Thursday, April 30, 2009

Last Sunday’s Sermon (4/26/08)—Preached on the Beattitudes (The Blessings)

The Blessings

I have told you before that in between my junior and senior year of college, I spent a summer in a native village in Alaska on the Kuskokwim River, in a small village called Stony River. I don't know if it was the happiest three months of my life, in fact I am sure it was not. What I am sure of, however, was that it was one of times that I grew the most. The guy who ran the summer mission program was a guy named Max. Max was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, and was a factory worker in Chicago before he became a missionary. Max carted everyone and their stuff in this small plane. The plane could fit four people at the most, but usually three. Two in the front, and one sitting on the back in the luggage. Our mission training was in Stony River, and then he transported the rest of the crowd out to where they were going to serve for the next week or the rest of the summer.

He came back for one final trip with a load of stuff and the other full time staff missionary. He said that he was going to pray for me, and ask God to bless me for the summer, and then he was going to take off, and he would see me in a few weeks. I don't remember much of that prayer. I just remember Him praying for me to be safe, and that I would build a good ministry there for the summer. I don't remember much about that first ordination prayer, but what I do remember was that as he closed he moved his hands from joining hands with the other two of us in that room to my shoulder, and I remember him praying for God to bless me.

The first sermon recorded in Matthew is a sermon Jesus preached to those who thought they might want to be his disciples. It is his innaugral address of sorts. Jesus, after healing and teaching in the synagogues, goes away from the crowds with those who wanted to be his apprentice. And he tells them what the life of discipleship is like. What the character of followers of him are like, and a basic outline of the Way he wants them to lead their lives. Interestingly enough, he starts by blessing the disciples. Jesus starts by blessing those who would choose to follow Him, and do the work he was doing.

I am always comforted that Jesus starts our call and our ministry with Him with blessings. Before he gets to the nitty-gritty of all of the kingdom life, before he tells us parables, before he asks us to do anything for Him, he blesses us.

Before we witness to one person, before we truly love one person, before we do anything in Jesus name, if we are his disciples, he has been praying for us and over us. Our following of Jesus, our serving of Jesus, our knowing Jesus, is a result of Jesus blessing us.

Do you know what a blessing is? A blessing is the opposite of a curse. When you bless someone you pray and effect good things into their lives. Many blessings in ancient Israel were accompanied by inheritance or power of some sort. Land. Money. Title. Thus, we understand a blessing as not just a good wish, but as a powerful way of bringing something tangibly good into our lives. In some circles, today and in Jesus time, blessing became synonymous with material well-being. As you can see, when Jesus blesses us, he speaks good news and good things into our lives. Though not necessarily the way that we expect.


 

This is good news. We are not expected to be disciples without help. Just like the Great Commission says that Jesus will be with us always as we go and share the good news of Jesus with the world, the blessing of Jesus is on us as we attempt to live in the way he taught us. It is not all up to us. We are to obey, to serve, to follow. Jesus' blessing goes before us.

This is all true. All very nice. Except when you gaze a little bit closer and actually READ THE BLESSINGS. Meekness is a blessing? Grief is a blessing? Poverty of Spirit is a blessing? What was Jesus trying to say here? What was he getting at?

I believe that Jesus starts by blessing us in the beginning of our journey and then works out from there, moving into blessing us into all sorts of living for Christ and his kingdom. Continuing to bless us as he goes. In other words, I see in the blessings of Jesus a process for the journey we are on with Him, and how he intends us to go, and how he will bless us if we following him where he leads us. I believe the Beattitudes, or the blessings, express God's blessing, but in the process show us the form of the way a disciples life goes.

To show this, I am going to split the blessings into three parts, and look at them, and then we are going to look at commentary following the blessings, which gives us a deeper rationale for living the blessed life, and then I am going to reread this part of Scripture in a different, more contemporary version, and then I am going to close.

The blessings fall into three parts. Parts that I have entitled the need blessings, the help blessings, and the hurt blessings.

THE NEED BLESSINGS

The blessings of Jesus start with the blessings that are hardest for us, and especially the world around us to understand.

Blessed are the poor in spirit

Blessed are those who mourn

Blessed are the meek

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

I don't know, but I do not usually think about being hungry, thirsty, grieving, meek or poor in spirit as blessings. But Jesus does. Why?

Because we need to start there.

Not many people come to God because they have everything figured out on their own, and they don't need any help from anyone. We come to God, because at one point or another, we recognize we need Him. We may need God's help to heal someone we love. Or to just get through the day.

The beginning of being a disciple of Jesus is realizing something is lacking in us. That we are somehow deficient, hopeless, and lost. That we are a mess and we are not smart enough, strong enough, powerful enough, or good enough to make things right on our own.

Any church worth its salt should have a big sign on the front of it that says: NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED. If I could get away with it I would put up a big banner on our property on Main Street that said: NO PERFECT PEOPLE ALLOWED and underneath that script it would say EVERYONE ELSE IS WELCOME.

I don't know about you, but it is hard for me to admit I need help. I would rather try to do things on my own. I would rather spend two hours on something that I know someone else could do in five minutes because I don't want to admit that I am not strong enough, smart enough, or skilled enough to do something.

Whenever I talk to people doing any kind of ministry that they feel truly called to, whether that is a pastor or it is someone who is a member of a church that has found a ministry within the congregation, they often start with a deep sense of inability and inadequacy to serve God. Then they come to a realization that they were not called to do the ministry for God, as much as they were asked to be a vessel that God could do his ministry through. They could not do the job, but God could do it through them.

When we come to God as people who are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, we are people who realize that we can't make it on our own. Even when we are a little successful on own, we still feel heavy-hearted, overwhelmed, lonely, empty. We know we need more.

It is when we know that we need help, that we need more, that we begin to truly experience the presence and power of God in our lives. It is hard. We need to let go of our excuses. We need to admit that we need help. But when we admit we can't handle the present (poor in spirit), we cannot get over the past (mourning), and we keep wanting the wrong things (we need meekness and to hunger and thirst for righteousness).

Are you able to come to God and admit that you cannot handle it all? That you cannot manage the world, or even your life? Are you willing to depend on God to guide your words, your actions, even the direction of your life?

If you are, Jesus says, this is your starting point.

Your starting point is that place where you must realize that you come to Jesus with nothing to offer, and that you must completely on him. When you start there with Jesus, you will find he is present and he is blessing you.

You find yourself experiencing God's kingdom when you feel too poor in spirit to claim your own. You find yourself comforted when you lose those people and things most dear. When you feel so powerless you are meek, you find yourself filled with God's power. When you find yourself famished for faith and hope and truth, you suddenly find God is filling you up with his presence. If you turn to him and follow.

THE HELP BLESSINGS

So we come to God just as we are, realizing that we need his help to follow him and serve him as his disciples. What next?

Verses 7-9 pronounce blessings on those who have gotten up on their feet and are reaching out to others. We are not only dependant on God to bless us as we begin our journey with him, we need God's blessing as we go to do his will.

Verses 7-9 give us three examples of kingdom work. When we are merciful, we will be shown mercy. When we are pure in heart, we will see God. When we are peacemakers, we will be called the sons of God.

What do we have to offer in our ministry to others according to the blessings. Love and mercy. Purity and truth. Peace and reconciliation.

God blesses us as we seek to bring Jesus to others. Not just in word, but in our actions.

Do you want to experience the presence of God in your life? Do you want your life to mean something? Do you want your life to have spiritual power?

Seek to reach out and serve others. Help that friend that is in need. Listen to that person who is a little bit lonely. Or be a little bit more courageous. Go on a mission trip. Organize a group of people to serve at the homeless mission in Pueblo. Show a little mercy in Jesus name, you will find the mercy of God flowing through you and into your life, not just the person you are trying to help.

Do you want to know God is really working in your life? Help people make peace with God. Help people make peace with one another. Help people make peace with their pasts, and help them find a way toward healing. You will find a power in your life you never expected, and people will see Jesus is what you do and how you live.

Do you want to see God. Live your life honestly. Don't put on airs. Don't try and pretend like you are a better person than you are. Live your life trying to follow Christ with all your heart. The word for heart here literally is also the root of the word "core" in English. Try to live your faith from the core of who you are, not as some add on. Let God become the center of your life, not just a part of your life. Let the core of who you are be "follower of Jesus". Jesus promises you will see God if you do this.

Jesus blesses us as we go out and try to live our life mercifully, honestly, truly, helping reconcile the broken places in the world.


 

HURT BLESSINGS

So you let God meet your most weak, painful and powerless moments. You give your life to him. You give your life in serving him, and you experience his power and his blessing.

The Bible is pretty clear about something. It is hard to tell you, because, well, sometimes the truth of Jesus is not that easy to hear.

The Bible says that when we are disciples of Jesus we will experience heartache and suffering. We will be belittled. People will try and hurt our feelings, and people will actually even try and hurt us. They will make up lies about us. We will be betrayed by people we thought we could trust.

And when that happens, Jesus will reach out to us and help us. Jesus tells us we are in good company. The prophets were treated like this. Later he will be treated like this. It is part of what it means to do God's will.

Often, it becomes easy to think, when people give us a hard time, when they make up stories about us, when they put a spin on a story about us that just isn't true, that somehow we are being punished or we have lost favor in God's eyes.

Several years ago, at another church, our properties person, which is kind of like the trustee at this church, myself, and one of Ralph's friends were working together clearing out sheds full of junk to take to goodwill at the church. It was a warm spring day. We were hot and sweaty. We went to the local burger joint for what I have considered before and since the perfect burger—cheap, greasy, well done, with two perfect slices of bacon on top with fries for just under $5.

Ralph's buddy, I think his name was Bill, was a good-hearted but ornery old cuss. He used to be a investigator for government benefits for people in Kansas City. He found who was cheating on welfare and food stamps in other words. He put his time, retired, and got as far out in the country as he could go. The result of his former employment was a keen eye for reading people, and a no-nonsense way of communicating truth as he saw it.

He asked me how my work was going at the church. It was a hard time at that moment, but I did not want to run down my church to someone who was not a part of it. "Some things good, some things not so good I said. The youth group is growing. The kids are fun. I enjoy some of the volunteers like Ralph," I said.

He replied something like this…but I have edited his colorful language, "If you are not making people at least a little frustrated, it is guaranteed that you are accomplishing little. If you are going to accomplish anything and stand for anything, people are going to complain and cry." Like I said, I edited the speech for a church audience.

What he said is true. If you stand for anything, you are going to make enemies. You are going to get hurt feelings. You are going to wonder why you do anything for anyone at all, if all they are going to do is complain.

There is this school of Christian thought out there that says if you are right with God you will become wealthier and more powerful. That God is out there to make you happy and to make life easier. That somehow the Bible has some secret code that will make you healthy, wealthy, and loved by all if you just follow it close enough.

That is a lie.

The Bible promises us God's blessings, it does not promise us some Disneyland spirituality.

If we follow Jesus we will suffer. We will be slandered and lied about. We will be mocked and belittled. Jesus tells us that even in those moments that we should not despair. That even when we are hurt, even hurt for following Him, that he is at work blessing us. Making good out of evil. Giving us hope out of despair.

It is in those times of persecution and heartache that God's kingdom comes even more into our grasp, and that we store up rewards in heaven.

It is also at that time, when we kind of start over. We learn more of our need for God. We learn to depend on him more. And we experience his grace as he lifts us up more in the likeness of Jesus than before.

WHY THESE BLESSINGS

Why does God give us these blessings? What are their bigger purpose.The following few verses give us an answer.

First, you need to understand this little note in your buliten. These blessings are as much for and about a community of people as individuals. Would you rather be in a community of humble people or arrogant people? Would you rather be known as a church of merciful peacemakers, or would you like to be a community that is compassionless and divisive. Jesus isn't just directing these blessings to me and you. He is directing these blessings to us.

Secondly, the blessing of Jesus allow us to be salt of the earth. Bringing flavor to the world around us. Preserving. Healing.

The blessings allow us to be the light of the world. Bringing truth, hope, safety, and guidance to a world that seems lost and alone.

Will you come to God with empty hands…?

Will you come to God with open arms for the world around you…?

Will you be strong enough to take the beatings and pain that will be in front of you…and like a football player knocked on his rear end, reach up your hand as God pulls you to your feet to get back in the game?

Will you enter into a life of true hope, truth and blessing and follow Jesus? I hope so.

Faith Matters article for Fowler Tribune published today

Today

The other day Dudley McFarland came by my office. For a man that is 94 years old, I have always admired his health, energy and vigor. Dudley was interested in going through the archives of the history of the church in our basement with me. We spend a few hours puttering around and reading different books that had rosters of the church, and minutes from the early 20th century. When we got finished Dudley said, "I could do this all day, but the past is to be remembered, you can't live in it". Then he headed down the road to the senior center for lunch, and to get the rest of the things he had to do with his day accomplished. The Bible says that the Apostle Paul gave us a similar example when he said "forgetting what is behind, and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).

Sometimes it is tempting to live in the past. This can be dangerous in two ways. Sometimes we are proud of the good things and treasure the wonderful memories of friends and loved ones of the past. We look back on the past, and we almost wish that we were there all over again. We remember when we were stronger or more beautiful in others eyes. We think about the things that we accomplished a day, a week, or a year ago, and then we wish things could be like that again. This was true of the Apostle Paul in the passage quoted above. He had a lot of things to be proud of in his past according to him, but it was not worthy to be compared with the promises that God had ahead for him that day and into his future.

Another way it is tempting to live in the past is to dwell in the hurts of yesterday. Perhaps you beat yourself up when you do this kind of remembering by thinking of your past mistakes. Or maybe you hold on to the anger and the hurt of something someone did a week, a month, or a year ago. It is possible that you could be missing a friend or a loved one. Your sense of hurt and loss is natural. However it may be helpful to remember what Dudley said, "the past is to be remembered, but you can't live in it." You may need to grieve and hurt for a while, but if you continue to spend your life dwelling in the slights, hurts, and pains of yesterday, the joy of today will pass you by.

All this is not to say remembering is not important. It is. In fact there is a lot of Christian faith that is centered on our memories. In our church we celebrate the last meal Jesus had with his disciples once a month. We use a specific table for this. A table that has these words carved on the front of it, "Do this is remembrance of me". We remember Jesus' death and resurrection in baptism (Romans 6). But this remembering is important because it guides how we live now, and how we need to connected in relationship with God, and how we need to serve Him in this moment and this day.

God bless you as you go, and may you receive the blessings that God is waiting to pour out on your life on this day! Amen!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Another Funny Quote--From Why Men Hate Going to Church

Church involvement is good for men. But since when do men do whats good for them? Men regard churchgoing like a prostrate exam; it something that can save their lives, but it is so unpleasant and invasive, they put it off. (p. 36)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fun quote

Our politicians are pretending to be rock stars, while our rock stars are pretending to be politicians.--NT Wright

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Great Commission and the Promised Land.

Lately, while looking at Matthew 28, I have been looking thinking about the parallels to the end of the book of Matthew, and the end of the Jews time in the wilderness and entrance into the promised land. There are some interesting points of contrast and comparison.

The people of Israel went into the nation of Israel with the expectation that they would experience God's presence as they entered the promised land. The disciples were told they would experience God's presence as they go into all lands to carry out the mission of God.

Moses does not enter the promised land, but leads the people out of the slavery and leads them to the place of promise. His body cannot be found. Jesus' resurrected body cannot be found, because he is risen. Moses is buried on a mysterious, secret hill. Jesus ascends into heaven from an elevated place.

Both groups of people are given an imperitive. Joshua tells the people of Israel "Choose you this day whom you will serve." Jesus (the Greek transliteration of the name Joshua), says "Go into all the world..." Both clear directives.

What I wonder is this then....does the promised land of Jesus at the end of the Gospel of Matthew transition from the nation of Israel to the place where mission is done? Is our mission field, according to what Jesus says at the end of Matthew, our promised land?

Something I have been thinking about the last couple of days.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tea Protests

Countdown with Keith Olbermann did a report on the tea protests on April 15 by more conservative folks. I have been offended when I have gotten emails about this tea protests because of the discussion of "teabagging" Obama. The term "teabagging" for those of you that don't know, has more pornographic referrence as well. Due to the fact it refers to certain oral gifts to a male, it also has the possibility of implying the president is homosexual as well. I asked a person to take me off of their email list because of this email.

Countdown, which I was watching because Shannyn Moore from Homer was on again, decided to go all out in several intentional off-color allusions to the "teabagging", and referrring to the conservative "teabaggers". In the process they referred to the protest as "full-throated", and said that the conservatives were trying to "lick" the stimulus spending, and then made a reference to this kind of protest not being complete without a person with an abbreviated form of the name Richard involved.

The people doing this protest needed to give the name of the protests much more thought. It matters what you name something

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sermon

The Wonder of It All

Matthew 28 

1 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door,[a] and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
5 But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you."
8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

9 And as they went to tell His disciples,[b] behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me."

11 Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. 12 When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 saying, "Tell them, 'His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.' 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will appease him and make you secure." 15 So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[
c] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.



 

Good Friday I was sitting in my office. While I was sitting in my office I had made a playlist with my Itunes so that I could listen to songs about the cross. Most of my favorite songs in our hymnbook are about the sacrifice of Christ. Old Rugged Cross. Nothing But the Blood of Jesus. There is Power in the Blood. I Love to Tell the Story. I love the old-time gospel hymns.

Even more though, as it comes to Good Friday, if I really want to meditate on Christ and the cross, I prefer the songs with minor keys that end in question marks. "What Wondrous Love Is This, O My Soul?" and "Were You There?". Like the songs of Advent, the songs of the cross have more questions than you might expect. Songs like "Why Should You Love Me So? Or songs like And Can it Be? Consider the hymn At the Cross which says "Alas and did my Savior bleed? And did my sovereign die? Would he devote that Sacred Head for sinners such as I?" Why all of these questions in all of these hymns?

Here is what I think? Because the proper response to the cross, once we have received the forgiveness of Christ, is awe and wonder. That is why we have hymns like "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross", "What Wondrous Love Is this?" As the hymn "My Savior's Love" expresses it, "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazerene, And wonder how He could love ME, A sinner condemned unclean. How Marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be…"

I had a seminary professor, who has sense went to be with the Lord, who challenged us with this charge as pastors often in his class. "If you learn anything from me," he said, "Learn this. Never forget the wonder of it all. Never get so caught up in being pastor and in managing a church that you forget 'the wonder of it all".

Yet often when we get to Easter morning, with our pretty dresses and hats, our family and friends in church with us, the bright and shining sun outside, it becomes easy to lose the awe and wonder of what Jesus has done in the middle of the festivities of this wonderful holiday. Pastors, on the other hand, often miss the wonder too. We get very eager on Easter morning. We know for many of you that are here this morning, it is a one-shot deal. You are here with a grandma, grandchild, wife, or friend. And we might see you today at Easter, and that is about it. We try and preach the perfect sermon, thinking that it is in our power to win some of you over in one fantastic sermon. So we get wound up and try and fit 4 sermons into one message, and you end up sleepy in church and late for dinner.

I am not smart enough or skilled enough as a preacher to pull off that kind of perfect sermon. So this morning, I want us to do something simple. I want us to take time this morning, to just ponder the wonder of it all. The wonder of what Jesus did as he rose from that grave on Easter. The wonder of what that means for us, even today.

You cannot read the Gospel of Matthew without sensing the wonder of those disciples and friends of Jesus. After Jesus died the Bible says that the curtain of the Holy of Holies was torn in two. The earth quaked. Rocks split into pieces. Graves were opened.


The Bible says that right about sunrise, that the women came to the tomb of Jesus. They came to the tomb to care for his body. And as they were coming to care for him, just as the sun was rising, there was an earthquake. And then there was something that looked like lightning. All of this happened right as they were about to arrive at the tomb. They came to the entrance of the tomb and something amazing happened. The stone was rolled away from the tomb. An angel was sitting on top of the stone he rolled away. The soldiers that were guarding the tomb because the Jewish leaders feared that the disciples would stage a resurrection, were cowering in fear. They were paralyzed with fear. The Bible says they were shaking and that they were at the same time unable to move otherwise…paralyzed like dead men. It was like those movies where all of the sudden time stops and everybody else is frozen except for the main characters. That is the way it was as the women came to the tomb, except it was real life.

The angel said to not be afraid. The angel said that Jesus was risen. That the tomb was now empty. The angel said to go get the disciples, and to have the disciples meet Jesus in Galilee. The were shown that there was no body where the body was laid. Then the Bible says that the women hustled back to tell the disciples that Jesus was risen.

On the way back to the disciples, Jesus met them along the road. The Bible says that they women fell down at his feet and worshipped him and tried to hold on to His feet. Did you notice that. They saw the resurrected Jesus and what was their first response? Awe! Wonder! Worship! O the wonder of it all. This risen Jesus. It is far more than what they expected. It was far more that we expect. And we wonder. What does this mean? What kind of Messiah is this? What kind of hope does this Jesus offer? It moves us to wonder and awe.

So often in our world, we think of Jesus as something other than we see him in Scripture. There is this movie, rather irreverent toward Catholics, called Dogma. In it there is this priest that offers absolution of sin if people will come to a church in New Jersey, and worship before this statue of Jesus called "Buddy Jesus". "Buddy Jesus" is a creation of priest played by George Carlin, who believes that the church has gotten too serious and drab. So people need to just think of God as their cosmic Buddy and everything will be alright with the world. There is also this TV show on almost every week called South Park. In the show South Park, Jesus makes regular appearances. Primarily, Jesus shows up as this self-help guru that wants everyone to be nice and get along. Once in a while he does a little miracle to keep people interested. But Jesus is not the Lord of the Universe really. He is just a very nice man who wants to help people.

Both of these shows present Jesus this way, not because they believe Jesus is like this. If you pay attention to the show's message, they intend this to challenge people. Why? Because we try to make Jesus into our buddy, or this nagging do-gooder a lot of times. And the Biblical truth is that Jesus is something completely different than that.. The risen Lord comes to us victorious. The Resurrected Jesus comes to us with might and power. And when we encounter him, when we truly meet Him, we must either cower and run away in fear, or fall down in worship, awe and wonder.


In the Gospel of Matthew, it is Jesus' power that fills us with awe and wonder.

Jesus is more powerful than the Jewish leaders. They heard that Jesus has said that he would rise again. So they got the Romans to send guard to the tomb. They put him in this tomb. And they rolled a rock in front of the tomb. The way that these tombs worked is that a slope was dug out so that once the rock was rolled down it, 5 or 6 men would have a hard time rolling it back up. This is so that people don't go and rob graves. When Jesus rose again, he proved the righteousness of the religious leaders wrong. They were exposed for the money-grubbers and political hacks that they were. Instead of being proved righteous by God, they proved themselves to be liars and crooks. Jesus was more holy, and true and powerful than the Jewish leaders. He rose again, just like he said he would.

Jesus proved himself more powerful than military superpowers of this world. There were Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus. A seal was put on the tomb. They were to guard that seal with their lives. These soldiers guarding the tomb were the best soldiers in the best army in the world. They were used to killing. They were feared by the whole world. If they failed in their mission, they most likely would either be facing dishonorable discharge or death. And yet, at the resurrection, these manliest of manly men, these most violent of violent men, were shaking and cowering like a 5 year old little girl trying to hide behind her mother's leg when forced to greet a stranger. Then they took a large bribe to disappear after they failed in their mission. Jesus proves himself, at his resurrection, more powerful than any military might. A crucified, bloodied, and then resurrected Jesus was more powerful at his weakest moment than all the soldiers of Rome.

Jesus is more powerful than any of the great philosophers. The great philosophers were full of wonderful ideas. Ideas on how to run governments, and on how to live with honor. They also died. They were killed by governments. They killed themselves. They died in their own beds and had funerals with honor. Jesus died a painful death. The hung him on a cross. He suffered there and he died. They ran a spear through his side to prove that he was dead. He had no pulse. No breathe. He said, "It is finished". But on Easter morning he rose again. He proved the truth of his teachings with his actions. His philosophy was not just something to think about. It was THE WAY to live by.

Since then philosophers have tried to reason their way out of the resurrection. They have said that his body was stolen. The witnesses prove them wrong. They have said he just passed out. It is clear this is not true, the spear in the side proves he was dead. They have said there were mass hallucinations. The amount of people he appeared to, and the diversity of places he appeared proves this wrong. So does the rapid growth of the church, who based their whole exisitence on the resurrection of Jesus. If he wasn't risen, don't you think they could have gone to his grave and pointed to it and said, "There he is! Right there!" But they can't do that, because the truth of Jesus triumphs above all other truths, and it is what anything called true is judged by. I don't know about you, but for me that moves me to wonder and awe. How wonderful, how amazing Jesus is! There is none like him. It leads me to awe and wonder and worship and praise.


Jesus was more powerful than Satan. Satan attempted to tempt Jesus in the beginning. He attempted to use Judas to thwart Jesus' mission in the world by sending Jesus to the cross. Satan tempted disciples to run away in fear and doubt. And the Enemy thought he had won when Jesus died on the cross. But the presence of the angel at the tomb saying he is risen tells us something else. It tells us that Jesus was victorious over the Devil and his schemes. Jesus at his weakest defeated Satan when he was landing his strongest blow. Jesus has triumphed over the evil one, and he rises again to offer his disciples that victory as well. And to me, that leaves me in awe and wonder. Than inspires worship and praise.

Jesus is more powerful than sin and death. The Bible says that at the time Jesus was resurrected the saints of old were resuscitated, and they wandered around and shared the good news of new life to those around them. They showed that Jesus had conquered sin and death. And Jesus rising from the dead, THE DEAD, on the third day, shows that death has no power over him. Death cannot hold him. He holds the keys to death and life. He has conquered death on the cross.

Tony Campolo tells the story of his wife's father upon his death. Knowing he was about to die, he got a far off look in his eye. And he sat up, and he cried out "O Death Where is thy victory? O Death where is thy Sting?" Then he fell down to his bed, barely able to breathe. Again "O Death, where is thy victory? O Death where is thy sting?" He fell down again. Finally "O Death where is thy victory? O Death, where is thy sting?"

This last week we lost our previous Pastor, Rev. Fred Allen. He had pastored here faithfully for 7 years, obeying his Lord in coming to Fowler. Leaving this church as God led him on. We grieve him. Heck, I feel his loss on my heart this weekend and I have never met him or spoken with him. I have only seen the fruit of his labor,

While Pastor Fred was here, he had the honor and privilege of burying many of your loved ones. I was told he had nearly 30 funerals in one year. He shared Christ's compassion with you as you cried, and he shared the hope of Christ with you during those hard times. He buried people with names. Names that are on your lips now. I am not going to make a list, because I know I will forget some very special people if I do. Some of them have crosses around the building hanging in their honor, others have plaques on pianos, or have hymnbooks dedicated in their names.

The Scripture says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. I have some idea of what that means, but I can only imagine what it is like. And when I do, I see several loved ones I know,ones that have loved me, ones that have taught me about Jesus, and ones that have taught you and shown you about Jesus too.Aand now I see Pastor Fred, even though I have not met him he is my brother, and I see his guitar in hand. And when we cry out HE IS RISEN, they cry out in a might chorus through the ages with full knowledge of what Christ has done AHHHH HE IS RISEN INDEED. HE IS RISEN INDEED.

He is risen friends. HE IS RISEN (Gesture to the congregation) He is risen indeed!

OH THE WONDER OF IT ALL MY FRIENDS! THE WONDER OF IT ALL!