Resurrection: Then What?

“Resurrection: Then What?”

April 08, 2018

By John Partridge*

 

John 20:19-31            Acts 4:32-35               1 John 1:1 – 2:2

                       

 

Today is the second Sunday of Easter or, a part of the church’s Eastertide celebration.  Today, and during the next few weeks, we will be remembering what happened after the resurrection and the events leading up to Pentecost.  This is important stuff.  This is the story of the disciples and the early church as they discovered what it meant to serve a Jesus that had risen from the dead.  It was one thing to be a follower of a rabbi, or teacher, that preached throughout the countryside and challenged  their church leaders to be ethical, moral, and actually do what scripture taught.  But following Jesus the rabbi and teacher, and following the Jesus that had defeated sin and death were two very different things.

 

In these next few days and weeks, everyone’s understanding of what it meant to follow Jesus was changing.  Everything that they thought they knew, and much of what they believed, was challenged.  Everything that they thought they understood about the mission of the church, and their role in that mission, was being deconstructed and rebuilt into something new.  After the death and resurrection of Jesus, everyone was starting over and their lives would never be the same again.  We begin our story today in John 20:19-31, when the disciples meet the risen Jesus for the first time:

 

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

The disciples were together, probably talking about the wild stories that the women had told them about seeing angels and a risen Jesus.  Since the crucifixion, they had been trying to figure out what to do next.  They had left their jobs, careers, and families behind to follow Jesus and now he was gone.   They were filled with grief and confusion.  Their lives were in turmoil… and now this!  What did it really mean that the tomb was empty?  Was it possible that Jesus had risen from the dead?  Had the Romans, or the Pharisees, or someone else, stolen Jesus’ body?  Did they suspect each other?  Were the disciples asking one another if they had done it for some reason?  We don’t really know.  But what we do know is that they were together, and that they were afraid of being discovered together, or at least afraid of being discovered by the Pharisees or the Sadducees and arrested, or worse.  They were so afraid of being discovered, or overheard by neighbors, that they had closed all the windows and locked all the doors.

 

And suddenly, Jesus appeared among them.

 

And in the midst of their confusion, and pain, and grief, and fear, Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.”  Jesus’ first gift to them is to comfort them, calm them, and assure them that he was not gone and that all would be well.  But Jesus also says that just as God had sent him to earth, Jesus is sending his disciples out as well.  And not only is he sending them, he breathes on them and offers them the gift of the Holy Spirit (these acts are connected because in both Greek and Hebrew, the words for “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are the same word).  And to make absolutely sure that no one was left out, Jesus returns to make sure that Thomas is included and all of the disciples (other than Judas) are working together.  In the span of a single week, Jesus moves the disciples from a place of fear, confusion, grief, and turmoil to a place of unity, belief, understanding, and growing confidence.  And going forward, that is what the church begins to look like as well.  In Acts 4:32-35, Luke says this:

 

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

 

The followers of Jesus Christ were so unified in their belief, so focused on their mission, and so trusting of one another, that they shared everything that they had.  That doesn’t necessarily imply that they were living in a commune or were supporting communism, because many of them still owned land and houses, and presumably in some cases, businesses.  Luke doesn’t say that these people sold everything that they owned, but that those who had something made sure that they shared what they had with those who had nothing.  It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that the followers of Jesus didn’t share what they had or give money to the poor because they got a tax deduction for doing so.  A believer in Jesus Christ shares what they have with others, and gives to the church, simply because the Spirit leads us in that direction and because God has asked us to do so.  Any tax benefit that results from our generosity and obedience is clearly not something that the disciples ever considered.

 

And as we heard last week, and many times before that, the mission of the church was clear from the beginning.  In 1 John 1:1 – 2:2, it sounds like this:

1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

2:1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

John again repeats, several times, the core mission of the church.  We have heard, we have seen, we have touched, and we must tell the world what we have learned so that others may have what we have.  We must share the good news of Jesus so that others can come out of darkness and live in the light.

 

But.

 

Isn’t there always a “but?”

 

John says “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

 

And as he explains further, what he is saying is that if we follow Jesus, we will walk in the light and Jesus will purify us, and he will be at work perfecting us.

 

But.

 

While these things are all true, if we follow Jesus then we must do our best to act like it.  We cannot claim that we are perfect or without sin, because we are not, but we try as hard as we can not to sin and trust Jesus for forgiveness when we do.

 

And so we see that from the very beginning, the followers of Jesus Christ had several core beliefs that directed their entire lives.  First, trust that Jesus loves you and is in control of your life.  Second, believe that Jesus has defeated sin and death and has paid the price for your sin through his suffering, death and resurrection.  Third, we must focus on the mission together.  We must care for the poor, feed the hungry, lift up the brokenhearted, cloth the naked, be a voice for the voiceless, and in all things have compassion for others and be Jesus to the people around us.  Fourth, because we have heard the good news, because we have seen the power of Jesus to change lives, and because we know the truth, we must tell the world what we have learned so that others may have what we have.  We must share the good news of Jesus so that others can come out of darkness and live in the light.  And finally, we must live and we must lovetogether.  We must resist sin and live lives that honor God, and we must act as if the teachings of Jesus are important.

 

It’s a short list.

 

And it’s not easy.

 

But these five things must shape everything we do.

 

 

 

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

 

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See. Hear. Go. Tell.

“See. Hear. Go. Tell.”

April 01, 2018

By John Partridge*

 

John 20:1-18              Acts 10:34-43             1 Corinthians 15:1-11                       

 

 

Leader: He is Risen!

People: He is Risen indeed!

 

We join together this morning to remember and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is the most important day on the Christian calendar and represents the climax and conclusion of the story that begins with Christmas.  Well, sort of.  We know that it is wrong to say that the story “began” at Christmas because we have thousands of years of recorded history that tell us about the people of God and God’s work on earth prior to the coming of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament.  Likewise, we know that it’s wrong to say that Easter is the conclusion of the story because we’re still here two thousand years later.  But however we choose to describe it, Easter is indeed the climax of the story.  This day, the day that Jesus rose from the dead, is a pivotal moment in history and the pivotal moment of God’s redemption and rescue of humanity.  But if the story doesn’t end with the resurrection, if we are still here two thousand years later, if we are still worshipping and following God, then we are presented with some questions that need answering and foremost among them is “Why?”  Why are we still here?  When is the end of the story?  What is supposed to happen between now and the end?  And finally, what are we supposed to be doing?

 

We won’t have time to answer all of those questions today, but the Easter story itself answers some of them, so let’s begin there by reading the story from John 20:1-18.

20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

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

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

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

One of the things that struck me as I read this passage is that each participant saw something.  Mary Magdalene arrived at the tomb and she saw that the stone had been removed.  She ran to Peter and John and immediately told them what she had seen.  Peter and John ran to the tomb and they saw the strips of linen and the empty tomb.  But then, while Peter and John return to the home where they are staying, Mary remains at the tomb weeping and brokenhearted.  And while she is there two angels appear and ask why.  “Why are you crying?”  And Mary explains that Jesus has been taken from her and she doesn’t know where they have put him.  And then she repeats herself to the gardener but in doing so, suddenly realizes that it is not the gardener to whom she is speaking but Jesus, risen, resurrected, alive, and well.  But then, Jesus tells her to “Go” and to “Tell” the disciples that Jesus was returning to heaven.

 

Twice, Mary had seen, and twice she ran to tell others what she had found.

 

These moments, at the very heart of the Easter story, set the pattern that is to be followed throughout history and to this very day.  In Acts 10:34-43, Luke tells us how the disciples themselves understood what had happened at Easter.

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

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

“You know the message God sent to the people.”  “We are witnesses of everything he did”

Peter said, you were there, you saw, you heard, you know.  And because of that, Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.”  Peter wasn’t preaching to the disciples, or to the apostles, or even to the church, but to a gathering of Gentiles gathered in the home of a Roman centurion who had heard the stories of Jesus and had been given a vision by God.  The command to tell others is not a command that was given to disciples, or to pastors, or teachers, but a command that was given to everyone who knows the story.

 

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul explains it this way:

15:1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

This is the next generation of believers.  Paul never claims to be a witness to the crucifixion or to the resurrection.  Paul did meet Jesus, but long after the events of Easter recorded in the Gospels.  And Paul isn’t writing to eyewitnesses as John and Peter did.  Paul was writing to a church in Greece, to people who were nowhere near Jerusalem or Israel when Jesus rose from the dead.

 

In other words, Paul was writing to people like us.

 

And Paul says, “what I received I passed on to you as of first importance.”  There were, at that time, still plenty of people who had seen Jesus after the resurrection and Paul emphasizes that the church in Corinth had heard the story from him, had believed, and held firmly to what they had learned.  But Paul also says that what the apostles knew, they preached so that others, like the Corinthians, might also believe.

 

It’s a pattern that began on that first Easter morning.

 

Come and see.

Hear the Good News.

Go, and tell.

 

The church has followed that pattern throughout the ages from that time until today.  Every one of us is here today because someone else heard the story and then told it to us.  And now, because we have heard the story, it becomes our mission to do the same for others.

 

Our world, our nation, our community, our neighborhoods, and even our families are filled with people who don’t know the story and who haven’t heard the good news.  They have no idea that Jesus came to rescue them from guilt, sin, and death. In Romans chapter 10, Paul asks, how can people call on Jesus Christ if they don’t believe in him?  How can people believe if they have not heard the story?  How can they hear of no one ever told them?  And how can anyone preach, if the church never sent them?

 

We’re glad that you came today, but it isn’t enough to hear the story and then keep it to yourself.

 

You have seen and you have heard the story.

 

Now it’s your turn.

 

Go and tell.

 

 

 

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

 

A Different Spring To-Do List

crocusI know that many of you will be reading this after Easter even though I am writing it in March. But the arrival of Easter and spring often signify a flurry of activity.  Many of us are already making lists of things that need to be done outside in our flower beds, gardens and lawns as well as a host of things that we put off during cold weather. If we have children, there are even more things being added to our schedules with the arrival of spring sports and other activities. But in the midst of all this busy-ness, I hope that you will also take the time to put a few spiritual things on your to-do lists. Spring and Easter are filled with images that remind us of God and of spiritual things. And so, in the midst of our rush to get things done, I encourage you to take some time out to appreciate the gift that spring really is, to “be still” and listen to the heartbeat of God, and to notice the ways in which we are surrounded by the miraculous.

What follows is far from being an all-inclusive list, but are just a few suggestions to get you started.

  • Sit.  That’s all. Just sit. Once it gets warm enough, find a place on your porch or in the back yard, pull up a lawn chair, and just sit. Leave your phone in the house. Feel the sun on your face. Listen to the wind, the birds, the neighbors, squirrels, or whatever it is that’s going on. Now remember the silence of the winter and give thanks. You’re alive and all around you the world is emerging from death and the grave of winter. Remember the resurrection of Jesus at Easter, and imagine what your new birth will be like.
  • Look for the signs. Flowers, trees, and animals of all kinds have been buried in the earth, or been dormant, in hibernation, or have migrated for thousands of miles. Now they are emerging from the earth, reawakening, and returning from far away. Within the boundaries of your lawn you can find dozens of examples of rebirth and resurrection. Give thanks for all of these little miracles.
  • Smell.  Seriously. Take a moment. Snow doesn’t smell like much, but now your yard and your neighborhood smell different. Pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Smell the fragrance of spring flowers, the aroma of dirt, earth, and grasses that are warmed by the sun. They are alive and growing. Even the more unpleasant smells are new. Rejoice in all the new-ness around you and give thanks that you can smell, that you have life, and health, and can appreciate these gifts.
  • Touch.  Lean down and look at the spring flowers, the buds on the trees, or even the tender shoots of grass. They are so small, so fragile, and so tender that anything but the slightest touch might damage them. And yet they survived the winter, and they’ve pushed their way through the soil or forced open the tips of a woody branch to emerge into your world. Rejoice that you are there to see it but also consider how God has made something so small, so tender, so fragile, and yet at the same time, so determined, so tough, so persistent, and so resilient. Remember that the same God made you. Toughness, resilience, persistence, tenderness, love, and compassion all live within you. Give thanks for the gifts God has given to you and the ways that he has brought you through your wintery trials.
  • Your turn. Contemplate. Be still. Listen. In what other ways will God reveal himself to you?

 

 

 

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‘Go’ for Launch

‘Go’ for Launch

March 25, 2018

By John Partridge*

 

Mark 11:1-11                         Zechariah 9:9-10

 

How many of you have ever watched the launch of a Saturn V rocket from the Apollo program, or a Space Shuttle, an Atlas, a SpaceX Falcon 9 or any other rocket? The entire countdown can take days, and that doesn’t include all of the construction and preparation that happened before the rocket ever made it to the launch pad.  But near the end, just before the final countdown, the Launch Director takes a poll of all the stations that are monitoring the launch.  And as you listen, you can hear him name every single position, and before the launch can proceed, each of them must answer that they are ‘Go’ for launch.  If even one of them fails to answer in the affirmative, then the launch cannot proceed.  Everything must be ready.  Every detail must be exactly as it should be.

 

We understand that.  Once, during the Space Shuttle program, one station operator reported that they were not “Go” for launch and the Launch Director chose to proceed anyway.  That station operator was reporting that the temperatures at the launch pad were below the required operating temperatures of the spacecraft.  And when the launch director followed the instructions of his superiors and ignored the “No Go” from that station operator, he doomed the entire crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

 

Rockets are powerful and dangerous.  Millions, even billions of dollars of investment and years, sometimes decades of work are on the line.  If even one thing goes wrong, everything the teams have worked for could be ruined.  There is no room for error.

 

But that is exactly what we witness as we read the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in

Mark 11:1-11.  God has been preparing humanity for this moment for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of years.  Lives, governments, nations, and even empires had been pulled, prodded, guided, lifted up, brought down, created, and destroyed, to bring everything into readiness for what we now call Holy Week.  And in this passage of scripture, we can see Jesus checking off the last boxes of the launch poll.

 

11:1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!” [Hosanna means “save us”]

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

10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

 

Jesus sends two disciples ahead to acquire a donkey with which to ride upon during his entrance into the holy city of Jerusalem and tells them that if anyone asks why they are taking it, to simply tell them that “the Lord needs it” and will return it shortly.  That phrase, “The Lord needs it” can also be translated as “The master has need of it” but in either case we are left with only two options.  Either Jesus had somehow, made arrangements in advance for that donkey to be there and the disciples simply needed to arrive and confirm that they were picking it up for him, or Jesus knew that the donkey was there, and that this answer would satisfy those witnesses, all while he was still miles away from that place.  But whichever possibility you think is true, it enables Jesus to arrive in the city in the same manner that the kings of Israel had done throughout history and also allows him to check off another item on that pre-launch checklist.  We know that many of the things that Jesus did were a fulfillment of the prophecies contained in the Old Testament, and this is no exception.  I think that you will find that this passage from Zechariah 9:9-10 will sound remarkably similar to the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem

 

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.

 

The people along the road knew who Jesus was.  They had heard of the things that he had done.  They had witnessed his miracles.  They had listened to him preach.  But they were expecting a military and a political leader.  They were looking for a government that would save them instead of a God who loved them.  Today they praised him, but within the week, as they realized that Jesus had no intention of taking over the government, they would turn on him, betray him, and hand him over to the chief priests and the Roman army.

 

As Jesus enters into the city of Jerusalem, and as he, and his disciples, draw closer to the climax of the story next week at Easter, Jesus will continually fulfill the promises of God and the prophecies of the Old Testament.

 

The impossible becomes possible.

 

What was seen in visions and dreams becomes reality.

 

What was foretold as the future becomes the present.

 

God’s promise is kept.

 

Israel’s hope becomes truth.

 

The hope of future generations unfolds like a flower opening in the spring.

 

The launch poll has been completed.  All is in readiness.  All systems are “Go.”

 

There is no room for error.

 

The rescue of all humanity is beginning in 10… 9… 8…7…

 

 

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

 

How “Local” is Mission?

How “Local” is Mission?

 push-pinsRecently, I have heard folk from Trinity discussing the need for our church to focus on, and to encourage the support of, more local missions. My impression was that the speakers meant to say that we might be focusing too intently on missions that weren’t local and that local missions were more important.  To be fair, one of those speakers was deliberate in saying that other missions were important, but the implication was that our focus might have shifted too far in another direction. I admit that my impression of that conversation was probably shaped by other churches where I have served, because I’ve heard that opinion expressed in other places before. My first reaction was to dismiss that idea as wrong, but as I thought about it, I decided that I ought to look in our church budget and see where our dollars were really going and next I decided that I should probably write about it because if a few people are talking about it, the odds are good that a lot of people are thinking about it.

 

Before I get into the details of what I found, I want to remember why it is that we do missions. First, in Matthew 28:18, as Jesus said goodbye to his disciples before he ascended into heaven he gave us what is now called the Great Commission saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And in Luke’s version of this story, found in Acts 1:8, Jesus says, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

 

Our calling, as the followers of Jesus is not just to stay in Jerusalem, but to go share the gospel throughout the entire world. With that in mind, I know that caring for those people nearest to us has to have some priority because if we don’t do it, who will? But, at the same time, the good we can do in other places for a small amount of money, is also vitally important. And so with that in mind, I looked at our January finance report to see where Trinity spent its time and money and divided those places into the same kind of categories that Jesus used. Instead of using Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the earth, I translated that into local, Ohio, National, and International.

 

While some of the ministries we support were a little difficult to neatly put in one of these categories, and without asking what mission the UMW supported, I counted 22 local missions, 2 Ohio missions, 7 National missions, and 4 International missions. Local missions were things like Perry Helping Perry, Neighbor Helping Neighbor, the Homeless Outreach Team, the SAM Center, Canton Calvary Mission, RAHAB ministries, Aunt Suzie’s Cancer Wellness, Guidestone, and our own Trinity youth. Ohio missions were things like Flat Rock Homes in Cleveland, and the Kairos prison ministry. I classified things like Disaster relief through UMCOR, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Red Bird Mission, including our mission trip to The Joy Center, as National missions.

And finally, there were four International missions such as Zoe ministries, Farmer to Farmer, Heifer International, and Africa University. Financially, the breakdown of these categories was, Local $10,727, Ohio $100, National $7,739, and International $1300. It was interesting to note that as far as I can tell, all of the missions in the International category were given by our young people from your generous giving to the noisy offering.

Ultimately, I think that we are finding a good balance in these categories, but if you have any concerns I invite you to share them with me, or Jan Gash and our missions team. In total, the generous people of Trinity gave nearly $20,000 to these missions and that is both incredible and commendable. The people of Trinity have good and generous hearts, and it shows. At the same time, even this generous level of giving adds up to less than 10 percent of our budget, so maybe we do have something to think about.

 

 

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Dangerous Foolishness

“Dangerous Foolishness”

March 04, 2018

By John Partridge*

 

Exodus 20:1-17                                  John 2:13-22              1 Corinthians 1:18-25

 

 

Have you ever gotten some advice from your parents as you went out the door for an evening with your friends?

 

Of course, most of us have.  And for most of us, our parents said things like, “Be careful,” “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” “Stay with your friends and don’t go off alone,” and other advice that often boils down to simply saying, “Don’t do anything stupid.”

 

All of those things are good advice because our parents loved us and cared about our well-being.  But what if God gave us advice?  What would God say to us?  But of course, we know that God has done exactly that.  God gave his people plenty of advice and has been trying to teach us how to live, and how to live alongside one another, for thousands of years.  Among the earliest instances of God’s teaching is also among the most famous and well-known, the Ten Commandments, which we find in Exodus 20:1-17.

 

20:1 And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

 

The commandments that we remember best are the big ones: do not murder, do not steal, and do not worship other gods.  But among all of these there are also some gems that are more commonly forgotten.: make your parents a priority, take one day a week to rest and think about something bigger than yourself, don’t lie in ways that hurt others, don’t behave in ways that hurt your spouse, and be content with what you have.  The coming of Jesus didn’t take away any of these commandment.  In fact, Jesus dedicated his life, not only to living in obedience to them, but to teaching how human beings, even church leaders, sometimes tried to cheat God by manipulating the meaning of his commandments.    We see that in John 2:13-22 where we find Jesus kicking butt and taking names because the leaders of the Temple forgot that God cared about outsiders.

 

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

 

By the time Jesus drove people from the Temple courts, he had already gathered his disciples, had already been preaching for a while, and people knew who he was, even in Jerusalem.  But Jesus took issue with all the buying and selling that was going on, but not because it was unnecessary.  You see, the animals that were being bought and sold were animals that people needed to take to the priests to offer sacrifices.  If you lived in town you probably didn’t own your own sheep or goats, or even your own doves and so, when you needed, or wanted, to offer a sacrifice, you had to buy an acceptable animal.  Likewise, the moneychangers were necessary because people came to Jerusalem from other nations and needed what we would call a currency exchange to change into local currency.  But there was still another reason because Greek and Roman currency often had the images of emperors or kings or other people on them, the Jewish faith prohibited such images from the temple courts and so the moneychangers offered an exchange of that currency into an acceptable Temple currency.  Even worse, all of these systems were rife with corruption that lined the pockets of the chief priests and their friends.

 

But, even knowing that these things were necessary, there was one thing that probably set Jesus off.  The Temple itself was laid out in concentric squares.  The innermost section was for the priests alone, the next outer section was for Jewish men to pray, the next for Jewish women and children to pray, and the outermost section was designated, by God, as a place for outsiders, unbelievers, and non-Jews to come to God’s house and pray.  It is likely that this was the place where all of the animals were being sold and where the moneychangers had set up shop, and in doing so, they had taken up all of the space that God intended to be a welcome place of prayer for the outsiders.   And so, Jesus singlehandedly drives out the entire crowd, and the response that he gets from the Temple leadership was, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”  Rather than refer back to their own scripture, which they most certainly knew, rather than admit that Jesus was the one who was obeying scripture, they instead ask Jesus to give them a sign to prove that God sent him.

 

Instead of being shaped by scripture and by the will of God, the leaders of Jesus’ church had allowed their values to be perverted by culture, greed, and power.  And with that in mind, as we read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, we can better understand how the people in the world around us might think that we, and our faith in Jesus Christ, are weird.

 

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

 

Paul understood how the priests and the temple leaders had their values twisted and he understood that Christianity, from the outside, looked weird.  Just like the Temple leaders, the Jews wanted to see signs that proved that Jesus’ message was real and the Greeks wanted an answer that used logic and philosophy as proof.  To each of them, the message of Jesus Christ is foolishness and idiocy.  While those of us on the inside have come to understand that this is the truth and the message of God to his people, to those on the outside we are often seen as fools and what we preach as dangerous.  Scripture reminds us that this sort of foolishness can be dangerous.  Paul and many of the disciples were executed, murdered, or exiled because of the message they preached.  Jesus was hung on a cross for teaching the foolishness of scripture by people who had devoted their lives to studying it.

 

Jesus, the priests, the teachers of the law, and the other leaders of the Temple all knew the Ten Commandments and the teachings of scripture, and yet, some of them allowed themselves to be shaped by their culture, by their greed, and by their lust for power than by the scriptures.  We all run that same risk.  We all run the risk of being deceived by our own selfishness, or by the culture of cynicism that surrounds us.

 

This foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom and this weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

 

To everyone on the outside, what we do, and what we believe, is a dangerous foolishness.

 

But to us, it is the way, the truth, and the life.

 

For no one can come to God except through his son, Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

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

 

What is God’s Name for You?

“What is God’s Name for You?”

February 25, 2018

By John Partridge*

 

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16                       Mark 8:31-38                         Romans 4:13-25

 

Have you ever met someone who changed their name?

 

In some ways it isn’t as common in our American culture as it is in other places, but even so, we have a tradition that most women change their names when they get married.  Sometimes that means they take their husband’s last name, other times she hyphenates her last name with his, and sometimes both the husband and the wife change to a hyphenated name together.  But in other cultures, people change names when they change religions.  Although it isn’t terribly common, we see that here when someone chooses to become a Muslim, such as when Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali.  It can go the other way as well, when a person from a predominantly Muslim culture becomes a Christian, or even if they abandon Islam and become an atheist or agnostic, they might well change their name as a reflection of that.  In nearly all of these cases, a name change comes about as a reflection of a significant change in the life of the person.

 

There are a number of times when we see people of both the old and the new testaments change their names but two of the most memorable are when Abram become Abraham, and Simon becomes Peter.  We begin this morning with the story of Abraham from Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 where we hear these words:

 

17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram [Abram means exalted father]; your name will be Abraham [Abraham probably means father of many], for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.

 

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

 

You might have noticed the continued theme of “covenant” that we saw last week in the story of Noah.  In the case of Noah, God made a covenant with every living creature on the earth that he would never again destroy the world with a flood.  But in the story of Abraham and Sarah, God makes his covenant specifically with these two people and with their descendants.  So significant is this promise, that God changes their names, Abram to Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah, as reflection of its lifelong importance and as a testimony to the change that God had made in their lives.

 

But that brings us, as followers of Jesus, to an obvious question.  If God’s promise was to Abraham and to the Jewish people, then where does that leave us as Gentiles?  And that is one of the important questions that the Apostle Paul addresses in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 4:13-25).

 

13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

 

Paul argues that the Jewish people have often depended on God’s covenant with Abraham and their compliance with the laws of Moses rather than upon their faith in God.  But if that’s true, then Abraham himself is condemned because the law was not written until many generations later.  For that reason, Paul says, we know that the promise that God made to Abraham is a promise that is connected to faith and not to a strict obedience to the laws of Moses.  And, Paul continues, if that is so, then anyone who puts their faith in God can have the same hope that Abraham did.  It was Abraham’s faith in God, even in the face of a childless reality that seem certain, that made him an heir of God’s righteousness.  Despite being over 100 years old, and despite Sarah being nearly as old as he was, they persisted in believing that God would fulfill his promise.  Paul says that Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised” and because he was “fully persuaded,” God credited him with righteousness.  That means that even though, as an imperfect human being, Abraham was not righteous, God’s own righteousness was deposited in Abraham’s account.  And Paul tells us that this promise of God was not unique to Abraham and Sarah, but applies to everyone who will put their full faith in Jesus Christ.

 

But what does it mean to be “fully persuaded” or to put our full faith in God?

 

That is a reasonable question, and in Mark 8:31-38, we hear Jesus explain it this way:

 

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

 

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

 

Peter was one of Jesus’ first followers and his closest friend, but even so Jesus chastises him because Peter had begun to think of himself and his own needs and desires before focusing on what God wanted.  Jesus goes on to say that in order to become a person who is fully persuaded, we must lose our lives for Jesus and for the gospel.  Obviously, Jesus didn’t mean that we had to literally die for him, but he clearly did mean that his followers are expected to put the needs and desires of God, and God’s kingdom, ahead of our own.

 

If you’ve spent any time at all on some social media outlets, you have almost certainly seen one of the countless posts quoting Jesus saying “If anyone is ashamed of me” and that verse comes from this very passage.  But on Facebook, those posts almost always say that if you really love Jesus, if you really are not ashamed of Jesus, then you will resend that photograph or that post to all of your friends.  Poppycock.  That’s not what this passage means at all.  What Jesus is saying, is that of you really love him, you will put the desires of Jesus, and the needs of the kingdom of God, ahead of your own.  What Jesus wants, isn’t for us to repost his picture or some scripture verse on Facebook or Instagram.  What Jesus wants is for us to live our lives as if his teaching actually meant something.

 

Abraham, Sarah, and Peter were all given new names by God to signify that they belonged to him and were living their lives in devotion and obedience to him.  They were “fully persuaded” that God had the power to do what he had promised and they trusted God enough to put God’s desires and the needs of his kingdom ahead of their own.  When that happened, God, knowing that the desire of Abram’s heart was to be a father, changed his name from Abram (which means father) to Abraham (which means father of nations).  Jesus saw Simon’s faith and changed his name from Simon (which means God has heard) to Peter (which means rock) because despite his doubts and his failings, Peter would become the rock that held the church together.

 

And so, I invite you to come with me on a short flight of imagination.

 

God wants each one of us to put our full faith and trust in Jesus Christ, to become fully persuaded, and sold out to him so that we become willing to put the needs and desires of God ahead of our own.

 

So imagine, if and when you are willing to do that, what new name would God give you?

 

Would it tell the world that God was giving you the desire of your heart so that he could change the world through you?  Would it tell everyone that God intended to use you to build something far larger than yourself?  Or would it be something else?

 

God is waiting to change your name.

 

Just imagine how your world would change, if you were willing to become…  “fully persuaded.”

 

 

 

 

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