Important Preparations

Christmas-tree

Advent isn’t about being warm, or having the house well stocked, or even about feeling festive on Christmas morning.

As we enter December, we are also entering the season of Advent.  Advent, much like the season of Lent before Easter, is meant to be a season of preparation.

But what does that mean?

Honestly, an easy way to think about it is the same way we think about preparing for many other things during this time of the year.  We know that winter is coming, and with it our usual mix of snow, ice, and cold weather.  And so, in preparation, many of us have spent time digging our winter coats, hats, mittens, scarves, and other things from the backs of closets.  We’ve stocked up on salt for the driveway and made sure that our snow shovels and snow blowers are ready to go.  Similarly, we have begun preparing our homes for Christmas by pulling our decorations out of the garage, attic, basement, crawlspace, or wherever else we’ve stored them since last year.  And we’re making plans to bake cookies, make candy, bake pies, and whatever else needs done to make us feel “ready” for the arrival of Christmas day.

Some of us, and I am one of them, need this time.  It is sometimes hard for me to feel festive at Christmas.  I drift more easily toward “humbug” than to “Ho ho ho.”  And so to prepare, I deliberately try to listen to Christmas music, and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and other classic Christmas specials that we grew up with, along with various Hallmark Christmas movies on television.

But Advent isn’t about being warm, or having the house well stocked, or even about feeling festive on Christmas morning.

Advent is about our heart condition.

Advent asks us to think about whether or not our hearts are ready to receive the Christ child at Christmas.  Advent asks us if we are ready to accept the greatest gift that God has ever offered to us.  And so, for four weeks, we are offered this season of preparation.  This is a time for us to consider the condition of our hearts.  To read, and to listen to the stories of scripture, to fellowship and sing with others and, just as we are preparing our homes, to prepare our hearts so that we will be truly “ready” for Christmas and the arrival of God’s greatest gift to humanity.

So consider this an invitation to the season of Advent.  Come with us on a journey together.  Let us spend time worshipping together, singing together, and studying together.  I invite you to be a part of something bigger than yourself.  Perhaps to pick up an Advent devotional and have a few moments of daily quiet time alone with God.

You wouldn’t dream of being snowed in this winter without coats and hats, shovels and salt, and a pantry full of food (with a few cookies and fudge).

You want to be prepared.

The Savior of the world is coming.  God’s greatest gift.

Please take the time to prepare your heart as well.

Blessings,

Pastor John

 

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God and Weasels

“God and Weasels”

July 10, 2016

By John Partridge*

 

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37              Colossians 1:1-14                  Amos 5:7-17

 

Do you watch the news at all?

Does this year’s political fiasco stir up any questions for you or for your friends?

I suspect that it has, and I think that it should.

Here are some politically charged questions that are often asked by the followers of Jesus Christ as well as your average person on the street.  And, while they are politically charged questions, they deserve thoughtful, theological, answers.

Why do good things happen to bad people?

Why don’t bad things happen to bad people?

Why are there people, that no matter what they do, nothing bad ever seems to ever happen to them?

Why do these same people manipulate the media so that the people don’t ever hear the truth?

The funny thing about these questions is that, while I have put them into a 21st century context by the way that I worded them, I wasn’t referring specifically to the Bushes, Cheneys, Clintons, or anyone else.  In fact, I drew these questions from a story in the Bible from almost three thousand years ago.  (Amos 7:7-17)

This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”

“A plumb line,” I replied.

Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

“The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined;
with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.”

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. 11 For this is what Amos is saying:

“‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”

12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

14 Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees.15 But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now then, hear the word of the Lord. You say,

“‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’

17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says:

“‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”

Amos was just a guy herding sheep in the middle of nowhere until God called him to take a message to the people of Israel.  But when he did, the priest at the nation’s most important place of worship, the place where the king would have sacrificed and worshipped, Bethel, sends a message to King Jeroboam that Amos is trying to undermine his authority and destroy Israel.  In our terminology, he is conspiring to control the news cycle and stifle free speech, so that the people won’t have a chance to hear the truth, so that the people won’t have a chance to hear message from God that Amos is preaching.

Amaziah the priest goes on to tell Amos to go home and not to bother coming to bring God’s words to the king, to the capital city, and to the nation’s most prominent place of worship.  But Amos’s answer is this: If God has called me to bring a message to Israel then I will bring a message to Israel.  And if you want to stop me, then God has a message of disaster for you as well.

King Jeroboam didn’t like bad news and he didn’t like his people to hear bad news either.  In fact, he had been manipulating the news for so long that he didn’t want the people to hear the truth at all.  On top of that, the church, along with the nation’s most important priest, was one of his leading coconspirators. Together, they had been building something that God says doesn’t measure up, a nation, and policies, morals and ethics, that don’t match God’s standards.  And the message that Amos brought was that God himself was coming with his plumb line, his measuring stick, to see what is built to standard, to see what is straight, to find what is crooked, to test them, to measure them, and everything, and everyone, that didn’t measure up would be destroyed.

Perhaps one of the most important messages that we learn from Amos is that while God’s justice may not always be immediate, or as fast as we would hope it would be, God has not forgotten.  The weasels will get what they deserve, in God’s time.  Ignoring God does not make God, or God’s justice, go away and ignoring God’s laws does not protect you from the consequences of breaking them no matter how wealthy or important (or unimportant) you may be.

Nearly eight hundred years later, in the time of Jesus, people haven’t changed.  Leaders of the nation and of the church are still trying to manipulate and misinterpret the words of God for their own benefit but Jesus isn’t having any of it.  (Luke 10:25-37)

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

This man, who is described as an expert in Jewish law, comes to Jesus and seems confused by the meaning of one of the two fundamental laws of God, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  He accepts that this is a fundamental law of God, and he accepts that he is commanded to love his neighbor, but when it comes time to decide who his neighbor might be, he wants to play fast and loose with the definition.

He knew that he wasn’t loving and so, because “he wanted to justify himself” he tries to get Jesus to give him a definition of “neighbor” that will allow him to weasel out of loving people that he doesn’t like.

But Jesus isn’t having any of that noise.

Jesus tells him a story, in which the hero of the story, the most loving, and most godly character, is a man that every Jew has been raised and trained to hate with every fiber of his being, an enemy that they disliked more than they hated the Romans, a Samaritan.  In the end, the teacher of the law admits that it was his enemy that showed mercy, but even then he can’t bring himself to even say the word “Samaritan” out loud.

Jesus wants us to know that just like it was in the time of Amos, we can’t change God’s rules just because we don’t like them.  Redefining words, or misinterpreting scripture, to make ourselves look good is not acceptable.

We cannot follow the way of the weasel.

There is another way.

As the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Colossae, he begins by complimenting them because the things that they have been doing have people all over talking about them. (Colossians 1:1-14)

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The faith of the church in Colossae, their love, and their ministry, is bearing fruit and people are talking about them so much that Paul keeps hearing about them as he travels on his missionary journeys.  And so, Paul, and his travelling companions, are continually in prayer for the Colossian church so that God would continue the good work there, strengthen them, and give them great endurance and patience so that the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ might continue to grow throughout the world.

Jesus calls us to follow him and to obey his teaching.  But the followers of Jesus Christ are called to do things his way and not to redefine words, reinterpret, and misinterpret scripture so that we make the gospel message into something it isn’t just so that we can look good.

Instead, we are reminded of God’s promise in Deuteronomy 30:9-10 where it says, “The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

God’s justice may not always come as fast as we would hope it would but God has not forgotten.  The weasels will get what they deserve, in God’s time.

Ignoring God does not make God go away.

Ignoring God does not make God’s justice go away.

Ignoring God’s laws does not protect you from the consequences of breaking them.

We are called to follow the way of Jesus Christ… and not the way of the weasel.

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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 Gift of Excalibur

“The Gift of Excalibur”

May 15, 2016

By John Partridge*

 

Scripture: John 14:8-17, 25-27                  Acts 2:1-21                             Romans 8:14-17

 

How many of you have heard of King Arthur, the one of whom so many stories, movies and plays have been written?

Now, how many of you actually know the story of King Arthur beyond the one that we heard from Walt Disney’s “The Sword and the Stone” or the Hollywood musical “Camelot” with Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave?

Of course, some of you are young enough that you have no idea who Richard Harris was.  You should go home and look this up on Netflix.  There have been countless other adaptations of this story and each of them is a little different.  But honestly, if once you start looking, the variations started hundreds of years ago and even the oldest sources for the legend of Arthur can be very different from one another.

In any case, the basic story goes something like this: King Uther Pendragon fancied another man’s wife, Lady Igraine, so much that he intended to steal her by force.  To that end, he took an army to attack the castle in Cornwall belonging to her husband, the Duke of Tintagel.  During the battle, the Duke was killed, and Merlin used magic to change Uther Pendragon into the shape of the Duke so that he could sleep with Lady Igraine without her knowing.  By that deception, Arthur was conceived but Merlin didn’t work his magic for free, and in the deal that Uther had made to sleep with Lady Igraine, when Arthur was born, he was given to Merlin and Merlin, in turn, gave him to someone else as a foster parent.

Much later, Arthur, not knowing that he is the rightful heir of King Uther Pendragon, pulls a sword out of a stone and anvil.  According to the legend, that sword was well known in England and it was said that only the true and right king of all England would be able to draw it out.

Later still, Arthur complained to Merlin that he didn’t have a really good sword that he could call his own, and so Merlin took him to a lake where he met Nimue, the Lady of the Lake.  Nimue had a fantastic sword that belonged to her and her only, but she would loan it to Arthur and told him that it would serve him well.  The sword was encased by a beautiful scabbard made of gold and inlaid with precious gems but it was more than that.  The scabbard also had the power to protect Arthur from all harm on the battlefield.  Another part of the story says that the sword, through the light that reflected from it, and the magic that it held within it, had the power to bedazzle his enemies so that he could overcome them even if he were vastly outnumbered.

There are tons of books that can tell you more about the legend of the great King Arthur, but this much of the story is important to our message today.  There are three important reasons that I shared these parts of the legend of King Arthur… but I’m not going to tell you what they are until later.

We begin our scripture lesson this morning in John 14:8-17, 25-27 where we hear this:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Jesus promised the disciples that after he leaves them, God will send his Spirit to live with us forever and that spirit will come to lead us, guide us, and to help us do the will of God.

That promise is fulfilled after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension in to heaven and we hear that story in Acts 2:1-21.

2:1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

People who witnessed the coming of the Spirit of God were amazed and wondered what it meant and Peter is more than happy to explain it to them.  The coming of the Spirit of God was prophesied by the prophet Joel as well as Jesus.  Those prophecies tell us that the coming of the Spirit would give the followers of God the power to prophecy, dream dreams, see visions, and otherwise hear the voice of God as well as to do the will of God so that all of humanity might call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

The Spirit of God gave the disciples the ability to preach in languages that they didn’t know so that the crowds of people, who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world, could hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Finally today, we read from Romans 8:14-17, where we hear Paul explain what it means for us to receive the gift of the Spirit of God.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

And that brings us back to the story of King Arthur because there are three important parallels between King Arthur and each of us who are gathered here.

First, Arthur was the true heir of the King and so are you.  Because Arthur was the true son of the King, despite the fact that he had no knowledge of his real parentage, he was able to draw the sword out of the anvil and stone.  Because you are a child of the King of kings, adopted into sonship, co-heirs with Jesus, regardless of your human parentage, you too are able to receive a great gift.  In your case, what you can receive is not a sword, but the power of the living Spirit of God.

Second, Arthur was given a great gift, Excalibur, which enabled him to do far more than he could have done through his own effort, strength and power.  And so have you.  Because, when you came to faith in Jesus Christ and put your trust in him, the Spirit of God came to live within you.  And because the Spirit of God lives within you, you are able to do far more through the power of that Spirit, than you ever could through your own effort, strength and power.

And finally, The Lady of the Lake gave Arthur the sword Excalibur because he was worthy, but in the end, Arthur was mortally wounded in battle because of a moral failure.  Similarly, Jesus said that if we love him, we must keep his commands.  Our ability to be channels of the power of the Spirit of God is limited, or even lost, when we fail to be obedient to the commands of God.

And so, as we remember and celebrate Pentecost, I want each of you to remember that you are like King Arthur.  It is as if you have been given the gift of Excalibur.  You have been declared to be a true heir of the King of kings.  You have been given a great gift.  It is a gift of indescribable power and it can help you to do the work of God’s Kingdom in ways that go far beyond your own effort, strength, courage, wisdom, and understanding.  But to wield that power effectively, you must stay close to God and do your very best to be obedient to his commands.

You are heirs of the King of kings and are servants, warriors, and knights in his service.

You have been given a gift that is more powerful than the mythical sword Excalibur, and you have been called by God to use that gift in the service of his kingdom.

How will you answer brave knight?

 

 

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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.

Doors Flung Open

“Doors Flung Open”

April 24, 2016

By John Partridge*

 

Scripture: John 13:31-35                                Acts 11:1-18                           Revelation 21:1-6      

 

If I told you that I was going to attend a holiday celebration that included brass bands, John Phillip Sousa marches, parades, and fireworks, which holiday might you immediately think of?

I’m pretty sure that most of you guessed that was thinking about our nation’s July 4th Independence Day celebration.

If I talked about a day where we celebrated by gathering together, throwing a giant feast, and eating enormous quantities of turkey and ham, you would likely think of Thanksgiving.  And if I described a day when we exchanged gifts with our families and filled stockings by the fireplace, we would, of course, think of Christmas.

These days are days of remembrance like the Jewish feast of Passover and Pearl Harbor Day on December 7th. We remember the Alamo on February 23rd, VE Day on May 8th, and VJ Day on September 2nd, and September 11th. These are all days on which we remember specific events.  Some of these days we have deliberately set aside on our national calendars for that specific purpose.

To remember.

We set aside time every year to tell the same old stories and to pass them on to a new generation.  We do it every year so that we will not forget and so that our children and grandchildren will commit the stories to memory as well.

We want to remember, and we want future generations to remember, so that as families, as churches, as nations, and as we understand ourselves to belong to particular groups of people, we will never forget the stories that brought us to where we are and the stories that shaped us into becoming who we have become.

Although we do not have a particular date on the calendar to which we can point, our scriptures this morning describe a time that was, for us, just as momentous and just as transformational for us as a people as almost any of these other days.

We begin with the earliest of our scriptures.  It is a moment in which Jesus still lives but also one in which Jesus knows that his time is short.  In this moment, Jesus gives his disciples one of his final commands.  And, in this moment, Jesus intends to shape the character of his people for all time. (John 13:31-35)

31 When he [meaning Judas] was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

The one thing by which Jesus wants his followers to be known… is the love that they have for one another.

The hallmark of the Christian experience is supposed to be love.  If unbelievers know even one thing about the followers of Jesus, it’s supposed to be how loving we are.

This really is huge and it has incredible implications for all of us.  Every decision that we make, both internally and externally, should be measured by asking ourselves, “Is this loving?”

Wow!

That’s just not how the world works.  And so this one thing, if we can do it, sets the followers of Jesus apart from the world, and that is exactly what Jesus intended.

Next, we read this story in Acts 11:1-18 (you might recall that I made reference to this story just last week).

11:1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’

“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’

“The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter.14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’

15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Peter had preached to people who were not Jews and he had shared meals with, and slept in the home of, Simon the tanner.  And then he had done the same thing in the home of Cornelius the centurion, a man who was not even remotely Jewish.  When Peter returned to Jerusalem, the other believers, most likely including several of the disciples, criticized Peter for stooping so low as to defile himself by associating with “those people.”  Everyone knew that God loved the Jews and hated the Gentiles.  What was the point of wasting time with them?  But Peter tells them his story.  Peter tells them how God had spoken to him and sent him there to tell the Gentiles about Jesus.  Peter tells the believers in Jerusalem that not only did he preach to the Gentiles, but that the Holy Spirit, in the presence of Peter and six other Jewish witnesses, had come upon the Gentiles and they began to praise God and speak in tongues just as the believers had on the day of Pentecost.  And suddenly everyone began to understand that a gigantic, cosmic shift had occurred.  Suddenly, they understood that the world had changed, that God was doing something new, and that God really did accept people from every nation if they would follow him and do what was right.

This was a day that changed the world.

And then, finally, in the Revelation of the Apostle, John heard Jesus say that he was making all things new. (Revelation 21:1-6)

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. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 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. ‘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.”

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.”

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 without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Far too often, people ignore the book of Revelation because they think that everything in it happens in the future and that makes it irrelevant to the people of the present age.  But listen carefully to the tense of the verbs in this passage.  John says “I saw” past tense, and a voice from the throne said, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people” – present tense, “He will wipe away every tear” – future tense, and finally, “I am making everything new” – which is a little harder, but, this is the Present-Continuous tense, which means that it is now happening, and it continues to happen in the future.

And so, yes, some of what we read in Revelation is prophecy for the future, but much of it is vitally important to us in the here and now.  What this short passage tells us is that the future will be vastly different than the present, but also that God is, at this very moment, in the process of transforming the entire world.  God no longer lives far away, but even now, makes his home among human beings in the hearts of his followers.  It is no accident that these ideas are presented at the same time.  The presence of God, in the hearts of the followers of Jesus Christ, is intended to be an engine of transformation.  God intends of us to be a part of his plan to dramatically change the world that we live in.

And so, even though you won’t find a day on the calendar for it, these moments are times that we try to regularly remember because these were moments in which the entire world was changed, and these are moments that help us to define who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.

We must always remember that the followers of Jesus Christ, if they are known by anything at all, are to be remembered by how much they love.  Every decision that we make, both within the church and outside of it, should be measured by asking ourselves, “Is this loving?”

We must always remember that there was a time when we were the outsiders.  We were once the people that everybody hated.  We were once the people who everyone was sure would never amount to anything in the eyes of God.  All the good church people were absolutely certain that God hated us and that we were eternally unredeemable.

But God invited us in.

God’s plan was to throw open the gates of the city, and to fling open the doors of his temple so that people from every race, every tribe, every nation, and every language would be welcome.

And more than that, we must always remember that changing the world isn’t something that God intends to do some time in the distant future.  God is changing the world, one life at a time, at this very moment.  God has come down to earth and taken up residence in the hearts of those who love him and God intends for us to be a part of his plan to change to world.

God intends, not only to transform us, but to work through us, so that we become engines of transformation, working together, loving together, to change the world…

…One life at a time.

 

 

 

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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 Yul Brynner Rule

“The Yul Brynner Rule”

March 25, 2016

(Good Friday)

By John Partridge*

 

Scripture: Isaiah 53:2-12                    John 18:1 – 19:42                   Hebrews 10:16-25

 

How many of you traveled in an airplane prior to September 11, 2001?  The time before 9-11 was a more innocent age, I guess, but it used to be that as we boarded our airplanes, we could often catch glimpses of the pilots preparing for our journey by going through their “preflight checklist.”  Occasionally, the pilots might even leave the cabin doors open and, if you were lucky enough to be near the front, you could watch them during take-off and occasionally sneak peeks through the cockpit window.  In any case, we all know that the pilots have an extensive list of things to do before takeoff and every one of them can be vitally important.  Forgetting even one of them, in the wrong circumstances, can mean the difference between life and death and so the pilot and co-pilot have pre-written checklists that they work through, together, so that nothing gets forgotten.

With that image in your head, now imagine a checklist with more authority behind it than the airplane manufacturer, or even more than the Federal Aviation Administration.  Imagine a checklist from the President of the United States or a soldier receiving a checklist with orders from his commanding general.  For those of you who are old enough to remember, or who have seen it on Netflix, think about the Ten Commandments movie that starred Charlton Heston.  As I read the stories of Good Friday in Isaiah 53 and John 18 and 19, I couldn’t help but recall several scenes from the Ten Commandments where the Pharaoh, played by the unforgettable Yul Brynner, issued a decree and immediately proclaimed, “So let it be written, so let it be done.”

This is the story that we see unfold on Good Friday and it is a dialog, a checklist, that goes back and forth between eight hundred years of history from Isaiah to John.  All through Isaiah, it is as if we hear God saying the words that we heard from Yul Brynner, “So let it be written, so let it be done.”

We don’t have the time to read through all of these stories tonight, but I hope that in your quiet time this week, or next, that you might read them for yourselves.  But tonight we can still have a taste, a sampling, of that interchange.

We already know that throughout his life, Jesus was constantly fulfilling ancient prophecies about the messiah.  From the moment of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, to the arrival of the wise men, to his ministry and his miracles, the events of Jesus’ life could often be seen as the fulfillment of the prophecies of many written by the Old Testament prophets.  But during Easter week, and especially from Good Friday onward, those moments begin to more and more frequent.

Isaiah 53:3-6 says this:

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

We are told that the messiah would be despised and rejected by mankind, and what else can we see as the entire community calls out for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus?  What else can we see as Peter and Jesus’ closest friends abandon him?

Isaiah tells us that the messiah would be a man of suffering, and we see that almost immediately in the torment and torture that Jesus endures at the hands of the Roman soldiers.

The messiah was considered to be accursed, despised, and punished by God.  And none of us can doubt that being hung, naked, on a cross, the very symbol of humiliation, accomplishes all of these things.

Throughout these passages, the same thing happens verse after verse.

Isaiah says,

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

And we hear in John,

When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (John 19:8-10)

Isaiah says,

By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?

And then John tells us of the corrupt officials that convict Jesus in a kangaroo court.

Isaiah says,

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

And John tells us how Jesus was crucified alongside criminals and buried in a rich man’s borrowed tomb.

Isaiah tells of how the messiah will pour “out his life unto death” and that he would be “numbered with the transgressors” and again we recall how John describes Jesus’ humiliating death on a cross so that everyone would assume that he was just another common criminal.

Over and over again we can read Isaiah and many other prophets as they prepare a checklist for Jesus, and as we read John’s story of the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus we can almost hear God saying, “So let it be written, so let it be done.”

But why?

Isaiah told us that God said these things had to happen and John tells us, one event after another, everything unfolded exactly the way that God said that it would.

But why?

Why did Jesus have to be arrested?  Why was he tried on trumped up charges in a kangaroo court?  Why did everyone abandon him in his hour of need?  Why did he have to suffer such indescribable suffering and torment?  Why did Jesus have to die?

And we find the answer in the book of Hebrews (10:16-25) where we remember a few other words recorded by the ancient prophets:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

And suddenly everything begins to come into focus.

God didn’t just proclaim that the messiah should suffer and die so that prophecy could be fulfilled or because God is some kind of horrible sadist that engineered the horror of Good Friday for his own amusement.  After all, we remember that it is Good Friday so there must be some good purpose. And that purpose in found in those words written in the book of Hebrews.

Jesus suffered and died so that God could make a new covenant with his people.

Jesus endured the events of Good Friday so that our sins could be forgotten.

Jesus shed his blood so that the curtain could be opened, a new path could be created, and access could be given to each and every one of us to enter the Holy Place and meet God face to face.

We may not completely understand why God needed to do things the way that he did them, but the writer of Hebrews wanted to be sure that we all understand that everything comes down to a single purpose.

Jesus suffered and died because of his love for God but suffering and death were not the purpose.  The purpose of Jesus’ suffering was so that we could be saved but also…

…so that we could love others.

So that we could love others.

And again, while some of us might imagine it in Yul Brynner’s voice we can hear the voice of God echoing through the ages saying…

(pause)

“So let it be written, so let it be done.”

 

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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 http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Vision: Fantasy or Reality?

“Vision: Fantasy or Reality?”

March 20, 2016

(Palm Sunday)

By John Partridge*

 

Scripture:

Luke 19:28-40                  

John 12:12-16

 

Do you remember the games that you played when you were a little kid?

In particular, do you remember playing “pretend?”

When we played pretend, reality didn’t matter.  We could be anything we wanted.  Even though we were only six years old, we could be doctors, or firefighters, or superheroes, or anything else.  But we always knew that we were just playing a game and that we weren’t really superheroes.

As adults, we know that there are people whose brains sometimes don’t work the way that they should and they get their “pretend” or their fantasy world mixed up with the real world.  When this happens there are several mental illnesses that might be involved including paranoia, delusional behavior, psychotic behavior and others.  But, at the same time, most all of us play a lesser version of these same delusions and in doing so we appear to be perfectly normal.

What happens to most people occurs when they deal with what is called “cognitive dissonance.”  Cognitive dissonance can be a good thing because it is one of the principle mechanisms through which we learn.  Cognitive dissonance happens whenever we learn something new that disagrees with what we thought that we knew.  For example, if we thought that the Earth’s moon was just a short distance, say a few thousand miles, from the International Space Station, and then we learn that it is, in fact, more than three hundred thousand miles away, so far that all of the planets in the solar system would fit between the earth and the moon, our brain becomes remarkably uncomfortable.  That discomfort, which is caused my hearing new information, is called cognitive dissonance. The brain, like the rest of us, dislikes being uncomfortable and must do something to ease its discomfort.  The only two choices that the brain has are to ignore the new facts and “pretend” that the old idea is correct or, to reject the old information and establish new neural pathways to remember that the new facts are true.

This is how we learn.

This is also how we sift through new information to sort out truth from fables, fantasies, and wild Internet gossip.  We reject what we believe to be false and remember what we believe to be true.

But as adults, we often find that new information, even if it’s true, to be so uncomfortable that we choose instead to continue to believe false information even though we have been shown genuine facts that prove otherwise.

Otherwise sane adults do it all the time.

For an example of what I am talking about, you don’t have to look any further than the people you know who are talking about their favorite presidential candidate.  The same stories could be told about every single one of them.  The people that like a particular candidate, once they have chosen that person as their favorite, are likely to remember everything that makes them look good, and totally ignore genuine facts that make them look bad.  I have seen entire articles written in recent weeks that describe how people believe that real, documented events, never happened simply because their favorite candidate, or their campaign, said that it never happened.

This is the adult version of playing pretend.  Honestly, it borders on being delusional, but this is the power of cognitive dissonance.  We deliberately blind ourselves to the facts, because they make us uncomfortable.

So, as long-winded as that was, what does it have to do with Palm Sunday?

And the answer is, everything.  Let’s begin by reading Luke 19:28-40.

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

This passage begins by establishing that Jesus knows the truth.  More importantly, Jesus demonstrates that he knows things that ordinary mortals cannot, and should not, possibly know.  Jesus knew what was happening in a place far outside of his vision and he knew what would happen in the future.  Jesus knew that a colt would be in the village before they went there.  He knew that someone was likely to stop his friends from taking it, and he knew precisely what answer would satisfy them.  And so, as I said, we have begun by establishing from the beginning, that Jesus knew the truth and understood reality better than anyone on the face of the earth.

Having established that, we then meet the Pharisees who urge Jesus to compel his disciples, and the people along the road, to shut up.  The Pharisees have heard all the same stories about Jesus that the crowd has heard.  We know that the Pharisees have been personally present many times when Jesus taught and even when he performed miracles.  They personally interviewed people who had been miraculously healed.

They absolutely knew the facts…

…And then chose to completely ignore them because the truth made them uncomfortable.

Before we go on, let’s also read this same story as it was recorded by the Apostle John. (John 12:12-16)

12 The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!” [Hosanna means “Save Us!”]

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

15 “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”

16 At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

In the world of the New Testament, Rome was the super power.  The Roman army kept the peace and the Pharisees and the Sadducees had a deal to share political and religious power with the Roman government.  But a big part of that deal was an understanding that the Pharisees and the Sadducees would help the Romans to keep the peace.

And now, suddenly, Jesus enters the city riding on a colt just as the prophets had promised the king of Israel one day would.  And as Jesus enters the city, crowds of people are shouting “Hosanna.”  There were crowds of people crying out for Jesus to save them, and by doing so they were essentially declaring that Jesus was their Savior, and quite possibly, their future king.

So again, remember that the Pharisees had the same information that everyone else had, and much of what they knew they had witnessed firsthand.  Based on this information, the disciples, the crowd, and the Pharisees each crafted a version of reality that made them comfortable.  The disciples, to varying degrees, as well as the people in the crowd, believed that Jesus was the conquering, messiah king who would rise up, overthrow the Roman occupation, and set his people free.  Based on exactly the same information, the Pharisees believed that Jesus was going to upset the applecart, cause a riot, anger the Roman soldiers, force them to beat down a growing insurrection by force and, at the same time, find someone other than the Pharisees and the Sadducees with whom to share power.  Based on these preconceptions, the reality crafted by the Pharisees, was that Jesus was not the Messiah, not the king, but was dangerous radical who would upset the status quo and needed to be quieted… by whatever means necessary.

All of them were wrong.

With the exception of Jesus, everyone there believed a fantasy.  They all looked at the same set of facts and each of them sees what they want to see.  Each of them created a version of reality that made them comfortable.  They were all, in varying degrees, playing pretend.  Each of them, in their own way, were completely delusional… and they didn’t even know it.

Jesus alone understood the truth.

Although John reminds us that the disciples would eventually, after the resurrection, understand the truth, Jesus alone sees reality as it truly is.

Jesus understands that he is indeed Israel’s Messiah, the creator of the universe, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.  Jesus understands that this moment, proclaimed by God and the prophets, was so important that if the crowd refused to recognize him, the rocks along the side of the road would be compelled to do it for them.  But Jesus also understood that although it was not yet time for him to come into the city as a conquering king, the time had come for him to be the Lamb of God, the sacrifice for the forgiveness of the sins of his people.

And so today, on this Palm Sunday, as we remember the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, let us also remember how easily we can ignore the facts and create false realities for ourselves.  Sometimes as we read stories about who Jesus is, or about what Jesus did, or about the things that Jesus taught us to do, these things make us uncomfortable.  They don’t fit with our version of reality.  And so we have to choose whether or not we will accept Jesus’ reality.  We have to choose whether or not we really want to believe because, if we do, we might just have to change how we live.

Cognitive dissonance makes us uncomfortable and so we have a choice to make.

Our choice is to believe the truth, to learn from it, to change our neural pathways and therefore to change who we are, what we believe, and how we act, or, we can choose to ignore the facts, play pretend, and create our own version of reality that allows us to be comfortable… and wrong.

We have two choices.  We can choose to believe a fantasy, or we can choose to believe reality.

There are two realities that you can choose.

  • The reality of Jesus, the Son of God, the creator of the universe, Savior, redeemer, the sacrifice and forgiveness of sins, the King of kings, Lord of lords, and author of all that is?

Or

  • the reality that you create for your own comfort.

Which reality will you choose?

 

 

* 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.

A Reason For Rejoicing

“A Reason for Rejoicing”
December 24, 2015
(Christmas Eve)
By John Partridge

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7     Titus 2:11-14     Luke 2:1-20

Eight hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2-7)

Today we say things like, “It was as if someone had flipped a switch.” Or talk about how “a light went on” when we discover great new ideas or hear news that might transform our lives. That is exactly the idea that Isaiah was trying to communicate. A light would come into the darkness and the world would be transformed. Joy was increased, people celebrated as if it was Thanksgiving or the end of a war, people threw off the burdens that had weighed them down, soldiers retired and burned their boots and their blood stained clothes. It would be a day of unimaginable celebration and it came because a child was born who would be a Mighty God and the Prince of Peace.

And for eight hundred years the people of Israel remembered God’s promises and they waited… and hoped.

And then, as we read in the gospel of Luke, God came to earth as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill, toward men.” (Luke 2:1-20)  The shepherds rejoiced at the news and went into town to see for themselves and as they returned, they glorified God and lifted up praises for the things that they had seen and heard.

It was a moment that changed the world.

The creator of the universe came to earth and put on humanity, became one of us, so that we could be rescued, saved, purified, perfected, and made fit for heaven. God came to do what we could never do for ourselves, he came to sacrifice himself so that we could be transformed and, through his power and sacrifice, made good enough to enter into his perfect home.

In Titus 2:11-14, it says…

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

God came to earth so that he could pour out mercy and grace upon the earth for all people.

It is the coming of Jesus and his sacrifice for us that teaches us to say “no” to our culture, to say “no” to the corrupt desires that pull us away from God, and that gives us the strength to live lives of godliness. Just as Israel did before the coming of the Messiah, today it is our turn to wait… and hope. But as we do we remember not only the promise, but we also remember the reason for our hope.

Jesus, the Son of God, the rescuer of all humanity, the creator of the universe, who put on human flesh and sacrificed himself so that we could be rescued from ourselves, purified, and transformed into something greater than we could have ever imagined.

Tonight we remember that night long ago, that silent night that brought joy to the world.

Tonight we remember… not just a baby in a manger.

We remember that tiny baby gave all of humanity… a reason for rejoicing.
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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 http://www.scribd.com/Pastor John Partridge. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.