Today is Memorial Day. A day when we remember the fallen. Those who gave there life sacrificial lay so that we may live in freedom. They went to war, but never came back. We remember what you have done for us.
Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to
strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Last night I found out that one of my dear friends lost his life in a motorcycle accident yesterday. Even as I type this, it’s hard to even think about. Pam and I met Allen and his wife Donna when they started coming to Parkway. Over the years that they attended while we served on staff there, they became really good friends – along with some other really good friends – most of whom we have talked to over the course of the last 24 hours. It has been emotional for me. This is the first time I have lost a close friend who wasn’t a member of the family.
Allen was a big, huggable, teddy bear – a gentle giant. There was always a smile. He lived out his faith and we talked about it…that’s how we became good friends. We liked to talk about worship and church history. He was so good to us, always willing to lend a helping hand. One year for pastor appreciation, he offered to take care of the basic mechanic needs of our vehicle. When he couldn’t take care of it, he would always steer us in the right direction of a capable mechanic.
After we got home last night, I wanted to pretend it was all a dream, that somehow it would go away. I even kept looking at Facebook, but the more I looked at it the more real it became.
When we resigned at Parkway, Allen made himself available to write a letter of recommendation and he and Donna prayed for God to show the way. I am so thankful that I had a chance to get to know him. He was well loved by everyone – looking at his Facebook feed over the last 24 hours made that quite clear.
I was thinking about this. Last night we sang Revelation Song during our worship service in Bradford. It is a wonderful picture story of the worship that is happening in heaven, most of the words are taken straight out of Revelation 4. Little did I know (we found out about the accident after the service) that as we were singing those words, Allen was already worshiping at the throne of God.
As we drove home from Bradford, I thought about the MercyMe song “I Can Only Imagine.” Allen no longer has to wonder what heaven is like. He knows for sure.
Today I dedicated my long run (of ten miles) to the memory of Allen and especially motorcycle awareness. I really encourage you – NO – strongly encourage you to watch out for the people who share the road with you. Whether it be someone who rides a bike, motorcycle, a walker or runner.
At our last service in Waynesboro (Allen was there) I quoted my friends who gathered, “Here, There, or in the Air,” a quote from a Dana Key song from many years ago. Little did I know then that when Allen and Eric (who also helped us move to Eldred) said goodbye and prayed for us that evening, it would be the last time that I would see Allen on this earth.
Today, Allen is part of the cloud of witnesses written in Hebrews 12.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
Yesterday Allen finished the race – and now he is part of the cloud of witnesses cheering us on in our life of faith. Let us run with endurance – keeping our eyes on Jesus the one who perfects our faith!!!!
Godspeed Allen – you will be missed. It was my pleasure to get to know you!
I agree, running is meant to be enjoyed. However there are those days…when…especially in the last mile and a quarter, you just endure. Today was one of those days. I was scheduled for a long run. It was needed. The first couple miles were ok, but I wasn’t really enjoying it. After mile three things really started to pull together at least until mile 8 – the plan was 10 miles, which I completed, it was that the last mile was tough, but tough is what makes you a better runner. If all goes well, I should be able to hit my goal of 100 miles this month. The first time since November. May has been a good month for running and I feel like things are going much better – not the way I want – but better than the last couple of months. But then again, that is why I press on!
Seventh Sunday of Easter (May 28, 2017)
- First reading
- Second reading
1 Peter 4:12-14 | New Living Translation (NLT)
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.
1 Peter 5:6-11 | New Living Translation (NLT)
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. 7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believersall over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.11 All power to him forever! Amen.
Over the last few weeks we have been in Peter’s first letter. Like I mentioned last week, there are several themes. Today the theme once again is suffering or trials. I like how Peter writes this. “Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”
So many times we thing that trials and suffering are a punishment – much like the way Isaiah told us that we thought Christ’s suffering was his own fault. It’s something about our nature. If we do good, we think we should be blessed and if we do bad, we should be punished. However, Peter tells us that trials are part of the Christian life…in fact Peter goes on to tell us we should be glad. I know that strikes us as strange…that we should be glad for trials or for suffering, but we are reminded that in our suffering…we are now partners with Christ – not just partners with Christ – but partners with Christ in his suffering. And these trials will bring us great joy when we are reunited with Christ.
Both Paul and James share this thought. James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
Perhaps today, you need the encouragement to stay the course – the trials should come as no surprise – keep on persevering – keep on persevering in our confident hope of salvation (Romans 5:4b)
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Ascension of the Lord (May 25, 2017)
- First reading
- Acts 1:1-11
- Psalm 47 or Psalm 93
- Second reading
- Ephesians 1:15-23
- Luke 24:44-53
Ephesians 1:15-23 | New International Version (NIV)
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Today is the fortieth day after Easter. Traditionally, we believe that this is the day that Jesus ascended back to heaven. The story is told in the first chapter of the book of Acts or Luke’s second volume. The first was the Gospel of Luke. Jesus tells the disciples to wait and pray in Jerusalem for the coming of the promised Holy Spirit – the Helper – the Comforter – the Advocate. There disciples are with Jesus on the Mount of Olives when he ascends to heaven. They stand there with their mouths open, looking into the heavens where Jesus has disappeared. Two men in white robes come along and ask, “Why are you still standing here. Go do what you have been told.” So the disciples do…and ten days later while 120 of the disciples are gathered into a guest room in Jerusalem – the Holy Spirit comes on them and the world has never been the same.
As a result, the gospel was spread throughout the known world and especially in the Roman Empire. Modern day Turkey was once a part of this ancient empire. One of those who was miraculously transformed was a man named Paul. He ended up planting churches all over the Roman Empire and especially in Asia Minor.
In our scripture today, Paul prays a prayer for the church in Ephesus, one of the churches in Asia Minor. Here is what he prays for that church and for us as well.
Paul prays that we:
- would receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation – so that we may get to know God better.
- That our eyes of our hearts would be opened – so that we may know the hope to which we have been called.
- that we may know the riches of his glorious inheritance
- that we may know his incomparably great power
- This is the power that raised Jesus from the dead
- And seated him at God’s right hand.
- That Christ rules over everything
- Both now
- and in the coming age.
- God has place all things under his feet.
- Christ is the head of the church
- We are the fullness of his body
What a great prayer to pray for the church on this day that we remember that Christ has not only been raised from the dead, but he is now seated on the right hand of God the Father. He is in control – meaning he has ultimate authority over everything. Because He has authority, he has given his authority to the church – just as it says in Matthew 28:18-20 – to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching these new disciples everything that he has commanded, and He will be with us always, even to the end of the age.“