Forever Love

“Forever Love”

November 05, 2017

(All Saints Sunday)

By John Partridge*

 

Revelation 7:9-1                     1 John 3:1-3                           Matthew 5:1-12

 

 

Being the first Sunday of November, today we celebrate All Saints Day and remember all of our friends and family that we have been lost to us.  Already we have named some of them and lit candles in their memory, but each one of us could easily name other friends and other family members that we remember, and think of, daily.  But although they are lost to us, we still remember and we still love.

 

This is not the kind of love that Meatloaf sang about in the 80’s when he wrote Paradise by the Dashboard Light where in one verse he swears that he would love his girl until the end of time, and in the next is praying for the end of time so that he can end his time with her.  When we think about genuine love, about love that lasts, or when we think about “forever love” what we are thinking about is more like the Forever Love that Gary Barlow wrote about when he sang,

 

Now I’m deep inside love and still breathing
She is holding my heart in her hand
I’m the closest I’ve been to believing
This could be love forever

 

Or maybe it’s like the Forever Love that Reba McEntire sang about when she said,

 

The first time I laid my eyes on you I knew

We’d spend this life side by side

I still feel the same though you’re so far away

I swear that you’ll always be my

Forever love

 

But I think even that falls short.  Because in the end, since our marriage vows are “to love and to cherish until death do us part” we are reminded that human love may only last as long as our lives on earth.  But there is yet another kind of love that loves more deeply, and that does last forever.

 

This is the kind of love that Christian artist Francesca Battistelli sings about in yet another song called Forever Love where she sings about God.

 

You are my forever love

From the bottom of my heart I’ll sing to You
From the depths of who I am I love You
With everything inside I’ll run to You
‘Cause all that I’ve become I owe to You

 

Whenever we use the word ‘forever’ we remember that this life is not permanent, but we should also remember that this life is not all that there is.  In the revelation of the Apostle John, he visited the throne room of God and offers us this description (Revelation 7:9-17):


9:1 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

 

In this case, “forever” really means forever and “never” really means never.  Those who are in the presence of God will never hunger or thirst, they won’t suffer as much as a hard sweat in the hot sun, and God himself will wipe away all of their tears.  Forever.

 

Although he doesn’t use the word “forever,” in Matthew 5:1-12 that is exactly what Jesus means as he speaks about the future.


5:1 
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.

 

He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

Rejoice and be glad, because the reward for the people who have suffered for their faith, and for those who have lived a life of faith, will given to them in heaven and that, as we know, is a reward that will last forever.

 

But what does that mean for those of us who have lost our loved ones and who remain on this earth?

 

In 1 John 3:1-3, we hear these words:


3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

 

We are already the children of God.  We have already begun to live a life that will last forever but the day is coming for us when we will become much more than we already are.  This transformation has already happened for those who have gone ahead of us to eternity, they have already been given their new, perfect, and eternal bodies and they can already see Jesus in all of his glory but we know that, sooner or later, our day is coming.  But because we know what we know, we have no need to fear that day because rather than something terrible, we know that despite whatever pain we may face at the end our life on this earth, the transition, at the other side, will be wonderful beyond imagining.

 

But as we wait for that day and as we live out our lives, we are called to dedicate our lives to Jesus Christ, to live our lives as Christ himself modelled for us during his life on earth, to seek peace, pursue justice, and to pour out mercy, compassion, and love into the people and the world around us.  And as we do so, we are called to purify ourselves and live lives that honor God.

 

Although we mourn as we remember those whom we have lost, we rejoice in knowing that they are, today, perfect, holy, and unimaginably blessed in every way as they live in the presence of God.  But at the same time, we also remember our calling to be worthy of the gift that awaits us.  Let us honor God, and honor those that we have lost, by rededicating our lives to God, to his kingdom, to purity, and to all that is good.

 

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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

 

Easter Means All

“Easter Means All”

March 27, 2016

(Easter Sunday)

By John Partridge*

 

Scripture: John 20:1-18               Acts 10:34-43              1 Corinthians 15:19-26

 

 

For the last couple weeks I have occasionally heard some of my agnostic and atheist friends post online, stories about how Easter was originally a pagan holiday.  And the answer is never quite so simple that it can be strictly a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’  Without getting off the track and into a detailed rebuttal, it simply serves us all well to remember that Christianity wasn’t always a majority religion and has, in various times and in various places, been a persecuted minority.  So, over the centuries, Christians made a few concessions to “fit in” to their culture and save themselves from trouble.  But there have also been times when, as a majority religion, that pagans have converted to Christianity and have brought with them favorite elements of their old religious practices which were then “redeemed” by giving them new, Christian, meanings.  That is how we got Easter eggs and Christmas trees, and a lot of other symbols that now have a thoroughly Christian meaning.  Despite what you may occasionally hear on the Internet, just because you have an Easter egg hunt this afternoon, does not mean that you are in any way participating in pagan worship.

But, since we’re having that discussion, what is it that Easter really means?

In this case, I don’t mean how Easter is translated, or where the terminology came from, but instead I mean, what difference does it make?  What difference does Easter make to me, to my family, my community, and to my heart?

To answer that question, naturally, we are going to go back to the original story of that first Easter morning so long ago.  (John 20:1-18)

 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

In these few verses we see a group of people who have lost their friend, their leader, the focus of their lives, and all their plans for the future.  They are so paralyzed with grief that now, days after his death, they haven’t yet figured out what they would do next and so they are still staying together, pretty much where they were three days earlier, trying to put their lives back together.  On Sunday morning however, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women, return to the tomb where Jesus was buried so that they can complete the burial rituals that had to be skipped in order to complete the burial before the Sabbath began.

But even here there is a curious hint.  As Jesus meets Mary he sends her to tell the good news, not to his friends, and not to his disciples, but to everyone that he calls his “brothers.”  This is curious because as we read through the Gospels, sometimes Jesus uses the term “brothers” or “brothers and sisters” to mean his friends and his followers.  But at other times, when Jesus referred to “brothers and sisters” such as in Matthew 25:39-40 where he said…

“When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

And in those cases, it was clear that Jesus was describing a group of people that included… everyone.

This becomes even more apparent as the disciples begin to reflect and to understand exactly what happened until, in Acts 10:34-43 we hear Peter explain the events of Easter this way:

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

So if we read Peter’s speech while we are thinking about the meaning of Easter and how Jesus asked Mary to tell all of his brothers and sisters that he was alive, what things rise to the surface?  For me it was these things: God does not show favoritism, God accepts followers from every nation, and the prophets testify about Jesus to everyone who believes.

Once we begin to see that the message of Jesus was intended for people other than his friends, it becomes unavoidable to understand that the message of Easter was not just for his friends, not just for Israel, not just for the Jews, but for everyone, everywhere and every-when.

And Peter wasn’t the only one who believed this.  In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth he also writes about the resurrection of Jesus where he says (1 Corinthians 15:19-26):

 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

Paul reminds us that Easter is about more than just the here and now.  Easter is about more than living one good life and then being buried.  Paul says that if Easter is only about living one good life then we are to be pitied more than anyone else alive.  Instead, Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus rose from the dead because Adam’s sin infects all of us and so Jesus endured the cross, died, and rose again so that all of us could be made alive again.  Jesus rose from the dead so that at the end of time, all of the kings, all of the nations, all of the politicians, all authority, all power, and all the people will bow down to worship God.  Jesus rose from the dead so that one day, all of his enemies would be defeated.

The real meaning of Easter doesn’t come from ancient pagan holidays; the real meaning of Easter comes from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  The real meaning of Easter isn’t about God playing favorites, but instead it’s about God inviting everyone into his kingdom.  Easter isn’t about Jesus inventing a new kind of boy’s club, and it’s not about bringing “good news of great joy” to Israel or to the Jews, but is about God breaking out into the world that we live in and inviting everyone, everywhere, to become a member of his family, and to live in his house… forever.

Easter is about God announcing the good news of peace that come through Jesus to all the people of the world.

Easter means “all.”

On that first Easter morning Jesus told Mary Magdalene to go and tell everyone that Jesus was alive.

The news (and the meaning) of the resurrection of Jesus is still so good, that we should do the same.

 

 
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646.  These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe@trinityperryheights.org.  To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn.   These messages can also be found online athttps://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

The End of “The End”

“The End of ‘The End’”
November 01, 2015
(All Saints Day)
By John Partridge

Scripture: Isaiah 25:6-9                 Revelation 21:1-6a                        John 11:32-44

How many of you ever went to the movies when great actors and actresses like John Wayne, Vincent Price, Greta Garbo, and Katherine Hepburn were playing in the big screen? What about the Saturday morning cartoons with Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny?

It doesn’t seem to happen as much lately, but for many years those of us who watched movies in the theater, or cartoons on Saturday morning knew when the show was over because, at the very end, there was a sign that came up on the screen that said, “The End.” It was common for the cowboy hero to ride off into the sunset at the end of the movie as the words “The End” scrolled onto the screen. It was so common, and such a part of the movie environment, that comedies often had a little fun with the words “The End” and the credits that followed.

And as odd as it may sound, that is a lot like how the story of our lives seems to go. With the exception of those folks whose lives end in terrible tragedies where death comes swiftly, many of our endings are very similar. As we near the end of our story, family and friends come to see us, to say their goodbyes, to share a few last memories, perhaps to make a final apology, and to say “I love you” one last time. This is the big scene in the story of our life and for those who are left behind, it is as if, after our passing, the book closes on our story, the last reel of our movie has played, and the words, “The End” play on the screen.

That’s life, right?

Or, as it has often been said in the movies, “It is the way of things.”

But it was not always so.

The story of Adam and Eve tell us that in the beginning, when the world was perfect and without sin, death was not a part of our creation. Death, suffering, and all of the discomfort, mourning and pain that they cause us, were not a part of God’s original creation but entered into the world because of the rebellion of human beings.

And so, for now, “It is the way of things.”

But the good news is that it will not always be so.

The prophet Isaiah knew that God would not allow death, suffering, pain, misery, discomfort, and mourning to continue forever for the people that he loved. Isaiah wrote these words (Isaiah 25:6-9):

6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

9 In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

If you have been here at Trinity in recent months, you will remember that we have seen this imagery of a shroud several times. The covering of the face, or the head, was a symbol of death. And so when Isaiah says that God “will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples,” he is proclaiming that God intends, at the appointed time, to destroy death itself.

And at that time, God himself will wipe away all of the tears that have been caused by death and the resulting suffering of the living that are left behind.

Isaiah knew that this was true even if he didn’t know how or when it would happen because he heard the words from God’s lips and also because he understood the nature of God.

But in John 11:32-44, we learn even more and the story becomes fuller, richer, and even more wonderful.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

When Jesus arrives, Mary cries out that if Jesus had only gotten there in time, Lazarus would not have died. Mary had great faith and trust in Jesus but it seems from her words that she believed that Jesus had great power to heal, but now that death had come, healing, no matter how great, would be of no use. Others in the crowd have the same opinion saying, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Surely if Jesus was such a great healer, could he not have healed whatever sickness that had afflicted Lazarus? And we know that the answer to that is “yes.” But Jesus wanted to reveal something about himself that they did not yet understand, something bigger, and much more important.

Jesus asks for the tomb to be opened and ignores the reminders that Lazarus’ body has surely started to rot in the Mediterranean heat and surely, after four days, has begun to smell really, really bad.

Lazarus’ book had already closed. His movie had already ended. “The End” had flashed on the movie screen of his life days before.

But they do as Jesus commands.

The tomb is opened. Jesus calls to Lazarus as if he was only in the next room.

And Lazarus, still wearing his grave clothes and his death shroud, walks out of his own grave.

Mary, and her sister Martha, and all their family and friends, and the entire world discovers that Jesus not only has the power to heal, but that he has power and authority over death itself.

For Jesus, death is not the end.

And knowing this, the words of God that were brought to us through Isaiah become even more real. God has said that, at the appointed time, he would destroy, or undo, death itself. At the appointed time, God will bring an end to “The End.”

And now, even though we still do not know exactly when, we do know a little more about how, and we certainly know who, Jesus.

The last piece of our knowledge falls into place through the revelation of the Apostle John who saw this in his great vision from God (Revelation 21:1-6a):

21:1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.

At the end of time, the end of the age, and the end of all things, God, the creator of all that is, proclaims that he is not just the beginning, but also the end. Death is no longer the end. Jesus is the end. Death will be no more. Mourning and crying and pain will be no more. And God himself will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Jesus, who has shown us that he has power over life and death, will bring an end to death forever. Those followers of Jesus Christ who have been lost to death will be restored to us and we will take up residence in God’s new creation.

No more will we fear death, because death itself will be dead.

That may very well be the greatest day in the history of days.

It will be the end of “The End.”

And the beginning of forever.

Risk and Return

“Risk and Return”
October 11, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture: Job 23:1-9, 16-17                    Hebrews 4:12-16                         Mark 10:17-31

Have you ever taken a risk?

Almost certainly you have. Life is all about risk.

Every time we get out of bed, there is a risk that the effort of waking up will cause a heart attack or a stroke.

Every time we get in a car, there is a risk that we will be in an accident.

Every time we take a bath or a shower, there is a risk that we will slip and fall.

Every time we eat fresh produce, or other foods, from the grocery store or prepared meals from a restaurant, there is a risk that something has gone wrong somewhere along the line, and there is a risk of serious illness.

We make choices, and take risks, all day, everyday.

The choices that we make cannot eliminate risk; all that we can do is to make choices that limit our risk to a level where we feel comfortable.

Some of us feel safer staying at home, while others are perfectly comfortable skydiving or SCUBA diving.

But our ability to risk, our comfort level with risk, is also a key factor in the way that we invest and prepare for the future. Investment advisers make a living helping others to make wise choices, based in-part on how comfortable they are with risk, in how they invest and prepare for retirement and other future events.

And our understanding of risk also plays a big part in how we understand the choices that we make about what happens after our lives end. We must decide what happens when this life is over and what preparations we can or should make for what comes next.

We begin again this morning in the book of Job (Job 23:1-9, 16-17), where Job wrestles with his suffering which he perceives as being sent by God unfairly.

Then Job replied:
2 “Even today my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.
3 If only I knew where to find him;
if only I could go to his dwelling!
4 I would state my case before him
and fill my mouth with arguments.
5 I would find out what he would answer me,
and consider what he would say to me.
6 Would he vigorously oppose me?
No, he would not press charges against me.
7 There the upright can establish their innocence before him,
and there I would be delivered forever from my judge.

8 “But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.

16 God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me.
17 Yet I am not silenced by the darkness,
by the thick darkness that covers my face.

Job wants to confront God and demand answers for the injustice that he feels. He knows that God is fair but God seems to be missing and Job cannot find him. Job is accustomed to talking to God and to feeling his presence but suddenly he cannot and this, combined with the terrible things that have happened to him, make Job afraid. But even in the face of injustice, even in the face of fear, even in the face of death, Job perseveres and presses on. As Job evaluates risk, even in the face of all that he has endured, Job will not give up, and he will not give up on God.

But even if we are enough like Job to hold on to God in times of trouble (and it isn’t always easy), we still worry that God’s standards are too hard. We worry that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t trust enough, or have enough faith. We worry that God’s judgement will be too harsh when our lives are finally weighed in the balance. And it isn’t just paranoia that feeds this kind of worry. There are well-known stories in scripture, stories about Jesus which can feed our fear if they are understood incompletely. One of those stories is found in Mark 10:17-31, where a man wants to follow Jesus, but finds that he cannot because Jesus’ standards are just too high.

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

This man, known as the rich, young ruler, claims that he has followed all of the commandments of God (Jesus only listed six) but when asked to give away his money he cannot. Most of us, even if were asked by Jesus himself, would hesitate to give up everything that we own, but the rich, young ruler believed that he kept all of God’s commands. He walks away not because Jesus condemns him, but because Jesus’ question reveals his sin. He loved money more than God. He coveted money and has made money into an idol. That’s at least three commandments that he couldn’t keep.

And he is not the only one who is worried about Jesus’ reply. The disciples themselves worry that this standard is so high that none of them would be good enough. But Jesus’ answer to them is one of comfort as well as mathematics. Jesus tells the disciples that God keeps accounts. God keeps track. God knows what we do and how we live our lives. God knows the risks we take and he knows what we give up to serve him. God knows what you have given up in terms of money, family, time, pride, prestige and popularity to follow him. And Jesus promises that your return on investment will be 10,000 percent. As we evaluate the risk of investing in a future that lies on the other side of the chasm of death, we recognize that there is risk, but the reward is so significant, so amazing, that even a small amount invested will result in enormous returns.

But the best wrinkle in this story of risk is shared with us by the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 4:12-16) who reassures us about the fairness of God’s judgment where he says:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Simply put: God is not dead.

The word of God slices into us, even in the darkest corners of our soul, and reveals our sin. God’s word shines the light of judgement on our actions, thoughts and attitudes. But even though our innermost thoughts are revealed before the judgement seat of Jesus, we have no need to fear. Our high priest, Jesus, who sits in on the throne of God, was a human being just like us. He knows exactly what it means to be afraid. He knows how it feels to take risks. He understands us better than we do ourselves and it was his sacrifice that rescues us from our sins.

Even though it is frightening to know that God keeps an accounting of every moment of our lives, God’s accounting of the followers of Jesus Christ is not intended to condemn or destroy us. Instead, because Jesus knows us and understands what it is to be human, and because we have put our faith and confidence in him, we can approach the throne of God with confidence instead of fear. When we are weighed in the balance, the penalty for our sins has already been paid.

On the day that we approach the throne of judgement, instead of finding condemnation, we will instead find a place of mercy and grace.

There is no risk in trusting God.

There is no risk in following Jesus.

There is only reward.

There are only two real risks that we need to worry about.

First, there is the huge risk of failing to put our trust in Jesus.

And the second is in failing to invest in the life we have with him both now and forever.

Sinners in Heaven and Saints in Hell

“Sinners in Heaven, Saints in Hell”
October 04, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture: Job 1:1; 2:1-10                   Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12                       Mark 10:2-16

Has your life ever taken a wrong turn?

What I mean is, have events in your life ever unfolded much differently than you expected them to?

Life is like that but sometimes, as Christians, we struggle with it. In fact, unbelievers often struggle with the same thing without having a good scriptural understanding to fall back on. When (my wife) Patti returned from the recent Kairos prison ministry, she told me that one of the very powerful things that happened that weekend, was when the women who were volunteering, shared some of the problems that they and their families were having. Many of the women in prison simply assumed that these church ladies had it all together and that God was making their lives run smoothly.

But life isn’t like that at all.

Moreover, the Christian life isn’t like that.

Just because we follow Jesus, and have put our faith and trust in him, doesn’t mean that life always treats us with kid gloves. Too many of us have suffered from cancer, rebellion, unemployment, under-employment, abuse, disease, divorce, disaster, death and a host of other things. Just because we trust Jesus to welcome us to heaven doesn’t mean that believers do not sometimes live through little pieces of hell right here on earth.

During those times, the story of Job reminds us that even the best among us have faced suffering and hard times. (Job 1:1; 2:1-10)

1:1 In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.

2:1 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Job lost his money, his home, his children, and finally even his health despite the fact that he was “blameless and upright.” He was a moral and faithful follower of God. He did nothing to deserve the things that happened to him. But they happened all the same. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes terrible, awful, horrible, indescribable things happen to good people. And sometimes those things happen for no reason (that we can discern) whatsoever. God may have a hand in it, God may allow it, God may have a plan for it, God may use it, but whether he does or does not, it may be years (if ever) before we discover why. All we know is that the followers of God, regardless of how faithful or blameless, sometimes suffer and for reasons that we do not always understand, God allows it.

What is perhaps worse, is that virtually none of us are as good as Job was. There are few of us who can even come close to calling ourselves, “upright and blameless.” In fact, in Mark 10:2-16, Jesus raises the bar so high that destroyed even the Pharisees, and these were men who dedicated their lives to following rules that were intended to lead them to perfection.

2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.] So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

These were times that were, in many ways, much like ours. They were times when divorce was common and accepted both culturally and within the church. The Pharisees were, morally speaking, among the most morally “upright” in society, and they accepted divorce as normal, natural and acceptable before God and man. They tested Jesus because different factions among the church leaders argued over what was an acceptable reason for divorce, but Jesus raises the bar higher than any of them expected. Jesus says that divorce, for any reason, is sin and what’s more, insists that remarriage is also sin. In one moment, Jesus raises the bar so high that what is normal and acceptable becomes sin and meeting the standard become almost impossible. In a single moment, Jesus exposes many of the church’s “upright” leaders as sinners. Jesus then explains to his followers that the faith of a believer has to be like the faith of a child. Genuine faith must be trusting, teachable, humble, open, and accepting of others. In fact, if we kept reading for another couple verses, Jesus states quite emphatically, that no one is good, except God alone.

No one is good.

The bar has been set too high.

The standard is too difficult for us.

None of us is good enough.

All of us are sinners.

But there is good news.

And in Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12, Paul reminds us what it is.

1:1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

2:5 It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. 6 But there is a place where someone has testified:

“What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
a son of man that you care for him?
7 You made them a little lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor
8 and put everything under their feet.”

In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. 9 But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

Paul zeros in on the core of the issue.

God’s standards are set impossibly high.

We are not perfect.

None of us are good enough.

But Jesus is the one who provides purification of sins.

Jesus is the one whom God has placed over all things.

Jesus is the one who suffered and died in our place.

And Jesus is the one who makes us holy.

We are all sinners.

But sinners like us will go to heaven if, like children, we put our trust in him.

Saints, like the Pharisees, those people who do all the right things and seem to follow all of the rules, will end up in hell if they place their trust only in themselves.

It is Jesus that makes all the difference.

Have you put your trust in him?

Eulogy for Diane Day

Eulogy for Diane Day
August 03, 2015
by Rev. John Partridge

This is the day.

This is the day that we knew was coming.

For months (or longer), we knew that one day soon, we would be here but no matter how much we knew, today still came faster than we expected and far faster than we wanted it to. Despite our knowledge and anticipation of this day, our pain is undiminished. Nothing the doctors said makes today any easier. And realistically I know that likewise, little or nothing that the preacher says is going to make it easier.

We have lost a friend, a wife, a sister, aunt, great-aunt, coworker, bowling buddy, and many other things. It is as if a light has been extinguished in an already darkening room. Diane Day was many things to many people, but to everyone who knew her, she was a light that brightened the room and the mood wherever she went. It was almost as if she was a star, and all of us who knew her had been pulled into her orbit. As she has been lost to us we feel as if we have been cast off in some way, we have lost the pull of her gravity, and we are adrift.

For Ronnie, Diane was his world, but much the same is true of Jan and Joan and the rest of Diane’s family. They have all lost the pull of her gravity, the anchor of her faith, the light of her smile and her sense of humor and so many other things. We will all struggle to find a new “normal” but the struggle will obviously be harder for those who knew her best.

Diane’s sister Joan shared this with me yesterday:

Diane was our older sister. I remember growing up always thinking she was the smart one. She did very well in high school; it seemed to come easy for her. She took French and many years later she could still speak it. Anything she wanted to do she would teach herself to do, sewing, cake decorating, canning, gardening, figuring out how to work the mechanics of things. She loved to read, loved the Indians, the Browns and always her cats. She was independent, disciplined, a hard worker, faithful to her friends and enjoyed cutting up with family. She was always willing to pitch in and help whatever the need. Her most outstanding quality was her love of her family. She didn’t have children of her own but loved all of ours. She took pride in her abilities to calm a fussy baby, crawl on the floor with the toddlers, play games with the younger, take the older bowling or play in the pool with them. My kids only saw her once a year or so but grew to know, love, and appreciate Aunt Dee. She is my big sister and she will always be loved and missed.

    Diane’s niece Julie remembered that, on her wedding day, she forgot the wedding license at her house and it was Diane who, typically, volunteered to retrieve it. This, Julie said, “was the essence of Aunt Dee.” She was always giving of herself, always trying to help others. Several people told me that even though Diane never had children of her own, she loved on her nieces and nephews, all 13 of them, as if they were her own. Honestly, we saw the same thing at church. I don’t know of anyone who didn’t love Diane, or anyone that Diane didn’t like. Even when Diane was well, it took her a while to get in and out of the sanctuary at church because she had to get a hug from just about everybody. And during those times when Diane was not doing so well and was in a wheelchair, or simply not quite as mobile, everyone came to where she was. There was a line of people waiting to give Diane a hug.

And there is something else worth noting about that scene. Some of us realized just how much of an accomplishment it was for Diane to even be there. Each week, Diane wanted to be in church. Even during those times when she wasn’t doing especially well, if she cold possibly get out of bed she wanted to be in church. Ronnie would help her to get ready, help her to the car and bring her to church. At the back door Jan, or Wade, or both, would be waiting for them, help Diane to the door, up the elevator and into her spot in the sanctuary. Sometimes there were a few of the ushers and other folk who helped out too. It took a team effort of love to make sure that Diane got to spend time each week with her church family, but especially with her Jesus. No one on that team begrudged the extra effort it sometimes took because of all the love that Diane had poured into their lives over the years.

Diane had just a few great loves in her life, Ronnie (of course), for whom she would do almost anything, her family, work, bowling, and, again, her Jesus. Diane loved to work. Even when she didn’t feel well and when many of us would have called in sick, Diane pushed herself to put one foot in front of the other and went to work anyway. And when she was well, she was pretty much unstoppable. Regardless of what it was, like Julius Caesar, she came, she saw, she conquered.

And through it all, Diane loved her Jesus. I know I’ve already said that a couple of times but this is an incredibly important thing. Earlier I said that little or nothing that the preacher says is going to make it easier. But if I have anything helpful to offer, this is it. Those of us who have put our faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ receive great comfort in knowing that this world is not all that there is. We know that the world that God created has been distorted and perverted by imperfect human beings. We know that the world that God created, and the world in which we will one day live, is a world in which there is no pain, no suffering, and no death. We know that Diane has gone ahead and is already in that place. Diane is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, and, if Jesus knows how to bowl, she has probably already challenged him to a line or two. Even more importantly, we know that if we have put our faith, hope and trust in Jesus, we will one day join Diane in Jesus’ house. In that place, we will all be reunited with the people that we love, and we will live there together forever. As we lose the pull of Diane’s love, may we all fall farther into the orbit of Jesus’ love.

I know that my words will not make your pain any less. But my prayer is that in the words of scripture, and the words of Jesus, we can all find hope. Diane believed that. She had that kind of faith and hope, and I am certain that she would want you all to know that you can too so that you can join her someday in her new, and eternal home.


Obituary

Diane F. Day

December 16, 1949 – July 29, 2015
Resided in Massillon, OH

Diane F Day, 65, of Massillon passed away on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. She was born December 16, 1949 in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Diane was employed by K-Mart in Massillon for 30 plus years and loved bowling. She was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church.

She was preceded in death by her father, Carl Rohleder and brother, Kenny Rohleder.

Diane is survived by her husband, Ron; mother, Dolores Rohleder; sisters, Linda Stanley, Joan (Ed) DesCombes and Janet (Wade) Gash; brother, Charles (Patricia) Rohleder; sister-in-law, Sandra Rohleder and a host of nieces, nephews, family and friends.

The family will receive friends on Monday, August 3, 2015 from 1pm to 2:30pm at Reed Funeral Home Canton Chapel, 705 Raff Rd Canton with funeral services to follow at 2:30pm.

Visions of Home

“Visions of Home”
July 19, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture:

2 Samuel 7:1-14

Ephesians 2:11-22

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Over the years I have made a number of friends who were born in other countries. Some of them were in the United States for a limited time and others had come here to become American citizens and to make a new life. In either case, when they told stories of home, it was much, much different than simply reading stories about that place from a book. When these people told stories, the descriptions were alive with details of sights, sounds, smells, family and friends. When you heard their stories, you could feel the connection that they had, that their heart had, with a place called home. You can hear it in the voice of someone who was born in the south when they talk about the smell of magnolias in the springtime, or when fans talk about the baseball stadiums where they saw their first game. Their voices change and suddenly the story isn’t just a story, it comes alive, because in it, are visions of home.

This morning we are going to read three very different stories, stories which, at first, don’t seem to have a lot in common, but which, in the end, all include these very sorts of visions… visions of home.

We begin in 2 Samuel 7:1-14, where we find King David, resting in his newly constructed palace reflecting on the fact that the Arc of the Covenant was still kept in the Tabernacle, the tent, that Moses had made in the desert a thousand years earlier. Granted, it was a nice tent, and undoubtedly well maintained, but something still didn’t seem right about it…

7:1 After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

4 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son.

This is a great story and we can draw a lot of lessons from it, but today we’re looking behind it just a little bit. Today we are listening for that change of voice, that vision of home, and some insight into the nature of God. And in that sense, there are a couple of things that I heard. First, God says that he was never really concerned about where, on earth, that he lived. He never commanded that he live in a gold-plated palace. Being a nomad, wandering from place to place, never bothered him. Second, God promises that God is the one who is the ultimate builder. He is the one who is building the kingdom; he is the one who made David a king, and he is the one who is building our future. Third, God tells David that despite all the great things that he has done, he is not the one that God has chosen to build his house. In another passage of scripture God insists that because David is a man of blood, because he was a warrior, he is not to be the one who builds God’s house. Instead, God will choose David’s son, Solomon, who was a man of peace.

In Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, we hear this story that, at first sounds completely unrelated.

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

At first this seems pretty random. At least until we start looking for those visions of home, and then we realize something about Jesus’ personality. Even when they were worn out and dog tired from all the time that they had already spent ministering to other people and caring for their needs, even when they were so tired that Jesus said, “Let’s get out of here for a while and take a break,” even then they still did more ministry.

Why?

Even when they had every right to take break and get some rest, Jesus kept on teaching crowds of people and healing as many as could be brought to him.

Why?

Because, our scripture tells us, Jesus had compassion. Jesus cared about people. Jesus cared about their suffering. Jesus cared what they knew and how they thought. Jesus cared so much that his own comfort, even his own rest and his own sleep, were put aside until they could be taken care of. And that is a vision of home. It tells us something about how Jesus thought and felt, and it tells us something about his father and the things that are important to God. It tells us a little about what God’s home must be like. If Jesus cared so much about people who live here on earth, how much more must God care about the people in his own house?

Finally we arrive at Ephesians 2:11-22. Here again, this passage of scripture, appears to be a random selection that has nothing at all to do with the first two, but again we need to listen for that tone of voice that gives us a vision of home.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Paul is talking about Jesus. How Jesus came, not to bring peace, but to be peace. Jesus came to bring hostile groups together, to bring people together, and to make peace, not only between groups of people, not only on earth, but to bring peace between human beings and God. Not only to bring people together, but to bring human beings and God together.

Paul says that, because of Jesus, we are no longer strangers to God. We are no longer strangers and foreigners regardless of our differences, regardless of the color of our skin, and regardless of our nationality. And if that is what Jesus was doing on earth, just imagine what that means in his own house.

And so, even though you won’t find a chapter of the Bible that tells you all about heaven, if we look carefully, we can find, behind scriptures like these, glimpses and hints of what Jesus’ home must be like.

From these short passages we found that God is building his kingdom, not in a gold plated palace, but in the lives and hearts of human being beings. God is also building our future, he is moving us to places we need to go and bringing people into our lives that we need to meet so that we can have the life that God intends. God is a god of peace. Even though he loved David and called him a man after God’s own heart, he wanted the world to see that the builder of God’s house had to be a man of peace and not a man of war and blood. And that was a foreshadowing, a preview, of the Messiah that was to come. Jesus was not a man of war but a man of peace, a savior who not only brought peace into the world; he came into the world to be peace, to bring people together, and to bring peace between humanity and God. Jesus was a man who was so filled with compassion that he set aside his own needs to bring comfort and healing to others.

In all of these passages, and in many others, we see glimpses of God’s character and clues to what we will find in heaven. Jesus has invited everyone to come; all are welcome regardless of the color of your skin, or nationality, or personality or anything else. We are invited to a house so filled with compassion that there will no longer be suffering or pain or death, a place where there will be no strangers nor will we be strangers to God.

These are just a few of the things we can find in scripture when we read carefully.

These are examples of how we can begin to live our lives here and now, lives filled with peace, love and compassion toward others, even when they appear different and strange to us.

These are images of the future.

Visions of home.