Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Jesus Lives" - Luke 24:1-6

First preached by Earl Hively on 4/6/1958:

Today is Easter Sunday
Original derivation of that word - Spring
a. now we'll be having nice warm weather.
b. spring fashion - Easter parades
To us, Easter means Jesus has arisen
Let the Earth resound the fact that Jesus Lives

I. Victorious over the Grave

A. Defying the laws of the universe

1. All living things must die

a. flowers that live for a day
b. redwoods that live for hundreds of years
c. foolish to deny physical death but we have a hope.
d. William Channing, "None knew just [unclear] He passed on that quiet Sabbath morning. But
He died looking eastward as if expectant of another dawn."

2. He overcame death

a. not that he didn't experience it
b. thats what makes AA effective.
c. He was victorious over death.
d. he rose again from the dead.

B. Bringing a new life into the world.

1. more than a return from the dead
2. we wish our loved ones could retgurn from teh dead.
a. for another round of sickness, sorrow, and pain.
b. simply because we miss them.
3. Christ offers them more, much more.
4. "Now we are the sons of God . . . it doeth not yet appear what we shall be.
5. We know forgiveness of sins - who can describe Gods Glory.
6. C. S. Lewis. 4 year old watching lovers eating candy
7. Only to Belieers
a. "I am the door, by me if any man enter He shall be Saved."
b. "I am the way the truth and the life . . ."
8. More than a victory over the grave.

II Victorious over US

A. Having conquered Sin for us.

1. Not with an army to plunder our goods.
2. The appeal of His love.
3. He saw us floundering in sin.
4. In love He took our guilt upon himself
5. When We recognized what He did we couldn't help but love Him in return.
6. Beautiful young lady - saved from a sinking ship - married the man who saved Her.
7. We dedicate ourselves to Him. He not only conquered sin for us . . .

B. Having conquered Sin in Us.

1. Not that we are now without sin.
2. There is another force that continually fights.
3. Our inclination is to give in to evil.
4. We can reject our redeemer. to our own ruin.
5. Loving Lord - risen Redeemer - relies on love.
6. In so far as we are His, He has conquered sin in us.
7. His invitation to recieve Him in Holy Comm.
8. Not just Bread and wine, memorial feast.
9. All the blessing

Oh Dearest Jesus,
Recieve from me the heartfelt thanks I offer thee. Who though thy body and thy blood Has wrought my soul's eternal good. Break forth, my soul, in joy and praise what wealth is mine this day of days. My Jesus dwells within my soul; Let every tongue his grace extol. A-men.

Revisiting my grandfather's sermons

Several months ago my uncle gave me copies of about a dozen of my grandfather's sermons. Now that things have settled down (at least temporarially) I have decided to dig them out and read through them. I'm not sure what I intend to learn or find, but I'm going to copy them out as well as I can and see what comes of it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Words to ponder

I've been using a new devotional resource and I came across a really interesting quotation:

I like to think of the pastor as only one of the congregation set apart for a specific purpose. They say to him: Look, brother, we are busy with our daily toils, and confused with cares, but we eagerly long for peace and light to illuminate our life, and we have heard there is a land where these are to be found, a land of repose and joy, full of thoughts that breathe and words that burn, but we cannot go thither ourselves. We are too embroiled in daily cares. Come we will elect you, and set you free from toil, and you shall go thither for us and week by week trade with that land and bring us its treasures and its spoils.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reflecting, 7 years later

I've been thinking about a couple of things today. I'll start with a confession: I'm still angry. I'm not angry because I want to be, but I am. What makes it all the more concerning is that I can't really say exactly who or what I'm angry with or what it would take to quell my anger.

One of the things that I have noticed is that we don't talk about what happened seven years ago today as "attacks" anymore. We talk about them as "events" or "a tragedy" or the one that really burns me up "the incident." But none of those really capture what happened that day. Some men, guided by their religious beliefs executed a plan to kill as many people as they could and strike fear into as many people as they could. I don't know how else to talk about it - that was an attack. We should call it what it was.

For my class, Pastor as Leader, I've read Writing in the Dust by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. In his book he argues that the role of the religious leader in the aftermath of a tragedy is to create "breathing space." This space will allow people time to consider their next action and hopefully short-circuit the pattern of violence-revenge-violence which is all too prevalent in our world today. I'm supposed to prepare a 60-80 word response to how plausible this may or may not be. But, as you can see, I have more than 60 to 80 words to say.

At one point in the book, he argues that the attacks on the Twin Towers are inconsequential to the woman in rural Afghanistan who has had her village bombed. And while I see his point, I'm not convinced that it is a fair comparison. The American military has not gone randomly bombing villages, intending to kill as many average citizens as possible. The same can not be said of the attackers from Sept 11th, 2001. What does the woman preparing lunch in the cafeteria, who may or may not speak English, know about the foreign policy of the United States?

I don't talk about it much anymore, but I was in the New York metro area on Sept 11th. I heard and felt the towers collapse. I watched people from my community get off of the train still covered in the ash that overtook the city. I remember very vividly the responses of my college community. I remember the candlelight vigil, the students gathered around televisions all over campus, the swell of patriotism, and the overflowing pews in worship the next Sunday.

I think about that Sunday quite a bit. On some level, I think about it from a professional standpoint. What would I do in a congregation if/when something similar happens? But it makes me think about things that are much deeper. Why were people there that day? What were they expecting? What drove them to church that day? I think that for the first time in a generation, we saw that the homeland of the US was vulnerable. We saw that we were not as safe as we would like to be. The world was changing around us and people were looking for something permanent, something transcendent.

I guess that brings me back around to the place where I started this post. We we are going to move on, to find genuine healing, we have to call things as they really are. We should talk about the attackers, the victims, the survivors. We should admit that we are angry, or hurt, or upset. If we cannot speak honestly about where we are, how could we possibly begin to address it in prayer? How could we come to God in search of healing?

There is plenty to write about what the United States has done in response to the attacks. But none of that changes what happened that day. Please, let's stop trying to spin history. Let's stop white-washing the attacks and minimizing the grief and pain that they inflicted on so many people. Once we come to grips with that part of our story, then we can begin to feel the peace that passes all understanding.

Friday, May 23, 2008

You Can't Love Jesus and Hate His Wife

I thought this was worth sharing. It comes from some of the materials from a conference I recently attended.

You can't love Jesus and hat his wife. by Ed Stetzer
Get this. I'm standing in a reception line with my wife following a speaking engagement when this guy comes up to me and starts telling me how he's read all my books, has heard me speak on several occasions and told me how influential I've been to his ministry. (Please go on!)

He talks about how he's introduced a number of his pastor friends to all things Stetzer and how they actually traveled across country to be at this event. Wow!

But then, he starts verbally ripping on my wife like she's not even standing there. She's right there! He thinks my wife, who has been the love of my life and a partner in ministry for 25 years, is a drain on my ability to influence others. He says she's obsolete and that the "old girl is a little faded."

I'm in shock. Suddenly, the cheezy Christian motto of the 1990s flashes through my mind: What would Jesus do? Turn the other cheek? Pray for his enemy? Hand this guy His cloak?

I'm about to jo Jack Bauer on him.

I think Jesus would have been ticked - like any normal husband would be. You see, the church is the Bride of Christ. And, you don't mess with a man's wife.

The story about my wife is made up. The reality of what professing believers of Christ do to and what they say about His bride - the church - is not. Ant it is exponentially more serious than saying my wife is, "a little faded." (And I would take that pretty seriously!)

You cannot say you love Jesus and abuse His wife.

Unfortunately, there is a prevailing wind currently blowing across Western Evangelicalism that has caused an ecclesialogical (church) drift into dangerous waters. Research stalwart George Barna documented the tread in a longitudinal study released in 2005. One alarming element of the study showed that 70% of respondents found their primary means of spiritual expression through the local church in 200, but by 2025 he predicts those numbers to decrease by at least half. Did you get that? Now I have some quibbles about the numbers and more about the theology. But, if Barna is right, in less than 20 years, only 30-35 people out of 100 will believe that the church holds primary significance in their relationship with Christ. That's stunning for someone who loves the church (like I do.)

We were surprised that in our recent research on young adult dropouts, the more common reasons young adults dropped out of the church were lifestyle reasons. They got too busy, moved too far away, or experienced some other life change. And the church did not make the new list of priorities. Nice.

My question is how can anyone give even a cursory read to the New Testament and miss the supreme importance give to the church by the One who is most Supreme? Paul says that we were once "alienated and hostile in mind because of [our] evil actions. but now He has reconciled [us] by His physical body through His death, to present [us] holy, faultless and blameless before Him." Paul goes on to say that he rejoices in his suffering because his suffering is "completing in [his] flesh what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for His body, that is the church" (Colossians 1:21-24)

Paul was willing to take a beating for the church because Jesus submitted to a brutal murder "to make her [the church] holy, cleansing her in the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:26-27)

Seems like fewer and fewer people are wiling to take the church seriously, let alone take a beating for her.

In the wake of books like UnChristian and They Like Jesus but not the Church, I wonder if people have been tempted to throw the baby out with the bath water. I, for one, still believe that not only is the church still relevant, it is indispensable, as we look toward the future.

This conference got me thinking about another point, the idea that contemporary Christians have wondered away from the idea that ours is a shared, communal faith - something we do together. In the grand scheme of things it is only fairly recently that people could even read the Bible on their own, much less develop any sort of "Jesus and me" spirituality. But that is a discussion for another time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Letter from Jesus

Peace Lutheran Church

Christmas Eve

Dec 24th, 2007 – 11pm

David Hively

I don’t know if this happens to anyone else, but I think it is a sign of the times. Every so often I open my email to find some new link or video is making its rounds. Not too long ago I received one of these emails. I followed the link and found a letter from Jesus. Well, not really from Jesus, but from some pastor writing as though he was Jesus. It was an angry letter, from a bitter Jesus who was upset by being left out of Christmas. He was angry about being replaced by Santa and not being given any gifts. But that really doesn’t capture the Jesus I know. That isn’t the way my Jesus acts towards his creation. So I started thinking about what a letter from Jesus might actually sound like.

A letter from Jesus:

My dearest family,

As you well know, we are getting closer and closer to my birthday. Every year there is a celebration in my honor and it looks like people are planning parties for this year as well. During this time there is lots of shopping for gifts, radio and TV ads, and across the world everyone is talking about how my birthday is getting closer and closer. It is really very nice to know, that at least once a year, some people think of me. It makes me very happy to see that people have used this time as way to take care of each other, especially the poor, the widows, and orphans. I would love to see people make that a year-round project. Remember, I came into this world as a poor vulnerable baby, so I know what it is like to have to depend on someone else.

I’ve seen lots of signs around that say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That’s true, but YOU are a part of the reason for the season too. You see, God the Father sent me to earth, so that you could have everlasting life - so that you would have not just any kind of life, but the kind of life that is abundant and overflowing with love. I came to set you free from the power of sin, and to ask you to share in my mission. Some of your brothers and sisters are out there right now: bringing good news to the poor, giving sight to the blind, setting captives free, curing the sick! There is so much to do! But, don’t worry – I’ll give you everything you need and walk beside you on the way.

I know that it can be hard to think of me amidst the hustle and bustle of life. It seems like things move faster and faster every year. There is so much to do – so many things to get ready. There are presents to buy and wrap, cookies to bake, rooms to clean and decorations to hang. I know that these things are important to you, but please remember to take time to enjoy some of the gifts that you have already received. Take a walk one afternoon and see all of the wonderful animals that I created to share the world with you. When you sit down to a meal, think about all of the people whose gifts went into making that meal possible. Take a look around this room and see all of the brothers and sisters that I have gathered together here so that you can encourage and strengthen each other. I’m glad that you were able to make it tonight. I hope that this time that you spend in worship will fill you with hope and joy and a sense of peace that passes all understanding.

For all of its glitz and glamour, this time of year can be hard for some people. Even when things look all happy and cheery on the outside, sometimes the insides don’t match. Sure, things look the same this year. The lights are up again. The tree is back where it belongs. Everything looks right, but this year feels different. Maybe there is a new face at the dinner table – or maybe there is one less. Things just aren’t the way they used to be. No matter how hard you fight to keep them the same, to maintain those traditions, time keeps on moving by. I’ve seen a lot of traditions come and go. But know this – my love for you is more than a tradition. It is more than a once a year holiday. It has been there since the beginning of the beginning and there is nothing that you could ever do to make me love you less.

I can see that there is a lot of pain in my world right now. Many of my children do not have anyone to share this holiday with them. Some of my children are far away fighting in wars. Some do not have enough to eat. This holiday is for them too. While I was on earth I felt how heavy your burdens can be. I felt your pain. I know your grief. Really, that’s why I came to earth in the first place – to be with you in ALL circumstances, even the tough ones. Please don’t forget that I am ready to hear from you whenever you want. And that I am ready to take those heavy burdens from your shoulders.

I miss you. I can’t get enough of hearing from you. I know that it seems like a long time ago that I left, but I want you to know that you are still very much on my mind. You are so very precious to me.

My dear family, be good to each other. Pray for each other. Celebrate with the people who are celebrating, cry with the people who are crying. Do the best that you can to live in peace with each other. Hold tightly to me, because even though I started out as a little baby, I grew to take all of your sins on myself, to die on the cross, and to rise again so that you can have eternal life. I’ve placed in your life a light that shines against the darkness in the world. Take that light and pass it on to others. I want this night to be special for you. I want you to feel my presence with you, to know the peace that I have come to bring, and to trust that there is nothing in this entire world that could ever change just how very much I love you.

May the peace of Christ fill your hearts, minds, and souls. Merry Christmas

The Prince of Peace

Peace Lutheran Church

Peace on Earth?

The Prince of Peace

Dec 22nd, 23rd

David Hively
I’ve heard a lot in the last few weeks about the various traditions that people have. The particular things that make this time of year special for them. I’ve heard stories about trips to see families, about going out to find that perfect tree. But I’ve also hear that there are several people in this congregation who collect nativity sets which they proudly display this time of year. Some people call them crèches. But they are these sets of figurines that are fashioned to represent all of the major players in the story of the birth of Jesus. You have seen these, right? There is one just to the left as you enter through the sliding doors in the back of the sanctuary. They make for these beautiful scenes, frozen in time where all is calm and all is bright. The faces are all looking down, peering at the newborn Jesus. Some are even kneeling out of reverence for this tiny king. Some of the sets even have angels sounding a trumpet to herald the arrival of the Prince of Peace. The scene is so idyllic, so serene, so full of – peace. But what about this baby Jesus? We call him the Prince of Peace, but I wonder just how much peace he brought into the lives of the people with whom he shares this scene.

Lets work our way in from the outside. The Magi. We know these guys by a lot of different names: Magi, Kings, Wise Men, Astrologers. And we put them in the scene with the shepherds and angels and little baby Jesus, but most biblical scholars agree that the magi didn’t make it to Jesus on Christmas night. They think that it might have taken them as long as two years to find Jesus. It isn’t a part of our text for today, but these guys had quite a trek on their hands. And as wearying as traveling can be in our own time, I’m not even sure that I can comprehend what all these guys went through to catch a glimpse of the boy Jesus. We show them riding camels, wearing fine clothing, and bringing expensive gifts. But would they have called Jesus the Prince of Peace? Had he made their lives any easier? If anything their quest was long, tiring, and dangerous – especially with so many valuables on hand.

Moving a little further in you find the shepherds. You have to feel for these guys too. They were basically homeless. They slept in the fields with the sheep. And probably not their own sheep either, someone else’s sheep. They had to do the hard, dirty part of tending the sheep. They were the lowest of the low, the bottom of the social ladder. They were held in such low regard that shepherds were not allowed to be called as witnesses in court cases – they were just too unreliable to be trusted. And it was these guys who were out in the field one quiet night only to have the heavens torn open and a host of angels come pouring through. It is no wonder the first thing that the angels have to say is – “Do not be afraid.” These lowly shepherds are the first ones to find out about Jesus’ birth. They can’t be witnesses in court and yet God makes them into the first witnesses of the coming of the Messiah. Then the shepherds abandon their flocks, their livelihoods to go out in search of the boy Jesus. Do you think that Jesus’ coming brought peace into the shepherd’s lives?

And what about Mary? She usually gets to be the closest. He face shows some blend of wonder and adoration. But things weren’t so easy for Mary either. She’s engaged, but ends up pregnant, and not even by the man to whom she’s engaged. She has conceived in a way that nobody before her or since has ever conceived. You have to wonder how many people took her seriously. Who really believed her?

And do you remember what she is told about this baby? If you have you Bibles flip open to Luke 2:34,35 (page in your pew Bibles). Simeon is an old man and it has been revealed to him that he will see the Messiah. When Mary and Joseph bring baby Jesus to him, look at what Simeon says, “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thought of many will be revealed.” And as if that isn’t unsettling news enough he says to Mary, “and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” That doesn’t sound very much like what one might expect from the Prince of Peace.

Joseph is the character in the nativity that gets most of the attention in our Gospel text for today. We know that Joseph and Mary were engaged. But engagement worked differently in Jesus’ time than it does in our own. In our day the couple falls in love. According to tradition the young man asks the young woman’s father for her hand in marriage, and then they live happily ever after. But in Jesus time marriages were legally binding contracts and had a very large financial component to them. They also bore many marks of patriarchy that we would not tolerate today. In order to marry, the young man needed to pay a fee, a dowry, in order to be married. Now, sometimes a young man would express an interest in marrying a young lady, but not have enough money to pay the dowry. But to make sure that she would still be available to him when he was able to afford the dowry, he could make a sort of down payment – paying a portion of the dowry to claim the woman as his own. There would be a wedding and everything, but after the ceremony, the young lady went back home with her dad. From the description in our Gospel text for today, it seems that this is the arrangement that existed between Mary and Joseph. He had paid a part of the dowry, but not the whole thing. So, in the eyes of the law, they were engaged.

When Joseph finds out that Mary, his betrothed, has become pregnant and not by his own doing – he tries to do what is right under the Law. He plans to dissolve the contract. He could have her dragged to the town square and stoned for adultery, but instead he chooses a path of mercy and decides for a quiet divorce. But Joseph hears from God that he is to take Mary as his wife without regard to the Law or to the social customs of the day.

We talk about the baby Jesus and we call him the Prince of Peace. But one by one we have seen that the people that we most closely associate with Jesus’ birth had very little peace brought into it that night. There must be some other meaning when Isaiah identifies Jesus as the Prince of Peace.

The famous news man, Paul Harvey, tells the story about a family on Christmas Eve. This family had a tradition where the Mother and children would go to the Christmas Eve service, and the Father would stay home and read the paper. When the family returns home from church, they would all gather to open up their presents. The Father was not an evil man, but he just couldn’t believe in the childhood stories anymore of God coming as a baby in a manger. As the family left for church, he opened up the evening paper and began to read by the fireplace. Suddenly, he heard tapping on the window. It was a bird flying against the glass of his window trying to get out of the snow into the warmth of his home. The man had compassion on the bird, and he went outside, hoping to bring it in. As he approached the bird, the bird just flew against the window even harder. Pretty soon, the bird flew into the bushes below the window, half frozen, yet too afraid to be caught by this huge man. The more the man tried to reach for the bird, the more the bird flew frantically into the snow and thorns of the bushes. After a few minutes in the cold and seeing the bird continue to injure itself, the man yelled out in frustration, "Stupid bird, can’t you understand that I’m trying to help?" The man paused and thought, "If only you understood you wouldn’t fly away ... if only ... if only I could become a bird, and get you to understand.” And then off in the distance the man heard the church bells ringing, just as they had done at this time every year, announcing the beginning of Christmas, the day that we celebrate Jesus taking on frail human flesh and living as one of us.

Jesus comes to us in human form to show us a different kind of peace. It isn’t the greeting card or nativity set kind of peace – he’s offering something deeper, something transcendent. He doesn’t offer peace through the use of military might. He isn’t offering peace from coasting over the trials and tribulations of this life. What Jesus offers instead is the peace that comes from walking this road together. In times of hardship and times of abundance, when the rule of the land is an eye for an eye – God is with us. In times of violence or oppression, when people seek the third way – God is with us. As we reach out to heal the sick and the suffering and be a visible presence in our communities – God is with us. That is the peace that we celebrate. That is the peace that we announce. Jesus brings peace as he comforts the grieving widow. He brings peace when he waits with the children who are waiting for a parent to return from war. He brings peace when family factions sit down around the Christmas dinner table and share a meal together. The Emmanuel, the God with us – this is the Prince of Peace. The one who came to live among us, and now promises to be with us always.