The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

I’m drawn to folks with a strong sense of purpose. Many of the folks I admire are dedicated to their craft, their work, their art. I have been a dabbler all my life, and I’ve got a lot of hobbies but don’t know that I am totally dedicated to any one thing..except Jesus. I can imagine not playing the guitar anymore, though with a great deal of loss, or one of the other instruments I dabble with, but I don’t see life without seeking the Lord.

Luckily, I don’t have to do anything like that. But it doesn’t mean I don’t struggle, don’t worry about being enough, doing enough, being the person I think God wants me to be. I’m alcoholic, and at this writing I’ve been sober for a little more than 33 years. What I’ve learned through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is a straightforward way of seeking God — no pretense, no BS, but a sheer look up from the floor and crying for help. I’ve been a pastor for nearly 18 years, and a churchman for most of my life, and I’ve seen more honest cries for help more regularly in recovery rooms than anywhere else.

There’s a gift in losing all you have, and finding out what you held on to was worthless. Living a life in truth — “practicing these principles in all our affairs” — leads to the abundant life Jesus talks about in John’s Gospel, or so it seems to me.

Here’s a couple of verses I’ve been thinking about in the last few weeks, and I took the blog title from the second one. Both of these quotes are from Eugene Peterson’s The Message:

I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you and have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine”, but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Galatians 2:20

This notion of dying to self, and putting it in these terms that “my ego is no longer central” is so eye-opening, isn’t it? I am not going to be so preoccupied with what you are thinking of me, or if you are thinking of me, and I’m not going to keep trying to prove myself to God. I don’t have to — God loves me, and I don’t have to keep trying to prove that to myself or others.

Here’s the second quote, this one from Matthew 11:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11: 26-30.

I’ve got a lot to learn about writing a blog, and I’ll include some sermons in this as well and perhaps a podcast, but it’s good for all of us to remember that God loves us, and we don’t have to prove it to ourselves, to others, or to God.

We are invited to live into it. Maybe you’d like to walk with me on this journey.

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35 Years, Clean and Sober

Proverbs 15:33 — The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

This is the cross-over year. I’m 68 years old, and today I have 35 years clean and sober. I’ve lived more than half my life in the new way, and been gifted with so much more than I could imagine. Today I know the love of the Lord, I know the love of my wife, family and friends, and have work that sustains, challenges and uplifts me.

I’ve often received congratulations on these successive years of sobriety, and I appreciate them, but I’ll admit to feeling a little bit awkward. I came in early, still married, still in a home, still having a car, etc. I began in a club where folks had these wild tales of waking up in ditches, of losing everything. God took the desire away from me when I asked. It took me a long time to ask, but when I did He took it away. That’s not true for everyone.

I grew up in an alcoholic home. I saw what alcohol abuse can do to a family, and I didn’t want to live that out again with me being in the center. I think I deserve the same type of congratulations as a man deep underwater in fear of his life who finally surfaces. Should we congratulate him on deciding to breathe when he has been given the chance? Maybe so. At least he didn’t decide to take another underwater plunge right away.

The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and the “style of living which demands rigorous honesty” has been and continues to be a great gift, and without me being an alcoholic I might never have known. I’ve found more honesty in AA rooms, and in prisons, than in many places. The truly broken who know they are broken yearn to be healed.

I’m grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ, I’m grateful for my wife, family and friends, for my sponsors Jesse and Mike, and for all the folks along the way. I’m grateful for life, and for the gift of humility which makes a true life possible.

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Circumcision of the Heart

Near our home

I’m preaching a sermon series on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans. This letter is dense, and wonderful and powerful; perhaps no other writing better explains the Christian faith than this letter Paul wrote to a church he did not found, but hoped to visit. (He did arrive in Rome, finally, but in a prisoner’s chains.)

John Wesley, the co-founder with his brother Charles of the Methodist Movement, wrote a sermon called “Circumcision of the Heart” based on part of chapter two. Circumcision, an intimate physical cut, was for generations a sign of the covenant between Abraham’s people and God. Gradually, as the family of Abraham became a people, then a nation, they became the only nation bound together chiefly by a common faith — the people of the covenant. After the destruction of their Temple and nation, after the predicted 70-year exile in Babylon, the promised return began, but others were coming too. With the coming of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven drew near, and Gentiles learned of the grace of God.

Paul wrote of the circumcision of the heart in chapter two, and Wesley wrote that there were four attributes to the torn heart: humility, faith, hope, and charity (love).

In the A.A. rooms I’ve attended, we often hear: “there is a God, and it ain’t you.” Several times in Scripture we see “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I think this means the same thing. We need to know there is a God, and we need to know God is bigger than our understanding, bigger than our desires, bigger than anything we can imagine. This is humility.

Humility leads to faith — not a tepid, lukewarm spit out of my mouth faith, but a vibrant, robust faith that grows as we live our lives in God. This is a faith that God will see us through, will be with us no matter what happens, and we will always be in God’s hands. “Where have you seen God?” We ask this all the time in our Inspire gatherings, in the church I’m privileged to pastor, in fellowship band meetings. “Where have you seen God?” Can you not see him? Learn to open your eyes!

When we have learned to exercise our faith we develop a sense of hope, because we see that God has not let us down yet! I don’t mean that everything will turn out like I want it to, but that everything will turn out, and God is in the midst of it. The greater our humility, the more robust the faith, the more optimistic the hope…

The last of these attributes is charity, or love. With humility, faith, hope and charity we will develop gratitude, and gratitude can change everything. Forgiveness is possible with gratitude, and gratitude can be a key to the Gospel — the power of salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek… (Romans 1:16).

While we were sinners, Christ died for us who are called, who feel the yearning toward God. Our defenses fall, our hearts are torn open, and we are ready to step into the life we are offered, with that intimate cut of our heart torn open like the heavens when Jesus came up from the waters of his baptism. (Mark 1:0)

Then maybe we can hear what happens next: And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

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Reflections from a Virtual Prayer Meeting

Witness from the prayer gathering for the Inspire Movement, seeking to make whole-life disciples of Jesus Christ.

We met for the first International Prayer Gathering of 2023, under the able and inspired leadership of the delightful Robin.  I suppose because it is more familiar now than it needs be, but we had folk in  Ireland, England and three in our house here in Texas – different countries, different continents, different times, one God.  It is too easy for the absolutely amazing to be taken for granted.

Robin led us with questions, and divided our time in sections: past, present, possible, prophecy, pledge and then part. How have we had joy in the Inspire Movement in the past year?  What do we lost for now?  What is possible?  

Peter and Liz from Ireland were there, and early on Peter said that the Lord brought to mind the verse when the young Samuel is first hearing the voice of the Lord, and doesn’t yet recognize it.  The priest Eli told the boy to say, “speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)  

Later in the hour, when we came to the “prophecy”, Robin asked if anyone had a prophecy for any of us, or for Inspire. Peter again said the Scripture, and added something:

“I want to pray this over you, Frank, and over Brenda and Jerry Ann (my wife and a member our church attending the prayer meeting) and your congregation.  ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

What Peter did not know is that I had spent the night and morning before the meeting praying and studying, searching for a preaching series or direction for our church for 2023.  This is a time of new beginnings for us, any how am I going to lead?  I’m a retired, “part-time” pastor of a wonderful and dedicated church, with many multi-generational members.  I’m asked to choose the Scriptures,  choose the hymns, preach. What does the Lord want for us?  

I had been praying, and wrestling, and then Peter quoted, “speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  

I did get some direction, and more than that I was reminded that in my prayers, in my wrestling and in my struggling, I am not alone.  We are not alone.  God is with us.  “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”  

Prayer is a powerful witness.  Amen. 

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Check Point Charlie and Waiting on the LORD

Part of the former Berlin Wall
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We are close to Thanksgiving, and while this is a Christmas story, it is a story of gratitude.

On Christmas morning I was driving early to our home from the parsonage. The rest of our family gathered there already, but I needed to stay for the midnight Christmas Eve candlelight and Communion. I love the service, and as pastor I have to be there, but it can be lonely on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning was bright and clear, and I loaded up Abigayle the Destroyer into her kennel placed in the back of the Chevy HHR and headed home. Somewhere past Millikan on highway 6, headed toward College Station, I saw a man in the grass off the highway. He was carrying some flowers, and kneeling in front of three white crosses near the shoulder of the highway, those temporary crosses marking the tragedy of lost lives.

It was like an awakening, an epiphany. My griping to myself about how much I worked, how little I was appreciated, how much this or how little that, faded into nothing but gratitude as I headed toward our home in College Station on Christmas morning to greet my family, who where there waiting for me to arrive.

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Trust and Trustworthy

Taken outside the Hayes Conference Centre Swanwick Derbyshire, England, 2014

For several years I made a strong but half-hearted attempt at selling insurance and mutual funds; strong because I worked hard, half-hearted because my heart was just not in it.  I tried to trick myself that it was, and I was excited about the money potential, but that latter part so rarely came my way, probably because, yes, my heart was just not in it.  

I had the privilege of working with a man of great integrity and strong faith. He mentored me in some ways, and gave me a distinction which came back to me this week, when I was reading the Psalms.  

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.    (Psalm 90: 1-3)

In one conversation with my friend and boss I said that I trusted God, and he pointed out the difference between trusting God and God being trustworthy.  God is trustworthy, whether or not I trust Him.  God does not become more or less trustworthy dependent on my faith.  

When we were kids (and this is a long time ago now),  there was a wonderful teleplay of Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin in the title role. (It’s available now on YouTube!) My generation became entranced.  At one point in the story, the fairy Tinker Bell, represented by a light on the set, was wounded and near death.  Tink would be strengthened and healed by belief — and Peter Pan looked at us through the TV screen and begged us to say out loud, “I do believe in fairies!  I do believe in fairies!” and Tink’s light, which had dimmed almost out, gradually strengthened and then shone bright.  Our belief had strengthened Tinker Bell, and she would be okay.  Whew!

Well, God’s not like that.  God is trustworthy, regardless of whether we trust God.    In our Core Value of “Sharing Fellowship”, one of the questions is, “Am I confessing my sin?”  I confess that often when I pray I do not conclude by leaving it all in the hands of God, who is faithful and worthy to be praised.   I pray and give it to God, and sometimes I take it right back up again.  Another choice would be to watch and see what will happen.  But that takes patience…and maybe love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  

And I’m not always there.  But God is.

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Who You Kiddin’?

Image by LRus of Pixabay

Run with the Horses 

Who You Kiddin’?  

One of my favorite of Eugene Peterson’s books is Run with the Horses. Petersen gets the title from Jeremiah 12:5 — If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? 

The heading over chapter 12 in Jeremiah in my Bible is “Jeremiah’s complaint.”  It’s tempting to shake my head at Jeremiah, but I get it, I understand.  Over the years of my walk with Jesus I have been tasked with things I thought unfair, and too much for me.  Occasionally a well-meaning friend will quote some Scripture like “God will not give you more than you can bear”, and I’ll laugh if I’m lucky.  (And the well-meaning friend, too!)

In our Inspire Way of Life one of  the Core Values of Discipleship is “Using Disciplines”, and one of the questions hit me today:   Am I  “listening to God through the Bible?”  

Is the Bible informing my life?  Is the Bible revealing my life?  

Once I was pastor of a church and a hurricane destroyed the Sanctuary.  My wife and I were out of town and couldn’t get back for days because of cancelled flights and flood damage through the area.    The Sanctuary had to be leveled and a new one put in its place.  We worshiped outside for three weeks because the air was foul and we needed to make sure the building was safe.  This started an adventure of several years.

I thought I had challenges before that, but I guess i was just running with the footmen before the Lord called us to run with the horses.  

And now we are facing some difficult decisions about our denomination, about our church, about our ministry.  When we dealt with the hurricane, were we running with the footmen or running with the horses?

Either way, God is faithful, and has been and will be with us.  

Am I listening to God through the Bible?  Is the Bible informing my life? 

And what about those other times when I am dead tired of all this “religion” stuff and want to walk away?  Jeremiah tried that, too, and here’s what he wrote in Jeremiah 20:9 — If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

The love of God is deep inside Jeremiah, deep and burning like marrow on fire, and he tries to ignore it, tries to hold it in, and he cannot.  I know about this, too.  Maybe you do, too.  

Is God speaking to me through the Bible?  Is the Bible informing, or even revealing, my life?  I think so.

I think during my times of doubt, despair, anger, uncertainty Jesus is sitting next to me and saying something like:  “Who you kiddin?  You know I’m going to be with you, and you know you can’t give me up, and you know you don’t want to.  And you know that I will get you through wherever I call you to go.”  

This blog is named after a phrase Eugene Peterson uses in his translation of Matthew 11: 28-29:

Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

And, as long as I’m quoting something, this verse rarely fails to bring me to tears:

When through the deep waters I call thee to go

The rivers of woe will not thee overflow

For I will be with thee, thy troubles  to bless

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.  

How Firm a Foundation (1787) 

529 in the UMH hymnal

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Lead Me to the Rock

Taken from a helicopter in Hawaii

Am I following the Spirit’s lead?  

What a great question!  How do I know whether is it the Spirit’s lead or my own wishes?  How do I learn to identify the Spirit’s voice?  I saw a poster a few years ago that attributed a quote about friendship to John Lennon.  I’m a lifelong Beatles fan and I’ve read probably way too much about them, and I knew that quote was not John’s voice.    A little research proved my gut reaction.    So then I wondered…

How can I learn God’s voice as well as someone else’s?  I suppose it is by approaching the Lord and His Word with the same intensity, with the same desire to know.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and the Lord will direct your path”.  (Proverbs 3:5-6) I was walking along a bayou and going over my memory verses and this was one of them.  As I walked, I suddenly understood that the Lord would “direct my path”, but that meant I needed to be moving somewhere, and be willing to surrender to the leading. 

Am I engaging mission?  Am I following the Spirit’s lead? 

At least for me, the answers are not readily apparent.  This week I’ve been revisiting Psalm 46:10 — Be still, and know that I am God. 

I’m wrestling with many things, or so it seems to me.  I’m a retired pastor serving a wonderful, small church and our denomination is splitting.  Like every divorce there is rancor and blame on both sides.  If we leave where  we are, we will take a financial penalty but we’ll be free.  If we’re free, do we want to yoke ourselves to another denomination or would we want to be simply Christians, being part of the Church that is the Body of Christ in the world?  Or maybe the denomination is not that important, but the fellowship of our local church, a form of “life together” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about.  Where can we best be obedient to Christ?  

I don’t know what decisions we’ll make.  (It’s “we” because my wife and I are a ministry team and we will make the decisions.)   In my reading this week I came back to Psalm 61.  Here are the first three verses, from the King James Version.  (I’m not a KJV only person, but it tends to be the one I go to most when troubled, probably because it is  the version I read when I fell in love with the Bible as a little boy.)

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.  From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.  

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”  moves me.  Lord, let me see as you see, let me understand from your perspective, lead me to a place of peace beyond my understanding, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  

Am I following the Spirit’s lead?  I hope so;  I am seeking to;  and I am waiting and listening.  

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Sharing Fellowship

This picture is from several years ago along the Prayer Trail at Lakeview Methodist Conference Center in Palestine Texas

Core Values of Discipleship

Sharing Fellowship

This past week we were invited to an awards ceremony for our 9-year old granddaughter Zadie.  Zadie had been invited to a Wednesday night Bible study at a local church by one of her friends, and she grew to love it.  She would ask me, a retired and still-working UMC pastor, if I knew some of her memory verses and other wonderful things she was learning.  At the ceremony she was celebrated along with a lot of other kids who had memorized Scripture and concepts.  This is a local Assemblies of God church, and they were using the King James Bible.  It was a fantastic evening, that these children were loved and encouraged and challenged.  They didn’t get the award unless they had done the work.  

I talked with the pastor afterwards, and he had served this faith community for 30 years, he had seen many of the young leaders in the church grow up, get married, have children.  When he learned I was a retired UMC pastor he asked if I had been part of the group that moved every two years or so.  When he was a kid growing up in West Texas, his parents told him that the Methodist pastor’s children would be moving soon, so to keep that in mind as he became friends with them.  We know too many pastors, too many pastor’s families, that moved so often without the chance of putting down roots.  

Yet I wondered if this pastor had friends he could confide in, people who were not of his “flock”.  

I entered seminary at 45 years old, and I had been mentored in discipleship relationships for many years before then.  With a few sterling exceptions, most of my old friends are still from this time before, or people I served with in churches  where we met in authentic covenant groups, much like our Wesleyan bands.  The friends from the last few years I have met in band.  

From our core values of discipleship in the Inspire Movement:  Am I making close spiritual friendships?  Am I sharing the ups and downs of my spiritual life?  Am I giving and receiving guidance?  And I growing in the fruit of the Spirit?  Am I developing my spiritual gifts?  Am I confessing my sin?  

Am I willing to be open, to be vulnerable, to be and receive a true friend of trust and discernment?  I am, and I am blessed by the bands I am in, where I can share where I am seeing God in my life, and be willing to be guided by prayerful reflection of others.  

Most men I know don’t have deep, spiritual friendships.  Most pastors I know do not have friends like this.  Holding yourself apart  is a way of distancing ourselves  from others and from God.  We hold ourselves apart, but we don’t have to.  We have an opportunity with the principles of the Inspire Movement to find the “open door” the Spirit revealed to  John in Revelation 3:

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

“‘I know your works.  Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name…” (Rev. 3: 7-8)

The Lord working in our lives is that open door, an open door to the reality of our lives, the reality of the love of God.  We are able to pass through that open door with the help of others, with the guidance of spiritual friendships like we form in band and in house fellowships and the like.  My granddaughter is forming spiritual friendships, memorizing the Word of God and coming to a deeper relationship with Jesus, all because someone stepped out and asked her.  I am doing the same because someone asked me about Inspire, about band.  It is a good thing to see the Lord at work in our lives.  

What do you think? 

More information on the Inspire Movement can be found at

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My wife and partner Brenda had a total knee replacement surgery April 5. I have done no blog writing since then, but have kept up with the writing of sermons. For those who are interested, the following is a portion of what was preached on May 29, 2022, Ascension Sunday, at Cooks Point United Methodist Church, shortly after the murder of elementary school children and teachers on May 24, 2022 at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.

The day’s texts were Acts 1: 1-11 and Luke 24: 44-53.

With the terrible news of this past week — terrible news, horrible news, we had a reminder of the evil in our midst. We’ve heard lots of talk and speeches and posturing about the need of more laws and more regulations, and where to place the blame, and while there may be something to that, they miss the point.

I remember after the Columbine shooting — April 20, 1999 — there was a call for more and stricter laws, and one commentator pointed out that over a dozen existing laws had been broken by the shooters.

There is something else that needs to be addressed, that needs to be recognized.



Spiritual forces of wickedness.

My friend Elizabeth Moreau wrote this in her blog, Servants’ Feast last week: If we want to make sense of what happened in Uvalde, then we need to accept that the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone acknowledges and ansers such unspeakable evil. This is a world that has rejected its Creator and sought to be our own gods — from the beginning of time. The only barrier to the evil that prowls around looking to devour is the Cross of our Lord. We live in a world that needs to be saved, and that is precisely what we see every day in limitless ways, including in the mass murder in Uvalde.

Listen to this passage from 1 Peter 5, starting at the 6th verse:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

I think the shooter was devoured…

I’m taking us back to our baptismal vows, taken by candidates for baptism and by their sponsors.

The candidates for baptism are brought forward, and the pastor asks these questions:

On behalf of the whole church, I ask you:  Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?  

I do.

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

I do.

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations and races?  

I do.

As Christians, we recognize the reality of evil — the spiritual forces of wickedness, the evil powers of this world, and our own sin.  

As followers of Jesus, who believed in, lived by and taught the Scriptures, we believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the truth of Isaiah 53:6 — all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 

We believe in the power of sin, the evil powers of this world, the spiritual forces of wickedness — and we believe that as Christians we have the power to renounce and reject them.  

But that doesn’t take away the reality.  

Part of that reality is that we have to be sober-minded, we have to be vigilant, because our adversary the devil is roaming the earth like a lion, looking for someone he can devour.  

The core issues for us to face are these forces of spiritual wickedness, the evil powers of this world, and our own sin.  That is primary.  

Remember a few weeks ago we explored 1 Corinthians 15, the last chapter of the letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the new church just a few years after the death, burial, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.  Paul wrote this:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…

When we address the tools of evil as if they were the cause of evil, we miss the central point.  

I often use the analogy of  alcoholism and drug abuse because of my background and my lens on the world.  Someone who is an active alcoholic has to stop drinking.  That is the primary problem.  Everything else is secondary.  His or her home life, spouse, children, stress levels, anything else are not the cause of the problem.  It is the alcohol, and until that stops nothing else will change.

Our primary issue is not the tools of evil, but evil itself. Our primary issue is sin.   And that is addressed by repentance and embracing the grace of God offered through the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who died for our sin and was resurrected to offer new life.  

Where was God in that classroom, and in other pathways of terror?  I believe right there, just like every other horror, every other denial of humanity. 

And we have a mirror, where we can look at see what we’ve become, and see our need for a Savior.  We become doers of the Word of God, and not just hearers.  James tells us that when we are only hearers and do not obey the Word, we are like people who look in a mirror and then forget immediately what they look like.  

But you and I are here, as agents of Christ in the world, as part of the new Kingdom of God, helping each other and others see the mirror truly, opening our eyes that we may truly see and be witnesses of Christ in the world.  


So now we move to the texts for today, and talk about the Ascension of Christ.  Last Thursday was Ascension Day, 40 days past Easter Sunday.  We don’t make as big a celebration of Ascension Day as other events in Christian and world history — like Christmas, Pentecost, Easter — but it is central in the plan of the Lord.  

We have two texts today, both written by Luke the Evangelist.  In the Acts passage read earlier, Luke gives a brief summary of what he had done with his first book, the Gospel of Luke.  He wrote Theophilus, who could have been his benefactor, that he wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day Jesus was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

After his sufferings he presented himself to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during the forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.  

Jesus had been talking about the kingdom of God since he began his ministry.  Remember after the temptation in the desert, again for 40 days, he began his ministry teaching and proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand.

But the kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of our world.

That’s hard to grasp now, and it was hard to grasp then.  His followers didn’t understand.  Here’s part of our text:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set up by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The kingdom of God is not like an earthly kingdom.  Those of us who are part of the kingdom of God are spread throughout the world, agents for change in all parts of the world.  Christianity has moved throughout the world, and soon it will be stronger in the southern hemisphere than in the northern.  Africa, South America, Asia and China have growing populations of Christians, and resultant persecutions as well.  We are the infiltrators of the spiritual forces of wickedness, the evil powers of this world, agents of transformation in a fallen world, with Jesus on the throne. Jesus was telling his followers that they did not understand, but they could trust him.  

And he is telling us the same thing. We do not understand, but we can trust him.  

Jesus is trustworthy.

In our gospel passage from Luke,  Jesus further explained what had happened and gave hints of the things to come.

Then he said to them, “these are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise  from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have clothed with power from on high.”


Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures — maybe he showed them the passage from Isaiah I quoted above.  Maybe he told them that he was the water gushing from the rock in the wilderness, or the fourth man walking in the fire in Daniel, or that it was he who was the suffering servant in Isaiah or the still small voice Elijah heard.  Maybe they came to understand that all the Scriptures pointed to Jesus, from the blood on the doorway protecting the people of Israel in Exodus to the prediction of the Messiah riding in on a donkey in Zechariah, to all the references in the Psalms.  

Jesus had already ascended by the time he was speaking to them right before he was carried into heaven.  He said, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you….”  He was still there, speaking with them in person, but he was not still with them in the same way.  Jesus was  already enthroned as the new king.  

Think about that.  Jesus as king, as his enthronement took place on the Cross.  And we are his followers, scattered around the world and across time.

In the Acts passage, after Jesus was lifted up, his followers remained there, gazing up toward heaven, and suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.  They said to them, Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?  This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him to into heaven.”  

And Luke’s Gospel account added that they went back to Jerusalem, and were continually in the temple praising God.

Jesus left so that he could be with us.  He is with us today,  and he can be with those who call upon him and worship him throughout the world.  In the Apostles Creed we proclaim that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and will come again in glory.  The Resurrection of Jesus brought about the new world, and Jesus is offering us the chance to bring more folks into the kingdom before that great and glorious day to come.  

We have work to do.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


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