Sermons

Restoration and #Kidmin (Part 2)

You can read Restoration and #Kidmin (part 1)  by clicking the link provided.

After we talked about creation, Adam and Eve and their role to multiply the earth We dove right into the next part of God’s plan.

Who were Adam and Eve’s children?

The kids responded with a resounding Cain and Abel chant and I asked them another question.

Do you think that Cain and Abel’s relationship was as “good” as creation was intended to be?

NO!

Why?

The one killed the other (some kids had the names mixed up). They did see that the sin kept them from restoring creation to

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“good”. At this point I brought up another student to wrap in God’s plan (yarn) making sure that the same piece of yarn had wrapped creation, separation and  now Cain and Abel together. I made sure that the yarn was all messy and droopy because themessiness of the yarn will come into play later.

Do you think God gave up on his people after Cain and Abel?

No, because there is more stories in the Bible. The cleverness of that answer made me smile.

On to the next piece. Even though Cain had sinned against God and moved away from the goodness that God had intended He still did not give up on His people. Even though there was sin in the world God saw a family that he said would help move His plan of restoration along.

Do you know what family God looked to in order to continue his plan of restoration?

The children had a bit of trouble with the Bible timeline here, so I started to give them some hints like:

He lived on a boat

He liked animals

He built the boat

Etc.

At that point they knew that I was talking about Noah, so we read about how God came to find favour with Noah.

God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said, “I’ll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds—the works. I’m sorry I made them.” (Genesis 6:5-7 MSG)

Do you think God’s people were moving closer or further away from God’s original goodness? Does this sound like the restoration that we read about in Rev. 22?

“Further” God called his people evil and they were not what God wanted, but even though God saw all the things that werekeeping His people away from His plan we still cared for us. He found one family that would help carry out his plan.

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But Noah was different. God liked what he saw in Noah. (Genesis 6:8 MSG)

“But I’m going to establish a covenant with you: You’ll board the ship, and your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives will come on board with you. You are also to take two of each living creature, a male and a female, on board the ship, to preserve their lives with you: two of every species of bird, mammal, and reptile—two of everything so as to preserve their lives along with yours. Also get all the food you’ll need and store it up for you and them.” (Genesis  6:18-21 MSG)

We brought up another child to hold up the Noah picture and again wrapped them up in God’s plan. I explained to the kids that even though people had fallen so far away from God’s plan to restore creation he still found the family that would continue to work for God and help him fulfill his plan. God took care of Noah and his family so that he could continue working on his ultimate plan.

After Noah we talked about how even though God had to restart with only Noah and his family the people still had some of that baggage in their life that caused them to still fall short of God’s plan of restoring creation to what He would call “good.”

DId you know that the next person we are going to talk about had so much favour in God’s eye that God told him that his family would eventually be as numerous as the stars and the sand under his feet?

As I introduced the story of Abraham and God’s next covenant with his people I brought up another child to wrap up in God’s plan of restoration.

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15-18 The angel of God spoke from Heaven a second time to Abraham: “I swear—God’s sure word!—because you have gone through with this, and have not refused to give me your son, your dear, dear son, I’ll bless you—oh, howI’ll bless you! And I’ll make sure that your children flourish—like stars in the sky! like sand on the beaches! And your descendants will defeat their enemies. All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:15-18 MSG)

Abraham believed in God’s plan for his life so much that he was willing to sacrifice his son to God. Abraham believed that God would always provide for him and God blessed Abraham for his faithfulness. God told Abraham that he would have descendants to numerous to count, but boys and girls do you think that God’s people stayed this faithful to God, or was their still sin present that kept God’s plan of restoration from coming to an end?

Do you think God’s people stayed faithful?

Even though people were still falling short of God’s created goodness He was still providing for them and telling them that He still intended to care for his people. God would continue his plan through those that showed they were faithful to him.

I will pause here and continue part three tomorrow.

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Restoration and #Kidmin (Part 1)

This week I had the daunting task of teaching the whole metanarrative story of the Bible in under 25 minutes to our #kidmin students. Our theme for the weekend was restoration and we centered ourselves scripturally in Revelation 22:1-6.

1-5 Then the Angel showed me Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age after age.

Don’t Put It Away on the Shelf

6-7 The Angel said to me, “These are dependable and accurate words, every one. The God and Master of the spirits of the prophets sent his Angel to show his servants what must take place, and soon. And tell them, ‘Yes, I’m on my way!’ Blessed be the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

I read the story to our kids while we took up offering from “My First Message” because we have a lot of 4-6 year olds that still bring their picture Bibles and I wanted to read to them from something that would be familiar to them. It went over well because many of them had this passage in their Bibles. They tended to group Revelation 21 and 22 together.

After reading that passage we dove right into the metanarrative of the Bible. Here is how I broke down the lesson.

Today we are going to learn a really big word.

That word is “restoration.”

Do any of you know what that means? (I paused and took some suggestions from the kids and some of them were close, but most of our older kids would define restoration with “restore” in it. They would say something like:

“It means that that God will restore something.”

(Back to teaching). Well, this morning I thought I better look up the definition of the word “restoration” so that I could explain it to you. The dictionary told me the following:

“A return of something to a former, original, normal, orunimpaired condition.”

That makes me think of something that God said about something he created. Do any of you know what God created and that

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He said was Good?

Many of them shouted out that God said that about creation. After telling them that they were right I asked for a volunteer to come up and help me tell this giant story. I then handed them a 8.5×11 drawing of the creation symbol that Micheal Novelli used in his “Echo the Story” curriculum that is featured in his books “Shaped by the Story” and “Enter the Story.”

I then took out a ball of yarn and asked the kids if they knew what it was and of course they yelled back yarn and I told them they were correct, but for this week it was something else. This ball of yarn and the yarn that we would be using would represent “God’s ultimate plan of restoration.” The kids then asked why the yarn was in a bag to which I explained that the bag represented all the things in the stories that were to follow that cause God’s plan to fall just a little bit short. The bag would represent all the little sins that kept God’s plan of restoration from being completely fulfilled. The goal was to see how God’s plan would go from creation, which he called good to the new creation that we read about in Revelation 22.

“God looked over everything he had made;
it was so good, so very good!” Genesis 1:31

Never again will anything be cursed. The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. Rev. 22

I then took the string and wrapped it around the first child’s waist and explained that God’s plan started with something good and that his plan would continue into two very important people. The kids began yelling out “Adam and Eve.”

What happened to Adam and Eve?

ev-1.owaDid they follow God’s direction, or did they do something they were not supposed to?

The kids began to shout out that they did not follow God’s way and I explained that the next symbol represented the separation that happened when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden.

 So God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground, the same dirt out of which they’d been made. He threw them out of the garden and stationed angel-cherubim and a revolving sword of fire east of it, guarding the path to the Tree-of-Life. Gen. 3:23-24

I started to wrap the “plan” around the child that held up the “separation” symbol and asked whether or not Adam and Eve helped God’s plan for restoration, or if they had allowed sin to keep them from being with God.

The kids knew this was not what God had in store because we had read the end of the story (Rev. 22). The question I asked them is the key connecting question for the whole lesson.

Even though Adam and Eve fell short of God’s plan for restoration did God stop loving them?

They answered with no and we moved on to the next piece. I talked to them about how even though God made them leave the Garden he still had a plan for Adam and Eve and that was for them to multiply the earth with children.

 

I am going to pause the post here because I want to break up the reading for this lesson because it would be a lengthy post if I did not break it up. Even though the lesson is wordy we did manage to go through the whole restoration story in just over 26 minutes in both of our services. I also talked with many of our adult volunteers after their small group time and asked if the kids “got it” and many of them said that the explanation was clear which made me relieved because even during the lesson the question of whether or not I was clear enough to explain God’s plan to restore creation to something that is beyond “good.”

Look for part two tomorrow.

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P.S. I had some great 30 Hour Famine glasses that helped as an ice breaker for the kids right of the bat. Many of them told me to go back to my regular glasses.

 

 

 

Nehemiah : An Inside Look At Waiting

It was the month of Kislev in the twentieth year. At the time I was in the palace complex at Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, had just arrived from Judah with some fellow Jews. I asked them about the conditions among the Jews there who had survived the exile, and about Jerusalem.

    

    They told me, “The exile survivors who are left there in the province are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The wall of Jerusalem is still rubble; the city gates are still cinders.”

    When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-Heaven. (Nehemiah 1:1-4 MSG)

Right off the start we find Nehemiah getting the news regarding his community in the city of Jerusalem and the effect it has on him. He mourns for the state of his community and he begins praying and fasting for what is on his heart. Now fast forward to Chapter 2 verse one.

It was the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king. At the hour for serving wine I brought it in and gave it to the king. I had never been hangdog in his presence before, so he asked me, “Why the long face? You’re not sick are you? Or are you depressed?” (Nehemiah 2:1-2 MSG)

The point of interest for me this morning was the timeframe that passed between starting to pray and fast and the opportunity and answer from God for NEhemiah to share his heart with the king. There is a three, or four month passage of time here depending on which Biblical scholar, or commentary you are reading. Now, most people would read that and think he might have prayed for a couple of weeks at the most as one month passed into another, but Nehemiah took his grief to God for an extended period of time waiting for God to answer and provide an opportunity for Nehemiah to support his community. Chapter 1:11 also shows that He was not the only one praying for his community.

O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:10-11 ESV)

Even in the presence of the king months after e began praying and fasting Nehemiah could not hide his broken heart with a happy expression on his face. His face was long and full of sadness when he went before his king, which goes against the customs of the time. The king and Nehemiah go back and forth a bit based on facial expressions on Nehemiah’s face and in Chapter 2 verse 4 the king asks Nehemiah the following,

Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?”…

However, it is what Nehemiah does next that shows how patient and how much he relies on God during this whole process.

So I prayed to the God of heaven.

 

Even in the midst of God’s answer and opportunity for Nehemiah to share his heart for his community Nehemiah waits and insures the words that he speaks to the king are not his, but words from God. His patience in waiting for God’s permission to move forward in restoring his community is inspiring and challenging all at the same time.

 

How long do we pray to God about one situation in our lives?

How often do we rush out and speak with passion without allowing God to be present in our words?

Do we have that much passion for anything in our lives to practice this type of patience?

Does our passion get in the way of our patience?

Jacob and Christmas Blessings

Can two walk together, except they be agreed. Or, in other words “Do two people walk hand in hand if they are not going to the same place?” This sounds like a profound theologian or a new age life coach, not a statement from a minor prophet. However, that is indeed where we receive this amazing insight into how we should view our relationship with God. Amos 3:3 gives us insight into how God expects our relationship with him to work. The only way that we can gain the full potential of God’s blessing and promises of a life filled with hope, is to agree to meet him and walk side by side with him. We can only expect from God what we are willing to input into the relationship first.  In Genesis twenty eight, Jacob must, for the first time in his life, make a personal commitment to walk hand in hand with God. Jacob needed to allow his faith in God to grow, so that he could be filled and walk in the hope filled plan’s of God. It is what we can look forward to because of a relationship with God that we will study this morning through the story of Jacob’s ladder and the promises of the Nativity.

Speaking of Nativity, this morning marks the first Sunday in the Advent season. Many churches in the four Sunday’s leading up to Christmas will focus on a different theme or attribute of Jesus. Today, marks the first Sunday, so to follow a little bit of church history we will focus on the Hope that God promises us.

O.K. so I know what many people may be thinking, how does hope or even the nativity story relate to the dreams of a young man. Hopefully with a little understanding and open minds we can allow God to guide our words and thoughts this morning. Let’s get into the text shall we.

First, we read about a journey, a solitary journey to a certain place, (Luz), but to be honest the name is not important at the present moment of the story, but come the end the name will come back to us. The important part is that he tarried all night because we read that the sun is setting. The oddity at this point is that under Old Testament culture the locals should have offered up a resting place for Jacob. We read in Judges 19:17-20 that “only lodge not in the streets … Peace be with you.” Whenever a cultural norm is dismissed in the Biblical text, we as readers need to take note because more often then not a work or the will of God is about to be revealed. So, we have Jacob hopelessly alone, abandoned, scared and fleeing, he has also been ignored by the locals. Think of how Jacob must have been feeling. most of us hate when we are stuck feeling only one of these emotions, now add on five more negative feelings and you have most off us curled up in a corner thinking the world hates us and is against us. Now we can move on because we feel Jacob’s heart.

However, we have a great truth of God shown to us in the following verse. Jacob lies down and begins to dream, dream about a ladder to be more exact. Now this ladder is special because he sees angels using the ladder to ascend and descend from heaven – a two way street that leads from earth to heaven or heaven to earth depending on your outlook. Now, Orangeville has many two way streets, but get down to where Amy and I live in Toronto and we have many one way streets. These cause many headaches for many drivers, which leads to a vast array of horns, voices and aggravation. But, for Jacob he witnesses a flow that is uninterrupted from heaven itself, what a vision of hope! To make things even better Jacob witnesses God standing at the very top of the ladder as a witness to the work of the angels, and to allow Him access to the creation that he called good. Why is this such a vision of hope for Jacob? At his lowest, loneliest moment God shows himself to fill Jacob with a purpose, direction and of course hope for the future. God arrives to give Jacob more then a promise of hope, he is about to give him a covenant that will drastically change his life forever. This covenant is not going to be a regurgitation of a previous covenant, just fiddled with to suit Jacob, this is going to be an individual uplifting because that is how God works. That is the beautiful nature of our God and the beauty that is Jacob’s story, but more importantly for us, our story. Just like Jacob, we have been given hope as a gift from our God, a personal God that provides us with what we need as individuals partaking in his creation.

We need to be careful that when we think of our God that we do not box him into what we think his limits are. Our God is not prepackaged because he is God, his will, nature and existence beyond time is beyond our own understanding. God’s message of hope that is given to each of us is personalized to our own individual needs, just as our Christmas gifts are individualized to our loved ones.

How do we know our God is a personal God? Turn with me to verses thirteen through fifteen, as, in these verses, we can understand how God leads Jacob through his personal covenant. It also allows us to witness the amazing hope that God places in Jacob’s future. “And behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father and the God of Isaac: The land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and the south; and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places wither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” God gives Jacob four very distinct and personal messages of hope and fulfillment. The covenant that was once Abraham and Isaac’s has now been personalized to fit God’s will in Jacob’s life. God has now given Jacob what Jacob needs to thrive as a follower of God. Jacob has been filled with hope that God has a desire and need for him on earth.

The first personalized promise of God, is a promise of assurance. That God will be present in Jacob’s life, but it is more then that. God is not just present there in Jacob’s present dream-state, God will be with Jacob ALWAYS. This is God’s answer to Jacob’s feelings of desperation and hopelessness as Jacob was searching for companionship. “I am with thee and will keep thee.” This is important for Jacob, who grew up in his father’s house surrounded by a strong community of companions, but now he is alone, asleep and dreaming of companionship in the wilderness. When all is thought to be lost God comes to make Jacob aware that he will never be alone again. God gives Jacob a choice, not a command to follow and walk with Him. God allows Jacob the chance to live a life full of hope, all he needs to do is believe and make his own choice to follow him, just like we read earlier, can two walk together unless they choose to? That is the question God gives Jacob.

The second personal message from God to Jacob is the promise of land. “And will bring thee again into this land…” Jacob was rich, however in order to escape quickly and effectively he had to leave all his possessions behind, including as we can determine from the text, this included his pillow. This leaves us, the readers of the story to conclude and decipher that Jacob most have been filled with a feeling of impoverishment. Here, he is sleeping on the ground, surrounded by rocks, when he is used to nice five hundred thread count Egyptian sheets. Again, God shows up to give Jacob hope and a promise that he will once again be able to go back to his earthly dwelling place. There is more to the dream then Jacob being able to return to his earthly home, that two way ladder promises Jacob a home within heaven. Jacob will be welcomed into heaven by God and all those that love him also.

Thirdly, God gives Jacob the personal message of a hope through the promise that he no longer needs to live in shame. God tells Jacob that his shame will be lifted and that his ancestors will be like the dust, numerous and uncountable. “And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth.” Jacob receives a blessing that assures him and that can assure us, that no matter how much guilt and shame may be filling our lives, God has an answer, and that answer is life through Him. God is always willing and able to begin with us again, where we are, so that we can become agents of blessings onto others. The prophet, Jeremiah,  tells a story of a potter at his wheel working the clay even as it becomes blemished in Jeremiah 18:1-6. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again, another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” Key words here are as follows: “so he made it agian… as seemed good to the potter.” Just like in Jacob’s life we can take great hope in knowing that when we become marred, like the vessel, and Jacob, we can be reshaped through Jesus. We have to remember and take to heart the following lesson though. We do not become second hand. I will repeat, we do not become second hand. We are just as clean in the eyes of God, as we were, and as the vessel is to the potter, at first creation. Once we confess our sins and repent to God we become as white, unique and beautiful as the snowflakes that will fall this Christmas season.

The fourth and final individual message of hope for Jacob is that he will return home. Unlike the second assurance from God this is not about feeling impoverished, this is a promise of a hope filled future that goes beyond this world, into heaven. We can read about this promise in Matthew 28:20, as it tells us that “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, Amen.” God tells Jacob that even when he acts outside of His will God will still be there, watching, guiding and loving him. Even when we act outside the will of God, he is still there, watching over us, and it is through that kind of grace, the grace of mercy and promise, that should make us want to leave all sin behind.

When God encounters Jacob at Bethel (the name is now important, as it means house of God), Jacob grows spiritually, making the choice for the first time to personally follow God and accept full responsibility for his relationship with God. God’s promises came in the form of a dream, but Jacob’s response of worship as he built the alter to God, came in a state of waking-alertness. Jacob found that the dreamworld presented to him by God to be more convincing, more appealing and a world that was filled with hope more attractive than the world he fell asleep to. Jacob chooses promise over fear, love over guilt and hope filled future over uncertainty. We must all claim our promises from God ourselves, others cannot do it on our behalf. We need to personally step out in our faith and embrace our promise of a hope filled future. Faith is a wonderful thing, it believes that God is true, hope however, is looking ahead with anticipation for the day Christ reveals the truth. Faith believes that God is our father, hope is our anticipation and longing to be in the continued presence and revelation of God our father. Faith is knowing that we have eternal life, whereas hope is anticipating eternity. Faith is our foundation and hope nourishes this foundation and is the glue that keeps our faith together.

Just as God, the father was the source of Jacob’s hope, Jesus’ birth at nativity becomes our hope. This is the season that allows us to narrow in our focus and celebrate the birth and life of Jesus, the source of our eternal hope. We can read in John 1:45-51 of the influence of the events surrounding Jacob’s dream as Jesus talks to Nathaniel. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus is our ladder, our bridge, and the only bridge that allows us the ability to pass from earth into heaven.

Today we can close on one question. Why is the birth of Jesus and the story of Jacob’s ladder essential to our understanding of hope? In the large part we learn best through the examples of others. If we can see how God worked in Jacob’s life providing him with a personalized plan we can look into our own lives and see how we too, are blessed individually.

Another reason why these two stories are important is that as a fallen creation we are never able to grasp the complete nature of heaven. In order to understand we would have to pass through the gates and in our humanity this is not an option laid before us. Yet heaven is able to come to earth, in the form of a baby, the perfect gift. However, heaven itself cannot be poured out into a tainted creation, so there only becomes one viable solution. God comes to us, in a manger, as Jesus Christ. God had sent many prophets, many times, but now he would do something far more shocking. He would leave the throne of heaven and walk among His creation – a king in disguise – humbled as one of His own. Now we as humans can hear, feel and experience all that is important to Him. God entered our world through the doorway called Bethlehem and our world would be changed forever. John 1:14 says this, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld of the father,) full of grace.”

As we look at the connections that are evident between Jacob, Jesus and the Nativity, I have one verse left up my sleeve. The Magi (or wise-men as they are commonly refereed to), as they followed the Star on their journey to see Jesus, would have carried the Law of Moses (the first five books of the Bible), with them. So, it is in Numbers that we read “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob.” A star out of Jacob, Jesus lying among men, who would be one of the descendants of the personalized promise of hope that God gave Jacob in Genesis 28. It all fits together like a perfectly crafted puzzle that only a God, that could provide us with perfect hope could accomplish.

We may feel alone, impoverished, fearful and even be filled with despair, but as we go through the Advent Season let’s remember the lessons from a dream and the advice of Amos. We can only walk with our Savior once we agree to personally take His hand and enter into a two way relationship with Him. Once we do that the only thing left for us is to live a life that is filled with Hope. Amen

Even Thor Owns an iPod

This is a comic I purchased recently and I find it completely erroneous. This is Thor an Asgardian God of Thunder listening to an iPod. Yes, they are everywhere evidently. However the message the illustrator, Marko Djurdjevic portrays is epic. We have here the image of a god that is leaving his people, leaving the world he knows and entering into a new one. However, this is not what Paul has in mind. God doesnʼt leave us in our suffering. God joins us in our suffering, he yells right beside us as it is evident by his actions on the cross. Our sufferings bring us solidarity with Christ. To be in Christ, then, is to possess what is often spoke of as full salvation: everything necessary to our past, present, future and eternal welfare has been secured for us by the action of God in Christ and is stored up in Christ for us to share and enjoy. But, it is not only benefits and blessings that are in Christ; we are in Him ourselves.

Jurgen Moltmann and many others that continued his theological thoughts within the Emergent Church have adapted what they call a hope filled eschatology. Meaning it was good news when Jesus came the first time, and it will be good news when he comes again. Moltmann echos Paulʼs hope in his greeting when he wrote about Auschwitz.

“…Like the cross of Christ, even Auschwitz is in God himself. Even Auschwitz is taken up into the grief of the father, the surrender of the Son and the power of the Spirit… As Paul says in 1 Cor. 15, only with the resurrection of the dead, the murdered and the gassed, only with the healing of those in despair who bear lifelong wounds, only with the abolition of all rule and authority, only with the annihilation of death will the Son hand over the kingdom to the father. Then God will turn his sorrow into eternal joy… God in Auschwitz and Auschwitz in the crucified God – that is the basis for a real hope which both embraces and overcomes the world, and the ground for a love which is stronger than death and can sustain death.”

1 Cor. 15 from The Message says this,

“If corpses canʼt be raised, then Christ wasnʼt, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ werenʼt raised, then all youʼre doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. Itʼs even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because theyʼre already in their graves. If all we get out out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, weʼre a pretty sorry lot. But, the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.”

The hope of the resurrection sees a future for those who have past, and those that are living in the present can gain courage for the future. It is because of this abundant hope of overcoming death, our little hope for the future, better times can strength, and do not fall victim to doubt and cynicism. In the midst of a culture filled with anxiety and doubt, we hope and do not give ourselves up to despair.

Servanthood and Paul

Verse One, Paul and Timothy servants of Christ Jesus… wait servants of Christ Jesus is a little bit of an odd greeting.

What do they mean by servants?

Isnʼt the term “Servant” negative in connotation?

The only servant that I could think of well writing this is Alfred Pennyworth. The trusted butler to the one and only Bruce Wayne. keeper of the Wayne household even before little Brucey was potty trained. Well taken care of by billionaire Bruce Wayne and at most times the sole confidant Alfred was, to Master Bruce. Actually this is not the only servant that I could think of after this summer. The children in Uganda are all to aware of the strife contained in being servants. These children are taken in the night to fight in a war that has drastically changed their culture. These are the Invisible Children of Uganda and if you ever want to know more just come chat with me anytime.

But, why does Paul insert this negative image in a greeting? It seems as if Paul is already letting the people of Philipi and the reader aware of a couple of major themes to his letter, First there is an attack being made on the church, which leads into the second theme of the hope of a better day. Very applicable to the Invisible Children and any other servants out there. A hope of change, a hope of unity and a hope of a future.

The image I think of when I hear the term servant is suffering. The importance in the greeting is not found in the word “servant”, but how Paul finishes the greeting. He addresses the people of Philipi not as Philippians, as he does in chapter four, but instead he calls them saints … in essence he is calling them Christians. Yet again though, the importance is not in the title it is in the thought of the greeting. Paul is getting at the very centre of Christian belief, there is creativity, meaning, and hope in the fulfillment of suffering.

Suffering and Leadership

Suffering has an uncanny ability to kick us into a new future and a new hope as we are forced to imagine that new future. The key is to imagine and hope, and this is what Paul is giving to the Philippians. The ability to see hope beyond any suffering that may come to these believers of Christ. It is going to be, as Paul alludes to in his greeting, that suffering that will eventually unite us as Christians.

Paul tells the Philippians that they are saints in Christ – so what does that mean? Well, they would be entitled to the gift of full salvation through Christ. It says in chapter one, verse twenty-nine that we are given the gift of faith, so, in essence, Paul’s words “in Christ” tells us that we are given something to call our own salvation. In Christ, we are also given all we need. We are given a new way of life. In the big picture, as we heard in verse seven, we are essentially new people with new minds.

There is one more key phrase that Paul uses in his greeting and it is in reference to leadership. We first see it when he introduces himself and Timothy. Not one, but two people working for Christ. So, what does this mean for the people of Philippi? They need to work together in the church with the bishops and deacons. We are given here the relationship between leader and those they lead. How are they to lead? One word, “with” or another single word, “alongside.” The way it is written is pure genius as Paul addresses an area many leaders forget. It is that they, too, have gone through the exact same suffering, experiences and have the same hopes as those that are alongside them. It is the leadership of those who are content to stand among the saints as those who serve.

Jurgen Moltmann said in his great book, Theology of Hope, “Creative discipleship of this kind (working with others) in a love which institutes community, sets things right and puts them in order, becomes eschatologically possible through the Christian hope’s prospects of the future of God’s kingdom and of man.”

Paul paints a great greeting that at first glance looks just like that a simple greeting, but he goes deeper. Down into a world of suffering and then takes our lives.. skyrocketing into a hope for the future. As we wrap up think on this quote:

In regards to suffering:

It involves an indescribable sort of fidelity, an insane sort of hope, and indescribable sort of … well, it’s love isn’t it? There’s no other word for it … And don’t throw Mozart at me … I know he claimed his creative process was more than a form of automatic writing, but the truth was he sweated and slaved and died young giving birth to all that music. He poured himself out and suffered. That’s the way it is. That’s creation… You can’t create without waste and mess and sheer undiluted slog. You can’t create without pain. It’s all part of the process.

Paul is aware of the process. There needs to be a little hurt for hope to

shine through. Otherwise, what was the point of the cross? Isaiah 65 paves the way for Philippians 1:3-7:

Pay close attention now: I’m creating new heavens and a new earth.All the earlier troubles, chaos and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy. ANTCIPATE what I am creating: I’ll create Jerusalem as sheer joy; create my people as pure delight. I’ll take joy in Jerusalem, take delight in my people: No more sounds of weeping in the city, no cries for anguish. What a sense of assurance we have in the greeting of Paul to the Philippians and even more so in the Words of God.