Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

Happy Thursday, here are your Thursday Notes

Good Shepherd Sunday is this Sunday. For non-Anglicans and new members, see this link for a description. We have a lot to celebrate this year and so much to be thankful for. Please come and invite your friends. There will be a nice brunch between services to celebrate.

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Someone is cooking for men's bible study this Friday morning at 6:30am...I'm just not sure who yet.

Chicken BBQ: There will be a chicken BBQ on Saturday May 23rd at the church...more information will be published soon.

Neighborhood Festival: On Saturday June 13th Good Shepherd will host a party for the entire community. There will be ice cream, pony rides (hopefully), face painting, food, music, demonstrations and free health screening and much more. Please mark your calendars and tell your friends..

Last Sunday's sermon: you can listen to the podcast here. It is the third on a series of sermons reconstructing the events of Easter day and the Resurrection appearances.

Thursday Bible Study: We'll be restarting the Thursday night bible study this evening after a three week haitus. We'll finish Matthew and start a new book.

Women's Bible Study: will meet this Saturday and continue to work through the book of Isaiah.

Letter to the Church of the Good Shepherd: In case you missed it, here's the link.

Systematic Theology: If you have not yet gotten last week's handout there will be extras this week. If you missed the note about the handouts, please read here. We'll be starting Saturday afternoon (time still undetermined) May 9th. I am looking forward to this class.

Christian Education: We'll be continuing our look at modern approaches to cultural engagement and classifying them by Niebuhr's five categories and begin to summarize and apply by discussing the place of Anglican churches and specifically of Good Shepherd in Binghamton and the Southside.

Choir Practice: Don't forget about choir practice...11am at the church.

Youth Update from Micah: Youth Group will be meeting at its regular times this week. Junior High will meet Sunday, 1-3, after church. We are going to be going through more parables of Jesus. Senior High meets on Sunday at 6-8, and we are starting a brand NEW series on world religions. In this series we will be studying a variety of religions and worldviews, trying to understand what they believe and how it relates or differs from what we believe. This is going to be an exciting series, and less "threatening" than a Bible study. Invite your friends!

The Gospel in Three Minutes

Can Prayer Change God's Mind?

We had a discussion at the men's bible study recently regarding the power and purpose of prayer. If God already knows what is going to happen and ordains (either permissively or by direct cause) all that comes to pass, why pray? What does prayer accomplish? What, for example, can it mean when the bible describes God as "repenting" or "relenting" or changing his mind in response to faithful prayer? RC Sproul provides a great answer here:

When the Bible describes God for us, it uses human terms, because the only language God has by which to speak to us about himself is our human language. The theological term for this is anthropomorphic language, which is the use of human forms and structures to describe God. When the Bible talks about God’s feet or the right arm of the Lord, we immediately see that as just a human way of speaking about God. But when we use more abstract terms like repent, then we get all befuddled about it.

There’s one sense in which it seems God is changing his mind, and there’s another sense in which the Bible says God never changes his mind because God is omniscient. He knows all things from the beginning, and he is immutable. He is unchanging. There’s no shadow of turning within him. He knows what Moses is going to say to him before Moses even opens his mouth to plead for these people. Then after Moses has actually said it, does God suddenly changes his mind? He doesn’t have any more information than he had a moment before. Nothing has changed as far as God’s knowledge or his appraisal of the situation.

What in Moses’ words and actions would possibly have provoked God to change his mind? I think that what we have here is the mystery of providence whereby God ordains not only the ends of things that come to pass but also the more

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Letter to the Church of the Good Shepherd

Dear Good Shepherd,

The last part of the lawsuit filed by Diocese of Central New York against us has been decided and the judge has ruled that the Branan bequest now belongs to Christ Church and the Diocese of Central New York. This is not great news but it is not terrible news either. We were not counting on victory after the first ruling in this case and we have already learned that no matter what the outcome in the courts, the Lord loves us and will protect and provide for our needs.

We are, moreover, so very thankful that we live in a nation governed by the rule of law where our defense was heard by an impartial and objective judge and the Diocese of Central New York could not simply seize our buildings and assets by fiat as it would have liked. How wonderful it has been, despite the negative outcome, to have our day in court.

It is important, I think, also to be grateful for Judge Lebous who has sought nothing more than to make a just decision based on his understanding of the facts and his wide knowledge of the law. Sometimes judges and courts do make mistakes, as this one has, but we must always respect and obey the legal decisions of those God has set in positions of authority over us.

If you take the time to read the decision, and I encourage you to do so, you will find that there are a number of rather curious suggestions and I think it is important to address a few of them.

I did not know Mr. Branan but a number of our senior parishioners knew him very well and remember him to have been both very conservative and very loyal to Good Shepherd but not necessarily to the Episcopal Church. In fact, one woman remembers very clearly that he gave the bequest in order to ensure that the congregation never experienced financial difficulty. Another woman who was a very close friend of Mr. Branan recently sent a letter explaining that Mr. Branan wouldn't have wanted a dime to go to the Episcopal Church given the denomination's recent departure from orthodox Christianity. Since Mr. Branan never once mentioned the Diocese of Central New York in his bequest, it is difficult to understand how Judge Lebous could come to the conclusion that Mr. Branan would have wanted his money given to the institution that has sought the destruction of the church he loved?

Be all that as it may, given our earlier defeat in court, we were not expecting to keep the bequest. We have not counted it in our present budget.

Stranger to me than the idea that Mr. Branan was a person loyal to a larger and heretical denomination and not to his local parish was the language used by Judge Libous to describe our conduct. During the hearing, the lawyer for the Diocese of Central New York noted that Good Shepherd received very little in pledges and offerings during 2008 and accused the vestry of “diverting” income. Judge Lebous re-articulates that accusation in the judgment, finds it “disturbing”, and writes that it is appropriate for the diocese to “investigate”.

The reason for the low income, as is fairly obvious, is that after the lawsuit was filed by the Diocese of Central New York claiming possession of all of our property and money, the vast majority of parishioners made personal decisions not to give any money to the church knowing that any money given stood the chance of being seized by the diocese—as it subsequently has been.

And, of course, the vestry did not “divert” money away from Good Shepherd or spend it on anything other than the regular upkeep of the ministries of Good Shepherd—bills, maintenance, salaries, etc. We are more than willing to cooperate fully with any kind of investigation the court thinks necessary.

Finally, Judge Libous mentions items taken from the building. Most of you remember the confusion and frustration in the aftermath of the first court decision when we learned that the building and home we loved was going to be seized. We moved out of the old building mere days after receiving a letter from the Diocese of Central New York asking us to pay rent of over $2500.00 per month. There were a lot of heartbroken and confused people especially with regard to items donated to the church in memory of deceased relatives. Despite the explanations, it was difficult for people to understand that even though a given item may have been purchased with money personally donated for the memory of a deceased relative, donations given to the church belonged, subsequent to the judgment, to the diocese. No one intentionally took anything that belongs to the diocese and the items we have located that were mistakenly taken have been returned.

I've said this before, but let me say again, how proud I am to be your pastor. Jesus said that no servant is above his master and that the world would treat his followers just as it treated him (Matt 10:17-25). We have felt and are feeling the truth of those words. You have stood courageously in the face of lies and persecution and you have accepted the confiscation of your property knowing that you yourselves have a better possession and a lasting one. I am so very amazed at the graciousness and generosity with which you have responded and, indeed, the charity and forgiveness revealed in both word and deed toward the Diocese of Central New York.

God has abundantly blessed us over the last few months. Trust him. He is for us and not against us. I believe that God's loving kindness, gentle protection, and provision will carry us through these trials and for that reason we must continue to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ, forgiving and loving those who would hurt us and doing everything in our power to be at peace with all people.

May God bless and keep you.

In Christ,

Matt Kennedy

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Christian Integrity

There has been a good deal of debate among Roman Catholics over Notre Dame University's decision to ask President Obama to deliver the commencement address given, among other things, the President's strong support for abortion. Notre Dame is a Catholic university and as such is generally expected to support Christian principles and the teachings of the Catholic Church. The following letter was written by a Harvard Law professor who was supposed to receive an award from Notre Dame on the same day that President Obama gives his is, I think, a great example of Christian integrity:
April 27, 2009
The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame

Dear Father Jenkins,

When you informed me in December 2008 that I had been selected to receive Notre Dame's Laetare Medal, I was profoundly moved. I treasure the memory of receiving an honorary degree from Notre Dame in 1996, and I have always felt honored that the commencement speech I gave that year was included in the anthology of Notre Dame's most memorable commencement speeches. So I immediately began working on an acceptance speech that I hoped would be worthy of the occasion, of the honor of the medal, and of your students and faculty.

Last month, when you called to tell me that the commencement speech was to be given by President Obama, I mentioned to you that I would have to rewrite my speech. Over the ensuing weeks, the task that once seemed so delightful has been complicated by a number of factors.

First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops' express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" and that such persons "should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution's freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

Then I learned that "talking points" issued by Notre Dame in response to widespread criticism of its decision included two statements implying that my acceptance speech would somehow balance the event:

* "President Obama won't be doing all the talking. Mary Ann Glendon, the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, will be speaking as the recipient of the Laetare Medal."

* "We think having the president come to Notre Dame, see our graduates, meet our leaders, and hear a talk from Mary Ann Glendon is a good thing for the president and for the causes we care about."

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame's decision - in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops - to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Finally, with recent news reports that other Catholic schools are similarly choosing to disregard the bishops' guidelines, I am concerned that Notre Dame's example could have an unfortunate ripple effect.

It is with great sadness, therefore, that I have concluded that I cannot accept the Laetare Medal or participate in the May 17 graduation ceremony.

In order to avoid the inevitable speculation about the reasons for my decision, I will release this letter to the press, but I do not plan to make any further comment on the matter at this time.

Yours Very Truly,

Mary Ann Glendon

Mary Ann Glendon is Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. A member of the editorial and advisory board of First Things, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican from 2007 to 2009.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Harmonizing the Resurrection Accounts Part 3: The Prophets and the Breaking of the Bread

Monday, April 27, 2009

Download "Harmonizing the Resurrection Part 3: The Prophets and the Breaking of the Bread" in MP3 format

Four Important News Items from Good Shepherd

Dear Good Shepherd,

There are four important bits of information I forgot to pass along yesterday:

Good Shepherd Sunday: Next Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday...we have a lot to celebrate this year and a lot to be thankful for. For those of you who are new to Anglicanism, most churches have a "feast day". A "feast day" is a day that the church, all around the world, sets aside to celebrate certain heroes of the faith like St. Peter or Paul or to contemplate some great doctrine like the doctrine of the Trinity. When the hero or doctrine after which a given parish is named comes up for his/her/its feast day, the given parish celebrates. So on St. Peter's day, every parish named after St. Peter has a big party. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, also has a feast day and that is coming up this Sunday. It's a big celebration, kind of like the parish birthday party, so please come and invite your friends.

Systematic Theology Handouts: If you received the hand out yesterday for the Systematic Theology course (starting May 9th), you might be a little confused about where to start reading. What I've given you is the bulk of the first two chapters from a standard Systematic Theology textbook...but I did not copy the first two pages of the first chapter because the stuff was largely irrelevant to our discussion. So your reading assignment will seem to pick up in the middle of a chapter and that's because it does. Start reading on the first page (check the page numbers) at the point where the author takes up the topic of Scripture. I intended to explain all this during announcements but I forgot.

How to read a Systematic Theology textbook:

If you have already started reading then you know it is not lightweight material. You shouldn't try to skim. The best thing to do is sit down somewhere comfortable (not too comfortable) take a notebook or your computer and start reading very slowly and carefully--writing down any questions you have, any thoughts or anything you want to be sure to remember. Try to follow the logic. It could take you a while to get through the first few pages, especially if you have not read a textbook in a long time or if you've never gone to college. That's okay. Study is hard but ultimately it pays off. You'll get it. Don't give up. We'll talk more about it next Sunday.

St. John and Andrew Catholic Church: If you've not heard, the Press and Sun reported that a ceiling collapsed at St. John's and Andrew's Catholic church on Saturday. Fortunately no one was hurt. This may be an opportunity to help them in some way. I am not sure what they need but I will call Fr. Meagher today to see how we can help.

Chicken BBQ: The price of chicken for the Chicken BBQ for May 23rd has not yet been decided. We haven't really had a chance to discuss it yet, so please hold off on any public announcements. I appreciate and am very grateful that so many of you are willing to help and put your time talent and treasure to support the mission and ministry of this congregation. Thank you

In Christ

Friday, April 24, 2009

Update in Brief

Dear Good Shepherd,

There won't be an update this morning because I'm supposed to be enjoying my last day off even though--since I'm sermon-writing today--my week off is really pretty much over. But I do need to pass on some bits of information.

1. There will be a cleaning day tomorrow (Saturday) at the church beginning at 11am. I have pre-marital counseling to do so I can't be there but there will be a lot of people pitching in and I'll be there when I can

2. There will be Women's Bible Study tomorrow morning at 10am. And all the bible studies will return next week.

3. The Systematic Theology class will begin on Saturday May 9th...I'll be passing out the first reading assignment this coming Sunday. If you've emailed me or called or spoken with me to let me know you want to be a part of the class, I've got you on my list and you should be getting more information very soon.

4. It is so important now that it looks like God is going to set us down in our current location to begin the work of reaching out to the neighborhood. On June 13th, we're planning a neighborhood party...its going to be a pretty big deal so lets start gearing up for it. You should find sign up sheets in the parish hall sometime in the next few weeks. This is intended to be one of the first big steps in building relationships here.

5. The "St. Andrew's Catholic Church" signs have been taken down from the front of this building...signage is a concern, I know. Our present buildings are a lot more difficult to figure out how and where to place "Good Shepherd" signs than our last one...but we'll figure it out.

6. If you have any Easter photos please send them along to my email and I'll try to get them posted up on the website.

7. This Sunday I'll continue the sermon series on the Resurrection appearances. Here are the first two sermons

8. Finally, during Christian education on Sunday we'll start thinking through the various models of Christian cultural engagement and the ways they have been applied in the contemporary church.

Okay, that's all, back to sermonizing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study

Just a break in my week off to say that Lee Bronson will be cooking tomorrow morning at 6:30am for Men's Breakfast and Bible Study

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sermon: Harmonizing the Resurrection Accounts part 2: Despair and Grace

sermon by Matt Kennedy

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Download "Harmonizing the Resurrection Part 2: Despair and Grace in MP3" format

Listen to Part 1 here

The Church and the State

In Christian Ed on Sunday morning, we've been moving through Richard Niebuhr's "Christ and Culture", discussing the Niebuhr's 5 models of cultural engagement. Last Sunday we dealt with the final model, the "Conversionist" approach--Christ the Transformer of Culture. In the course of our conversation, we discussed relationship between the Church and the Government. What is the proper role of the Church as a body and Christians as individuals within the "secular" state?

This lecture by Dr. RC Sproul is a very helpful explanation of the Church-State relationship in the context of the debate about abortion. If you are in the class please take the time to listen because it will set the stage for some of our upcoming discussions.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Colbert and the Elephant

Here's that clip from the Colbert Report I mentioned in my sermon it all the way through--the end is the best part. Keep in mind that Colbert's not serious about a good 99.9% of what he says. But, being a devout Catholic, he does manage to get in some great points while not losing the "act".
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

They were talking specifically about the Crucifixion accounts...but Erhman's book deals with the resurrection accounts too. The same principle holds: There are differences and paradoxes but no contradictions in the bible. The elephant parable was brilliant.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Glory to God and peace...

Dear Good Shepherd,

It's been a long time coming, but we have received some very GOOD NEWS...glory be to God:

Thank you for your prayers. God is faithful.

In Christ

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Very Good and Very Brief Apologetic for the Bodily Resurrection

The Rt. Rev. NT Wright wrote the following excellent article in the London Times
The Church has turned Jesus's Resurrection into a “happy ending” after the dark and messy story of Good Friday, often scaling it down so that “resurrection” becomes a fancy way of saying “He went to Heaven”. Easter then means: “There really is life after death”. The world shrugs its shoulders. We may or may not believe in life after death, but we reach that conclusion independently of Jesus, of odd stories about risen bodies and empty tombs.

But “resurrection” to 1st-century Jews wasn't about “going to Heaven”: it was about the physically dead being physically alive again. Some Jews (not all) believed that God would do this for all people in the end. Nobody, including Jesus's followers, was expecting one person to be bodily raised from the dead in the middle of history. The stories of the Resurrection are certainly not “wish-fulfilments” or the result of what dodgy social science calls “cognitive dissonance”. First-century Jews who followed would-be messiahs knew that if your leader got killed by the authorities, it meant you had backed the wrong man. You then had a choice: give up the revolution or get yourself a new leader. Going around saying that he'd been raised from the dead wasn't an option.

Unless he had been. Jesus of Nazareth was certainly dead by the Friday evening; Roman soldiers were professional killers and wouldn't have allowed a not-quite-dead rebel leader to stay that way for long. When the first Christians told the story of what happened next, they were not saying: “I think he's still with us in a spiritual sense” or “I think he's gone to heaven”. All these have been suggested by people who have lost their historical and theological nerve.

The historian must explain why Christianity got going in the first place, why it hailed Jesus as Messiah despite His execution (He hadn't defeated the pagans, or rebuilt the Temple, or brought justice and peace to the world, all of which a Messiah should have done), and why the early Christian movement took the shape that it did. The only explanation that will fit the evidence is the one the early Christians insisted upon - He really had been raised from the dead. His body was not just reanimated. It was transformed, so that it was no longer subject to sickness and death...more

Monday, April 13, 2009

John Piper: I Have Seen the Lord

Follow this link to watch John Piper's excellent Easter morning sermon...he preached from some of the same texts we did. If you do not have video capabilities, you can read his text here.
When I was in college, over 40 years ago, the arguments were more prominent and more intense than they are today about whether Jesus rose historically and bodily from the dead. There was widespread consensus among believers and non-believers generally in America that deciding about that claim really mattered. You took a stand—you believed in the resurrection, or you didn’t—and if you did, you generally believed the rest of the Bible and called yourself a Christian. And if you didn’t, then you were intentionally not a Christian.

Today that question, that debate—Did Jesus really rise from the dead historically, bodily?—is not as prominent or as intense because, at one level, people feel that it doesn’t matter to them, because different people believe in different things, and maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t; and if it did, or didn’t, and that helps you get along in life, fine; but it doesn’t make much difference to me. I may or may not call myself a Christian, and if the resurrection seems helpful to me, I may believe it; and if it doesn’t, then I won’t, and I don’t think any body should tell me that I have to.
Two Kinds of Unbelief

Behind those two different kinds of unbelief—the kind from 40 years ago and the kind from the present day—is a different set of assumptions. For example, in my college days the assumption pretty much still held sway, though it was starting to give way with the rise of existentialism, that there are fixed, closed natural laws, that make the world understandable and scientifically manageable, and these laws do not allow the truth of the claim that someone has risen from the dead to live forever. That was a commonly held assumption: The modern world with its scientific understanding of natural laws does not allow for resurrections. So unbelief was often rooted in that kind of assumption.

But today, that’s not the most common working assumption. Today the assumption is not that there are natural laws outside of me forbidding the resurrection of Jesus, but there is a personal law inside of me that says: I don’t have to adapt my life to anything I don’t find helpful. Or you could state it another way: Truth for me is what I find acceptable and more here

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sermon: Harmony of the Resurrection

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Download "Sermon: Harmony of the Resurrection" in MP3 format


(texts: Mark 16:1-8; and John 19-20. Please open your bibles to Mark 16 and bookmark John 19 so you can turn to it when necessary)

Very early in the morning in Jerusalem “on the first day of the week, just, Mark says, as the sun peaked over the horizon (John tells us it was still dark...which means he must not have been a morning person). Mary Magdalen, Mary the mother of James, a woman named Salome and, Luke suggests, perhaps a number of other women, made their way to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea where on Friday afternoon they saw Jesus' laid to rest. They brought spices with them with which they planned, in keeping with Jewish custom, to anoint his dead body. You might think this strange first because this is the third day since Jesus died, so his body may not be in the best shape, and second John tells us (19:39-40) that Nicodemus and Joseph had already anointed Jesus and wrapped him in white linen cloth. Why are these women up so early going back to the tomb to anoint a three day old dead body that's already been anointed?

Anointing the dead was a task usually reserved for women. Joseph and Nicodemus were Pharisees, among the few followers of Jesus on the Sanhedrin, and they'd almost certainly never prepared a body for burial. The dramatic events of the crucifixion, however—perhaps the three hours of darkness and torn curtain—compelled them to step out of the shadows where they'd become secretly, for fear of their colleagues, persuaded that Jesus was who he claimed to be. Joseph, John tells us (19:38-42), approached Pilate “boldly” and received permission to take Jesus' dead body, which would've normally been left to rot or thrown into a shallow unmarked grave, and bury him properly his own stone tomb. And while Joseph appealed to Pilate, his friend Nicodemus, John tells us, went to the market and bought 75 pounds of spiced oil for the anointing. And in the hurried hours between 3pm when Jesus died and sundown at around 6pm, when all work stopped for the Sabbath, Joseph and Nicodemus together they performed the delicate and loving task of preparing Jesus' body, a task that as men, in all likelihood, they had no idea how to do. Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalen and the other women who'd been with Jesus at the cross watched and perhaps cringed as these kind but inept men fumbled around, and decided quietly between themselves that as soon as Sabbath was over they would go back and do it right (Lk:23:56).

And that's precisely what they set out to do as the sun rose Sunday morning. Anointed and wrapped, Jesus' body would've held out, but even if it wasn't in the best condition, love drove these women, as it had Nicodemus and Joseph, to do all that they could do.

There was still one problem...the tomb entrance was sealed by a one ton round stone door. And so on the way (v3) “they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?" A group of strong men could do it but not the women by themselves. The disciples would've been strong enough to move the stone. Where were they? John tells us in 20:19 that “the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews”. They were hiding. They were afraid. They were no help

The women may or may not have known that on the Sabbath day leaders of the Sanhedrin, fearing a plot by Jesus' disciples to steal the body (Matt 27:62-66), had asked Pilate to assign a unit of 16 (probably 4 groups of 4) Roman soldiers to guard the tomb. If they knew maybe they hoped to appeal to the sympathy of the soldiers—but most likely they didn't know about the guard and hoped to find grave workers or gardeners to help. So the women set out that morning not knowing how they were going to do what they planned to do.

But as they emerged from the city walls and descended into the old shallow stone quarry out of which wealthy Jews had begun to carve family tombs, their earlier anxieties fled suddenly away, replaced by a stab of horror and fear as in the growing light their eyes rested on Joseph's tomb.

When they looked up,” Mark says, “they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.”

Mark's is the briefest and the most understated of the gospels. He moves directly from the womens' recognition that the door had been removed to their entrance into the tomb and encounter with the man in white. But John tells us in 20:2 that they probably didn't go immediately into the tomb. Instead—and I think this is perfectly understandable because at this point they were probably thinking grave robbery or some kind of desecration—either all of the woman or Mary Magdalene alone ran back to the city to roust the men out of bed.

Turn to John 20 and read along with me in verse 3. “So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple,” John writes in the third person, but he's “the other disciple” that's how he refers to himself. He never mentions himself by name, “and said, 'They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!' This report was enough to overcome Peter and John's fear. They were not thinking resurrection (verse 9). They were afraid, like the women, that something terrible had happened to Jesus body...“So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.” (4)

From v.5 on we have John's first hand, eyewitness, personal account of what he saw when he arrived at tomb. This a primary source document, very valuable. “He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen” this is the same linen Joseph used to wrap Jesus' body. He saw it “lying there but did not go in.” Why didn't he go in? If I had to speculate I'd say “dismay.”


Because the strips of linen were stark clear evidence that we're not dealing with grave robbers. Why not? What grave robber would take the time to unwrap a dead body. Who would want to unwrap a dead body. Some suggest that instead of robbers, the Pharisees took his body to rebury it in a desecrated place. I don't think so. The last people who'd unwrap and handle a dead body were a group of Pharisees, concerned as they were about ritual cleanliness.

So John sees the strips of linen and he stops dumbfounded. And then Peter catches up and Peter, being Peter, doesn't hesitate at the door, but barges in and John tells us in verse 6 that he also “saw the strips of linen lying there.” But he saw something else that maybe John initially missed, the burial cloth that'd been wrapped around Jesus' head “was folded up by itself, separate from the linen”(7). This kind of care wouldn't be the work of robbers. It wouldn't be the work of people meaning to desecrate Jesus' body. Someone took time to fold the linen with care and leave it as sign for whoever would enter the tomb. I've read, and I'm still trying to confirm this, but I've read that there was a Jewish dinner table custom at the time that might shed some light on the folded head cloth. When the head of the household had finished his meal, he would leave his face-cloth/napkin crumpled in his place, this would tell the servants or his children “I'm done” you can clear the plates. But if he did not crumple his face-cloth—if he folded it instead—it stood as a sign to the servant that he was not finished... that he was coming back.

In any case, John gets over his dismay. He “went inside. He saw and believed.” But what did he believe? In verse 9 we're told that they “still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead...” so what did he believe? At this point at the very least he believed something remarkable and good, something other than robbery or desecration, had happened to the body. At that point, John writes, they decided to go back most likely to let the other disciples know what had happened. But (v11) “Mary stood outside the tomb crying” and the other gospels tell us that the other women were still with her.

Now turn back to Mark 16 and pick up his account in verse 5. The men had gone and it was just the women left. They were distraught. They could no longer give the last gift they'd planned to give to Jesus. He was gone. Now that the men had come and gone, they decided, at the very least, to enter and see the place where he had been.

Here's how Mark describes what happened next: “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.”(5) I love Mark's understatement. They were “alarmed”. Yes. I'll bet they were. The men had gone. They'd said nothing about someone inside the tomb and here, suddenly, is this man. Mark is interested in brevity and simplicity so he just tells us about the spokesman. The other gospels tell us there two men dressed in white clothes. Luke (24:4) says they were dazzling white and Matthew and John say that they were angels—but no mention magic wings or harps or halos—just young men in dazzling white seated on the slab of stone where Jesus' body once lay.

(v6) “"Don't be alarmed," the spokesman says. “You're looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.”

The angel knows who they are and why they've come. He knows the anguish and fear, the tumult and chaos and deep dreadful sorrow that has set into their hearts since Friday when they watched Jesus die.

Perhaps, in the years afterwards as the women dwelt on their memories of this day, the angel's next three words stood out like the dawn—the first light, after a terrible and what had seemed to be permanent darkness

He's not stolen,

He's not been desecrated

He's not been assumed into heaven.

He's not been carried away.

He is risen.

He is not here. See where he once lay.” The stone slab is bare where his body once lay. He is risen—not as a ghost or a spirit or a metaphor—he's physically, bodily, alive. In Luke the angel asks: “Why do you seek the living among the dead” (24:5)

While they are still reeling, still trying to comprehend this news, the spokesman gives them a command (7) “go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you'll see him, just as he told you.' " And then, “Trembling and bewildered,” Mark says, “the women went out and fled from the tomb.

Your bible may have a little note right after verse 8 telling you that the earliest manuscripts do not include what comes afterwards and that's true. Most likely the rest of Mark not written by Mark. But I don't believe Mark intended to leave us hanging in verse 8. I think, and there are a lot of smart people who think this, that Matthew, whose gospel incorporates almost all of Mark, has preserved the bulk of Mark's original ending so let's turn there, Matthew 28, to see what happened next.

While you're doing that, notice that Mark says in verse 8 that the women “said nothing to anyone,” They didn't shout this thing from the rooftops yet. It would have been odd for them to do so. They were still shaking. They've just had an encounter with two holy angels who delivered news that was beyond even their wildest expectations or hopes—they've just received news of God's mightiest act in all human history so, rightly, they were afraid and bewildered and confused...we've had 2000 years, these women had had about two minutes to process emotionally and intellectually the physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

But Matthew, as you can see, tells us they were also “filled with joy”. The blackness and despair, despite their confusion, was giving way—but their minds and emotions were still confused—“he is risen” what does that mean? Where is he? As the women emerged from the empty tomb and began to run back to the disciples to tell them what they had seen, suddenly Jesus meets them. "Greetings," he says. “Hello”.

At first, John tells us, they did not recognize him. Mary thought he was a gardener and asks about Jesus' body...then the veil is lifted, the scales fall away and they recognize him.

They fall down and worship and grasp his feet.

"Do not be afraid” he says.

Fear is shot through all four gospel accounts of the Resurrection. Nobody knows what is going on. Nothing is as it should be. Everything that accords with normal circumstances and usual expectations conflicts with the actual data coming in through eyes and ears. Everyone is confused. Darkness, despair, and dread has held sway since Friday but now everything is turned on its head. Eyes are bearing witness to facts that minds cannot fathom and realities that are still beyond comprehension.

And so when the angels meet the women, the first words are “Don't be alarmed”

And here as the women clutch His feet, feet still scarred, and they touch with their hands Jesus' living body, and they tremble in fear and sob for joy at the same time—Jesus says, “Don't be afraid”

Don't be afraid for me Mary, I am here. I am not dead.

Don't be afraid of me Mary—you know me, I am your Lord and your friend.

Don't be afraid of any power in this world Mary; not the Romans, not the Sanhedrin, not the crowds, not the cross, not those who will want to take your life or your property. I've overcome world.

Don't be afraid on account of your sins no matter how dark or terrible—the fact that I am standing before you means that they are gone, forgiven, cleansed, removed from you as far as the east is from the west.

Don't be afraid of your future, what will happen to you, where you will be—I am your future. You are clutching your future in your hands. Where I am you will be.

Don't be afraid of death Mary—I've destroyed death—crushed it under my heal—it's sting is gone and its power has broken.

Application and prayer

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Great Vigil of Easter

The Easter Vigil (Saturday April 11th)
Along with Tenebrae, the Easter Vigil is one of the most ancient services of the Church. It is the most important service of the entire year and it is the first service of Easter. The service begins in total darkness--the lights of the sanctuary are out and not a candle is burning. Then a fire is lit in a firepot the center of the nave and from that flame all the candles in the sanctuary are lit and the hand-candles in the congregation. Then come readings and psalms, said and sung, by singers and by the whole congregation. The sermon follows and then the first Communion of Easter.

The Great Vigil begins at 8:00pm in the sanctuary.

What Does It Mean to Say “Give Me Jesus”

Here's a very good Good Friday reflection from Sarah Hey
If you have Jesus, it does not mean that nothing else matters. We are material creatures and the material world matters. But without Jesus . . . nothing matters.

With Jesus, though, you have everything that you will ultimately need.

If you have claimed Jesus there is no loss that you will face that cannot be filled with Him.

If you do not have a job, you have Jesus. He goes with you.

If you do not have health, you still have Jesus. He is in your room with you.

If you do not have a family, you have Jesus as your brother. He is by your side.

If you do not have friends, Jesus is your strong companion. He is your ally.

If you have no money, you will suffer hardship. And Jesus will walk with you.

If you are in despair and hopelessness, Jesus will sit by your bed.

If you are in prison or in a country where you are bound by wicked rulers, Jesus is in prison, in that country, with you.

If you have no food or shelter, other people will not always rescue you or help you; sometimes they will look away. But Jesus will stand with you, wherever you go, whatever more

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday at Good Shepherd

Good Friday: The liturgy of the Hours...Darkness overshadowed Jerusalem from noon to 3pm as Jesus hung on the cross until his death. This was not an eclipse because the Passover always occurs during a full moon. It was a supernatural darkness signifying the "Day of the Lord". God had come to save his people and deal, finally, with his enemies, sin, Satan, and death. There is a special liturgy called "The Hours" beginning at noon to remember the three hours Jesus endured the divine punishment our sins deserved.

Good Friday Stations of the Cross: The stations of the cross--a symbolic participation in Jesus' walk carrying his cross from the Pretorium where he was sentenced to Golgotha where he died. There will be a talk at 7pm and then the stations will begin.

See this page for the rest of the Holy Week Services including the Great Vigil of Easter...

Maundy Thursday Sermon: Hearts Washed Clean

Friday, April 10, 2009

Download "Maundy Thursday Sermon: Hearts Washed Clean" in MP3 format

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

It's tough to find a spare moment this week, so this will have to be short, but I think most everyone already knows what's happening the rest of this week and this weekend at Good Shepherd.

Maundy Thursday dinner and worship: Tonight at 5:30pm is the Maundy Thursday dinner (pot luck) followed by the service at 7pm which will include communion and the stripping of the altars.

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast: Tomorrow morning at 6:30am--Don Dean is scheduled to cook.

Good Friday: The liturgy of the Hours...Darkness overshadowed Jerusalem from noon to 3pm as Jesus hung on the cross until his death. This was not an eclipse because the Passover always occurs during a full moon. It was a supernatural darkness signifying the "Day of the Lord". God had come to save his people and deal, finally, with his enemies, sin, Satan, and death. There is a special liturgy called "The Hours" beginning at noon to remember the three hours Jesus endured the divine punishment our sins deserved.

Good Friday Stations of the Cross: The stations of the cross--a symbolic participation in Jesus' walk carrying his cross from the Pretorium where he was sentenced to Golgotha where he died. There will be a talk at 7pm and then the stations will begin.

Women's Bible Study: There will be no women's bible study on Saturday

Acolyte/LEM/Reader practice: If you are scheduled to participate in the Great Vigil of Easter please try be there for the final practice beginning at 6pm. We'll provide dinner. For the acolytes this practice is really a must, for readers and LEM's...we'd love it if you could make it.

Great Vigil of Easter: Starts at 8:00pm You can read the description here.

And then, of course, comes Easter Sunday. The services will be at the usual times and there will be Christian education. We'll be talking about the evidence for the Resurrection and its importance in establishing the truth of the Christian faith.

Fuller descriptions of all the services can be found here

Maundy Thursday (April 9th)

Maundy Thursday (April 9th) Maundy Thursday communion celebrates the humility of Jesus. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s and yet on the night before he died, during the Last Supper, he knelt down and one by one washed his disciples' feet. He did this to show his disciples and to show you and me how to serve one another with humility and love, being willing even to stoop to the most menial tasks. There will be a covered dish (pot-luck) supper in the parish hall followed by the Maundy Thursday worship service which will include foot washing. Maundy Thursday is the last chance for communion until the Great Vigil.

Covered Dish supper begins at 5:30pm

The service will begin at 7:00pm

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tenebrae Tonight at 7:00pm

Tenebrae (Wednesday April 8th)
Tenebrae means “shadows” in Latin. The worship service called “Tenebrae” is an ancient rite of the Church. It is a service of word, light and sound. When you arrive for worship you will see two groups of candles lit on the altar. As readings are read the candles on the altar will be gradually extinguished until the very end of the service when the last candle left lit is removed from the worship space and the whole sanctuary is left in darkness. At that point a loud crash will break the silence of the sanctuary. Then, after a moment, the last candle is returned to the sanctuary and the worshipers depart in silence. The gradual darkening of the sanctuary and the crashing noise symbolizes the apparent victory of death, darkness, and chaos over Jesus Christ on the cross. The final candle being removed and returned, symbolizes the truth that through Jesus' death, God gained victory over all the powers of evil. The Light was not overcome.
The service of Tenebrae will be held at 7:00pm tonight

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Renowned Apologist and Atheist Debate 'Does God Exist?

Dr. Craig is one of my favorite apologists. If I can find a video of this debate I'll post it here...

Christian apologist William Lane Craig and renowned atheist Christopher Hitchens went head-to-head in a debate over the existence of God Saturday night as thousands intently listened on at the sold-out event and via live feeds.

The debate "Does God Exist?" held at Biola University, an evangelical Christian university in Southern California, was the second time in two weeks that the two figures sparred over the topic. During the Christian Book Expo in Dallas last month, Craig and Hitchens took opposing sides in a panel examining "Does the God of Christianity Exist, and What Difference Does It Make?"

An estimated 4,000 people packed the university's gym to watch the event while an additional 6,000 from around 120 church sites from another thirty states and four countries watched a live feed of the debate.

Craig, a Biola professor and one of the world's leading philosophers of religion, claimed in opening remarks that there is no good argument that atheism is true but that there are good arguments that theism is true.

He gave five main arguments to support the existence of God: 1) the cosmological argument – the universe came from something rather than nothing; 2) the teleological argument – the complexity in the universe presents the case for an intelligent designer; 3) the moral argument – true morality comes from God; 4) the resurrection of Jesus – the evidence of the resurrection has not been refuted and 5) the immediate experience of God – experience as evidence for more

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sermon: The Cross and the Cry of Dereliction

Monday, April 6, 2009

by Anne Kennedy

Media Bias and the Resurrection of Jesus

Excellent article from Ligonier Ministries:

The military of ancient Rome really blew it. When it came to the resurrection of Jesus, the troops who guarded his tomb could have saved us all a lot of time and trouble by just giving up his dead body. One problem: they never did. They didn't because they couldn't. And they couldn't because, despite what you may have read, the resurrection of Jesus was and is a well-attested fact, perhaps the best-attested fact of antiquity.

Neither the Romans nor the Jews of Jesus' day denied it. In fact, practically nobody denied it for 1,700 years. But now it's fashionable to deny it or, at least, to cast doubt on it. Why? Has the evidence changed? No, the testimony of history is still the same. As Thomas Arnold, former chair of Modern History at Oxford University, once wrote, "I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God [has] given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead" (see his Sermons on the Christian Life: Its Hopes, Its Fears, and Its Close [6th ed.; London, 1859] 324).

Well, if the historical evidence is so clear, why do certain scholars and laypeople discount Jesus' resurrection? more

Holy Week Schedule 2009

Tenebrae (Wednesday April 8th)
Tenebrae means “shadows” in Latin. The worship service called “Tenebrae” is an ancient rite of the Church. It is a service of word, light and sound. When you arrive for worship you will see two groups of candles lit on the altar. As readings are read the candles on the altar will be gradually extinguished until the very end of the service when the last candle left lit is removed from the worship space and the whole sanctuary is left in darkness. At that point a loud crash will shatter the silence of the sanctuary. Then, after a moment, the last candle is returned to the sanctuary and the worshippers depart in silence. The gradual darkening of the sanctuary and the crashing noise symbolizes the apparent victory of death, darkness, and chaos over Jesus Christ on the cross. The final candle being removed and returned, symbolizes the truth that through Jesus' death, God gained victory over all the powers of evil. The Light was not overcome.
The service of Tenebrae will be held at 7:00pm on Wednesday of Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday (April 9th)
Maundy Thursday communion celebrates the humility of Jesus. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s and yet on the night before he died, during the Last Supper, he knelt down and one by one washed his disciples' feet. He did this to show his disciples and to show you and me how to serve one another with humility and love, being willing even to stoop to the most menial tasks.
There will be a covered dish (pot-luck) supper in the parish hall followed by the Maundy Thursday worship service which will include foot washing. Maundy Thursday is the last chance for communion until the Great Vigil. The service will begin at 7:00pm following the covered dish dinner that begins at 5:30pm

Good Friday: The Passion (April 10th)
Jesus died on a Friday. At about 3pm on Friday of Holy Week he lifted his eyes up to heaven from the cross and breathed out his last. “It is finished” he said. He was not only referring to his life, but he was also referring to the great battle between God and sin, death, and Satan. On the cross of Jesus Christ, God defeated the powers that corrupt and destroy his creation and his creatures. By and through Jesus’ death on the cross, everyone who believes is forgiven their sins and granted an eternal relationship with God. Good Friday Services will be held at noon (the Hours) and at 7:00pm. The 7:00pm service will include the Stations of the Cross, when we walk through and participate spiritually in the Passion of Christ Jesus.

The Easter Vigil (Saturday April 11th)
Along with Tenebrae, the Easter Vigil is one of the most ancient services of the Church. It is the most important service of the entire year and it is the first service of Easter. The service begins in total darkness--the lights of the sanctuary are out and not a candle is burning. Then a fire is lit in a firepot the center of the nave and from that flame all the candles in the sanctuary are lit and the hand-candles in the congregation. Then come readings and psalms, said and sung, by singers and by the whole congregation. The sermon follows and then the first Communion of Easter. The Great Vigil begins at 8:00pm in the sanctuary.

Easter Day: (Sunday April 12th)
This is the day Christians celebrate and proclaim the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. There will be flowers and smells and bells. And, possibly, an Easter Egg hunt afterwards. Service times are 8:00am and 10:30am Easter Morning.

Martin Luther on the Clarity of the Bible

Martin Luther's classic "The Bondage of the Will" was written as part of his public debate with humanist scholar and Catholic apologist, Erasmus. In it, Luther deals primarily with the question of the freedom of human will and God's sovereignty but in the course of his argument, he defends, brilliantly I think, the core doctrines of the Reformation. If you are seeking the roots of modern evangelical theology or the theological grounds for the Reformation, this book is a must read. The Bondage of the Will is my favorite work by Luther as much for its theological substance as for its rhetorical flourish and cutting sarcasm. Luther was a great Reformer and courageous defender of the gospel but he was no saint. In the section below, taken from Luther's "Review of Erasmus' Preface" Luther answers Erasmus' charge that the bible is not clear to the reader or "perspicuous" (hence the need to obey and submit to the authoritative interpretation of the Church)
Sect. 3.—Now I come to the next head, which is connected with this; where you make a "distinction between the Christian doctrines," and pretend that some are necessary, and some not necessary." You say, that "some are abstruse, and some quite clear." Thus you merely sport the sayings of others, or else exercise yourself, as it were, in a rhetorical figure. And you bring forward, in support of this opinion, that passage of Paul, Rom xi. 33, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and goodness of God!" And also that of Isaiah xl. 13, "Who hath holpen the Spirit of the Lord, or who hath been His counselor?"

You could easily say these things, seeing that, you either knew not that you were writing to Luther, but for the world at large, or did not think that you were writing against Luther: whom, however, I hope you allow to have some acquaintance with, and judgment in, the Sacred Writings. But, if you do not allow it, then, behold, I will also twist things thus. This is the distinction which I make; that I also may act a little the rhetorician and logician—God, and the Scripture of God, are two things; no less so than God, and the Creature of God. That there are in God many hidden things which we know not, no one doubts: as He himself saith concerning the last day: "Of that day knoweth no man but the Father." (Matt. xxiv. 36.) And (Acts i. 7.) "It is not yours to know the times and seasons." And again, "I know whom I have chosen," (John xiii. 18.) And Paul, "The Lord knoweth them that are His," (2 Tim. ii. 19.). And the like.

But, that there are in the Scriptures some things abstruse, and that all things are not quite plain, is a report spread abroad by the impious Sophists by whose mouth you speak here, Erasmus. But they never have produced, nor ever can produce, one article whereby to prove this their madness. And it is with such scare-crows that Satan has frightened away men from reading the Sacred Writings, and has rendered the Holy Scripture contemptible, that he might cause his poisons of philosophy to prevail in the church. This indeed I confess, that there are many places in the Scriptures obscure and abstruse; not from the majesty of the thing, but from our ignorance of certain terms and grammatical particulars; but which do not prevent a knowledge of all the things in the Scriptures. For what thing of more importance can remain hidden in the Scriptures, now that the seals are broken, the stone rolled from the door of the sepulcher, and that greatest of all mysteries brought to light, Christ made man: that God is Trinity and Unity: that Christ suffered for us, and will reign to all eternity? Are not these things known and proclaimed even in our streets? Take Christ out of the Scriptures, and what will you find remaining in them?

All the things, therefore, contained in the Scriptures; are made manifest, although some places, from the words not being understood, are yet obscure. But to know that all things in the Scriptures are set in the clearest light, and then, because a few words are obscure, to report that the things are obscure, is absurd and impious. And, if the words are obscure in one place, yet they are clear in another. But, however, the same thing, which has been most openly declared to the whole world, is both spoken of in the Scriptures in plain words, and also still lies hidden in obscure words. Now, therefore, it matters not if the thing be in the light, whether any certain representations of it be in obscurity or not, if, in the mean while, many other representations of the same thing be in the light. For who would say that the public fountain is not in the light, because those who are in some dark narrow lane do not see it, when all those who are in the Open market place can see it plainly?

Sect. 4.—WHAT you adduce, therefore, about the darkness of the Corycian cavern, amounts to nothing; matters are not so in the Scriptures. For those things which are of the greatest majesty, and the most abstruse mysteries, are no longer in the dark corner, but before the very doors, nay, brought forth and manifested openly. For Christ has opened our understanding to understand the Scriptures, Luke xxiv. 45. And the Gospel is preached to every creature. (Mark xvi. 15, Col. i. 23.) "Their sound is gone out into all the earth." (Psalm xix. 4.) And "All things that are written, are written for our instruction." (Rom. xv. 4.) And again, "All Scripture is inspired from above, and is profitable for instruction." (2 Tim. iii. 16.)

Therefore come forward, you and all the Sophists together, and produce any one mystery which is still abstruse in the Scriptures. But, if many things still remain abstruse to many, this does not arise from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from their own blindness or want of understanding, who do not go the way to see the all-perfect clearness of the truth. As Paul saith concerning the Jews, 2 Cor. iii. 15. "The veil still remains upon their heart." And again, "If our gospel be hid it is hid to them that are lost, whose heart the god of this world hath blinded." (2 Cor. iv. 3-4.) With the same rashness any one may cover his own eyes, or go from the light into the dark and hide himself, and then blame the day and the sun for being obscure. Let, therefore, wretched men cease to impute, with blasphemous perverseness, the darkness and obscurity of their own heart to the all-clear Scriptures of God.

You, therefore, when you adduce Paul, saying, "His judgments are incomprehensible," seem to make the pronoun His (ejus) refer to Scripture (Scriptura). Whereas Paul does not say, The judgments of the Scripture are incomprehensible, but the judgments of God. So also Isaiah xl. 13, does not say, Who has known the mind of the Scripture, but, who has known "the mind of the Lord?" Although Paul asserts that the mind of the Lord is known to Christians: but it is in those things which are freely given unto us: as he saith also in the same place, 1 Cor. ii. 10, 16. You see, therefore, how sleepily you have looked over these places of the Scripture: and you cite them just as aptly as you cite nearly all the passages in defense of "Free-will."

In like manner, your examples which you subjoin, not without suspicion and bitterness, are nothing at all to the purpose. Such are those concerning the distinction of Persons: the union of the Divine and human natures: the unpardonable sin: the ambiguity attached to which, you say, has never been cleared up.—If you mean the questions of Sophists that have been agitated upon those subjects, well. But what has the all-innocent Scripture done to you, that you impute the abuse of the most wicked of men to its purity? The Scripture simply confesses the Trinity of God, the humanity of Christ, and the unpardonable sin. There is nothing here of obscurity or ambiguity. But how these things are the Scripture does not say, nor is it necessary to be known. The Sophists employ their dreams here; attack and condemn them, and acquit the Scripture.—But, if you mean the reality of the matter, I say again, attack not the Scriptures, but the Arians, and those to whom the Gospel is hid, that, through the working of Satan, they might not see the all-manifest testimonies concerning the Trinity of the Godhead, and the humanity of Christ.

But to be brief. The clearness of the Scripture is twofold; even as the obscurity is twofold also. The one is external, placed in the ministry of the word; the other internal, placed in the understanding of the heart. If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one iota in the Scriptures, but he that hath the Spirit of God. All have a darkened heart; so that, even if they know how to speak of, and set forth, all things in the Scripture, yet, they cannot feel them nor know them: nor do they believe that they are the creatures of God, nor any thing else: according to that of Psalm xiv, 1. "The fool hath said in his heart, God is nothing." For the Spirit is required to understand the whole of the Scripture and every part of it. If you speak of the external clearness, nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


We'll be setting aside some time during Adult Christian Education tomorrow to discuss the "why" question. Why does and how can God permit horrific crimes and tragedies to take place? If you know people struggling with this kind of question, be sure to invite them.

If there is time we'll continue with our teaching series dealing with various models engaging for culture.

If you are looking for a financial way to help the families of those who have been injured or killed the Broom County Council of Churches has established a fund. Here's the information:
Broome County Council of Churches

Seeks Donations to Assist Civic Association Tragedy Victims

The Broome County Council of Churches’ prayers go out to all of the victims and families affected by the tragedy at the American Civic Association. Lives have been forever changed in an instant.

As we enter this time of mourning and work towards a time of healing. The Broome County Council of Churches would like to assist these people by collecting monetary donations on their behalf. Extraneous expenses that these families may incur could include funeral expenses, emergency food and medical bills among many others.

If you would prayerfully consider helping out in this most dire time of need you can send a donation with your check made out to:

Broome County Council of Churches

Please put: “Civic Assoc. Victims” on the memo line of your check to ensure that your donation reaches these hurting individuals.

Please mail your donation to:
Broome County Council of Churches
3 Otseningo Street
Binghamton, NY 13903

On behalf of the victims and their families we thank you for your prayers and your generosity.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Prayer Service this Evening at the Landmark Church 7pm

Just recieved this email from a good pastor in town:

Our prayers go out for those who were personally touched by today's tragedy in Binghamton. We stand in mourning and service to all of the families and friends as well as the greater community who were affected.

A prayer room will be open tonight at Landmark Church at 7 PM. Pastors and leaders from several churches will be available for prayer and guidance through this difficult time.

Landmark Church
126 Court St.
Binghamton, NY 13901

A Brief Response to the Tragic Shootings in Binghamton

Friday, April 3, 2009

Download "A Brief Response to the Tragic Shootings in Binghamton" in MP3 format

Does the God of Christianity exist, and what difference does it make? A Debate

If you are unable to view the video below, please follow this link

Weekly Update Posted

The Weekly Update has been posted. There is more news about the Baptism (more people are going to be baptized) and I've included the Holy Week Schedule along with descriptions of it all here

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

Happy Thursday.

Holy Week starts this Sunday. I'm reprinting the Holy Week Schedule here on the blogsite later today and I'll be publishing them in the bulletin this Sunday. Be sure to come set aside time to worship this week and invite your friends.

Baptisms this Sunday: This Sunday Matthias Boeker will be baptized at the 10:30am service. Matthias has been a believer for three years and is now ready to take this important step of faith and obedience. Be sure to be here to celebrate this great day with him. There will be a reception afterwards.

Love and Christian Marriage: Marriage can be difficult, especially in a culture like ours. Everywhere we are encouraged to follow our hearts and our feelings. What do you do twenty years into a marriage when your feelings for each other are not what they were and, to make matters worse, you have "feelings" for someone else? This is why it is so important to understand the love that is at the heart of a Christian marriage. A Christian wife does not need her husband to fulfill her. Her needs are met in Christ and likewise for the Christian husband. Because Christ is the one who ultimately meets the needs of both marriage partners, neither "needs" the other to fill some empty space or to satisfy some deep inner longing. Nor do they need to look elsewhere, beyond the marriage, when feelings and emotions ebb. Personal fulfillment is not why believers get married and it is not why they stay married. Marriage is a God-given arena in which each partner is sanctified by self-sacrifice and each partner grows in Christ and in his or her capacity to love--not to "feel" love--but to express love through selfless action and servanthood.

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Lee Bronson will be cooking for the Men's Breakfast and Bible Study. It starts at 6:30am every Friday morning. Hope to see you there.

Bible Study: There will be Thursday Evening Bible Study tonight at 6:30pm after the Shepherd's Bowl at the Conklin Avenue Baptist Church.

Last week's sermon: Standing in a Strong Current based on 1st John 2:12-17 is available here:

This week's sermon: for Palm Sunday, we'll take a break from 1st John to talk about the last week before Jesus' crucifixion.

Was it Cerenthius?: A few weeks ago were wondering about the type of false teaching that John addresses in 1st John. It's definitely an early sort of gnosticism, but some believe they know the name of the man who was leading people away from the church to which John writes. Here's my take.

Advice for New Christians: If you are new to Christianity, Dr. JI Packer, theologian, author, and elder statesman of Anglican evangelicalism has some great advice. Watch it here.

The Glory of the Cross: I was asked to speak last week at Conklin Avenue Baptist's lenten luncheon series on the Glory of the Cross of Christ. Here's the text of my talk.

Sunday School: As we grow, the Sunday School programs for elementary - highschool aged students is going to become more and more important. Incoming parents will want to know that their children have a quality Sunday school program. One of the biggest things holding us back right now is space. The church is alot bigger than our old one but we seem to have less space for Sunday school. We'll be working this out over time but please bear with us and pray for us as we try to figure out where to put everyone.

Christian Education: For Christian Education this week, we'll finish our discussion of Luther and the "paradoxical" model of Christian engagement with the world and move on to the final model: Christ the Transformer of Culture.

Prayer Report: Thank you to everyone who prayed this week. Things went very very well. Hopefully, we'll have some information to pass along very soon.

Youth Group is on a regular schedule this Sunday. Since I will be gone this Sunday afternoon, Ife will be running youth group. Junior High will be having a game day on its usual time (1-3), and Senior High will have a regular meeting (6-8). Please remember to continue to invite friends!

Youth Tip #6 (from Micah): Often there is no better mirror of your personality than children who hang around you. Children, especially young ones, sponge up the habits of those around them. If you see attitudes in kids that upset you, don't always assume they learned it from somebody else. This is a bit like hearing a convicting passage of scripture and thinking "I know just the person who needs to hear that!" Instead, give a hard look at yourself. Maybe they learned it from you.

The Glory of the Cross of Christ

Below is the text of the talk I gave at Conklin Avenue Baptist Church last Thursday. I was given the topic: The Glory of the Cross of Christ.

One of the problems in preaching about “glory” is defining it. Glory is common enough word. We use it all the time in the church. We say that we gather every Sunday to “glorify” God and, indeed, we hope that our gatherings bring him glory. In the Anglican tradition and probably in yours as well we donate items like crosses or communion sets or bibles to the church in the name of deceased relatives or friends and inscribe on them words like this: “For the glory of God in memory of______” . Some contemporary Christian music is categorized under a broad category called “glory and praise” music. Presbyterians say, and I think they're right, that the chief end of man is to “To glorify God and enjoy him forever”.

But its not just a religious word. The Pittsburgh Steelers won a “glorious” victory when they won the Super bowl this year. The Binghamton University basketball team won a great deal of “glory” recently , making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time. And that swimmer from the Olympics...I forget his name...gained a great deal of glory, winning eight gold medals last Summer in China.

But what does the word mean? What is glory? In America its almost synonymous with the concept of “fame” or “renown”. When we say that the the Steelers, Bearcats, and that swimmer guy won “glory”, we usually mean something like: “Now they're really famous.”

But is that what the bible means when it speaks of the “glory of God?” Is scripture referring to God's celebrity status, his fame? Is that what we do when we “glorify” God? Is our chief end to make God famous? Do we gather on Sunday morning to put God's name in lights? I remember hearing one of my favorite radio preachers, I think it was Alistairr Begg, recount the time he visited a neighboring church and in response to a reading from the bible, the pastor asked his congregation to “give God a hand” and the people clapped wildly for God as if he were a renown entertainer.

I don't think that quite gets it. Who remembers the Seraphim's song in Isaiah's vision of God seated in the temple in Isaiah 6:3? What do the Seraphim, the six-winged angels who surround the throne of God continually sing?

“Holy Holy Holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”.

The angels announce that the fullness of God's glory is present in the world. They do not urge his future glorification as if it were something to be accomplished--but they declare it as an established reality. The world, the cosmos, all creation is full of God's glory.

God's glory fills his cosmos whether anyone acknowledges it or not. In that sense it is not like our concept of fame or renown. God is glorified even when no one knows his name. God's glory pervades all that he has made. Our chief end may be to glorify God but God's glory, his being glorified, does not depend on us or our recognition of it.

In first Corinthians 2:8 Paul writes that we as Christians carry and impart a wisdom from God that the rulers of the world cannot understand. Had they understood it, he says, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. The rulers hung the “Lord of Glory” on the cross. But he hung there, despised and rejected, without ceasing to be the Lord of Glory. Those who crucified Christ did not and could not, even in the crucifixion, rob him of his glory. Christ is the Lord of Glory even when the glory is veiled to those who are perishing.

I have this nifty new English Standard Version Study Bible. When you get one of these, you also get access to an online version of the same thing. One great feature of the online version is that you get instant word studies. You just plug a word into your computer and the online study bible immediately pulls up all the passages in which a given word (at least as it is translated in English) is used. I did that with the word glory and 342 references popped up. I spent some time this week culling through them and I've come up with a definition that I think fits with what I've read in the 342 passages but also, and probably more helpfully for you, with what other more experienced bible teachers and theologians have said:

God's glory is the outward revelation or manifestation of the fullness of or any aspect of his nature and/or character.

That outward manifestation can be represented by brilliant splendor as when his glory, his weight, his brightness, comes to rest in the tabernacle in Exodus 40, but it does not have to be. God's glory is made manifest, he is glorified, by whatever points to or illumines or reveals his character and nature.

In Exodus 33:18, Moses pleads with God: “Please show me your glory.” And in verses 19-20 God answers: “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Think about God's answer to Moses. Moses asks God to show him his glory, God says, “I will show you my goodness”. I will let you know my Name. When asked to reveal his glory, God reveals his goodness and his Name. Is this a rejection of Moses' request? Not at all. In disclosing his goodness and his Name, God's glory is revealed—his Name and his goodness and his glory are bound up together.

In Exodus chapter 34 God displays his visible majesty to Moses, in Hebrew, his “weight”, his brilliance, hiding Moses in the cleft of a Rock, but in addition to that God speaks:

“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Ex 34:5-7)

The visible cloud of glory is paired with God's verbal self-disclosure of his character. Both the luminosity of the cloud and the divine Word unveil God's nature and character.

What happens in Exodus after God reveals his glory to Moses on the mountain? Afterwards the Levites go about the process of building the tabernacle and crafting the Ark of the Covenant and the incense altar and the altar for burnt offerings and the lampstand and the table and the skins to cover the holy and most holy places in the tabernacle and the beautiful curtain that hung between the two and the ornate vestments for the High Priest and the white priests vestments and when they were finished, they ordained the priests, Aaron and his sons, and sacrificed burnt offerings, and sin offerings and guilt offerings and finally peace offerings and then what happened?
So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (40:33-35)

The luminous cloud of the presence of God came down from the mountain and rested in his tabernacle. Think about the movement here. God's glory rests first on Mount Sinai, not among the people, not in the midst of the people, in fact the people are afraid to go near the Mountain and they cannot stand to hear the voice of God. Then God reveals his law. Then the cloud descends and God's glory filled the tabernacle in the midst of the people.

What is it that makes it possible for Lord to descend, to rest, to dwell in the Tabernacle with the people of cloud? What is it about the tabernacle that makes it the most fitting place in the cosmos for God to dwell? What is it about the tabernacle and later the Temple, that makes his glory manifest?

God says, in Exodus 34 “I am slow to anger, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” but he also says, “I will by no means clear the guilty.” Those two characteristics, just wrath and compassionate mercy, seem to conflict and conflate and contradict but the tabernacle brings them together. The sacrifices and offerings and the blood reveal a God who does not pardon iniquity, who punishes sin to the full extent of the law and yet the presence, the rest, the dwelling of God among the people reveals a God of love and mercy.

God's glory rests in the temple because the temple makes his holiness, his justice, his wrath manifest and, at the same time, his kindness, compassion, love, and grace. Justice and mercy, love and wrath meet and kiss one another as the tabernacle reveals the nature and character of God.

Now let's move forward in time.

Jesus enters the Temple. He is not happy. Money changers have set themselves up in the temple courts by the permission of the priests, to do commerce in the places devoted to worship—the place where God's glory rests and the place where people come to reflect God's glory and beauty back to him through worship. Jesus makes a whip of cords and drives the money-changers out.

But he's challenged by the Temple authorities, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”they ask (John 2:18).

Who remembers what sign Jesus gave? Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19) Now just on the off chance the reader of John's gospel misses the point of Jesus' words, John explains for us, “...he was speaking about the temple of his body.” (2:21).

We are all familiar with the phrase, “my body is the temple of the Lord” Paul applies this idea to all believers in 1st Corinthians 6. But let me suggest that here that Jesus is speaking about his body in a different way—and in a way that echoes throughout John's gospel all the way to the cross.

What was the function of the Tabernacle and, in Jesus' day, the Temple? What did the Temple do? You can answer that question when you think about the sequence of sacrifices Israelites were called to offer. The last in the sequence after the sin offering, burnt offering and guilt offering and all the other offerings was the peace offering. After the atoning sacrifices there could be peace, peace between God and his people. Through the blood of bulls and goat and sheep, God was thought to punish the sins of his people: to, in keeping with his Name revealed in Exodus 34: “punish their iniquity” and make it possible “to forgive their sins.”

We know, because the prophets were quite clear about this, that the sacrifices themselves did not actually accomplish the atonement—but they were thought to do so and, the author of Hebrews tells us they were shadows and signs of a greater Sacrifice.

Nevertheless, as we have said, God rested in the Temple, his glory was made manifest, because it was the place that revealed most perfectly for the time his Holy character, a God of perfect justice who does not let sin go unpunished and a God of perfect love who does not allow anything to separate him from the people he loves and calls according to his purpose.

I think you can begin to see the significance of Jesus words to the Temple authorities. This is not the temple, Jesus says, this building is made of human hands and will one day be brought to nothing. The sacrifices here will come to an end and do not accomplish in themselves that task to which they point. They cannot.

My body is the Temple. I am place, the location where God's perfect justice is carried out and his perfect love is revealed. The Samaritans make their sacrifices on the mountain, the Jews in the Temple, but a day is coming when true worshipers will worship at a different Temple in Spirit and in Truth.

The Temple function, the purpose of the tabernacle, to make peace with God was always a function impaired by the fact that no animal sacrifice can atone for human sin.

But referring to the death of Jesus' body in Romans 3:25-26 Paul writes, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood”

And John in the 2nd chapter of his first letter writes: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The word propitiation, translated from the Greek word “hilesterion” means satisfaction or appeasement. Jesus' death was not simply a sign of propitiation. It was propitiatory. Whereas the sacrifices of the beasts in the Temple merely signified propitiation, pointed to God's just wrath, without satisfying it, the apostles teach that on the cross God's justice was satisfied and his holy wrath appeased. The eternal punishment our sins deserve was poured out on his Son Jesus Christ and on the basis of his real propitiation, God in perfect love accomplished, in history, the reconciliation and peace foreshadowed and signified in the tabernacle.

Remember our definition: God's glory is the outward revelation or manifestation of the fullness of or any aspect of his nature and/or character.

When the sacrifices for sin were accomplished in the tabernacle, God's presence rested there and he was glorified because his justice and his love was revealed. But the tabernacle was a passing shadow of the glory that was perfectly revealed the in the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice and oblation for the sins of the whole world—God's perfect holy justice and his perfect holy love made manifest on two poles of rough cut wood.

How strange that seems to us to speak of the glory of the cross because the cross is ugly and bloody and horrific. When I think of the glory of God in Jesus Christ, I think of the glory of his Incarnation or his Transfiguration or his Resurrection and Ascension but I tend to mentally pass over his Cross. But there, Paul says, God revealed “his righteousness so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” The cross was for one six hour moment, the epicenter, the locus, of God's glory on earth...and the bruised risen body of Christ remains our Temple...the place and the Person through whom we make peace with God.