This morning I shared this song to our McCrae Brook congregation.
Today sort of wraps up the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. After church today, we took James back to Houghton. We have had a good weekend together. One of James’ projects this weekend was customizing a Nerf gun – which involved spray painting and such. It was interesting to watch him work on this project.
Another thing James had to do was attend two church services that were not at his home church. James actually had the chance to attend 4 services. Our community thanksgiving service last Tuesday, Emmaus Road on Friday, we attended St. Raphael’s Catholic Church last night and then McCrae Brook this morning. A cool thing from the visit to the local Catholic church is that we Anna and I were invited to come and lead the musical worship sometime. I consider that quite a privilege.
This month was quite the month of Thanksgiving – and we had 4 thanksgiving dinners before Thursday, so we decided to have Beef on Weck. It is a regional (Western New York) dish which consists of sliced Roast Beef in an au jus served on a Kemmelwick Roll. The roll can be plain or salted and seeded (the seeds being caraway seeds.) In addition you can put on mustard or horseradish. It is quite delicious and we served it with PA Dutch potato filling, sweet potato casserole and a green bean casserole (made from scratch) – it was an Alton Brown recipe. We had a great time – but missed seeing my mom and dad and our Canadian kids.
While I didn’t have my regular bus runs, I was doing some subbing for other runs, due to sickness and the like. Yesterday, I finally went out for a run after a two week absence, but was pleasantly surprised. Hopefully this week will be a full workout week. I’m still trying to hit 1,000 miles and work off some of the Thanksgiving poundage.
It’s hard to believe that Advent starts next week. We are doing a series called “The Songs of Christmas.” The first week is called “Joy to the World,” followed by “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” “While Shepherds Watched their Flocks,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The unique thing about this series is that Pam and I will be working on a unified series in both the adults and children.
That’s about all I have for this week. Seize the day!
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Reign of Christ – (November 26, 2017)
- First reading and Psalm
- Alternate First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
Ephesians 1:15-23 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
This Sunday brings to a close the Christian calendar for another year. The following Sunday will will begin Advent – which in some ways is like a New Year’s Day. This year we have been in the cycle A readings and it will complete 11 years of doing this weekly devotional based on the Revised Common Lectionary. I like the challenge.
Reign of Christ Sunday
This week’s passage takes us to Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. After his greeting to the church, he turns to a prayer for the church. In it he prays for three things. The first thing Paul prays for the church at Ephesus is this:
- He prays that God would give the believers spiritual wisdom and insight. Paul wants the believers to grow in their knowledge of God. I think all of us who are pastors, pray this for our congregations. I know that I pray that the congregation that I serve would grow in their knowledge of God. Back when I was in FLAME, we always talked about being lifelong learners. This doesn’t just apply to pastors or teachers, or those tasked with leading congregations or educational institutions. It is important for us to continue to grow in knowledge. I think that it is amazing that every time that I read through the Bible I learn something new. Something pops out that I had never seen before. This is a good thing. This really leads us to the importance of continuing discipleship. There are times in our spiritual walk that we get caught in a rut. I’ve heard the simple illustration that a rut is simply a grave with both ends knocked out. When we are growing, we don’t get caught in that rut – when we have spiritual wisdom and insight, we can tell what is right and what is wrong. This is important, especially when it comes to the knowledge of God. Our family was talking about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral this week. For those of you unfamiliar, it is a way of interpreting scripture. Scripture is at the base, but let’s be honest – as you can see by the illustration – reason, tradition, and experience come into play. So often we think of tradition as a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Tradition in this case says, what has the church for the last 2,000 years said about this scripture? If we come up with something completely new, we might need to check it – does it fit with the church’s teaching for the last 2,000 years – does it fit with logic or reason, does it match with Christian’s experience? Scripture is the primary way that we grow in knowledge of who God is. My prayer is that each person would constantly be growing in the knowledge of God.
- Paul then prays that the believers hearts will be flooded with light – so that we can understand the confident hope he has give to his called out people – holy people – set apart people – a rich and glorious inheritance. At this moment, I want you to think of a powerful floodlight – so powerful that it cuts through the darkness – it cuts through the fog. This is what Paul is praying for the believers in Ephesus. He is praying that their hearts would be flooded with a floodlight that cuts through the darkness of our human nature…When we talk about this human nature, we are talking about the nature that goes against God. A word that you may have heard before is the carnal nature. It’s an adjective that means pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; not spiritual but merely human; temporal; worldly. This is the darkness – the darkness of our human nature and it really is bad news, but contrast that to the light – God’s light. Christ followers – we were not called out of darkness to live just like everyone else, no we called out of darkness, into his glorious light. Peter (one of Jesus’ disciples writes:) “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” If we are Christ followers – if we have placed our trust in Christ – we are called out of the darkness and we should follow it no more. We are a people who are set apart – we have been called into His glorious light – and because of that – we have a glorious hope – a rich and glorious inheritance. That my friends is the hope of eternal life – an eternity in the presence of God.
- Finally Paul prays that the believers would understand the greatness of the power that God has given to believers. Do you realize that if you are in Christ, you have great power? I really don’t believe that many who call themselves Christ-followers really believe that. The power that God has given us is literally dynamite. There is a word that is used in the Greek – dunamis – it is used 120 times in the New Testament. The word refers to “strength, power, or ability.” We know it in our English words dynamite, dynamo and dynamic. Paul wants us to know that we have great power available to us. He goes on to say that it is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Did you catch that? Let’s go back to our human nature for a moment. So many times we think that we don’t have the power to overcome our human nature, our carnal desires, But we – if we are trusting in Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit – have the same power – the dunamis – the dynamite – that raise Jesus Christ from the dead – and now he is sitting in heaven – waiting for us to use what he has given us. We don’t have to live in our human nature because God has given us the power not to.
Wow! what a great prayer for believers that we would be filled with spiritual wisdom and insight, flooded with light, and understand the incredible greatness of God’s power.
Not only did that power raise Jesus from the grave, but it gave him ultimate authority. Paul tells us this authority is present in the current world. Christ has ultimate authority over any ruler – any authority – any power – any leader – and just so that you get the point – Paul says that Jesus has authority over anything else – talk about your glorious hope. In a world where it seems that everything is going crazy – Christ is the ultimate authority and he has the final say. I don’t know about you, but it appears to me that the world has gone insane. I know that I wonder, “What in the world is going to happen?” But because of my faith in Christ – because of my trust in him that he came to die for my sins – that he was raised from the dead through God’s power – and that he is sitting on the throne in a place of authority given to him by God. God has place Jesus in authority over everything – over this current world and the one to come. This is the glorious hope – in that world to come there will be no more evil – no more tears – no more pain.
John writes in the book of Revelation:
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”
This is the glorious hope that Paul was talking about – that if we place our lives in the Savior’s hands – if we live for him – if we obey his commands – if we love God with all of our heart and we love our neighbors as ourselves, we have a glorious hope – we have a glorious inheritance in heaven.
Jesus is the King of kings – Jesus is the Lord of lords – Jesus is the God of gods and his reign is eternal.
Thanksgiving Day, USA (November 23, 2017)
- First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
2 Corinthians 9:6-15 | New Living Translation (NLT)
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Philadelphia VS. Dallas:
As I write this tonight, the Eagles are playing Dallas on the national evening game. When you live out of market it is always good to see your team on TV. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay up for the whole game. Tomorrow I need to be up early to do an early bus run – I’m subbing for another driver.
We had an awesome service. Because of the way the church year works, this is one of those rare years that Reign of Christ Sunday does not fall on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Sunday. Today I preached a short sermon – I set it up and then we applied it while in church. We had an extended time of praise and worship and thanksgiving in response to the message.
This Tuesday we are participating once again in our community thanksgiving service. Last year Pam and I team preached. This year, I will be leading the musical worship. We have a small praise team and also a community choir. I am really looking forward to this service.
A Two Roadtrip Week
This week we had two two-hour road trips. On Tuesday we went to Erie so Pam could see a specialist for her arm. Turns out she has a very bad case of Tennis Elbow and is now working on physical therapy for that. On Thursday, we headed up to Buffalo for our monthly pastor’s meeting. I have enjoyed this series of meetings. We had three sessions on the craft of preaching. It was very helpful.
In other news, I finally can use my office and am fully moved in. It is great, even though tonight I am writing from the sofa as I watch football. That’s about all I can think of. Have a great week.