Peace


This was my sermon from last week.  I intended to post it earlier but here it is.  Take a look and tell me what you think.

Kevin
4th Sunday of Advent
“Peace”

First Reading:
Micah 5:2-5 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” 3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. 4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 5 And he will be their peace. When the Assyrian invades our land and marches through our fortresses, we will raise against him seven shepherds, even eight leaders of men.

Sermon Text:
Hebrews 10:5-10 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am– it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.'” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Offertory:
Psalm 80:7 7 Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

Amid the pageantry of Christmas, bright lights, festive decorations, and all the gold and silver, we come to a realization that the Pre-Existent Christ was born in Bethlehem, for one purpose, to carry the cross to Calvary and die on the cross that we might have life. In a real fashion Jesus was born to die that we might be forgiven and have life in Christ Jesus, our God and our King. It sounds harsh and cold, but it is the reality of this celebration of Jesus birth, the manger points to the cross.
As I have said before that the Church based its celebration of Christmas in the traditions of Easter or Passover. Even the liturgical history of our celebration points to the fact that Jesus has become our Passover lamb.

I. When we hear Easter we do not often think Passover. While we recognize that Passover and Easter often happen in proximity, at times we forget that there are some very specific reasons for this seeming coincidence.
a. In the early Church, Easter was called Passover, and in most non English speaking churches today, it is still referred to as Pascha, a word derived from the Hebrew word for Passover.
b. Easter and Passover have the same origin point, and Jesus is often referred to as the Paschal lamb or the Passover Lamb.
i. Now, I know this is not what you were thinking about this morning, but bear with me.
ii. In Exodus we find the following: Exodus 12:21-23 21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. 23 When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.
1. The Passover Lamb was selected and killed, the blood was applied via a hyssop branch to the top and both sides of the door frame.
2. This blood was applied as a sign that the angel of death should Passover the homes so marked and not kill the eldest son, the first born son, in the household.
3. The marking of blood saved the family from what the whole of Egypt experienced.
c. I recognize that this is not a very festive image to be holding in your mind on this the 4th Sunday of Advent but, friends there is a specific reason for drawing on this imagery.
i. Sometime later, Paul wrote the following in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 Hear these words, “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast– as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”
1. If you were wondering why the Early Church connected Jesus death to the Passover, we see one of the ways that the Apostle Paul helped people to understand the Passover in terms of Jesus.
a. Very clearly it is marked with some of the same elements, bread without yeast and a Passover lamb.
b. From Numbers 9:11-12 we read “They are to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations.”
2. Lamb and bread are clearly part of the Passover and Paul recounts for us the understanding that Jesus is our Passover lamb, and he has been sacrificed for us.
II. So, what does this have to do with Christmas? This seems like something for a Lenten sermon not an Advent sermon. Yet, it is one of the reasons why Jesus was born.
a. The Author of Hebrews identifies the problem: 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
i. Jesus proclaims via Psalm 40:6-9 that the sacrifice and offerings did not please God the Father
1. Psalm 40:6-9 6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. 8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” 9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD.
2. The Author of Hebrews provides for us a window into how the early Church read scripture.
3. And in doing so highlights a problem that has been identified for centuries.
a. Sacrifices are not enough to change the fundamental problem.
ii. Sacrifices and offerings did not accomplish the needed reconciliation between God and Humanity that has existed since sin fractured the relationship between God and humanity as we learn about in Genesis.
1. They may have helped to maintain a fractured relationship but they did not tear down the dividing wall between God and Humanity.
2. So, if they are not addressing the primary problem. What do we do? How do we find Peace with God?
b. Again going back to Psalm 40, the Author of Hebrews reminds us, 7 Then I said, ‘Here I am– it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.'” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made).
i. First Jesus said, Sacrifice and offerings do not please God…
1. So what will please God?
ii. Then Jesus said, “Here I am- it is written about me in the scroll- I have come to do your will, O God.”
1. In his letter to the Church at Philippi the Apostle Paul quoted a bit of material used in worship, a creed, a hymn, a or something along these lines.
2. He quoted, Philippians 2:8-11 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
3. What pleased the Father that sacrifices and offerings never did? Jesus obedience, even obedience to death on the cross.
III. This obedience brings us peace with God. Hear the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to Romans 5:1-6 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
a. We have peace with God because of our Lord Jesus Christ.
i. We have gained access by faith into the grace that we now live
ii. So, rejoice!
iii. We also should rejoice in our sufferings: Because suffering helps us to mature.
1. Suffering produces perseverance
2. Perseverance produces character
3. Character produces hope
4. Hope does not disappoint
a. Because God pours out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit
b. All of this because while we were still sinners, separated from God and powerless to change anything
i. Jesus our Passover lamb died for us
ii. And now we have peace with God!
c. This is God’s gift to us in Christ Jesus, as the Apostle Peter reminds us:
i. 2 Peter 1:2-9 2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
ii. God has given us all that we need for life and godliness.
1. We are at peace with God, so use the difficulties of life and pain to mature in Christ Jesus
2. We are promised we may participate in the divine nature and not engage the corruption caused by evil desires
3. We can live at Peace with God because of our Passover Lamb, born in Bethlehem and sacrificed on Calvary

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Baptism with Fire: A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent


Zephaniah 3:14-20  14 Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!  15 The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.  16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.  17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  18 “The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a burden and a reproach to you.  19 At that time I will deal with all who oppressed you; I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame.  20 At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the LORD.


 

Luke 3:7-18   7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.  11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”  12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”  13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.  14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely– be content with your pay.”  15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.  16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.


 

Who needs hope?  We all do.  That is the short answer, everyone needs hope.  Hope does something rather incredible for us, it allows us to see other possibilities.  Some of those are honestly unrealistic, but others are genuine and give to us the opportunity to see our lives transformed and to see the lives of those we know transformed.  Hope is perhaps the most important when the night is darkest, but it also serves to refocus our efforts and let us find our way again.  Hope is not magic, but rather one of the ways that the Holy Spirit guides and shapes our lives.

  1. The prophet Zephaniah spoke the word of God to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. I suspect that when he did this they were not in a state of mind that told them to rejoice.  I suspect it was just the opposite; it was a time of grief and pain.  Into this desolate time he speaks these words,  14 Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!  15 The LORD has taken away your punishment; he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.  16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp.
    1. Sing, shout, be glad, and rejoice with all your heart.
      1. We are told to rejoice 133 times in the Bible, in 124 different verses. I don’t know if I’d consider that a lot, but to give you a comparison the word pray appears 121 times in 117 verses.
      2. All of us would clearly agree that prayer is an important part of the life of any Jesus follower, but who many of us would say that rejoicing is an important part of being a Jesus follower?
        1. But rejoice appears more frequently that pray.
        2. I’m not going to say that it is more important to rejoice than to pray, but I will suggest that it is more important that what we think it is.
          1. After all, why was Zephaniah telling the people of Jerusalem and Judah to rejoice?
            1. Because of what God had done and was going to do.
              1. Their sin was forgiven
              2. And God was going to protect and care for them, but that day had not yet come.
  • In other words, Zephaniah was telling the people of God to rejoice for what God had done and for what God is doing and what God has promised to do.
    1. This is not one of those Old Testament things we can write off and say, that’s not for me. Why?  Well consider Paul’s words to the church at Philippi,  Philippians 4:4-6  4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
      1. This is after all possible because of the God that we serve, who cares for us and called us to be his own people.
        1. Our God has the ability to do all that he has promised, and if we believe and trust in what God has done, is doing and will do, then we really only have one response, to rejoice!
        2. Advent serves as a reminder of this whole process, it reminds us that God promised to send his Son, a redeemer, which he clearly did. We know this Jesus and celebrate this birth.  We also affirm that God is still actively working in our midst, and that there is still the full revelation of this Kingdom that we await.
          1. So, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!
        3. John the Baptist played the unique role of announcing that God was going to do something incredible, that the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord’s anointed was coming and his job was to prepare the way of the Lord.
          1. This as you know was received well by some and not so well by others. John didn’t sugar coat any of his words either.  But he points people to what God is going to do.
            1. Listen to this text from Luke, 7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
            2. Look at how John describes the crowd
              1. A brood of vipers
              2. They are fleeing God’s coming wrath
              3. They are not being productive in their faith
              4. They are relying on the genealogy to keep them safe.
              1. I suspect that everyone here is familiar with the term snake in the grass; we are talking about people who are not trustworthy, conniving and deceitful.
                1. John calls his crowd a collection of little snakes. It is not intended as a compliment.
                2. John tells these people that they are deserving of God’s wrath, and accuses them of trying to sneak out of God’s punishment by coming to see him.
                3. That have not produced fruit in keeping with repentance, but rather they have been disobedient, selfish and hateful.
                4. They are depending on the fact that Abraham is in their genealogy rather than on their own relationship with God. This is not a reasonable plan.
          2. John warns the crowd, 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
            1. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and burn.
            2. What does this mean?
              1. It means that the tree has to produce good fruit. Jesus will state a little later in Luke, the following, Luke 6:43-44  43No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.
                1. Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bad fruit, and you don’t look for grapes on a thornbush.
                2. John is saying that these trees need to be good trees.
              2. To be a good tree means to be one who has repented and is doing what God has called them to be about.
                1. What does this look like? Consider Paul’s instruction on the matter, Galatians 5:18-24   18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
                2. I wanted to go to the fruit of the Spirit, but this is something that comes a little later.
                  1. In truth this is good for you and I as followers of Jesus we have received the Holy Spirit, but for the crowd there this was not t he case.
                  2. What I will do is this however, are the two greatest commandments, Jesus said in Mark 12:29-31 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
                    1. For those there that day it was a basic teaching, Love God with all that you are and love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Those two great commandments are essentially how John answers the question of what the people there should do, 11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”  13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.  14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely– be content with your pay.”
    1. Those basics of Loving neighbor as yourself are not all that easy to get down. As followers of Jesus these are practices we need to learn, know, and practice.
      1. If you love your neighbor as you love yourself you will not find any one telling you it is against the law.
        1. I’ve not met a person yet who hasn’t responded well to being treated with respect and courtesy. Rarely does a hungry person complain that the food is to bland or the water to cold to drink on a hot day.
        2. Learning to love God and Neighbor are more important than the fine points of theology.
          1. Trust Jesus and love God and Neighbor.
          2. This is basic and straightforward.
        3. The reality is that what is coming may be uncomfortable and even painful. The coming of the Great and Terrible day of the Lord.  The people that day were expecting the Messiah and they thought that John may be the Messiah, so Luke tells us, 15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.  16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
          1. John said he baptized with water for repentance. He expected people to reform their living in preparation for the coming of the Christ.
          2. He also warned them that the Christ was coming, John said he was unworthy to untie is sandals.
            1. Where John baptized with water, the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Sprit and Fire.
            2. What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with Fire
              1. It does suggest something more powerful than water, something that will work to do away with our imperfections, our chaff that will be burnt away.
              2. It suggests that we will be different as a result of our time with Jesus.
              3. So, if you want to be the person God created you to be, seek Jesus’ baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire

Preparing the Way of the Lord: A Sermon Based on Luke 3:1-6


H. Kevin Derr
FCOB
December 6, 2015
2nd Sunday of Advent
“Prepare the way of the Lord”

First Reading:
Malachi 3:1-4
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Sermon Text:
Luke 3:1-6 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar– when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene– 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’

Offertory
Philippians 1:9-11 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ– to the glory and praise of God.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare him room! These are words you know well. Words we have sung hundreds of times I suppose. Yet, what does it mean for us to be joyful because of the coming of the Lord? I have worked some on this over the years that joy is different than happy. In my mind it is a difference that goes something like this: Joy is lasting and not dependent on the momentary circumstances and happy is more tied to the immediate circumstances. It is artificial I realize but it helps me to work with issues of joy being tied to a bigger picture of the Kingdom of God, and while clearly we have seen evidence of the reality of the Kingdom in our lives, we do not live with the full revelation of the Kingdom. God has promised a redeemer, a reformer, new kingdom that is so much more than what we know now. We should know Joy because of what is coming, of what will be and we can clearly long for the coming of the Kingdom as we prayer in the Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come.”

Prayer:

I. Preparations, and more preparations, all for this coming celebration of the birth of Jesus. I’m not sure that all of this activity is connected to celebration Jesus, but more to just a festive party. Regardless you and I are called to prepare ourselves for the coming of the King.
a. Advent is derived from the time of preparation before Easter/Passover. It tends not to be as somber, but that is the origins of the time of Advent. Early Christians celebrated Easter\Passover long before they celebrated Christmas.
i. That does not mean that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, but it should be focused on deepening our faith and becoming more Christ-like in our living.
ii. Now, the reality is it is not easy in this season to be thoughtful and reflective about our faith. Each of us has known the increase in activity and all that we are convinced has to be done soon.
1. We are enmeshed in Preparations
2. But what are we preparing for?
b. In the Old Testament the Prophet Malachi said, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
i. Before the coming of the Messiah, there was to be one who would prepare the way for Jesus.
1. A messenger who was responsible for preparing the way.
2. He then says, “Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come into his Temple.”
a. Suddenly implies when it is not expected
b. It happens all at once with an immediate effect
c. That is the coming of the messenger of the covenant,
i. In the Gospel of Luke we read these words, Luke 22:20 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
ii. The messenger of the Covenant seems to be clear, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Bringer of the New Covenant of God.
3. This Jesus, this messenger of the Covenant, the one who was desired will come.
a. At the time of Jesus’ birth there were many expecting a Messiah, the messenger of the Covenant.
i. Different people had different expectations, some wanted a king like David to rule again, as you see in Psalm 2:7-9 7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”
ii. Some wanted an exulted man to rule, consider Daniel 7:13-14 13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
iii. These two expectations converge in Jesus of Nazareth, remember what God the Father said of Jesus at his baptism, Mark 1:9-11 9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
c. Now you may say this is all nice and good but what does it have to do with me today? Well, that is what the words of the Prophet tell us, 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
i. Coming into contact with Jesus has a series of implications for us. We cannot know Jesus and not be changed! It will mean that you and I will be transformed by becoming followers of Jesus. If we are not changed we do not know Jesus.
1. Whenever people encounter the Holy, be it an angle, a vision of God, an encounter with Jesus something happens
a. People become aware of their lack of holiness, their sin and rebellion against God.
b. Who can stand in the presence of Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man?
i. No one.
2. He is here to refine and purify us. That is after all what the process of becoming spiritually mature is all about.
a. This is a continual process that does not finish this side of heaven.
b. And Advent is about focusing our energies on growing in faith, on becoming more spiritually mature.
i. At times this means dealing with our habitual sin, but it also means that you and I need to deal with our lack of time with our Holy God.
ii. We need to use this season to deepen our prayer lives, to meditate on the Word and encounter the Living God.
II. Luke is always helpful in locating events in time and space. He does not give us a date that we would recognize, but he places this event in time by giving to us who was in power, who the rulers were. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar– when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene– 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.
a. At this point in history, the Word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. John, the Baptist, is a prophet. He has a specific role to play in the coming of the Messiah and the coming of the Kingdom.
i. John’s activity is specific, as Luke writes, He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
1. John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
a. John was saying that something important is coming and you need to be prepared.
i. He didn’t say you need to stock food and water.
ii. He didn’t say you need to have your survival gear read
iii. He said, you need to have your life ready.
1. You need to deal with the sin in your life.
2. You need to see to all that separates you from your God.
3. This is not to say that if you sin you are cut off from God.
a. However, just like any relationship when things are not right there will be consequences, there will be fractures that do not allow for deeper levels of interaction.
b. So John was saying, confess your sins and be baptized for forgiveness.
ii. We all have areas of our lives that are marked by our sin and the resulting separation from the living God. It is the reality of life today, it may have always been this way, but the season of advent affords us the opportunity to delve into the dark places of our lives and confess our sin and be forgiven and be healed.
b. Luke continues and puts John the Baptist in the context of the prophets, 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’
i. Isaiah the prophet told of a time to come:
1. A person would cry out, “Prepare the way for the Lord”
a. We remember these words and Isaiah and John remind us again of the need to prepare, to make right our hearts and minds.
b. To remove those things which hinder us from knowing and worshiping our God.
ii. At the same time we are called to be a voice crying out in the dessert of this time, “Prepare the way for the Lord.”
1. Invest yourself in the lives of people around you and call them to prepare the way for the Lord, to be ready.
2. In a sense we are called to be John for people today. Our message is not to name their sin, but to call people to be aware of the Messiah and invite them to look at our lives and see what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
a. You see if our lives don’t ring true, if they don’t see Jesus in us, then our message will fall on deaf ears because there is no preparation in our own hearts.
b. So take time to prepare the way for the Lord!

Anointing the Sick


November 22, 2015
H. Kevin Derr
FCOB
James 5:13-18
“Anointing”

James 5:13-18 13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Matthew 17:16-20 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 17 “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Psalm 23:5-6 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

From the time of our beginning, in 1708 to the present, brethren have attempted to read the Bible in a serious fashion. Brethren placed a clear emphasis on the New Testament. Within the New Testament there have been a few texts that have received more attention than others; one of those is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. A second text that received a great deal of attention is the Letter of James. Within the letter a section of the 5th chapter has received much attention, the section on anointing the sick with oil. Brethren have used this biblical practice to anoint the sick, to anoint the troubled, the distressed and those in times of chaos and uncertainty.
Over the years some will attest to healing, some to a sense of peace and calm, and some to a new awareness of the presence of the Living God. Does anointing guarantee that everyone who is anointed with oil in the name of the Lord will be healed? Not in my experience, but they do all have some sense of God’s presence in their lives.

Prayer:
I. Part of the story of Jesus and of the church is the story of healing. In a real way salvation is tied to the healing as well. In fact the English word healing is derived from a Latin root word that we also get Salve from and it means health.
a. These ideas of healing and salvation are tied in the practice of Jesus and the language we use. It should not be surprising when we see Jesus healing people, and telling them that their sins are forgiven.
i. Salvation and Healing are connected and so is faith!
ii. A father brings his son to Jesus’ disciples for healing, 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
1. The man then brought his son to Jesus and reported that
his disciples were impotent to heal the boy.
2. The father’s faith is not questioned, and in truth he is persistent or desperate.
iii. Listen to what Jesus says to his disciples. “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
1. Jesus at times is harsh with his disciples, and with us.
a. O unbelieving and perverse generation
i. How long shall I stay with you?
ii. How long shall I put up with you?
b. Jesus is talking to his disciples!
2. He then commands them to bring the boy to him and he rebuked the demon and the boy was healed.
a. I have no specific interest in speculating about the nature of demon possession this morning.
b. My goal is not to name the demons associated with illness and the like.
i. Do I believe demons exist, yes I do.
ii. Do I believe that every illness is caused by the demonic, no I don’t
1. But I will say that all of our illness does have a spiritual component to it.
2. Even if the only spiritual meaning we can draw from it is that God is with us, it can be a very important lesson.
3. In a very natural next step the disciples come to Jesus and ask a question. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
a. The disciples wanted to know what went wrong. Jesus answer can indeed be troubling, because what he says is rather harsh and painful to hear.
b. 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
i. The reason the disciples were unable was because of a lack of faith on their part, not on the part of the one being healed, not on the part of the one asking for healing, but the disciples.
1. If Jesus had answered as he does elsewhere that this type only comes out by prayer and fasting, that is easier hear.
2. But to hear that fault lies in the ones attempting to heal the boy is much harder.
a. They had good intentions
b. They wanted to help
c. They tried to help
d. In the end they failed because they lacked faith.
ii. Jesus tells the disciples that with a little faith, as small as a mustard seed, they could do anything.
iii. I ask you, do we have faith?
II. So as we press from Jesus instruction toward anointing we need to keep in mind that faith is an active component in the story!
a. James writes, 13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.
i. When trouble comes, we pray! It seems simple enough.
ii. When we are happy, we should sing songs of praise to God! Gain simple
iii. Now the next step. What do you do w hen you are sick?
1. James gives us very clear and rather simple directions: 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.
a. If someone is sick, the are to ask to be anointed by the elders of the church.
i. Now the elders are not to go looking for people to anoint with oil.
ii. In asking for help, we tend to ask people that we think will be able to help us.
1. It is in and of itself an act of faith.
2. Faith has been expressed on the part of the one who is sick.
2. James continues, 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
a. The request is made in faith. The payer that is offered by the Elders of the church for the one who is sick needs to be done in faith as well.
i. In other words, the Elders of the church need to prayer expecting results, expecting that their actions are meaningful, and that God will raise up the person that they are praying for.
ii. You will also note that again we see the connection between health and salvation.
1. The one who is prayed for will be raised up, health, and they will be forgiven. The later part being central to an ongoing and healthy relationship with our God.
b. The reality is that things like stress and guilt, fractured relationships impact our health in a real fashion.
i. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
1. The early church may not have stated it in the same fashion, but clearly they saw a connection between dealing with sin and living a healthy life.
2. They also understood that righteousness is a powerful thing.
3. When we live in right relationship with God, our living will impact those around us.
ii. As James says, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
1. Our sin will hinder our prayer
2. Our sin will fracture our relationship with God and with our neighbor
3. We are called to confess our sin to each other and prayer for each other.
a. It takes a great deal of trust to speak to someone about our sin. Find the right person before you speak.
III. We do not always see the bigger picture, which is a greater thing to pray for someone who needs forgiveness or to pray and make the rain stop?
a. James said, 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
i. A righteous person is a powerful partner in prayer.
1. He can make the rain start and stop
2. Or she could pray for you to be forgiven, to be healed, to be made whole
ii. We tend to think about these big, grand, images, like Elijah stopping the rain, what power.
1. I tell you that is nothing in comparison to praying for someone’s forgiveness.
a. Helping a brother or sister be forgiven and reunited in their relationship with the Father is a very powerful thing.
b. Perhaps we ought to reexamine our lives in prayer and see what it is that we are praying about.
b. If you are sick, call the elders of the church and we will anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord and prayer for you.
i. There is nothing magical about the oil
ii. There is nothing magical in the prayer; it is simply your brothers and sisters asking our father in heaven to bring healing to your body.
1. Asking expresses faith in your brothers and sisters to pray to the Father on your behalf.
2. Ask, Anoint, Pray

Jesus the Master


We learn things in strange ways and in unexpected places. Over the last six years I have been studying the Martial Arts tradition of Kempo, and more recently Tung So Do. I’ve learned some things about myself. I can do things I never thought I’d be able to do. I’ve also learned something about working with children and about teaching. It has been an unexpected gift from my instructors.

Perhaps the most unexpected learning I have from this experience is that of a master and an apprentice. My lead instructor is a Master; he has been studying martial arts for more than 25 years. He has a great deal of experience and knowledge. And at times when I am focused and working hard, my movements will look something like his. This does not happen all that often, sadly, but it is not surprising either. In fact it makes a great deal of sense. I learn from him to do the things that he does. At some point my movements and forms should look something like his. So, what is the learning I have drawn from this, this is how Jesus taught.

Notice how Simon Peter addresses Jesus in Luke 5:5 “5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”” Simon recognizes that Jesus is the one who has the role of being his teacher, his master. And even though all of his fishing experience suggests that nothing worth while will come of putting his nets in the water another time he does so because Jesus is his master. When you consider the master and apprentice relationship the idea is simple. The apprentice learns from his or her master the skills necessary to be a master and then be able to train others.
In this light consider Paul’s words to the Church of Corinth, 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Paul is telling the church to imitate him and learn as he imitates Christ to learn. It is a simple pedagogical model, but one that is very powerful. This model has stood the test of time and is still in use in many different fashions. The reality is that Jesus trained his disciples in small master and apprentice groups, and they in turn trained others in the same fashion.

A clear example of this is the Didache, a mid first century how to manual for being a Christian. It does not contain a lot of theological material but it does give you very practical hands on approach to being a follower of Jesus. The interesting thing about this is that the Didache was often used in small group master to apprentice settings. This Jesus model of training disciples continued well past the first generation.

What strikes me about the ancient practice of master and apprentice is that while you learn the information, the content of the subject you also learn to know your master, your mentor. A personal relationship can and often does develop. I wonder what would happen if we in the church today would begin to mentor new disciples like the early church did, in small master and apprentice settings. Allowing new disciples to learn the story of the faith from a personal guide and skilled master of the faith, would transform the face of contemporary Christianity. I suspect that many of us would be unwilling to say with Paul, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.” Would our lives pass the test of examination and imitation of those who would become Christian?

Thoughts on Baptism


November 15, 2015

  1. Kevin Derr

FCOB

1 Peter 3:17-22

“Baptism”

 

(Sermon Text)

1 Peter 3:17 – 22  17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,  19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison  20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,  21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you alsonot the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand– with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. 

(First Reading)

Colossians 2:9-12  9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,  10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,  12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

(Offertory)

Ephesians 4:4-6  4 There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called–  5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Baptism is primary entry rite to the Church.  As Brethren we tie church membership and baptism together.  We understand that when you are baptized you are saying not only that you want to be part of the Body of Christ, but that you want the accountability and support that comes from being part of the local Congregation.  In some ways this makes a lot of sense, to be Baptized apart from a Congregation leaves you with only ethereal ties to the Body of Christ and no distinct connection to the visible church.

We can enter into long discussion about if you can be saved without water baptism.  At points in the church’s history the answer was clearly and distinctly no.  I suspect that you will find many protestant theologians who will argue that there is no salvation outside of the church.  Yet, for much of the history of the church this has been the primary understanding.   Practices like Church Discipline have been tied to an acute understanding of the church holding salvation.  Matthew 18 can clearly be read in this light.

Today, I am not as much concerned about if you can or cannot be saved outside of the church, I an inclined to look closely at the practice of baptism in the Church of the Brethren and the meaning and implications of baptism for us, today.

Prayer:

  1. Early Brethren wrote extensively on Baptism. It was seen as an act of obedience to the expressed will of God and of primary importance.  If Jesus was baptized so ought his followers be baptized.  There is much in scripture about baptism as well.
    1. The Apostle Paul writes, 4 There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;  6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
      1. Paul is encouraging the church to realize that there is only one Church. Jesus does not have multiple bodies, but there is really only one Church.
        1. Just as there is only one God
        2. There is only one faith
        3. And there is only one baptism
      2. Each church does not have its own baptism, because at the end of the day, despite all the divisions we have made, there is only one church.
  • If there is only one church, there can be only one baptism. Baptism unites all the followers of Jesus in this reality.
  1. It would serve us well to get past the notion that there is more than one church.
    1. We can do this as early brethren did and say that they were the only Church. Not a good place to be.
    2. We can say that there is always the invisible church, the true church, within the visible church.
      1. It is a nice idea, and it allows us to create the notion that we can recognize likeminded believers in other denominations.
      2. The problem is that it places the church in the nether, and is not a tangible thing. Many reformers talked about this idea of the “invisible church” as a way of saying that their doctrine has always existed.
  • Yet, at a more concrete point, if we began to regard all people who go to church and to treat them as brothers and sisters in Christ the world would be a remarkably better place.
    1. We may indeed embrace this idea in theory, but it is time for us to push this into practice in reality.
    2. All followers of Jesus are our brothers and sisters in Christ!
  1. If we would begin to think about this seriously it will have an impact on us as Jesus followers. Consider these words from Colossians 2:9-12 9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,  10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,  12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
    1. Did early Christians regard Jesus as God, consider the first line of this passage, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”.
      1. That is not our task for today however.
      2. We are looking at what comes next.
        1. Paul tells us that we have been given the fullness in Christ
          1. Christ Jesus is the head over every power and authority
            1. In other words all are subject to him
            2. If we just for a second restrict this to the Church Universal, what we find is that the head of every church is Christ Jesus.
          2. In Christ Jesus we have been
            1. We are circumcised by putting off the sinful nature
              1. This is not circumcision by in the fashion of Judaism
              2. Rather this is circumcision done by Jesus
            2. We are buried with Jesus in baptism
              1. We are raised with Jesus through our faith in the power of God who raised Jesus from the dead.
            3. One of the early and important baptismal images or metaphors is death and resurrection. A foreshadowing of what is to come as well as what we experience in uniting our lives to the life of Christ Jesus.
              1. Some traditions baptism you by lowering you backwards into the water.
                1. The image is of a person emerging then from the grave as you come up out of the water.
                2. That particular image is bound to how we have often buried people.
                  1. In many cases people are buried with the feet to the east so they can sit up an see Jesus returning.
                  2. You can see the direction of baptism in this.
                3. For brethren there were other factors that were more important in how the baptizing was done.
                  1. We Brethren are not technically Protestant. We are in fact not a reformation movement but a restoration movement.
                    1. Reformation was about reforming the church
                    2. Restoration was about restoring the original expression of the church as it was in Jerusalem.
                  2. And our mode of baptism really does reflect this kind of understanding:
                    1. Basil the Great said, “This great sign of baptism is fulfilled in three immersions, with three invocations, so that the image of death might be completely formed, and the newly-baptized might have their souls enlightened with divine knowledge. “(St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit, p. 59).
                    2. From the Apostolical Constitutionswritten sometime around A.D. 200: we find,  If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the three immersions of the one admission, but one immersion, which is given into the death of Christ, let him be deprived; for the Lord did not say, “Baptize into my death,” but, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Do ye, therefore, O bishops, baptize thrice into one Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, according to the will of Christ, and our constitution by the Spirit? (Apostolical Constitutions, Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. 17, p. 263).
                    3. Tertullian wrote, in
                      1. De Corona, iii “Hereupon we are thrice immersed”
                      2. Ad Praxeam, xxvi, “And lastly he commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, not into a unipersonal God.
                    4. This mode of baptism seems to represent an attempt to return to an older expression of baptism.
  • The Apostle Peter wrote, 17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit,
    1. Suffering is part of the Christian experience, we should not be surprised that if after baptism we find ourselves experience difficulty, pain and suffering.
      1. Jesus never promised us that life as his follower would be easy.
      2. In realty he told us to take up our crosses and follow him. The implication being the death and suffering await those who follow Jesus.
    2. Peter tells us, it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil, if it is God’s will.
      1. Our culture tends to avoid anything related to pain, suffering and discomfort. We make the erroneous assumption that nothing worthwhile comes from suffering.
        1. This is not to say you should tolerate an abuse spouse
        2. Nor do I mean to suggest that if you have a broken bone you should just grin and bear the pain.
      2. However, hard work, and difficulty, and even suffering can help us to develop the kind of character that honors God.
    3. From Jesus suffering we find our way to God. Jesus suffered and died for sinners, like you and I, so that we could be brought to God.
      1. He was put to death but made alive by the Spirit.
      2. Peter goes on to say that through whom (the Spirit) also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
        1. Some will say that this was during the time of Jesus death, when his body was in the tomb. It could be, but it could also be after the ascension or even before the ascension when Jesus was not with the disciples.
        2. The importance is not when, but rather the reason why.
      3. Jesus went to say those who were disobedient to God and who were not saved by the ark. Peter writes, In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,  21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also
        1. The Ark only saved 8 people, the waters killed the rest.
        2. Water is understood here as a symbol for baptism that now saves us.
  • Listen as Peter continues to use this image of water and baptism: not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand– with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. 
    1. So baptism is not about getting ride of the dirt of life
    2. Baptism is a pledge of good conscience two God
      1. Pledging ourselves to God, an act of obedience and loyalty
      2. Saves us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
      3. Peter is very clear that our baptism is tied to our salvation and to Jesus’ resurrection.
    3. At a specific point our baptism is a statement about our desire to live our lives in a way that is in accordance to the teaching and example of Jesus.
      1. It is like taking an oath of citizenship as someone who now is a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
        1. We are declaring that Jesus Christ is our King and our ruler, and we pledge our lives to his Kingdom.

An act of loyalty that supersedes all other pledges a

Advent Wreath Readings


Lighting the Advent Candles

1st Sunday of Advent

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16

14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.  15 “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.  16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’

Meditation

Reader: Today we light a candle to remind us that God will make all things right.  The old ways will pass away and the God’s reign will be known over the whole of creation.  Our candle reminds us of the King who came and brought us the hope of renewed relationships with God and each other.  He brought us the hope of life and light and peace.  Amen.

 

Lighting the Candle

Today we light the candle of peace.

Prayer:

God of justice and peace,
from the heavens you rain down mercy and kindness,
that all on earth may stand in awe and wonder
before your marvelous deeds.
Raise our heads in expectation,
that we may yearn for the coming day of the Lord
and stand without blame before your Son, Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Hymn

 

 
Lighting the Advent Candles
2nd Sunday of Advent

Scripture Reading: Malachi 3:1-4
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Reader: Preparing the way can be tedious. It seems that often the preparation for the work we want to do is harder than the doing of the work itself. God sent his son, but before Jesus there was John the Baptist who prepared the people to see and know that God was working among them. It is a joy to be able to help people see Jesus and this advent season amid the conflicting calls to prayer, and purchase, worship and party, gift and giving, let our living prepare people around us to see Jesus.

Lighting the Candle
Today we light the candle of joy.

Prayer:
God of timeless grace,
you fill us with joyful expectation.
Make us ready for the message that prepares the way,
that with uprightness of heart and holy joy
we may eagerly await the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ,
who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Hymn
Lighting the Advent Candles
3rd Sunday of Advent

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 61:1-4 & 8-11
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples. All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed.” 10 I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.

Meditation

Reader: We often forget the power of good news, it creates in us hope. And hope is indeed a very flammable thing. It can kindle in us a heart that burns with love for God and neighbor. It can shine a light into the dark places of our lives that need healing. It can warm us to service and deep expressions of love and mercy. Today let the light of the flame of hope burn brightly within you. Fan the flames that the small spark would become a bonfire lighting the darkest night and speaking of the hope of Jesus Christ to all peoples.

Lighting the Candle
Today we light the candle of hope.

Prayer:
God of hope,
you call us home from the exile of selfish oppression
to the freedom of justice,
the balm of healing,
and the joy of sharing.
Make us strong to join you in your holy work,
as friends of strangers and victims,
companions of those whom others shun,
and as the happiness of those whose hearts are broken.
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Hymn
Lighting the Advent Candles
4th Sunday of Advent

Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-11 & 16
After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” 3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.” 4 That night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”‘ 8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. “‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'”

Meditation

We celebrate many things as we come to the manger. We celebrate a savior who was born as a babe in Bethlehem. We anticipate the time when our savior would make his way to Jerusalem and die on a cross, and in three days to rise again. And beyond this we celebrate that our God has made peace with us through the birth, life, death and resurrection of our King. He now rules over a kingdom that will never end, and we are among his subjects. We celebrate the wonder and mystery of a God who would love his creation to this extent that he would provide for our peace.

Lighting the Candle
Today we light the candle of peace.

Prayer:
O God of Elizabeth and Mary,
you visited your servants with news of the world’s redemption
in the coming of the Savior.
Make our hearts leap with joy,
and fill our mouths with songs of praise,
that we may announce glad tidings of peace,
and welcome the Christ in our midst. Amen.

Hymn

When does the Church Begin?


When does the church begin? I’m not talking about what time a worship service starts at some particular church; I’m asking a much bigger question. What is the origination date of the church? I am asking a question that looks at the church as a outgrowth of 2nd Temple Judaism and while not a child of contemporary Judaism is clearly a sibling to contemporary Judaism.
2nd Temple Judaism is that period of time between the construction of the second Temple by those returning from Babylon after the Cyrus allowed the return to Judah and the destruction of that temple by the Romans in 70 AD. This marked a significant point of differentiation by both Jews and Christians. The ledged is that before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD the Sanhedrin and a group of Pharisees relocated to Jamnia or Yavneh (Same town different pronunciations) at roughly the same time the Jewish Christian congregation in Jerusalem relocates to Pella in present day Jordan. Leaving Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple clearly had an impact on both the church and the Synagogue.
Another point of differentiation between Judaism and Christianity seems to be Shavu’ot in or about 30 AD. At this Jewish celebration of Shavu’ot something significant happens.
What is this celebration? “Shavu’ot, the Festival of Weeks, is the second of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Passover and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and is known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah) .”
What happened, this is the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the followers of Jesus. The account is noted in Acts 2:1-13. Clearly this marks a significant point in the history of the Church, and it happens on a Jewish holiday that the church still commemorates but not in a fashion that relates to the origins of Pentecost/Shavu’ot. Growing up in the Church this was depicted to me as the Birthday of the Church. It is an interesting idea but is this really where the church starts, is this the beginning point?
What other points could we talk about as the point of origin for the church? Well, we could talk about Jesus resurrection, that seems like a new start, a beginning point. Much of the non-English speaking Christian world does not use the word Easter. Rather they use some form of Pascha. In a very accessible form, the Wikipedia article on Easter is helpful, while not an academic source it does provide a readily accessible bit of common knowledge. Easter (Old English usually Ēastrun, -on, or -an; also Ēastru, -o; and Ēostre), also called Pasch (derived, through Latin: Pascha and Greek Πάσχα Paskha, from Aramaic: פסחא‎, cognate to Hebrew: פֶּסַח‎ Pesaḥ) or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance .
It is a long way to go to make a simple point. For most Christians Easter is Pascha or Passover. You need to remember that before the Council of Nicaea the church understood when to celebrate Pascha (Easter) by when the Jews celebrated Passover.
A short passage from an article on the whole story. “The Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) set the date of Easter as the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox. We know that Easter must always occur on a Sunday, because Sunday was the day of Christ’s Resurrection. But why the paschal full moon? Because that was the date of Passover in the Jewish calendar, and the Last Supper (Holy Thursday) occurred on the Passover. Therefore, Easter was the Sunday after Passover .”
What does all of this have to do with the origin of the church? The churches two major celebrations at this point are both drawn directly from Judaism, Pascha (Passover) and Pentecost (Shavu’ot). While both clearly have new meaning or reinterpretation, there is clearly a bit of helpful history in both of these celebrations.
Consider Shavu’ot for a moment, a harvest celebration brining in the first fruits of the harvest. What happens at Pentecost, nearly 5000 men hear Peter preach and become part of the church. That sounds a lot like a harvest celebration to me. Perhaps we would do to consider not only celebrating Pentecost in the low church traditions, but to focus our efforts to outreach and celebrate a new harvest in the church, commemorating that first harvest celebration with our own ingathering. The Passover has a rich tradition in Judaism. Considering the Last Supper as a Seder might be very helpful, and it may well deepen our understanding of the Eucharist also. Jesus as the Passover Lamb that is consumed in the Eucharist is a potent idea for us to consider.
When asking the question when does the Church begin we are forced to look deeper into the Jewish origins of Christianity. The liturgy used in the church has roots in the synagogue worship. John Chrysostom who wrote the Divine Liturgy used in almost every Sunday in the Orthodox churches derived the liturgy of the Church from the liturgy of the Synagogue. It is interesting to note even the early church reflected architecture that was derived from the Synagogue and the Temple. While some might find this a troubling aspect in Christianity, it suggests to me that the origins of Christianity are much older than the first century of the Common Era but rather that they are found deeply in the history of Judaism.

A Sermon from Luke 18:1-8


Luke 18:1-8

“Praying”

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men,  5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”  6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.  7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

1 Thessalonians 5:15-24

15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.  16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; 20do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.  22 Avoid every kind of evil.  23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

Hebrews 13:15-16

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise– the fruit of lips that confess his name.  16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

For most of my life I have heard this text read as a model for prayer, to pray continually and never stop, because God hears us when we pray.  So, this example of the unjust judge and the widow who needs help, never gives up so the unjust judge gives in and grants her justice.  But that last word is what is often deemphasized, justice.  The preceding passage was about God bringing about justice for the righteous, the evil ones being destroyed, as in the days of Noah, in the days of lot and in the day of the Son of Man that is yet to be revealed.  So not Jesus talks to his disciples about prayer, but the focus of that prayer is about justice for the righteous, and that changes everything!

Prayer:

  1. This section begins with, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”
    1. Remember that what came before was God bringing justice upon the earth, first in the example of the evil of the days of Noah and then in the days of Lot. The righteous were saved and the wicked taken away.  And Jesus told them that in the days of the Son of the Man that two women would be grinding grain, one would be taken and one left and two would be in bed, one taken the other left.  They were taken to a place of death and judgment; the ones who remained were the righteous.
    2. Now Jesus talks to his disciples about prayer. He told them, as he tells us to never give up, we should always pray!
      1. 1It would seem that this is a good place to mention a text like 1 Thessalonians 5:15-24 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
      2. So what does it mean to always pray? To pray continually?
        1. We’ve all tried this at one point or another to spend more time in prayer only to find that we run out of things to pray about.
        2. We have good intention, but ultimately it ended up being a frustrating task, not a joy filled mystical experience.
        3. I suspect that this not what Jesus was talking about here.
          1. He is speaking about praying over issues of injustice.
          2. Now that is a different sort of thing.
        4. As Jesus often does, he taught his disciples with a parable. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men,  5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’
        5. There was a town with a corrupt judge. I know you’ve never heard anything so scandalous before, but it happens.
        6. This judge did not fear God and he didn’t care about people, he was a self serving individual.
          1. In that same town was a widow, she had an adversary.
          2. Jesus does not name specifics, there really is no need.
          3. Someone was attempting to oppress this woman.
          4. The judge simply didn’t care.
          5. The widow is relentless, she simply does not give up.
          6. For a while the judge refused to give her justice, to deal with whatever the problem was.
          7. But because she just never stopping coming and asking for justice, the corrupt judge finally gave in and did what was right
          8. Not because he was a godly man
          9. Not because he cared about this woman who was being oppressed, but simply because he didn’t want to be bothered with her any longer.
  • So, he did what was right.
  1. Then Jesus spoke somewhat directly to the disciples, 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
    1. Look at this a judge who was corrupt did what was right just because this widow never gave up. Because she was persistent, relentless in her appeals for justice.
      1. Jesus said “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones?”
        1. God is not corrupt; unlike the corrupt judge he does care about people, especially those who are his chosen ones.
          1. The Old Testament is filled with concern for the poor, the stranger, the orphan, the widow, the oppressed, and I assure that God’s concern on these matters has not changed.
          2. God will bring about justice for his people.
            1. For those who cry out for justice day and night God will not keep putting them off, he will not be like the corrupt judge.
            2. God will bring justice.
          3. Then Jesus said, 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
            1. For those who are crying out day and night for justice, Jesus said that God will see that that they get justice and get it quickly!
              1. Yet, how often do you and I cry out to God about issues of injustice and oppression?
              2. You see this example of prayer, of being persistent in seek justice from God is not about, our neighbor who won’t mow their grass.
                1. It’s not about getting a new car or house or whatever status symbol we are chasing in our culture.
                2. At a point it is not even about praying for someone who is sick.
                3. This is about praying to redress injustice
              3. Look around our culture, our world, and if you can spot injustice and oppression, these are things that we ought to be praying about.
                1. Perhaps the reason we don’t see our prayers changing the world is because our prayers have been to small, focused on our wants, wishes and whims.
                  1. Even as I think about the way that I’ve been praying about the violence in Nigeria, I have not prayed about it as an issue of injustice and oppression.
                    1. I’ve prayed for the girls who have been kidnapped, raped, beaten and killed.
                    2. I’ve prayed for comfort and peace for the families of their families
  • I’ve prayed for peace and security for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria
  1. I have not asked God to bring justice to those who have kidnapped, raped and killed our brothers and sisters.
    1. And there is a difference!
  • Listen to this prayer:
    1. Psalm 10:1-12 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.  3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.  4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.  5 His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies.  6 He says to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.”  7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.  8 He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims.  9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.  10 His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.  11 He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.”  12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.
      1. This is not comfort the afflicted, and while there is clearly room for that prayer.
      2. This psalm asks God to redress the oppressor.
        1. This psalm asks God to make things right, to protect the innocent, the helpless
        2. Arise Lord! Lift up your hand…
  • This is a prayer for God to do something about the injustice, to act on behalf of the oppressed.
  1. This is after all one of God’s self appointed roles, in Deuteronomy 32:35 35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.
  • It is not ours to resort to violence to make things right, but neither are we to be helpless. We have a God who will redress the injustices of this day.  Jesus told us to ask for justice, to cry out day and night!
    1. And while it is not our role to avenge, it is our role to cry out for justice!
      1. It should be our prayer it should be our speech in the public square as well!
      2. When we see injustice, in our lives in the lives of those we love, in the lives of neighbors and even enemies we should cry out to God on their behalf, day and night!
    2. If you think God is unconcerned about injustice listen to the words of this psalm:
      1. Psalm 146:1-10 Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul. 2 I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.  3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.  4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.  5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,  6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the LORD, who remains faithful forever.  7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free,  8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.  9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.  10 The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD.
        1. The Lord is faithful,
          1. He upholds the cause of the oppressed
          2. He gives food to the hungry
          3. He sets the prisoner free
          4. He gives sight to the blind
          5. He lifts up those who are bowed low
          6. He loves the righteous
          7. He watches over the alien
          8. He sustains the fatherless and the widow
          9. He frustrates the way of the wicked.
        2. Our God cares about injustice
          1. We’ve been told to pray for justice day and night
          2. What will happen when we begin to pray like this?

The Church and the Synagogue, family at odds?


I am presently reading Daniel Boyarin’s book “The Jewish Gospels.” This is part of my own venture into the question of Christian origins and looking at how the church emerged from the role as a Jewish sect to become an independent faith community. It is in this exploration that I began to ask the question when Christianity separated from Judaism. A number of years ago I would have answered that it was Pentecost of course, the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit empowered the followers of Jesus to institute the church.
The more I looked; I began to say I’m not sure about this as the point of separation. I began to think in terms of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jerusalem Church. I found this to be a more satisfying answer to the question of the point of separation. Then I learned that the church continued to use the date of Passover for Easter and even referred to Easter as Passover, not even the Christian Passover. I began to see the line of demarcation becoming blurred between the Church and the Synagogue. Boyarin makes reference to a type of mutual blurring of the line by the Church and the Synagogue. Apparently there were those who considered themselves both Christian and Jewish at the same time. Jerome the Saint of the Church who translated the bible into Latin wrote many letters as well, in Letter 75 he wrote:

“The matter in debate, therefore, or I should rather say your opinion regarding it, is summed up in this: that since the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do. If this be true, we fall into the heresy of Cerinthus and Ebion, who, though believing in Christ, were anathematized by the fathers for this one error, that they mixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting go what was old. Why do I speak of the Ebionites, who make pretensions to the name of Christian? In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minei, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither the one nor the other. I therefore beseech you, who think that you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy. If, however, there is for us no alternative but to receive the Jews into the Church, along with the usages prescribed by their law; if, in short, it shall be declared lawful for them to continue in the Churches of Christ what they have been accustomed to practice in the synagogues of Satan, I will tell you my opinion of the matter: they will not become Christians, but they will make us Jews.”

Jerome points to the existence of a group of Christians-Jews or Jewish-Christians that neither side Jewish or Christian seem to want to claim within the fold of their respective faith communities. Jerome (347-420) works in both the fourth and fifth centuries and is not comfortable with this group of Nazarenes. He clearly understands that there are Rabbis (Pharisees) who are not comfortable with them either.
It seems that this group was comfortable within a Jewish context of the synagogue and as well with a form of the Apostles Creed. It is interesting to not that John Chrysostom was comfortable drawing from the liturgy of the Synagogue to build the oldest Christian liturgy but at the same time preaching the sermon “Against the Jews.” It seems to display a mixed message, a respect for the tradition, not only the liturgical one, but also the scriptural tradition, but at the same time being uncomfortable with the reality that there were Jews who did not become followers of Jesus.
I wonder was this seen as a challenge to the legitimacy of the messianic claims of Jesus, by the church and by Jesus himself? Was there racial tension, good Hellenized men not wanting to be under the leadership of Jewish men who were also followers of Jesus? The preaching against the Jew seems to begin in the time of John Chrysostom and continue to the present. It seems clear that the line between the Church and the Synagogue is not clear even at the time of Jerome.