I am grateful that you have chosen to take time out of your holiday weekend to worship the Lord with us. I humbly ask each of us to prayerfully consider that in the United States, Memorial Day should be far more than the “unofficial beginning of summer.” It should have more meaning to us than simply a day off of work, a three-day weekend, or a time to enjoy friends and barbecue some steaks.
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed an official proclamation regarding Memorial Day, and in 1971, Congress officially set-aside the last Monday of May as an official Federal Holiday. This holiday, however, is anchored in much more somber circumstances. Though there is some historic uncertainty as to the very first municipality to commemorate what was known as DECORATION DAY, there is no debate that this holiday finds its roots as a Civil War Commemoration of those who had died in battle.
So many of our nations wars today are fought in far-off places out of sight, and unfortunately, out of mind for many. The Civil War was not. It was up close and personal: in cities, hamlets, and fields. More soldiers died in the Civil War than during all the subsequent American wars combined. Because of the practice of grouping many of the fighting units by State and Region, in some circumstances towns and neighborhoods lost all of their young men in battle. It was in this backdrop that when the flowers of springtime were in bloom that citizens would “Decorate” the graves of the fallen soldiers. A somber and yet, hopeful, reminder that even out of the terrible horrors and devastation of war, hope and life can still blossom forth and rise from the ashes of destruction.
You may never agree with the decision of those in Political Leadership. I know that I rarely do, but the fact is that our young men and women are in places known and unknown by the order of those in Power. They serve because they love their country. They are maimed and wounded, and in some cases they lose their lives even before its springtime blossoms.
As the Church, we must pray for our Leaders (whether you voted for a particular president or party or not), we MUST PRAY! Pray that their decisions are Wise, Just, and Godly. We must also pray for those who fight our battles, standing watch on the proverbial Wall of Freedom, so that we can have the right to worship and the freedom to live our lives as God sees fit. Finally, we must pray for those left behind. Young Men and Women have been killed in places whose names they cannot pronounce. They leave behind wives and husbands, children and parents, and loved ones. They leave a void that cannot be filled. On this Memorial Day, let them not be forgotten. Let us say a prayer, send a note, and make a phone call. Let us say, “thank you”; AND LET US REMEMBER!
This morning we will be honoring our graduates. In less than two weeks, Thursday, June 2, PACE will celebrate and honor students who are going from Kindergarten to First Grade at 11:00 AM; from Middle School to High School at 2:00 PM; and from High School to College, and then on to Life at 5:00 PM! Please join us if you are able to do so. The Graduation Season reminds that our Life is often characterized as a journey. Theologian Alister McGrath states,
“The image of [a] journey reminds us that we are going somewhere…[and] traveling does more than lead us to the goal of our journeying. A journey is itself a process that enables us to grow and develop as we press on to our goal.” ~Alister McGrath
The Bible speaks of our life and our Christian experience as a journey, even more accurately as a “WALK”: The Walk of Faith. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul is speaking about the frailty of our Earthly Dwelling and the Fullness of our Heavenly Hope; and our ultimate accountability to God. In the midst of these very precious passages is a simple, yet powerful small verse of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:7.
2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV - For we walk by faith, not by sight.
This is more than a Biblical colloquialism. It is a powerful statement of Biblical TRUTH. In the natural, one only has to stumble around in the middle of the night to realize that walking by sight is not only advantageous, but it is quite necessary to the sparing of one’s toes from surprisingly vigorous pain. J Nevertheless, the Apostle says…
2 Corinthians 5:7 VOICE - The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes.
This imagery is powerful because it instills within us a counterintuitive truth: that in order to move forward, we must utilize senses and skills that are beyond the scope of our natural capacity. We must engage the Supernatural God who is already dwelling not just at the next step, the next turn, or over the next hill…but He already knows the journey’s end and dwells with us at its culmination.
This gives all of us, but especially our graduates, an understanding that we are traveling both “FROM…and TO.” We are leaving some things, some places, and even some people; and moving forward toward somewhere new, and in this process, we ourselves are changing, learning, growing, and advancing.
This weekend, I am preaching on behalf of the Church of God in the state of Alaska. I apologize that I will not be with you, but I am very grateful for the prayerful support of the Cathedral Congregation in all of our ministry endeavors. Dr. Rebecca Skaggs will be bringing a beautiful message from the Word of God this morning.
We recognize that this is the initiative of the Holy Spirit within the Life of the Church is for the Love of Christ that is FOR us and has been given TO us, must overflow THROUGH us. In so doing, the New Testament describes an attitude and lifestyle that is contradictory to our fallen Human nature and foreign to many people. Yet, as Children of God and Ministers of His Grace, this is the way of life that Lord expects of us. He is calling us to love with an authenticity that can only come from Jesus Himself. The Apostle Paul told the Church at Rome…
Romans 12:9 NIV - Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Some have suggested that the word, “sincere” comes from two Latin words, “sin” and “cera” meaning, “WITHOUT WAX.” Referring to the practice of some unscrupulous sculptors and pottery makers who would cover flaws in their work by filling in the errors with wax. Thus, something was “sincere” if it could stand to the heat of the sun and maintain the integrity of the vessel or work of art.
The chain of history leaves this explanation a little suspect, however, the word sincere does mean exactly that: something that is not masked, hidden, or hypocritical. In other words, like the Love of God Himself, our love for one another (and the LOST) must be without “angles,” ulterior motives, or hidden agendas. OUR LOVE MUST BE SINCERE, AUTHENTIC, GENUINE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, and HONEST. God is not calling us to APPEAR Loving, but to GENUINELY LOVE PEOPLE, and not just when they are “lovable.” Rather, we are to sincerely love them as Jesus loved us.
Romans 5:8 AMP - God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.
A Promise without the ability to achieve it, is simply a fantasy. God does not engage in “wishful thinking.” Our Lord Jesus has said…
John 11:25-26 NLT - I am the resurrection and the source of all life; those who believe in Me will live even in death. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never truly die. Do you believe this?
Then he demonstrated the Commitment of His Divine Power to overcoming Death by raising his friend Lazarus, who had been dead and buried for four days…
John 11:39, 41, 43-44 NIV78 - “Take away the stone,” he said... 41 So they took away the stone… 43 Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out…
What a moment that must have been!! A moment of mercy and triumph, of Grace and Healing, of Hope and Deliverance, of Rescue and Recovery, of Restoration and Resurrection! But Beloved, may I remind you of something this morning? Lazarus is not here with us today. J He actually tasted death twice. His family had to have two funerals for him. Somehow, I suspect that the second funeral felt a little different than the first. J Do you think maybe there was a little more HOPE the second time they laid him in the ground?
Lazarus did not rise by his own power. Lazarus is not the first-fruits of our hope and life. Lazarus is just like us, a friend of Jesus who succumbs to the brokenness of a fallen world and ultimately goes into the grave… utterly dependent upon the Power of the Resurrection and the Life that is JESUS HIMSELF!
The miracle of Lazarus is a wonderful grace, it encourages our Faith and emboldens our hope. However, our Hope does not lie with a dead man in the tomb, our Hope rests in the LIVING CHRIST WHO HAS BROKEN THE POWER OF DEATH, BECAUSE HE IS HIMSELF LIFE AND RESURRECTION. Our Hope does not rest on the man wrapped in burial cloths, but ON THE ONE CALLING LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS AND LIFE OUT OF DEATH…OUR HOPE IS BUILT ON CHRIST AND CHRIST ALONE! It is the RESURRECTION OF JESUS that exerted the great power of Life over Death and Light over Darkness. It is JESUS CHRIST who demonstrated His Authority and Ability to Rule over ALL THINGS and EVERY ONE. This is our Hope, as the old Lutheran Hymn says…
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”
1 Peter 1:3 NIV84 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
From the time Adam and Eve rebelled in the Garden of Eden, God had PROMISED a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15). Jacob prophesied that the Ruler would come from the Tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10). The Prophet Isaiah declared that the “Virgin would be with Child…and Unto Us a Son Would be born…He shall be called: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6).” Jesus Himself gives a Promise that can only be born out of Divine Confidence…
John 11:25-26 NLT - Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this?”
“I am”…Christ is present NOW, not limited just to the future. It is the identity of Jesus that spans the gap between the “already” and the “not yet.” Do not assume that the promise is only for a future hope, as important as that is. No, Jesus said, “I am,” this is a current promise for your every day. This is the HOPE OF TOMORROW but it is also the LIFE and PROMISE OF TODAY! He has saved you, and is saving you. He has found you and He will deliver you in that Day.
Ephesians 2:4-6 NIV - But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
UNTIL THEN, The LORD God Declares…
Hebrews 13:5 NIV - "…Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Oh Beloved, Jesus is declaring that Death yields to Life, in the same manner that Darkness to Light. I am the Resurrection of the dying, and the Life of the living. Jesus is the Life-Giver because He IS Life itself. This claim and this promise are mind-boggling. He says it is faith in him that brings one back to life. Jesus claims that He alone is the ground of eschatological hope. But then He goes even further: "I am the life." In essence declaring that death cannot destroy the Believer because the Child of God is in union with him who is THE LIFE.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 KJV2000 - …Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is THE PROMISE SPOKEN WITH DIVINE CONFIDENCE.
May 8, 2016 / Happy Mother’s Day!
“A mother understands what a child does not say.” ~ Jewish Proverb
A Mother does so much more than anyone (especially a man) can describe: carrying and cherishing the child, bearing not only the pain of birth, but the weight of a human soul; the future of a life, and the health of another. These are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when considering what a Mom is, and what she does. If we had a “Mother’s YEAR” instead of a “Mother’s DAY,” I would still not be able to give proper honor and place to this precious gift. Therefore, please allow me to join with your families in wishing each mom a Happy and Blessed Mother’s Day. We thank God for you; and we are honored to celebrate the treasure and gift that you are to your children, to the Body of Christ, and indeed, to Society as a whole.
With that said, not all “moms” are biologically linked to their children. Consider something the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Rome:
Romans 16:13 VOICE - Give my best to Rufus, clearly one of the Lord’s chosen, and also his mother. She’s like a mother to me.
We do not know exactly who this “Rufus” was, however, the Gospel according to Mark tells us that Simon of Cyrene, who was compelled to carry the cross of Christ, was the “father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21).” Maybe this is the same man, we do not know. What we do know, however, is that Paul acknowledged the mother of Rufus, was a woman “who has been a mother to me, too.”
Please let that sink in for a moment. An unnamed woman known to the congregation in Rome (and identified by her role as a mother), was being publicly esteemed by the Apostle Paul as a “mother to” him as well. This woman must have been a very special lady. My dear friends, the Church is described by many metaphors in the New Testament. We are the Body of Christ, the Flock of God, the Fellowship of the Saints, the House of the Lord, and maybe most tellingly…the Family of God! I am convinced that one of the great needs in our Society and within the Body of Christ is for the FAMILY OF GOD TO BE RESTORED.
It is imperative that Fathers and MOTHERS IN THE FAITH arise and be active in the Church and in our neighborhoods. One never knows when the next Apostle Paul or Billy Graham or Bebe Patten or John Wesley may be sitting in the Sunday School classroom, the balcony, or playing in the park down the street. We need mothers and fathers in the Church and in our Nation.
Beloved, I am convinced that not only is it appropriate to celebrate and honor our familial mothers on this day, but that the Body of Christ must acknowledge, honor, and esteem those women who may not share our genetic traits, but are nevertheless “Mothers in the Lord.” Likewise Ladies, you may have raised your children, but we all know that your work as a mother never ends. So too, within the church and society, we have an entire generation that needs your parenting. J
Dr. Tobey Montgomery