The Relationship of the Trinity to Each Other and to Us

Pastor Sherry’s message for 6/12/2022

Scriptures: Prov 8:1-4, 22-36; Ps 8; Ro 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-16

Today is Trinity Sunday, a day the Christian Church celebrates the fact that we worship one God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Lots of folks have tried to come up with illustrations that make this truth easier to understand:

1. An egg consists of an eggshell, egg white, and yolk, but remains one egg.

2. Water takes 3 forms—ice, liquid, and gas/steam—but all three are made up of water.

3. The shamrock, which St. Patrick used as he evangelized Ireland, has one plant stem, but three leaves.

4. Two new ones I came across this week include the following:

(1) You may have three different Bibles, an NIV, an ESV, and an NRSV, but all are God’s Word.

(2) Or let’s say Boris Johnson of England negotiated a Peace Treaty between Ukraine and Russia—wouldn’t that be wonderful!

(a.) One version would be printed in Russian;

(b.) Another version in Ukrainian;

(c.) And the third version in English, but all would say the same thing.

(Blogger BK -January 04, 2012, christiancadre@yahoo.com.)

Now the foregoing help explain the one-ness of the Trinity, but not the relationship between the three persons. Perhaps a good way to clarify or describe their relationship with each other is to look at ”…two wonderful Greek words that the early church theologians used to describe the Trinity: kenōsis and perichōrēsis. Kenosis is the act of self-giving for the good of another. It is found in the early Christian hymn in Philippians 2: 6-7 [Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. The word emptied translates the verb form of kenōsis. Jesus gave of himself for the good of others [us!] ….They used the word perichōrēsis, meaning “mutual submission,” to explain it. So the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are living in mutual submission to one another. This is the heart of the Trinity: giving oneself for the good of the other. (Taken from The Magnificent Story, James Bryan Smith, InterVarsity Press, 2018, www.ivpress.com).

Let me say that again: The relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are characterized by each giving of Himself for the benefit of the other, with Son and Spirit each submitted to the will of the Father. They exhibit absolute cooperation with each other. They exist together in a dance of steadfast, unfailing, loyal love toward each other. The wonder is that they invited us into their dance, and model for us how to live with each other.

Let’s examine how our Scripture lessons for the day point to both the kenosis and the perichorisis of the Trinity.

A. Our Proverbs lesson (8:1-4, 22-36) speaks of wisdom as a person; i.e., the wisdom of God is demonstrated in the person of Jesus. Remember, Jesus called Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Real truth is wisdom. I remember sitting in my class on Isaiah in seminary, and realizing that tears were sliding down my face as my spirit responded to the truth I was hearing read and explained.

In verse 4 the line reads, To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus has done? He has called all men and women to Himself. He came to give of Himself for our benefit (kenosis). Everything He has said is worthy, right, true, and just. Read the red words written in read in your Bible (Gospels and Acts); these are the words of Jesus and they are all truth. If we could trust in His wisdom, we would be secure, at peace, and filled with love and hope.

Verse 22 tells us that Jesus possessed wisdom…as the first of His works, before His deeds of old. Wisdom was with Jesus as He spoke creation into existence. The very beginning of John’s Gospel (1:1-3) reports that In the beginning was the Word [Jesus; God’s word made flesh], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Though Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

As verses 35-36 warn, however …whoever finds Me finds life and receives favor from the LORD [perichoresis]. But whoever fails to find Me harms himself; all who hate Me love death. YIKES!

B. Psalm 8 is a messianic psalm, written by King David, in praise of God’s creative power (the Holy Spirit). Portions of this psalm are quoted in the New Testament 3 times:

(1) Jesus, quotes verse 2 in Matthew 21:16 From the lips of children and infants You have ordained praise. The context is that Jesus has just cleared the Temple of money lenders and those who sold animals for sacrifice. He was angry that His Father’s house had been made into a den of thieves. The Pharisees were furious, however, as they had not authorized His actions, nor had they sanctioned children running about praising Jesus. As Peterson relates it in his paraphrase, The Message, (NavPress, 2002,p.1786)

When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things He was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, ‘Hosanna to David’s Son!’ they were up in arms and took Him to task. ‘Do You hear what these children are saying?” Jesus said, ‘Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise?’ This was not a popular thing that Jesus had done; but since we know He only did what His Father told Him to do, He was submitted to the Father’s will (perichoresis).

(2) Similarly, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:27, quotes verse 6 [For He—God the Father–has] put everything under His feet. Paul goes on to interpret this as meaning that God the Father put all of creation under the authority of Jesus, His Son. All of creation– but not the Father Himself—so that Jesus might glorify the Father (perichoresis).

(3) The writer to the Hebrews also quotes verses 4b-8 (in 2:5-8) It is not to angels that He has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man [humankind] that you are mindful of him, the Son of Man [Jesus] that you care for Him? You made Him [Jesus, when He came to earth] a little lower than the angels; you crowned Him [Jesus] with glory and honor and put everything under His feet.

The author of Hebrews, like Paul, asserts that God the Father has put all of creation under the authority of His Son. Furthermore, He has done this because of Jesus’ sacrificial death (kenosis) in submission to the will and plan of God the Father (perichoresis). Because Jesus died in submission to the Father’s will, the Father has…crowned [Him] so much higher than any angel, with a glory ’bright with Eden’s dawn light.’ (Peterson, The Message, p.2182.) In this great hymn of creation, Psalm 8, we discover that King David was prophesying the rule and reign of Jesus Christ—probably without realizing it.

C. In our Gospel lesson, John 16:12-16, Jesus further describes the work of the Holy Spirit. In verse 13, He calls Him the Spirit of Truth, who will guide you [meaning us] into all truth. [Sounds like wisdom to me.] He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. Do you notice that the Spirit is submitted to Jesus (perichoresis)? And that one of His jobs is to steer us in the right direction, both now and in the future (kenosis)?

Jesus also asserts that (v.15) All that belongs to the Father is mine. The three persons of the Trinity share power. They also give of themselves for the good of the other (kenosis and perichoresis) .

D. This comes home for us in Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:15). Among the benefits to us of Jesus’ saving work on the Cross are the following:

First, we are at peace with God (we have tranquility of soul). I remember meeting two women at my new church (pre-seminary, back in 1986) who were clearly filled with peace. I could see it on their faces; I could sense it in their spirits. I wanted that peace and asked them where it came from. Their answer was “Jesus.” I now have that peace and you can too. We just have to say “yes” to Him. Those who have not said “yes” to Jesus are not at peace with God. Instead of being sinners saved by grace, they are just plain sinners. Their sin separates them from God and makes them enemies of God. I have a pastor friend whose church asked her not to preach on sin. They wanted to come to church only to be uplifted. Well, if we are not made aware of our sinfulness, we will not be uplifted. Warning people about the consequences of their sins is actually a loving thing to do. It has been said that a Christian pastor is to comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Thank God we believers are at peace with the Father.

Second, we can then rightfully, accurately, say that God is for us.

Third, we have direct access to the Father, through the Son, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus died on the Cross, He opened the way to the Father for us. In the final hours He hung on the Cross, the curtain that kept us out of the “holy of holies” was miraculously torn in two—from the top to the bottom so no one could claim a mere person had done it. As a result, like Adam and Eve before the Fall, we can walk with God through our prayer life.

Fourth, because we know the Trinity loves us, we have hope, or blessed assurance.

Fifth, we also experience meaning and purpose to our suffering. While being a Christ-follower does not protect us from suffering, we know that God is present with us in our suffering, and that He uses our suffering to produce in us perseverance and character.

The word “Trinity” is never found in Scripture, but the reality of it is. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit model for us how to live: Giving of oneself out of love for one another (kenosis), while being submitted to the will of God (perichoresis). When we choose to model our lives on the example of the Trinity, we experience peace, access to God, God’s favor, and blessed assurance, or hope. In these days of failed governmental policies, widespread corruption, increased inflation and economic hardship, unpredictable violence, and injustice, it is important to remember the hope we have in our Trinitarian God.

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of a missionary woman, watching passersby from the window of her second story apartment:

“…She was handed a letter from home. As she opened the letter, a crisp, new 10-dollar bill fell out. She was pleasantly surprised, but as she read the letter her eyes were distracted by the movement of a shabbily dressed stranger down below, leaning against a post in front of the building. She couldn’t get him off her mind. Thinking that he might be in greater financial stress than she, she slipped the bill into an envelope on which she quickly penned, “Don’t despair.” She then threw it out the window. The stranger below picked it up, read it, looked, up, and smiled as he tipped his hat and went on his way.

The next day she was about to leave the house when a knock came at the door. She found the same shabbily dressed man smiling as he handed her a roll of bills. When she asked what they were for, he replied: That’s the 60 bucks you won, lady. Don’t Despair paid five to one.” (Chuck Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Word Press, 1998, p.274).

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ—and the help of the Holy Spirit. Alleluia, alleluia!

©️2022 Rev Dr Sherry Adams

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Easter Punctuation

Pastor Sherry’s message for 4/17/22,

Scriptures: Acts 10:34-43; Ps 188:1-2, 14-24; 1Cor 15:19-26; Luke 24:1-12

Remember the days of punctuation marks? Now we tend to use emojis. But try to recall the time when a comma, a period, a question mark, and an exclamation point were commonly used and meant something. Now ask yourself, “Easter morning: Would I describe my response to this day with a period, a comma, an ! or a ?” If it’s just another day, having no real meaning for you, then a period will do. But maybe a comma better describes it…it gives you a pause as you think about it, but then you rapidly move on to the next thought or activity, and the next, etc. Non-believers, if they consider it at all, would probably use a ? Huh?

This week I saw one of those episodes on the news where they ask folks on the street what they think of certain issues. This time, the interviewer asked people in a New York City park what Easter was. Sadly, most didn’t know. A few said it’s about the bunny, finding eggs, and eating chocolate. Only one woman said that Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We truly are living in a post-Christian America. But for those of us who love Jesus, Easter deserves a series of exclamation points. Fireworks emojis might also capture it. You may even throw in some smiley faces with hearts and praying hands.

But to the eyewitness disciples that original Easter, their morning was punctuated first by a period. They thought Jesus was dead, gone, buried, period. End of story. Their expectations of Him as their Messiah were disappointed. They were overwhelmed with dejection, grief and sorrow. Then the women arrive and tell what seems an unbelievable or even a crazy tale. His tomb is empty? A question mark at this point is more distressing than a period. A ? introduces doubt; it’s perplexing. Where could His body be? Who might have taken it? And why?

But thank God for angels, supernatural messengers (that requires an exclamation point)! Two angels are present to say (Luke 24:5-6) Why [?] do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ [?] The angels ask them a question, but they also expect them to remember what Jesus had said to them, repeatedly. OK, now they remember—thanks for reminding us! Even so, Peter and John (John 20:8) race to the tomb to see for themselves. Later that evening, the resurrected Jesus appears to the others. As is common with many folks, the disciples only believe when they can see for themselves. (Joe LoMusio, as quoted by Chuck Swindoll in The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, Word Publishing, 1998, pp.171-172}.

By the end of Easter Day, the periods are gone. The question marks have been satisfactorily resolved. As our readings today attest, there remain, instead, several massive exclamation points! Alleluia, He is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

St. Luke, in Acts 10:34-43, wants us to know that one reason for an exclamation point was that Jesus’ death on the Cross—followed by His resurrection–had opened the way for Gentiles, like ourselves, to gain entrance into God’s Kingdom. As we have often noted, ethnic divisions were deeply ingrained in the Jews and others in 1st century Israel. For them, there were only two categories: Jews (the chosen people) and Gentiles (everyone else). Knowing this, Peter is surprised to be summoned to the home of the Roman centurion, Cornelius (who commanded and led over 600 soldiers). His household already knew about and believed in Jesus. Peter enters his home and announces: (v.34) I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men [and women] from every nation who fear Him and do what is right.

His sermon from verses 36-43 is truly a great summary of the entire Gospel. In short, he says Jesus lived and walked among us, preaching, teaching, healing, and doing miracles; He died on the Cross for our sins;

Then He rose again, demonstrating His power over sin and death. Following Peter’s sermon, the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius and his “congregation.” Peter considered this to be the Gentile Pentecost, and proceeded to baptize these Roman believers into the enfant Christian Church.

Scholars tell us that Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, was a Hillel psalm. This meant it was one of several psalms sung from memory at the Passover meal. Jesus would have sung it with the apostles after they drank the final cup of wine at their Seder supper. The psalm celebrates the victory of a reigning king who had once been looked down upon by rival nations.

Several verses are particularly meaningful when viewed in the light of the resurrection: Verse 18 reads (and prophetically, Jesus would be the speaker) I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord…He has not given Me over to death. Jesus was laid dead into a tomb; but He did not remain there as we would. Instead, He rose again, overcoming death! And, in verses 22-23 He says the stone [the Rock: Jesus] the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah; they rejected the cornerstone. Later, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:4 As you come to Him [Jesus], The Living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…. So a 2nd exclamation point is that Jesus’ resurrection fulfilled Old Testament prophecies (from the Psalms).

Third, St. Paul exhorts us to believe (in 1 Corinthians 15:19-26) that Jesus’ resurrection is the defining moment of Christianity.

First, (vv.5-8) he catalogues who all saw Jesus following His resurrection:

1. Peter,

2. The 12 minus Judas;

3. More than 500 disciples;

4. His brother, James;

5. And Paul himself.

Scholars tell us there is more eye-witness evidence that Jesus lived after His resurrection than there is for the existence of Julius Caesar (and many other important historical persons). There are many ancient manuscripts (all in museums now) that cite Christ’s resurrection. Josh and Sean McDowell, who wrote More than a Carpenter, researched proof of the resurrection and spent more than 700 hours discovering how well validated it is.

Next, in verses 13-19, Paul asserts that our entire faith depends upon the truth of the resurrection: Verse 14 If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. In other words, Christ’s resurrection from the dead is incontrovertibly true and forms the basis of our belief in Him. We worship a God who has the power to bring His Son back from the dead. I want a strong, powerful God like that, don’t you? We worship a God who loves us so much that He sacrificed His one and only Son to redeem us. We worship Jesus, the One and Only, the God Who—due to His self-sacrificing love for us and His obedience to His Father–was willing to suffer to cover the cost of our sins. The sinless Son of God gave up His life so we might have new life, and have it abundantly. We can connect directly with the Father because Jesus opened the way for us (As He hung on the cross, the Temple curtain—a huge thick drape of goat’s hair—was torn in two). We can anticipate being resurrected because Jesus opened the way for us. And, when He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, He will destroy death…Praise God!

I’ve already commented extensively on our Gospel lesson today. Let me just add how ironic it is that the first to disbelieve Jesus’ resurrection were the apostles themselves. They didn’t believe the reports of the women who saw the open and empty tomb. Even after Peter viewed the physical evidence, he had to go off by himself to puzzle out what it meant. However, let’s offer them some grace—though difficult to believe, Jesus’ resurrection is nevertheless true, and they eventually got it!

As we wish one another Happy Resurrection Day, let us punctuate the day with exclamation marks as we remember the lyrics to an old Welsh Easter hymn:

We welcome glad Easter when Jesus arose

And won a great victory over His foes.

Then raise your glad voices, all Christians in song.

Bring glad Easter tidings to Jesus your King.

We tell how the women came early that day

And there at the tomb found the stone rolled away.

We sing of the angel who said: ‘Do not fear!

Your Savior is risen and He is not here.

We think of the promise which Jesus did give:

That he who believes in Me shall also live.’

Someone named S. Lewis Johnson has said (I don’t know who he is but I want to give him credit), “The Resurrection is God’s Amen! to Christ’s statement, “It is finished.” Alleluia, He is risen! The Lord is risen Indeed! Thanks be to God!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

The Trouble With Forgiveness

Pastor Sherry’s message for 2/20/22

Scriptures: Gen 45:3-15; Ps 37:1-11, 39-40; Lk 6:27-38

Corrie ten Boom was a Holocaust survivor, a Christian, and a member of the Dutch underground resistance during WWII. Scott Sauls (in his book, A Gentle Answer, Thomas Nelson, 2020, pp.19-20) tells the following story to demonstrate the trouble with forgiveness:

“After the defeat of Hitler’s Nazi regime in World War II, Corrie returned to Germany to declare the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. One evening, after giving her message, she was approached by a man who identified himself as a former Nazi guard from the concentration camp at Ravensbruck, where she had been held and where her sister, Betsie, had died.

“When Corrie saw the man’s face, she recognized him as one of the most cruel and vindictive guards from the camp. He reached out his hand and said to her, “A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea! You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk. I was a guard there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?” About this encounter, Corrie writes:

‘I stood there—I whose sins had again and again been forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I ever had to do . . . I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. . . . But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently.’

“As she reached out her hand to the former guard, Corrie says that something incredible took place. She continues: ‘The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ . . . I had never known love so intensely, as I did then. But even then, I realized it was not my love . . . It was the power of the Holy Spirit.’”

The trouble with forgiveness is that it is easy to talk about but difficult to do. It feels at the time like the emotional equivalent of having your toe-mails curled backwards.

Remember the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons by Bill Watterson? In one of them, Calvin—about 6YO–is sharing his guilt with his tiger friend, Hobbes. He admits he feels bad for calling someone named Susie names and for hurting her feelings. He says he is sorry. (Good for him!) Hobbes, a wise toy tiger, suggests Calvin apologize to Susie. After thinking it through for a moment, Calvin replies, “I keep hoping there’s a less obvious solution.” Isn’t that just the truth for most of us? We know that apologizing or asking for forgiveness is going to require that we humble ourselves and admit our fault. We also suspect that this action will be emotionally painful for us.

Jesus gives us His take on forgiveness in this famous portion of the Gospel of Luke (6:27-38). It is a continuation of the Sermon on the Plain. Jesus directs us to (v.27)love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. YIKES! This is such a tall order! Foundational to the ability to do as He directs is a willingness to forgive. Corrie ten Boom found it very difficult to extend a hand of forgiveness to the former Ravensbruck guard.

She knew she had just talked about it publically, and hated to be seen as a hypocrite—if she could not. And she wisely asked Jesus to help her. Such forgiveness is beyond our human abilities. It requires the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Additionally, in verse 29, Jesus commands us to famously “turn the other cheek.” Rev. Dr. J. Vernon McGee tells the story of an Irish prize fighter who was converted and became an itinerent pastor. “He happened to be in a new town setting up his evangelistic tent when a couple of tough thugs noticed what he was doing. Knowing nothing of his background, they made a few insulting remarks. The Irishman merely turned and looked at them. Pressing his luck, one of the bullies took a swing and struck a glancing blow on one side of the ex-boxer’s face. The former boxer shook it off and said nothing as he stuck out his jaw. The bully took another glancing blow on the other side. At that point the preacher swiftly took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and announced, “The Lord gave me no further instructions,” Whop! ( As related by J. Vernon McGee in Charles Swindoll’s Tale of a Tardy Oxcart, 1998, p 214.)

Clearly this is a joke as Jesus told Peter the trouble with forgiveness is that we are to forgive the same person not 7 but 77 times (Matthew 18:22). Jesus sums it up by charging us to (v.31)Do to others as you would have them do to you. We are not to seek revenge or repay evil with evil. Instead, we are called to treat everyone– even enemies– with love and mercy.

Furthermore, He exhorts us (vv.37-38)Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For, with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

The story is told of the famous artist, Leonardo Da Vinci. He was painting “The Last Supper,” (in oils on a plaster wall in a convent in Milan, Italy) and had fashioned the face of Judas at the table to resemble one of his greatest detractors. Then, when he approached painting the face of Christ, he found he could not get it right. He tried and tried unsuccessfully, until he repented of how he had depicted the Judas figure. As soon as he painted over his enemy’s likeness with one more anonymous, he found he could then depict Jesus’ face.

Notice how God withheld blessing Da Vinci’s great work until the artist let go of avenging himself. The trouble with un-forgiveness is that it blocks our ability to receive God’s blessings. The “Cancel Culture” today tells us it is OK and even expected of us to get revenge. But according to Christ, we are blessed in the measure to which we bless others.

Jesus’ admonitions to forgive, not judge, and not condemn are so beautifully lived out by Old Testament Joseph (Genesis 45:3-15). Joseph is probably the most Christ-like person described in the Old Testament. Recall that his 10 brothers from another mother had sold him into slavery (he was about 17). They fully expected him to die in Egypt, as slaves were not treated well. They compounded their sin by lying to their father about Joseph’s supposed death, and causing him great grief. His grief was so profound and so agonizing that his brother Judah ended up leaving the family camp to live among Canaanites for a time.

But because of Joseph’s supernatural skill as a “seer,” he was rescued from prison by Pharaoh to interpret (see the meaning of) his ominous and perplexing dreams (by this point Joseph was 30YO). Previously, he had been able to see into the motives of his brothers, which got him sold into slavery. He had also correctly read the motives of Potipher’s wife, but received a prison sentence anyway. And, finally, his ability to see into the future of his prison roommate’s life had brought him to the attention of Pharaoh.

Now, with his brothers gathered around him in all his splendor (aged 39, having lived in Egypt for 22 years), as Vizier of Egypt, he sees as well as discerns and reveals God’s purposes in what his brothers had done to him. Prior to this passage, he has tested his felonious brothers twice to see if their character has changed at all in the 22 years since he last saw them.

It appears they have come to regret their past actions toward him, as well as the inconsolable grief they have caused their father, Jacob.

So, as per Peterson’s The Message, he tells his kin–>I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don’t feel badly, don’t blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. There has been a famine in the land now for two years; the famine will continue for five more years—neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance. So you see, it wasn’t you who sent me here but God. He set me in place as a father to Pharaoh, put me in charge of his personal affairs, and made me ruler of all Egypt.

The trouble with forgiveness is that it is difficult for us to offer. Our sinful human nature wants us to pursue revenge. But God will bless our efforts to forgive others. Joseph’s forgiveness results in a Jew, rising to the #2 power position in all of Egypt. It fulfills the prophetic dreams he had had as a young man. In addition, God uses Joseph to save his Father, all 11 of his brothers, and his extended family (approximately 90 people in all). He also saved unnumbered thousands of Egyptians and other Gentiles.

Joseph also demonstates the truth of Psalm 37, which is “Do not fret.” No matter what our circumstances, we do not need to worry.

Verse 3 tells us to Trust in the Lord and do good. Verse 4 encourages us to delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. It took 22 years, but Joseph—despite being sold into slavery and falsely accused of rape– does not appear to have lost his trust in God.

He did not get angry with God, he forgave his brothers, and God delivered him.

I think that examples like that of Old Testament Joseph and of Corrie ten Boom validate for us that it is possible for us to forgive others and to extend love to our enemies. Even though difficult for us, we can do it with God’s help.

We want to forgive because…

1. Christ commands it of us.

2. Christ demonstrated it to us, by forgiving us through His saving death on the Cross.

Stuart Strachan Jr. relates a tale written by Ernest Hemingway in this way: “The story revolves around a father and his teenage son Paco, set in Spain. Paco was an extremely common name in the Spain of that time. With desires to become a matador and to escape his father’s control, Paco runs away to the capital (from which the title is derived) of Spain, Madrid.

His father, desperate to reconcile with his son, follows him to Madrid and puts an ad in a local newspaper with a simple phrase: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.” Hemingway then writes, “the next day at noon in front of the newspaper office there were 800 “Pacos” all seeking forgiveness.” The world is full of people in need of forgiveness and reconciliation. The model for such forgiveness is most profoundly found in Jesus Christ.”

3. And because God gives back to us as good as we give.

This week, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to bring to our minds those people we need to forgive. Then let us go before the throne of God and offer up our desire, our intent to forgive them. God can work with the fact that we may only want to want to forgive. Pray for those persons daily for 30 days and watch and see what our Lord does to them and to us.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Alleluia, Alleluia!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Knowing Who We Are and What We Are Called to Do

Pastor Sherry’s message for 1/23/2022

Scriptures: Neh 8:1-10; Ps 19; 1Cor 12:12-31a; Lk 4:14-21

The story is told of a man who found a young eagle that had fallen from its nest ….

“He took it home and put it in his barnyard where it soon learned to eat and behave like the chickens. One day a naturalist passed by the farm and asked why it was that the king of all birds should be confined to live in the barnyard with the chickens. The farmer replied that since he had given it chicken feed and trained it to be a chicken, it had never learned to fly. Since it now behaved as the chickens, it was no longer an eagle.

Still it has the heart of an eagle,’ replied the naturalist, ‘and can surely be taught to fly.’ He lifted the eagle toward the sky and said, ‘You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly.’ The eagle, however, was confused. He did not know who he was, and seeing the chickens eating their food, he jumped down to be with them again.

‘The naturalist took the bird to the roof of the house and urged him again, saying, ‘You are an eagle. Stretch forth your wings and fly.’ But the eagle was afraid of this unknown self and world and jumped down once more for the chicken food. Finally the naturalist took the eagle out of the barnyard to a high mountain. There he held the king of the birds high above him and encouraged him again, saying, ‘You are an eagle. You belong to the sky. Stretch forth your wings and fly.’ The eagle looked around, back towards the barnyard and up to the sky. Then the naturalist lifted him straight towards the sun and it happened that the eagle began to tremble. Slowly he stretched his wings, and with a triumphant cry, soared away into the heavens.

‘It may be that the eagle still remembers the chickens with nostalgia. It may even be that he occasionally revisits the barnyard. But as far as anyone knows, he has never returned to lead the life of a chicken.” (Theology News and Notes, October, 1976, quoted in Multnomah Message, Spring, 1993, p. 1).

The eagle had a case of confused identity. He didn’t know who he was—a chicken or an eagle. He didn’t know his purpose—to peck for food on the ground, like a strange domestic; or to soar the heavens as a magnificent raptor. We can often be like that, can’t we? We can limit who we are, and we can miss out on our purpose.

Let’s see what our Scripture passages today have to about our identity and our purpose.

A. Our Old Testament lesson comes from Nehemiah 8:1-10, and takes place in Jerusalem in 445BC, roughly 2500 years ago. Jewish POW’s of first the Babylonian, then the Persian Empires, had been set free by the Persian king, Artaxerxes, to return to their homeland. Under the oversight and direction of their governor, Nehemiah, they had completed the massive rebuilding of the city walls in just 52 days. Ezra, their priest had begun the sad reconstruction of the Temple, which would take many more years. We find them today assembled–on the equivalent of their New Year’s Day—inside the Water Gate (1 of the 12 refurbished gates of the city). You may recall that business, legal, and political matters were debated and decided, in those days, at the city gates. So this wasn’t just some narrow passageway, but a gate opening into a sizeable square or assembly area.

Again, they had to meet there because reconstruction of the Temple was not accomplished.

Ezra and Nehemiah had convened a “solemn assembly” of all the returning citizens. Scholars estimate some 49,000 men, women, and children of an age to understand [perhaps ages 8-10 and above], had gathered there—with someone providing child care for the younger ones. After 70 years of exile in a foreign nation, they may have held Bible studies there, but chances are good that they had not really been formally taught the Torah (the Law). The word has gotten around, however, that someone had found a copy of the Law of Moses during the Temple rebuilding project. The People wanted to know what it said. They realized they had been punished by God for their idolatry and for not obeying His Law. They wanted to be sure they didn’t err in the same way their grandparents had.

Notice what happens. Ezra proclaims God’s word, in a loud voice, from a raised platform (perhaps the first pulpit). The people remain standing, and quiet, and as they listen for some 4-6 hours! This is where the synagogue tradition of standing for the reading of Scripture began. In Eastern Orthodox congregations—and in the middle ages in Europe–people stood for the entire service. That’s why we find there large cathedrals with no pews. Today, we stand for the reading of the Gospel, the Creed, and communion. Standing is a sign of respect, a sign of reverence. These folks are hearing God’s word read to them—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy—perhaps for the first time.

Additionally, there are Levites available to walk among the crowd and explain what God’s Word means. Scholars believe the people may not have understood the Hebrew, as they had probably been speaking Aramaic or even Persian/Farsi. So the teachers of the Law were there to answer questions and to explain. This is probably the most important job we pastors now do—explain the meaning of Scripture, as best as we can. The pre-Reformation Catholic Church had moved away from this important duty. The Protestant Reformers were thus insistent that we preach and explain God’s Word. This is why I park on the Scripture passages appointed for the day in all of my sermons. Like the people of Nehemiah’s day, we cannot obey God’s Word if we don’t know or understand it.

The people respond with AMEN, AMEN! May it be so, hands lifted, praising God. We say, Thanks be to God! following our reading of Scripture and hopefully we mean it. They then became convicted of their sinfulness. They now knew the standard. They also realized how far short of God’s standard they had lived, and how the sins of their forebears had led to the destruction of their country, and to their 70 year exile as a subjugated people. So, they prostrate themselves and cry tears of repentance. But Ezra, Nehemiah, the 13 on the platform, and the Levites among them, tell them not to grieve or mourn. For a time they had lost their identity and their purpose! But God brought them out of captivity. He once again delivered them and restored them. He hadn’t turned His back on them. And now they had a new chance to get it right. This, then, is an occasion to celebrate, to rejoice about the goodness and mercy of the Lord.

Nehemiah tells them, (v.10)—Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Just what does that mean? It doesn’t say, I bring God joy when I praise Him (though we probably do). It doesn’t say, My joy about God makes me strong (though it may). Both of the above statements begin in the wrong place: with ME. The true starting place, always, is with GOD. God’s joy is the foundation for our strength. So, what brings Him joy? When we remember our identity begins with our belief in Him, as His beloved children, and our purpose is to be obedient to Him.

B. Our Gospel lesson today comes from Luke 4:14-21. Jesus has returned home to Nazareth (following His baptism, 40 days in the wilderness, and probably the wedding at Cana. He goes to the Synagogue on the Sabbath, as was His custom. The synagogue at Nazareth would have been His “home church.” When I visited my home church in Tallahassee from seminary in Pittsburgh, it was always such a blessing and a celebration to greet old friends. This must have been true for Jesus too as they invited Him to read the Scripture appointed for the day and to preach.

Now Jesus knows Who He is—the beloved Son of God. He also knows His mission–to redeem the world—which He no doubt came to grips with during His time of prayer, meditation, and temptation in the wilderness.

And He would have realized the Scripture, Isaiah 61:1-2a, was His mission-statement. He reads aloud for the congregation what Isaiah had predicted about Him 700-750 years before His birth: Anointed by the HS, He would…

[1] Preach good news to the poor (God loves you and has sent Me to save you);

[2] I will proclaim freedom to prisoners (people whose own sin has captured them);

[3] I will recover sight for the blind;

[4] I will release those who have been captured and injured by the sins of others;

[5] And I will proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor: This is it! God has sent you the Messiah!

Then He sat down (the traditional posture of a teacher) and told them that what the prophet had predicted has now come true in Him. In other words, Jesus knows His identity and His purpose. Do we each know who we are and what we are called to do?

This week, let’s try to remember our true identity comes from our relationship with Jesus Christ.

1. Not from our profession;

2. Not from our marital status;

3. Not from our family name or our friendship circle;

4. Not from where we live;

5. Not from what sports team or political candidate we support;

6. Not even from our gender orientation.

7. No, we are children of God and inheritors of His Kingdom through Christ Jesus. That is our prime and most important identity.

And our purpose derives from that: We are here on earth, at this time and place, to know, love, and serve God. Christians means little Christs. We are to imitate Jesus in the way we behave.

Allow me to close with a story regarding the 19th century French artist Paul Gustave Dore, taken from Our Daily Bread, 01/06/1993. (Dore was famous as an illustrator of books, including the Bible, fairy tales, and other poems and novels of the day:

The renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore (1821-1883) lost his passport while traveling in Europe. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. “All right,” said the official, “we’ll give you a test, and if you pass it we’ll allow you to go through.” Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word!

This week, let us remember, we are eagles called to be eagles, not chickens. May what we say and do reflect who we are. AMEN! (May it be so!)

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Claimed!

Pastor Sherry’s message for January 9, 2022

Scriptures: Isa 43:1-7; Ps 29; Acts 8:14-17; Lk 3:15-22

I told this story a few years back, but I believe it bears retelling: A young woman was applying to college. She was uncomfortable with the question on the admission form, Are you a leader? She figured colleges were looking for leaders, but she was also pretty clear that she wasn’t one. She filled the form in honestly by answering the question with a “No.” As a result, she expected to be rejected. What a surprise when she got back this response: Dear Applicant, a careful review of this year’s application forms reveals that we will be accepting 1,452 new leaders. We are also accepting you because we feel it is important that these 1,452 have at least one follower.

In our Gospel today (LK 3:15-17, 21-22), John the Baptist makes it clear that he is not the leader—the Promised Messiah—but rather His devoted follower. John, Jesus‘ cousin, is baptizing Israelites in the Jordan. Now we know that baptism is a sacrament, an outward, visible sign of an important, inward, spiritual truth. By being dunked (or sprinkled like we do), the people were indicating their intention to die to their sins. Going under the water indicated symbolically their decision to turn away from or die to their sins. Coming up out of the water symbolized their decision to commit their lives to God. In other words, John was preaching a revival and encouraging everyone who heard him to be baptized—both as a sign of their repentance (sorrow for sin) and of their desire to live a changed life.

Apparently, he preaches so effectively and so convincingly that the crowd began to wonder aloud if he could be the coming Messiah. He heard their murmurings and replied, “No, no no…not me! I’m just the warm-up act. I’m baptizing you with water…but Someone mightier is coming after me Who…” (according to Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message)…will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He is going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper perspective before God; everything false He’ll put out with the trash to be burned. John the Baptist is saying, “I’m not the Messiah, but only the prelude to what Jesus will accomplish in the lives of those willing to believe in Him.”

The difference between Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s baptisms is this: John’s baptism was about jettisoning the old life. In the movie, O Brother, where art thou?, the fugitive convict, Delmar, gets baptized in a river. Returning to his other 2 convict buddies, he is filled with joy! He exclaims, “I have been redeemed. The preacher said so. All my sins and wrongdoings has been wiped away, including robbing that Piggly-Wiggly.” Another convict pipes up, “Uh, Delmar, I thought you said you was innocent of those charges.” Delmar replies, “Well, I lied, but I been forgiven of that too.”

As far as we know, Jesus never baptized anyone with water. Instead, He imparted to them the Holy Spirit. He gave them/us the supernatural power to live a new life. Again, John’s baptism jettisoned the old life; Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit empowers us to live a new one–a life in which we love and serve God and others.

Now Luke is not telling this story chronologically, because after he tells us that King Herod had John the Baptist arrested, Jesus comes on the scene to be baptized. Regardless of the order of events, Jesus was without sin, so what did He have to die to in baptism? What old life was He getting rid of? Matthew’s Gospel tells us He submitted to John’s water baptism to fulfill all righteousness (3:15); that is, to identify with our sinful natures; and to model for all the way we should turn to God. Notice that while He was being baptized by John, the rest of the Trinity showed up as well: The Holy Spirit took on the form of the white dove and hovered over His head, indicating that Jesus was now empowered for ministry. Some apocryphal gospels (not considered accurate enough to have been included in the “canon” of Scripture) describe Jesus healing birds and transforming things into butterflies as a child. This cannot be as He had not yet been baptized in the Spirit. When the dove descended upon Him, the God-man Jesus was then plugged into His supernatural power source. Additionally, the Father’s voice (which we have been told in Ps 29 is exceedingly powerful) pronounced: You are my Son whom I love; with You I am well pleased!

Wow, just before He begins His ministry of saving humankind, Jesus heard a powerful affirmation from His Father! He receives this wonderful blessing, His Father’s statement that He was not just pleased with Him, but well pleased.

Wouldn’t you have loved to have heard that from your earthly father? My step-father never even told me he loved me, but my Heavenly Father has. Modern psychology tells us that it is the father in the family—not the mother–who conveys to children their self-esteem. Isn’t it true that we all need our Father’s blessing to feel confident and good about ourselves? One of my seminary professors, Rev. Dr. John Rogers, conveyed the Father’s blessing to me every time I saw him after graduating. We would occasionally see one another at a clergy conference. He would come up to me, cup my face in his large hands, and kiss me on the forehead. I believed then and still do that the Lord used him to let me know He loved and approved of me. I pray you have had someone similar to do the same in your life!

Our Acts lesson (8:14-17) describes a situation in which a deacon, Philip, has baptized new Samaritan converts with water, and the Apostles Peter and John show up to baptize them with the Holy Spirit. You may recall (from Acts 7) that a deacon, named Stephen, was stoned to death in Jerusalem, with Saul (soon to become Paul) presiding over his execution.

This begins the first persecution of the early Church, with Jews beating, imprisoning, and killing Christ-followers. Why would God allow this to happen in His enfant church? He allowed it to prompt them to leave their Holy Huddle in Jerusalem and to take the Gospel—as Jesus commanded them (Acts 1:8)–to Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

So Philip, a 2nd deacon, goes to a city in Samaria. We are told, in verses 5-8, that he preached the Word, performed miracles, healed the sick, and cast out demons there—what a powerful ministry! And…there was great joy in that city! Later, the apostles Peter and John are sent to check into this “city-wide-revival.” They approved Philip’s work, then went on to baptize the people with the Holy Spirit. Why follow up water-baptism with a baptism in the Holy Spirit? Remember, John the Baptist baptized with water, representing repentance for and cleansing from sin; representing a turning away from the pre-baptism life. Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit.

In our modern service of baptism, while sprinkling water on head of the person being baptized , we baptize him/her in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Immediately after this, I make the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead (with oil that has been blessed) and say, “_______, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and claimed as Christ’s own forever.” To be baptized by the Holy Spirit is like having the dove descend upon us as happened with Jesus. It means we have been claimed and adopted, by God–through the saving work of Jesus–as His beloved daughters and sons. It also means we have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to reach out to others and to minister to them in Christ’s love.

So, all of us in this congregation have been baptized by both water and by the Holy Spirit (If you doubt this, please remain after church and I will pray with you to receive the Holy Spirit). Let us remember verse 1 from Isaiah 43–Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; You are mine! We have been claimed by God, through Jesus, and are now commissioned and empowered for ministry. This new year, let’s look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus and His impact on our lives. Let’s be like the fellow in the story of a father and son who “…arrived in a small western town looking for an uncle whom they had never seen. Suddenly, the father, pointing across the square to a man who was walking away from them, exclaimed, “There goes my uncle!” His son asked, “How do you know when you have not seen him before?” “Son, I know him because he walks exactly like my father.” If we walk in the Spirit, the world should know us by our walk (Related by Lee Roberson in, The Gold Mine , 2000, Sword of the Spirit Publishers). Amen. May it be so!

©2022 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

Come, Holy Spirit!

Pastor Sherry’s message for Pentecost Sunday—May 23, 2021

Scriptures: Acts 2:1-21; Ps 104:24-35; 1 Jn 3:1-7; Jn 1526; 16:5-15

In 1995, Mark Batterson and a small team planted the National Community Church in a movie theatre on the Metro line (subway) in Washington, DC. It has since grown, through prayer and sovereign moves of the Holy Spirit, to 7 locations in and around DC, and ministers to around 3,000 members. This week, I reread 2 books Batterson has written: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and Wild Goose Chase.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is based on 2 Samuel 23:20-21 Benaiah son of Jehoida was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab’s best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.

Benaiah, a mighty Hebrew warrior, chases a lion into a pit on a snowy day and kills it. Why would anyone do such a thing? Adult lions weigh about 500 pounds. Let’s guess that Benaiah weighed about 180. Clearly he was out-weighed by about 320 pounds. Add to that the fact that a lion’s paws, claws, and teeth were better suited to combat in a slippery environment than a man with no rifle or semi-automatic (but perhaps Benaiah had a spear or club). Whatever his weaponry, Benaiah slays the lion. Now I believe the Holy Spirit must have both led Benaiah to the pit, and empowered him with the courage and the skill to overcome the lion. This feat becomes the most prominent feature of his impressive resume. He is subsequently hired by King David to lead his body guard. Later, he rises to become the commander of the king’s armies.

Essentially, Batterson encourages us, in this book, to become “Lion Chasers,” pursuing the divine appointments, the God-given opportunities our Lord provides of us. He also points out how often “lion Chasers” are rewarded by the Lord.

In his book, Wild Goose Chase, Batterson distinguishes between a wild goose chase and chasing a wild goose. We tend to think of a wild goose chase as a fruitless endeavor, a waste of our time.

But the Celtic Christian name for the Holy Spirit is An Geadh-Glas, or the Wild Goose. Please understand that the Celts meant no disrespect. (The Lakota Sioux thought of the Holy Spirit as a buffalo, upon whom their plains existence depended entirely.) Like a wild goose (or a buffalo), the Holy Spirit is unpredictable, and out of our control—and sometimes even scary. But if we chase after Him, if we follow His nudges and urges, the Lord leads us into some amazing adventures.

Given this background, let’s look at our 1st reading, Acts 2:1-21: the empowerment of the HS at Pentecost. The context of this passage is that the 120 disciples, men and women, are praying in the Temple. Jesus had told them (Acts 1:4)àDo not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised…in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So they are being obedientàthey waited, they prayed. On Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit shows up! This is a theophany! A God-sighting! And He arrives with significant supernatural fanfare, or signs and wonders.

(1) 1st sign (which was heard)àSuddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind. This was no gentle breeze! Like tornados, it probably sounded like dozens of freight trains. God had done this beforeàEzekiel 37:9àGod sends the wind to raise the dry bones of Israel to life. When I was baptized by the Holy Spirit, I was at the beach with a group of friends who were praying for me. A moaning wind came up in my face. It was so strong that I could hardly breathe. Afterward, my friends denied having heard or felt it!

(2) 2nd sign (which was seen)àThey saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Imagine if you had been there! Fire over your head, fire over the heads of your friends, no one burning up! Wow! But God had done this before, tooàExodus 3:2-5àMoses and the burning bush. The bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. God used that bush to light a fire in Moses. In Isaiah 6àIsaiah’s callàIsaiah realizes he is a sinful man called to serve as the Lord’s prophet. An angel brings a burning coal and applies it to hislips and tongue. He is purified without being burned. He did, however, get fired up to serve the Lord!

​(3) 3rd sign (which was again heard)àAll of them were filled with the HS and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  They were all supernaturally empowered to do something they had never done before, speak ​in a foreign language.  Parthians, Medes, and folks from other nationalities visiting Jerusalem heard them praising God in their native tongues—and according to scholars, with the correct accents!  These foreign visitors realized something extraordinary was happening as they recognized the 120 as simple folk from Judea.  Now God had done this before as wellàIsaiah 50:4àThe Sovereign Lord gave me [Jesus and the prophet Isaiah] an instructed ​tongue; i.e., inspired speech.   I have heard of a number of incidents, especially from missionaries serving abroad, when they suddenly either spoke or understood a language they had never been taught.  Peter quotes the prophet Joel,(Acts 2:28)à[The Lord, speaking thru the prophet Joel, promises],…I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

The Holy Spirit did show up, big time, on the Day of Pentecost! But why would God go to all this trouble? (wind, fire, inspired speech?)

(1) Pentecost marks the birth of the Christian Church (Big C, all Christians despite denominational differences) and inaugurates “the Church Age” (which begins with Pentecost and will continue until the Rapture).

(2) The Holy Spirit empowers us to tell others about Jesus. The disciples were waiting, praying, in the Temple, when the Wild Goose manifested in these very surprising ways. Jesus had given them the Great Commission, Matt 28:18àGo and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Now, filled with the HS, the disciples began telling anyone who would listen about Jesus. Like Benaiah jumping into the pit, they rushed out, with great urgency, to share with others what God had done for them. Like Benaiah jumping into the pit, we need supernatural help to share our faith with others. We need God-given opportunites, divine appointments so we know with whom we are to share the Good News. We need instructed tongues, so we know what to say when we do share.

(3) Empowerment to do the kinds of things Jesus did for the building up of God’s Kingdom. Through our prayers and faith, God can use us to heal others. My friend and seminary buddy, Hazel, had a healing ministry in Charleston, SC. Through her prayers and those whom she trained, one person grew back a kidney; another had their gall bladder healed. A third was healed of Bi-polar Disorder; a 4th had a brain tumor shrink to nothing.

Similarly, Agnes Sanford, the wife of a clergyman, also had the gift of healing. Her parents were missionaries to China in the 1930’s and 40’s. Agnes laid hands on a crippled Chinese man when she was 3YO and he was healed. Her parents did not understand her gift (their theology taught that all the gifts of healing ended with the Apostles), and told her not to do it again. Later, as an adult during WW2, she suffered from depression until a pastor friend released her to work in her gifting. She laid hands on injured GI’s, prayed for them, and they were healed of either their physical or emotional problems.

Graham Cooke, a present-day British Christian healer has a gift of “prophetic healing.” In other words, in the healing conferences he leads, God tells him what is wrong with a person as they are coming forward to him for prayer. He relates the story of a man who came forward suffering from a long-standing porn addiction. As the man approached him, the Holy Spirit told Graham that God intended to heal him of his addiction. Indeed,Graham prayed and the guy was set free.

Through our faith and our obedience, we can be equipped by God to do things we would never have thought possible. The 120 were waiting in anticipation, but I bet when they awoke on Pentecost, they never thought they would be evangelizing in foreign languages later that morning. I doubt Benaiah anticipated slaying a lion with only a spear or a club that day. I grew up wanting to be a mother and a teacher, then later—when my high school students kept coming to me with their problems–a psychologist. God has given me gifts of teaching and wisdom to impart to those I counseled. Yet, here I am now serving Him and you as your pastor. The Holy Spirit also gifts us for specific ministries at different times of our lives.

Moving at the nudge/inspiration of the HS is like chasing a Wild Goose (the Celtic An Geadh-Glas). It is an adventure! We wore red in honor of Pentecost today. Red reminds us of the tongues of fire. Red reminds us of one of the ways God chooses to show up. This week, be sure to be aware of how God might show up in your life. Savor your divine appointments. Write them down so you remember them. Share them with others, as God directs you.

Let’s remember this week—and always—that our God empowers us through His Holy Spirit to both tell others about Jesus and to operate in the gifts He has given us. Even if it seems as scary as jumping in a pit with a lion on a snowy day, let’s look for God-given opportunities and divine appointments. And let’s ask Him for the courage of a Benaiah—and of a Mark Batterson–the courage to do what the Lord has given us to do.

©️2021 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

 

Thanks to the Geiger family for Pentecost altar flowers.

COME, HOLY SPIRIT

Pastor Sherry’s Message for May 31, 2020

Scriptures: Acts 2:1-21; Ps 104:24-35b; 1 Cor:12:3b-13; John 7:37-39

In 2016, this true story of Charlotte Heffelmire of Vienna, Virginia took place:  Charlotte was home from the Air Force Academy visiting her family for Thanksgiving break.  Her dad, Eric, was working on his GMC truck in the family’s garage.  He later recalled, “I was on my back, face up, and I was trying to get at some corroded brake lines when apparently the jack slipped and the truck fell down on me.  The minute the jack slipped, there was an almost instantaneous, real strong smell of gasoline, and then I heard, Whoosh!”  Afterward, he would say he was sure someone would be pulling a dead body out from under the vehicle.  Instead, his 19YO daughter heard the noise and came flying into the garage, barefoot.  She was about 5’4” and weighed 120#.  She says she cannot explain what happened next, but…She lifted that truck off her dad and got him out; then she jumped into the vehicle—which was on fire—threw it into 4 wheel drive, backed it out of the garage on three wheels and closed the garage door to contain the fire.

Then she ran into the house to get the family out, starting with her sister’s baby.

The news reported her saying, “I just did what I had to do. So I don’t feel like a big hero or anything.”  She was later recognized with a Citizen Lifesaving Award by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, and given a check for $10,000 on a TV talk show.

         Every once in a while we hear of some similar feat of superhuman strength after which folks say they had no idea how they accomplished it.  You and I know that no smallish young woman would have the upper body strength to lift a truck off her dad.  That kind of empowerment had to have come from the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is our power source for those times when God wants to do something impossible thru us.

 

We have looked the last few Sundays at the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives:  We have noted that Jesus promised the HS would…

1.) Remind us of everything Jesus said;

2.) Help us to rightly discern people, spirits, & situations;

3.) Empower us for service to Jesus and His Church;

4.) He also convicts us—like our conscience–of our sins.

This story of Charlotte Heffelmire is an example of HS empowerment.   It is

Superhuman and miraculous.

 

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the birth of the Christian Church (of all denominations) & the impartation of the HS to each of us believersOur Scriptures include the narrative from Acts 2, in which the Holy Spirit dramatically materializes.  The context is that the 120 disciples, men & women, are praying in the Temple.  Jesus had told them (Acts 1:4) Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised…in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  So they are being obedient, waiting, praying.

 

Finally, on the day of Pentecost, the HS shows up!  This is a theophany, an appearance or manifestation (signs & wonders) of God!

1st sign Suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind [Ruach—wind, breath, spirit].  This was no gentle breeze!  It came with the sound of a freight train, like a tornado.  Now, God had done this beforeàEze 37:9 God sends the wind to raise the dry bones of Israel to life.

 2nd sign They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  Imagine if you had been there!  Fire over your head, fire over the heads of your friends, but no one burning up!  Wow!  God had done this before tooàEx 3:2-5àMoses & the

burning bush.  The bush was on fire, but Moses saw that it did not burn up; instead, God used the bush to light a fire in Moses.  Also, in Isaiah 6àIsaiah’s call to be a prophet, àGod had an angel bring a burning coal to cleanse the prophet’s tongue.  Isaiah did not get burned; but he did get fired up to serve the Lord! 

3rd sign All of them were filled with the HS and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.  They were all supernaturally empowered—like Charlotte– to do something they had never done before, in this case, speak in languages they had never been taught.  Parthians, Medes, and other folks visiting Jerusalem heard them praising God in their native tongues.  These foreign visitors realized something extraordinary was happening as these were simple folk from Galilee, or we might say from some small town in Florida.

 Now God had done this before tooàIsa 50:4 The Sovereign Lord gave me an instructed tonguethis means inspired speech.  Similarly, the Lord, (2:28), speaking thru the prophet Joel, promises, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.  I can truthfully testify of times when I have preached and known the words I spoke were not my own—I had prepared something else–but God had other ideas about what He wanted me to say to His people.  What came out of my mouth was truly Holy Spirit inspired speech.

So, back to our passage.  The Holy Spirit showed up, big time!  But why would God go to this trouble?  (using wind, fire, inspired speech?)  I think He did for two reasons:

  1. Empowerment to tell others about Jesus.

Some denominations call this witnessing ( a word makes some of us uncomfortable)Witnessing, or sharing your testimony—your experience with Jesus—is actually how we go about living out the Great Commission, Matt 28:18àGo and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  The disciples flowed out from where they had been teaching and praying in the Temple and began praising God and telling anyone who would listen about Jesus.  Witnessing means sharing with others what God has done in our lives and in the lives of our friends.  We do not do this in our own strength, but—like the disciples–thru the power of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have to stand on street corners and wave our Bibles at people.  On the contrary.  Ask God to show you both who to share with and what to sayàask for an instructed tongue.

  1. Empowerment to do miraculous things for the building up of

God’s Kingdom:  a.) Praying for healing (and watching it happen); b.) Supernatural strength like Charlotte had; c.) Abilities to teach or preach, paint, make music, write, grow orchids, or to help those in need.  Paul describes 9 gifts of the Holy Spirit in our New Testament lesson today, 1 Cor12:3-13à

1.) Wisdom;

2.) Words of knowledge;

3.) Faith;

4.) Healing;

5.) Miraculous powers (Charlotte);

6.) Prophesy;

7.) Discernment of spirits;

8.) Tongues;

9.) Interpretation of tongues.

As our Gospel (John 7:37-39) describes it, the Holy Spirit is the source of the streams of living water Jesus promises to believers.

I want to share with you this humorous story of a miraculous dog (please know, in advance, that I mean no disrespect to either Baptists or Pentecostals).   A Baptist preacher and his wife decided they wanted a dog.  Given the scrutiny/oversight from their congregation, they knew it needed to be a well-behaved Baptist dog.  So they went to an exclusive kennel and expressed their needs and reservations to the owner.  He assured them he had just the right dog for them.  When the dog was produced, the kennel owner began giving it commands:  Fetch the Bible.  The dog bounced over to the bookshelves, looked them over, located the Bible, and obediently brought it to the man.  Then he said, Find the 23rd Psalm.  The dog, demonstrating amazing dexterity with his paws, leafed thru the Bible, found the correct passage, and pointed to it with his nose.

The preacher and his wife were so impressed that they immediately purchased the dog.  Later, they began to show off to members of their congregation what the dog could do, having him locate several Bible verses.  Folks were amazed, but one skeptic asked, Can he do any normal dog tricks?  “Let’s see,” said the preacher and commanded him to “heel!”

The dog immediately jumped up on a chair, laid his paw on a parishioner’s head and began to howl!  The preacher was shocked and turned to his wife and complained, “Honey, we’ve been swindled!  The kennel owner sold us a Pentecostal dog!”

This Pentecostal dog had the Holy Spirit gift of healing!

 

As we were reminded last week, just before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He gave us all a job:  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are to go and do.  We are to go witness to those God places before us…

Tell people who are interested the difference knowing God has made in your life; tell them of the wonderful ways that God has blessed you and might bless them.  Then use the gifts with which the Holy Spirit has entrusted you to build up God’s Kingdom here on earth.  Come, Holy Spirit!  Empower us to witness and to serve, we pray in Jesus’ name!

        

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

 

Are We Done Yet?

Pastor Sherry’s Message for May 17, 2020

Scriptures: Acts 17:22-31; Ps 66:8-20; 1 Pet 3:13-22; Jn 14:15-21

As parents, we are all used to hearing from the backseat, “Are we there yet?”  But there’s another frequently asked question that you hear, especially when you assign your kids/grandkids (or students) a task–“Are we done yet?”  Husbands and wives also ask this of each other.  It indicates boredom and impatience, doesn’t it?  It indicates a desire to get on with the next, hopefully, more fun, entertaining, or exciting activity.

The following story illustratrates this issue:

It seems that one day a kindergarten teacher was helping one of her students put on his cowboy boots.  He asked for help and she could see why.  Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn’t want to go on. Finally, when the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat.  So she almost cried when the little boy said, “Teacher, they’re on the wrong feet.” She looked down and sure enough, they were.

It wasn’t any easier pulling the boots off than it had been putting them on. But she managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on – this time on the right feet. And it was only then that he announced, “These aren’t my boots.”

She bit her tongue rather than scream, “Why didn’t you say so?” like she wanted to.  And, once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet. No sooner had they gotten the boots off then he said, “They’re my brother’s boots. My Mom made me wear ’em….”

I’m sure this teacher wanted to know when she might be done getting this child into somebody’s boots.

 

Our Gospel lesson today is a continuation of Jesus’ final words of wisdom and reassurance to his disciples, prior to His death on the Cross (John 14:15-21).  Jesus knows His hour has come, but the disciples don’t really get it.  He is trying to encourage them in advance of His arrest and execution.  He doesn’t want them or us to lose heart in the face of overwhelming disappointment, fear, or grief.

One of His final teachings is on the role the Holy Spirit will play in their (and our) lives once He has gone to heaven.  Jesus knows He will have 40 more days with them after His Resurrection and prior to His Ascension;

He wants them to know that, despite His coming death, they are not yet done with Him or with their own spiritual growth.  Actually, this side of heaven, none of us is done yet!

 

Let’s look more carefully at what Jesus says the Holy Spirit will do for and with us.  In verse 15, Jesus states, If you love Me, you will obey my commands.  As I stressed in my blog message last Sunday, out of Jesus’ love for us—and ours for Him—we obey His commands.  Now this does not mean we abide by the 10 Commandments, then dust our hands off and consider we’ve got it.  No, remember Jesus told the attorney that the first and greatest commandment was to love God, with our entire person and above all things; then the next to the greatest was to love others as we love ourselves.  This admonition implies that obeying Jesus goes beyond

simply adhering to the 10.  Just as we learn from Him, in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), that Thou shalt not kill also means we are not to get so angry that we sin, cuss someone out, or hold a grudge.  Love for neighbors requires that we value those with whom we have interpersonal relationships and we tend to them with care.  In fact, our LORD would probably like us to demonstrate love daily.  So, out of our love and devotion to Christ, we conform to or obey His expectations for or commands to us.

 

In verses 16-17, Jesus continues…And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth.  Jesus left this earth for Heaven, but did not abandon them and He has not abandoned us.  He asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit to remain with us forever–without a time limit.  The word for Counselor in the original Greek is parakletos and it meant (1) Advocate, in the sense of a defense attorney who is on our side, arguing for our rights; (2) It also carries the sense of a helper; and (3) of a comforter…He is our Holy Comforter.  (4) Jesus also calls Him the Spirit of Truth.  This means He will never steer us wrong.  This means He will never give us incorrect advice. We don’t have to fear bias or distortion from Him—everything He tells us will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

 

The Holy Spirit’s chief jobs, among others, are to (1) remind us of the teachings of Jesus; (2) to help us rightly discern people, spirits, and situations; and (3) to empower us for service to Christ & His church–including gifting people to sing, play music, preach, or teach.  All of our talents and gifts come from the Holy Spirit.  Whenever we encounter persons who have been healed through prayer, we can credit the Holy Spirit for their healing anointing.  Early on, as I began my practice in 1990 as a licensed psychologist, I would listen to a client and despite having learned “standard of practice,” research-based interventions, I would realize that I didn’t know what to do to help some individuals.  I learned to get quiet, to silently pray, and to listen for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.  I cannot adequately explain it, but an answer would “drop” into my head.  Often it was not in words I tended to use.  Occasionally it went against my training.  Always, however, it was exactly the right thing to do.  Those were “words of knowledge” and were provided to me by the Holy Spirit.  I was grateful and I believe my clients were too.

 

Jesus also warns His disciples (and us) that the world will recognize neither the Holy Spirit nor the work of the Holy Spirit.  Isn’t it ironic that the culture today seems to believe in ghosts, zombies, and werewolves–and even looks to the power of witches and consults mediums–but fails to appreciate the reality of the Holy Spirit?  In fact, the work of the Holy Spirit is often explained away as the efforts of humans, of science, or of nature (example: the Covid-19 virus).  Our God works through people, science and even nature but seldom gets the credit.  (On Good Friday, many Christians agreed to pray against the virus.  What if it is prayer that has decreased the expected number of deaths in American or flattened the curve?)  People will even credit an angel before they give credit to God, the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit really is the invisible and unsung hero of the Trinity.

 

Jesus goes on to declare in verses 19-20àBefore long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me.  Because I live, you also will live.  On that day, you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.  Jesus is affirming that He will indeed transition out of this world into the next.  Because of His Resurrection, His triumph over death, we will also leave this life to live forever with Him eternally.  What comfort!  We know there is life after death and since we love Jesus, we too will enjoy it with Him.  When we are reunited with Him in Heaven, we will see the Trinity in all of its glory.  We will then comprehend Their unity and Their oneness of purpose.  We will see that the Father and Son are truly united, and that—due to the Holy Spirit–we are in Christ and Christ has been and is in us.

 

Jesus concludes this discourse with the summary assertion that(v.21), Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.  He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.  We demonstrate to Jesus that we believe Him and love Him by being obedient to Him.  We gain Jesus’ love (and the Father’s as well) by loving Christ.  It really is all about love, isn’t it?

Back in the 1960’s the Beatles sang, “All we need is love;” I’m not sure they were celebrating AGAPE or Godly love, but they were perhaps on the right track.  A pastor I know of has put John 14:15-21 into verse:

 

                                           If you love Me, keep My commands;

                                           I’ll pray that from the Father’s hands

                                           He’ll give you another Helper

                                           To abide with you forever.

                                           Spirit of Truth, the world can’t take

                                           To His presence it’s not awake.

                                           But you know Him, He dwells with you.

                                           What men can’t see will be in you.

 

I came across the story of a poor man who developed the habit of slipping into a certain church at a certain time of day, regularity, without fail.  Day after day, he would sit and apparently do nothing [my note:  Could he have been praying?]  The pastor of that church, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, asked the old man one day why he came to the church, alone, day in, day out.  What was the draw [My note:  Good grief!  Such a question from a pastor.  Yikes!] The old man looked at the pastor and, with a knowing twinkle in his eye, explained, “I look at Him.  He looks at me.  And we tell each other that we love each other.”  How beautiful!  How loving!

 

Are we done yet?  No, but becoming intentional about loving Jesus and God the Father puts us on the right road.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus has given us the means to love God and others more effectively. Two Sundays from now, we will celebrate Pentecost, the anniversary of the birth of the Christian Church.  It’s the day that the disciples all received the Holy Spirit.   Between now and then, let’s focus on loving God and others, and upon thanking God for the gift of His Holy Spirit.

 

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ–and by means of the power of the Holy Spirit.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams