing here in our midst, we see we'll see Him face to face, God the Father present. The God of life, the god of holiness, the God of love. put his arm around you. He will be with them. And He will wipe every tear from their eyes, death will be no more, no more mourning, crying, pain. No more--for all that is part of the old that is gone.
The end we are destined for is the beginning. To live in the newness of life. "See, I am making all things new." I am making all things new.
All the things that were lost in this journey. All the times of angst and despair and disappointment and all the things that were unfinished that where we began but we just couldn't. The world, the flesh and the devil conspire to prevent us from completing what God wanted to do. All things will be made new. You will be made new I will be made new. This is what awaits us.
We are destined to stand in the presence of God.
We are destined to live in a new heaven and earth.
We are destined for eternal life.
We are destined to drink from the spring of the water of life, the crystal-clear river that flows from the throne of God and we are destined to know Jesus our Lord, see Him face to face and hear him say I am the Alpha, the beginning. I am the omega, the end. It is done. I am making all things new.
And we are destined to be together. We are destined to be together. On the first day, what joy will be, we won't be able to contain the joy. I mean the song, you know, "Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts." We are destined to be together with joy--to be once again with all the all those whom we love. That's where we're going. We're on the way to the resurrection. On the first day, that is our destiny.
We do not know for certain when the end will come when the last day will be here. The final conclusion. But we do know that the end has already started. And we see as we read the newspaper, we see the birth pangs coming forth in our time as they have been coming forth throughout this time of the last days. We do not know when the last day will be we can't be certain, but we do know for certain that the beginning has started and that Jesus is that beginning. Amen. Jesus is that beginning. The beginning of a new creation. And we do know for certain that he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of the old, the beginning of the new creation. At the end of the old order of things, we are destined to live in this new creation, my friends. And we can choose to live in it day by day, moment by moment. The last day. We need not fear the last day. We may be fascinated along with the others, but we need have no fear, only confidence, because the last day will be the first day. This is the fresh hope and joy of the resurrection of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega. Amen. In the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I love the Book of Revelation. Truth be told, it's the first book that I ever read in the Bible!