Saturday, May 19, 2018
Sermon Summary, 5/6/18, “God and Pain” (John 10:10; Heb 2:14; I Cor 15 selected)
I thought I knew about the problem of pain. I’ve preached on it. I’ve watched others go through it. Yet, I know that I didn’t appreciate their pain. And I know, too, that many do not have an understanding of God and pain. One relative, church goer all their life, said, “I don’t know why God made Rosemary suffer so. I just don’t understand. Why would God do that?” I’ve concluded that to begin talking about the problem of pain, we first need to talk of the nature of God. We can’t talk about pain without first talking about God.
The loss of Rosemary of me was so terrible, I had to rethink everything. Does God exist? If he exists, is he a good God, the God of the New Testament revealed in Jesus Christ? Does he care? Did he care about Rosemary? As we talked a few weeks ago, doubts may be the indication that God is already at work in you even before you know it. Working through doubts can strengthen your faith, not diminish it.. We come out the other side stronger. I did.
God exists. It takes far more faith to NOT to believe than to believe. The clues from the Big Bang to the accommodation of the universe to complex life, to the reliability of the world we live in, to beauty, to dozens of other clues give far, far more reason to believe that not believe. (The sermon included a much fuller discussion of clues. Sometimes you just have to be there.)
God exists, but you knew that. But what I want you to know, to believe, to internalize, to make part of you, is that God is the God of the New Testament who came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ, as Paul said, “I teach Christ and him crucified.” “Him crucified”—the God of sacrificial love who showed us that there were no limits to how far he would go to demonstrate his love for us.
Jesus lived and lives. Historians outside the bible wrote about him. People who lived with him wrote about him in detail. Historians who interviewed eye-witnesses wrote about him. And we know the resurrection is real. Not from what the Bible says (the early Christians didn’t even have a Bible and they knew it!), but by the changed lives of the eye-witnesses. Nobody dies for what they know to be a lie.
So if not only God exists, but the Jesus of the New Testament is real, would the Jesus who healed the sick cause illness? Would the Jesus who stilled the storm cause Tsunamis? Would the Jesus who overcame death cause death? The answer is NO! Jesus tells us, “The thief came to steal and kill and destroy; I came that you have life and it abundantly.” Eternal life, abundant life. Hebrews 2:14 is more specific, “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” And 1 Cor 15 says “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” If death is the enemy, then certainly God would not be the cause of death.
In 1971, while undergoing an operation, Rosemary had an out of body experience. From that point she told me that she loved life and would always want to live, but that with her faith, she would never again fear death. We teach Christ and him crucified, who loves us unconditionally and sacrificially. The God of love, not pain. Amen.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
Easter Sermon Summary, 4/1/18, “”Witnesses: Mary Magdalene, The First Christian” (John 3:16; 21:1-18)
(I recommend reading the passages from John before this summary.) I’m sure you wonder why I’m here. I’m here because we are Easter people. Rosemary is an Easter person. Is, not was. My Step-Mom is an Easter person. Is, not was. “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph or His foes. He arose a victor from the dark domain; and He lives forever with his saints to reign.” Saints, little “s.” Rosemary is a saint. Marian is a saint. “With His saints.” I believe the Easter message. Not because I want it to be true, but because I know it to be true.
When Mary Magdalene came to the garden she had no idea what to expect, least of all the resurrection. None of them did. If they had, they would have been camped out at the tomb with noisemakers and horns awaiting the event. Read the passage again. Mary didn’t. Peter didn’t. John didn’t (it says John believed but I don’t know what. The next line shows he didn’t expect the resurrection.) All the disciples waiting in hiding didn’t. Jesus had told them “On the third day be raised.” But they doubted.
Doubting can be good. It causes us to wrestle with what we believe. Doubt can be God working within us even before we know it to strengthen our faith.
There are strong reasons to believe in the resurrection. God raised Jesus from the dead to show that Jesus was who he said he was, the Son of God. Jesus’ words, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” would have been idle words without the resurrection. The resurrection is the event that launched Christianity.
God raised Jesus to show that he had overcome death. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” He raised Him to show us that Jesus is worthy to be our Savior. “He is the firstborn of the dead so that he has supremacy over everything.” He is Lord.
God raised him from the dead to show us that for all of us, there is life after death. There is eternal life. “shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
If all these things are true, it changes everything! Jesus is God. Jesus has overcome death. We have the promise of eternal life. We reign as saints with him in glory. It changes everything. We are people of hope.
Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb without hope and returns saying, “I have seen the Lord!” Resurrection Joy!
All of the witnesses. All of the apostles lived with joy. And as witnesses to the resurrection, they died with joy. And folks, nobody dies for what they know to be a lie. Nobody dies for a lie. And here’s the great news folks, the resurrection means that Jesus will work backwards to turn all the agony into glory. He will give us the life we always wanted, free from sorrow, free from pain, filled with glory. Amen.